The Clay in My Eyes

Recently I had a conversation with a friend who has been a long-time supporter of “Stories…” Two of them, actually. The first comment I got was, “I’ve been enjoying your blog a lot lately.” I took the compliment in, but I still wanted to talk to someone else who’d been there since the beginning, but not because I needed validation that the compliment was real. I wanted to see something deeper. Have I changed since this started?

Her response was thoughtful ~ “it doesn’t vibrate with pain the way it did last year.”

No, it doesn’t.

I told her that this blog was never meant to be static… that it would change as I did. I thought some more about it (of course I did), because the comment was so completely what I needed to hear that it gave me a lot of pause.

There has been a lot of pain over my lifetime, but nothing that I couldn’t handle. They call it going through hell for a reason… eventually, you come out of it. This blog was meant to start out as a dark tunnel and progress toward the exit, as if I was emerging from something, because I was. That “something” was all the years of lies I’d let myself believe. It was all of the years that I marched forward with no evidence that anything was going to happen, much less “something.” It was learning new sets of expectations that I set for myself, instead of letting them be set for me. It was a shot in the arm to move myself, because the waiting was killing me.

I could never put my finger on what I was waiting for until I realized that I wasn’t waiting for anything. Of course I had my own wants and needs, but I was used to having them completely ignored… so, in reality, even though I thought there was a “something,” there was always a “nothing.”

Always.

For instance, she told me that when I was 18, I was welcome to come and live with her and go to Portland State. She wanted to get me out of the Bible belt as quickly as possible. At the same time, she told her partner that she thought that when I was 18, I would “just go away.”

The dissonance was always there, and I was blind to it. As I have crawled out of the dark tunnel and into the light, I began to look at the same situation with new eyes, and you are the ones that gave me the ability. If there’s anything I owe to this web site, it is gaining sight that I’d otherwise lost.

The Voice Lesson

He had me on my back in less than a minute. Well, maybe that’s exaggerating a bit much, but within the first ten, that’s for sure. I felt completely safe as he put a book on my stomach and asked me to make it go up. When I’d come in, there was a dark color to my low range, and he was trying to help me lighten up. He took the tension out of my shoulders, my throat, my chest… In short, I realized how far I’d come as a singer, and how far I still have to go.

My abuser has a gorgeous voice, and it tickled me that I still tried to fit in some of her appoggiaturas and other stylistic choices, such as forgetting the words and making them up, along with forgetting how to count in the middle of a phrase and making up the rhythm, too. My abuser may be my abuser, but she also taught me what it was like to fly.

The more I got warmed up, the higher I went. My B and C floated off and I fell in love with my voice teacher a little bit… As sopranos do when someone shows them the way to an even higher range.

Then my voice teacher and I started working on options for solos at church. First, we did “The Lord is My Sheperd,” by John Rutter. I wish I could remember the name of the other two, because I was so familiar with the Rutter than I wanted to sing something else to strain my brain. I chose the melody that got stuck in my head immediately like a mind worm.

I had to choose something I like and can get comfortable with, because once I’m in front of the congregation, there are so many things to think about that the words need to be muscle memory.

Even metaphorically, the book has to move.

Sweeping Up the Last Litle Bit

Slowly, I’m learning to change the channel. But there are still days when the left-over issues between the abuser that lives in my head and my present consciousness start duking it out. Yesterday, it wasn’t even at my initiation. It came from Dana asking me how I was doing- just a general update.

I told her that I thought I was doing a lot better, I said, but there isn’t any moment of any day that I forget what happened. I don’t think about what she did to my sexuality- she never touched me herself, but inserted herself into my life so that when I did start thinking about love and sex and all of those thing with women my own age, I felt like I was cheating on her and I got the impression after I talked to her that night she was jealous and angry… but probably not because she was jealous it wasn’t with her. I think she just realized that our lives were moving apart, and there was nothing she could do to stop me from aging. That’s only conjecture on my part, but I remember plainly sitting on my top bunk with my Mickey Mouse sheets, journal in hand, as I told her I’d lost my virginity. Her voice seemed strained, throat as tight as a cassock three sizes too small as she said, “welcome to the girls’ club.” My reaction (of course) was to try and make her laugh so that the awkward moment between us would pass. It killed me that I thought I’d done the wrong thing, that I should have waited. It was too much cognitive dissonance in my head to hear her sadness and NOT wish I’d waited. The next time we saw each other, all was forgiven, but I’ve never forgotten that still, small voice.

However, as I told Dana, there was a bigger implication with her abuse. It made my mother’s, my father’s, and my sister’s voices all fade into the background so that I couldn’t hear them clearly anymore. I was isolated into thinking that I could only trust my abuser, which is generally what abusers do in the first place.

The reason I’m so much better than I was is that I’ve finally made the connection that I have a lot of work to do on myself, because all of the people who were supposed to be primary in my life haven’t gotten a chance until now.

I’ve also gone through the guilt I laid upon myself for even publishing all this. I honestly and truly didn’t want to hurt anyone, but I knew that the moment I breathed anything, there would be people all over me to hear more. I have been pleasantly surprised that no one has wanted to know anything, and I have been free to complete my own analysis of myself without any sort of interference. It’s a wonderful thing to have space… because now I really know what I think.

The next feeling I have to explore is that when I became an adult, I didn’t explore all of these questions *then.* I’m not the type of person that is afraid of conflict. I guess you just don’t see abuse unless you want to. That’s my only advice to myself as I continue to figure this stuff out.

…and as I continue to learn that my own story matters just as much as everyone else’s.

Ten Things My Father Taught Me

My dad wrote one of these for his dad. Here is mine. It wouldn’t be mine if it wasn’t late.

1. There is Never a Time One Should Look Unkempt

These are the things my father has taught me. Not necessarily the ones I exhibit in the outward sense. While my father is usually in a suit, I am usually in jeans and a t-shirt. It is not lost on me that people are a lot nicer to him in public than they are to me. Dressing nice has its privileges. He should know. He began wearing suits in high school.

2. Apologize When You’re Mad

I never got the chance to walk away from an argument, and ours are epic because we are the same person in two bodies AND WE ARE BOTH ALWAYS RIGHT. However, neither one of us have ever walked away from a fight without apologizing and meaning it.

3. Mean Not To

God, it was so irritating when I was a kid. If I said something to the effect of, “I didn’t mean to,” the response was always “mean not to.” It’s emotional shorthand for “try to figure out how not to hurt someone in the first place.” At the time, I thought it meant that there were no accidents. It still does. The meaning has changed for me as I learn the ways I can be really annoying and trying not to unleash it on other people.

4. Funny Fixes Nearly Everything

There’s no reason to do anything without humor. My dad has proved that to me many times, and that advice has gotten me out of sticky situations. People rarely want to hurt other people that make them feel good.

5. Starting a Conversation is Easy

I have incredible social skills, and most of it comes from having watched my dad navigate all kinds of social situations with grace. Don’t know anyone? Sit down randomly and say, “I like your shoes.” You will be amazed at how easily the conversation will go from where he/she got those particular shoes to anything and everything else if there’s a newfound connection… because what do people like to talk about *the most?* Themselves.

6. Somebody Has to Be in Charge

There can always be collaboration, but at the end of the day, someone needs to be held accountable. someone has to direct the flow of traffic. I’ve learned a lot from him about how to be one of those people without seeming like a dictator or doormat.

7. Having People Look at You is the Point of Doing Silly Things

My dad taught me that “they’re all going to laugh at you” is a good thing… and how to use it to my advantage. When you make people laugh, good things tend to happen for you. Because of my dad, I can hold an entire room of people in the palm of my hand… just because they’re waiting to see what I’m going to do next.

8. Love All You Can

We’ve always had this saying in our house- “if I have it, and you need it, it’s yours.” He taught me that there’s literally no place on earth I could go to get away from his love- that he would always find me if I got lost. I’ve loved other people that way even when they haven’t loved me back. Of course it hurts- but what is the point of life without it? What is the point of love so shallow you can’t even feel it there?

9. There is No Such Thing as Quiet Brass Music

WHAT?

10. Be Who You Is

My dad never reacts when I have new tattoos, new piercings, or anything that could even be construed as body-altering. It’s not that he doesn’t care how I look. It’s that he would accept me no matter how I looked.

The Line

This week, the most popular topic on my Facebook page has been the story regarding the Maryland teacher who went to the house of the child he was texting and the father hit him with a baseball bat. I caused a bit of controversy because I was on the side of the teacher, but not because I thought he’d done the right thing. I just thought that the parent should have taken a breath and had a Coke and a smile while he waited for the police to take the teacher away. Taking the law into your own hands rarely turns out the way you think it will or should.

There was so much blowback afterward~ including one person who said that a teacher texting his daughter gave him the right to any number of irrational acts.

And then I put it together why I was on the side of the teacher and I started to dry heave and run for the toilet.

It was just texting. They were just talking. How inappropriate could it get? I mean, it worked out so well for the teacher writing me when I was that age.

I need to throw up again.

Friggin’ Doctors’ Kids

Things have been so busy around here that I haven’t had much time to think, much less put the words down in logical order. Plus, I didn’t have anything burning I needed to write about, so the blog went to the back burner until I could feel your little eyes baring down on me with disapproval. Leaving this blog with stale content was not what you came here to see, thankyouverymuch, and don’t think I don’t know that. It’s a driving force in my life, because the last thing I would want to do is drive off my readers out of sheer boredom. How do I know this? I leave blogs that have stopped producing content all the time.

Additionally, it’s not just the external pressure of having an audience. It’s internal pressure that I haven’t “gone to therapy in a awhile.” I say this because seeing a doctor is only one hour a week. You want to get better? Then spend more time than that thinking about your role in your own life. You do own it, after all. The doctor is just a coach to get you to do some self-reflection anyway. He/she doesn’t so much make you well as guide you toward yourself and the things that make you feel authentic. Many doctors will agree with me on this. It’s a prescription pad, not a magic wand.

Taking control of your own wellness (especially with mental health) is the only modern option. Gone are the days when you wait for a doctor to fix you. There are pharmaceutical commercials on TV (possibly the worst idea in the history of the world), and frankly, there are days when your doctor just cannot maintain and the schedule is an hour and a half behind and by the time you actually see him/her, there’s no time for long, deep discussions. My psych appointments are rarely more than 15 minutes, unless the doctor does both therapy and prescribing. Sometimes, psychiatrists are good counselors. Sometimes, they’re just, well, doctors.

And how shall I put this?

You go to a doctor when something needs fixing, and there is a black or white answer. I have found very few doctors that are really, really good at being engaged *with* me, instead of *at* me, and I know the difference intimately. Engaged *with* me says that my doctor knows that I am not an expert at psychiatry, but I am an expert at being Leslie, and I probably know better what I need than someone I see once a quarter. I also need a doctor that will engage with me as an equal, because as a doctor’s kid, I’ve been around high-level jargon since I was a teenager and if there’s anything I hate in the world above all else, it is an MD with a patronizing tone. Just as a for-instance, a doctor who takes the time to explain to me what an SSRI does even after I’ve made it clear that Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors have been a part of my Tx (treatment) plan for a very long time. I get that wigged out feeling and just want to tell the doctor that I have pants older than him.

Pants.