I can’t remember the date, but I remember the conversation. Aaron and I were talking and I said, “are you making room for grief?” He said, “I don’t have to. Grief makes its own room.” That statement knocked me on my ass with Truth. I divide truth and Truth. Truth with a small t is subjective. Truth with a capital T is objective. I loved Aaron’s words because they were in no way subjective at all. “Grief makes its own room” affects everyone at one time or another.
I am just so sad at all the things I’ve broken, and the reality is smacking me in the face that there is no going back. That I will never get a clean slate with any of the people I’ve hurt, because they don’t want to get hurt again. I understand that so much that my body vibrates with pain… not because I am hurting for me, but because I am hurting for them. I wish I could be the one to heal what I broke, rather than them moving on and not seeing what I see… that I was so sick I wanted to die, and I lashed out rather than opening up to push everyone away so I wouldn’t hurt so much if I got enough courage to actually do it. I sat in my pain day after day, and I recognized the signs in myself that it was getting serious and I needed help.
With mental illness, getting help labels you for life. I am now a documented Bipolar II patient, with medical records that say I’ve been hospitalized for it. There would be no reason to worry that employers would find out if I lived anywhere else, but most government jobs here require at least a bit of security clearance. It limits my options, because no one is going to issue me Top Secret. I’m not talking about intelligence agencies, either. I’m not qualified to apply, anyway. I’m talking about civilian jobs that require Top Secret because they intersect with the military in terms of electronic records, databases, etc.
It doesn’t matter that I have done everything I possibly can to scale down, to make my life manageable so that I can pay attention to my disease and fight against it. Bipolar is every bit the battle that people make cancer out to be, and in some ways, it’s worse… because even though you have a mental illness, you cannot un-own behavior and some people never get over your actions enough to acknowledge that sick people get well and relationships have the ability to rebuild from the ground up. To them, you are a crazy person and it’s ok to write you off completely no matter how much damage they cause to you because you have to deal with the fact that this illness bites you in the ass and the side effect is a lot of loneliness. People tend to kill themselves over mental illness because as people leave, their worthlessness dwindles into nothing because it is obvious to them that the people they love cannot love them back.
I think that’s why I liked being a cook. Cooks aren’t generally mentally ill, but they do have a reputation for substance abuse, which makes their behavior flip out as much as being Bipolar and they have to own their shit as well. It’s not the same thing, but it is comforting nonetheless. We have a lot in common, but enough difference to make it interesting.
If you’re wondering, when I’m on Tinder and they ask me what I write (my profile says that I’m a writer so they know that before they swipe), I send them my URL. That’s because I don’t want to become friends or date anyone who thinks I’m too much to handle. Sending them my URL is a “separating the men from the boys” type test because I am not interested in anyone that cannot meet me where I am, accept that I am Bipolar II, and want to get to know me in spite of it.
I am, as we used to say every Sunday at Bridgeport, “acknowledging my humanness.”
There’s been a lot of fallout (my own Fallout 4) over the Argo situation because some people around me thought that moving to DC was genuinely bizarre stalker behavior. That I was running towards Argo expecting that we would be buds when I wasn’t. I knew that she was furious with me and I accepted it wholeheartedly. As poet Wendy Thompson once said, “you don’t have to love it, you just have to live it.” I moved to Maryland to show Argo that I meant business when I said I wanted to move back to DC, but I didn’t want to be anywhere near her. I didn’t want to give her the impression of jack shit, that the city was big enough for both of us. Plus, even though my cousin Nathan lives in Old Town, I didn’t want to go back to my old neighborhood and re-live the memories I had with Kathleen. I have relived them enough.
As an aside, I will tell you one of the funny ones. Kathleen took me to a tapas bar for my birthday in 2001, and every time we told people that’s what we’d done, they startled because they thought we’d said we went to a topless bar.
Which as an aside, leads me to tell you that my birthday is September 10th. It was September 10th, 2001.
Let that sink in before you read further.
The mussels were not fresh at the tapas bar, and I called in sick to work the next morning because I wasn’t finished throwing up yet.
It was horrifying, because I heard it happen. HEARD IT. My father was good friends with Barbara Olson’s mother, and I cringe every time I think about the cold hard fact that I heard Barbara die.
When the plane slammed into the Pentagon, my pictures rattled and I was THREE MILES away.
Let THAT sink in for a little minute.
To me, the bizarre behavior was moving to Portland in the first place. Moving back to DC was reclaiming my Paris, the city that feeds my soul and has since I was eight. I’d asked Dana long before we broke up if she’d consider moving back, and we put it on the 3-5 year plan.
Maybe my detractors didn’t know that, but it’s ok. I could write a fucking book on everything they don’t know. Let them think I’m batshit crazy, because I certainly can be, but not about this. I have said before and I will say it again that I have always told Argo that the world would explode with our agreement, and nothing less. I behaved badly, but that doesn’t mean that I am a bad person, that I am not capable of owning my behavior and moving on from it.
When Kathleen and I divorced, I folded into myself and I just wanted Diane… not as a girlfriend, but the mothermentorsisterfriend that she’d become over our 25-year relationship. I wanted her hugs and her laughter and her care and concern until later on, when it all fell apart. When I started talking, I couldn’t stop… incensed that she offered to go to therapy with me and I told her straight out that my nephew was in medical crisis and please do not let me down because I cannot handle the grief and the waiting to see if my nephew was going to live (he did, and he is now two).
Editor’s Note: Speaking of which, I owe him a letter.
However, that does not erase the fact that the letter saying she would not meet with me came when my nephew was literally on the operating table. In a way, it said, “fuck you, that’s how.” In another, it was very healing because the relationship died and the baby boy was born, making it through the operation on his heart all at the same time… as Susan Leo eloquently said, “a resurrection in the middle of the mess.”
Let me put this in perspective for you. Wi-Phi was born with the vena cava and the aorta in reverse. It was major surgery, and we were all waiting to hear whether he would live or die, the operation was so massive. I will remember it forever, especially since he is my first nephew. I don’t know if there will be others, so right now it’s ok to say he’s my favorite.
However, it was Dana that stayed by his side for an entire summer, and they bonded in a way that we just didn’t. It is something I will regret always, so I write him letters that he can read when he’s older. That he’ll know how much I prayed for him when he was little.
The emotional beating from Diane and the anxiety of Wi-Phi’s surgery did not cause my mental spiral, but they certainly did not help. Argo’s care and concern in my life helped heal all of that, because as she heard me talk, she recognized something I did not. Diane didn’t deserve all my care and concern, so I should stop worrying about her, stop ruminating on the past and what could have been, stop loving her altogether.
As the enabler, it took more strength than I was able to muster to let go (then), and again, I folded into myself. I lashed out butt good. Argo’s words saved me from myself because she was so patient, so kind, so loving. Everything I needed and wanted in a friendship, and I broke that too. My ability to receive love had been trashed long before I met her, and I fought against it tooth and nail because how could I ever believe that someone like that loved someone like me? I struggled with my feelings for her because I knew that deep down, I was capable of being the friend she needed and I was fucking it up left and right, mostly because Dana’s jealousy made it hard for me to give of myself. It is useless to wonder what if? However, I will say that I think it would have been a different relationship had those been group conversations instead of Argo and I being lost in our own little world. It is not as if Argo required it from me. Dana just didn’t put any shoe leather into getting to know her. If she had, she would have seen that all three of us could be friends and it didn’t have to be the toxic triangle it became. It ended badly, as all toxic triangles do.
Argo pulled away and called it off. Dana and I got a divorce. I have felt freer than I have in years, because Dana didn’t like sharing me with Argo and in a lot of ways, rightfully so. In others, Argo became a convenient way to wound me when we were fighting.
It was masterful the way she manipulated me by treating Argo as “the other woman,” using her as her excuse not to interact with me, not to open up to me, to get courage to leave because I was clearly the problem and she had nothing to own. She yelled at me, and I will hurt from it always, “so what you’re saying is that I drove you to Argo and it’s all my fault?” That is not the truth and I will not accept it.
We developed a pattern of checking out from each other. Dana would zone out while I talked to Argo, waiting for Dana to be ready to engage. When she was ready, Argo and I would still be talking and I didn’t want to leave in the middle of the conversation. So, when I was ready to engage, Dana was doing other things and didn’t want to engage with me. It wasn’t anyone’s fault because the issue was that we weren’t ready to engage at the same time. It was a shared responsibility, and I cannot take on more than is rightfully mine.
Then, the pattern changed to telling me she was ok with my friendship with Argo and CLEARLY. NOT. I ignored Dana’s feelings because I felt it was outright manipulation. That she was ok with it until she could use it as an RPG in a fight.
And use it she did. Like I said before…
She could not look into her own heart and see how her actions affected me. She could not see into my heart and how she was wrapped around it. She could not accept that past history twisted my relationship with Argo and that I needed help for it, not separation from her. She also did not see that my personality type dictates that I am most comfortable with one or two friends that will willingly walk in my inner world as a companion, and that she did not have the right to expect that my friends wouldn’t be almost as important to me as my wife.
I didn’t see how she couldn’t see it… she’s a Doctor Who fan. I would have made the same choice that Amy Pond did, choosing her husband over her friend, but when they were all together, she loved The Doctor and Rory equally. Rory was jealous at times, but he always came around in the end.
She did not see that having a close friend was valuable as a sounding board to make sure that I was on the right track for success in marriage… that my words regarding Argo were an operatic swell of emotion on the page because that’s the kind of writer I am… and who knows what would have happened had Argo and I sat down for a cup of tea. Maybe the separation of being on the Internet allowed us to get to know each other in a different way than people do on the ground, and who knows whether we’d gotten along on the ground or not? We never tried.
Argo has said that will never happen, another thing that I don’t have to love, but I do have to live. I have long called Argo The Doctor because since she was a virtual friend, she was very much the madman in a box. I talked about her to Dana and Aaron but she wasn’t real to them. She was only real to me.
If I have hope in a cup of tea, it’s because of rule number one. Let’s all say it together.
The Doctor lies. 😉
I bless her and release her both awake and in dreams, but the door will always be open for resurrection (She will never, ever get off the hook for pizza night.). I am trying to do great things with my life to pay her friendship forward. That regardless of how it ended, I still value all the gifts she gave me and the purity of her care.
You can’t go back and cross your own timeline to recreate the past, but you can move forward with grace if you have the strength to look at yourself and tell yourself that you have handled things in the shittiest way possible and incinerate it so that you don’t do it again.
It’s been said many times that you have to break yourself open to let light in. I am in that place, shattered but not defeated, because my dreams outweigh thinking about my worthlessness. Hope is a miraculous thing as long as you are doing the work to make your dreams happen.
Hope is terrible if you’re just sitting there waiting… unless your only hope is dating the person that delivers your pizza.
Which is not unreasonable. As I have said before, dating the pizza delivery person has its advantages. You know three things right off the bat:
- They are employed.
- They have a vehicle.
- They already know where you live.
And on that note, it’s time to walk to the 7-11 because that’s where the homeless people gather. I get a Big Gulp and let their stories envelop me while I mainline Diet Coke. I can’t do much, but I can absorb their stories and at least give them a few moments of comfort that they’ve been heard.
Sometimes I get stories like, “my father just died.” I offer to pray with them, and no one has ever said, “I’m not a God person.” I cannot imagine that there aren’t homeless atheists, but a few moments of quiet and reflection never hurt anyone.
Next Big Gulp’s on you.