Today’s soundtrack is Chopin, because he brings out ALL THE FEELS.
Just because the name “Diane Syrcle” doesn’t hold weight in my heart anymore (that was a lie, but I tell myself that every day so it must be true) does not mean that I have gotten out of the worthlessness loop that started when we met. That’s because there were three things going on at the same time that told me I wasn’t worthwhile.
When I told Diane that people had confronted me about her being a lesbian, like I’ve said before, she didn’t confirm or deny. Just said, “how would you feel if people someday said that about you?” I’m sorry, someday? In that moment I knew it was true.
The second was my adult friends’ assessment of the situation, that our relationship was somehow unclean. Just like with my little sister, Diane and I were allowed to fight but say one word about her that’s negative where I can hear it and I will fucking end you… or at least, that’s how I felt at the time. I was just a kid. I didn’t have any power, and I certainly didn’t have the forethought to know that they were right. Do you remember the Anne of Green Gables movie with Megan Follows? I always thought that Anne and Diana were a little bit in love with each other, and that’s how this felt. I was very, very, very high on dopamine for the first time in my life. Surely you recall the first time you felt it, too. The other quote that always gets me comes from “My So-Called Life,” when Rayanne’s mother is trying to explain the friendship between Rayanne and Angela to Angela’s mother. She says, “Angela is the only person that, to Rayanne, puts the world in color.” I’m paraphrasing, but it’s stuck with me since I heard it the first time.
Two years later, I crashed. Diane moved to Dallas and my heart broke so badly that I physically thought I was going to die. Anxiety and panic will do it to you every time. It was the summer before ninth grade, and I couldn’t imagine starting high school without her. Ryan and I had mutually broken up because he kissed another girl at summer camp and I was in love with someone else. It was like, the high-five of breakups. It wasn’t like he couldn’t tell, in some sense, because she was all I talked about. If Tiger Beat had published her photos, they would have been plastered all over my wall. Since she was a schoolteacher, I had her school photos and an autographed (squee!) program from her goodbye concert in the corner of my dresser’s mirror. My dad called it my “Diane Syrcle” shrine and I almost kicked him in the shins because he thought that was HILARIOUS. I did not. We are talking 15-year-old righteous indignation here. There’s not much more powerful than that kind of stare. I learned to forge her signature because I thought it was cool, and as I explained to her, she couldn’t autograph a thousand CDs all by herself. It came in handy as book cover decoration and twice as bad grades that had to have an adult sign to say they’d read them (Sorry, Mom… statute of limitations and all that).
The third thing was one paragraph in the United Methodist Discipline explaining that “homosexuality was incompatible with Christian teaching,” or something asinine like that. I mean, at least if you’re going to be a raging homophobe, John Wesley is a great example of wording it politely, if you really want to know (I see what I did there… I got all Caulfield up in this bitch). The dark underbelly was feeling like I was incompatible with Christian teaching as well. I was just this big ball of anxiety and rage, and as you can tell from this web site, I haven’t exactly progressed from it in other relationships, either. It is my work to do with Sarah, my therapist, to move on from this darkness into the light.
The dark is strong in this one, but at least I come by it honestly.
I moved to Portland thinking that Diane and I could pick up where we left off, but she was so over it… and again, my heart broke into a million pieces with everyone else trying to pick me up when I fell. My friend Anne told me, and I will never forget this, to whisper all my hurt and rage into a rock and when I was finished, to throw it into the Columbia River.
Later, my friend Wendy (whom I used to call the poet laureate of N. 54th St.) said that the Columbia River goes around “Cape Disappointment” before it reaches the Pacific Ocean. I found it appropriate, named for the point at which Lewis & Clark thought the river ended and later found out that it went to the Pacific Ocean after all. I know that my rock didn’t make it to the Cape, but the water around it certainly did, carrying all my secrets with it.
There were quite a few rocks, actually…. all at different points in my Portland experience because when Diane was warm and affectionate toward me, the rest of the world faded away. Then, I’d open up to her and she’d run, so there’d be another trip, as my friend Karen says, “out the Gorge.”
My worthlessness loop didn’t really get any better until I truly befriended Dana, because when I told her my secrets and lies, she told me hers. It was an equal relationship, one in which I got back everything I put into it… and it was the first time I’d even been open to the idea. I was used to feeling like shit. It was foreign to me to be happy, and to have someone validate my pain because she knew Diane and could vouch for both sides of the equation because she could see it.
Happiness lasted longer with Dana than it had with anyone else, but the darkness returned in a big way as I started to vomit emotions everywhere the deeper Argo dived into the wreck, because she could see things that I couldn’t, and it wasn’t a matter of convincing me I’d been emotionally abused. It was that the more I talked, the more her alarm bells went off.
It hadn’t been all sweetness and light. Plus, since Dana was reading everything going between Argo and me, she was sythesizing information just as fast. They were a support system of enormous proportions, and it just turned Dana into a rabid dog because no one hurts more than when they’re watching the one they love suffer. There were times when she hurt so much more than me that she literally sat on her hands not to throttle Diane in the street.
During my friendship with Dana, I moved to Houston and moved back to Portland less than two years later. While I was gone, she seethed over Diane and me to the point that Diane didn’t go into the grocery store where Dana worked for eight months… and then was surprised when she wanted my contact information and Dana wouldn’t give it to her. Dana said she had to ask if I wanted it. Dana wasn’t nearly half as dumb as I was.
Hindsight is 20/20, but at the same time, it was also the reason I knew I was marrying the right woman. She knew all my shit and wanted to marry me, anyway… and as our relationship went on, her love just became too clean for me. Too much sludge in my soul not to feel justified in being treated like shit, so I sought out things to encourage it… things that were ultimately dealbreakers for Dana, and there were many, not just one.
As a result of all of these things, Christianity is hard. Nadia Bolz-Weber says that I should take a page from Martin Luther’s book and when shame threatens to overwhelm me, I “should throw things and get angry and say, ‘I AM BAPTIZED.’” Not “I was, but I am.”
Shame, redemption, and relief. Emphasis on the “redemption and relief,” appogiaturas intact if you’re humming the hymn in your head. Like Nadia, I just can’t pull off Atheism because in no way do I mean disrespect, but there’s no atonement in it for me. When I feel lower than low, I need someone to say that I am forgiven, because I won’t say it on my own. I hope my ego never gets so big that I think I don’t need it. As my worthiness and visioning capabilities go up, I will need God more and not less, because if I don’t, it will cause me to think I’m right (and righteous) way more than is humanly necessary. I’ve just realized that now I’ve pulled myself out of the shame so bad it nearly killed me into the will to survive.
On some days, I even think I’m thriving.