Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thermal Without the H

It had been an odd week.  Valentine's day was pleasant enough with a fairly good dinner, creative dessert plates, good company and fun conversation, but it didn't quite meet my "perfect" criteria like other holidays here have.  I ended up spending my evening with four gay men and a librarian.  I love and care for each of these people, and am so very glad I have met each of them here.  Indeed some are very close friends and I don't think I could make it here without them, but let's just say that there wasn't much romance going on.  The following week was going to be a long one with six straight days of work thanks to some professional development scheduled on Saturday.  I  had canceled plans to go out of town a few weeks earlier because 1) I had gotten sick and 2) the new friend I've also written about had moved to town and was interested in hanging out a bit, so I hadn't been away for a while.

This past weekend though... I wanted to get out of town.  Leave Istanbul behind and get to someplace relaxing and peaceful where I could rest and change my pace.  A sweet little Canadian family of three and I had attempted a couple weeks earlier, to get to some hot springs called Termal  but had been thwarted by a full ferry.  Perhaps this would be the weekend to make up for that missed trip and to go exploring.  In my mind I imagined trekking to the springs on my own.  A sort of solitary sojourn for contemplation and rejuvenation.  It didn't quite work out that way. 

I mentioned my plans to try and get to the springs to a couple of friends.  Morikke and her husband and daughter thought that a repeat adventure (this time with success owing to pre-purchased ferry tickets) might be a great thing to do as well.  They didn't want to spend the night but they might join me for part of the journey.  Susan, my librarian friend was curious, but was headed to a travel junkie trip up by the Black Sea.  Prags, my best buddy had no plans but said to call him if I wanted company.  I waffled about making reservations because I didn't want to pay for a room, then not be able to get there because I couldn't make the ferry trip.  I always seem to like to do things on the spur of the moment.  Too much planning sometimes leads to missed opportunities.... so I didn't make any room reservations.  As a matter of fact, I didn't make any plans at all.

 Saturday morning arrived and I had slept in until about 8:38.  I know the time because I awoke to a text message.  Now at this point in ... a bit groggy, no coffee, nothing in the
house for breakfast.... I was kind of wondering what to say.  I had considered the question the night before and knew that to be safe, I would have to be on the 30D bus to Yenekapi by 10 AM in order to buy ferry tickets.  But what the heck was Susan interested for?  She was supposed to be on her way to the Black Sea.  Turned out the trip hadn't gone as expected and the plans had been scrubbed but she was packed, motivated and ready to go somewhere.  Thank goodness for me, because had she not texted me... I probably would not have gotten up.  Ok, so now I was semi-committed.  I texted her back that we would have to meet at the globe by 9:45 to be safe.  By the time we got it together, I had 30 minutes to shower, pack, and scram out the door.  It was then that I remembered Prags had indicated an interest.  Well, if Susan was going... why not Prags?  And then I checked my FB messages and figured out that Morikke, Jerry and their lovely little daughter were also going and had manged indeed to purchase ferry tickets on line.  So I texted Mr. Prags too.

So now we had a crew.  Morikke plus 2 made 3, plus me made 4, plus Susan and Prags made 6.  And then I got another text from Prags telling me that he was going to invite Liz, the new Australian pre-school teacher to join as well.  Well we might as well make it a party of 7 !   I splashed and dashed and threw a few things in the backpack.  I moved some money so I could afford the ferry and maybe a hotel and I met my friends at the globe -- a statuary of Atlas bearing the planet next to the MEF apartment entrance gates, and THE main meet up landmark.  We were off on a mad dash down the hill to the bus stop.  If we missed it... our only option would be a very expensive taxi fare.  We made it with time to spare and then the anxiety of wondering if traffic would allow for a timely arrival and if there would still be enough tickets for the ferry.  We did and there were.  Morikke and family were already there, so we bought our tickets and were off on our adventure!  I love adventure.  And truth be told... I was very happy to be in the company of these lovely people instead of on my own solitary ruminations.  I would be even more grateful before the end of our day.
Heading to Yalova

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentines Cliches and Giving Up

I've had a sort of writing hiatus as of late. A mean and painful flu attacked me with temerity, and only the kind responses of the DP, at the school I work for, helped me come to the place where I was able to drop my pride and independent streak to ask for help.  Shortly thereafter,  a new man friend serendipitously appeared on my scene and sort of sent me on a side journey and raising some new questions for me about the international lifestyle and the intentional lifestyle.  So I've a few riddles I'd like to pose, and some quandaries I would like to ruminate on if you will indulge me.

Loneliness is a scourge.  I like my independence to be sure, yet in the quiet hours of a long day... I often find myself resenting my singularity.  I've left the past and all things prior behind, to come to this mysterious, exotic, frustrating, beautiful, difficult, historic land.   I am not alone in this.  Regardless of where you may hale from, or where you landed, you most likely have left some form of past behind to strike out on a new adventure and now you find yourself in uncharted waters with not a clue as to how to navigate towards friendship, love, and a sense of belonging.  To something.... anything.  We reach for those closest to us, those with commonalities of work and neighborhood and worship and other factors of kinship.  Like-mindedness, and sometimes, we even in desperation reach for those who are disparate.  And sometimes that turns out just fine.

Sometimes it does not.

I have been doing quite well on my own.  I have a couple of close friends here that I do things with.  People who's company I seek and who keep me free from the demons of loneliness.  I have the kids at the school too... they cheer and encourage me with their bright faces and hopeful youth. I also have dear friends back "home" in the states that I keep regular contact with...  though I am realizing that "home" is beginning to lose it's meaning in terms of place.  Many of my friends assured me that I would meet someone here and fall in love.  Of course, many of those same friends I think have a desire to live vicariously through my experiences here... so in retrospect... while I wanted to believe they were all prophetic utterances, I now am of the mindset that they were more wishful thinking and fancy than anything else.

I have actually dated more here than I ever did back in Sandpoint Idaho.  (Wonder of wonders... 10,000 people vs. 17 million or so......)  I also must say that the pool is a bit more......shall we say heterogeneous  here.   However....even though the nationalities are broader, the problems typical to dating at my age are still the same.   How do you get to know someone in a 4- 6 hour stretch of drinks, dinner, movie or even a walk.  Can you really become acquainted with someone in that short a period of time at our age?   Or are the defenses and expectations simply too thick and deep?  And do any of us still really believe in a silly nude cherub floating around with wings way too small for his body sending love darts to people who need each other?

I am intelligent, fit, youngish looking and acting, experienced (probably one of my problems) and willing.  But I just can't seem to connect with anyone reasonable and sane.  I've run the gamut from Turks who were way too young to men my age who are way too ..... I don't know, you would have to ask them.   I am perplexed, puzzled, stymied, and generally left scratching my head and having a lot of late night conversations with God about the whole Genesis thing.

Ok... right now some of the kids at the school I work at are studying adaptation.  The central idea that organisms can and do change themselves and their systems to fit into the environment that surrounds them.  We do that all the time.  I personally have had to adapt to changed living space... I went from about 2200 sq. foot home in the middle of the woods to a 38 sq. meter apartment on the fourth floor of an apartment block in a dense neighborhood.  So I clean less.  I also use less resources.  I don't drive, I walk everywhere or take public transit.  I've cut my bills by about 70% and I am worry about the same percentage less about it all.  However.......

I think it only really hit me full on this past New Years that I am now truly and fully on my own... without a significant other to call safe harbor to pull into during a loneliness storm, no back up plan for my self imposed exile.  I didn't panic though.  I have some great friends here and other places.  I have family and my faith, and to tell you the truth,  I was at peace with it all.  I adapted to being alone here in Istanbul.  I filled my time with the activities and the social interactions that I've written about.  I love my work too, that helps.  So yeah... fine on my own.  Then someone comes along who fits part of my ideal .... you know... faithful, intelligent, goes to church, responsible, humorous, no addictions.... fun but not ridiculous.  Something in me wakes up.    Ahhhh possibility within this new friendship... I even like his voice when he sings in church sitting next to me.  So you know.... you start to imagine that maybe .....

Well, here I sit on the eve of that cursed holiday of great expectations........   Imagination has long since taught me a lesson or two about .... well imagining.  I teach kids and adults all the time about positive thinking... how to get rid of "stinkin' thinkin'" and focus on what is good about life.  I am not abandoning that approach.  It actually is a new habit I've been cultivating since arriving in Turkey and it has served me extremely well.  I have a new found level of peace and happiness since shedding material goods, a shabby history, and negative ruminations.

I do not however hold to the belief that I can ... wait ... I will say I should work on creating my own reality.  What do I want?  Let's see... I will "conjure" a wealthy husband who loves me deeply, spoils me greatly, and we travel the world together in high adventure and passionate love.  Sounds great right?

Deeper into the heart of the matter though...... might it not be better to simply live and serve others and be joyful day by day and take whatever God gives... without demanding from the "universe" that it fit my desire with an outcome I design?  What if this "vision" I have for my future isn't good for the long term welfare of my soul?  Are 25 years of great fun worth an eternity of continually working out the things my innermost being still hasn't learned because it's been so busy entertaining itself? Eternity remember... I am pretty sure somewhere in our DNA lies the memory of endless time.

Don't get me wrong.   I would like a partner to share the rest of this life with.  I would gladly accept such a gift.   I suspect many of my readers feel the same.   It would be great to get flowers and to go out for dinner with a lovely human being who would gaze into my eyes and tell me how much he cares for me, then follows it up with actions that speak louder than his words.   But........ it's not looking so much like an impending reality at this point in my February evening.  I've been keeping my eyes open and it just hasn't happened.  And that's ok.  I don't have a lover.  I don't have a man in my life other than the dear friends who happen to be of the male gender - and most of them are either gay or married (thanks guys).  Maybe relationships are changing and maybe that change is bringing about new gifts of love... I don't know... I just wonder why so many of us are in the state of singularity....... what is that about?  Ideas I am open to.......

Maybe what I need is to simply be in relationship to my fellow human beings without exclusivity.  Without the drama, the heartache, the passion......... scratch that... I will keep the passion, I know I need it, but I am beginning to give up on the "vision" of the perfect intimate relationship.  That it will drop into my lap bidden by my wishes.  Perhaps it is simply not meant to be for me.   As much as I (and you... be honest...) have yearned for one close relationship that would last the rest of my lifetime... it just doesn't seem to arrive.  No matter how much positive thinking I do!  Quite frankly... I am tired of thinking about it.  There is a bible verse that says "Hope deferred makes the heart sick."  Well duh....   Unfortunately this verse is not immediately followed by a remedy.  Yet we know where the real focus is to be... not on the idol of romantic love, but on the progenitor instead.  Oh.  Yes.  If I can get my head to go where my heart knows it must.... 

So... that's it, I am ready to give up.   I yield.  Slap the hand on the mat... my struggle is done.  Life wins.  I've adapted.  And that's a good thing.

Happy Valentine's Day!

 ps -   next post I'll get back to my original focus on examining the international experience in Turkey.  I am going to Yalova this weekend........ hot springs Turkish style.  I am betting it will be vastly different from Ainsworth BC.  Pics too.  Love you.