The Breakdown in the System

I set my alarm for 7:30 so that I could be at the church by 9:00 to attend Sunday School and choir practice. It was really important that I was there for World Communion Sunday, because there was a lot of music- one of the biggest sets of the entire season. I kept hitting the snooze button because I stayed up late reading, not remembering that if you hit the snooze button too many times, it turns off and stops ringing entirely. The next time I woke up, it was 11:15 and church starts at 10:30. I feel like a dickhead of enormous proportions, because if I was going to miss a Sunday, this wasn’t it. I am one of the few sopranos who has the vocal power to act as what I call “lead trumpet player.” We have one other one, Ingrid, but she wasn’t there at choir practice on Thursday and I just have to hope to God she made it to church.

The other breakdown is that Samantha is out of town visiting one of her other close friends, and so there was no one to give me a wake-up call. I should have texted her last night, because my phone ringing is one of the few things that will get me up when my alarm won’t. To combat the problem, I took the Best Buy gift card that my aunt and my mom gave me for my birthday and bought a clock radio of massive proportions. It has a volume setting that goes to “oh my fuck,” and it will connect with bluetooth and act as a speaker phone so that Samantha doesn’t have to come upstairs and jump on me, which she’s threatened to do many times.

Also, my cat, Asher, is dead. She died a long time ago, but it’s another breakdown in the system because rain, shine, sleet, snow, whatever, every morning that little fucker stuck one claw up my nose at 5:30 AM. With that alarm, there is no snooze. My ex-girlfriend, Angela, stuck her finger up my nose to wake me up one morning, and I think Asher extrapolated for the next four years.

Dear Angela,




I cannot get a new cat for a couple of reasons. The first is that I don’t want to pay for food, water, vet checks, etc. The second is that we have dogs, and Nassers aren’t big on cats, so I’d have to hide her in my room at all times. This does not work for me. I’d rather wait until I have an apartment of my own and she can move freely about my sofas and chairs as God intended.

I actually already have a cat, but I left him with Dana, which for the record, was REALLY Dana doing me a solid.

She was so cute. She said, “of course I have to do you a solid or the house will blow up.” The link for “doing me a solid” is to Hulu for the episode. You might need a subscription to watch it. I am pretty sure that I pay for Hulu *just* to watch Regular Show. It is the most brilliant show on television, built for kids and adults, because the adult jokes go right over the kids’ heads. Soda is beer and pizza is weed, so the guys are absolute stoners and get into all kinds of trouble. Seriously, I have watched Just Set Up the Chairs approximately 58 times, and that is underestimating.

When I was working for Alert Logic, I used to go home for lunch. Regular Show episodes are about 12 minutes, so I would grab a sandwich and have just enough time for an episode before I had to drive back. There were WEEKS where I would watch Just Set Up the Chairs every day.

My other favorite was an episode of Adventure Time called Trouble in Lumpy Space, because I will watch ANYTHING with Lumpy Space Princess. I got an LSP throw blanket for when I was working overnight and would sleep on my lunch break. I also used to have a Mordecai and Rigby belt, but Dana stole it from me. Eh. I did her a solid.

The other breakdown in the system is that I usually take a 200mg caffeine tab as soon as my alarm goes off, so that if I hit the snooze button a couple of times, it’s kicked in and I can go right to a shower. I have so many tips, tricks, and failsafes. It’s a shame I didn’t use them.

I did go to church yesterday, though. It’s ok that I preached to myself. I fell asleep in the middle, though.

Sermon for Proper 22, Year B: World Communion Sunday

World Communion Sunday was started in 1933 at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 1933 was the worst year of The Great Depression, and people all over were worried about the rise of Nazism and Fascism. The prevailing attitude that year was one of fear and anxiety, much like today as we combat hunger, inequality, and terrorism. Shadyside’s response to these attitudes back then was to create a Sunday in which we all celebrate the Eucharist at once, drawing the circle wide in prayer and thanksgiving…. one that continues in our fear and doubt even today. Attitudes of anxiety have risen and fallen over the years since World Communion Sunday was created, but the idea that at least once a year, we all (regardless of denomination) come to the table together has not.

We come to the table regardless of our circumstance in life, and we receive food, anyway.

It is interesting that because we are coming to the communion table in unity, today’s gospel is, in part, about divorce… or, at least it is on the surface. It is hard to tell whether the Pharisees really wanted to know what Jesus thought, or whether it was another legal entrapment they could use to perpetuate his demise. They ask, is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? Notice that with the Pharisees, we are not talking about love, fidelity, roses, and candles. They want to know one thing. Is it lawful? It is in this moment that Jesus gets an amen from me because he does this political sidestep of massive proportions and turns the question back around on them. He says,what did Moses command you? I know this is venturing into fiction, but I think Jesus gets nauseous every time the Pharisees try to talk to him, and he knows that anything he says can and will be used against him in a court of law, so the mask he presents to the world comes down to hide his fear. He won’t use his own words, but those of someone whom the Pharisees already follow. The Pharisees answer, Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.

I’m going to have to stop us riiiiiiiiiight there.

There’s some history that needs to be explained, because that time and structure was quite different than the one we have today. First of all, just as children don’t choose their parents, they didn’t choose their partners, either. Boys and girls were paired off according to their parents’ deals with each other, and some women were not even lucky enough to marry someone of their own age. If a family had a chance to move up in stature, but their daughter was 13 and the groom was 35, this was not considered any sort of deal breaker. Money was money and women were property. In fact, in Mosaic law, a woman could not initiate divorce. Only a man could.

Because marriage then had to do with property, stature, and honor of the families involved, divorce was significantly more complicated than it is today… and by property, I also mean the bride herself. Women could not initiate divorce because in the eyes of the law, they weren’t people in any case.

Here is where Jesus crosses the line from the legal to the spiritual with the Pharisees:

Because of your hardness of heart he [Editor’s Note: Moses] wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.

The Gospel does not record what the Pharisees have to say about this, instead skipping to a private conversation between Jesus and the Disciples. They ask him about divorce again and he says, whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.

Something jumped out at me in this text very quickly, and that is in front of the Pharisees, Jesus only mentions a husband divorcing his wife. In private, he talks about the ability of a woman to divorce her husband. In private, beyond the gaze of the Pharisees, Jesus supported marriage equality between both partners. Both people are allowed to have grounds for divorce.

In this one instance, Jesus changes the definition of marriage. However, he does not change the content. The only grounds for divorce are adultery, and not, as some liberal Jews were beginning to think, for any fault in the wife at all. For instance, Jesus did not think it was lawful to divorce your wife if she ruined your dinner or ruined your favorite shirt, even in front of the Pharisees… departing from Deuteronomy 24:1-4, which notes grounds for divorce as a husband simply finding something displeasing about his wife.

I believe that Jesus’ interpretation of divorce was that it should only happen when something cracks the foundation of marriage, because cracking the foundation is rarely something that can be undone.

Dana and I were sitting in the congregation at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, when Dr. Ed Young was preaching on the topic of divorce. He took out both a blue and a pink piece of paper and glued them together. When it had dried somewhat, he started to try and take the blue and pink pieces of paper back apart. Invariably, and I am sure you’re ahead of me here, there were little pink pieces of paper still on the blue side and little blue pieces of paper still on the pink side. He made the point that once we have been put together, there is no way to separate cleanly. In a Southern Baptist church, of course he wouldn’t have held up two pink or blue pieces of paper, but the message was the same. Even though the pieces of paper are the same color, is it any easier to separate them wholly into what they were before they were joined?

I cannot speak for Dana, but I know that her emotional paper is still inside me, and will be for a lifetime. I will always think about the regrets I had in cracking our foundation, which started slow and ended with a thunderclap. We didn’t just break up with each other, we broke up our families, as well… and this is exactly the image that Jesus is trying to get us to see. What God has put together, let no one put asunder is true even after a divorce has taken place. No one can take away my memories of Dana, and no one can take away her memories of me…. the good, the bad, the terrible, the glorious… they’re all there in movies we revisit, sometimes whether we want to or not.

Jesus is right- those memories do not go away in being with other people, and I believe that is how we should interpret his words about committing adultery with future partners. The people we divorce still sit with us and we with them. Moving on does not mean that our memories are erased, but with the passage of time, perhaps we sit with them easier. We pray through the pain, both for forgiveness from God and from the person we have wronged, because let’s face it. In a divorce, no one wins. We have both wronged each other.

Your invitation today is how you’re going to react in treating those who have been divorced. Are you going to sit in judgment like a Pharisee, or are you going to open the circle wider to be inclusive of those who have been emotionally injured in that way? Are you going to look at the divorced in shame, or are you going to simply say, I’m sorry for your loss? If you aren’t there yet, perhaps this is the Sunday you’ll progress toward equality, because gathering at the table means that no one is left to sit watching from the pews. No one is shamed. No one is turned away empty-handed.

We are one bread, one body…. o’er all the earth.


Stuff Happens

Today my friend Scott Lynch posted an article about Jeb Bush’s response to the shooting in Oregon, which was “stuff happens.” I get it. He’s caught up in NRA votes he doesn’t want to lose, but he also showed his ignorance of the situation in unparalleled ways. His friend Nathan left this video reply:

It was the best reply he ever could have given, and if you take a look at the comments on the video, there are a lot of people who agree with Nathan’s assessment. The first comment at the top right now is, “Jeb, if you’re listening, it was ‘stuff happens’ when we decided to kick your ass.”

I have friends in Roseburg and a bigger number of friends who grew up in Roseburg and moved to Portland as adults. So my heart is with all of them tonight, because Roseburg is the kind of town where that stuff doesn’t happen… as are all of the small towns that never saw it coming. One might not be surprised to hear of a school shooting in Bed-Stuy or Third Ward, but in tiny communities the fear is bigger because the reason they live in small towns is that crime is expected to be lower.

Gun control is not a sticky subject with me. I love guns, but I wouldn’t own one. I just like to buy rounds and go and rent them at the range. I like the loud crack, the feeling of the butt on my shoulder, the smell of spent rounds. To me, it is like going to the batting cages. I know within myself that I am a terrible shot, and it is more likely that I would have a gun wrested away from me than I would have a chance of protecting myself. In fact, that’s what most studies show… that you have to train long and hard to actually be able to use a gun in a high pressure situation like a home invasion. Inexperienced marksmen in terrifying situations are not calm enough to calculate a shot, and if you miss, you are likely to be shot with your own firearm.

However, I have no problem with training to be that good. I have no problem with former soldiers who carry sidearms using the proper certifications. When Volfe and I were together every day, he made a point of teaching me how to shoot, how to clean a shotgun/rifle, and all of the rules therein. With monocular vision, I am the type person that needs scattershot in hopes that I will hit something. My favorite time out on the range ever was shooting the fuck out of an old Dell computer. It was a bullet for every user with a stupid question who called me from their car.

The problem is that there are too many people like me who enjoy shooting, but do not put the time in to be excellent under pressure. For instance, I couldn’t hit a moving target to save my life. I especially couldn’t hit one running at me, especially if that person was armed as well. I know my limitations, and there are too many people who don’t and buy firearms for their homes, anyway.

I don’t think that the answer to school shooting is more gun legislation, necessarily. I’d have to read what was proposed to see whether I agreed with it…. because the things that school shooters do are already illegal. Schools are getting smart and putting real police on the grounds, ready to interrupt that kind of situation… and at the same time, putting cops in the schools leads to, unfortunately, racial profiling and kids that get into the system and can never get back out, because real cops are called in for minor infractions and sentencing is traditionally heavier on black students. It is a clusterfuck of massive proportions, because of course there need to be armed cops on school grounds. There have been too many school shootings to ignore this new reality. But where does school administration end and policing begin? When do you get sent to the principal’s office and when do you get arrested?

I went to a symposium at Howard University where Jeffrey Thames and several others spoke about this very thing- one case study was a policeman handcuffing a black five-year-old for a five-year-old sort of crime… something that when I was in school would have led to in-school suspension or being expelled for a few days, not an arrest record. And the bitch of it is that studies show that white students still get these type punishments while black students do not. This is just an editorial- you’ll have to do the research on your own, but I promise it is out there and it is frightening.

To change gears, where does mental health enter into all of this? Even people without a history of mental illness have got to have something loose in their heads if they think that shooting up a school is the right answer. How do we solve the underlying problem so that this doesn’t keep happening? Like I said, I am not sure that Congress can do anything- what these people do is already illegal.

I also do not think it is right or sane to own anything more than a handgun and/or a rifle, and I go back to United States v. Miller for this very thing. It was a case aimed at sawed-off shotguns, in which the court ruled that it was not in keeping with regular military equipment and therefore not necessary in a militia situation… the very thing for which the Second Amendment provides.

The interpretation we constructed in Con Law my junior year is that the founding fathers never could have conceived of such an instrument, and I extrapolate that to all firearms in that category. For instance, it is not necessary to keep an uzi in your home, particularly if you are not trained on its use. To me, that is a sign of mental instability all on its own. What kind of situation would possibly present itself in your home where you would need that kind of fire power? To me, that situation lives in your head, and not in reality.

The problem is not in the legislature. The problem is much deeper than that. Perhaps if mental health care were more readily available, the people that feel those sorts of threats in their heads can be talked off that kind of ledge.

If you really want a lesson in the Second Amendment, I suggest reading the Outlander series from beginning to end. It goes from the Jacobite uprising in 1745 all the way through the militias that won the Revolutionary War, and how the colonies handled militias that provided their own weapons. Particularly in the colony of North Carolina, there was no real government in place *but* the militias, because it was so wild that it was sparsely settled and people had to travel long distances for police and government, anyway.

We have to find a way to separate needs from wants, and fantasy and reality. I do not believe that can be done with a one-pronged approach. There has to be a mental health component to gun ownership, because no one is coming to take your guns, as long as you own them responsibly. And by responsibly, it means that if you have children in your house, you cannot have a way for them to get curious and get a hold of your guns on their own. Hiding the key to the gun safe somewhere in your house is not the answer, because your kids are much smarter than you think.

I also believe that gun ownership also depends on terrain. For instance, more fire power is going to be needed to protect yourself in rural Alaska than suburban Texas. If your house is being robbed, that’s one thing. If your house is in danger of being taken down by a bear or a moose, that’s another. Also, are you trying to protect your home or are you literally trying to feed yourself for an entire winter?

All of these questions might make a great interview before you buy a gun in the first place. If legislation is involved, to me it would be creating a way to talk to gun owners about what they’re trying to do with them.

People who steal guns are another matter entirely. Any law on the books is going to be broken, anyway. It is obvious to me that some of these problems start in childhood and compound. Perhaps the answer is more akin to raising healthy adults, and focusing on the way to do it right.

I don’t have a problem with guns. I have a problem with criminals…. because you know…..

Stuff happens.

Cwoffee Twalk

Today I just feel like writing about what’s been happening… nothing big or exciting, just want to invite you into my sun room for a cup of coffee (or tea, if you prefer). We have to sit in the sun room because Hurricane Joaquin is coming and the weather is dreary- too dreary to sit outside, because when the rain starts, it usually blows up onto the porch. I have about two hours before I have to leave for choir, the perfect time for a stitch and bitch club. I usually go to choir 30 minutes early so that I can warm up before I go in. Makes everything so much easier because if I go in cold, I don’t have the control over my voice that I need to be flexible. I need my high As to float off, not sound like a strangled cat, which I have done and it is attractive, let me tell you….. The best part is that I can warm up in the sanctuary, and the acoustics are incredible. There’s a balcony in the back, and I sing to it, replacing the friend on the wall that Joseph used as focus. Singing is the one thing in my life that really makes me feel special, because it strengthened me when I graduated into a real soprano from a trumpet player just faking it.

Yes, I still hear Diane in a lot of my flourishes, but I cannot turn off that part of myself, and at this point, I’ve made my piece with it. Piece instead of peace because I am not sure I will ever have true peace with that issue, but it is a piece of myself. A compartment in which she lives and breathes through me. It is the one part of me that will never let go of her, because she taught me too much to turn back.

I’ve talked a lot about her in therapy, and Sarah is helping me breathe through it… much too close to labor for my taste, but it is working. It is amazing how birthing new emotions is like birthing a baby, because everything hurts. I have to breathe all the way down, and after a session, my abdomen and diaphragm are stretched to capacity. It’s to combat the fight-or-flight impulse, because in writing down all of my emotions, very few people talk back to me. It is a different thing to have someone pulling me through the pain and trying to turn it into action on my part. Trying to help me put my life back together so that I don’t feel like a victim but a survivor. It was amazing how much I thought I knew when I was a teenager, and how I thought all of it was normal. All the sunshine, all the chill, all the opening up to me and then pulling away when she thought she’d said too much and I was responding with love but she wasn’t taking it in… or it seemed like it. It was a dance of intimacy where she would tell me things that were too mature for me to hear, and then not give me a place to go with how I felt about it. She was very open when I was talking about my own life, and very closed off when I wanted to talk about hers. It wasn’t equal in a ton of ways, but abuse is so black and white when you’re that age that it doesn’t occur to you that someone can stunt your emotional growth without ever touching you.

Yesterday, I was railing at Sarah. “Why didn’t I realize this when I was 21? 25? I feel too old for this shit and at the same time, I feel like a 14-year-old girl in a 38-year-old woman’s body!” I have married that pattern my whole life, wanting to save women in trouble from whatever it was that was bothering them without thinking of myself at all. Without thinking of career or interests or anything that might have individuated me from them. I was just the Lanagan Search and Rescue system, without applying any of those lessons learned to myself.

My reflex in breaking up with Dana is that I’ve had enough. Dana and I had an interesting relationship in that we both had wounds left over from childhood and we were both trying to save each other, with very little forward progress. We both latched onto each other in our need, and it was so, so good right up until it wasn’t.

I hoped like hell that it could be good again, and I lost. Straight up. She came in Kings full over Aces and said it just wasn’t going to happen.

I disappeared into my books and my silence. I isolate all the time, because I am not ready for a relationship with anyone. My closest friend right now is my roommate, Samantha, which allows me to isolate and have a friend at the same time. We both like our space, and retreat into it often… but at the same time, we share some of the same emotional wounds and can lean on each other when necessary. In fact, it was me that convinced Samantha she needed Vesta as much as I do, and now we go together on Wednesdays so that she can drive me, which is sweet even though the office is within walking distance.

In the last few months, I have found more solace in books than I have in other people, and it is as if they are returning me to the person I used to be. When I was a kid, I was also a voracious reader, and it feels good to be lost in reading and singing and focusing on the things I love rather than what someone else does. I have treated myself differently during this breakup, because when I broke up with Kathleen, I didn’t do all the work necessary to get past the search and rescue system, and I just ended up in the same relationship over and over.

Katharin isolated me from all my friends and when I told her about protesting the war in Iraq and the safe sanctuary program at Bridgeport, she punched a hole in the wall she was so angry. She didn’t want to be with someone who thought immigrants deserved safe sanctuary and the war in Iraq was wrong… even though I told her that I always support boots on the ground, I just don’t always support the commander in chief. Supporting the soldiers that have to carry out the President’s wishes is a lot different than supporting the higher-ups. The worst part was that we were having company dear to me the next day, and I had to find a way to get the wall fixed before they arrived.

She also held it over my head that I was a little bit woo-woo. That I’d celebrated Solstice and Beltane and had no problem with the idea of Wicca as a practice because most of Christianity was borne of it. I changed too much of myself to try and make that relationship fit, and it wasn’t until Dana started getting angry that I noticed. She was my fierce protector, and told me flat out how abusive Katharin was and to get the fuck away from her. She didn’t say it in those words, but the fire in her eyes told me everything I needed to know. Katharin wasn’t one of us, would never fit in, because Dana and I loved each other for who we were, warts and all… and so did Bryn and Matt and Holly and all of my other friends. I didn’t need to change for anyone else, and I needed to re-join the people that would never try and make me.

Loving Dana was realizing that it was the first time someone had ever tried to save me. She held me while I cried, listened to my frustrations, and gave me emotional band-aids of massive proportions. Losing her is indeed the worst thing that has ever happened to me, and I have so many regrets to work out with Sarah. On some days, I feel incomplete without her. On others, I am happy to have this time to myself. Maybe someday we’ll be friends, but I am too angry about the way she manipulated me to see her as anything but danger. It was ridiculous how she kissed me on the street like she meant it and then handed me my heart in a trash bag because I could hear her talking to her mother about how she was never going back, but I’m guessing that her mother didn’t know she was kissing me and I didn’t know the extent of how much she’d told her mother about what we’d been through.

I miss her hugs the most… the way our bodies just fit together and I could rest my chin on her shoulder in happiness and in pain. But I don’t miss her embarrassing the crap out of me at parties and I don’t miss the fights where she was trying to tell me something and crying so hard I couldn’t understand her so that I got irritated that I couldn’t understand what was happening. I didn’t have enough patience. I didn’t have enough give. By the end, I was in complete survival mode, because neither one of us could handle the other. We’d taken care of each other over the years, and it was heartbreaking when we stopped. It was either Argo or Dana and that’s where the rubber met the road. This after months and months of me begging and pleading with her that I would back off, but please don’t take her away from me. Please don’t isolate me from a relationship that has become a life raft of enormous proportion. Please don’t use her in fights as if she is a threat, because she’s not. I’m working through a hell of a lot of issues right now and I could use more than one supportive ear…. please…. please…..

I felt it was better to come straight out and tell Dana that I was struggling with my feelings for Argo because it was an explosive connection from the beginning and I didn’t know what to do because I knew that my struggle was mine to own. Argo was threatened by it, and there was no reason to assume that she was the problem.

She wasn’t. I was.

The process happened exactly like I thought it would with Argo. My feelings for her went away and I could just see her as a buddy, but it came too late to save my relationship with Dana, because Dana thought that I was on my way out, anyway…. which was the furthest thing from the truth of the matter. The truth was that if Dana had stuck around for the entire process, she would have seen the changes I’ve undergone in person, but maybe she didn’t want to… and that’s on her.

I wish she’d stuck around to see the changes I’ve undergone in person, but I didn’t invite her to move with me and I didn’t want to. By that time in my life, I was tired of fighting and ready for solitude. Now the pendulum has swung too far and I have trouble making myself interact with anyone because I don’t want to hurt them and I don’t want them to hurt me. Sarah says that it’s unhealthy the amount of time I spend alone and I tell her it’s ok, I’m comfortable there and she says, “but that’s the problem.”

Church is helping- these relationships that aren’t deep but enlightening all the same. My mind is piqued with all kinds of information on theology and a progressive one at that. I am trying, but at the same time, I’d hide under the handbell tables if we had them.

That was my safe sanctuary when I was a tween. Diane would come and find me and sit under them with me, and I would give a limb to have any one of those moments back. Yes, it was inappropriate… but the way she held me can’t be duplicated by anyone else, either. I miss her hugs the most… the way I could just cling to her for a moment and the whole world would be blocked out. From the moment I met her, she lit me up from the inside. Those are the moments I feel I’m allowed to miss, because I can put the inappropriateness in a different box and just enjoy the good times in my mind.

All of these women have changed me, in both good and bad ways, but I wouldn’t trade any of the experiences I’ve had for anything in the world. I choose to believe that with Diane, it was a kindred spirit kind of love, which is why she still sits on my shoulder occasionally, my angel when I am making music.

Dana is the angel I reach for in the night, sometimes disappointed that she’s not there and sometimes relieved that it’s just a dream.

Argo is the angel I call on when I need the chord that runs between us, because regardless of the past, it is still strong on my end. Now that we are at peace, the chord is shimmery and silver. Sometimes it feels tangible. She is the Argo, the ship that takes me safely from journey to journey. One of these days, I will have the courage to be Jason, the captain of my own ship. Right now, I’m just simple Argonaut, letting the ship sway me to sleep as I travel.

Because I am working so hard on me, the waters are calm, no matter what Joaquin decides.

My angels carry me even in the midst of the storm… literally and figuratively.


…as a kite -or- The Spectrum and How to Swing It

I’m writing this after just taking a fresh dose of Tylenol 3, so bear with me. Some of this might sound awesome. Some of this might sound like Drinking Out of Cups.

I finally had enough of Amen: What Prayer Can Mean in a World Beyond Belief and started a novel just for fun (is the subtitle a nod to Pagels?). I’ve never read the alphabet series, so I’m a few pages into A is for Alibi. I think Kinsey and I are at the beginning of a beautiful friendship. It reminds me a little of Mallory’s Oracle, but only because Kinsey Milhone and Kathy Mallory are somewhat similar in their delivery and approach to their work. I love novels with strong women leads, because I want to be a strong woman and it doesn’t hurt to take their strength into myself. It’s like getting a shot in the arm of bravery, because if they can get up every morning and do what they do, so can I.

In terms of giving up on Amen, I can’t put it away entirely. I’m trying to finish it before Sunday, because the class has had this book for a while and I don’t want to show up unprepared. My former minister friends are very interested in my opinion. I don’t know that they’ll like what I have to say, but I’m willing to put myself out there, anyway. My answer to this entire book is that the author seems very full of herself. Absolutely sure that there’s not a deity, because prayer works regardless. The thing that makes me feel that she’s so conceited in her writing is that she may not mean to, but she speaks down to those who do believe there’s a deity, as if those who believe are just not as mature in their faith as she is.

Let me say for the record, “fuck that noise.”

Faith is not a journey toward believing there is no deity and praying, anyway. Faith is a spectrum, just like sexuality. To illustrate, I will go back almost ten years and tell you about the time I was sitting in the back of the church at Bridgeport while the Portland Lesbian Choir was setting up for their dress rehearsal (we rented out our space for concerts). One of the women was wearing a t-shirt that said, “100% Lesbian.” Nancy was in love with a woman, but had never dated any others. Before she met her partner, she considered herself straight. At the time, I was dating a man, for the first and only time as an adult (so far). We sat there for at least 20 minutes trying to decide what percentage of lesbian we were. Some days, I feel gayer than others.

It’s the same with religion. Sometimes I am absolutely sure there’s a God, and sometimes I’m not. But there is never a point at which I will go all the way toward atheism, because the question will never be settled for me. Just as I will never consider myself gay or lesbian, because to me, that is saying that even though I have only been married to women, that means the men I’ve dated don’t count. And of course they do. When Ryan and I were together, we dated for a year and two months, and that was in middle school… highly unusual for kids that young, and yet, we just fit. He was the cream in my coffee and the butter on my bread. It was one of the happiest times of my life. To call myself gay after that is just ridiculous. Bisexuality gets a bad rap because most people think it means that you date both sexes at the same time to be happy. Not so much. Bisexuality is a spectrum that lasts your whole life, and if I look at my whole life, I’ve been attracted to men as well as women, but never once has it occurred to me not to be monogamous.

Klein Sexual Orientation Grid
To extrapolate a little further, my first wife was bisexual as well, and because of this, she really wanted to go to a bisexual conference held in Houston where one of the keynote speakers was the late and great Fritz Klein. Remember that name, because even though he died a relatively long time ago, he will teach you just as much about your sexuality now as he told me in that lecture. He took Alfred Kinsey’s work (the scale from 0 being completely heterosexual and 6 being completely homosexual) and added to it in ways that most people never think about, but should. Getting to meet and spend time with him is one of my fondest memories, but this is his legacy.

If you click on the image, it will show a version large enough to print that you can fill out on your own. Here’s the catch. No matter what you put in any of the boxes, Dr. Klein firmly believes that one box trumps them all, and that is self-identification. Say you fill out everything with numbers that say you are as queer as a three dollar bill. If you self-identify as straight, then you are. Period. You are what you say you are, and no one can tell you any different. Self-identification comes at your own pace, on your own time.

There should be some sort of grid for belief, as well. Perhaps I will be the one to make it. I certainly have enough information over my lifetime to complete something like it in terms of belief, prayer life, commitment to religious services, etc. It is a rolling set of emotions. Sometimes I feel more spiritual than others. Sometimes I feel more willing to commit to going to church than others. Sometimes I feel more altruism than others. However, if I look at my faith over my lifetime, I have consistently believed that I don’t know if there’s a God or not. I have never, not even once, believed that there was no God. I always fall into that category of, “who knows?”

I have told this story on Nadia before, but I will tell it again. Nadia Bolz-Weber is a loudmouthed, often profane, heavily tattooed Lutheran minister whom I seek to emulate, but in the best of ways. One of the stories she tells in her autobiography, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, is that she was called to the bedside of a man who said, “I’m an atheist!” She said that in her head, she was thinking, “good for you. I wish I could pull that off.” I knew intimately what she meant- that for this man, there was no struggle. It was black or white.

Even for “professional Christians,” it’s sometimes a struggle to believe that someone is listening when we pray. However, there are two things that keep me in the game at all times. The first is this scene from Shadowlands:

The second is that regardless of how I’m feeling when I show up for church in the morning, there is that moment where we’re all in deep prayer together, sharing joy and pain… or there’s that moment when we are hearing the words that have been said for hundreds of years that begin, “on the night he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: ‘take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.'”

I don’t do all of this because I think God cares one way or the other. God is too big, too mystical, too unknowable to think that God might require worship. I do all of this because I see what it does in my own life, just like Jack Lewis. I do not have the option not to pray. It flows as easily from me as do blood, sweat & tears (as a brass player, you didn’t really think I was going to pass that up, did you?). It strengthens me when I think I do not have anything left. It shows me my flaws in my own reasoning because as I am praying, God whispers back… and of course I think the god-conscience is part of myself. I think that the god-conscience resides in every living being.

Where you fall on the spectrum is whether you decide to use it. If you don’t, it doesn’t mean that you are a bad person. It means that you have something else in your life that fills that spot for you. As a liberal Christian trying to take back the fanatical words of the Evangelical movement, I am sorry if you are an atheist and you have ever been treated badly by a Christian wanting to help you to death.

You are welcome to walk with me. I will even hold your hand. It is not either of our jobs to change each other’s minds, just to be together, because the spectrum is wide, but not so much when our fingers touch.



I have a dentist appointment at 3:30 today, so I only have to hang on a little bit longer. By then, my Tylenol and ibuprofen will have worn off enough that if they give me a vicoprofen or a T3 it won’t bother my stomach and I might kiss them. Might. We’ll just see what happens when I get there. :) Even if all they give me is laughing gas and try to make me forget about the pain, that will be enough. I have such problems with my teeth that I’ve just put off and put off due to cost that I’m in trouble. I’ve already had a tooth extracted on that side, and it’s affecting everything, including the way I drool. It’s attractive, let me tell you. And remember ladies, I’m single.

My tooth is the only thing I can really think about, so distraction is key. I’ve been watching the fourth season of Veep, and when I realized I was devouring it too fast, I switched back to reading Amen. Like I said earlier, I am reading it for Contemporary Theology class, but I fucking hate it. The author has an air of righteousness about her that is just so off-putting. It’s full of shit like, “if you believe x or so doctrine, keep doing what works for you, but…” It’s like reading a watered down version of Richard Dawkins, and I so wish I was kidding about that. Other people’s beliefs are their beliefs, and they are so cute. I am taking in her words without believing them. I want to argue her into the ground, and if I ever get the chance, I will. Because there’s a way to talk about belief without sounding like a sanctimonious prick. I will water my comments down in Sunday School, but you know me. I won’t water them down here. Mostly her thought process is that you can be an atheist and be a part of the life of the church and pray and all of these things, with which I totally agree. No one should ever be turned away from a church, because at its heart, church is about altruism just as much as it is about belief in God. If you are an atheist, you are always welcome at St. James and All Sinners, because even if you don’t believe in God, I will still put you to work feeding the homeless and asking you to bring extra socks and food.

And if you show up, there will be no discussion about whether your belief is right or wrong. It just is. There’s no proof either way… just as I expect that there will be no discussion about others’ beliefs without really trying to reach across the pews. I’m not going to talk you out of your atheism, and you’re not going to talk me out of my belief, so intelligent discussion can take place within those parameters. I am also not going to let anyone say that your beliefs are cute, but you’re really not mature enough in your faith to see that there’s not really a supreme being… or that there is. But, to me, it’s not the classic grandfather in the sky, but a place inside all of us that yearns for the divine and the mystical for answers. What scientists do not seem to understand is that faith does not answer the scientific problems of our time, but the human ones.

Faith and science can reside together because they accomplish different things. It will not help you to memorize the periodic table when your child is in surgery. It is then that we reach to the mystical and the divine for the prayers that we all pray in those times, such as Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow.

When atheists describe to me the God in which they don’t believe, I often say, “I don’t believe in that God, either.” Frankly, the God of the Old Testament is a divine douchebag at times. But, in taking the Bible seriously and not literally, it is the words of the Jews writing that believed that’s what was happening, not necessarily what was. By the time the New Testament was put together, the understanding of God and the Trinity had progressed quite a bit. Theology had progressed into a world of promise and not vengeance. I often say that every parable of Jesus can be redacted to the one about the rich man and the servants who received talents, and what they did with them. The answer to that parable is directly tied to how much each servant believed in themselves.The rich man returns, rewards the two who made money, but severely punishes the servant who did nothing. To me, every parable of Jesus is directly tied to stopping putting all your talents in a hole, because are we really talking about money anymore? Yes, a talent was a denomination of money, but it extrapolates so well in today’s world. I’ve hid my talents for a long time, and I have a feeling I am not alone. People with much more bravery than me have reaped the reward of putting their talent out into the world and reaping its benefits four, five, even tenfold.

Maybe some of you even go to eleven.

It is here that I owe you an enormous debt of gratitude. By writing out my emotions and examining myself, I have put out a body of work that resonates with others as well, and it provided me the confidence to put my money where my mouth is. I have applied to school again. I have agreed to put on the stole and call myself Christ in the World (as all Christians are, but few go to school for it). I never would have had the confidence to do so if I hadn’t put myself out there on this web site, first. I rescued my talents from their hole in the ground by listening to you when you say that I’m a good writer. I came into myself, realizing that I had more talents than I thought I did. I got away from believing that I wasn’t good enough to fly solo, when in reality, I’ve been ready for a long time, I just didn’t have the chutzpah to GO FOR IT.

It was really the marriage article that did it. In one day, I went from obscurity to Margaret Cho and Martina Navratilova and thousands of others knowing who I am, both as a writer and as a person. It encouraged me to keep going… and going… and going. The next article that I wrote was a piece on sex and marriage, which prompted one of my readers to say that maybe I’d end up as a marriage and family counselor. Actually, you get all of that when you put on the stole…. and I would like to think that all of my mistakes in my relationships give me a better idea of what not to tell people in their struggles than being perfect ever would. I feel that all of the changes I am making in my life are preparing me for that Biblical marriage I struggled to have with Dana, and though we failed, I learned things that couldn’t have been learned any other way. I think about her every day, about what went wrong and what went gloriously right. She is literally the best thing that ever happened to me (#lafawnduh) in terms of what an ideal marriage is and the things I’ve learned since in terms of how to keep something like that going- how to keep it sacred.

My next relationship (even if a miracle occurs and Dana and I get back together) will be a reflection of those things, because a relationship with Dana cannot be weighted down with the mistakes of the past. My next relationship will be new, whether it is someone from my past, or someone that I meet here in DC. We both should have turned to the Bible more, and the Internet less. We both should have had more communication and less checking out. We both should have done so many things, and those things I ponder in my heart.

Jesus sets forth the rules for a great marriage, and as Christians, we both ignored those rules when we should have learned them cold. For fuck’s sake, if I’d just taken my own advice in my marriage article, we might not be where we are right now, which is mostly estranged with the occasional e-mail or text. The last communication I got from her was on my birthday, for which I was so grateful because I moped that I hadn’t heard from her right up until I did, and then it seemed like my day was complete. My love for her is so absolute that if I hadn’t heard from her, I think I would still be crying over it.

My cardinal Biblical mistake was putting someone else above her, and it never should have happened. Not in a million years. But it did, because my friendship with Argo consumed me in a way I’d never experienced. She became my first thought in the morning and my last thought at night, but not in a way that I felt superceded Dana, but in retrospect, it did. It’s shitty how hindsight is 20/20. You would have to know all the ins and outs of my friendship with Argo to understand why I felt that way, but it’s not my story to tell. It’s hers.

The point here being that I understand my mistakes, because I’ve been spending a lot of time going over them. Extracting lessons and pain so that I can move forward, even though some of those ruminations pull me back into a time when we were happy- all three of us. It was so good right up until the train ran off the tracks and now I am alone, sitting in a lot of things I wish I could just put into the ground and hide.

But those mistakes are also the basis of why I want to pull everything out and look at it, so I can recover in my own time, enough to be able to take my talents out of the ground and multiply them. As I told my former minister friends, I can see the vision, but I cannot see the staircase…. not yet. But it helps that there are former ministers in my congregation that are willing to impart advice, HARD gained wisdom. And Matt is not shy about sharing his wisdom as well, which makes me feel that I have joined a special group. I have graduated from someone who wants to be a minister someday to asking those who’ve already done it how to create what I want.

They looked at me funny when I talked about not creating by committee. I think they think I want to be some kind of dictator. No, it’s just that I want people who are going to take the God energy emanating from me and put it into action without telling me what I should do. It seems mean. It really does. But at the same time, I do not want to be called to a church already in progress. I want to start my own, and have a denomination approach me, in the same vein as the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas. I am not talking about telling people what to do once the structure is in place. I am perfectly happy to delegate and create. But the vision is mine, and it cannot live in several people at once. It can only live in me, and having to fight an uphill battle every day does not appeal to me. I would rather start a small plant and watch it grow, like a Russian doll. There is a difference between being a visionary and a dictator. Visionaries put ideas in place and have others carry them out. Dictators are micro-managers who cannot let go of anything. Visionaries are open to ideas, but have the freedom to say whether it fits or not. I want a church that is well-run, self-sustaining, and committed to social justice. I believe the way to do that is by working from the top down, not the bottom up. It creates mixed messages and muddled ideas that may or may not move forward because the message is lost, tied up in committee for ages. As the great philosopher Martin Blank once said, look, I don’t want to get into a semantic argument, I just want the protein. I want people to follow me, knowing that the power does not come from within me, but from the holy authority given to me by the power of the stole.

I want to be able to say that I studied for this for a very long time, that I have been working in the church in various capacities since I was ten years old (mostly helping my mom with the children’s choir). I have been a lay preacher, thanks to Susan Leo at Bridgeport UCC, since 2003. When I graduate from Howard with that MDiv, I will have received even more training in the ways of interpreting the Bible, learning how to preach more effectively, and in going to a black school, having more awareness of race relations and how to bridge that gap in my own church. The first thing I want to do is to reach out to the homeless community, which in Silver Spring is almost exclusively black. I want to get in trouble with Jeffrey. I want the government of Montgomery County to know me as a troublemaker. I want to be worthy of an orange reflective vest that says “Clergy” on the back as I am actually walking the streets bringing the light of Christ to people who sorely need it more than I do. I am white. My family comes from money. I have never gone without a thing I need, and rarely gone without anything I wanted. My job is to learn to help people in concrete ways who have never had these things, possibly in their whole lives. When I see homeless teenagers, my heart melts into a puddle on the floor and I have to go into my nothing box just to be able to cope, to be able to calculate my next move without getting too angry or too incapacitated by my own tears to listen to those that need me.

Here’s the first time I learned that lesson. Years ago, I sang with a group called Bayou City Women’s Chorus, conducted by James Knapp. One of the pieces we were singing was called How Can I Keep from Singing, one of the pieces that I loved when Diane introduced it to our choir at Bridgeport, and she later told me that it was sung at a funeral for the family in our church that lost their infant twins. Between those two things, I could not keep my emotions unchecked. I was crying through the whole thing. James was not speaking directly to me, but it felt like it. He said that when we are singing for an audience, the emotions are for the AUDIENCE to have, not us. I have carried that advice ever since, and that’s mostly how I cope with ministry as well. It is not my job to have emotions in situations like this. It is for me to listen while others have theirs.

I was happy and shaken when several people said they wanted to come to my church, because it sounded like their kind of church (in the bulletin it said that I was starting my own church called St. James and All Sinners). I was only shaken because I realized that I needed to have a church as far away from CCC as I could get, because I didn’t want Matt to think I was trying to poach members from him. It’s my dream to start a church, but not at the expense of taking away from CCC. It’s my home. The home that is going to teach me to fly solo, one step at a time.

And this is everything I am thinking as I wait for 3:30, which cannot come fast enough. I have had enough of my own tears.


Tylenol, Ice Cream, and the Parables of Jesus

No one in my house has codeine, so I am doing my best with my split tooth until tomorrow with Tylenol and Advil. I also bought some ice cream, which I thought would help soften the blow, but as it turns out, not so much. I am having to drink my calories through Carnation Instant Breakfast because the OTC pain meds are taking the edge off, but I still cry when I eat. It’s just unavoidable, and I am not usually a cryer. I used to be. I really used to be. But at the same time, I developed a layer of clinical separation from my emotions so that I can think about things behind it without necessarily flooding out. Sometimes it’s a gift. Sometimes it’s a disaster. But there you go. This whole tooth thing is my undoing, because I cannot hide that much pain.

It’s probably a good thing I wasn’t on codeine today, because I had to be sharp for church. When we did the reception of new members, he told us to introduce ourselves and tell the congregation a little bit about us. Since I’d written nearly everything I wanted to say in the bulletin, I told the story of reading Matt for ages without knowing what he looked like or where he preached on the ground. He wasn’t at CCC when I started reading him, probably in 2008 or 2009, so it was a surprise and a half to walk into a church where I knew someone in the cloud and THERE HE WAS. In the flesh. I ended up telling that story without (thankfully) saying the words “drooling fangirl,” but I got my point across. As I said in my Facebook post about it, it made Matt blush and the congregation clap. #missionaccomplished

We also did a special anthem for the offertory where there was a soprano solo, and Karen, the one who sang it, is one of those voices that brings tears to your eyes because it is so pure and clean… the kind where when you listen to her, you have to will yourself to come in on time. It was gorgeous. Simply gorgeous. I cannot get that tone because my voice is a lot heavier (and LOUDER) than hers, so if I ever sing a solo in church, I hope she is as proud of me as I am of her. We are so different, and therefore we enjoy sitting next to each other. She brings out the best in me, and I hope she feels the same way in return, that I bring out the best in her as well.

And as an aside, the last hymn was cwm rhondda, and I sang the hell out of it. Just enjoyed myself and mad I wasn’t standing next to a bass. And of course I took the highest note possible at the end because I’m a whore like that. Wendy knows. Wendy was the first person to call me a “descant whore,” and Dana thought it was so funny she called me that pretty much the entire time we were married. :)

After church, I went down for coffee hour and several people came up to me wanting to know about St. James, and we ended up having a fascinating conversation on how to build a church and a book called Amen that they’re reading in the Contemporary Theology Sunday School class. I bought it for my Kindle as soon as I got home, because I want to go to the class next week. Apparently, this woman is teaching theology in such a way that her parishioners are having trouble following her. I said, that’s probably because she doesn’t teach in parables. I’m reading a book by William Barclay that talks about how Jesus taught in parables so that regular people could understand what he was saying. Here’s my favorite theological joke in the entire world:

Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, and James Cone find themselves all at the same time at Caesarea Philippi. Who should come along but Jesus, and he asks the four famous theologians the same Christological question, “Who do you say that I am?”

Karl Barth stands up and says: “You are the totaliter aliter, the vestigious trinitatum who speaks to us in the modality of Christomonism.”

Not prepared for Barth’s brevity, Paul Tillich stumbles out: “You are he who heals our ambiguities and overcomes the split of angst and existential estrangement; you are he who speaks of the theonomous viewpoint of the analogia entis, the analogy of our being and the ground of all possibilities.”

Reinhold Niebuhr gives a cough for effect and says, in one breath: “You are the impossible possibility who brings to us, your children of light and children of darkness, the overwhelming oughtness in the midst of our fraught condition of estrangement and brokenness in the contiguity and existential anxieties of our ontological relationships.”

Finally James Cone gets up, and raises his voice: “You are my Oppressed One, my soul’s shalom, the One who was, who is, and who shall be, who has never left us alone in the struggle, the event of liberation in the lives of the oppressed struggling for freedom, and whose blackness is both literal and symbolic.”

And Jesus says, “what?”

Parables are found in the Old Testament as well, but I don’t think many people know them as such. For instance, let’s talk about Nathan:

Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!

David had everything; Uriah had nothing. And yet David sent Uriah to the front lines of war just so he could take his wife. In that parable, David realizes what a delta bravo he was to Uriah… Nathan didn’t say that David was a douchebag to his face. He just pointed him in the right direction.

It’s the same with the parables of Jesus. Metaphors about the ways we act are the foundation of the understanding of theology for the lay person, who isn’t the one that signed up to learn words like “Christomonism” and “Eschatology.” That’s for me. Parables are for you. It’s not my idea. It’s William Barclay’s, but it’s one that I wholeheartedly embrace. I have a whole parable spelled out in my own abuse called “The Wheat and the Weeds.” I realized that no abuser/enabler relationship is without its good moments, and that’s why enablers stay. Especially since Diane was with me in my heart and mind all the time, and I was young enough for her to model speech and enculturation, we have a lot of the same facial expressions, speech patterns, you name it. I realized that trying to get rid of her completely within me was burning down a whole field, because I could not separate the wheat from the weeds without destroying who I am in the process.

When I learned that parable, it beget action. So parables are for everyone, even people who sign up to read Barth, Tillich, Niebuhr, and Cone.


He Just Gets Me

Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

I have a wallpaper changer app called Variety, and you can set it to put quotes on top of your desktop pictures. When I saw this quote, I realized that Roosevelt could probably understand me better than most, because he was a prisoner in his mind for a lot of his life. If my mind is full, I cannot imagine how his must have burst forth, thinking of things that no one has since (actually, I take that back. The Affordable Health Care Act would have made Roosevelt smile). But the point is that when I read this quote, I thought, “he just gets me.” Roosevelt was in a wheelchair because of polio.

I didn’t walk until I was almost two because my mind developed much faster than my body. I don’t think I’d be able to walk at all without the constant physical therapy that my mother endured, because seeing your child cry is one of the hardest jobs mothers have…. when you know something is good for them, but you see how bad it hurts in the moment and you can’t do anything about it. Miracles happen every day, and the fact that I can walk and talk and speak and write as well as I can is one of them. I have a cerebral palsy, possibly more than one, from being born eight weeks early in a hospital in 1977 and being oxygen deprived in the process. I learned to think much more quickly than I learned to do anything else. I could speak in full sentences at about one, and because I was born so early, I looked like I was half that age. One idiot in the grocery store thought my mom was throwing her voice.

I was a prisoner of my own mind for quite a long time, and I can’t imagine what was running through my head, but I do know that it made me verbally smarter than anyone in any of my classes until I got to college. Even through that, though, I was often a depressed child. I remember one summer when I was about ten or so that I couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning, and my parents forced it on me every day- that I couldn’t spend the entire summer in my room sleeping all day. I had to get dressed, take a shower, go to the library, SOMETHING. I knew I wasn’t acting normally. There’s a difference between a kid off for the summer that sleeps late and someone who cannot perpetually propel themselves. I was a prisoner of my own mind, although it was years and years afterward that I was finally diagnosed with depression and even more years that I was diagnosed as bipolar so that I could get the right treatment for what ailed me. Getting a mood stablilizer on board was like getting new glasses- for the first time I knew what it was like to live without depression, and I knew that because my mood and behavior became lighter, more playful as the drug took effect… because let’s face it. I am hilarious when I am not mired in illness.

I still have ups and downs, but the swings are less frequent and disparate. Sometimes, I am comfortable as the life of the party. Sometimes I just want you to get off my lawn.

A prisoner of my own mind and what I think I can do with it.

On my best days, I see a church with hundreds of members all dedicated to social justice. We feed the homeless. We invite the homeless into the building and let them sit next to us. We baptize them if they want it… because the church is not the building, but the acceptance of everyone who shows up. On my worst days, I see a writer who can never finish a book, can never get out into the community enough to start the projects she wants to finish, because it’s just too hard. When you have depression, things that are easy for most people seem insurmountable for you. My darkest moments are Dana asking why they let me out of the hospital to begin with, as if I belonged there as easily as the furniture.

I crumpled in the face of it, because I wasn’t ready to leave the hospital, either. My nurse practitioner said that the ward was quiet all weekend, and she didn’t think I would get much therapeutically out of staying, so she was going to send me home to start outpatient. I agreed with her that it was a good treatment plan, and the thought of going home to Dana was comforting….. right up until I got there. She told me with finality that we were not getting back together when we were on the phone together at the hospital, and I uninvited her from visiting me because I needed to cry out my hope. I still do, in a lot of ways.

And that’s what this time of single-ness is for. Crying out hope, and making room for new people in my life. I am doing fine with making friends, but most of the time, I am content to be trapped in my own mind, because I have to learn to take care of myself, first.

In terms of taking care of myself, today is terrible. My entire body aches as if I am coming down with something, and I have split a tooth down to the nerve and it hurts so bad I’ve cried off and on all day. This is the exact reason I am glad I didn’t move in by myself. When I’m sick or upset or depressed, there are people here to catch me.

In fact, Samantha and I were talking the other day and she said, “Leslie, I think there was a reason you were sent to us.” It was music to my ears….. in a major key.

No Homework

Sarah (my therapist) did not have any homework for me this week, which is really cramping my style. Her homework assignments have turned into writing prompts for this web site…….. good ones. In terms of visits and views, A Letter to Someone Who Hurt You has been shared around and it upped my stats considerably. That’s not why I wrote it, of course, but it doesn’t suck that people are identifying with the pain I’m going through. I have a sneaking suspicion that lots of people can relate to what’s going on with me…. it’s just that maybe they’re not writers or they haven’t found the courage to take up their own emotional space. What keeps me going is that anything I write could help someone else, so seeing stats going up doesn’t feed my ego so much as give me a community to work with. Shared pain is so much better than going through it alone, and even if people don’t comment, I see the resonance in graphs and social media buttons. It reminds me of a conversation I had with Dana about a year ago:

Leslie: I think one of the things that makes Argo so sacred to me is that when I’m sitting there alone, writing to her, she gets into my God space, and even when I’m not sure God is listening, I know she is.

Dana: (tears in her eyes) Go tell her. Right now.

It’s the same way with all of you. I put my prayers for the future and the pain of my past right out here for everyone to see because I know you’re listening. You get into my God space because when I am writing, there is never anyone here with me. I require it. I sit here with a diet grape soda or a Gosling’s ginger beer and type away at 80wpm. My fingers fly on the keyboard and it makes me happy because my fingers can keep up with my thoughts as they happen. Therefore, you are also getting that same slice of time. It is not all of me, it is a timestamp designed to tell you what I’m feeling in the moment. Tomorrow, it may change. Or not. It depends on what kind of interactions I’ve had that day. Maybe something has changed my mind, and maybe not. That’s the thing about being open-minded. People think you’re being hypocritical, when in reality, I don’t believe that the mind stays stagnant on much of anything.

Argo has said that when we fight and I also send love that hypocrisy is unbecoming. I told her that I didn’t see it that way, and I could see her eyebrows raising FROM HERE. I told her it was closer to looking up at the Sistine Chapel and having ALL THE FEELS. I don’t just have one set of feelings about anybody, and it has never occurred to me that you couldn’t be angry at someone and love them at the same time.

For instance, I love Dana. I love her more than myself at times. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to kick her ass. Some of the things she’s said to me still haunt me, and there are moments when I cannot sleep, I am ruminating so hard. She pushed me away from Argo for nothing, because Argo was never a threat and yet was constantly treated that way. She told me I would never amount to anything. She threatened to call the police if I didn’t leave her alone when we were having a simple conversation. It seemed especially designed to make me feel smaller than I already do. Fortunately, I didn’t take the bait.

I did in terms of Argo. I fucked that relationship up all to hell because I thought it would save my relationship with Dana…. would prove to her that she meant more to me than Argo because that’s how she felt. It didn’t work, and it caused more emotional damage to both Argo and me than, I think, any relationship I’ve ever had. That’s because we both fought like we were trying to cut each other off at the knees, and there wasn’t any part of us that could say, “ummmm…. wait a minute. Let’s back off before we say things we can’t take back.” Dana and I were fairly emotionally intelligent about fighting right up until we weren’t. Argo and I had both guns on the table pretty quick, because it’s easy to do when you can’t see each other’s eyes when you’re talking.

I was just this first child bulldog that couldn’t submit. To either of them…. and that’s possibly the only thing that would have saved either relationship.

Submission to Dana would have been, “I’m sorry I let an Internet relationship get out of hand so that I was spending more time on it than was comfortable for you. I’ll back off.”

Submission to Argo would have been, “you’re right. I wasn’t taking your feelings into account and I need to do a better job before I lose you, because it will happen if I let it.”

As a first child and as a master manipulator because of the “way I was raised,” I couldn’t submit to anyone, or even need them in the way that made them feel needed, wanted, vital to my life in a way that no one has been before or since. Most people only get those relationships once in a lifetime, and I screwed both of them up to the point that it’s going to take all of us a long time to get over it…. particularly with Argo, because I said some shitty, shitty words to her on the way out, trying to slam the door so she’d go away on her own and I wouldn’t have to make her. It’s the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life, because at least with Dana, I got to hug her and kiss her cheek and tell her goodbye. With Argo, I just acted like a jackass and there was no excuse for my behavior. I knew she was threatened by my attraction to her and I knew that it would be the shortest path to getting her to stop contacting me, so I capitalized on it, and as soon as the words left my mouth, I crumpled in agony because I knew I had said something I couldn’t take back and I wanted to with all my might, because I didn’t really feel that way. I was in love with the idea of her, not the reality. I was in love with this fictional character that I’d made up based on her. Who knows what she’s really like? Maybe one day I’ll find out. But not any time soon, that’s for damn sure.

I beat myself up a lot because I think I deserve it, and in no small measure, I do. I will never progress beyond acting as small and immature as I did without growing the fuck up. I am in hell over the relationship with Argo because I was responsible for treating her like shit when I really didn’t have to. I just did. There’s no excuse in the world that’s good enough, and it’s only been recently that we have come to a place of peace. Neither one of us want toxicity and hate running between us, so I printed out an e-mail that she sent me with lots of love and I keep it in the small pocket of my Kindle so that it’s with me every day. I look at it when I feel wrecked, or when I just need a confidence boost that though we may not communicate, we are no longer at war. Feeling like death warmed over all day, every day was just not working out for me, and now that feeling is gone….. mostly…. because when I get into a worthlessness loop, I take out that e-mail and read it again.

It was amazing how relatively easy it was to say goodbye to Dana in comparison, because even though she told me that she thought I had the capability to reach millions and she was jealous, she also told me that I would never amount to anything. In my worthlessness loop, guess which words stuck?

I try and overcome those words every fucking day. EVERY. FUCKING. DAY. I told Sarah that I didn’t want every session to be me bitching about my problems, that I wanted to do some visioning and values as well. Sort of a gestalt approach so that I can feel like I am more that the sum of my parts, because most of those parts feel like I can’t handle anything, that I’ll just fuck it up, so why even try?

The exception to that is looking for jobs. I had a lunch meeting with my friend Kathy, whom I met when I lived here before when she was working at Congressional Quarterly and Politico gave her an obscene amount of money to be able to poach her. I have several avenues to get into web production for several government web sites, and that is the kind of stuff that feeds me…. at least while I’m going to school and need money to support myself and this monster vision I have planned for later. I only need to raise about 15 million dollars. Mere pocket change…. but that is later. This is now.

As I am waiting for all of these things to happen, I am reading like a mad man. I just finished The Time Traveler’s Wife, and now I’m reading Things Fall Apart.

But hopefully, I’ll get to write the book Things Get Glued Back Together.

Doesn’t Even Want to Write Today… Still Does Her Job

It’s true. I don’t want to write today. I feel like I’ve poured myself out on the page lately, and I am emotionally exhausted. However, that’s what a writer does. Gets emotionally exhausted and keeps going. It’s like an Energizer bunny of sad until it’s all out. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how I wrecked my life from the ground up, and how much I miss Dana and Argo and Aaron and the whole bit until it got weird.

Actually, that sums up a lot of the last two years. It got weird.

I’m feeling particularly crispy today because I’m going back to Alexandria to hang out with my sister, who’s staying there at a conference for her work. Going back physically is hard work mentally, because there are so many things on that side of town that I’ve been trying not to feel since 2002. The hotel where I’m going is close to “our” old movie theater, and that shouldn’t seem like much, but it is. I remember clearly packing up our townhouse and feeling like the world was going to end and saying, “Leenie (my nickname for Kathleen), can we just take a break? I am too emotional to do anything right now. Let’s go to the movies.” We saw Blue Crush. I thought it was a terrible movie, but a great escape from the task at hand. It was doubly hard not being able to take her hand in the movie, because it was my natural instinct and she’d already fucked three of her coworkers just for spite. I couldn’t decide whether to be mad, or just enjoy the few hours we had left together where we weren’t at each other’s throats over the furniture. Someone close to me that I will not mention told me to just put it out in the front yard while it was raining.

I did not.

I participated in the end of that relationship. She chose the trump card of adultery, but I was mentally ill and had been let go from ExxonMobil, so now I was mentally ill without health insurance. I was too much for her to handle, because I couldn’t own my half of the relationship. Depression had gotten ahold of me and wouldn’t let go. However, in that case, I couldn’t really be blamed for it. I mean, I take responsibility for my *behavior* during that time, which was mostly nothing (it’s amazing how much doing nothing is doing everything)… but at the same time, I had a TERRIBLE psychiatrist that just kept adding pills to my protocol hoping they would help.

They did not.

I was on Lexapro, Wellbutrin, and Adderall all at the same time. I am bipolar, but we didn’t know that at the time. So they were just throwing all these drugs at me to treat unipolar and ADD and surprise, surprise, not only did they not work, they threw me into a level of frantic anxiety I haven’t seen before or since. Well, maybe lately, but this time I have a great psychiatrist, a great therapist, and the RIGHT diagnosis. Then, it was more like, “let’s put you on THIS for a few weeks and see if it does anything.” Yes. My psychiatrist actually said that. I don’t think “let’s see if it does anything” is said by the people that graduate first in their class in medical school.

It was a nightmare, and I am sure that adultery was sheer escapism. At the time, I blamed Kathleen for leaving me when I needed her the most, because she did. Straight up. But at the same time, allowing myself to see her side of the story gave me a bit of power. I wasn’t as much of a victim as I thought I was. I went through a grieving period, but the pain was much less intense when I realized that even if I only had 10% of the blame, I needed to own my fucking 10% for all it was worth.

I’m sure I had a lot more than 10% responsibility. I am just using it as an example of taking back my own power. I let her have so much when I was sick, and our patterns of behavior were just outrageous to begin with. I married her because it was comfortable. Being treated like crap was what I knew, and her control freak nature fit me perfectly. It was okay that she blew up at me when something wasn’t done her way. It was okay that we fought all the time over stupid shit because to talk about real emotions was just beyond her capabilities…. It was okay that she wanted to run my life and rage at me that I wasn’t doing enough, because when I tried to assert doing things my way, it caused an avalanche of emotional violence. I married a pattern instead of a person, and it was totally okay with me, because I didn’t know any different.

She accused me all the time of falling down on the job, and wouldn’t let me stand up, either. It was a trap. I didn’t know which way to go or which end was up. I was shat upon no matter what I did.

But I felt justified in my unworthiness, so being treated like crap was something that didn’t even register. It was just the way things were.

Being in therapy makes me feel more powerful, because “if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” I have been struck down, over and over, because of unworthiness. I feel bad about my sins, so therefore, living in perpetual punishment looks attractive.

No More.

No. More.

Sarah and I have a lot of work to do, and I have a lot of work to do on my own. I do not want to live in the darkness, but walk in the light. Part of walking in light is recording everything here, because then I can go back and re-live what I was feeling in those moments and hopefully not revisit them in later relationships. I have, for lack of a better description, an instruction manual on What Not to Do.™

For someone who didn’t want to write today, it seems like I found something to say. Let’s hope I learned something from it, because that’s what I hope every day. I am grateful that leaving Houston and heading for Silver Spring got me into a great mental health system and a loving family all at the same time. In fact, we are having some morning sickness around here…………. stay tuned.