Dec 182011
 

Getting physical. Recently, I’ve been taking Pilates and yoga, dancing, and exploring acupuncture in an attempt to get more in touch with my emotions. I had been feeling stuck, and I sensed it was because I hadn’t dealt with some sadness and anger that had crept into my life.

My physical exploration is paying off. While I can’t quantify it, I am feeling lighter, and my creativity is at an all-time high.

Raphael Cushnir writes in his book The One Thing Holding You Back: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Connection, “Emotions are like weather, constantly passing through the landscape of your physical body.” He believes that to experience emotion we must first develop a keen awareness of physical sensation.

He writes, “Feel first, think later.” Instead of trying to instantly identify the emotion, scan your body for any physical sensation. Check your belly, chest, limbs, and head. I do this and I find a little catch in my right shoulder. I also notice my breathing is not relaxed. I don’t try to influence the sensation; I sit with it awhile.

Cushnir then suggests getting microscopic. Does the sensation move or stay fixed? Mine is fixed. Does it change? Does it have a shape? Interesting question. Yes, it does. It’s oblong. It feels hollow. I sit with it. Now it’s dissolved.

What is my mood? I am a little calmer, a little less restless. Chances are there are no emotions requiring my attention. Cushnir believes that when we slow down and check in with physical sensations, those emotions that require our attention will reveal themselves.

I am not sure that I totally buy into Cushnir’s process, but I do agree that one of the most effective ways to process emotion is through the body.

Dec 112011
 

Are you one of the millions of Americans are asking themselves today what they are doing, where they are going, and what  they want to do with the rest of their lives?

Faced with a myriad of options, many become paralyzed. Author, speaker, and counselor Richard Leider offers this simple formula for making life choices:

T + P + E x V

T is for talent. What are your strengths and weaknesses, and are you maximizing those strengths while managing the weaknesses? Many of us aren’t aware of our talents and shortcomings, and as a result most of us aren’t living up to our full potential.

P is for purpose. Most of us are searching for meaning, and we want to know that our lives matter. “Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation,” Aristotle once offered. How are you using your talents to make the world  — even your little part of it — a better place?

E is for environment. Many people have real talents and are prepared to apply them in something they believe in, but their environment holds them back. What environment best suits your style, your temperament, and your values?  Using the Birkman Method, I  help clients determine their ideal work environment so that they won’t make costly mistakes.

V is for vision. Talent, purpose, and environment are about work style and choice.  Vision describes how work fits into the rest of your life. For close to 25 years, Richard Leider interviewed more than 1,000 people who retired from leading companies after distinguished careers. Most said if they could live their lives again, they would:

1.      Be more reflective

2.      Take more risks

3.      Understand what gave them fulfillment

Leider concludes that fulfillment is the truest measure of success, and fulfillment comes from integrity, knowing who you are and finding the courage to express yourself in the world.

Nov 272011
 

Where is a burning bush when you need one? I’ve been waiting for clarity and direction for some time now, and no lightning bolts of inspiration have hit. Or have they?

Maybe insight is whispered, not shouted. Maybe we find direction through a gentle nudge, rather than a harsh shove. If this is true, we have to trust more.

While it’s easy to trust which direction to take when Moses parts the Red Sea, it’s a little harder when that quiet voice inside whispers, “This way.” It gets even harder when you look up to see where “this way” is taking you, and the fog is so thick you can’t see the destination, only the space right in front of you.

I am beginning to learn that “this way” can only be achieved one step at a time. God didn’t supply Moses and his people a week’s worth of manna; it came one day at a time.

When I am still and listen, the quiet voice inside tells me that right now it’s not about what I do, but how I do it. For someone who gets his sense of worth by checking things off the “to do” list and for the “attaboys” I receive for making things happen, this is a hard lesson. Yet it’s an important one.

Happiness may not depend so much on what I do. I can do many things and not be happy. Instead, maybe happiness comes with focus. When I focus on awareness, attention, and intention, life seems richer.

 

Nov 132011
 

After ninety minutes of “This planet is lining up with that planet in that house,” all I could remember was one sentence: “This stage of your life is about slaying dragons.” My friend Jim, a brilliant astrologer, was reviewing my natal chart.

Jim explained that I was being challenged to face my biggest fear, and it wasn’t going to be easy. As Bette Davis said in the classic movie All About Eve: “Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Career was easy for me, Jim said, but relationships were not. My emotions could be somewhat frozen. No shit, Sherlock, I said silently to myself.

Since my marriage fourteen years ago, I haven’t been in a relationship that’s lasted more than three years. Looking back on these relationships, I realize that almost every one of my ex-partners complained about my lack of feeling.

Several years ago after I broke up with the first man I had lived with since my divorce, I plunged into a dark space. I turned to a therapist for help.

The therapist helped me see that I had a fear of being present. I was also afraid to face intense emotion, especially sadness. In order to defend my heart, I covered it in a hard shell. I learned that in order to free it, I would have to go to the place I fear most: my sorrow.

For the past year, I’ve tried a wide range of modalities to help open my heart including ecstatic dancing, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, talk therapy, and psychic healing, but it wasn’t until I met with my ex-partner two years after our breakup that something in me broke open. There’s a rabbinical saying that the only true open heart is a broken heart.

In that meeting, I became the man I longed for: I was present, vulnerable, and open- hearted. The anger and hurt dissipated, and the love I felt for this man flowed through me.

For months, my therapist has been telling me to welcome the sorrow. While I understood what he was suggesting, I couldn’t imagine actually welcoming anything as painful as sorrow.

I know sorrow has been my muse. Sorrow has helped me create some of my best paintings and write some of my most poignant pieces, but it’s still tough for me to welcome it. Yet when my ex-partner and I talked I allowed my pain to penetrate me—if only for a minute. By becoming vulnerable and undefended, I rediscovered the love that had been there all along.

While I’m a long way from slaying the dragon, I got a glimpse of what life would be like without this dragon in my life. I now have a felt-sense of the man I want to be. I know what it feels like to allow love to freely flow through me.

Sorrow still scares me—any intense emotions do—but a tiny crack has appeared in the wall of my resistance. If I can keep chiseling away, I have to believe it’s just a matter of time before the wall crumbles. The dragon will be slayed.

Nov 062011
 

It’s Saturday night, and I’m seated at one of Greensboro, North Carolina’s finest restaurants. My dinner is a treat; I’ve been in an all-day workshop, and the day has been intense.

The small bistro sits proudly in Greensboro’s historic district. The exterior is brick-clad, and the interior is bathed in candle light. My dinner is magnificent: Triggerfish in a delicate tomato sauce, complimented by a fine Rose.

My journal is my dinner companion. Normally, I’d delight in her company, but not tonight. I am lonely. I am longing for “the one”.

I laugh. I am eating Triggerfish, and I’m triggered. The old fears return. Will I always be alone? At fifty-six, am I too old for a long-term relationship or worse, am I too flawed? I take a deep breath. I am sad.

Sadness isn’t so bad, I tell myself. Sadness often inspires inspiration. Some of my best paintings, writing, and business plans have been birthed out of sadness, but not tonight. Tonight, the muse’s breasts are dry.

I hear my therapist’s voice telling me to welcome sadness; offer her the empty chair. I think why bother; she’s already taken a seat.

 

Oct 192011
 

I can’t wait for this day to be over. Tonight, I have a special date.

“This man could be ‘the one,’” I half-jokingly told a girlfriend. He meets many of the qualifications on my ideal partner profile. He is handsome, successful, and adventuresome. We share similar values and backgrounds. He is close to my age.

I know what I’m doing; I am totally immersed in an imagined future with this man. So what, I reason, the fantasy is fun. Here’s how it goes:

We entertain his friends in New York. His crowd includes famous actors, highly successful entrepreneurs, and Wall Street types, as well as several socialites. In Asheville, we entertain mine. When not in Manhattan or Asheville, we travel extensively. We are active in community; both of us feel it is important to give something back. At night, I curl up in his arms and feel safe. With him, I feel complete. With him, I feel loved.

I know better. No one can complete me. Wish as I might, no man can make me feel loved. These things I must do for myself, and until I do I won’t be ready to be in a real relationship. Real relationships start with a strong relationship with self.

A while back, my therapist, Chip, suggested that longing for “the one” is linked to the longing to be loved. His words helped me find a compassion for myself I’d never experienced before.

At fifty-six, I’m still a little boy wanting to be loved by his mother and approved of and affirmed by his dad. Both my mother and father are gone now, but even if they were still here, they couldn’t do it for me. I know it’s an inside job.

Relationships mirror many of our issues and the work we have yet to do. Still, I’m looking forward to my date tonight.

 

 

Oct 172011
 

This wonderful clip is on the power of vulnerability. It features a researcher with a great sense of humor Brene Brown. http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html.

My friend Greg McVoy sent me it to me. His timing was impeccable; I’ve been thinking a lot about vulnerability lately.

One of the things I’m beginning to understand is that vulnerability and authenticity are first cousins, and together they create connection. To connect, we have to allow ourselves to be seen.

In this clip, Brown also addresses shame, love, and belonging. Do yourself a favor and watch it.

 

Oct 092011
 

The quintessential Virgo, I like order. My house is straight, my desk free of clutter, and nothing in my refrigerator is past its expiration date. Order gives me the illusion of control; when things are in order I feel all is right with the world.

For the past few weeks, my life has felt chaotic. Despite my best efforts, I can’t seem to bring order into life.

I shared my discomfort with a girlfriend. “Take a chill pill, Randy,” she candidly counseled.  “You are going through change, and with change comes confusion; it’s a normal part of growth.”

I read once that in science chaos doesn’t mean disorder and confusion. Rather it is the path that leads to growth and evolution. In our lives, chaos doesn’t mean a lack of order and organization; it simply means that perhaps we aren’t ready yet to understand where our lives are headed.

Howard Hanger, rector of “Jubilee!” an alternative church that I once attended in Asheville, has this to say about chaos, “A predictable life of pure order is utterly impossible, not to mention dreadfully boring. Likewise, a life of pure chaos is hard to take.  But if the chaos theory is true — or even partly true — it means that all the crazy, unexplainable things happening in your life may be just what it takes to move your butt to a certain place.”

Remembering Howard’s wise words, I take a deep breath and settle into my discomfort. I can now accept it, knowing that if my life doesn’t have at least a little chaos, I am not evolving.

Sep 212011
 

Several years ago, a friend introduced me to the Osho Zen Tarot deck. There are fifty-six cards in the deck, each with a beautiful illustration and poignant message. Often as a part of my morning meditation, I shuffle the cards, cut them, spread them out facedown, and pick one randomly.

This morning I picked “Aloneness.”  I often do. The message is a good one: “When you are lonely you are thinking of the other, you are missing the other. Loneliness is a negative state. You are feeling that it would have been better if the other was there – your friend, your wife, your mother, your beloved, your husband…. Loneliness is absence of the other. Aloneness is the presence of oneself. Aloneness is very positive.”

I am once again reminded that whether single or coupled, I am called to be “a light unto myself.”

 

Sep 192011
 

Last Saturday night I came face to face with a demon. I attended a dinner hosted by Black Tie International, a social club of gay men who meet several times a year for a black-tie dinner. About thirty men attended; the average age was sixty-six. Almost all were partnered, most for twenty to forty years.

I loved meeting these men. They were fabulous role models on how to grow old gracefully. Even though most were retired, all led extremely rich lives. I loved learning about their lives. One was writing a memoir; another enjoyed gardening; many divided their time between North Carolina and Florida.

I had fun, yet waves of sadness and longing washed over me now and then throughout the evening. Scanning the crowd, these men became mirrors. Looking into their eyes I saw my aging self.

I just turned fifty-six. I am far from a senior citizen, but aging is on my mind. Maybe it’s because several close friends are battling serious diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, and heart trouble. Or maybe it’s simply the flecks of gray that have appeared around my temples, and the deepening fine lines around my eyes. But more likely, it’s because I’m single. I ask myself tough questions like: Is this aging body still capable of attracting a potential mate? Who will take care of me if I get sick?

These questions don’t belong exclusively to single gay men; my single girlfriends struggle with them too. But most have children who will take care of them in their advancing years, I reason. And finding a mate in the straight world is certainly easier than in my world, although most of my girlfriends would disagree.

Buck up, I say to myself. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You have a wonderful life. It’s true, but when I think about aging I get scared. I dance with one of my demons.