Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Looking back 2010 is easily the most successful year I've had - well, maybe the most accomplished. Here are the highlights in kind of chronological order, but not always.

I lost 68 pounds. I started the year at 297 pounds and am closing the year at 229 pounds. p90x may very well have saved me from hating myself more and more each day. Losing that much weight certainly brought an increase to my confidence. And it brought me a happiness I never thought I'd find. Go figure.

I took a vacation for myself. For the first time, I went somewhere I wanted to go without an agenda or person to visit. I took the train to Seattle in May and found a part of myself I didn't know existed: a selfishness, a desire for happiness, a need to live for me. A door opened that I couldn't close. Living for my happiness and purpose has proven amazing and beautiful.

I discovered purpose. I found what it is I want to do for the rest of my life: I want to open a bakery. I want to befriend the community. I want to be a place where everyone feels welcomed and loved; where they feel like family. That's important to me.

I discovered I had a heart. And it's the year I opened myself back up to my heart. I have no regrets.

I started dating. After years of internal and religious struggle with who I am, I opened myself up to the possibility that I could love someone and be loved in return. It was a fairly bumpy adventure that I was able to withdraw a few humorous anecdotes from, and it certainly isn't over; but 2010 is going out much more promising than how it came in.

I quit my job to pursue my own interests. I felt guilty and selfish when I came home from my vacation in Seattle and put my notice in at work - my four month notice, I should add; you know, in order for them to find my replacement and get him hired and in role, etc. I felt like I was letting everyone down by pursuing my happiness. But through the process I learned a little about myself.

I was laid off work two weeks before my notice was complete. So with that, I collected unemployment and used that as my springboard to move across the country - 2000 miles away.

I took a three month sabbatical from working. And it was the best thing I have ever done. I moved to Seattle, acclimated myself to the city and people, and allowed myself to enjoy who I was discovering me to be. It really has been the most refreshing time of my life and has allowed me to focus on me.

I made the best cupcake I have ever tasted. And the best cupcake the reviewer of my cupcake has ever had; it was received gloriously. From what I understand people are still angry that the "[cute], gay cupcake maker' is no longer employed at Uncle Cheetah's Soup Shop. (I added the [cute] part because I am quite sure someone must have thought I was cute... Maybe not, but this is my blog after all and I'll think what I will, thank you very much.) It confirmed that I should be making pastries. (To read the review, click here.)

I decided it was time for a change. I moved to a strange city, a strange climate, and surrounded myself with strange people. I moved from the comforts of my friends and family - the people I love and trust; people who loved and accepted me despite my faults and inadequacies - to a beautiful and wondrous city 2000 miles away from my hometown.

I accepted loneliness as a temporary companion. I enjoyed a most beautiful and hauntingly lonely Christmas. I discovered how a thoughtful gift from a friend can make her, 2000 miles away, reach out, grab my hand, kiss my cheek, and make my heart soar and beat in agonizing fondness. I realized home is where your heart is. I learned how excruciatingly painful it is to be alone on Christmas and I vow that no one I know will ever have to endure that. I found that a simple ten minute conversation can change my outlook and provide a way to feel grounded, grateful, and not so alone.

I found hope and comfort in what I hope to become traditions. Pictures of the city in all four "seasons." Visiting the Sculpture Park on blustery days. Walking Ravenna Park and being in complete awe of the towering pines. Riding the bus and gaping at the mountains. Attending a Christmas Eve candlelight Lessons and Carols. Smiling at strangers. Thanking the bus driver.

I decided to make myself better for me and for others. I learned sentiment and emotion are separate notions. I learned to reopen my heart and realized tenderness is something I will never forget about again. I learned what it means to forgive myself. I learned what it means to forgive my past. I learned what it means to forgive my enemy. I learned to forgive others. I learned that no matter who you are, you are always deserving of love.

It's the year I uncovered the years of grime of who I thought I was and found who I really am. So far I like what I've unearthed.

2010 was the year I vowed to live for my happiness. 2011 is the year I vow to continue living for myself. And also for others.

Not for the sensitive...

My room smells like man. I know, I know... I am a man and I pretty much live in my room, but it smells like sick, unwashed man; like unbrushed teeth in the morning man; like I just ran five miles, had sex with a condom, and didn't shower until the next morning man. And I can honestly say none of that has happened (except I did run 2 and half miles, but I showered promptly afterward). I just can't pinpoint the smell and it's bothering me. And it's disgusting.

I'm beginning to think the moisture has seeped through the walls and carpeting to provide aiding and abetting for the smell. I think even the bedsheets and comforter are in on it. It kind of smells like the inside of my dad's old hockey gloves. And that kind of makes my stomach turn...

And here's the kicker: there are no dirty dishes in here, no old food, no trash. So why does it smell like seven-day-old salsa mixed with chicken and cheese smothered in Verde enchilada sauce? It didn't smell like this last night. Let's account for what is in my room: my violin, books, my Christmas tree (that I have forgotten to water and is almost dead - but no, that's not the smell), my "idols," my jar of Michigan dirt (so I never have to live there again unless I choose to), the pile of sundries my parents sent me (it could be the pumpkin loaves, but doubtful... Sniff test is commencing... Nope.), shoes (nope), bag, clothes, coat, computer, CDs, and electric heater... All check out.

At this point the only thing left to do is air my room out. It's 38 degrees outside and rainy (surprise.........!!); it looks like I'll be coping with the smell for a while.

On a brighter, less disgusting note: 2011 resolutions are here! More to come!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My First Christmas

I'd like to be a little caustic about Christmas. I'd like to whine about how unenjoyable my Christmas might be, or how I'm going to be alone, or how I'm not even having a traditional Christmas dinner (turkey breast was too expensive, I had to go with steak on sale - evidently the first meat I've purchased since I moved. I figured you'd want to know that for some reason...). I'd like to whine about how I won't see my family, and can't afford to fly home. I'd like to, but it seems trivial. (I mean, sure, in a way I just did whine about it all...)

Instead, I'm focusing on what I'm going to consider my first Christmas.

Now is the time to start some traditions and do things I've always wanted to do, but have never really done on my own. Christmas Eve I'm going to church. A United Church of Christ church. For their Lessons and Carols 11 pm candlelight service. I've always wanted to attend a candlelight service so late at night; I think there's a beauty and sacredness to singing carols by candlelight in honor of the Christ. I may even dress in a suit for the occasion; at least a tie and nice pants. And when I get home from church, I think I'll listen to a Christmas album - perhaps the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, or Dean Martin, or Burl Ives, or even the beautiful Ella Fitzgerald - while sipping a glass of eggnog (that may or may not be spiked with Jack Daniels). I'll find a book of poetry about winter, or snow, or Christmas, or love and read that - sometimes aloud when I find meaningful passages - while the dulcet sound of Ms. Fitzgerald soothes my soul.

And as for Christmas Day, you may ask?
I'll wake up when I want to (usually around four in the morning because I'm always excited by Christmas), cook some breakfast, open the presents/packages that have "amassed," and probably go on a Christmas walk through the neighborhood. I might even do some caroling while strolling; I'm thinking "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Good King Wenceslas," "Joy to the World," and "Silent Night." Maybe some "O Holy Night" and "Ave Maria" for good measure. I can spend the day in my underwear (which I won't because I like my clothes), I can drink as much eggnog as I'd like (a quart's worth, which is what I bought and more than enough to make me feel ill by day's end), I can eat what I want (in my case; a flank steak, sweet potato, brussels sprouts and southern-style macaroni and cheese), and I can watch Christmas movies all day. Somewhere in the mix I'm sure I'll take a nap since there's nothing like a day full of nothing to make you feel tired. At night, I'm going to light my Mexican grocer bought Sacred Heart of Jesus candle and have a vigil for those I love. I'll make a few Christmas phone calls to my family and friends. And then I'll fall asleep full of food and love.

I think that sounds like a beautiful, lovely, meaningful, and - not necessarily, but I think so - almost perfect Christmas. And with that, may you find beauty, love, and meaning this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The bus

As most know, I parted with my car when I made my move across the country. Now, I know what many of you are thinking: what a crazy notion to have to rely on public transportation. While it can be a little stressful (ok, maybe not the best of words, perhaps irksome is a better term), I've come to enjoy relying on a system that is imperfect and often unreliable. Maybe enjoy isn't the best of terms either, perhaps at peace is the better working phrase. Anyway, here's why:

1. It lets me clear my head and do a lot of processing. I need that time. I need to rethink my day in order to be content with myself. In a way it has taken the place of running for me (which makes me a little sad because I loved the pounding of my feet on concrete and the steady rhythm of my breathing while processing my thoughts). In other ways it has let me be more at peace with myself and my past; I've been able to think through some major events and realize where I stand in the aftermath.

2. I get to listen to a lot of music. I can close my eyes and just listen, forget where I am and let the music take me away to places. It's beautiful riding a bus, but not really being on the bus thanks to Smetana, Beethoven, Vaughan-Williams, Adams, Handel, Debussey, et al.

3. I get to read books; even books I haven't thought about reading before: So Long, See You Tomorrow, Greek mythology, Picnic, Lightning, 1984. Oh, and crosswords, sudokus and other puzzles courtesy of my dad who thought I could use them on the bus (he was right, I've been thankful for those puzzle books a number of times).

4. I get to be a stranger in a sea of faces; an analogy I used before to help describe my feelings, but sometimes I'm thankful for it. It allows me to be an observer, an outsider, with no attachment to the people I'm watching. I see things others miss: the smiles when a text from a friend arrives on a phone, the last-minute editing of a paper for school, the hand-holding of an elderly couple still very much in love, the lonely old woman longing for conversation, the horny old man flirting with the much-too-young girl across the aisle, the young man sitting in his seat nodding his head to the rhythm of his music; all these people in their own worlds paying no heed to each other, just trying to get to their destination. I'm often overwhelmed by what I see. And I often wonder if someone watches me and thinks of me as the young man who sits on the outside trying to connect with the strangers he's watching.

5. There are some genuinely crazy people that ride the bus. Seriously, crazy. No, Crazy, with a capital C. One man mumbled to himself, another pooped his pants and kept saying loudly, "I [pooped] my pants," a young lady who dresses like a pirate (for fun), the junkies, the drunks, those that have lost their minds due to trauma. And the man who sings to himself, loudly. I've only run into the Serenader once, but he was well worth the trip.

6. You never know what smell you're going to get. The buses are like scratch-and-sniff stickers, except really they're more like Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans only with smells. Some days they can be quite pleasant, like Molasses cookies on a cold winter day. Other days you can get curry with body odor. Some days you get vomit, or poop. Others: roses, or autumn leaves. You really do play Russian roulette with the smells of buses. (And on a side note, I think one day I sat in someone else's urine. Sick. I got home, took a hot shower and scrubbed, scrubbed, scrubbed.)

7. There's an odd humanity to riding the bus: a code that exists for bus riders, if you will. Always greet the bus driver with a hello, or inquiry to his/her day. Always move to the back of the bus, don't cherry pick the front seats (unless of course they're all that's left), and always sit on the inside seat in case the bus fills (which doesn't happen too often on the bus lines I take). As you leave, always thank the driver and wish him/her well. The code is odd, but who am I to argue with code?

But some days I do miss that "sporty" Kia Rio of yesterday and hope she's doing well. I miss her scent, her beauty, and her reliability. I miss her stereo system that allowed me to sing along with her beautiful song. I miss her spontaneity, her flirt-with-danger attitude. But most days I do not.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Unanswered Thoughts Spoken Aloud

"It's not the destination, it's the journey."
How many times can I hear
that damned phrase and wonder aloud,
alone in the half-light
of my stained-carpeted bedroom?

How did these dark blots come to be-
these Rorschach images of
dripped coffee, milk, orange juice
stomped out by socked foot
by unknown lives secluding to this room:

this sanctuary of loneliness,
fortress of thoughts
spoken aloud to the ghost-stains
held within its white,
cracked, plaster walls?

They have no answer, destined to silence.

And one day, my ghost-stain too
will listen to unanswered
thoughts spoken aloud in
the half-light and smile,
knowing the answer, destined to silence.


Sometimes when I look at someone I feel what they're feeling. I can't explain how it happens, or why. All I know is that it happens when I look into their eyes - and it isn't every time, but usually it happens. I often avoid eye contact for this reason, for strictly selfish reasons: I have my own emotions, issues, problems, concerns I'm trying to deal with... Feeling another's hurt, pain, joy, sadness is overwhelming. It pierces me and all i want to do is fix it, to talk about it, to let him or her know that life is overwhelming, but it gets easier. I often let it go and am bothered by it later, feeling I've lost the opportunity to help another in need; that I've failed as a human. It is my gift-curse.

Sometimes when I look at someone I see his or her true motivation; I can see into the very being and know who they are as a person. It happens when I look into their eyes; I can see the depths and despairs of their humanity. It makes me uncomfortable; I know their intent. It is my gift-curse.

But then I'll meet someone I can't see into and everything is thrown to the wind. I've come to rely on my gift-curse; it's come to serve as my compass for people I surround myself with. But that elusive person I can't read, that person remains a mystery. They introduce a veil to me recognizing my gift-curse. They play my game and I play theirs. There are certain things worth putting a veil up for. I understand the need for veils, but I've also decided that veils only restrict relationships.

Being yourself is the single most important thing we can do as humans. There's no need to try and fit in a box; we are unique and singularly human. We all have quirks, histories, needs, baggage, emotions, hurts we're trying to work through; it's what makes us human. If we can't rely on the people in our life to remind us and help us out of our despairs of humanity, then what's the point? Each of us has the ability to remind each other that we are all human; that we all need to feel human. I feel unequivocally human tonight.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Decking the Halls

I live in a house where Christmas is not decorated for. This makes me a little sad. I looked across the street tonight to see my neighbors decorating their tree. I watched longingly as they strung the lights, laughing, enjoying the season. I want to walk the neighborhood and look at the Christmas lights. I want to go downtown and see the decorations. And I want someone who will share it with me; who will enjoy Christmas as I enjoy it. I want to see the hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers - angry and joyous at the same time. I want to sit in the glow of a decorated Christmas tree in it's gaudy glory, drinking hot chocolate, singing Christmas carols. I'm off to walk the neighborhood and listen to Christmas carols and hope I don't cry.

For the record, it's amazing what Christmas carols and the Glee soundtrack does for my emotions. And a walk down 15th Ave, Capitol Hill and a chai. Have a good night.

Somewhere, Out There, or Stars

It was an emotional day. Not because of anything in particular, but because I realized I feel so alone. I have all these people around me, 563, 374 people to be exact, but I am a face in a dark, swirling sea of people. I long for a community of my own, but how is it I can still feel like I don't belong? How can I be in a city of so many amazing, wonderful people and still feel as if I am the only person walking around trying to be happy, engaged and full of life and just be so alone? Am I destined for a life of introverted loneliness? I don't believe so. So now I am faced with the staggering truth: HOW do I begin to find my community? Or does community just happen; does it fall in your lap?

So there's my starting point. The honeymoon is over. I am alone. Not for long, but for now.

A final thought before I go to bed: I love going outside, looking up at the stars and realizing just where I am; that I know my family and friends can look up into the same night sky and see exactly what I am looking at. They put things in perspective for me and allow me to get my bearings in life. If I ever question anything, they remind me they have their fixed course and so do I.

And, so don't I.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

picninc, lightning

So, on my last visit to Grand Rapids my dearest friend, Jana, let me borrow some books. One such book was a collection of poetry by Billy Collins entitled "Picnic, Lightning." While I've only read through the first part, I've come across some great passages that have really spoken to me. In all, this collection is incredible: about nothing and everything - life's mysteries so easily put on paper. I'm envious to say the least. He can capture an emotion or truth with such simplicity I wonder why it takes me so long to figure it out...

My absolute favorite quote (from what I've read so far) is this:
"no matter what the size the aquarium of one's learning,
another colored pebble can always be dropped in."
- from "What I Learned Today"

How true? I hope I can remember that.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Back home

It's been a strange and wonderful couple of weeks. First, it snowed like crazy here and everything just shut down. Seattle doesn't believe in plowing or salting the roads. It's a nightmare.

I spent some time in Grand Rapids and Detroit over the Thanksgiving holiday (which lasted a week for me). Thanksgiving morning I had the pleasure (yes, pleasure!) of running the 5K Turkey Trot in Detroit with my brothers, dad, my sister-in-law and her sister. It was amazing. I finished at 40:16 which is not great, I know. But I never stopped running. I wanted to; I was tired, frustrated and had hit my limits, but I didn't stop. I'm glad I didn't. (And for the record, I did beat Andrew - that was my goal all along...) I think the best part of the day for me was spending time with the men of my family - I don't take that opportunity often and it was good for me.

That afternoon I rolled into Grand Rapids and spent time with Cory, Jana and Ira and other friends and family. It was nice to visit and catch up. When I left Friday I cried for thirty miles saying goodbye. (Jana and I have a deal to say, "See you soon!" instead of, "Goodbye!" because "See you soon" is much more promising than "Goodbye.") It's hard living on the other side of the country knowing you're only going to see your family once a year. It makes my heart hurt.

Friday night I stayed up until 3:30 with my mom making pies for our Mitchell Family Thanksgiving. It was beautiful.

Saturday was Thanksgiving. Amazing. I have never enjoyed myself this much with my family. I realized it was because I'm so much happier with who I am; and so much more comfortable being me. I've come a long way. I'm proud of myself.

Which brings me to today. I have a new housemate. He drives me kind of crazy because he's one of the "needy" types. I don't get along well with those types. So here's where community building truly happens. And I'm not excited about it. But at the same time I am.

Wish me luck.

I've also decided to add a section (blatantly stolen from myspace - yikes!) to let you know what I've been listening to, reading, and the morals of my life.

Music: Ralph Vaughan-Williams "The Lark Ascending" and Radical Face's "Welcome Home" (the album - it's beautiful)
Books: Just finished The Lovely Bones. Read it. The first chapter is grisly, the rest is pure bliss. the last 75 pages I never stopped crying.
Morals: Community happens no matter what, whether it be with someone you don't get along with, or at a shopping mall when someone starts singing unexpectedly. Or standing around with your brothers and dad after a 5K in a parking garage having a post-run drink. It happens. It's often not what you expect. It's beautiful.