Responsibility

Dana found the recording of me singing the Pie Jesu solo with the Bridgeport choir and community orchestra. The date on the tape surprised me. It was a reality check that the performance was almost ten years ago now. It feels absolutely wonderful to be in a different place now than I was then, because everything in my life was in upheaval. I literally had no friends, because I had a fling with someone that became a real relationship when we were both smart enough to know better and dumb enough not to care. My friends called it long before the inevitable heartbreak, and instead of just being my friends through thick and thin, they dumped me.

It was a good thing, because I never would have made friends with Dana if they hadn’t. In retrospect, in fact, it is the best thing that has ever happened to me, because it was then that I slowly started to take inventory of my own life and discover the role I was playing in all of my relationships, not just the fling. It was the beginning of becoming Leslie Lanagan. Well, it’s not like I wasn’t before, but like I have said, I have been a very reactive person in the past. Now I can hold my own, and for that, I will always be grateful to this time in my life.

As my friend Wendy said, “you don’t have to love it. You just have to live it.” It’s become my mantra when times get hard.

Right now, though, things aren’t hard. I have a roof over my head, a great job, a spouse that adores me (and vice versa). It doesn’t get any better than that. Grief over the past is wasted energy, and I’m coming to a new understanding of exactly what that means. Enough time has passed since the fallout with my abuser that I am able to look at it more objectively than I ever could’ve while I was in the relationship, especially since I constantly held myself responsible for actions that couldn’t and wouldn’t ever be my fault. One of my friends said, and I remember it all the time, that I needed to stop taking responsibility for her actions by thinking I had power when I didn’t. At 12 and 13, it was not my responsibility to take care of her, and at 14, it was not my responsibility to try and be the person that she seemed to need, because it took away my power to direct my own life.

I point to the moment she gave me her college journal as the exact time in which I lost control. I wasn’t so much interested in having sex so much as I thought that was part of making an adult happy. I thought that I wouldn’t be worth her time and energy. It was much the way I’ve fallen in love as an adult. I don’t pick people to date based on their looks. I fall in love with their stories. I fall in love with their quirks. I fall in love with their vulnerability, and not their strength. It was such a mature relationship on my part that for a lot of years, I didn’t realize how “little” I was. This relationship stopped my own growth into the Leslie you know and love today. In some areas of my life, when I was 14, I was ready to be an adult, and would have welcomed the chance. In others, I was barely out of sixth grade.

I couldn’t see the pattern that defines abusive relationships- the absolute sunshine and the dark chill that comes when they see your reaction and shut down. It’s a pattern that, once you recognize it, you start to take inventory of all your relationships to try and figure out whether they’re healthy and whether that’s due to you. Abused people pick up the traits of their abusers all the time. It is not unreasonable to think that my relationship with this person has influenced a lot of the relationships that came afterward.

The difference between being trapped in that abusive relationship and taking my leave from it is that now, I am able to voice those manipulations and take responsibility for them. I can stand in front of someone and ask for forgiveness because I was wrong. I don’t have to deflect everything away from me and pretend that things are perfect so that from the outside, my life looks way more normal than it actually is… which is what I’ve been doing since childhood.

I have found that this outlook on life has served me well. People are generous when I offer apologies, and I have a sincere sense of what it means to be in relationship with others. It creates roles and responsibilities that I ran from in order to avoid conflict. Knowing the difference between healthy and abusive relationships has literally allowed me to rejoin life and live in community, rather than trying to go it alone.

I have days where I just don’t want to deal, but they are few and far between. The wound is starting to heal, and the new pink flesh is starting to cover the scar. It feels good to be on the right track again, because there were just so many years where I couldn’t differentiate between the life I wanted and the life. Now that I do, there’s just no substitute.

Where I fall short in all of this is that some days, I start thinking about my own life and I get mired in what was. And I’m really not talking about the relationship with my abuser. It’s looking back over all of the shame I felt and the role I played and how all of this mess became untenable in the first place. Just because I’ve stopped taking responsibility for her actions doesn’t mean I don’t have a metric fuck tonne of emotion regarding mine.

I repeated the same pattern I had with her when I was a child when I was an adult. Neither one of us saw the damage she had done, so it was just this weird amalgam of needing to take responsibility for my behavior and not knowing how. I didn’t have those tools, because to start a new relationship is one thing. To change entrenched patterns over a lifetime is another. I’d be fine and then when we’d get together, I’d just regress into my inner teenager, because that’s what we do with people we’ve known that long. I know you do it; you all have relatives.

Where I go mentally in all of this is that when I began to recognize my role in our relationship and tried to change the balance of power, it did not sit well. She would beg and plead for me to take an adult role with her, and when I did, it was met with brick-wall resistance. Why shouldn’t it? Why would you give up a place of power voluntarily when you’ve always had it?

It is only by the grace of God that I came through this whole and happy. I did not know what kind of relationship I had with this woman until I was ready. I did not realize how detrimental it was to see all relationships as those in which I needed to make other people happy.

Potpourri

One of my friends was just diagnosed with cancer. I’m not close to him, but his husband is my choir director. Any time anyone gets cancer, it is an absolute garbage dump of a situation for everyone involved, but there are so many people praying for him that it’s incredible. He’s the choir director for the largest Methodist church on Galveston, and I am sure that his choir is just as distraught as ours. I wrote to my choir director and told him that since I work overnight, I’d be happy to help him with whatever he needs. I just hope he knows I mean it and will reach out. The hardest part of really needing help is not wanting to ask.

I haven’t really had much time to think the past few days, so it’s not like I have a treasure trove of things to say. I should mention, though, that An Open Letter to Gay Men is going to be read on “After Hours” Sunday morning, because Jimmy Carper, the longtime host, passed away recently. It’s a gift to be read, and I hope people enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing.

I slept almost ten hours today, after spending the first part of the week unable to sleep very much at all. As a result, I feel much better today. I’ve had some caffeine, and now it just feels like a regular workday. I don’t think I’m getting used to it, per se, but at the same time, it’s nice to forget, even for a few minutes, that it’s actually 2:19 AM.

I’m listing to Aquarium by Aqua. My friend Drew introduced me to Aqua, because I’d heard Barbie Girl and nothing else. Happy Boys and Happy Girls, along with Doctor Jones, are my favorite tracks. In fact, Drew and I always add a Doctor Who twist. Doctor Jones and Martha Jones are interchangeable, because Martha Jones is actually a doctor. Wait. Who am I kidding? I could listen to that whole album on repeat. It just makes me laugh, and I can always use a laugh. While the music is playing, I am back at Biddy McGraw’s, dancing around the kitchen with Drew, who was the type of boss that insisted on dance breaks. If you don’t have that boss, man, it sucks to be you.

It’s my Friday, and I have no idea what Dana and I are doing this weekend. If the weather is good, I want to cook outside. It’s been nasty weather lately, as is per normal for winter on the Gulf Coast. There are patches of sunshine, but at the same time, absolute toad-strangler storms that cause flash flooding. Alternatively, we’ve also had some really hot weather for February. Like, the kind of weather that you pray for in Portland. If there is a number one reason why I’m glad I’m not in Portland, it’s that I haven’t had to dig my car out of the snow, I haven’t had grey skies every day, and I’m not constantly cold because my clothes are wet.

Technically, that’s three reasons. I just want to assure my friends there that living without them is hard. Living without the weather is not.

I also must say for the record that the food is better here, and you will do nothing to convince me otherwise.

And on that note, I must be off.

The One Where I Jump Around

I am alone in the department tonight, and things are very quiet. I’m searching through old cases, deciding who can be called in the middle of the night and who needs an e-mail. It is methodical work, and the rhythm is somehow sustaining. As I’m starting this, it’s about 2:30 AM, and the next person does not arrive for four hours. In a way, I miss the human contact of coworkers, but at the same time, it’s nice to be able to work at my own buzzsaw pace.

The work is repetitive enough that I start to wander through my own valley of vulnerability, and wonder what it will take to get me to open up to the outside world. I feel like I have been isolating a lot… partly due to my schedule and partly due to feeling overwhelmed in a way that I can’t place. I haven’t been to a psychiatrist since I’ve been in town, so that’s probably my next move. I want to make sure it’s nothing physical before I decide whether this new mood is just me continuing to move in the world like Tall. Mustache. Fishing Hat.

For those of you just now joining us, Tall. Mustache. Fishing Hat. was an alias I used for an old grouch at my first Al-anon meeting. He just had no qualms whatsoever revealing his inner asshole. He knew he was a douchebag, and that didn’t seem to affect anything except the amount of laughter he got during his share. In fact, that was the take-home message for me. You can be as flawed as you want to be if you couch it in uproarious humor.

Right now I feel like the love child of Louis C.K. and Oscar the Grouch. As in, it’s amazing the thousands of fucks I don’t give. I have my work, and I have Dana. Beyond that, I’m not sure what to do with myself, although I want to try. I approach it with the best of intentions. I want to be social. I want to do stuff. You know, in that ideal perfect world where when I get home from work I want to do stuff and I have enough energy to see it through.

I’ve even been missing from choir for the last few weeks because it is a ROUGH HAUL going to rehearsal before work and church afterwards. It’s like this Twilight Zone of emotion. I want to be there. I feel like a zombie. I need to rehearse. I need to sleep… and on and on and on until I realize I have deliberated so long it’s already started and I go back to bed, wishing I could be in two places at once. I love my conductor and I miss him so much. If only choir could meet in my living room. I would be all about that.

In other news, I’m getting better at bash scripting and coding in Python. That may not mean much to you, but it means a ton of money if I actually move into a programming role down the line. I used to think that coding was the wrong career path for me because it limited my contact with other people. Then I turned 30, and I realized I’d had enough of customer service to last my whole entire life. I did it anyway, because of course, I was paid to do it. I was also very good at it, which made all the difference. Though it wasn’t challenging, it was satisfying to press one button and have people think that I had done some voodoo magic on their computers.

Programming is a different type of thinking; it has its own syntax and grammar that once painstakingly learned, can be applied in all computer languages and not just one. As it turns out, there are lots of ways to say “if that happens, do this.” In fact, there are almost as many programming languages as there are verbal languages in which to swear when your programs don’t run.

The first thing I’m going to build is a text editor that can write my blog entries for me and just e-mail me when they’re done. 🙂

Punch Drunk

I am just in a crappy mood. There’s nothing that can be done about it, per se. The thing that would do me the most good is flipping my schedule back around… but until my night shift rotation is over, that’s just “unpossible.” Even when I’m in a crappy mood, though, I don’t show it to other people. I am still my nice, sweet, accommodating self on the phone and via e-mail, while inside I am burning for a good night’s sleep.

It bothers me that I’m not in a good mood, because that’s not my normal personality. My normal personality is fun-loving, if a bit introspective. It’s hard to replicate that when I spend my “days” feeling like I’ve been run over with a MAC truck. Before you even ask, I am definitely getting enough sleep. It’s just not the same type. It’s interrupted and jagged. My dreams are fragments of conversations and places long left in the Kodak Carousel of my mind.

Actually, I’m going to have a little fun with that one. Here, without any context or explanation, are some of the punchlines to the fragments:

  1. TURN IT BACK ON!
  2. Two would have done it.
  3. Awwww…. you have the boobs I always wanted.
  4. It’s just true.
  5. Why are you touching my butt?
  6. OUTSTANDING!
  7. Not my goat…
  8. When you don’t count, you slow down, and the Baptists beat us to lunch!
  9. …and then Kevin got bored.
  10. Oh look! Better people.

If any of you want to use this as a quiz, I’ll tell you if you’re right or not.

  1. You’ll have to dig really deep for this one. I doubt you got it.
  2. You didn’t get this one, either. But if I told you the story, it would make you cry with laughter.
  3. Not that one, the other one.
  4. Probably not- less a story, and more a phrase I picked up.
  5. Probably not. But it was said by one person at the top of the ladder to someone at the bottom.
  6. There’s no way you didn’t get this one if you know where the reference came from (video game).
  7. You totally got this one.
  8. My Portland friends wouldn’t get this one, but my Houston ones might.
  9. Every story that begins this way includes peals of laughter and “OH MY GOD!”
  10. Never gonna get it. Cue En Vogue.

There’s no rhyme or reason as to whether my dreams are going to be funny, sad, or both. But that’s how I like it. Life is varied, and so are dreams. Without sad dreams, the funny ones aren’t funny enough to get me to laugh in my sleep.

Even though I am often in a crappy mood, I laugh a lot more these days. Being punch-drunk in the mornings after I get off work somehow sharpens my comedic reflexes, but the lack of myelin on my nerves means that the jokes are most likely in the rated R to X spectrum and back again. I can’t help it. I’m just on the “think it, say it” plan… and sometimes I leave out the “think it.”

I don’t know. Maybe that’s in my best interest for now. It’s been a long time since my primary focus was humor, even if it is Tosh-worthy. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to change my focus and drive so that humor and love radiates instead of grief and heartbreak. Because, see, losing this person cracked me open in a way that I didn’t anticipate. She was, as I have said before, my blog before I could type. I feel like I’ve lost the audience for which my writing flows the most easily, because I’ve been doing it since June of 1990. You have replaced that audience in more ways than you’ll ever know, but at the same time, writing letters to her specifically was a writing exercise in and of itself. There was not a single school day (and I wish I could say I was kidding about this) from the 7th grade on in which I didn’t scribble something. There’s a familiar patois to it that, in a lot of ways, feels like a mojo I’m trying to recover.

It’s one of the main reasons why I’m having trouble with my regular rhythm of posting. I have to find ways in which I can express myself that are different than I’ve ever done before. I feel like I’ve said what I want to say about the relationship itself, because I’ve told all there is to tell. The remainder is how it affects me and will continue to affect me, even though my hope is for a natural denouement as I find the person that I was meant to be.

Keep supporting me. Keep telling me to write to you. Let the patois develop between us, so that we have a thing, too. It feels like a mojo I’m trying to develop. 😉

Graveyard Shift

“You get used to it” is the worst advice I’ve ever gotten about working the graveyard shift. I know that I’m only a couple of days in, but sleeping during the day is just unnatural. So is having my “evening” in the morning. The best thing about my day is that Dana doesn’t currently have a job and can spend time with me when I can spend time with her. I purposefully asked if she could hold off on getting a job until I was settled, because I knew I would never see her if I didn’t. I can go without seeing her for a few weeks, but a few months is absolutely the worst form of torture. We have too much fun together to give it up.

I am not one of those partners that wants to make Dana stay home and manage the house. I want Dana to do whatever it is that she wants to do, and I encourage her to that end. At the same time, it will be different for my whole family when she decides that she’s had enough. None of us want to deprive her of anything she wants, and at the same time, it is so nice having “that person.” She is the go-to person when someone needs a ride, someone needs a babysitter, someone needs a storage locker cleaned out while I’m sleeping… Dana is my hero, because she comes through when no one else can. Additionally, she cooks and cleans so that our house is always beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that I never want to give it up. If Dana decides she’s done, we’ll get a maid with the extra income. It’s totally worth it. Then Dana will have someone to clean *her* house, too.

In other news, my evening makes me feel weird for other reasons. Is it acceptable to have a beer at 8:00 in the morning if you work overnight? Somehow, I don’t think so. So, my cold beer after work has turned into a cold glass of punch… which is refreshing, but not refreshing enough to replace what, in my mind, is the best part of my day. It’s not the alcohol itself. It’s the relaxation with Dana in the backyard with a fire going. I am sure that other people would disagree and say, “of course it’s acceptable to drink in the morning! You work graveyard!” But drinking in the morning is such a taboo that I’m just not down. Plus, drinking at home is fine, but there aren’t many bars open at 8:00 AM to get the kind of camaraderie that comes at 4:00 PM. There’s also no happy hour food.

What a bummer.

Our case load is very light at night. In fact, tonight, there is no backlog at all. At night, we are mostly paid to be on call in case something blows up. That’s the thing with network security. It’s much like being a futbol goalie. Just be there to CATCH. I write. One of my co-workers talks on the phone. The other one is reading. We’re all, in a sense, waiting. Not that we want anything bad to happen, mind you. It’s that we’re on the sidelines waiting for someone to put us in.

I’m also glad that overnight is mostly e-mail. I found that out the hard way, when I thought I was going to leave a message on someone’s voice mail at work and it forwarded to his home phone and I woke him up at 3:45 AM. Because of this, we decided to switch our policies. Hey, you know. Anything I can do to help change things up. 🙂 Although, this is only something that would happen to me. I make mistakes so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

I forgot my headphones, which is the worst form or torture in this place. I keep myself awake by listening to two things- the Raw Comedy station on Pandora, and anything by Combichrist on Spotify. Drum and bass are spirit-lifters, as are dirty jokes. Especially dirty jokes. My favorite comic is John Mulaney, who isn’t really dirty, but he makes me laugh more than the other comics *combined.” My favorite bit is when he’s talking about how some drag queens have this sense of entitlement: “Don’t you know who I AM? I’m STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK!” “Oh, I’m sorry… it’s just that I don’t go to that ONE BAR WHERE YOU GET FREE DRINKS.” John is also part of the genius that is Stefon on Saturday Night Live… and for that, I will always be grateful.

Shit. It is only one friggin’ thirty.