Southeast Texas

(Oil derrick/gun tattoo, on a sleeveless patron at a restaurant in my hometown)

 

I just came back from a week in my hometown of Beaumont, Texas. And, before I left Los Angeles, I got a lot of people saying things like, “Texas for a whole week? Wow, good luck.” I even started questioning why I booked my trip for that length of time. My visits typically tend to be around 3 days, and an entire week in the Lone Star State, was pushing it. I was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas, and I lived in Houston for a few years before moving to California. A lot of people would question me about Texas and it’s people. “Aren’t there a lot of friendly people there?,” I would be asked. My response was usually, “Yes, if you think the same way they do.” A gay, agnostic yogi with blue color in his hair, has a way of standing out in a crowd down there. I think it’s safe to say that I’m not a huge fan of Texas for various reasons.

My goal for this trip was simple; see Jesika(my sister), go fishing with my dad, eat some unhealthy Texas food, and get out. I had such a great time with my family. It’s usually all business when I visit, because I’m not there to take in the lovely scenery or the culture. If it weren’t for my family, I wouldn’t step foot in the state. I try my best to not outwardly hate Texas, because a lot of good things are there. It’s where my family some of my good friends live, it’s where I  got my education, George Bush(Just kidding). So, yes, I have some good memories. There are also a lot of bad ones, too.

On every visit, I’m always conscious of what I wear, where I go, and who I hang around with. In a town loaded with camouflage and cowboy boots, my light blue v-neck, plaid shorts and converse, are quit noticeable. I remember vividly, the teasing and hatred I felt because I didn’t seem to fit in. And, the prejudice towards everyone else who isn’t a white man, was just ridiculous. Recently, a friend and I were discussing the racism issue in Beaumont. I remember her saying, “The black people there always seem so angry. But, that’s probably because the white people are so racist and hateful towards them. It’s a constant battle.”  And, I’ve learned that most of the people there are comfortable with the bubble they live in. Most have no interest in knowing anything else than their immediate surroundings. I don’t understand how anyone can judge people, when they themselves, haven’t experienced life outside of their comfort zone.

I absolutely, can not relate.

Keep in mind, I’m trying not to generalize everyone. But, this was my interpretation of the surroundings where I grew up. If you were a straight, white, Christian…you were A-okay!  Just thinking about this makes me irritable enough to want a Xanax.

When I moved out of Texas in 2004, I quickly realized that there is more going on in the world besides bayous and fried fish. I discovered culture, the mountains, the [clean] ocean, amazing sushi, and some incredible people. I’ve been out of the country and to many other states as well. I’m so grateful for these amazing life experiences. I’ve grown so much as a person because of this, and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

But, you can’t change people. The only person I have control over, is myself. I just have to remember where I came from, and learn from it. So, for me, it’s always difficult to go “home.” At the same time, my sister and my dad are completely content there.  It’s their home, and I try not to badmouth it when I visit. But, I have to say, it is quite difficult.

Keep in mind guys, this my own personal opinion and experiences, of growing up as a gay man in southeast Texas. I am not superior to anyone else…just giving you a glimpse into my childhood surroundings.

Man, that felt good to get out!

Comments/Feedback, good and bad, are more than welcome!

 

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My Grandmother Just Passed Away

Louise Wismer, my grandmother, passed away last Thursday (April 5, 2012), at the age of 85. And, to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it. When I had first heard about her death, I was sad and angry at the same time. I wanted to rush to my computer and start typing away in the blog to get my thoughts out. Instead, I took a step back, and thought about what I really wanted to say.  Before I get bombarded with condolences, please allow me to explain.

I always believed that my grandmother and I had a very close, loving relationship. I would stay and her and my grandpa’s house almost every summer when I was a kid. They would take me on small trips, my grandpa would teach me how to oil paint on canvas, and I would help her cook dinners. My grandmother was at every orchestra concert that I was in during school (I played the violin), every church event I was a part of, and we celebrated holidays at her house. So, it’s safe to say that she had an active role in my upbringing. She and my grandpa would always tell me how proud I made them, and how much they loved me. I had no reason to question this.

This woman was extremely independent, never complained about any problems she may have had, kept busy and up to date with modern technology (we would chat on AIM for god sake). The woman worked until she was 83! With that being said, I have come to realize something over the years…everything changes. It’s inevitable. In 2007, my paw paw, and her husband of sixty plus years, passed away. That was the first time I had ever seen her cry. I couldn’t image losing someone who was that close to you. And, as to be expected, she changed a bit. Her sadness was evident. My aunts and the rest of the family made sure she was never really alone or ever bored. I would call her several times a week as well to chat with her and keep her up to date on whatever I was doing. Her spirits did lift a bit for a while.

Then BAM! My mom, her daughter, passes away in December of 2010. And from then on, I didn’t know who she was. I’m going to tell you right now, death can bring out the best or worst in people. Unfortunately, I experienced the latter. There was a LOT of drama following my mother’s death, and most of which was my grandmother’s doing. I go in specific detail about those events in THIS blog entry. When my mom died, I was nine months into my yoga practice and was ridding my life of negativity. My aunts and my grandmother were a part of my cleansing, my healing. As much as I loved my family, I refused to be around such hatred; It wasn’t healthy for me. How could one word tear a family apart? But, it did. I haven’t spoken to my aunts for a year and a half now. And, as of a few days ago, I will never be able to speak to my grandmother again. It’s not that I never tried to reconcile, it’s just that she wasn’t interested.

My life has changed so much, for the better, over the past year and a half. I’m the happiest that I’ve ever been and I’m surrounded by people who love me. I couldn’t imagine harboring such anger towards someone, and a family member no less, until my death. I never want to know what that feels like. I have forgiven my aunts long ago for their actions, and I hope they can find happiness in their lives. We would have never known my grandmother died, had my dad not looked in the paper and saw her obituary. No one even called us.

After sharing this news with my yoga teacher, she told me something that I really liked. “I understand your anger, my friend. They aren’t evil. They have hurt you and your family. Think of them as wayward children who are lost and don’t know to find their way. You are on your path of love and forgiveness. Forgive them and send them peace; It’s the best work we can do.” I have forgiven them.

I know my grandmother still loves me and is proud that I’m her grandson. I truly hope that she is finally happy and at peace. I do miss her.

I love you maw maw!

 

“It’s easy to forgive someone who deserves it. However, it’s not as easy to forgive someone who has harmed you in some way. But, we need to try, as they are the ones who need it the most.” ~ JOHN FRIEND

Yoga Snob? Or Have I Just Found My Niche?

“Would you like to come to a Kundalini class with me this afternoon?”, my friend asked. Having been my first Kundalini class a little over a year ago, I quickly replied, “No, I’m good. I’m not really down with that.”  To which he replied, “Wow. I’m surprised how closed you are to it. Interesting. What’s coming up for you? What’s the resistance?” And, I had to think about it for a minute. Am I a Yoga Snob?!?

When I think of a “Yoga Snob,” I think about someone who truly believes that their style of yoga reigns supreme. In their eyes, other types of yoga fail by comparison, and they aren’t afraid to let others know about it.

Like I said earlier, I agreed to take my first Kundalini class with a friend, a little over a year ago. He didn’t want to go alone and I had never tried it, so off we went, mat in hand. The class was held at a woman’s home in Hollywood, sometime in the evening. After walking into the “yoga room,” I quickly realized that I wasn’t in Anusaraland anymore. Dimly lit with candles, I felt like I was on a camping trip in India. The room was draped with tapestries, was full of hindu deities, crystals, and sage, of course. None of the other students were in yoga/workout gear either.  The lady of the house instructed me and the five other students to form a circle and have a seat. Oh, and I was to place my mat off to the side, as I would not be needing it? At that point, I became slightly nervous.

The entire class was breathing, chanting, singing, followed by a lot more breathing. I felt a little uncomfortable when the teacher talked about our anal locks (Mula Bandha) while we were performing the “Breath of Fire,” arms raised. I know many people who love Kundalini, but I clearly wasn’t getting it. I felt out of place. I thought to  myself, “Who am I? Why am I here?” At that point, I think I would have been more comfortable sitting through Catholic mass. And, for a gay agnostic, that was saying a lot. When class ended, I scooped up my unused mat, dropped a few bucks in the dontation bowl, and headed to the car rather quickly. My friend and I parted ways at the end of the night with hugs. And, with me telling him, “Don’t ever call me again.”

I do believe I’m open to different styles of yoga, as I’ve been in many different kinds of classes. Anusara just resonates with me.

I have taken another Kundalini class since, and it wasn’t that bad. I did some research on it beforehand, and had a better understanding of the concept. But, I don’t believe it’s for me as of yet. And, who knows, it may never be.  I’ve even been spotted in a Bikram class before, only to realize that the combination of carpeted floors and intense sweating, is not something I can tolerate. On the other hand, some Anusara terms such as “Inner body bright,” and “Melt your heart,” makes some people want to vomit. I totally get it. But, the cool thing is…there are my styles of yoga from which to choose, so we can find our place, our niche.

So, are we all just Yoga Snobs? Or have we just found our niches?