Whenever I get lost in my own problems, I read Jeffrey Thames’ Facebook page. It reminds me of the time that I was just lost in the minutiae of my job and a case came across my desk; I called a phone number without looking at the company first, and they answered, “Doctors Without Borders.” All of the sudden, my attitude changed and a peace came over me that I hadn’t had in weeks. For all of the problems I had, I wasn’t in a war-torn country that day. I returned to my loving, attentive, “I’m Leslie Lanagan and I’m here to help” patois immediately.
Today, it was a post on Jeffrey’s wall that talked about why homeless people often smell of urine. Have you ever wondered why? I thought it was just because their clothes were dirty. I mean, that’s a reasonable assumption, right? Ummm, no. Apparently, when homeless people pee, the cops take joy in arresting them, giving them tickets, etc. So they pee on themselves in order to avoid getting taken downtown or getting tickets for indecency, which they cannot pay, anyway. The cops aren’t finding ways to help the problem, only compounding it.
I don’t have a problem with the police in terms of the ones I’ve dealt with personally. I’ve never been arrested, so the only times I’ve come in contact with them are when I’ve been speeding. Not one has ever been mean to me. Not. One. However, I am a little white girl. My experience of the police is going to be different, and there are a thousand wrong-headed reasons why (see above).
Those wrong-headed reasons are the reasons I’m most likely to be arrested in the first place, and if/when I do, I hope that the kindness I’ve experienced from the police so far carries over. I am not saying that I am planning on being arrested. It’s just a possibility, because there is no way on God’s green earth that I’m not going to be a part of peaceful protests, wearing a clerical collar or not. I don’t have to be ordained to be counted among people protesting for peace, and it’s “ironical” how quickly even the peaceful are taken away in handcuffs. In one of my friend’s cases, she was taken away in her clerical collar with a zip tie, and it caused permanent damage to the nerves in her hand.
Am I looking forward to it? No. Who is? But at the same time, I have to go into my profession with the outlook that it is a possibility. I’m not going to wait for ordination to be a protester, but at the same time, it would be the funniest thing in the world to me if my first mugshot was in my clerical shirt with collar, complete with silver ichthus from James Avery, because that’s where you get those sorts of things. Hilarious because of the absolute irony of the situation, because in order to walk in light, sometimes you have to be the one that walks into darkness holding it.
Who am I to say that I am worthy of such a mission? I certainly am not. However, neither is anyone else. We are called to Christ because we are perfect in our flaws. Moses beat a soldier to death when he was young, and God called him, anyway. I think he was surprised; he struggled with the unworthiness of that act and told God to call his brother, Aaron, instead. He said that Aaron was more well-spoken. I can see behind that mask in a minute, can’t you?
I identify with Moses a lot, because in that moment, he let his temper overtake his common sense. He probably thought the killing was justified until it was over, and I can see his serious “oh, my FUCK” reaction just as clearly as I see my own when my temper gets the better of me.
And yet, God calls me anyway, and it is a calling I’ve ignored for years. My closest friends on the ground, both past and present, have seen this holy fire within me and have encouraged me to get the MDiv in various ways since I was 16 years old. Before that, even, but it really started when I began looking at colleges and going to senior high church camps. They could see what I could not, because I was so scared that the reason they thought I was worthy of this ministry was just because my dad was already ordained; that I was somehow riding on his coattails instead of going my own direction.
It really took my dad leaving the ministry and getting some separation from his enormous reputation that I thought I could do this on my own. By enormous reputation, by the time he left the ministry he was preaching to almost 1,700 people a week. Because I was not really there or too little to understand when he started playing small ball, I thought I could never live up to the expectations I had for myself. It was not anything that he said or did, it was my impression from watching him that he was successful in a way that I couldn’t accomplish.
So, I ran from this enormous calling, especially when I felt so rejected by the denomination that ordained him. The Methodists wouldn’t take me because I knew I was going to be gay whether they liked it or not. As soon as puberty hit, I knew, and even before that, I had an inkling. I was ten the first time I got “caught” liking girls.
Ironically, it was Jay Bakker that convinced me I had a future. You can look at his last name and tell where he comes from, who he belongs to on the ground. He has tattoo sleeves on both arms. He has nerd glasses, just like me. He’s a recovering addict, which isn’t like me and yet, the troubles I’ve faced render me into that category of person- the one that says you have to give up everything to find it all.
I didn’t find the divine until I got dirty enough to see that I was on the wrong path, that I was hiding so many things about myself that I was making up a personality and a way to be in the world that wouldn’t show anyone my cards.
In another ironic turn, given the direction our relationship has taken, that provided me another piece of the puzzle. Argo said, “you’re not broken. You’re just Leslie.” I carry that feeling to this day. I cannot be anything but me, and that comes with a lot of emotional baggage that includes an enormous ego to cover up the fact that my “small-l leslie” has so many flaws. Leslie Lanagan, Trademark has been an act. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is kill her. It’s taken years, and I’m not completely finished.
The purpose of this blog is to show myself when the parts of her get out of hand. In reading backwards, the question that comes up for me the most often is whether I am being my true authentic self, or whether I’m writing in a way that hides my sins…. and there are a lot of them.
For instance, Argo thought I was lying to her when I said I wasn’t the one that punched Dana first. It wasn’t that I thought I was lying. It’s that Dana is so much bigger than me that when she pushed me with such force, I took it as “throwing the first punch,” because there was no way that a shove from me would have hurt her the way it hurt me. So, just for the record, now I’ve said it. When Dana and I got into a fistfight, I was the one that hit her. You can leave it to your own opinion whether I was right or not. I thought I was. Just when you decide, know how much smaller my fist is and whether or not Dana hit me first, who broke the barrier between us that would have kept it to a shouting match.
In that fight, I don’t remember anything in the correct order… not to preserve Leslie Lanagan, Trademark, just that it comes to me in bits and pieces of nauseating waves that do not line up chronologically, but hurt just the same. My cheek hurt for weeks in literal pain at first and phantom pain for long afterward. I am not discounting Dana’s pain, only that I cannot speak to it. I can only tell my own story.
I also waffle on whether I wanted to go back to her because the rainbow comes after the flood, or whether my abused personality needed to believe we needed to be together because that’s what I think I’m worth. It is neither, and it is both. Dana answered that question for me by saying that she didn’t want a relationship with me, because she sees me as the abuser in all of this. That my emotional abuse was so much worse than hers.
I disagree, but at this point, the internal fight is on its way to resolving itself, because I have done so much healing work. I don’t have to think about it like I once did, and by “have to,” I mean that I was stuck in the loop of rumination because I couldn’t not.
I haven’t ruminated about Dana as much as I’ve ruminated about losing Argo because I actually thought that Argo was the healthier relationship of the two, and trying to create solid ground with Dana was beyond me because of our roller coaster of family dysfunction that I did not have with Argo because she wasn’t physically there to experience it. The idea that she wasn’t stuck in our family dysfunction evaporated when she reached out to Dana and tried to arbitrate who was right and who was wrong when we were fighting. I lost it.
This is because Dana was so crazy in her rumination that eventually Argo and I would be a thing that I thought it was going directly to the person that disliked her the most and expecting a reasonable answer. Maybe she got one, maybe she didn’t, but it wasn’t the answer that bothered me. It was the question.
Argo and I were a thing in terms of close friendship, and I carried that betrayal for a long time. I gave it up when Dana decided to pick up her toys and go home, but I am the kind of person that forgives people and doesn’t forget.
More people than Argo have taken it as holding things over their heads, but it is not my intention. It is my endless repetition of the facts I believe in order to create a different reality later on. I don’t want either of our past behavior to affect creating a new reality, and if I can see a behavior pattern that smacks of the old either one of us, I will say something about it… and we are not talking about Argo anymore. Take any one of my deep relationships and you’ll get the picture.
Again, I forgive, but I don’t forget. The question in my mind is whether I’m supposed to or not. What does a healthy relationship mean? Does it mean that I shouldn’t be allowed to bring up past behavior? I have an elephant memory when it comes to behavior, and that’s just a part of my personality… but what am I supposed to do with it? I am not holding on to anger. To me, facts are facts. Emotions are emotions. I can talk about facts without attaching emotions to them.
For instance, I never would have been able to forgive Dana for everything that’s happened to me if I hadn’t looked at my own behavior and owned it. At the same time, though, I will never forget how past actions affect our present or our future, should there be one even in friendship. I have said, and I mean it, that when she shows up, I will receive her in love and not anger. The problem I have right now is that she won’t. Show up, I mean. She doesn’t want to talk about things. She wants to sweep them under the rug and just have a “ladies who lunch” relationship. I am not that kind of person, and I never will be. If we have this level of conflict, it takes that level of resolution for me to interact in a merely friendly way. You have to accept the flood to get the rainbow. Dana says that being in relationship with me is too hard. That I’m too much to handle because I require a level of emotion that she’s just not willing to give.
It was realizing that I’m not a hard person to love that has gotten me through this time in my life; it’s her unwillingness to unpack and face the music and go through the hard parts instead of ignoring them that gets me. The fact is that when I tried to unpack with her, she called my dad and told him I was having a psychotic episode. The fact is that when I tried to unpack with Argo, she freaked out like I was some sort of psychopath on a mission to destroy her.
It was so easy to look at me that way, and probably still is for both of them. But their unwillingness to see me for who I really am instead of who they want me to be is the crux of my problem with both of them. There is no rainbow, because when the flood arrived, neither of them wanted to get wet. Because getting caught in the rain with me is an acknowledgement of the part they played in making it rain to begin with.
Their unwillingness is not my problem. Their versions of me aren’t my problem, either. Their parts in the play of my life have caused unrest, and they are unwilling to sit in them. I just want to shake them and say……..
Perspective. Get some.
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