Follow Up & Thank You

Every comment yesterday lifted me up a little more. Like I commented, I felt freer just writing it down and sending it out into the world. But I know how good it felt to see all of you confirming that being a man is defined by the man. So thank you.

A good friend sent me a link to an article about defining “modern masculinity” and I, like her, appreciated this paragraph:

True strength isn’t loud and brash; it’s quiet. True masculinity, a modern masculinity, doesn’t need to prove its existence because it doesn’t require the validation of others to exist, nor is it narrowly defined or exclusionary. It isn’t defined by the size or shape of your genitals or what you do with them. It isn’t something that’s defined by being in charge or threatened by the strength of others – men or women. It sees others as potential partners, not competitors or antagonists, until proven otherwise. At the same time, it doesn’t mean being a doormat, being intimidated by others. The phrase, “never begin a fight, but always finish it” remains true; it’s a strength that comes from maintaining boundaries. About not being afraid to be vulnerable or to present your authentic self. It means being willing to face down challenges to the end, even if it means risking failure. –Dr. NerdLove

I’m also sharing this video because the line “Every day, every hour, turn [your] pain into power,” is going to stick with me.

Lastly, take a minute today to remember what happened 13 years ago at 08:46 in New York City that took the lives of thousands and is still affecting the world.

The Self-Acceptance Struggle

I’ve mentioned before that I struggle with whether I’m being manly enough sometimes. That I’ll have an urge to do one thing and end up weighing it against what I think I know about how to Be A Man. The struggle comes in when I know I have every right to that urge, but it’s something the Be A Man scale would see as weak. Do it or don’t do it? Be A Man, or…be Human? I am getting better about letting me be myself, scales be damned.

When I wrote that comment last week about my preference to bottom, I didn’t realize I wanted to talk about it. I didn’t think it needed to go anywhere. But I think a lot sometimes and I’ve realized it’s another thing, like cuddling, that doesn’t rate well on the Be A Man scale. I’m trying to embrace the fact that’s bullshit.

I loved being a Marine for a lot of reasons, but there were times when it was hell — and I don’t even mean combat. They want you tough and feeling invincible. They want Real Men being Manly. If you’re not up to snuff? You’re a fag. You suck cock and you take it up the ass. And you like it. It’s a seriously fucked up message for someone already struggling with accepting his own identity.

Add on to that a series of encounters with men who took advantage of a their partner’s more passive instincts and you end up with me: a man who claims to be versatile in order to avoid the weakling stigma attached to being a total bottom.

Well, fuck that. I like sucking cock and I like taking it up the ass and there’s not a damn thing wrong with any of it.

Except when there is, but that’s only in my head nowadays. It took me a while to get to the point where I could give in to what I actually want with Carter. Him being new to the gay side of the fence, I knew I could bullshit him, so I did. I told him that I was fine bottoming since he never had and it was so new for him to even consider it. I told him it was cool if he wanted to switch it up some day. I lied. Carter’s one of the best men I’ve ever known, so I didn’t want to screw up our relationship by coming off as less than Manly. He thought I was hot because I was so tough and strong, and I didn’t want him to know I was a wreck of contradictions.

Remember when I said it took 7 tries before I fully topped Carter? Most of those failed or partial successes were because of me. Some were him, yes, but most of it was me being in a place I was wasn’t comfortable with. That’s about when my truth there had to come out because he thought I wasn’t into being with him. I had to explain it was the act and that led to coming out as a bottom who can barely fake being a top.

I’m a work in progress. The damn Be A Man scale is still there sometimes, but I’m getting better at ignoring it. I ask for what I honestly want and get it — which makes asking again that much easier. Having someone not judge my wants and needs makes all the difference, of course. Getting to a place where I don’t judge myself is the ultimate goal.

Unexpectedly Ben

Benedict The Orange, Duke of Cumberbatch © TAR ☀ 14

Benedict The Orange, Duke of Cumberbatch © TAR ☀ 2014

That’s not a photo. Well, it started as one, but then Thorny took it home and used it as a reference to paint it on his computer. That’s a painting, and in a couple more days, it’ll be hanging on our wall. A forever reminder of this great cat and the gift my man gave me for my birthday.

I want that reminder. Ben has become so much more than a pet. I didn’t realize that at first. He was just cute and fluffy, a good lap warmer, and didn’t mind me resting my kindle on him.

In the past week, though, he’s taken on a new role. He helps me.

A thunderstorm snuck up on me a couple nights ago and shocked me awake. Ben was right there beside my pillow, the first thing I saw. Instantly, I knew where I was. There’s been times when seeing Carter hasn’t snapped me back anywhere near that fast. But there was Ben, I was with him, and he came over to purr and rub all over my face. He got to sleep curled up by my chest after that.

Understanding that moment for what it was, I sought him out the next time I felt I needed grounding. We’ve got a little routine going now where he gets brushed or lots of petting while I just chill. Brings me down again. Hell, even him “attacking” my hand and “clawing the flesh from my bones” gets me laughing at him and back into myself.

When the puke-o-rama this weekend began and he was napping on me, I did accidentally teach him to fly. He’s forgiven me for the most part, but he was a comfort then too. Petting him really does soothe me, even when the problem is a stomach bug.

I love this cat, and I fucking love this man who gave him to me.

A Messed Up Weekend & A Very Good Monday

This weekend, a bunch of us were supposed to go to the Gay Games Rodeo right here in town. I hadn’t mentioned anything about going because I wasn’t sure I would. It’s a lot of stress for me, but I wanted to conquer it one bit at a time. Well, I succeeded :) Sort of.

I was all set to go Sunday morning, but Alec and Carter got either food poisoning or a 24-hour bug. They’d spent Saturday very much indisposed and couldn’t handle wandering a fairground with all those smells. We figured we could take Sunday to rest and then go on Monday, Jazz and them taking the day off. The rest of the group didn’t want to go without us, but couldn’t get out of working.

But Monday dawns like a frickin monsoon and none of us want to see a rodeo in rain and possible thunderstorms. So we didn’t go :(

I was ready, though. I so was. Yeah, a little nervous and all, but I was gonna do it. I’d already spent two days riding, perfecting my technique, saving a horse every chance I got. (Jazz has leather chaps.)

Turns out, though, that the fairground actually has an “indoor arena” :/ I’d have slogged through mud to get to it. {sigh}

But then came the really great stuff. Aside from having another day to laze around with my cowboy pirate ;) I did two awesome things: mailed 11 Sunshine orders and finalized a 5-painting commission! :D

Can you believe it?! I almost couldn’t! :D

I am almost sold out on a couple paintings, but more is on the way :) That little availability bar will go back up very soon.

Oh, and there will be new paintings in there soon too ;) I think you’re really going to like them.

I was just really fulfilled and happy and validated by both of those things. I’m an artist. I really am :)

Thank you <3

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Going Through Recovery

The first step toward recovery is admitting there’s a problem. It took me a year and a half to admit that and, when I did say it out loud for the first time, I was in a room full of strangers. Sure, I knew their names and could see their faces, but the only thing I knew about any of them was that they were in that room for the same reason as me: we were all addicts. Knowing we shared that one thing made everything else about them and me unnecessary information. I didn’t need to know if they had kids, were queer, had served…it was all irrelevant, just background. We’d come together from out of the dark like ancient Man from the forest to the firepit. All we needed was a shared connection to get us through the night, the hour, or the next few minutes.

meetingI don’t think I’ve made a secret of the fact I was in rehab or that I’m in AA now. I’m sober, but that doesn’t mean I’m cured. I haven’t had a drink in 4 years, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want one. Some days far more than others. I may not go to a meeting every week, but I do go a few times a month. I’ve gone every day for the past few days because there’s a comfort to that group of strangers coming together to help each other and themselves through our common struggle. I don’t need to know what they do when they’re not there, what they believe, or who they think they are. I don’t even care what they think about me. I just need to know that when I stand up to speak, they’ll listen and respond, helping me feel like I can do this for a while longer.

Sure, every now and then, I’ll learn something about someone when they speak. A hint about a job, family, lover will usually come up at some point because in those relationships are pressures that make us wish for relief. But no one pushes for more because we know why we’re there and that’s the only focus.

I’ve considered here to be the same sort of environment. We know each other’s names, there’s usually a visual to associate with each of us, and we’re here for a mutual purpose. The topic might change from time to time, but we prop each other up or cheer each other on, and leave this space feeling like we’ll make it through. I’m not looking for more than that. Not there, not here.

A Great Big Thank You

You-Are-My-Sunshine

I just want to send out a big THANK YOU to everyone who’s supported me in the journey that has been writing and publishing SPLINTERS. Your words have been encouraging for years now and to see the things you have to say now that the book is out there really humbles and amazes me. You call me Sunshine, but you all are mine <3

This is going to be a big week for a few reasons.

First, as requested, I’ve added some new items to the Sunshine Shop :) You can now get all kinds of things with the SPLINTERS book cover printed on it. There’s even a very special signed-by-the-author version of a few things <3

We all had a lot of fun over the weekend, but I’m going to let Alec talk all about it on Wednesday. Just know it was fantastic fun and someone finally has something he’s been wanting for a long time. You would’ve thought we went to a strange sort of baby shower ;) Be sure to stop by tomorrow for the official day of celebration.

And lastly, I’ve been working on something for a while now, hinting, teasing a little, and it’s finally ready for the big reveal. No, it’s not another book, but it is me being artistic. I do hope you like it, but you’ll have to wait until Friday to see it :P Deedles, you should be especially thrilled, actually, because you supplied the name of this thing ;)

Horcruxes

Harry Potter fans will probably recognize the title of this post. Maybe you can guess why I’m even referencing them. I never really got into the whole phenomenon, but I’ve seen the movies. Recently, they did a marathon of them on TV. I caught the last two, and in one of them, there’s an explanation of just how the big bad guy managed to make himself mostly immortal. I’ve seen the movies before — T has all of them on DVD — but this time, I really listened, I guess, and a particular part struck me.

The kids have to find and destroy horcruxes — these objects with spells on them — in order to make Voldemort vulnerable. To make a horcrux, you have to split your soul and put that bit into something else for safe keeping. To split your soul, you have to kill someone. It was unthinkable that Voldemort split his soul seven times. Killed seven times.

U.S. Marine Sgt. Bryan Early, a squad leader assigned to 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, leads his squad of Marines to the next compound while patrolling in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Dec. 19, 2013. Early is responsible for planning the squad’s patrols, the safety of his Marines and achieving his commander’s intent, before, during and after an operation. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Long/Released)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Austin Long/Released)

I’ve never really talked about the number of people I’ve killed. Most of the time, I justify it as preserving the lives of others. One died, five lived, and so on. It was more than just my job, I did not enjoy it, but it was something that had to happen. Only once was it done in anger and vengeance.

I’ve spent some time reading about the fifth commandment and the Catechism as a whole. I believe in the sanctity of life, and don’t like that I had to kill. I understand that “thou shalt not kill” is often phrased as “thou shalt not murder” and I can see the difference. I know there is justification to killing in warfare, and that some expand that to capital punishment and self-defense.

I still sometimes struggle with it anyway. Seeing it discussed in a kid’s movie threw me. My first thought was on how the hell to explain what I’ve done to a child. To justify it to that innocent mind. I don’t want to lie. Yes, I know, why would I have to, but the nephews know I was a soldier and that a bomb in a war took my leg. I figure, eventually, one of them will ask if I’ve ever killed anyone. Clay already asked me if I got to keep my guns, so I know all of this is somewhere in their heads.

There are adults I can’t quite explain it to either. I cannot discuss it with my father. He straddles the fence on being a pacifist. He’s told me he can’t talk about any of this with me. Not that I want to talk about it with him, so that’s fine. I just know some people have very strong feelings on this subject.

I’m sharing this here because it’s been on my mind and I’d like to know if you all have any advice on talking to children (11 and 8) about what a soldier does sometimes and why. If you’d like to share your opinion, that’s good too. Just know that I will not regret what I did because I do know it saved lives and I had to choose one over the other. And no, I won’t tell you how many, but mostly for privacy reasons since it’s on record. Thanks, guys.