ProChristianation

I have so much to do today that is banal, therefore I am sitting at my desk hoping to come up with something brilliant instead. Maybe if I have a creative flash, it will make taking care of the small stuff easier. I try to go from least desirable to most, because if I start with the thing I want to do most, the rest of my to-do list goes into “I can do it tomorrow” status, which generally runs ad infinitum amen.

I need to do some stuff around the house, and I also need to go to the pharmacy and grocery store. I should have thought ahead on this one and used the pharmacy at the grocery store from the beginning, but luckily, CVS and Giant are practically next door to each other. It takes about two minutes to walk between them if I’m feeling lazy, 45 seconds if I’m booking it…. usually dependent on how much I have to carry from one store to the other. I feel like taking this break to write is justified, because I don’t like to go anywhere without my phone, watch, and headphones completely charged. It helps me to be in crowds if everyone feels further away, so I’m usually listening to music or a podcast.

I never leave my watch at home because I have cerebral palsy and monocular vision. If my monocular vision is guilty, I have missed a step down (sometimes a step up) or a crack in the sidewalk. If it’s the CP, I have taken a spill a propos of nothing. My watch has fall detection, and if I don’t move in a certain amount of time, alerts 911. I’ve never needed it, but I am genuinely afraid of hitting my head, because in 90% of cases, the falls happen so fast I don’t have time to react. I’ve only had three falls in the last five years that have resulted in bruising or bleeding, but that’s enough, especially since I ripped my favorite pants at the knee…. khakis that would have looked horrible with patching even if I could have gotten all the blood out. No, wait. I have ripped two pairs of pants at $50 a pop. In one case, I thought I broke my hip. Luckily, I did not. The bone ached for days as I recovered, though.

While I was in more pain than worrying about my pants, I am reminded of an old Ryan Darlington story. He wrecked his bike and walked it back home because he was scraped up, road rash, bleeding, all the things. His dad took one look at him and, completely deadpan, said “geez…. is the bike okay? There’s nothing like the love of a parent for a child.

It helps to have a friend to help me watch out for that stuff, but mostly I just tumble ass over teakettle because I won’t say anything up front. I need to get to a place where it just is, and doesn’t make me feel embarrassed. It’s difficult, though, especially with new people in my life. If I fall once in front of them, it’s just an accident. Three or four times? Not so much.

What helped me the most was meeting Tracy Walder (link is to my question at her Q&A after her book talk- The Unexpected Spywe had a conversation when she signed my book), and learning that even with all she’s accomplished professionally, she still has her own body issues and doesn’t talk about it, either. Her hypotonia didn’t develop into CP, so our cases are different, but our internal monologues are the same.

I didn’t mean to put her on the spot, but I’d read a few pages of the book while I was waiting for her, and she mentions it, so I thought it was fair game.

I kicked myself later that I didn’t take her aside privately, because I think talking about it to an audience might have made her uncomfortable. I hope I was able to diffuse it by saying I had it, too, so she wouldn’t feel alone…. or maybe it was that I didn’t want to feel alone. Either way, it worked out.

I’d never met anyone with hypotonia before, so one of the best moments of my life was learning that there’s another person in the world that has the same feelings I do. I am sure there are plenty more, but neither of us know them. In fact, she says that she doesn’t think she’s ever met anyone outside her family that has it.

She gave me such a gift by opening up, because it raised my self-esteem when I realized that it was okay to feel how I feel, and just to let them come and go. Perhaps in the future I will feel more comfortable getting out of the house because of it. I tend to hole up (quarantine or not), because the layout of the house is familiar and safe. I purposely put off going to the grocery store and pharmacy until social interaction is needed to maintain isolation, because I don’t have to guess whether I’ll trip. I don’t have to guess that I’ll run into something. I don’t have to guess whether or not my shoulder will bang on a door frame unless it’s doubly wide. I just know.

It makes meeting people doubly hard, but during the quarantine, I did have one woman reach out to me that I managed to piss off in one day flat. That’s a record. However, I wasn’t upset about it because it was a conversation I knew was going to be way more trouble than it was worth. She grew up non-denominational/Pentecostal and still trying to live out her faith in that vein, which made me cringe because that framework is designed to keep people inside the fear of going to hell when they die………. and she can try until Jesus comes to fit in as a queer fundamentalist, but people will still talk behind her back if not directly to her face.

She spoke fluent “Christianese,” which is a language that I hear so much that I can understand it, but I won’t engage. People who take the Bible literally and those of us who take the Bible seriously are so different that there’s really no mesh. You will never catch me using the phrases “looking for a Godly marriage” or “raising kids in His word.” What pissed her off was me saying “I hear those words a lot, but I have no idea what they actually mean.”

Having spent a lot of time in the Bible Belt, I know to keep my views to myself (she was originally from Beaumont, TX). For that crowd, the resurrection is more important than anything Jesus ever did while he was alive…. and I do not enjoy the “sticky, sticky blood” interpretation.

Also, nothing in the Bible to literalists is a story from an ancient civilization trying to understand the world around them, but absolute truth- as if God sat down and wrote it all in pen. Don’t even mention to them that stories of Jesus were oral traditions not written down until 90 years after his death. No one had an eyewitness account, but literalists skip over that, as well, and will fight you in a way that you’ll always lose, because they go pretty quickly into righteousness- they follow Jesus and they have no idea what the hell you’re doing. They’re Christians, and you’re faking it…. as if no time has passed and thousands of years of exegesis and criticism are fake as well. My alarm bell went off when she said she went to Bible College. Here’s what I mean by alarm bell, taken from Wikipedia:

Many were established as a reaction against established theological colleges and seminaries, which conservatives believed were becoming increasingly liberal and undermining traditional Christian teachings, such as Biblical inerrancy [emphasis mine].

There’s a big difference between Bible College and say, getting into the divinity schools at Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Emory, etc…. this is because the error is that seminaries were getting too liberal. It’s that the more they pieced history together, they could no longer support the idea that every single sentence in the Bible is a hundred percent factually accurate and needs no translation from then to now.

I am sure that my treatise on “inerrancy” could have been an entry all on its own, but everything ties together in terms of getting over myself and meeting new people, and knowing within a conversation or two whether it’s a relationship I’d like to continue. I know I’ll keep tripping and falling, but I’d like to know whether I’m going to land in the right hands.

For me, that person could be a different (non-literalist) denomination, a different religion altogether, or agnostic/atheist as long as they respect that I’m not going to change.

My beliefs about the Bible can be summed up in one sentence. I believe that all 66 books are stories that are all true, and some of them actually happened.

Mother’s Day 2020

My mother died in October of 2016, which on some days feels so far away, and on others, it just happened 15 minutes ago. The last true image I have of her is after she was embalmed. Not everyone thought she looked like herself, but I did. She had that look on her face that she got when she was so asleep she didn’t care who saw her, or when she was concentrating so hard on a piano passage that she scrunched up her face in a certain way. If there is anything for which I am truly grateful, it’s that the embalmer did not try to create a faker-than-fake smile. Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I’ve spent more time in funeral homes than the average person…. and I have seen my fair share of terrible jobs. Not every embalmer graduates at the top of their class………………..

I remember that the first few times I went with my dad to visit families in grief, I would stare wide-eyed at the corpse, because I was just sure they were about to roll over. I wasn’t scared (okay, maybe a little). It’s just that most people sleep on their sides, and I’m not sure I had a good idea of how permanent death really is. As I got older (maybe eight or nine), it was more clear to me that they were truly gone, because in every case, their expressions weren’t quite right. They didn’t look like themselves. The only thing that ever looked normal was their clothes, because the family had picked them out…. but their bodies weren’t the same. It wasn’t just their faces- their necks and hands were different as well (the part of the body that’s visible).

Over time, I went with my dad more and more, because while I wasn’t all that crazy about visitations, I loved funerals- although some more than others. I didn’t like it when they were all sad- no funny stories about the decedent. Death is 50% anesthesia for families… some are able to combat it and talk about the person in real terms. Others completely dissociate and act as if their loved one was an absolute saint who had “gone on to be in a better place.” Truly somber affairs that the dead would have probably hated because there was no sense of who they really were.

In my own eulogy, I had two laugh lines, and the congregation roared because they were just so true. I manuscripted for two days before the funeral, and there was nothing I wrote down that I actually used…. except for the first line. If you are just joining us, my mother was a church musician her entire life, so the opening was “this is the only funeral Carolyn Baker’s ever been to where she wasn’t working.” The other laugh line is that I wore a Tommy Hilfiger suit to the funeral, and I did an impression of me showing it to my mom:

Leslie: Look, mom. When you turn the collar up, it’s all plaid.
Carolyn: Well! I didn’t even notice that!

And, of course, it was pitch perfect in her Texas drawl.

Speaking of my suit, I wore white sneakers with it that were a size and a half too big, and I know they looked kind of stupid… but here’s the thing. It was important to me to stand in her shoes. I keep them around because they come in handy during the winter when I wear three pairs of socks.

If I’d had Converse All-Stars, I could have pulled off a David Tennant/David Letterman look… I mean, REALLY pulled it off. In fact, I know I could do it now, but I don’t have a desire to wear that suit again. I should get over it. It was Tommy, therefore it was expensive.

I’ll need to take it to the dry cleaner- it’s crumpled up angrily in the back of my closet, hidden so that I don’t see it on a daily basis. At the funeral, I wore a button-down shirt and jewelry that would definitely have been mom-approved, but it would look even better with a white t-shirt. For a suit, it’s both dress up and dress down. The kind you could wear to church or on a date with the sleeves pulled up.

These are all the things that appeared in my dreams last Sunday. I’d stayed up all night on Saturday building a database, and I lasted until 2:30 PM (even though I was bagged, I still wanted to go to church). My body now hates staying up all night, so I laid down for a nap and forgot to set an alarm. I woke up at 6:00 AM, then went back to bed and slept until almost 11:00.

Did I need that much sleep? No. I was processing grief. I was releasing a thunderstorm. I was meticulously going through every event that led to my mother’s death, the phone call I got when it happened, the rush to the airport, the visitation in which an Oprah level of extroversion was covering up a Leslie level of introversion. I was scared as hell- I hardly knew anyone there and they all wanted to hug me. I felt so awkward, being touched and loved on by people I’d never met in my life.

I couldn’t get out of there fast enough, but that was not going to happen. My friend Wendy’s words echoed in my head, though they were regarding another difficult situation…. you don’t have to love it, Leslie. You just have to live it. However, I had a clear vision of what I wanted. Keep it together, no matter what, until you’re at home in your own bed.

The funeral was different in that two of my best friends from high school came, and my actual high school best friend, James, came as my support person, which meant that he sat with me in the family section of both the funeral and the graveside service. It was yet another thing that kept me on an even keel as I navigated a foreign world- strange for two reasons.

The first is that I’d never imagined a world in which I was alive and my mother was dead. I am certain that I would have started as I aged, but she was 65. I’d only imagined her death of old age. Anything other than that was beyond my comprehension.

The second is that I’d been to so many visitations, funerals, and graveside services, but this was my first time experiencing it all from the other side. The business of death is exhausting, but it was nice picking out what we thought she would have wanted. Her casket is navy blue and silver with a white lining, complete with navy blue birds printed on the inside. It’s not like she’ll ever see them, but we did.

There was also another aspect of death that I did not comprehend, which I suppose can be chalked up to fear. People I expected would show up didn’t, and people I thought wouldn’t absolutely did. It is my own theory that who shows up for you when someone close to you has died is dependent on their own views of death… whether they can stand being reminded that it will happen to them one day. It shouldn’t be scary, because it is the most universal thing that can happen to a person. Some children lose their parents early, some on time, but it is the natural order. It is how life works, and there is no alternative.

The only thing that really disturbs my grief now is Mother’s Day, and most of it is due to the newspaper and social media. At least a month before, the ads start. I don’t see them as cute or funny. The newspaper gets a pass, because it isn’t personalized.mothers_day Facebook is the only platform I really use, and they absolutely know my mother is dead, so I feel like they should know how to give me a break…. especially because some of the ads insinuate that you are a bad child if you don’t send them this or that. I have never gotten a response, but I wrote to Sheryl Sandberg about it, thinking she’d be the most empathetic.

I’m sure that she gets at least a million Facebook messages a week, possibly even in a day, so I wasn’t sitting by the computer waiting. Perhaps I’ll reach out through the Option B web site instead. I wish I could put my finger on why Mother’s Day feels worse than any other holiday. You would think it would be something about which I had more memories. I’ve lived away from Texas for so many years that I can’t remember the last time I was in town when it rolled around…. and by that, I mean I can point to specific years I was there, but not what happened. I don’t have any memorable Mother’s Day brunches or whatever. I do remember that the last gift I sent her was a pair of earrings with real flowers encased in clear resin. Had I known it was our last Mother’s Day, I obviously would have done things much differently. But that’s the thing about death- you never know what’s the last anything.

I thought we’d have so many more years to get closer- 10 is the most conservative estimate. We never spent any time estranged, but our relationship was different before and after I came out, so even though we’d spent the last several years getting closer, we still had more work to do, the construction site abandoned…. at least on her end. I talk to her all the time, because it has never mattered to me whether or not she could answer…. or if answers come to me in dreams, they’re always the ones I want because I’m creating both sides of the conversation.

For instance, she’s really proud that I go to church now. She told me when I laid down for a nap after.

COVID Blues, Part 2 -or- 18 Dollars

It takes nine dollars with Uber for me to get from my house to my doctor’s office, so yesterday (without even thinking about it……………..), I requested a car. I get there, and take the elevator to the 4th floor. There’s a sign on the door that says the doctor’s office is closed to everyone but patients, and all extra people have to wait in the car. It then says to call first, and there’s no phone number.

So, I call the number for the doctor that I have stored in my phone, and the mailbox is full. I should have known it would happen had I had any kind of foresight, but my doctor’s office hadn’t been closed before, and there was no notification anywhere (like an e-mail, text message, etc.) that it would be happening in the future.

Besides, I had to be physically present for two reasons. The first is that I take Klonopin,™ and since it is a controlled substance, the re-authorization has to be an original copy and not just a fax to the pharmacy. The second was that at my last appointment, my doctor told me that he didn’t take my insurance anymore. The front office clerk gave me a number to call to get insurance they would take, so I went home and got it. I needed to give them my new card.

I am truly flummoxed. I have no idea what to do, because even if I call the doctor’s office, it doesn’t seem like they’re open, and I don’t have another doctor… even though when I was considering staying on my old health insurance, I tried to book an appointment with a different primary care physician for the week of the 22nd (which by my count, is today), and no one has gotten back to me.

I’m supposed to take the Klonopin twice a day, but I often skip the second dose, so I have at least a week’s worth right now. So I have one week to figure out how to get my doctor to actually call me back without being able to let him know I need him. We are getting into “go back to a liquid diet” territory, which I do when I feel totally out of control. For some reason, my anxiety manifests as what goes into my body is the one thing I can decide on my own. Unlike other times in my life, it wouldn’t be awful. I wouldn’t go down to an unhealthy weight because constantly being indoors means that I am not burning any calories. I will continue being on the “fuck it” diet as long as I can, but at least I know that if I develop a block on eating, it’s not going to hurt anything, because the “fuck it” diet is based on walking everywhere I go. I haven’t left my house (other than yesterday) in at least four weeks, so I wouldn’t have to worry about looking like a drug addict again.

The one bright spot is that I’ve been in a huge fight with the state of Maryland for a while now, and it’s over. Maryland gave it their best shot- they’ve been stealing money from me for a long time now, but in the end, I won. Here’s what the fight was about. I moved to Maryland in April of 2015, so on my tax return, I filed with a Maryland address, even though I hadn’t started working here yet. I figured they’d need to know where to send my return, right? Well, the federal government notified the state government that I’d filed with a Maryland address, and they presented me a bill for about $3500 for tax year 2014. I hadn’t paid it all off yet, because I’ve been fighting it every step of the way, so hopefully at some point I will get my money back, as well as the right to get a Maryland driver’s license. I don’t drive, but I’d like an in-state ID (I have a Texas license and a passport).

It is possible (but not probable) that I would have enough money to buy a car. Here’s the thing. I’m over it. Because of my monocular vision, I have wrecked five cars and totaled three. In every single case, it was because I didn’t see something coming, or a light was out of my field of vision…. say the street was five lanes wide and I was in the far right, but the light was on the left, or vice versa. I just had to say “enough is enough.” My saving grace is that because the cause has been not seeing things, I’ve never had a wreck because of speeding, and therefore never been in a position to really hurt myself or others. I’m just embarrassed that it took me so long to realize there was an actual problem. I am certain that I would be able to drive a Tesla or similar because of all the safety features (like if you get too close to something, etc.), but I am not in a position to drop that kind of money, and even if I was, I have different priorities now.

Because of the excellent public transportation here, and Uber, I’m not dependent on my friends to cart me around, and that’s really been my only concern. I do live in the suburbs, but everything here is condensed. In Houston, the suburbs mean 25 miles out. My house is 11 miles NW of the White House. (I’m sure I’ll go there once I actually admire someone there. Besides, I went when I was eight. It hasn’t changed that much.) So much of the reason I moved here was to have that luxury.

Except the part where I was furious at having wasted $18 trying to get to the doctor.

 

COVID Blues

This is just one of those days where I feel like I don’t have much to say, but feel like I should be writing anyway. Life is different (for now) in a way that I never expected in my lifetime. My state (Maryland) is on lockdown. You can get arrested for going to a non-essential business. If you have a job, you are only allowed to go into the office if you have a piece of paper from the government that says you are an essential worker. Work is still getting done, of course, but through voice and video chats, most of DC and its suburbs working from home. I don’t know how long this is supposed to last, but some at the CDC say that we will experience breakouts until 2022, expanding and retracting the economy as we open up and experience a new wave. I am just like the protestors. I want a haircut. I’m just smarter than to actually protest. I’d rather be safe in my home. In that way, I feel like everyone else.

No one except the protesters think we all like being cooped up, but 99% of us recognize that it’s not safe to be out and about. If we get sick, there are not enough resources to be tested, much less treated. The president told the governors to get their own testing supplies. Governor Hogan did, and now the president is mad about it.

I’m sorry, what? It is a confusion which passeth all understanding, as are most reactions from the White House. It is as if we are rolling back into the Articles of Confederation, every state for itself, and we are taking those responsibilities seriously… And at the same time, even though the president is saying this is what the governors should do, his ego gets butt hurt that he can’t take credit for all that’s going right. With him, it is always a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation. I think that’s the hardest part, actually. Tweeting that we need to “liberate” states way too early isn’t helping matters… because of course, if said states are opened back up and restrictions are loosened, there will be another string of tweets saying “I told you it was too early.”

At this point, I am so shaggy that I am beginning to think I will have a ponytail before this is all over. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just that my hair is growing at all different rates and I have really thick hair, so I’m embracing the Harry Potter look. I did find water-based wax from Viking that’s making my life a little easier, but that’s not saying much.

I also find myself putting on makeup more and more often, because otherwise I think I look terrible on camera and will spend an entire video call picking apart my appearance. Most of the time, it’s just mascara and eyeliner so my eyes don’t get lost into my glasses. Maybe I’ll dye my hair red again to keep me from looking mousy on camera- but that depends on whether there’s any hair dye to be had. The last time I dyed my hair red was shortly after I moved to DC, where Samantha shoeshined my head and hosed me down in the front yard as not to make my bathroom look like a murder scene. I still have that towel, and everyone thinks that I’ve had blood on it for almost five years. Nope, it’s Feria, and it won’t come out.

But if whether or not to dye my hair is the biggest worry I have in all this, I’m not doing it right.

Well, actually, I am.

My anxiety at leaving the house is overwhelming, like nothing I’ve ever experienced. There’s nothing cool about getting arrested (although I would for the right cause…. this isn’t it). And I don’t know where people are getting arrested in the first place. I don’t want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I take Uber directly to the doctor’s office, then directly to the pharmacy and grocery store, and then I can’t get home fast enough. Public transportation is probably okay in terms of not getting handcuffed, but there’s so much higher a risk that I’d get sick. Even in the Uber, the drivers wear masks, and now I have my own. You would think that would make me more comfortable about getting out. So far, no dice.

I’m taking care of myself as well as I can. I still get dressed every day. Sometimes I even take a shower. That may sound gross, but if I shower too often, my hair and skin dry out too much, and no one’s going to see me in person, anyway.

Speaking of which, now that I’ve had two cups of coffee, I’m going to go run some water through my hair and see if I can come up with something relatively aesthetically pleasing. Maybe I should try a fork.

True HD

I have a netbook that is far less powerful than my desktop, but it has one thing my desktop doesn’t… a video card that supports HDMI. When I started using Zoom, I switched to the little computer. Why? So that my friends are always in true HD. I also use my most powerful headphones, so that their voices are as clear as they would be if I was in the room with them. It feels more intimate that way, and additionally presents a conundrum.

If I wanted, I could turn on my own web cam… but I haven’t, and can’t decide whether I want to or not. I know that my friends would probably want to see me- it’s been years- but here’s the thing. I’m not getting together with friends for happy hour. I’m going to church… and every single week (so far), the moment the music has started, tears have rolled down my face.

The first time I went, it wasn’t just one or two. I went into the ugly cry because so many things hadn’t changed, and the deep connection I’d felt all those years ago knocked me down with force. The next two weeks, I was mostly okay…. and then there was today- Palm Sunday- and if I’d thought for even a second before the service began, I would have known it was going to be tough. But I didn’t. Think, that is.

If I had, I would have known that the service would start with my favorite people in the world singing “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” from “Godspell.” I would have known because I’d been in the choir the entire time I attended while I actually lived in Oregon. I’d have remembered who started that tradition. I would have known whose voice would begin. I would have been more prepared for the way of the Lord than I actually was.

Again, I went into the ugly cry.

Then it got worse.

I was doubled over, tears and snot running down my face. I couldn’t get air into my chest, the physical pain of heartache almost unbearable. It was the closest I’ve come to hyperventilating in recent memory, probably because I haven’t had many moments in the last three years where I’ve felt this deeply about anything. Grief has a numbing effect for a lot of people- it’s extremely effective at keeping you from emoting so much more than is acceptable in polite company. Some people are very good at expressing their emotions. I used to be one of those people.

Now, I’m not.

I make an exception for this blog. This is because it’s so much easier to hide behind my keyboard, spilling emotions and letting readers have their own reactions without hearing them myself. I made the executive decision long ago that what people thought of me was none of my business. Even in my personal life, some of the deepest relationships I’ve had consisted of letters, because again, I could look at emotions from a distance. I wasn’t capable of exploding every mine that dots my inner landscape, and letters put neither me as the writer nor them as the reader on the spot (which changed when mail became electronic- mistakes were made).

In person, I will only tell you real things about me if I feel comfortable, and it is taking me longer and longer to feel comfortable as I age. As I act and react, more emotions get stuffed into boxes and locked. There are so few times when they leak, and when they do, I don’t want to be seen, heard, or touched. I make exceptions for my family, but if you are not in that tight circle, I would rather isolate than let anyone in. I am lucky that my family is not just biological, because if it was, I would have cut myself off from any support system at all (I live in Maryland, very close to The District, and my bio family lives in Houston).

I am becoming aware that this is a problem, that the pendulum has swung too far towards being alone. The thing is, though, silence becomes addictive. I know that I don’t want to be single the rest of my life, but I am terrified of putting myself out there. Open up to a stranger in hopes that we eventually have a deep enough connection to love each other? Please. One of my friends said it best when I told her as much and she said, “well, the dating scene is scary as all holy hell.” I’m not sure I’ve ever related to anything more.

My answer to this is not to date at all, but to cultivate good friendships and to put myself out there professionally, because I think networking will probably take a lot longer, but I’ve tried a couple of dating apps and the experience was mind-numbing, mostly because the person I wrote to for a few days was never the same person I met in person. I’m also not attracted by looks, in general, so it never mattered if their bodies matched up to their pictures. But it really mattered when their personalities seemed to flip. Not once did I ever meet someone who was so genuine in their chats/e-mails that I “recognized them.” Or, at least, I never met someone in a romantic way.

There was this one woman I ran across that said she was already married and just looking for friends, so I e-mailed her and said “let’s get together for dinner. Bring your wife if you want, because I’m not contacting you for romance. I just read your profile and it seems like you’re a really cool person. I’m new to the area and need to meet cool people.” After a few days of flipping each other quotes from “The Big Lebowski,” dinner was on with both women. It has truly been a blessing that it created a lasting relationship that’s only gotten better with time.

Mostly because it’s lasted long enough for me to get comfortable. I’m not sure I’ve ever been vulnerable enough to cry in front of either one of them, but I’ve at least come far enough that talking about myself isn’t a thing anymore. I don’t “run the game” with them, the game I always play with people I don’t know well.

It’s simple, really. 99% of people have a favorite topic, and that’s them. The game is “how long can I keep you talking about yourself so that you don’t ask me anything about my life?” There’s only one person in the world that’s better at that game than me, and can read me like a manual. There was no percentage in playing, because the competition was too fierce and I knew I was losing. I talked about myself because I couldn’t not. Grasshopper will never reach satori in that relationship, and for better or for worse, I’m okay with it. I definitely wasn’t at first, but after what seems like a hundred years, I’m coming around. By now, she’s family, and I make an exception for family.

Which brings me back around to whether I should turn on my web cam for church, because I can’t put my finger on why being vulnerable in front of that congregation is a thing. They raised me. I mean, I was technically an adult when I got there, not so much with the literally. Why do I care if they see me cry? It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.

Like with everything else, I’m going to overthink about it. Explode some land mines. Feel the heartache and know that it’s breaking me open to let light in. Reconciling who I used to be with who I am now. Wrestling with whether those two people are on their way to integration. I am sure it is why I wanted my friends in true HD in the first place. My question to myself is whether I get to be in true HD, too.

 

Allsorts and All Sorts

The Argo main theme is ringing in my ears as I start this entry, just to bring back the muscle memory of writing. However, I have created a playlist on Amazon Music called “Movie Scores” that’s on shuffle. It has all sorts of instrumentation to bring out different emotions:

  • The aforementioned Argo
  • The Bourne Identity
  • The Bourne Supremacy
  • The Bourne Ultimatum
  • The Kite Runner
  • The Danish Girl
  • The Imitation Game
  • Zero Dark Thirty
  • Syriana
  • The Ghost Writer

Most of the pieces have a Middle Eastern vibe to them, and that’s on purpose. I find that after I listen to them once, they fade into the background nicely, as well as challenging my brain with chords and progressions not typically used in Western music. However, listening to them once before I write to them is “key” (see what I did there?), because I will spend the time I should be writing trying to understand the the music with my one semester’s worth of theory knowledge… and besides only having one music theory class behind me, math and music are so inextricably interrelated that I’m not very good with either. I spent a lot of my trumpet playing years standing in a practice room thinking, “COUNT, dumbass!” Over the years, I’ve gotten better at it, but not by much. I get entire body blushes while sight reading with singing, because I can keep track of the rhythm OR the words. You choose.

My dad brought up something interesting, that it might actually have something to do with being oxygen-deprived in the delivery room. That my brain just works differently because of it, and it is also probably why I can’t play the piano by reading music (I do okay by ear)…. the difference with that and singing being that I can’t count two rhythms at once, either.

However, I can hear them and repeat it……. sometimes. I’ve been playing the first eight measures of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata for 15 years and that’s as far as I’ve gotten. But that’s all anyone knows of it, anyway, so I’m good.

At University of Houston, the core changed while I was there, and everyone had to have one performing arts class. I chose group piano because I hadn’t done anything like it before. I found out after the first few labs about the whole “counting two rhythms” thing, so I cheated my ass off to pass. Well, maybe you won’t think of it as cheating, but I did. I got my mother to play my recital piece over and over for me until I’d memorized every note cold. At the recital, I had to have the music in front of me, so I played with my eyes closed. If I’d kept them open, I would have gotten lost and confused within about 30 seconds.

[Editor’s Note: When I was a seventh grader, I had a t-shirt with Jesus color blocked like an Andy Warhol painting on the front and said “I once was lost” on the back. One of the English teachers at Clifton told me that it should say “I’m always lost.” I’m 42 and I still remember wanting to call him a jackass and I still regret not doing so . Would have been sent to the principal’s office. Worth it.]

I was definitely lost and confused at the grocery store. The last time I went, they were completely out of a few things, but most aisles looked normal. Yesterday, it looked like a Zombieland remake (although they did have Twinkies™). Thank God I already had a ton of staples (except coffee, which I was able to procure). What I noticed right off is that people were buying the cheapest items, so there was plenty of truffle oil, saffron, etc…. They were even out of American butter. My choices were Presidenté, Kerrygold, and Finlandia. I got Finlandia as I’d tried all the others (it’s good, but it’s not French salted butter good). And as I told my friend Kristie, “they didn’t have three dollar soap, but they did have eight dollar soap……….. so guess who smells like eight dollars today?”

I also picked up my favorite writing snack, licorice allsorts. They’re not nearly as good as getting the originals (Bassett’s) imported from England, but they’ll do in a pinch. They’re much less expensive and the last time I ordered the real ones, it took them three or four weeks to arrive. The only piece in Bassett’s mix that these don’t have is lime. Despite this egregious oversight, they’re close enough for government work.

I have found that during the state lockdown, I’ve been lonely for the first time since I moved here. This is because I spend most of my time alone, but I had the ability to reach out to friends and go out when I wanted. It was enough to know that I could go out, not so much that I would. There’s no way I would take public transportation to see my friends in Alexandria, all of whom have small children (happy 2nd birthday, Peter and Benjamin!).

I have been escaping with books, movies, and TV…. mostly books. So far, I’ve loved “The Murmur of Bees” and “Little Fires Everywhere.” With “Little Fires,” I saw the first episode of the Hulu adaptation and wanted to read the book. It’s AMAZING, the only thing missing being Kerry Washington (not sure I’ve ever seen a more beautiful woman, and roles like Olivia Pope and Mia Warren speak to me).

Fiction writers just flatten me, because I don’t do what they do, and not for lack of trying. I can’t build a world like good ones can, whether it’s a universe close to our own or complete fantasy. I mean, I’ve had “dementors” my whole life, but it took J.K. Rowling to make a word for them (in the Harry Potter series, they are the guards at the prison Azkaban, but Rowling has said they’re a metaphor for depression [I agree that after you see them, you need chocolate.]). I keep hoping that writing fiction is just something that takes muscle, and I’ll get better over time, but I see no evidence.

I suppose I am better off sitting at my desk with my allsorts, writing all sorts……….. except the ones I have to make up.

Get to Know Me: COVID-19 Edition

Why not take a break from COVID-19 and learn about each other… Hat tip to all the people who’ve filled it out on Facebook and I shamelessly stole it because I had nothin’ for today.

1. Who are you named after?

My name was originally supposed to be Amanda Jane, and my parents were going to call me “AJ.” Then, my mother was sitting in a church service and the organist was listed in the bulletin as “Leslie Diane.” The rest, as they say, is history.

2. Last time you cried?

Two weeks ago, when I attended church through Zoom at Bridgeport UCC in Portland, Oregon (link is to the service, 10:30 AM Pacific). I saw some of my oldest friends in the world, and heard their voices. It was magnificent, and I was crying because I was filled with grief at my mother dying, and how long it had taken me to get back to the place where I was comfortable going to church again. For the first time in three years, I have now gone to church two weeks in a row.

3. Do you like your handwriting?

Absolutely not- it is a carpal tunnel pile of garbage that keeps getting worse. I use Evernote/Microsoft OneNote to keep track of my thoughts because if I write them down in a notebook, I can’t read them later.

4. What is your favorite lunch meat?

It used to be the disastrously unpopular olive loaf, and now it is the plant-based version of honey-baked ham (made into sandwiches on bread infused with maple syrup with Swiss “cheez” and margarine). I’m not sure olive loaf is even made anymore, but when it was, the grocery store never ran out…………………

5. Longest relationship?

I’m sure my dad wins this one, but if you mean romantically, seven years and change.

6. Do you still have your tonsils?

Yes, but I’ve had tonsillitis enough that they probably should come out to avoid recurrence. It is so unpleasant. It’s a good thing antibiotics work fast.

7. Would you bungee jump?

It depends. I probably wouldn’t do it on my own, but I’d never turn down a dare.

8. What is your favorite kind cereal?

The brown puffed rice at Whole Foods with real chocolate.

9. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?

Mostly yes, because I wear Converse All-Stars high tops more than anything else.

10. Do you think you’re strong willed?

It depends on who you ask. I don’t think I’m particularly obstinate unless I’m standing up for someone else. My friends think I’m stronger than I do.

11. Favorite ice cream?

Every flavor of ice cream I’ve had with plant-based milk is my new favorite. Almond milk with almonds and chocolate is probably at the top of the list right now.

12. What is the first thing you notice about a person?

Whether they like small talk or not. I’m not attracted to the small questions.

13. Football or baseball?

If these are my only choices, it’s Baltimore Orioles baseball. My real favorite is soccer of any kind. Doesn’t matter the gender or the league. I collect national team jerseys, and interestingly enough, I don’t have the United States. Oh, and I have one MLS jersey… DC United, of course. 🙂

14. What color pants are you wearing?

Uniqlo Extra Warm leggings and lounge pants made of grey t-shirt material.

15. Last thing you ate?

A Nutella and strawberry jelly sandwich.

16. What are you listening to?

  • Miles Davis
  • Lots of podcasts- too many to list, but if you want recommendations, leave a comment.

17. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?

Dark grey or Cornflower, the colors I use the most often in HTML. The grey is #333333, and the blue is #336699.

18. What is your favorite smell?

I have two- tea tree oil and lavender anything…. although I had to take a break from lavender while reading the Outlander series. It turned my stomach for a while.

19. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?

My sister, Lindsay. She’s cooler than you are.

20. Married?

I used to be, and it would take an act of God for me to do it again.

21. Hair color?

Brown, with a little grey and white mixed in…. which is such a blessing because it stops me from looking like a ten-year-old.

22. Eye Color?

Espresso… well, brown, but I’m being, ummm….. creative.

23. Favorite food to eat?

Anything I’ve cooked myself. I’m good at it, and I get immense satisfaction with that kind of accomplishment.

24. Scary movies or happy ending?

Why choose? My favorite scary movie is “Get Out.”

25. Last movie you watched in a theater?

This is one of the funniest things that has happened to me in a while. I went with my friend Jaime to see “Jojo Rabbit,” and since I’d already seen it, I went about halfway through the movie before I got ridiculously thirsty. I leaned over to Jaime and said, “I’m getting a Coke. Do you want one?” She nodded and I left. So I come back and it is the most heart-wrenching part of the film and here I am stumbling in the dark to my seat while the rest of the row would have murdered me if it wasn’t illegal.

26. What color shirt are you wearing?

White. It’s not my color, but it’s warm.

27. Favorite holiday?

Any that involve a three-day weekend.

28. Beer or Wine?

Not much of a drinker, but I love anything Belgian.

29. Night owl or morning person?

It depends. I have a lot of energy at both ends of the spectrum. I also enjoy when I can’t sleep, watching the sun come up when I’m normally “not there” to see it.

30. Favorite day of the week?

None right now- they all blend together.

31. Favorite animal?

I am absolutely over the top crazy about Fiona the hippo. When it’s nice outside, I like taking my tablet and Bluetooth keyboard to the zoo and sitting in front of the giraffe enclosure.

32. Do you have any pets?

None of my own, but there are several dogs that live in my house. It’s the best of both worlds- puppy love and no responsibility.

33. Where would you like to travel?

I am consumed by the Middle East, both in terms of “walking the Bible,” and seeing things in movies I’d like to experience for real, like the Blue Mosque in Iran, the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, and the mountains of Afghanistan. My mom and dad went when I was very small, because it was safe to travel there for tourists (at least to Israel, Jordan, and Egypt). I’m not holding my breath in terms of my lifetime.