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One of the two maintenance men at my complex is an exceptionally talented photographer who came to the US from Bulgaria to exhibit his work at some galleries here. He ended up settling in the Seattle area, and eventually began working maintenance to make ends meet and to pay the bills.  But he still loves his photography.  (You can see some of his work here: http://www.tsenophotography.com/gettytest/).  I was out walking Luke the Dog™ before work last Friday, and he happened to be over to do some photography in the very thick fog that was swirling around the dock and the lake.  He asked me if I would pose for a few shots with Luke, and so we did some quick snaps before work.  I think they turned out beautifully. 

I freakin’ love that dog.

Great foggy photos aside, after a lackluster spring, a cool, wet summer, and spectacular fall, winter has descended upon the greater northwest. Which is another way of saying that it’s cold, grey, and rainy. Normally, this would depress me somewhat, but strangely, I seem to be not all that bothered by the weather this year.  I’m not really sure why that is. Perhaps I’m growing as a person. Okay. You can stop laughing now. I can grow as a person. It’s possible.  Seriously! Stop it!

This season finds me as busy as ever. Some days, I find myself walking the fine line between working hard and becoming a full-blown workaholic. (I’m addicted to workahol!)  Other days, I didn’t just jump over the line toward working too hard, I set it on fire behind me.  Being busy is good, and I am beyond grateful for the increased success I’m seeing both in my day job and in my audiobook company as a direct result of the work I’ve done over the last several years.  I’m starting to be recognized for my efforts, and I feel like people are starting to understand the value that I can bring to what I do.

I’m making great progress toward getting my financial life balanced once again.  I discovered a great piece of software called You Need A Budget, which uses a rather unique way of helping budget money.  I’m saving more, paying off my debts more quickly. I haven’t had an overdraft fee in months. I have even started my emergency fund. 

I got to go on a fantastic trip to New York and visit wonderful friends. I was able to stay in my nice apartment for one more year because the $300 increase in rent that I was hit with back in September ended up coming down by $210 dollars. I bought a bunch of great new Christmas decorations and lights, and have started putting them up.

So, all in all, the state of my life is pretty good—except for one big area in my life: romance.

Ever since my trip to New York back in October, I find myself increasingly focused on/obsessing over the barren state of my romantic life. I find myself filled with these undeniable feelings of urgency or even panic, over finding someone with whom I can share my life.  I’ve complained (bitterly, in many cases) in the past about feeling lonely, but this is something rather different…something quite unlike what I’ve felt before.

It’s like all of a sudden, the stakes got raised, and I’m not really sure why.  Part of it has probably centered around Washington’s referendum to allow gay marriages in the state. There’s been a great deal of talk about it and, unsurprisingly, it’s been on my mind.  These feelings are also tied, in large part, to the fact that I’m not getting any younger. And I seem to be not getting any younger quickly.

Back before I came out—not the fake “I’ve got a problem that I’m working on” kind of coming out I did for 10 years, but the real coming out—I was able to wear my celibacy and solitude like a badge of honor.  “See how strong I am,” I would tell myself.  “I laugh in the fact of temptation.  Ha Ha Ha!”  Over the last four and a half years, though, I’m still looking for something/someone that I’m not sure even exists.  I’ll be turning 35 years old in July of next year, and I still feel completely incompetent to develop any sort of meaningful relationships.  I’m looking for marriage and a life together, when I haven’t even figured out how to talk to strangers or manage a first date.  I’m looking for picking out furniture, and weekend camping trips, and holidays with family when I haven’t even figured out how to determine if we play for the same team or not.  I’m beginning with the end in mind, but I don’t have any idea how to get through the beginning or the middle.  And to top it all off, I’ve over-analyzing it like a high school English teacher over-analyzes that abortion, The Scarlet Letter. It’s maddening. (And seriously, can we please stop teaching that book? It’s atrocious.)

I’m trying to make things better. Or, at least, I’m trying to try. I’ve joined several meet-up groups, but haven’t talked myself into actually attending any of them. I’ve tried to schedule trips to the local bars or pubs to socialize, but something always comes  or gets in the way. Or, more often than not, I’ve booked myself so solid that “I simply don’t have the time right now. Maybe after this audiobook is finished.” I spent several months doing the online dating thing, with only one brief glimmer of success that quickly faded away. I even signed up for Grindr, which (for the uninitiated) is an app for your phone that uses GPS to locate other Grindr users nearby.  It’s essentially gaydar in your pocket. And it’s ridiculous. If aliens were to ever hack into the Grindr servers to research humans, they’d think that we communicate solely by taking shirtless pictures of ourselves in the mirror with our phones.

2012-11-12 22.24.05I mean, really?

(And in case you’re wondering, hell will sprout Otter Pops™ before you find me putting a shirtless pictures of myself up like that.) 

I just can’t seem to get it right. Chatting with people online is painful and awkward for me…but not quite as awkward and chatting/meeting someone in person. Which is stupid. I’m a friendly, outgoing person. I can carry on engaging conversation with (almost) anyone. I have a ton of interests. I love to laugh. I have a sense of humor. (Although, to be fair, some might argue that last point.)  As soon as the potential exists for a deeper connection, though, I close down.

Every time I developed feelings for someone in the past, it was someone who was part of my community. Whether it was my friends from freshman year in college, or my classmates in the musical theater program, or co-workers from my performing jobs or my day jobs…the people to whom I developed attractions were people who were just part of my everyday life. It just so happens that, in nearly every case, they were also people who completely unavailable—you know, what with them being straight at all—so that made them “safe.” It was okay to be attracted to them, because there was no chance that anything would ever come of it.

Well, now that I’m ready for something to come of it, I find myself without a community which contains potential candidates.  All of my social interactions are with people who are wonderful, nice, caring people, from all different walks of life.  But none of them are available. The people with whom I am the most friendly in my life are often old enough to be my parents.  My friends are all straight, lesbians, or Mormons. (And sometimes all three!) (Wait, what?) And all my attempts to find this new community which might contain some potential candidates come across as forced and socially awkward.

I don’t mean to whine. Well, maybe just a little. I know that things could be a whole lot worse.  I could be back in my pseudo-closet again, pretending that I was okay with that.  I could be living in a country where homosexuality is punishable by death. Or worst of all, I could be living back in Provo. Things aren’t as dire as I can make them seem.

But damn, I’m getting tired of this. I’m just ready to settle down with the right person and proceed building a life together. I just wish I could figure out how to find that person.

In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy the holiday season and hope that this is the last one where I’m the third, fifth, or seventh wheel in the family.