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.”

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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.

Mind Worms

I think about everything because I cannot think about nothing. I lack the fundamental capability to completely get lost in any one subject, because there are always about five mind worms running at once. I wish I could stop the train, because I’m ready. I’m ready to be able to hold one thought steady. Touching Dana. Making dinner. Meditating. Even the fundamentals are out of order and upside down because even though I am quiet on the outside, inside it seems like I may be about to birth a volcano.

No, that’s too dramatic for what’s happening right now. The volcano has erupted, and the liquid hot magma is killing the ideas in my head. I am headed for the promised land of spiritual and emotional healing, but I have sympathy for the fact that you cannot get over something traumatic unless you experience it in a “makes you breathe faster” sort of way. Because the more you can get those big reactions out of the way, the subsequent ones will be smaller and easier to manage. What I have learned over time is that I am an empath, so I feel emotions extraordinarily deeply. I also hold on to them for longer than I should, which is partly my introverted personality and partly a learned behavior. So therefore, if I don’t deal with grief right away, I stuff it down into my socks and just hope it doesn’t come back up.

The volcano erupted when I began to see everything that I’d kept stuffed down. Confusion and rage mixed with tears and anguish, which left peace and tranquility in its wake. It’s how I know I’m an empath. Getting in touch with how I feel about other people’s stories allows me to release them, because when I don’t, I walk around in other people’s problems. I’ve gotten to where I’m brilliant at figuring out your life, but don’t ask me to figure out mine. In some ways, I let other people’s stories become more important than mine… to the point that I would completely self-sabotage in order to protect someone else.

If the behavior is engrained enough, you’ll react so that you’re protecting someone even when you don’t realize it. That is the sign that things may not blow up soon, but they will indeed blow up. Because once you’ve realized how many emotional tools that you’ve used on someone else that could have been used to propel you, I predict that the conversation you have with yourself will NOT. GO. WELL.

I felt guilty. Like I’d let a part of myself go that wasn’t supposed to disappear and I just let it happen. I still feel guilty. I’m not sure that will ever go away, because I didn’t disappoint anyone except myself.

The worst part is when you can legitimately, empirically state “it’s not my fault,” and you think you’ve taken it in and you still feel guilty.

Because deep down, you know you are.