My 7th Inning Stretch

The Thinker by Rodin

Are you a pruner or a stretcher?

As you know when you prune a bush or a tree you do it either to restrain growth or to direct growth in desirable ways. It strikes me that most people go through life actively pruning themselves. Often once they reach adulthood they try to keep themselves exactly the way they always have been. The world may change around them, but they always want to be, and be seen, as the person they were.

For these people growth, change and age are things to fear and to be denied as much as possible. I frequently link these types to conservatives. But in some ways I am also a pruner. I’ve found a hairstyle I like, for example, and I can’t see changing it. Perhaps this is because I am pragmatic and my hair will otherwise look like a bird’s nest. Or perhaps I am more than a little intimidated with the thought that people might perceive me in a different ways if I were to change my hair style. I notice I am also somewhat compulsive about taking care of my body. I try to maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. God forbid that I spend more than an hour in the sun without sunscreen. Some part of me sees myself as an aging but well oiled machine that might keep working forever as long as I keep everything running in optimal condition.

To continue the pruning analogy, sometimes pruning is done to ensure growth is channeled in certain directions and not in others. Low hanging branches are pruned around the trees in our yard to facilitate mowing and leaf collection. We don’t necessarily want that one branch to extend over the house and come down in a windstorm, so off it comes. People do the same thing. Marriage is a typical example. If we married folk have non-monogamous feelings we try to prune that part of ourselves but we allow those parts of us that want to have a closer relationship with our spouse to grow. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Often we go back and repeatedly prune the same portions of ourselves over and over again. If it happens too many times it is reasonable to ask if we are denying growth that really should happen. Maybe we are meant to live a life in multiple marriages or relationships, but we actively fight these impulses through self pruning.

Without pruning the bush continues to grow. But even with the pruning the growth never really stops. New twigs spring out periodically and will grow. The roots of the bush continue to grow to some extent because they are not seen. It is the part above the ground which is artificially shaped to make it appear a certain way. So it may be that we restrain the growth manifested in our conscious behavior, but subconscious needs and desires continue to grow.

Plants can’t prune themselves. But people can. This is one of the things that make us truly distinct from most other species on our planet.

I’ve noticed that there are some people who don’t believe in pruning. I will call them stretchers. I suspect these people are fairly few and far between. Stretchers take life one day at a time and spend a fair amount of time pushing themselves into new areas of exploration. They stretch themselves to encompass a wide variety of experiences. The underlying philosophy, if there is one, seems to be that this is both natural and good thing to do.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time observing people around me and I’ve come to admire the stretchers. I do so, I think, because I need to stretch myself more than I do and these people are fine examples. My friend Lisa, for example, is fully exploring her metaphysical side. She is open to ideas that I consider somewhat dubious at best and hokey at worse, but that hasn’t stopped her from investigating astrology, paranormal experiences, body charkas, healing touch and psychics. Her husband, for his part, has taken up boating and skiing for his midlife stretch.

My friend Renee seems to be taking an outward directed stretch instead of an inward one. She’s working on doing the midlife career switcheroo, and has gone back for a second master’s degree so she can work eventually at a non-profit agency and help out somewhere, probably in the developing world. She has also engaged herself in politics, an area I gather she never really dug into before, and is actively promoting justice and democracy for Palestinians and people in the Arab World in general.

For myself I am trying to stretch in new directions too. But it doesn’t always work. Grad school was a big stretch for me, but that experience is now four years behind me. It had the effect of moving me to where I needed to be, and to give me the self confidence that to some extent I was lacking. Since then I’ve tried teaching (which I’ve enjoyed). I’ve also tried coaching and mentoring, not in the area of sports, but with young adults. I have taught a Sunday school class and now I am a youth advisor at the UU church.

I’m not sure I’m doing enough stretching because I often find myself back in the pruning mode. But I’m working on it and will continue to work on it. For me this effort seems almost an imperative in midlife. It seems to be a way that I can cope with my aging and my mortality. I have to feel engaged. I have to feel in charge of my life. It is how I find meaning.

I’m not sure where this is going. If I were a bush, I might well be a large and shaggy looking thing when the whole process is over. But hopefully I will have explored and learned a lot more about life and myself. A life, particularly my life, seems a terrible thing to waste. I don’t know what awaits me, if anything, after death, but the growth imperative seems to be a part of life, and I need to fundamentally embrace it.

Happily ever after

The Thinker by Rodin

It’s been a busy three-day weekend but at least I wasn’t at work. Work has not been terribly inspiring lately, but the last time it has truly inspiring was about three years ago so no surprise there.

Still it was weekend with the chance to catch up with friends. As Lisa reported on her blog we finally managed to get together at our usual spot, the Barnes & Noble halfway between our respective houses, and spent 90 minutes or so just chatting about life. We are not as accessible to each other as we used to be. Her new job means she no longer has much time to chat on the job. She has actual work to do all the time now. Mine never allowed much time for chat and after my desktop gets converted to Windows 2000 minus chat clients there will be no opportunity for that either. But now that I know she’s usually off work at 2 PM, I plan to snare her some Friday afternoon when I am off too. Weekends always seem busy: she and hubby are running off somewhere and my wife, daughter and I have a fairly extensive laundry list of things to do. Anyhow it was great to catch up with Lisa. Now I have a list of FDA unapproved “supplements” to try to add more pep to my life and help me sleep better. The “natural” sleeping pill I had Terri try last night had her barfing up the contents of her stomach two hours later. So I don’t think she’ll be trying that one again. But I slept well with one tablet of GABA I picked up at the GNC store. But I was tired anyhow.

But Lisa wasn’t the only old friend I caught up with this weekend. On Friday I ventured into the wilds of the Virginia Piedmont to locate Cyndi at her new location seven or so miles past Warrenton. I haven’t mentioned Cyndi before so an explanation is in order. Cyndi came briefly into our lives in 1987-1988 when Terri and I, married but childless, thought foster parenting might be something to try. I was 30 at the time and Terri was 27. We had been touched by a news story on TV about Vietnamese boat people and had in mind to be a foster parent to one of these orphaned children. We were surprised to find out after we had gotten training that instead of a Vietnamese boy or girl we were offered Cyndi instead. She was 13, appeared to be sexually active, and came with had a very bad case of juvenile diabetes and bad parenting issues up the wazoo. She was instantly popular because of her good looks. She projected a come-hither attitude that reached the radar of every older boy of dubious character within five miles. What self worth she had at the time appeared to be vested in her ability to attract men.

We had her for five months before we had to ask her to leave. She was 13 when she arrived, wasn’t used to following rules and I wasn’t used to coming home to find boys camped out all over my house. I felt like a failure in the foster parenting business. Cyndi got shuffled from one group home to another group home and consequently one school to another school. While her personal life appeared to be a wreck from my perspective, we kept in touch. I occasionally would meet her at a McDonalds to see how she was doing and leave feeling disheartened. She had frequent problems managing her diabetes. She turned an adult with no health insurance. I recall once coming to her rescue to buy some high priced medicine she couldn’t afford but needed for some sort of infection. Although far behind in her school work she did manage to graduate on time with her class, which surprised both Terri and I. We attended her graduation and felt hopeful for a time.

But then it was more of the same. She’d meet some man of dubious moral character, live with him for a while and get dumped. She’d pop into our lives, usually with a phone call, at bad moments in her life. I recall two phone calls while she was in the hospital. If I remember correctly the last one was when she was pregnant (out of wedlock) with her daughter Kelsey and going through some sort of diabetic shock. Through it all I tried to be loving and supportive and told her that I loved her. On the inside though I was appalled. Getting off the phone I felt depressed and wanted to cry. Cyndi meanwhile kept going through men and kept bouncing from job to job. Among her mini careers included work in real estate and sitting behind the counter of a tanning salon.

One day her Fairy Godmother must have paid a long overdue visit. Either while she was pregnant with Kelsey, or shortly thereafter, she met Chris, who subsequently married her and adopted her daughter. Unlike the other men Chris seemed to be a man of character who genuinely loved her. They’ve been living happily every after since then. Until a year ago they were living in a townhouse in Centreville. We saw Cyndi very infrequently: every 3 to 5 years. In 2000 they all came out to the house for a Memorial Day cookout. And Cyndi and I traded sporadic emails that were of the Christmas card type.

Cyndi is now 30. Chris must be doing very well indeed in the plumbing and landscaping business because I was surprised when I finally found her house in the Virginia Piedmont. It’s in a new development in the middle of nowhere but which, given the inexorable growth of the population and Virginia’s wholesale lack of any land use planning, will doubtless turn into a large community of people. Within years there will be traffic jams just driving into nearby Warrenton.

I don’t know what they paid for their new house but it would be considered a McMansion in our neighborhood, except she has a real lawn, not one of these postage stamp lawns you see around here. It would be a $750,000 house in my neighborhood. Cyndi is a stay at home Mom and has a more than full time job maintaining the property and looking after her daughter. The downside is that husband Chris, who works in Northern Virginia has long commutes, long days and often works on the weekends.

While the house is new it is clean an impeccably furnished. While I have little appreciation for interior decorating I was pretty wowed: I bet Martha Stewart would have given it her seal of approval. There was a large SUV in the driveway, next to which my comparatively puny and 12 year old Toyota Camry looked out of place.

So she seems to be doing quite well. We chatted for a couple hours, I inspected almost every part of her house, and we talked about her daughter, husband and life in general. I’m hoping that since I am out that way about twice a year anyhow that I can keep in more regular touch with her. From all appearances she is living the “happily ever after” lifestyle now. And while as a teen her morals left much to be desired now she clearly has her head together. I find much to admire about Cyndi now as an adult. Her stubbornness that I observed as a teenager is now something of a virtue. She has the time, energy and determination to turn her house in the middle of nowhere into a showcase home. Her diabetes is under control. She’s an American success story. No Las Vegas gambler would have bet a nickel on her in 1987. She seemed destined for an express ticket to Hell.

My challenge seeing her again was to respect and appreciate her as a fully-grown adult and to not appear condescending. Much of our relationship has been has been me in the father figure role, and I see her infrequently enough where I tend to see her in the prism of her teenage years and not as a fully matured and capable adult. Thankfully I think I succeeded. It was a meeting of equals. And I hope our two families can continue to enjoy each other’s company for many years to come.

Personal growth through relationships

The Thinker by Rodin

Maybe this is a “no duh!” but this observation snuck up on me today when I least expected it. But it seems that we grow as a person by how well we manage the relationships in our lives.

For many people there is not much to manage. Maybe they have great social skills, or are highly compatible with those people in life they come in contact with on a daily basis. Then there are the rest of us for whom every relationship is a challenge and a potential minefield.

For me a good example is my spouse. In a couple months I will have had her in my life for twenty years. Yes, it does boggle my mind – where did all that time go? Soon for half of my life she will have been there. Not surprisingly we complement each other and in other ways we are polar opposites. It is not the things we share in common that are ever the problem. We can talk about computers, or the virtues of certain classical music and we rarely disagree. Even when we do disagree we are always respectful toward each other. There are no hurt feelings if she prefers Bach and I prefer Beethoven. During those times life and our relationship are serene and we are filled with a pleasant and happy glow from finding such joy in each other.

Then there are the differences. There’s the rub all right. I am a classic introvert in the sense that I keep my feelings largely bottled up. Terri says she is an introvert and no doubt she gets a lot of her pleasure inward rather than outward. But when it comes to expressing feelings, she must express them. For example, when we drive anywhere she will make loud and rude (sorry dear) comments about every act of bad or inconsiderate driving she encounters. Those of you who drive in the DC area know that this is about one every 15 seconds. If she tries to shut up, she gets upset and develops headaches. Expressing her feelings RIGHT NOW is her safety valve because her inner teakettle is always close to boil.

It is true I don’t usually want to hear her observations since I have heard them ad nauseum for nearly 20 years. But she could no more stop expressing her feelings than the Niagara River could reverse its flow. It is a pull like gravity. So whether I want to hear it or not I will and I am left to either try to cope with it or stuff cotton in my ears. Maybe this is why we don’t go on cross-country car trips. No, to me life is much more serene when I refuse to get upset about every transgression on the road. There are too many of them anyhow and getting upset about them wouldn’t improve my day. But that’s how I think and that’s how I deal with this little daily annoyance. But Terri cannot NOT get upset.

So it’s a good thing we mostly drive separately I guess. What matters though is how I (and she) cope with behavior from each other that tends to drive us crazy. Yelling at each other is one solution. I’m not good in that department since I am an internalizer, but it works for lots of couples. Their tactic: get out those angry feelings, kiss and make up, then go through the cycle again the next time. I am really good at keeping it all bottled up. But eventually there comes a time when I can’t keep it bottled up anymore. I don’t usually start yelling at her, but I might opt to hide in another part of the house, or take a sudden trip by myself, or sometimes I even say “Can you PLEASE stop shouting at your computer! It can’t hear you and you are driving me CRAZY.” (BTW, this doesn’t work. It just makes her more upset.)

Allegorically we are two bulls thrown into a tight pen together. We can’t often get out of the pen. We have to learn to live with each other or we have to give up and get divorced. I am sure the latter option has crossed both our minds on numerous occasions.

In my family divorce is something we don’t usually do. We don’t tend to be quitters when the going gets tough. We figure we’re supposed to hang in there, although we don’t know why and yeah, maybe it is kind of stupid come to think about it. Why be miserable? Curiously in Terri’s family divorce is the modus operandi. It’s because her parents got divorced, her aunts and uncles have been through strings of marriages, and her own brother has shuffled through a number of wives that Terri doesn’t want to go down that route. If we can stay married to each other, I think she thinks, then she can prove she’s got the “right stuff” and they don’t. Or maybe she really does love me enough to put up with all my eccentricities. Who would have thunk?

Every relationship is unique, but a common thread among my friends is that they both love and loathe their spouses at the same time. And while they are at it they have similar mixed feelings about neighbors, coworkers, bosses, friends and acquaintances.

My recurring fantasy is that somehow, magically, my wife is transformed of these habits of hers that sometimes drive me crazy. Twenty years have been full of ups and downs and I’ve enjoyed a lot of those years with her, and some years drove me up the wall. Wouldn’t it be great if she were up ALL the time? If we complemented each other perfectly? Yes, life would be perfect. Or maybe not.

Because life is about change. If things aren’t moving, alive and vital is it life at all? I recall my teenage years (1972-1975) when we lived in Ormond Beach, Florida. Every day was pretty much the same: sunny and hot, afternoon thunderstorms. The Spanish moss hung limply from the trees every day. There was not much to do and no place to go. It felt like creeping death. I was so glad to grow up and move out of that town, not because I don’t like my parents but because it was so terminally dull and so always the same. One could look forward to death living there.

So maybe challenging relationships are all about inner growth. Maybe it is about spiritual growth. And maybe that’s why it’s so hard and can be so rewarding, because you learn your true character through adversity. Of all the challenges in my life though, including child rearing and getting a midlife graduate degree, none come close to the challenge I have fully loving and accepting my wife for who she despite differences that often drive me to distraction.

Variety is the spice of life, but spice adds flavor and is not food. It is the daily relationships that are the foods that truly nourish our souls, although it may not seem that way. Like the cat eating the same cat food every day, it’s not much to look forward to. Learning to fully love and appreciate those we take for granted is, for me anyhow, the most challenging problem in life.

Hillary escaped by climbing Everest. That was easy.

Why we must thrash

The Thinker by Rodin

Over the last year or so I’ve been reading a lot of metaphysical books. It’s a symptom of middle age, I suspect. With more of life likely behind me than ahead of me I naturally get a bit more curious about what, if anything, is the purpose to life and what happens after death, if anything. I’d really like to know what I was before I was what I was. Maybe I was nothing. Maybe I lived many different lives in both human and non-human form. I have no way of knowing at this point, but I’d like to find out.

Which is probably why the idea of past life regression hold some appeal to me. It might well be that if I did have a past life it was pretty sordid and I would prefer not to know little details like I was a weasel or an axe murderer. I doubt I could claim the sort of interesting past lives that Shirley MacLaine claims. The odds though were that if I have previous lives I probably was some sort of agrarian worker, since until recently hunting and farming were the occupations most of us were engaged in. In that sense this life should be pretty exciting stuff.

And it is in a way. I have come into this life with a sense of marvel at the world. Of course it can be filled with the most insane horrors, but it is also a deeply interesting time and place to live. I also feel like I have been fortunate to be born when I was born: 1957, at the peak of the baby boom years. I have lived in very interesting times. I was 12 when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I remember the tumult here and abroad surrounding the Vietnam War, the impeachment of Richard Nixon, and the rise of computers and personal computers. I remember how frustrated I felt when as a teen I discovered ham radio but didn’t have the means to enjoy the hobby. The idea of contacting people all over the world in real time seemed very exciting. And now we have the Internet and the World Wide Web, which allow me to touch far more people in far more places than I could ever imagine.

We are early adapters in this household. I was the first one in the neighborhood with electronic friends, and by the late 1980s I had a number of good friends I met from dialing electronic bulletin boards. Some, like Frank Pierce, I still count as good friends. Neighborhood friends seem almost old fashioned. Terri’s friends now come almost exclusively from people she has met online. Last weekend she had a friend who is living in Warrenton, Virginia who she met online over for dinner. This weekend we have her friend Madge from North Carolina who is here for her third or fourth respite visit. In two weeks it is her friend Christy who will be hanging out here. It is likely that without this enabling technology of the Internet and World Wide Web none of these people would have come into our lives. We are richer having met them.

But at the same time we’ve lost something. There is less incentive to go to a neighborhood party or meet with old friends. Many of our old friends have moved or moved on. To some extent I have filled that gap in my life through the Unitarian Church I attend. Attending regularly and getting involved in religious education and being on committees expands my list of local friends. But it is more fun to find like minds on line that I can meet on my own schedule who share my own interests instead of talking to neighbors and meeting people the old fashioned way. My pal Lisa is a combination of online friend and local friend. It is good that she happens to live about ten miles away. We can do stuff together occasionally and talk about things that would bore my wife like, well, metaphysical stuff. Terri has almost no interest in it.

What was I before I was what I conceived? Arguably nothing: I didn’t exist. But increasingly I don’t think that was the case. I came into this life with a fairly unique pattern of behaviors and a certain outlook. I look for clues on who I might have been in a past life. There is no way to know for sure. Perhaps if I tried a past life regression I might feel I know, but there would still be no way to know if it actually happened or was some product of my creative mind.

A book I am reading at the moment though suggests it is possible to peer not just back into the past, but also into the future. “Past Lives: Future Lives” by Dr. Bruce Goldberg (who leaves a lot to be desired as a web page designer — get some professional to help you Bruce!) seems to be the book that started a lot of research into past life regression. This book though is pretty wild. Not only can he regress people into their past lives, but he can also let them see into future lives. He claims he has done this with thousands of patients over the past 20 years or so.

Since then past life regression through hypnosis has become almost hip, and that means there if there is some validity in it the flakes and con artists have probably taken over the field. Nonetheless there is an impressive number of hypnotherapists out there who will be glad to try to regress you into your past lives, for a fee of course.

I think I see clues about who I was before I was what I was in this life. I just don’t know what to make of them. Like most people my memories of early childhood are few and fragmented, but there are certain characteristics of me that have always been present. For the first 20 years of my life I experienced a recurring dream: falling from something high. I am not afraid of being close to an edge high above the world, but I am certainly a bit leery about it. It is possible I fell out of the crib as an infant. But this is more than that. Perhaps that was how I died in some previous life.

Other clues? Well, what am I on an instinctive level that is different than probably most people. I have already confessed to my feminine side. I have always been deeply non-violent. I witnessed quite a bit of brutality as a child. In particular witnessing it in places like a parochial school, largely handed out by the sisters, was very disturbing. My reaction to violence on pretty much any level is visceral. I won’t stand for it if I can do something about it. I simply cannot tolerate violence in movies beyond a certain level. I don’t care how good a movie is. If it is too gross I will avoid it.

In some ways I feel this life is payoff for other lives that were far more difficult and less interesting. It is difficult though sometimes to figure out what to do with this opportunity. The first 35 years or so was mostly about education and basic survival. Now I have the opportunity to self-actualize. I could write, which is what I wanted to do most as a teen. I don’t do much of it, unless rambling online journal keeping and technical writing is writing. I find some satisfaction in teaching. I find I often want to do so much in this life that it is hard to temper my needs to explore. I have a family that needs me, and a wife with many physical challenges. It can’t be all about me. I must look inward and find meaning and satisfaction close to home, as well as externally.

This life is about being physically comfortable and learning to rest as best I can. I am uncomfortable at rest but it is a skill I have to learn. This life is also about learning to set reasonable limits for myself but not climb too far or too fast. Patience and tempered judgment seem to be the skills I must acquire this time around.

My attitude toward death is evolving. For much of my life I was disturbed by the notion of my own mortality. I still am. It may be that I have largely succeeded in putting these fears in a box, to be wrestled with again when I am older and death is more tangible. Books on past lives offer a balm of sorts if nothing else. If true though they help shape meaning around my life that would otherwise seem sort of pointless. I can understand this life as being part of some larger journey. In that context knowing that death is a passage to something else, much like a caterpillar shedding its chrysalis and becoming a butterfly, sounds almost something that makes mortality an advantage.

At the sermon today at church the minister used this analogy and I think it works. If the caterpillar does not wiggle and thrash inside its chrysalis it cannot become a butterfly. Perhaps we all must wiggle and thrash in our own lives, as difficult and painful as it may be, in order to evolve as spiritual beings.

Maybe thrashing and mortality are good.

My Feminine Side

The Thinker by Rodin

The good news is that I don’t feel the need to go Corporal Klinger on my family. I have no desire to dress like a woman. I spend no time in stores admiring feminine attire. I have no wish to own more shoes than Imelda Marcos. I am indifferent to a lot of things feminine, including flowers, kitchens, Martha Stewart and make up.

Emotionally though I am the woman of the family. I say this because lately I’ve been reading a lot of relationship books (a signal right there, I suppose). I am always puzzled when I get to the part where they talk about what women want from men. Why? It is because it’s exactly what I want from a woman. And because it bears little reality to my experience with women I’ve known intimately, which is 95% my wife. Nor does it bear much relationship to my sisters, who come across as independent and assertive overall. Some of my sisters are much more man-like than I could ever be. Not one of my sisters is the proto-feminine type. I don’t usually see them in dresses, or made up at all, or gushing over relationships, or getting weepy over receiving some flowers.

But the things I want in relationships seem to be exactly what women claim they want from their men. I want a deep level of connectedness on all levels. I want to spend time with my spouse: meaningful, connected time doing dopey things like taking walks, sharing how our day went, exploring how we feel about things, seeing movies regularly and perhaps eating out regularly. It’s not about me; it’s about us.

These things aren’t as high on my wife’s priority list and probably never will be. We are both fairly introverted but in retrospect she is likely to always be far more introverted than I could ever hope to be. She is happiest in quietness and solace. Give her a computer with Microsoft Word and a large hard disk and she will fill it up with her writing. The ideal weekend is one where the kid is away, the laundry requires little effort and she can curl up with her computer and her online friends. It’s not like we won’t go to a movie or a show every now and then but it takes persistence and a bit of serendipity for it to happen. She sees time as finite. When she has free time it should be HER time to fill in ways that make her happiest. Sometimes that is with me, but mostly her attention is elsewhere.

But this is not a wife-bashing screed. My wife Terri is being who she is and always has been and I married her knowing this was probably the way she always would be. But there have been other alarming things that make it difficult for me to fit in with my own gender. There’s my lack of interest in pretty much anything related to sports. (Exception: I can enjoy the Olympics.) I don’t like beer. I don’t like shallow relationships. Since most relationships between men are shallow I tend to gravitate toward having relationships with women instead. I do have an appreciation for geek culture so I have that in common with lots of men, not to mention my wife. So all is not hopeless with my sex.

Particularly with people I love, I am very nurturing. The reality was that I was the mother for most of Rosie’s childhood. It is only now in the terrible teens that Terri seems to be getting into this parenting business full swing. I was the one who usually kept Rosie fed, and changed, gave her baths, read her stories, took her to the playground, made her play dates and shuffled her to and from ballet classes. I didn’t mind at all. I felt it was not just necessary but it was my calling to infuse a sense of wonder, possibility and knowledge into my daughter. It was also neat to watch her grow up. It infused me with a sense of wonder too.

I often ponder if it’s not so much that I have a feminine side as I have a human side. Males in our culture are trained to be superficial and to stonewall when the pressures of life get too severe. And I certainly have learned how to do that from experience. But it never feels natural for me. I reserve for myself the right to be fully human. I am not always successful in expressing it, but I resent it when I feel circumstances won’t allow me.

Although I am not gay myself I often look on gay men with envy. Is it just coincidence or are gays usually the most talented people in any room? When I think of the openly gay men I do know they are passionate, creative, overwhelmingly alive people. I am sure even today it is difficult to be gay in our society but it seems that most gays have a gift that can only come from the liberation of being outed: the freedom to be themselves.

Meanwhile I assume I simply have a feminine side and that’s just the way I am. Since I am on a reincarnation kick at the moment it seems perfectly logical that if I have lived lives before, I probably lived most of them as women. Maybe this life is a gender experiment for me. If I get another one I will probably choose to be a woman again. It would feel more natural.