August 1./ What’s been on my mind lately

My nightstand is 11 books deep and over half of it is about Zen. Paper enlightenment isn’t always good for the soul. Too much reading and you’ll get stuck with ideas and no practice. That’s where I am at the moment. I’ve just finished a book on Zen Master Hakuin, and now I’m reading translations of Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō and Mumon Ekai’s Mumonkan.

It’s wonderful to encounter different perspectives and to take time to understand them. Although I cannot claim to fully comprehend their complexity (or perhaps simplicity), it’s nice to sit with them.

In fact, it’s been nice to sit with myself too. Lately, there have been a lot of passing thoughts that I didn’t notice I have. Many of them are ideas about the world and some of them are about me. For example, one of the ideas that’s been on my mind lately is about masculinity.

It sounds unusual to talk about this because I didn’t know that I held this idea until recently. Or well, I didn’t have a solid understanding of it. Being out of the closet (as gay) at age 11, I spent a lot of my younger years introspecting about who I am. Much of that time was spent with women, exploring topics that society deems as more feminine (i.e. emotions, empathy). I did this instead of developing traditionally masculine parts of myself.

Most of these traditionally masculine parts are heavily tactile. I never learned sports, fishing, or how to fix cars*. Instead I adopted the idea that these areas were mysterious or innate in some way (i.e. some guys are just naturally athletic or mechanically minded). And I was sure that I was not one of them.

I completely abandoned these topics and paid no mind to them for a very long time… well, until I joined the military and was suddenly surrounded by guys. Areas that were once mysterious started fading. Last year I started to spend a lot of time outdoors hiking**. This was a random growth. I started exploring tactile activities that I hadn’t enjoyed or thought about when I was younger.

As I’ve spent more time sitting in meditation recently***, I’ve noticed this subtle change. Lately I’ve been craving a long list of traditionally masculine activities. I know that’s a strange way to put it but I’ve been wanting to go rock climbing. Last week I worked on my car without feeling terrified I was going to break it. And I want to know more and do more. I don’t feel exhausted of it.

To someone who doesn’t feel this divide, what I’m writing about may not make any sense. Masculinity isn’t inherently about turning wrenches and femininity isn’t about emotions and social skills. Society places these generalizations on the genders and everybody feels it in some form. If you’re a dude and you don’t know how to work on your car, maybe you feel ashamed or embarrassed. Even if only a little bit. Or if you’re a chick and you’re one of those gals who scales those crazy upsidedown rock climbing walls, maybe you feel rebellious****.

I know this is basic Gender in Society 101 but I feel that sometimes I forget it. And often it feels like an invisible wall that confines me unknowingly. My car is mysterious and I avoid the thought of maintenance. I don’t think about why I’m avoiding it or why it feels so mysterious to me but I just push it out of my head.

Maybe that’s what I’ve been getting from my stack of paper enlightenment; these mysterious invisible walls are just mental constructs. Whether about gender or about my own limitations, I build my own confines. I think that everybody knows this but we’re not always conscious of it. We run into these invisible walls accidently and turn back around automatically without examining why we’ve put the walls there in the first place.

The cliché ending to this would be: “go off, do whatever you love, #noconfines #teardowntheinvisiblewalls” but I don’t think that’s quite the right answer either. Instead, I think it’s important to remain conscious. When you want to explore a new interest, whether it be in woodworking, kayaking, or maybe even the introspective stuff too, pay attention. Notice if you encounter a roadblock. Feel your way around it.

Get excited about new interests*****. Car maintenance isn’t that mysterious – well, actually it is but that’s okay too. The mystery isn’t bad. It’s all about exploring and learning.

Anyways, it’s getting pretty late here. Please forgive my generalizations about the genders. I know dudes that are very emotional and chicks that could beat me up. The masculinity/femininity was just to illustrate the most apparent invisible walls we build. These walls can be incredibly complex and difficult to deconstruct. I guess the first thing is to notice them. Anyways… I should get going. These are just the things that have been on my mind lately. Have a wonderful day/night wherever you are!


* This is to grossly undercut both femininity and masculinity
**Seriously, if I wasn’t out in the woods physically, I was there mentally
*** This sounds much more mysterious and exotic than it really is, promise
****Why would you feel rebellious? What status quo are you breaking? Oh, and P.S. I’m jealous that you can climb those funky walls. I want to be like spiderman too!
*****WOOT! YEAH! ROCKCLIMBING! EMOTIONS! WOO! FOOTNOTES! YAY!

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Kissing a Questioning Guy

Over this past weekend I kissed a guy who was questioning his sexuality. He is the first guy I’ve ever met who is questioning – and obviously the first one I’ve kissed. This has had its fun and pitfalls, and I’m here to share them with you.

Exploring with a questioner can be exciting – you get to help them dig into their sexuality. There haven’t been a lot of experiences to wear in how everything should work and this can make things feel more fresh. It’s also a chance to look at your own sexuality and focus on what you like as well.

Sexuality is not a rigid wall that cannot be penetrated or surpassed; it is something that can be explored endlessly. You may like this or find yourself wanting that instead – and all of that is fine. You may like some guys and only a few girls. You may like kissing girls but only like getting rough with men. Each person is different and it can be pleasurable just to explore through it.

By being with a person who is questioning, it can cause you to look at yourself and the rigidity you’ve placed on your own sexuality. Are you becoming too worn into the how you date or how you kiss? Maybe this opens your eyes to that rigidity. Trying new things can help bring life back into your sexuality.

There are also a lot of pitfalls in messing around with someone who doesn’t know their sexuality. The other person may not even end up liking you or your gender. You could get really into someone and not get that returned. People who don’t know their sexuality can be emotional about it because they are trying to figure it all out.

When someone is questioning, they are questioning! This, by definition, means that they don’t know exactly what they are into. When you get with them, there is a huge possibility that you’ll be the person that shows them what they aren’t into.

The difficulty with this is that we become emotionally involved and when someone figures out that they don’t like our gender, we take it personally. “Maybe I didn’t represent men well enough” or “Maybe I’m really bad at kissing”. We take it as them rejecting us as humans but it’s more of them figuring it out for themselves.

Think of it like you’re wandering through the produce section of a grocery and you see some exotic fruits. On the outside they may be odd looking, great looking, different, but more importantly they may be intriguing. Just because you are intrigued by that fruit doesn’t mean that you’re going to like it. Other people may like it, but it’s different for each person. If you kiss a questioning person and they don’t like it, it could be just that they don’t like that kind of fruit!

When we try a new food we go into unsure of how we’re going to react. We look at it and maybe get an aroma from it but we’re ultimately unsure of whether we’ll spit it out or get another serving. After experimenting, a questioning person reacts very similar to that. They may make a sour face or smile from the taste of it.

Since we don’t know how they’re going to react we have to make sure we understand that it’s not us. Their reaction isn’t to us, it’s the overall response. They walked in unsure how they were going to respond and you have to accept whatever their response is.

Emotionally this can be very difficult because not all people are blessed/cursed with knowing what they’re into. Some people will react horribly with a huge dramatic response, while other may just shrug it off. Make sure to be supportive of whatever they think. Remember they are exploring, and you are just supporting them in it.

Don’t get me wrong, it can be a lot of fun experiment but it can also be emotionally exhausting. We invest ourselves into everything we do and we aren’t able to control the response. You could potentially have a lot of fun or you could take things personally if things go south (ha).

Remember that your sexuality isn’t rigid either – the exploration can be on both sides. This weekend I got to explore my sexuality and mess around with a really cool guy. I had a lot of fun getting to know him but it brought up questions about my own sexuality and how I define myself.

This weekend and blog post is a testament to taking things personally. We both explored ourselves and I was into him but he wasn’t into me. I took things personally at first but I’ve thought about it more today. Sexuality isn’t rigid and no one else can control it. Have fun exploring yourself and other people. Just keep in mind that it’s only exploration and it doesn’t have to be anything more than that.

Hope you all had a great weekend! Sorry for such short posts this past week and then a really long one! Ha, I wish I had more exciting things to talk about lately! I’ve just been really busy! Moving to Charleston next month! I’ll write you soon!

65/365

P.S. Only 300 more days to go!