F*ck You, Houston’s Awesome

Dana and I are working out the details of moving to Houston. I actually just typed Youston and I almost didn’t correct it… I mean, that is the correct pronunciation, is it not?

We are both so tired of being broke and disenfranchised that Houston is a chance to start over. We are not moving because we are running away from Portland. In Houston, Dana will be able to teach, since she already has her Bachelor’s. Dana has wanted to be a history teacher for as long as I’ve known her, so in effect, this move is really to help her just as much as it is to help me.

I don’t know what the hell to do once we get there, but I’ll figure it out. I’m pretty sure I have enough hours to substitute, but that already sounds like a bad idea. I will either be the best teacher in the entire world, or I will completely suck at it. I find that this is true in every profession I have attempted. I don’t really have a “stasis button.” However, I am trying to find it.

We have also missed out on some pretty big dates, family-wise. It hurt to be the only kid who wasn’t there when Wi-Phi was born. I’m betting that this is not the last birth we’d miss if we decided to stay here. We are devastated to lose our domestic partnership, but it doesn’t do us any good when we can’t support ourselves, anyway.

What you guys don’t know yet is that Dana was fired from Tapalaya. It’s not my story to tell, it just is. So with both of us unemployed, it’s an untenable situation. I don’t want the next year to be the same slog we’ve tried to manage previously. In fact, this morning, I said to Dana “we just need to grow a pair and start living our lives.”

By this, I mean that if Dana wants to be a teacher, she needs to get on it. If I want to do, well, whatever it is that I want to do (it rotates, but will always involve writing), then I need to *do it.* I am awed that Dana is being so brave and putting herself out there and saying, “yes. I deserve to be a teacher. I deserve to make money.”

We are both in this phase of explosive growth, and while we are grieving the possibility of leaving Portland tremendously, I reminded Dana that it didn’t have to be permanent. Moving is easy. I should know. I was a preacher’s kid. I don’t want her to feel limited, like “you have to love Houston, and if you hate it, your opinion doesn’t matter.”

Although I did tell her that I thought it would surprise her how much she liked living there. Of course the heat is oppressive, but nine times out of ten, I can swim in my parents OUTDOOR pool on Christmas Day. That does not suck.

The thing that I will lose and miss the most is preaching at Bridgeport. I feel like I am destined to preach there… not to be the pastor, just loving Bridgeport as my congregation because they love me and they watched me grow. From my first sermon until now, I guarantee that they had to sit through the “growth moments” as well as the brilliant.

Now, I need to take the growth moments I got at Bridgeport and use them to preach to me. I sure could use it.

The Gospel of What’s Happenin’ Now

Grief is so weird. The best grief counselor in the world agrees with me, because I stole that line from her. I hate how one minute you’re cleaning out your office and the next you’re absolutely sobbing over the handwritten notes you didn’t know were in your memory box, because the box just happened to fall over at the precise moment you were feeling like ripping your heart out would just be easier. As Josh Woodward said in the song, “I’ll Be Right Behind You, Josephine”, “if you ripped my heart out, the only thing I’d feel is less alone.” Then, ten minutes later, you’re eating popsicles like nothing ever happened.

The best and the worst day just become the same.

Sometimes, it doesn’t happen that way. I know I need to make some space for grief in my life, because there’s no way that someone who shaped my life this much just packs up and leaves. No, she’s with me every step of the way as we pack up the mental house she lived in when she occupied so much space in my head.

It’s her nightstand that’s the hardest, and not because I slept on the other side of the bed. Quite the contrary. It’s my head. My house is much bigger. And has a pool. And free umbrella drinks from 4-7 every Thursday.

But I digress.

Her nightstand- where she kept all her journals and letters. I could barely read them before, but now the ink is fading on her hieroglyphics. One tear fell years ago, and is marked by a big blotch of blue ink on the bottom right corner.

I remember Massenet’s opera Werther, Charlotte clutching Werther’s letters to her chest and trying to smell the flowers he sent for any trace of lingering odor. In this small way, I am Charlotte and Charlotte is me- the age old story of losing someone you love (or, at least, thinking you did).

What Charlotte has that I do not is that her feelings are not particularly conflicted. She is in love with Werther, and there is no downside to consider. In the real world, relationships are more complicated than that. She’s verbally abusive. She’s emotionally underhanded. She is capable of looking me in the eye and telling me things that are not true. She’s toxic and letting her live in that mental house for so long was a disaster ’cause she kept building additions.

The problem with this analogy is that I am exactly like her. I’m just as much of an asshole, if not better at it than she is because I learned from the best. It is annoying as hell to know this, but at the same time, it is an inescapable truth. She manipulated the hell out of me, and as a result, I can play her like a piano, too. She hates that.

I hate that out of all the people I’ve known for the last quarter century, I never thought to make sure that I stayed friends with someone who knew her. There is no one to say that my story has any validity. There’s no way to fact check anything, because anybody who would have seen us together is someone I absolutely would have run away from. They didn’t think we were having sex, they knew it. The problem was that we weren’t. At all. The rabid homophobia around us prevented people from seeing that we weren’t physically together… they just really wanted to believe it.

This grief is the death of my mothermentorsisterfriend, and the death of my biggest enemy. We could not be that close without being that terrible to each other. Our defenses became impenetrable, because they are made from the same material.

All Through the Night

I took what I thought was going to be a short nap, maybe twenty minutes. That was almost 7 hours ago. As a result, it’s almost 2:30 in the morning, and I am wide awake. I have no idea what I want to say, I just want you people to sit with me while I try to think of something wonderful.

Here in the dark and quiet recesses of the evening transitioning to dawn, I write. Actually, a better description would be that I sit here. If something hits, I’ll write it down. Otherwise, I am generally staring off into space, hoping that something flying by will create brilliance on my part. I’ll let you know if I get there. I’m just feelin’ nice right now, and despite being stone-cold sober, there’s an air around me of intoxication. Despite having almost a full night’s sleep, my circadian rhythm is telling me that I should be in bed. I am punch-drunk with the type of exhaustion you feel when you’ve been asleep for a long time, but not resting. You wake up and your body is just as tired and achy as when you drifted off.

As a result, I’m sitting in my bean bag chair. I like how it molds to me instead of making me bend to it. When I first got it, I thought I’d bought the wrong size, like it was for a child or something. Then I figured out that you have to sit in it for a long time before it starts to stretch out. Now, it’s perfect. I sleep in it regularly.

Dana and I are not angry people. The reason I often sleep in my bean bag chair instead of with Dana in bed is that I am not as good as she is about starting a TV show and staying awake all the way until the end. And then, I have the audacity to not be very good-natured when she tries to wake me up enough to get me back to our bedroom. Over time, we’ve both just agreed that if I’m asleep, just leave me there.

I try to be sensitive to the fact that I cannot do it very often, this sleeping in front of the TV thing. Not sleeping together in and of itself will not hurt Dana and me, but it doesn’t help, either. My first wife and I were not as close as Dana and me, so when there weren’t many things we connected on, not sleeping together became a huge, huge deal. That’s because I was “falling asleep to the TV.” I didn’t realize that I was using it as a coping mechanism to get out of sleeping next to her. That’s never happened in the history of my relationship with Dana, it’s just something that I’m aware of in myself.

One of the things that Al-anon has given me is the valuable lesson of self-inventory. Know the ways in which you are an angel, and the ways in which you are an asshole. You can’t believe what knowing yourself will do to you. It’s like getting glasses specifically designed to show you bullshit where it exists. You become sort of a bullshit-detecting superhero… mostly because you figure if you’re capable of it, so is everyone else.

I need some iced tea. Hold please.

There, that’s better. I’ve had a bit of a cold the last few days, so I’ve been trying to keep my voice moisturized and fairly happy. I put agave syrup in my tea to make it a little more viscous and do the whole “throat coat” thing. I’m not coughing as much, but you can definitely tell I’ve got a bit of laryngitis going on. My speaking voice hasn’t quite lowered the octave, but I’m sure I could cigar and vodka it down if I had to.

Speaking of singing, I’m pretty sure that altos and basses live on cigars and vodka, while sopranos and tenors live on shoes and compliments.

And on that note, I’m off.

What I Have Figured Out About the Christian Right

The Christian Right abuses gay children. It absolutely does. It instills in them, from the time that they are very small, guilt for committing an adult sin. The Christian Right makes gay children walk around feeling bad about the sins they’re going to commit as adults while they’re still children. Straight children are applauded on figuring out who they are, while gay children are told to repress, repress, repress. Sexual thoughts are relentless when you’re a teen, so basically, the Christian Right takes each of those beautiful, natural moments of young desire and turns them into a tattoo gun that constantly inks the word “sinner” right across a child’s soul.

The thing is, I grew up as a Methodist preacher’s kid in Northeast Texas. When I was 12, we moved to Houston. The culture shock was great, but it had nothing to do with my father’s ministry. It wasn’t his churches that weren’t welcoming. It was the other churches around me that created monsters that I had to live with at school.

The Christian Right abuses gay children by teaching straight children that gay children are bad. While you think you’re just teaching them what God believes, your little fuckers are stuffing children into lockers or bullying them on the internet. The Christian Right hides behind an amazing amount of hypocrisy, because they will not directly accept accountability for creating the idea that gay people are lesser than and therefore okay to blatantly use and abuse.

But the main point I’m making here is that you’re asking children to take on responsibility for sins they will commit, and are then afraid to commit them, because your sin structure needs some cleaning up and you refuse to do it. Myths are explained by science and culture evolves. Something else becomes a myth because this one’s done.

But how do you get someone who believes the world was created in six days to comprehend the vastness of the universe? It is mind-boggling to even try. So I don’t.

I just remind them that every day their gay sons and daughters live in their houses, they die a little bit inside. I also remind them that it is super-weird to over-focus on one of your kid’s sex lives because it’s going to be different than your others. My parents didn’t do this to me, but I saw a lot of friends go through a lot of unspeakable brutality due to this very thing.

I got used to hearing stories about fathers and sons raping their lesbian daughters/sisters, trying to get her to change. While sexual abuse does happen to boys, I didn’t have very many male friends who were willing to talk about it. One in four American women is sexually molested; I think women have a more tacit approval to discuss these things. I got my statistic from The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2001. I am sure that it is much, much higher by now.

So in addition to being nervous about having lesbian sex with her loving partner in the future, there are baby lesbians being raped by their brothers and fathers right now.

The Christian Right abuses gay children. I cannot say it enough.

Abuse, and Trust Afterward

The thing is, no matter how you have been abused, it changes you. Just because you cannot see physical scars does not mean that they do not exist. My scar is that my comfort zone is about thisbig. When I was a kid, I had a friend who was A LOT older confide some things in me that should never have been confided from adult to kid. I am not sure that my friend would have even cared if I’d told anyone, but it didn’t matter. There was no one to tell. Everyone who saw the relationship knew it was off, and many people tried to dissuade me.

That version of “off” created so many trust issues in me that I don’t know where to begin. I don’t have friends. Not really. I have Dana and a few people that are close to me. The rest are either Fanagans or acquaintances. Of the people that are close to me, only one or two at a time get private time with me. It is not that I don’t care; it is that I do not have the emotional stamina to handle more than that. It’s not me trying to control a situation so much as it is me trying to control the possible number of things that could go wrong in said outing.

Nothing’s going to go wrong. I’m just nervous. There’s no reason to be nervous.

When I was younger, I would say that I was sick because I was. My mind would play these horrible tricks on me where I wasn’t being invited because I was fun to be with, jolly, etc. I was being invited to be the scapegoat and the court jester. Not wanting to play either one of those roles forced me more into my shell, so I just decided to stop going out. We weren’t making much money, anyway, so it made more sense. I felt anxious about getting out socially, so naturally, we’ll just bring the party to us.

And then I host parties and in about the middle, I’m done. I start acting like the classic second child who thinks her imaginary friend won’t play with her.

There has got to be a way to handle all of this social anxiety, but I know that I can’t do it with medication alone. It’s not a chemical imbalance. It’s an old tape that says, “you can’t trust anyone but me.” If the abuser is good enough, and mine was, he or she will make that tape speak louder than any relationship in your life.

Your mom.
Your dad.
Your sister.

I was so little, and my relationship with my abuser was such that it obliterated all of the other three.

As an adult, this manifests itself with me trying to go through life only trusting my abuser, because that’s what abusers do. They make you think that there is no other opinion that is right except for theirs… to the point that you will defend what they say against the Bible and the dictionary.

And that’s where I am now. I am so much better than I was when I began this journey, but changing my mental relationship with my abuser is what I now know is my life’s work. I don’t like that my emotional response system is so temperamental that I can’t trust it. I don’t like the things in my own mind that I can’t seem to change, because the thought is so deep-seeded.

Because as I get older, this mild distrust of everyone is descending into “maybe we should stay home.” That way, I don’t have to meet any new people, and I can stay in my own little bubble of fear. It’s worth changing. It’s worth letting a little light in. I just have to find the magic words that will fill me with sunshine, and make my mind’s eye blink because it’s so bright.

Advice Column Thursday: The Dog Edition

Dear Leslie,

I live in a small 2 bedroom house with hardwood floors. I have my bedroom as well as an animal room for my chinchillas, 3 resident dogs (a pitbull, a pit-lab x, and a deaf and blind blue heeler). I also have 1-3 foster dogs of varying breeds living with me at any given time as I run/work with a dog rescue. Giving up having the dogs around is well beyond out of the question as rescuing is a part of me. No matter how much I sweep, mop and clean, 30 seconds after I’m done it looks as though I haven’t cleaned in weeks. Beyond the hair/ dust on the floor I’m concerned about allergens that are certainly floating around in the air. I’m thinking of maybe starting to see this guy who so far is awesome but has pretty severe allergies- though I don’t know how allergic he is to dogs. How can I keep my house clean enough that I can feel comfortable to invite him over to hang out with out worrying that he’ll go into anaphylactic shock?

Signed,
Ahhhh-choo

First of all, if you’re coming to me for cleaning advice, you must really be desperate. The best thing that you can do is just clean when you can. If your guy can’t fit into that, then maybe he’s not worth putting the effort into when it comes into the long-term. People will be able to look at your life, dogs and all, and realize that there is no taking you away from it. It is a 24/7 operation. If anyone wants to take you away from the dogs because it makes your house messy, that’s the time to stand up and say, “thanks for playing.”

If your guy truly is allergic, that’s his problem. I suggest an antihistamine every day, because you can’t use Zyrtec/Claritin/Allegra for spot treatment. It takes about six weeks for the histamine blockers to get to maximum efficacy.

Yes, my stepmom is a doctor. Yes, I really do talk like that.

Love,

The AntiLeslie

My Relationship with My Apartment

My relationship with my apartment is changing, mostly due to an influx of energy from feeling good all the time. I know I rant and rave on my web site, but because I get my anger out here, I’m free the rest of the time to feel fantastic. If you are confused about how this happens, just think of Leslie and The AntiLeslie as two separate people who only need one number in your cell phone. Just like Jackson Pollack, I don’t just pitch my art. I wind up. I get fired up. So it’s not just an essay coming at you, it’s RRRRRAAAGGGGHHHHH! I FEEL X ABOUT X!!!! Then, you meet me in real life, and you wonder where that lady went. She’s been replaced by a Rainbow Brite doll.

In the past, my real underlying emotions were hidden, so I constantly felt bad about myself. I’d separated myself into two distinct personalities; I had one for school and home, and one for being with parishioners. It was the only way I could make it through the day, because I was so shy and introverted. Summer camp was a nightmare unless my mom was there (it was Choir Camp). She’d let me into her cabin to give me a break. I was too afraid to ask strangers.

Working on those kinds of issues has made me a better person; I think I deserve more, so I put more into me. Today, I cleaned my office and baked chocolate chip cookies. Dana is going to freak when she comes home because I’ve hidden her DVDs and VHSs. Notice that she doesn’t use any of them because we have streaming media, but there they are, hanging out and taking up space.

Not anymore. Know that if I do not post tomorrow, come over and make sure I’m okay. 😉

I put all of Dana’s media into her footlocker (that way, they’re easily portable if she decides to get rid of them). If I had enough boxes, I’d do the same with her books. We read our Kindles incessantly, and the number of books we own to the number of books we get out and read is ridiculous. Of course I’m okay with keeping sentimental things, but at the same time, we are ADD and the dust gets ridiculous because we constantly forget that dust is sitting in the books and someone should clean them.

Our apartment needs serious work, and I mean that on the management level, not that the apartment is dirty. I am sure that they want us to move out; we sent them a registered letter of complaint and prayer for relief…. still, no response. Therefore, I think I just want to start doing some of the stuff myself. It’s just too dangerous to step on carpet tacks on a daily basis. If you think the management doesn’t want to fix the water damage in our ceiling, it is nothing compared to the contempt they have for us because we asked them to replace our carpet. It’s become a safety issue, and I think we’re being iced out. They’re “losing money” on us because Dana’s lived in that apartment for over 13 years. The rent hasn’t risen but about $150 since she moved in.

All the units in our complex are being remodeled as people move out, and then the management is charging them quite a bit more because the apartment is so much nicer. How dare we continue to live in a spot where we’re getting a great deal! It’s the only reason we can afford to live in our neighborhood. I live two miles from downtown. There’s nowhere around here that will match what we pay.

So, we’re pretty much here for good… unless moving to Washington really will save us lots of money. We need to run the numbers before we even consider it. Let’s table that discussion.

Back to where I live now.

You only get as much out of a relationship as you put into it. I found that I wasn’t putting enough energy into my living space, so I started. Cleaning is fun again, when it wasn’t for a very long time. I was so wrapped up in my depression that I couldn’t hack it. I stopped taking care of myself, to the point of not bathing. I hadn’t even been good enough to deserve those things.

And that’s how depression works, at least for me. I shame myself into thinking that I don’t deserve family, friends, a clean house, a clean body. Those are luxuries for people who do things, who accomplish things… and here I am, just me. I was born eight weeks early, I have a palsy in my brain, I have lateral isotropia/strabismus, and from the minute I was born, nobody thought I’d do anything. It was doubtful that I’d even walk. As a result, it is a learned behavior in me that constantly says, “I’m too little/not strong enough/can’t take it.” It is a running tape in my head, because I just don’t act like other people act. I don’t get it. I feel the constant struggle of a “day late and a dollar short.” I don’t move in the world the way other people do, and I finally have some acceptance of it. People aren’t sure what to do with me. I got tired of not knowing what to do with me.

I’m sure it evokes some sort of pity in other people, but at the same time, that’s not what I’m trying to get across here.

My mother helped me learn to walk; now I have to learn to fly.

For me, the first step is making my apartment beautiful.