I was looking for a writing prompt the other day, and it was this: what do you want people to say about you at your funeral? Not surprisingly, it led me back to the story of me and my abuser, because of course it did. You will get used to the rumination. I did. It took a while, though. I write, therefore I think, really think, about *everything* until I’m beating a dead horse.
The connection to her ran thusly:
I finally got tired of my spirit trying to define me by what she does to my insides, and not my own personality. Let me define “does to my insides.” In the beginning, it was about thinking that I’d found the love of my life. It took years of rumination before I could be in a room with both her and her partner without feeling like I was going to cry all the time. It was hard being a peacemaker and trying to stuff it down in front of them.
It was hard knowing all those years that I didn’t know what she’d told her partner about me, and whether her emotional abuse came from feeling like somehting wasn’t right and she couldn’t figure out what it was. The way she treated me when we were in each other’s lives was an odd mix of extremely tender love and over-the-top, scary as fuck rage. I could tell that she couldn’t tell whether to treat me like a threat or not.
I was never a threat. When I became a man (Still not transitioning. Shut it.), I put away childish things. Reminiscence is a hell of a lot different than wanting or trying to go back in time. Besides, since I’d gotten a front row seat to all her relationships, I realized that she made a much better friend, anyway- at least for my personality. I let her take up so much room in the relationship that I constantly let her hit me with a bulldozer because I didn’t want to go through the chaos and pain of letting go.
The aha moment (thank you, Oprah) was when I realized that even if in crossing the line into pedophilia was an accident because she didn’t vet the journal before she gave it to me, it still wasn’t my fault that I reacted sexually. No matter how I change the variables, the results are the same. Whether it was intentional or not, the facts are what they are. Her college journal and the completeness of her personality had let me into a part of her soul that I felt honored to receive. I thought the relationship was going to be an 80-year love affair, and when she started pushing me away, the more I stuffed down my grief because I was so embarrassed that I’d ever put that much energy toward so much of nothing… but as Dana and I say when we’re throwing darts and miss, “if you’re going to get nothing, at least get a lot of it.”
If there’s anything I wish I could say to her in person, it would be that she should consider the possibility that she felt something. A spark for me that went away when she realized what she was doing, because being attracted to each other had absolutely nothing to do with sex. For me, it was the explosion and light of feeling complete because I’d finally met someone like me. I’d finally met someone that didn’t cause guilt to stir up in me because I was gay. The guilt was there, but it definitely didn’t center on my sexuality. I was gay before I met her, I just didn’t have the words for it. She didn’t have any bearing on whether I liked sex with men or women, which I would like to say for the record since so many people actually believe that kind of shit.
No, the guilt came from always feeling wrong and bad because I deserved it. I had mistaken our relationship for pedophilia instead of genuine friendship. It took many years to stop feeling like I would never be able to talk about my emotions because I had made such a serious error in judgment. I didn’t trust myself to heal, I didn’t trust myself that in time, it would get better, and I didn’t trust her as far as I could throw her, but it didn’t stop the drive to be near her in the slightest… kind of like having an irresponsible teenager that you find yourself *having* to love because you know eventually they’ll get back on the right path, anyway. You’re just pissed about having to be so incredibly patient about it because waiting is hard. Tough love doesn’t even begin to cut it.
I was defined by always being told that I was her friend and nothing else, when there was CLEAR evidence that wasn’t true. I couldn’t handle the fact (at the time) that she might have given me the journal *on purpose*to pique my interest in sex and the logical explanation for it happening is that I was obsessed with her to the point of unrequited love. There was nothing unrequited about it. I was reacting to trauma and trying to pull her out.
In thinking about freeing myself and what I want people to say about me at my funeral, the best compliment anyone could pay me is that I slayed my own dragons to become the most me I’ve ever been. I see so many possibilities now that I’m not tied to the small person I used to be, and defined by someone else. I have found a voice that to me feels stronger because I’m so much more grounded- God to head, head to feet, feet to floor.