The AntiLeslie is More Important Than Me

Dana tells me that I talked for two solid hours, and told me that I needed to write because I was talking like I was writing. I don’t know how much of it to believe, because as I’m sure that some of my readers can attest, Dana has an interesting relationship with the truth. I’m not calling her out on it, because I think that I do, too. It’s just that her version of truth is often more dramatic than the actual situation at hand. I’m sure people would say that about me, too. I’m probably just getting a taste of my own medicine.

When Dana told me this, it sent up a huge red flag. It could be a sign that my medication isn’t working, that something is physically wrong with me, or that it just seemed like two hours. It also felt as if she was saying to me, “I don’t want to listen to you, so go tell someone else.” That is the biggest hot button issue I have- when someone close to me says that I talk too much and to just, in a sense, go away. It’s not Dana’s fault. That hot button has been there since I was 13. She does have to deal with me when I’m scared and lonely, however.

As I have said before in this web site, I was keeping secrets for a friend that a teenager should never have had to keep. As I grew, the friend became more and more distant, and all of the sudden, I didn’t have a place to go with those secrets anymore.

I don’t mean to imply that what I learned was all that bad. In fact, if I had been an adult, there would be no problem whatsoever. I wasn’t, though, and I learned a lot of operant conditioning- “if you do this, X will happen.” X was whatever behavior in which I learned my part of the dance.

I was not trained to deal with being an adult at 13, but I did my best. I think I was pretty good at it, but it limited me socially. I was much older than my peers, emotionally and spiritually. I retreated into myself, and just wrote and wrote and wrote. Tackling a blank page was my therapy, and it went well. Because I have been a writer for a long time, I have consistently had a way to deal with my problems. Art comes from pain, and there’s a lot in me. Getting it out is my way of funneling anger into beauty.

Because of writing, I never felt alone. Even if I didn’t have my friend in the corporeal sense, she was in my head. She became a diary in which I could grow and develop from the inside out.

It was also a dark time in my life because I related more to a blank page than I did to live people. When I was a preacher’s kid, it was easy to put on the mask of separation. Ministers and their families have the same problems as everyone else, but lay people have a hard time believing it. Living in the fish bowl wasn’t that bad, actually, because no one ever knew the real me. The real me was in a notebook at the back of my closet.

The same friend, so amazing as a pen pal, predictably turned out to be much different than expected when the pages and pages of letters over the years turned into you and me, face to face. Because I was only myself in my letters, she knew everything there was to know about me, except my behavior.

It is a terrible conundrum, because for me, face-to-face had to somehow line up with reality, didn’t it? Phone calls weren’t nothing, were they? Here I am, all of about 19 years old, tortured with my friend’s secrets and now I couldn’t even talk to her about them, either. The balance of power was off to the point of insanity, and neither one of us could figure out why, until the scary truth found me in a pink and purple book called The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond, by Patricia Evans. It gave me the coping mechanisms to see that I had unintentionally been manipulated because my friend needed someone to listen and I was completely harmless. The amount of emotion that she was pouring into me had some unintended consequences, and I grew up fast… both in thinking that by confiding in me, it created some sort of romantic notion that she wanted me to protect her like a husband… and that by confiding in me, she wanted me to protect her like a father. Passionate and companionate love swirled in me until I no longer recognized myself. I wanted to invert our relationship the way children of alcoholics start to raise their parents. The amazing thing is that I really thought I could do it. Every day, I’d walk past a sign in seventh grade homeroom that said, “hire a teenager while they still know everything.” I’d think to myself, “if you only knew…”

The passionate love ended when my friend got married, but the companionate love didn’t. I was hooked into the grip of thinking that my friend needed me to protect her, and because it was a learned behavior in childhood, it wasn’t anything to mess around with. It was so intrinsic to my personality that I am now rewiring almost a quarter century of memories so that I can learn to act appropriately.

By that, I mean that enablers are used to being caught in the grip of their abuser’s sunshine. She gave me so much love that my heart would flip when she walked into a room. It felt to me like the air changed, and I choose to believe that it did.

The problem is that with abusers, the sunshine doesn’t last. It is a ploy to get your attention so that they can use you for something. The dopamine in your brain gets used to the heightened sensation of emotional sunshine and then, usually without rhyme or reason, the abuser disappears… often without saying goodbye.

In my experience, which is vast, this is because abusers feel guilty about the way they’ve treated their enablers. If you have been abused in any way, there is only a small percent chance that you will ever receive the apology that you’ve been waiting for a very long time.

If you get the apology that you’re looking for, there is a large chance that your abuser has not grown with you, and will not hesitate to step all over you if you are determined to believe that all relationships go through a few troubles and this time will be different.

In my case, “this time will be different” came around several times, and each time, I fell for it hook, line, & sinker. Each time, the sunshine lasted until I started to emote. I couldn’t talk about my feelings and my e-mails became “emotional bombs.” What used to be keeping all my friend’s secrets became “let me dump all my crap on you and mysteriously disappear when you need me for anything at any time.”

I was silly to go back for seconds, and disastrous to myself when I thought it was okay to try thirds.

My friend agreed to meet with me, and I told her that I was not in a good emotional place. Please don’t let me down again.

A few days later, still in the same emotional place I was in when I said, “please don’t let me down again,” I got an e-mail saying we were beyond reconciliation. It was just one more “thanks for being my friend since you were a teenager, now let me spit venom in your eye.”

My problem is that I was willing to wait until I got verbal venom before I was willing to admit that my friend wasn’t.

The revelation in my mind was that I never intended to treat myself so badly. For so many years, I waited for a moment that was never to come, and that future lived with me for a long time until it collapsed under its own dead weight.

I tell this story to bring it back around to Dana, and how I’m so sensitive to the way we talk to each other (about certain things, anyway). When she says things like, “you talked for two solid hours,” I only have one response- “why didn’t you stop me? Why did you just let me keep talking instead of telling me to shut up?” If people are passive aggressive, they rob one of a chance to correct their behavior and the other of compassion and forgiveness when they learn the other side of the story. They just get more and more resentful.

I get verbal diarrhea trying to start conversations with people who are totally absorbed in their screens. I want someone to interact with; every once in a while, I’ll try to think of another cool thing to say that will grab someone’s attention because I feel like no one is listening to me… another direct hit from my abuser. I try to start conversations because it seems nicer than “you’ve been on your phone for an hour playing Candy Crush Saga. I’m really sorry to bother you while you totally check out.” In response, people get more and more involved with their screens because you’re trying to get them to interact. It is a Catch-22, and I am often thought of as high-maintenance because I think human interaction is important for me to maintain the personality I have in public. Equally as important as the one I have online.

Now that I’m writing and people know that I have an outlet, they’d rather just read what’s happening on my blog.

And again, no one knows the real me.

It’s a good thing I do.

The Dirty, Dirty Thirties

Actor Cory Montieth’s death hit me hard, because he was only a few years younger than me. It’s this 30’s thing. We all get to our thirties and we all start to deal with the issues that didn’t get resolved in childhood/adolescence. For Cory, it was alcohol addiction. For us, it’s X. X takes many forms, whether it’s neglect, stress, hunger, abuse… the list goes on and on. Your thirties are when you start to realize that you are indeed not bulletproof, and something will get you. Your addict friends are finding this out more quickly than you are, because as a progressive disease, your addict friends are starting to care whether they make it out of said addiction alive. Because like Cory, they struggle with the handcuffs and the ring- the seduction of a perfect glass of whiskey and not caring about consequences such as killing others or even themselves. Logically, they know they can die. Emotionally, who gives a fuck? It’s just one drink.

I have been dealing with abuse of my own- carrying secrets that no one should have to carry as a child. No ability to tell anyone that I was carrying said secrets. No validation whether I was doing the right or the wrong thing. No ability to stop protecting the people who were abusing me because the pattern had been set up before I knew what patterns were. I was young and impressionable; now, I am not. It is my job to go back and unpack these years, and learn to protect myself as opposed to everyone else. It’s something I know logically, but emotionally? No one has ever been able to tell their hearts what to do. You might have a shot with your brain, but you are never going to win with your heart.

The answer to this is meditation. The cognitive dissonance that you are experiencing is deafening. You cannot do anything else but turn this one mind worm in your head over and over, as if it is on a spit. To quiet your mind, you must quiet your body.

Quieting your body might require talking to it- a soothing voice to ease your muscles into alignment. When you are seated comfortably, you have opened yourself to the entirety of your thoughts. You can see them like a universe filled with stars. You close your eyes, and they rotate, rushing toward you. You only have to pick one as they float by.

The one you pick is your starting line. Concentrate on that one memory until you have grasped the meaning of it… until you have grokked the entirety surrounding it. Still your mind into a “people mover” of thoughts. Concentrate on one thing until you are ready to put it away.

I learned this from realizing that I had to get through almost 25 years of memories, and I could not take them in all at once. It was too close, too damaging to try and live in the past, present, and future at the same time. To me, that is the single reason that you cannot look directly at the face of God. For me, the analogy that works the best is from the British TV show, Doctor Who. The Master goes insane when he is a little boy from looking directly at the time vortex. The past, the present, and the future combined to create a scene so full of terror that The Master is changed forever.

In a sense, I think that this is what we do to ourselves when we keep those insecurities and fears from getting a proper release. You know what you didn’t get in childhood. You know how to give yourself those things, instead of asking for them from others. It’s just that you won’t find them until you give yourself a chance to think.

How much time per day do you spend thinking about yourself? How much do you dream about where you want to go? How much time do you spend raging about things that are unfair, unjust, anger-inducing? Meditation can take all of that. I call the source God, you can call the source whatever it is that you want. But as I have said before, God is willing to act as your personal punching bag so that you can work out what ever it is that you need to work out so that you’re mad at God instead of the people around you. Let go of all the fear, all the anxiety, all the everything. Just scream it at God if you need to. Because at the end, you will feel more spent than you ever have in your life, and the greatest peace. You know why? Because you sat there and talked to someone who doesn’t have a horse in the race. God doesn’t care if you’re a sinner or not. God doesn’t care if you’re an angel or not. God is the big, immovable force that provides resistance when we need someone to use and abuse.

You know why? Because we all have that potential as humans, and better to get out our anger against God than to raise up against ourselves, our families, our friends. Because God is big enough to take it, while the humans around us aren’t. When you take out your frustration on God, you release yourself from the strain of having terrible relationships because you’re directing your anger at your friends instead of the deity that cannot be offended.

When God says that there is nothing you can do to separate yourself from God’s love, it’s all in there. All the crap you give other people that you can’t get away with when you’re alone. All the anger you wish you could scream. All the tears you wish would fall. God will take them all.

Let God be the punching bag, instead of making your family stand in. Your anger is yours, not theirs. They deserve your love, and you deserve theirs. But you will not believe it until your anger is out of your body and you are capable of taking it in. So much love is lost because we just can’t believe it’s there.

Trust me.

It.

Is.

Religion Questionnaire Update

The original article was written in 2005, by a group I belonged to then called “RevGalBlogPals.” I wasn’t a minister, just a velveteen one, and they let me join anyway. The questions are so good, I want to try and answer them every few years.

Am I content with who I am becoming?

Finally, blessedly, yes. I have been trying to help myself for years, but it wasn’t until I met my current pastor that I felt safe enough to be able to let my guard down and just let her take care of me in the way that my pastor should have been doing all along. Because my dad was a pastor when I was little, I am a terrible parishioner… in exactly the same way that a doctor is a terrible patient. Every pastor who’s parented a child will smile when they read this. It is true. Learning to see what other people see in their pastors when they haven’t grown up in the church has been so freeing.

Do my family and friends recognize the authenticity of my Christian spirituality?

I hope so. I think everyone is surprised at the way I approach it, though. I don’t modify my fucking language, I dress however the hell I want, and I don’t care if you like my hair or not. People think that I am an immature Christian because they see my image and not my voice. My image is not for you. It’s for scared teenagers who need someone who looks like they do, talks the way they do, and spends their time in the world looking like an acceptable person to befriend even though they know I’m over 30. Senior pastors, I am THAT youth pastor. You know the one. The one that brings more teens into your church than you know what to do with but at the same time, cannot get me to behave when the bishop comes. Yup, that’s me. Deal.

At the same time, I have been to the mountaintop in terms of sin and have walked away every time because I know for sure that my God is stronger than my temptation for wrongdoing. God is that voice in my head that tells me not to be an asshole. God hears my anger when God tells me that I’m doing something wrong and I don’t want to be told that I’m doing something wrong I want to do what I want to do and you’re not going to stop me goddamnit I’m going to do what I want… God is capable of taking your rage. God is capable of taking your furious justifications for wrongdoing and calmly listens until you are finished. All the way until you are finished. God is the moment that dawns on you when you realize what you’ve really been fighting. God already knows you feel bad, and isn’t adding punishment to what you will already give yourself. God is that one consciousness that sees all the evil in you and just waits for you to figure out on your own which kind of person you choose to be.

Is my prayer life improving?

Everything that I’ve felt my entire life is starting to deepen. If I prayed in my childhood, now I’m praying more, because I feel the same urges I always have, it’s just that now it’s weighted with more meaning. When I concentrate on praying, I have no idea how much time goes by. I am so focused on God seeing everything that it takes me a while to get it all ready. I hem and haw and think and look off into space until a memory catches, and when the dam breaks, God is there to just receive. God receives whatever I feel about the memory that broke me open. Sometimes it’s joy, and sometimes it’s pain. God is a safe space because God has heard me use very colorful language on a number of topics. So, yes. The best thing that has ever happened to me is that I’m not afraid of God anymore. God doesn’t give a fuck whether I say fuck or not. God doesn’t care if I’m gay or not. In fact, I’m pretty sure God has never even noticed. Actually, the one thing God has ever said to me about sexuality is that I was right for being afraid of Angelina Jolie.

Have I maintained a genuine awe of God?

Awe doesn’t even begin to cover it. You only get as much out of a relationship as you put into it, and I learned that lesson indelibly seeing the movie Shadowlands. The movie is about C.S. “Jack” Lewis, a revered theologian and children’s book author. There is one scene that brings me to tears every time, and here it is:

Harry: Christopher can scoff, Jack, but I know how hard you’ve been praying; and now God is answering your prayers.

C. S. Lewis: That’s not why I pray, Harry. I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.

I pray because God’s reaction is not my responsibility. I pray because God is big enough to take all my shit. God is big enough to let me be anxious and needy and self-serving and mean and snobby and generous and loving and gorgeous and human because I AM ALL OF IT AND SO IS GOD.

The awe is breathtaking.

Is my lifestyle distinctive?

I may need a few more parameters, but I think I know what you mean. I have no problem talking about my spirituality in public. I think Jesus was one of the best preachers and teachers in the entire history of the world, and I am not threatened by any theological doctrine in all of creation. My God is bigger than all of them combined and you still wouldn’t be able to see a fourth of it. My lifestyle is distinctive BECAUSE YOU CANNOT SAY THAT YOU KNOW GOD BETTER THAN I DO, BITCH! Because the truth is that no one knows God. But we try to anthropomorphize God, anyway. I’m tired of conservative Christians tell me that I’m an outcast, and not because I’m a lesbian. Because even if I was straight I couldn’t swallow their hypocrisy. It makes me feel crazy when I show up at a church and there are clearly imbalances of power between men and women and for people to tell me that I’m a hideous sinner because I don’t realize that women’s subservience is how it’s supposed to be. I’m sorry, what? Jesus was the Gloria Steinem of his day. Do you have any idea how many kinds of weird it was for Jesus to allow Mary of Bethany to sit with him and all the other men while he lectured? Do you know how many rabbinical laws were broken before dinner? Can you imagine having enough power to be able to walk into a room and say, “I’m not going to let you get away with your inequality bullshit as long as I’m here?” If Jesus walked on earth, there is no way he would recognize Christianity. And he for damn sure wouldn’t recognize the whitey with his name on it.

Is my “spiritual feeding” the right diet for me?

It is now. I think that everything I am has led me to this church, and I will not stray. The thing that sets Bridgeport apart is that it is the first church that gave me a chance. They listened to my first sermons, they taught me how to lead a crowd, they’re just there for everything I could need as someone who wants to preach without necessarily being a pastor. My congregation feeds me by being willing to hear me think out loud. I pray just as incessantly as Jack Lewis because I don’t feel a need to prepare for it. Praying is thinking and thinking is praying. I believe all religions have that in common.

Is obedience in small matters built into my reflexes?

Yes, to the point where it has become detrimental to me and I’m trying to undo it. I can’t live this life anymore where people are content to walk all over me and just expect that their behavior is okay. Obedience is a blessing, but so is self-preservation.

Is there enough celebration in my life?

My celebration never ceases to amaze me. I love my friends, I love my family, and I love my wife. She is the cream in my coffee, and grieving her loss would be like trying to replace one of my legs, or Waffle House or something like that. Something that MATTERS.

Am I generous?

I am generous when I remember to live in the vision of bounty instead of scarcity. I cannot be generous when I feel afraid that I will not have enough. When I do have enough, I shower generosity on everything because I am so grateful for what has been given to me.

Do I have a quiet centre to my life?

My quiet center is my friend _______. There are two names that go here, and they both know who they are. One is local, one is not. One sees me all the time, one I’ve never met. But when we are online together, magic happens. We are able to talk about things that are absent in our daily lives but present in the arcs of our lives. It is a deep, abiding love that allows both of us to feel supported all the time and chastised when we need it. Because I want to know the truth, even when it’s bad.

Have I defined my unique ministry?

You’re looking at it right now. 😉

Amen.

When Liberals Attack

This is a private message to someone who tried to emotionally rip me to shreds via a public conversation on Facebook. His behavior reminded me of this quote from The Big Lebowski: “you’re not wrong… WALTER… you’re just an asshole.”

—————————–

I private messaged you because you say that you tried to state it politely, and I didn’t think so. You’re bringing emotion into logic as we speak by trying to agitate me instead of trying to understand me. And that is why the Left and the Right don’t get along in a nutshell. The Right thinks that if they shake their fists hard enough, the country will suddenly *want* to go back to the 1950’s. They have a hateful, exclusionary platform that basically says you can either be like us or we’ll mow you down eventually. The Left is trying their best to respond to absolutely unnecessary attacks, but sometimes they take the low road because there’s absolutely no way to compete with angry and irrational without getting angry and irrational. The Republicans have a terrible message and image. Rich fat cats that have all the money and manage to get people of below average intelligence to believe that they will be better off if they just hand their money over to them for safekeeping, and then the market tanks and the fat cats still get to keep their multi-million dollar bonuses while the people they screwed are living paycheck to paycheck. They win by convincing you that gay people, atheists, and immigrants are coming to get you, and they operate on fear. They have people’s attention because they can package their hate and sell it. They advocate NEVER aborting a child, but aren’t known for giving all the starving children we already have bottles and blankets.

The Democrats have no idea where they’re going or what they’re doing, but they come by it honestly because the Republicans won’t pass anything they write, anyway. They just believe that they are so star-spangled awesome as they completely dismantle every piece of safety net that exists for poor people, and they convince people of all socioeconomic strata that this is only for their benefit.And that’s how you argue a point without calling anyone names.

De Play! De Play!

Drama has just been swirling around my house, but it’s all been of my own making. That’s what being Bipolar II gets me. The ability to create a play even when no one else knows it’s going on. I do not get wigged when other people do not play their parts. People think I do, but my annoyance has nothing to do with the fact that you don’t want to act what I wrote. Nine times out of ten, it’s because the part I wrote for you takes the high road, and people are much more, well, human than that.

I do not try to create drama so much as I learn to function in it. When I was really young, my mentor was an opera singer. When I was a teenager, I went to High School for Performing and Visual Arts. I am a writer who has had some success. There is no moment of my day when I am not able to emote clearly. I may not know exactly what I think, but if what you’re saying is the kind of thing that gets people worked up, it will work on me. In other words, I may not have the response you’re looking for, but I will definitely have a big reaction. I differentiate between the two because a reaction generally doesn’t have any thought behind it.

Incidentally, the difference between reaction and response is one of the joys of my getting older. I don’t have to react to the world, but I do have to respond. Sometimes it’s hard for me not to jump in right away. My mind works at 500 miles an hour. I have to be careful because I know I have a large capacity to hurt people. I’m excellent at being underhanded emotionally, and my life’s work is to heal the rift that made me think this was okay.

It’s hard to say it out loud, that “being underhanded emotionally.” it’s one of those things that’s true of everyone on earth, but it takes cojones to make something like that self-referential. But that’s the journey right now. I’m not throwing out any part of myself until I know what’s there. Here’s the thing about getting ready to be 40 (I will be 36 on Sept. 10, so it’s not that far…)- you just want to stop wading in bullshit.

No, wait.

I already know that I’m wading in bullshit, and that life is just like that. However, what I can control is the bullshit itself. Am I processing it correctly so that I’m not constantly dealing with old bullshit? When does the new bullshit arrive? Where do you put the old bullshit once it’s processed? Can you sell it on e-bay?

The bottom line is that I was emotionally abused from the day I turned 13. The reaction is that I’m going crazy. The response is that I’m writing it all out so that I can be crazy in my head, and still the calm and gorgeous person you know on the outside. The reaction is severe because I’ve been holding down my feelings about this abuse because everything was a secret. Everything.

Having that big a secret convinced me to keep other, bigger secrets so that all of the sudden, I was weighted down in ways that a 13-year-old just can’t process. Protecting my abuser from the people who had abused her became the play in my mind that I was acting. But my abuser needed no help. She had moved on from having power taken from her to taking mine away, instead.

My natural responses turned to dust as her siren song echoed farther and farther across the universe.

I think it’s particularly important for me to say categorically that I was abused by a woman, because so few people believe they are capable of it. Power and control is not the domain of men, because in this case, her only weapon was words. In fact, some of the most powerful words in the universe have to do with soft power. If you don’t know what I mean, think about the multitude of things you would do for your partner if she only looked at you that way.

When she looked at me that way, there is nothing that I wouldn’t have done for her. My 13-year-old determination allowed me to move mountains at that age, and I did. I achieved things I never thought possible in the names of love, courage, and empathy.

The disconnect is that it was only love for me. For her, I was a puppet. She had woven my strings into her fingers so that she could not put them down. I thought it was love, so I was content to let her pull them.

She manipulated me, and I manipulated her right back. With our age difference, though, I was outmatched. Being outwitted my whole life up until now has given me the determination to want to be alpha dog, and I see that change in myself, especially as I write for this web site. I believe that I am that person, that she is the one I would have been without having to live in someone else’s shadow. The challenge is to stay Type A. Type A is exhausting. How do you people do it?

I think my anger fuels me. It’s what gets me out of bed. I pump anger into my day, but not to reinforce negativity. To reinforce that I am taking all of this negative energy and pouring it into my own recovery so that what goes in as toxic comes out as inert. I want to be that person who can forgive as much as they love.

My path is to figure out how love always wins, instead of that still, small voice that says it’s ok to kill you if you cross me.

Stream of Conscience, Episode V: The Empire Dykes Back

Your clever’s title.

Clever Title Goes Here, bitch.

Ohhh, here we go.

You’re going to regret making friends with me.

I’ve hated you for 35 years and that hasn’t gotten me anywhere. Liking you is a new thing I’m trying out. So far, it feels good. You’re a lot more awesome than I’ve ever given you credit for.

Leslie, that’s because I’m not really you. I’m the sub-you. I’m not your arrows, I’m your compass.

Look that that metaphysical shit going on. Where did you get so smart?

You’ve always been this smart.

Have I really?

Yes, for evil and for awesome.

That’s a new thing I’m trying out, too. Liking the bad parts of myself. Because disliking them wasn’t getting me very far, either.

Do you think it will work?

Do you?

[…]

I’m going to a meeting tonight.

Is Tall. Mustache. Fishing Hat. going to be there?

No, that’s the other meeting. I’m trying a different one.

Why?

Because I just am. Maybe I’m having a mid-life crisis and actually meeting chicks!

No you’re not.

Yeah, you’re right. I’m not.

This is depressing.

No, it’s not. You just realized the joy of being a married person. You don’t have to go anywhere or do anything and that’s more appealing than meeting chicks.

I’d like to think I’m more adventurous than that.

Why do you want pretty women around you all the time?

Why don’t you?

Because Dana might get mad.

You’ve MET Dana, right? Since when has she ever objected to having pretty women around her?

That is how we do that, isn’t it? We just share eye candy instead of being jealous. The advantage of that is that we each find some the other misses and we’re eternally grateful.

How is it that you can even do this together?

Because most of the time, we are two fifteen-year-old boys living in an apartment together. We are the type people that think Doctor Who could be a religion. We are such nerds that we are kind of like Bart and Milhouse in every episode of The Simpsons ever. If Bart and Milhouse ever realized that they were butt crazy about each other, it would resemble our marriage greatly.

Meaning?

Meaning I don’t give a shit who Dana thinks is gorgeous because I’ve got my own list (and most of them know who they are). Dana knows every thought I’ve ever had in my life, so as far as she’s concerned, she might as well let me have crushes ’cause she’s going to hear about it one way or another. I’m not threatening, I’m just annoyingly verbal.

One of these days, she’s just going to turn around and yell, “FINE! Just fuck her. Seriously. If that’s what it takes to get you to shut the hell up, FINE.”

It’s at this point that I realize that I am way too obnoxious for my own good and we go back to talking about television and housework. It’s not a bad deal. In fact, it helps us be married that we are not contractually obligated to like each other all the time. We have built-in escape pods that allow both of us to be ourselves, so that we don’t become LeslieAndDana. Crushes, as long as they’re inert, are fun as a shared experience. The trouble is when you realize that you are projecting too much energy into the crush and you haven’t paid as much attention as you want to your spouse. It’s your job to limit contact with the crush and bring your partner into the relationship, because the only way to keep a friendship with a crush is to talk about it with your partner frequently. Let your partner tell you if he/she thinks it’s getting out of hand. Once you stop seeing that as a threat and take it for what it is- a caring warning- you are well on your way to a much healthier relationship.

The thing is that you’ve got to be willing to take as much as you give. If you let your partner talk about their crushes and you shut down emotionally, then you are internalizing the frivolous fun of having a crush as a serious threat to your relationship and not the silliness that it is.

A Warning: If you’ve never done this before (because Dana and I have been best friends for almost a decade), limit yourselves to celebrities. Fucking amateurs will not walk into their houses and announce that Leslie said it’s ok to tell you I have a crush on our next door neighbor, who will live here just as long as we do and it will be absolutely that awkward until we move.

The flip side of the coin is that Dana and I have several people in common on our “Door List.”

The door list is people that we get to fuck, but they have to come to the house and knock on the door. For instance, I do not think that Kerry Washington knows where I live. But if she did, Dana would have to admit that Kerry went to extraordinary lengths to find me and that this is the chance of a lifetime that cannot be wasted.

See? There’s A LOT of fifteen-year-old boy in each of us.

It’s why we get along so well.

Wanting to fuck other people helps your marriage?

Why wouldn’t it? From what I’ve seen, what destroys marriages is that people have crushes that they don’t talk about so they fester and then it gets so big that they tell their crush and it could possibly turn into an affair in the time it takes for you to tell your spouse about it. So talk about it first. If you pretend that crushes don’t happen, then you are completely ignoring the spectrum that is sexuality and that most humans are wired to couple up with one person, but when they meet, it does not render either of them blind.

Me & Jesus: LikeTHIS!

I use Facebook when I have short blurbs instead of full-length essays. Because of that, I write on Facebook a lot more than I do here. For some reason, I have a Twitter account. I don’t do Twitter. I can limit myself to a paragraph but a hundred and forty characters? Come on. I know that people say it makes you a better writer- to be able to say an idea in its most empirical form- but at the same time, it doesn’t really allow you to speak in depth and breadth that you might like. When I have good ideas, I like to write them down, but I don’t like how much text message-speak there is to express one analogy. I can only compromise my standards so much, and one of them is using letters as words. U dig?

And come on. The 140-character limit is complete bullshit because it has to include the link that backs up your great idea. Screw that. Facebook is my platform, and I hope I use it well. I want to educate people, I want to bring people together, and most of all, I want to emote.

I have been the type person that holds in feelings- sometimes, really painful ones- for years and years until they threaten to undo me. Because of that, the keyboard has become my last bastion of safety. A blank page is the closest thing I know to be a cure for the magnitude of ideas you want to present when you realize that you’ve been a walking zombie. You go years and years being afraid of other people’s reactions, and you hold on to your emotions more and more because the times you do let your guard down, people distance themselves and you can’t live without other people at all.

The message in this essay is that for me, bottling emotion could have driven me into a truly unstable mental place. My saving grace is that I caught it before it became necessary to be hospitalized, and that I had an outlet in this web site. I pour emotion into it because the more I do, the more people across the globe confirm that my ideas matter in a way that nothing else could even attempt. When I write my own stories, you believe they are true, when a lot of the time, the people that they are about do not. Their reaction is not my responsibility, either. My responsibility is to get the help I need so that life does not push me in the water and stand on my head.

The reality is that you always want to connect with people who don’t have a horse in the race. I don’t write about myself to hurt the people close to me. I write about myself because I’m the one that’s moving in the world and writing about it. I don’t write for your reaction. I want to know what Canada thinks. I want to know what Australia thinks. I could give a crap about Portland, Oregon because I’ve got Jesus on my side. You know why? Because if nothing good comes out of Nazareth, then nothing good comes out of Portland, either.

My writing is my art, just as Jesus’ message was his. He doesn’t give a crap what you think, either. He puts it out there, and you have the option to listen to it.

Just like me.

What’s the Point?

I get comments all the time that my writing is full of pain, it’s heavy, etc. My reaction is always this: if it’s too heavy for you, don’t read it. I’m not here to please anyone. I am here to rescue myself through my own writing. Your response is not my responsibility. I care about you as an audience- you are the body of people that put shoe leather in our writer/reader relationship. When I post, you show up in droves. At the same time, though, I cannot engineer what I write to suit any one of you, much less all of you at once.

I find that I can be a better human being if I know how and why I’m thinking about, well, everything. I am so intentional about the energy that I put into the world that if it has to be negative, I want to balance it. When you come here, you’ll see lots of funny as well. It’s just that those posts don’t necessarily show up on the same day. If you want something that’s not quite so heavy, send me an e-mail with a writing prompt. If I can work it, I’ll post it. I don’t mean for my writing to be a bummer. Quite the opposite. I want my writing to reflect my pain so that I don’t have to carry it around with me. It’s all in here for safekeeping should I ever want to look back, but in a sense, once it’s recorded here, it’s gone. I have told that story, I do not have to tell it again.

And then for that day, I have no burdens at all.

Mind Worms, Part 2

I don’t want to talk about the situation. Sometimes, I don’t even want to think it existed. I didn’t know what was happening for the longest time, and when I figured it out, I had the type of epiphany that causes your face to lose blood. I didn’t use them. She used me. It was such a paradigm shift that I had to think about it for almost a year before I was truly ready to face the truth. The thoughts I was having were making me so ill with co-dependency and withdrawal from it that it felt like the physical part of the first few days of rehab. It makes sense, really. Enablers (the people who have been chosen as recipients of abuse) are addicted to the emotions of others, because they are taught early on that they can’t trust themselves. They can’t make their own opinions because opinions have been programmed out of them. It is a learned behavior that can be corrected, but if you are in the throes of abuse, recognizing it is so difficult… because they love you.

I say this facetiously because abusers do love. They love quite a bit, actually. It’s just that for whatever reason, they have no idea that what they’re doing in a relationship is abnormal. The scary part, though, is that some people do know. Some people do know how much power they have, and they’ve harnessed it. It’s a two-sided coin, and you may never know which kind you’ve got- I differentiate between them with one question: “I know this person very well. Is he or she doing this maliciously, or are they even aware of it?” I haven’t met a complete sample of abused people to know if my suspicion is correct, but it seems to me that if the intent of the abuse was malicious enough, it probably started in childhood.

I’ve told this story before, but my ex-wife and one of my childhood friends were both abused in the most insidious way of all… violated sexually before they were even old enough to know what was really going on by adults they trusted. I became enablers to both of them, trying at all costs to keep both of them happy when really, they were just pouring their abuse into myself hoping that it would make them happy enough that they would both start to treat me with some respect. Surely they would see all I had done for them. Surely there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I raged with injustice that I’d given up everything while they’d given up nothing in return.

In response, every relationship after that was modeled on them. I didn’t feel happy in a relationship until I was doggedly subservient because that was my role. I was used to it. In time, there was no fight in me at all. I was trying to love both women as if to say to them, “I love you so much that I’m willing to take on your pain if you’ll just do stuff to make it all worth it.” But that’s what a normal relationship is like. The vicious cycle of abuse is that you absolutely live in the hope that they’ll change. And because they’ve engineered it that way, even if you cut off contact, you’ll still be wired to think about that person’s welfare. You don’t know what to do with the time you have now that you’re not constantly wrapped up in someone else.

That’s where I am now. I have been in the eddy of verbal abuse and now I am finished with it. I am struggling with both the handcuffs and the ring. Because that’s what abusers do. They get down on one knee with seduction and propose. You are the object of their affection and the apple of their eye, until your personality fades to black.

Getting better has, for me, involved integrating the two parts of my personality. There’s a part of me that will love my abuser in a love that will last the ages. And then there’s another part of me that wants to kill her for what she’s done. In no way am I serious about this. I mean it as the revenge fantasy trip you never take because not only would it be a hell of a lot more trouble than it’s worth, you’re destroying the moment you hope for in the end. That your abuser will come back whole and healthy, having realized just how foolish they’ve been.

The moment a part of me died was when I realized I had to give up to save my own life, because I was losing it. I didn’t want to go down the road of complete insanity. I was doing just fine at “a little bit,” and I didn’t want to find out how deep the waters got.

I called in reinforcements immediately when I realized what was going on. I’m married now, and one of the things I know about marriage is that if you dump something this heavy on them, they care about you so much that it can actually cause them to stop functioning, too. In that way, we both desperately needed help.

As I began to get better, I realized that it was because I was finally learning to integrate the two aspects of my experience with an abuser. I was seduced with sunshine and cast out in chill. Binding it into one narrative allowed me to forgive more fully than I could have ever before. Finally, I understood both the negative and the positive in both my own behavior and in theirs. I cried with compassion at the abuse my abuser must have faced in order for her view of a healthy relationship to fracture.

I understood as a child what most people never do. In some ways, it was worth it.

There’s a reason people are suckered into abuse. Sunshine takes all different forms. Sometimes it’s sex, sometimes it’s drugs, and the most terrifying to me- sometimes it’s just words.

The reason verbal abuse is so scary is that most of the time, you cannot see it’s happening. Verbal abuse is written off most of the time, and people are horrible to each other. Just a few conversations will lead to incredibly intimate details and you’ll walk toward your abuser with open arms, because they’ve engineered it. Now they are desirable, and they know they are. They’ve set it up where you have to chase.

Relax. You can’t ever fucking catch them.