Funeral for a Friend

I was looking for a writing prompt the other day, and it was this: what do you want people to say about you at your funeral? Not surprisingly, it led me back to the story of me and my abuser, because of course it did. You will get used to the rumination. I did. It took a while, though. I write, therefore I think, really think, about *everything* until I’m beating a dead horse.

The connection to her ran thusly:

I finally got tired of my spirit trying to define me by what she does to my insides, and not my own personality. Let me define “does to my insides.” In the beginning, it was about thinking that I’d found the love of my life. It took years of rumination before I could be in a room with both her and her partner without feeling like I was going to cry all the time. It was hard being a peacemaker and trying to stuff it down in front of them.

It was hard knowing all those years that I didn’t know what she’d told her partner about me, and whether her emotional abuse came from feeling like somehting wasn’t right and she couldn’t figure out what it was. The way she treated me when we were in each other’s lives was an odd mix of extremely tender love and over-the-top, scary as fuck rage. I could tell that she couldn’t tell whether to treat me like a threat or not.

I was never a threat. When I became a man (Still not transitioning. Shut it.), I put away childish things. Reminiscence is a hell of a lot different than wanting or trying to go back in time. Besides, since I’d gotten a front row seat to all her relationships, I realized that she made a much better friend, anyway- at least for my personality. I let her take up so much room in the relationship that I constantly let her hit me with a bulldozer because I didn’t want to go through the chaos and pain of letting go.

The aha moment (thank you, Oprah) was when I realized that even if in crossing the line into pedophilia was an accident because she didn’t vet the journal before she gave it to me, it still wasn’t my fault that I reacted sexually. No matter how I change the variables, the results are the same. Whether it was intentional or not, the facts are what they are. Her college journal and the completeness of her personality had let me into a part of her soul that I felt honored to receive. I thought the relationship was going to be an 80-year love affair, and when she started pushing me away, the more I stuffed down my grief because I was so embarrassed that I’d ever put that much energy toward so much of nothing… but as Dana and I say when we’re throwing darts and miss, “if you’re going to get nothing, at least get a lot of it.”

If there’s anything I wish I could say to her in person, it would be that she should consider the possibility that she felt something. A spark for me that went away when she realized what she was doing, because being attracted to each other had absolutely nothing to do with sex. For me, it was the explosion and light of feeling complete because I’d finally met someone like me. I’d finally met someone that didn’t cause guilt to stir up in me because I was gay. The guilt was there, but it definitely didn’t center on my sexuality. I was gay before I met her, I just didn’t have the words for it. She didn’t have any bearing on whether I liked sex with men or women, which I would like to say for the record since so many people actually believe that kind of shit.

No, the guilt came from always feeling wrong and bad because I deserved it. I had mistaken our relationship for pedophilia instead of genuine friendship. It took many years to stop feeling like I would never be able to talk about my emotions because I had made such a serious error in judgment. I didn’t trust myself to heal, I didn’t trust myself that in time, it would get better, and I didn’t trust her as far as I could throw her, but it didn’t stop the drive to be near her in the slightest… kind of like having an irresponsible teenager that you find yourself *having* to love because you know eventually they’ll get back on the right path, anyway. You’re just pissed about having to be so incredibly patient about it because waiting is hard. Tough love doesn’t even begin to cut it.

I was defined by always being told that I was her friend and nothing else, when there was CLEAR evidence that wasn’t true. I couldn’t handle the fact (at the time) that she might have given me the journal *on purpose*to pique my interest in sex and the logical explanation for it happening is that I was obsessed with her to the point of unrequited love. There was nothing unrequited about it. I was reacting to trauma and trying to pull her out.

In thinking about freeing myself and what I want people to say about me at my funeral, the best compliment anyone could pay me is that I slayed my own dragons to become the most me I’ve ever been. I see so many possibilities now that I’m not tied to the small person I used to be, and defined by someone else. I have found a voice that to me feels stronger because I’m so much more grounded- God to head, head to feet, feet to floor.

Amen.

I Needed a Drink

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

In the wake of everything that’s happened, there are three people I’d like to call out, because I was thirsty and they gave me a drink. I was naked, yadda yadda yadda. Ok, maybe naked was the wrong scripture. But you know what I mean.

Jesus talks about living water as a symbol of renewal and regeneration. So many people have offered me so much of it that I couldn’t even possibly swallow it all. I hope my cup overflows into yours (or, as I would like it to be known, the backwash Amen).

Dana, of course, is at the top of the list. But there are three others that deserve recognition.

1. Dave

Possibly my favorite reaction- astounded by my courage and some cursing in my defense. The cursing in her direction isn’t necessary, but I’m glad that someone could look into my mind and see I was telling the truth without needing evidence. We have also shared an amazing amount of humor in general because stupid is a great distraction.

2. Robyn

I get choked up about Robyn, because the connection was so random that it didn’t seem accidental. She became my Facebook friend after meeting me at church, so I saw her URL. I followed it and started reading. She posted an article about middle school love and love being awakened before its time. In that essay, I found myself. My inner child shuddered and sighed with the words. It was my Elizabeth Gilbert moment with snot and tears and cold tile.

3. Joseph

For the first time in my life, my voice teacher is male, which makes it even easier to dissociate choral music and “our music” (God if you only knew just how much there was. Frig.). On the flip side, in a roundabout way they are friends, because Joseph’s husband went to WTSU at the same time as “the crew,” my words for her gaggle of boys.* If I had known that before I walked into the church, I never would’ve. The fact that I was drawn because of the neighborhood helped me to know Joseph as his own man without any connection to my past… and he’s brilliant. When he inspires me in just the right way to accomplish something I’ve been working on, sometimes I can’t help it. Tears well up. This is what I’ve always wanted to do, and now I’m doing it.

And that, in a nutshell, is how Episcopal Church of the Epiphany has rescued me.

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*All divas have boys. So jelly. Joseph will take me there. I know he will. Do you hear me, universe? I WANT TO BE A DIVA BECAUSE I WANT MORE GAY BOYFRIENDS. That would be great, thanks.

My Official Response

I wrote this last night to somebody, but then I thought it needed to be here for everybody.

I wish I could tell you why yesterday was the day. Why something broke inside me that will never go back together. Every single person that has ever met me since I was 12 has felt her affects, more so when we were in each other’s lives making it worse all the time. I know that posting her name may have negative consequences for both of us, but I have a very small blog and this was 25 years ago. I don’t think I would have ever named her if the abuse was still ongoing, because it would be too fresh to process. The thing that struck me is that I’ve been hiding her, protecting her for so long that I lost myself and couldn’t find her. All the lies had swallowed the truth completely.

Telling my web site family was in effect telling everyone who has ever met me, “no, you’re not crazy. I did have an inappropriate relationship with her, and you tried to help me and I WOULDN’T LISTEN because she’s a saint.

People have been praying about this situation for so long and so hard that i would come out of my denial. I’m not mad. I love Diane to the ends of the earth. But I’m not going to protect her anymore. I’m done.

I wish that I could have done it a different way, but the parishioners that were there while it was going on are scattered to the four corners. A web site was the easiest way to tell everyone what happened the fastest. I am sure that there are consequences I haven’t thought of, yet, but my goal ceased to be reconciliation after I finally admitted to myself that she might be human and fallible and I might not be insane after all.

One and Only

I write a lot about why I don’t verbally process- I am much more at home with my keyboard. Typing words into the computer creates a clinical separation between my thoughts and my emotions. Typing keeps me level-headed and calm while I deal with monstrous issues. I feel that I have a gift for being able to take terrible situations and explain them in all their terribleness, while at the same time not forgetting to forgive everyone in the process. However, I only own that these are my descriptions, my recollections, and because of that, they are fallible in the way that all memories are.

However, there are some wounds that are so deep, so dark, so hard to find that we try to forget they’re there. While we’re busy trying to forget our pain, it exponentially multiplies. We tell ourselves that it’s nothing right up until those around us think we’ve suddenly snapped. It’s fine right up until it isn’t.

For instance, I truly believe that the reason I released her name when I did is because I internalized leaving Portland and the body memory shook me awake. It’s been over a year since I’ve had any hope of seeing her face, of telling her the truth, of being able to cry and scream it out so that it would be OVER and we could be at peace again. It shook me up so hardcore that I audibly heard my words letting go of my body and streaming into the flow of my content.

The clinical separation was intact right up until the postmortem. Someone asked me if I thought there were others. I said, “I can’t think about anyone but myself. It absolutely skeeves me out to think that there might have been other little girls. So until I can look at that land mine by itself, I’d like to believe I was her one and only.” In fact, my inner 14-year-old freaked the fuck out, because to believe that there were other little girls in her life at the same time as me would mean that I wasn’t special, it was all about control, and there was never any genuine love between us.

I don’t want to believe that. I want to believe that we would have been perfect for each other if we hadn’t met in that place, in that time, where the age difference mattered. It wasn’t as if the only thing we had in common was lesbianism. She was my favorite singer, my favorite conductor, my favorite person in the entire world because I was so excited about music and choir and anything she could teach me about getting better faster. I read an opera dictionary so that I could converse with her in her jargon. I was extraordinarily precocious, and there was nothing she could throw at me emotionally that I couldn’t catch. We got along on so many levels, which is why it was so easy to gloss over abuse in the first place. We spent a lot of time not talking about what happened, but it didn’t bother me because I didn’t realize that I was being redirected. It might have been an unconscious reaction on her part, but doesn’t render her blameless.

My truth is that not once has she ever told me the truth about my childhood. When I asked to meet with her, she said she couldn’t do it and sent her partner in her stead. When I said anything negative about her, no matter how insignificant, her partner would lose her shit and verbally wrestle me to the ground until I cried Uncle, which by then she’d been doing since I was 19, so she was really fucking good at it. I didn’t want to talk to her. By this time last year, I was ready to throw her off a cliff. It’s a good thing I pray, because there are a lot of cliffs in Portland.

My abuser claimed that I put her on a pedestal and wouldn’t let her fall so that she could just be herself, and she could never even conceive of how much it’s untrue. I know what I know, and have known it for 24 years, and I have loved her anyway. I have been her friend anyway. I’ve given her grace and peace and love and attention because I wanted to, which I never would have been able to do if I’d been bitter about what happened. I have gone through the natural stages of grief for what was stolen from me, and I don’t think it’s unfair to name the thief. I can hold it in my mind at the same time that I love her, and I can’t protect her. But whatever her story is, whatever she has to say in response to anything I’ve written, is all true, too. All emotions are valid. This relationship came to a crashing halt when I laid out how I felt about her, she encouraged me to trust her again by saying that she would like to engage in my process, and slammed the door just as quickly, even though I’d already told her that my nephew was in cardiac distress and not to contact me unless she was in it for the long haul.

I am far enough along in the healing process that I know what I need from her. It is the acceptance of the damage that she caused to my psyche despite the fact that I understand every reason why it happened, and can even empathize.

And in explaining all of this, one of my other friends said, “I think you’re right. I think something in the dynamic with you led her down the wrong path because you were such kindred spirits, anyway.” It makes the story more beautiful than tragic, but at the same time, it’s just a nice thought. It doesn’t necessarily make me feel better, but it does keep me from obsessing over the fact that I might not have been the only one from both my inner child and my inner parent’s point of view.

And at this point, who cares? I tell myself what I want to hear because I don’t have the luxury of feedback. If she has to live with a Google tattoo, she has to know that it’s equally as hard for me wandering around lost, trying to piece together what happened on my own and trying to make sense of something that will never balance out. I will never come back together again in exactly the same way before she came into my life.

It was 1990, and my biggest accomplishment to date was making it into the eighth grade band the beginning of my seventh grade year. My next biggest accomplishment was not getting kicked out of high school for bad grades… which no one could figure out because I’m just. so. smart.

The Rest of Us

I have lots of blog readers that don’t comment on WordPress, but frequently e-mail their thoughts. Though I will not quote any of them to protect their identities, the majority of them were people who had been keeping the same sorts of secrets- abuse that is so insidious that it took decades to figure out what was wrong and how to fix it. The tone was full of admiration for my courage in speaking out, naming my truth, and stopping the protection she’s enjoyed for most of her life.

The messages that got to me the most were the ones telling me to keep being strong “for the rest of us.”

Running the Codes

Yesterday would have been a good day to just breathe and not change my entire fucking life. But it wasn’t. It was the last day I would ever protect her in my entire life. No one has said anything negative. People have disagreed with me, sure, but always very respectfully, because they love me. Life doesn’t get any better than people able to disagree with you and love you all the way through it.

I am willing to entertain that I could have been wrong; I don’t think I was, but at the same time, I am not unfeeling enough not to be able to see the flip side of the coin. People have said that there might be unintended consequences for both of us, and for innocent people.

The “innocent people” line got to me. I gagged on those words, choking over them again and again. Are they innocent people to me when she is the one that deceived them? Is it my responsibility to clean up the mess she made? Are people unforgiving enough that they can’t see I’m writing this as a 36-year-old woman, so therefore the statute of limitations has already run out? That telling the truth after a quarter century is not to damage her, but to lift up all the people that tried to protect me and couldn’t because after I was lured toward her, I couldn’t see them anymore?

I’m reviewing the codes in another M&M, and my gut tells me that I absolutely did the right thing, because I did not set out to hurt her, only to free myself and the people that went through all of it with me, especially the ones I ran away from the hardest, because they loved me the most.

The Cost of Shame

Warning: This material is not safe for children, and not safe for work, either, if you have people walking by your desk. That is fair warning. Proceed at your own risk. I can’t believe I’m even going to write about this, but it is an essential part of recovering from what I believe is psychosexual abuse. This is not for you if you have not been a victim yourself of something like it, but you’re invited for enlightenment purposes.

It is amazing how dark I could go after I met (name redacted, although there are days I wonder why, because rage). I am just now starting to believe that I am whole and healthy sexually because for a number of years, I tortured myself by feeling dirty. When I was 17 or 18, I let a woman walk all over me because I felt that I was already damaged goods. That’s because I could love my girlfriend beyond all measure *and* feel like calling out the wrong name during sex at the same time. It was special, and please read as much fucked up into special as possible.

There has never been a time in my life that I haven’t mentally felt her presence during sex until now, because it took me so long to realize that what I was doing was a byproduct of my childhood and not reality. My reality used to be that I couldn’t think about sex without bringing it back around to some conversation that we’d had or another, and even though she was parental in nature about it, I couldn’t react that way anymore. She’d already given me the journal. She’d already groomed me into being secretive about the time we spent alone. The information she was giving me completely shifted the way I viewed what she was telling me.

Over time, that feeling grew into the shame that almost killed me. She’d planted evidence that she wanted to make love, and then when she didn’t, it said to me in more ways than one how awful and dirty I was for even thinking about it. She engineered that reaction in me like she wanted it, and then slammed the door. What was I supposed to feel in that situation? In doing so much research about verbal abuse, my reaction was right on target. She hooked me into her every word, her every movement, her complete and total seduction.

It wasn’t sex that would have killed me. It would have been rumination from those moments forward, the one where the journal changed hands, from her and back. In some sense, I have not been able to breathe for 24 years, especially during sex, because it brings up all the emotional issues for me- the feeling that I’m disgusting, and I have been since I was 14 years old. I have carried that message into every sexual relationship I’ve entered, and there have been very few times in my life that I have been willing to take on the role of “top” because I generally want women to abuse me in bed. I want to feel as dirty as I am, and be punished for it egregiously. I have to live with this fucking mess every day of my life, and its tendrils are so entrenched that it’s taken years to start scraping at them with a razor and meat tenderizer.

Through me, every one of my sexual partners has had to deal with that dark energy, the kind that gnaws at you until your throat closes. This is not who I want to be, and I see it so clearly. Dana is owed more than that. I don’t want her to have to “deal with me” anymore. She’s been so patient and so kind through all of this, and at the same time, not as forgiving as I am. I have so many more positive memories than she does that the instinct to absolutely bite into her neck and rip off her head occurs more often than it does for me.

The consequences of her actions have fucked up every marriage, every sexual encounter, every afterglow where I ruminate on shame instead of enjoying aftershocks of a great orgasm. The horrible thing is that they’ve only been able to tell by the energy I exude, because it’s not on the surface where I can talk about it. It’s down deep in the valley of vulnerability, locked away in a velvet box that leaks.

Here’s another thing I’ve lied about through this whole process. She reads every word. She devours it. I know it, because she told me. She thinks I’m an excellent writer, and even after calling her out on her abuse, the only thing she said was “keep being true to yourself.” Being true to myself says that she has caused so much damage to me and my family that she should *have* to live with a Google tattoo. I want her to feel the hell I’ve been through over the past 24 years, because the lies have compounded into none of this ever happened and Leslie’s a mess.

Diane Syrcle.