Do I Have to Graduate, or Can I Just Stay Here for the Rest of My Life?

I met Brian O’Leary at GLOBAL (which I think stands for Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual Alliance; it’s been too many years for me to really retain that kind of information.) He and his partner, George, had moved from Boston after George graduated from Harvard with his MBA. He was traveling the world because at the time, he was a consultant for McKinzie & Co. While he was gone, we partied at their house, College Game Nightthus the picture for George to enjoy while we drank at his house without him. It is one of my fondest memories of college, because not only was I crazy in love with the girl holding the small G, I’d been chatting online with the guy holding the capital G, who’d just moved from Ohio after attending Oberlin conservatory and wanted to know more about GLOBAL before he attended his first meeting. It was love at first e-mail, since my high school girlfriend was Canadian and Giles is from Nova Scotia. He was also a vocal performance major, and that also won him accolades in the new friend department. It is interesting to note that all three of us are now living in the DC area, although Kathleen and I are still estranged.

Whether that’s good or bad, I really don’t know. But what I do know is that when Brian posted this picture on Facebook, I saw it this morning and was filled with gratitude at the reminiscence of it all.

Giles and I are both much smaller than we were in this picture. We’ve both lost a lot of weight, and now Giles looks like a model while I look like a 7th grader (except for the wrinkles around my eyes, which is the BEST part about getting glasses). Case in point: my roommate, Samantha, smokes Marlboro Lights, and I agreed to buy her a pack if she would just drive me around for a day because it was much cheaper than Uber. I got carded and the clerk nearly fell on the floor when he saw my birth date. It’s the little things in life. It really is.

But back to the party at hand. I was in a happy-go-lucky mood, and I really enjoyed hanging out with the GLOBAL crew, as well as getting to meet some of Brian and George’s other friends. Additionally, the house was gorgeous, with sumptuous chairs and what looked like a professional decorator had their way with them. Turns out, it was all Brian all the time. He did a wonderful job of making the house look modern and comfortable all at the same time. It made me jealous that even as a college student, Brian knew how to adult LIKE A BOSS. He also knew (knows) how to be a gracious host and a fine mixologist, meaning that he put everything out on the table and let us experiment.

The thing I remember most about that party is it was the time before social anxiety, one where I could just relax and start up conversations with everyone without feeling all self-conscious and like it was time to go home 15 minutes after I got there. Shortly afterward was when Kathleen and I moved, which was really the start of my downward decline into Friday and Saturday night Netflix and pajamas, or books and cookies with hot tea. Now I throw parties with me as my own guest, the kind where I only have to put on pants if I want to……. the exception being if you’re coming over to have Netflix and kettle corn or read with me in companionable silence. 😛

And, of course, if you come on Friday, it’s pizza night. That is beauty in and of itself, because I know my way around pizza. If you don’t like what I pick, we’ll order two.

There’s No Present Like the Time

My new alarm clock is the bomb diggity. I love how the sound fills the room, and the fact that I can use it as a speaker phone as long as I have my iPhone or iPad attached by Bluetooth. In fact, as long as my iPad is connected to Wi-Fi, everything that goes to my phone goes to it automatically. For some people, this would be a dealbreaker. For me, it makes it where if I leave one or the other upstairs, I do not have to make a mad dash from the porch to my room trying to catch the phone before it stops ringing. The only thing that I need to change about it is how it wakes me up. I have it set to FM radio, because I used to like to wake up to NPR. Now I realize that with the amount of sleeping medication I take, NPR doesn’t cut through my dreams easily enough to actually wake up when it goes off. Sometimes, I am alert enough to catch it on the first try. Some days, I’m just not. The soothing voices of the commentators are more likely to make me sleep deeper. 🙂

I should change my alarm clock to Bluetooth and set it to the same ring my phone makes. There is no snooze button on that. With my ringtone, I tend to shake awake immediately (another gift from my father passed on genetically) because I don’t know who’s on the other end of the line. It’s a gift because pastors often get very serious calls in the middle of the night, and the last thing my father wanted in a parishioner’s time of need was for people to think that they woke him up. They had enough to worry about, you know?

I feel the same way. I do not want any of my parishioners to apologize for waking me up as if it’s inconvenience to take their call in the middle of the night when their son has just died. I come from a long line of jobs where I’ve said, “this is Leslie Lanagan, how may I help you?” Being a pastor is not really that different, except the calls you take are rarely scheduling an appointment at 3:00 AM. If someone calls in the middle of the night, it’s never something good.

Someone has died, someone has been rushed to the emergency room, someone has been arrested, someone needs to go to the bedside and administer last prayers. In the Methodist church, there are no true “last rites,” but in the hours of someone passing away, they need their pastor more than ever…. or perhaps the family is Methodist now, but they come from a church where there *are* last rites and want them to be administered anyway. When that happens, you don’t want the chaplain on duty. You want the person that has been the everpresentlovingkindness that you’ve been every Sunday since they started attending.

The phrase “there’s no present like the time” comes from a jeweler’s commercial whose name I now forget, but it sticks with me all the time.  There are other commercials that stick out almost as clearly, like when PBS came up with “the channel that changes you.” That first one, tho……

What better present could you give anyone but your time? I am at the space in my life where I do not need more material things. I have pared down to the basic essentials. If you want to give me a gift, the best thing you could offer is cooking for me or taking me out to dinner just to look at you, face to face… perhaps reaching across the table to touch my hand or afterward, giving me a sincere hug and kiss on the cheek. Pri-Diddy had to reschedule from Tuesday to Friday, so my anticipation of seeing her has had a chance to build. She is not giving me anything but her presence, but it is worth more than anything she could give. I hope she feels the same way about me, because Prianka is one of the people who has crossed over into that friend in which I can confide anything without judgment. Like Bryn and Argo, we’ve not been afraid to delve into the deepest parts of ourselves in order to move forward. Though Pri-Diddy is younger, she has this way about her that makes me think she was an Indigo child, wise beyond her years. My guru in a tiny body, born in the same hospital where Mother Theresa worked in Calcutta. She shows me YouTube videos of the gurus she likes, and is impressed that I worked at the Graduate School of Social Work at the same time Brene Brown attended. But, of course, then she was not Brene Brown, Trademark. She was just one of the students in which I had to help with her computer problems, just like everyone else running to complete a paper.

I take pride in her success, not because I was the one that got her through grad school, but because I take pride in all of “my students” that have gone on to do great things. Also, because I helped the administration as well, the director said that I had an open invitation to attend. WOW it was a big mistake to leave for Alexandria, but I learned lessons that couldn’t have been learned any other way. I was young and STUPID in love with my girlfriend, and there was no way I wanted her to move without me. Although looking back at my life, I should have let her. I got really sick with depression being A) far from home and missing school and 2) not having the right medicines so that I went from a little bit depressed to completely batshit crazy in no time at all. Although, truth be told, I did not miss class as much as I missed working at UH. My bosses were kind and supportive in a way that I haven’t had since… except for Randy, who tried to take me under his wing and I couldn’t lean into that pure, white, professional love because of the hurricane swirling at home.

I did find a church, though, and that helped mightily. Kathleen and I both loved it, and invested to the point that we helped install the tile labyrinth in the floor and Kathleen joined Brian’s “Make Your Own Stained Glass” class. It turned out beautifully, and it hung in our bathroom window so it could get the most sun.

In the end, though, it did not help my depression enough, and after 18 months in Alexandria, we’d both had enough of each other. We stopped giving each other the present of time. Kathleen joined a softball team and when I went to support her, she made a point of touching men intimately, like brushing their hair out of their faces a little too slowly right in front of me so she could make it clear that her intentions with me were over. We broke up in August or September, and by October she’d met the man she was going to marry.

It gutted me like a fish, and my dad came to our townhouse when Kathleen wasn’t home and just said, “leave all the furniture, get the small things you want to take, and let’s go home.” He did all the driving as we pushed through from DC to Houston, drinking coffee and listening to Tony Robbins, whom I’ve come to love.

I don’t care what you think of him. In my need, what he gave me was priceless, which is the ability to build myself up. The thing he said that gave me the most pause is that sometimes we are frozen with the paralysis of analysis, and that sums me up to a great degree. Although, there was another truly great line that I carry with me as well, which is that we learn more when we’re pondering rather than partying.

That has been true for me in the breakup with Dana as well. We did a lot of partying when we should have been pondering, and that was a theme we carried through our relationship a lot. It was so much easier to get along on a best friend/partying/sex level than it ever was to truly connect with each other down to our souls. When I started to peel back my own layers, and this is solely my opinion, she wasn’t ready to peel back hers. It may not be her story, but it is mine. The deeper I delved into myself, the more I wanted to know about her. We were handfasted in a truly shitty club in terms of our childhood, and I wanted to know every detail, some of which she could talk about, and some she couldn’t because she didn’t know the answers herself.

It was at that time we began to pull away from each other, because I didn’t act the same. In fact, she made the point of telling me that my eyes didn’t look like home anymore, and even though I excused myself to go to bed not to up the ante, it was a direct shot into my soul, an arrow I have not extracted and won’t for a long time. I didn’t want to know why she felt that way. I just went to bed and cried myself to sleep, trying to self-soothe and tell myself I was worthy of love, even if it wasn’t hers.

I gave thanks for our separate bedrooms, because even though we were still married and dedicated to each other, we had different processes in terms of trying to fall asleep. Many people thought that was the beginning of the end, and told me so. I told them to shut that down, because it actually made our relationship better. We liked having our own huge amounts of space in the house, and room for our electronics on the other side of the bed. It seems crazy, but it worked. Having the space to spread out made us sleep better and because of it, fights didn’t seem so important the next day. Besides, at the end of the day we were too tired for sex, anyway, so the naughty neighbor complex was probably the best thing ever, in my opinion, anyway. For us, there was something intimate about looking at each other, holding each other, falling in love and connecting in sunlight and energy rather than the part of the day where we just needed rest. We gave each other the present of our time when we were the most jazzed to see each other, and not when we were out of it with exhaustion.

One of the other reasons we liked separate bedrooms is that I tended to write to you at night, and I didn’t want to interrupt her sleep with the sound of my fingers clacking on the keys. At the time, I had a 17-inch Mac desktop in my room, and it was “my place” to wind down. On the other hand, it gave me too much privacy with Argo, where Dana wouldn’t read what I’d sent until the next day and couldn’t do anything about the fact that I was “over the line, Smokey. Mark it zero…….” I’d give anything to take that back, the ways in which I sent Argo things I shouldn’t, thinking I was brave and crazy and trying to push her away all in one breath. I loved her mind, AND I wanted to continue being married. Those two things battled in my brain to such an enormous degree that I told Argo it was getting harder and harder to look at myself in the mirror anymore. In love on the ground and “in love” in the cloud made it where I truly felt shame, deep and abiding. I could no longer give myself the gift of my own time, because if Dana didn’t want to be with me, it was nothing compared to how bad I didn’t want to be with me, either.

The difference is that Dana had a choice to leave me, and I didn’t. I had to sit with my pain and confusion and work it the fuck out. I had to dig myself out of the hole I’d dug, and it was deep enough to compare it to burying a body.

It was at about that time I saw a link to an article on Facebook that I read about a woman who saw an empty grave at a cemetery and jumped into it, laying down on the bare earth. She talked about feeling death, feeling where she would go when she died, and how it made her less afraid of dealing with her own problems because she dug herself out of the earth physically, which changed her mindset completely. She’d laid there long enough to really see what was important and what was not, and arose a different person than the one she was when she’d just lay there, alone in her own thoughts and shortcomings.

In that article, she gave me the present of her time, which allowed me to look at things much more deeply than I ever had before. I started to forgive myself. I started to feel my own worth. I started to realize what was important to me and what wasn’t.

The most important thing, to me, became mending my relationship with Argo because I’d intentionally caused her to run away, treated her like crap so she would. I made my narrative so angry, when in reality it would have meant more to me than anything in the world to have the present of her time, if only for a few minutes.

In her last missive, she used words like probably and maybe rather than always and never, tears running down my face in astonishment because Good Friday had become Easter once again. Even if nothing ever happens in the future, because we both want peace without and within, I stood speechless in front of her, laid bare by her grace. It took her time to write that e-mail, a present of time so great that it is the e-mail I keep in my Kindle case and lean on it when I feel unworthy and unloved.

I walk taller with our resolution and the future doesn’t matter. What matters is that in my need for peace, she gave it to me with her whole heart. In the moment, it felt like a sacrAMENt, a blessing to move forward with grace and mercy for others. There is nothing so sacred to me than passing those presents along.

My invitation to you is to think about this: there’s no time like the present to make the present your time. What are you going to do with it? What relationships are you going to heal? What present of time are you going to give yourself?

Amen.

Kleenex Me, Jeeves

Thanks to Humibid, Pseudophed, and ibuprofen, my cold has not gotten any worse… but I’m not better yet, either. To top it all off, today is the first day of my period. I just feel like crap all over. Seriously, body. Thanks for that…. although it does explain why, two days ago, I ate half a pan pizza all by myself. Then, the next day, I ate the rest of it. During PMS, it’s the only time I am truly hungry. My body just says, “EAT ALL THE THINGS.” The rest of the time, I am content with very small meals and a granola bar every now and again.

I need to go to the grocery store (still), because I am running out of things to eat AND I still don’t have any cough medicine. It’s time to up my game. When I truly have a cough, I skip right from Robitussin to Delsym, which I believe is actually the better choice. It also comes in my two favorite flavors, orange and grape. When I’m on Delsym, it really does work as well as codeine, except that sometimes codeine works better at night. We’ll see how it goes. My GP wants to see me back in two weeks, but if my cough gets any worse, I may go back earlier and get a prescription for the codeine version of cough syrup. It makes me sick to my stomach, but it’s worth it when I’m asleep and can’t feel the nausea, anyway.

Speaking of nausea, and I’ve had a lot of it over my lifetime, my favorite remedy in the world is ginger Altoids or Gosling’s ginger beer. Gosling’s is the best ginger beer on the planet, because it gets real. It’s hot and spicy, amazing straight out of the fridge as not to water it down with ice. I’ve been on Lamictal for almost ten years now, and one of the manufacturers of the generic included an ingredient that made me feel pregnant all the time. I called it the “blue diamond of death.” I also carried ginger Altoids in my bag to avoid throwing it back up, thus my nausea recommendation above. Haribo also makes an amazing lemon-ginger gummy that works just as well if you can find them- they’re pretty rare as children don’t like them much (they burn with the hotness).

Now that my pharmacy has a different manufacturer, I don’t get that ever-present nausea anymore, because the “blue diamond of death” has been replaced by a white, round pill with no side effects at all. I am a simple woman. It doesn’t take much to impress me, but this certainly did. It improved my quality of life by quite a bit.

As of right now, I am sitting in bed with my iPad and Bluetooth keyboard, with a roll of toilet paper (I don’t have any Kleenex, either.) and a trash bag next to my bed so I don’t have wads of toilet paper all over my room. Yesterday, I was in full-on nesting mode, what Dana and I used to call “lose the egg” day. My room is spotless except for the full laundry baskets filled with clothes I need to wash and put away. In order to motivate myself, I am listening to a channel I created on Spotify called “The Real Slim Lady.” It’s everything that Eminem has ever put out.

Don’t judge me. The Slim Shady albums (both I and II) are AMAZING. “Headlights” on SSII brings me to tears every time, especially if you’ve seen “8 Mile.” I have therapy at 4:00, plus some worksheets I need to finish before then. There are certain “homework assignments” that my Medicaid requires to make sure I’m progressing in the right direction. It’s the “gangsta rap and handle it” approach this AM… although I don’ think Em is really gangsta because there’s so much pop mixed in. I may need to switch to Mike Jones later in the afternoon to make sure I’ve got it “all sewed up.” Sarah will be so glad to hear about my job interview, even though I didn’t get the job. I can’t wait to tell her all about it. Afterward, I think I will go to the liquor store and treat myself to a six-pack of Gosling’s. It makes me feel wird to go to a liquor store just to buy soda, but I haven’t found a grocery store that carries it.

The last time I went to buy it, one of the other customers asked me what it was good for. I told her there were two excellent cocktails she could make- Kraken and ginger or Old Overholt and ginger. Rye and ginger carries so much weight in my heart, because I’d never heard of it before I went to Ottawa and hung out with Meag. Apparently it is not popular in the U.S., but one of the best cocktails I have ever put in my mouth. It was another Canadian that introduced me to Old Overholt, a friend invited to “orphan Thanksgiving” at Susan & Diane’s. It has a great price point, about $17 a bottle and tastes much better (to me, anyway) than anything much more expensive… the exception that I don’t have any because I don’t drink much anymore. I’m just over it. My taste buds have changed, with the exception that I was so nervous during a date I drank more than I should’ve and suffered the consequences.

Being two years away from 40 makes hangovers not even worth it, especially since I don’t enjoy alcohol much anymore. For instance, Dom gave me a 12-pack of Tecate left over from one of his parties, and that was in June. There are still six left. It doesn’t matter- I am so up for fun and shenanigans that people think I must be drunk, anyway.

There are two things that began changing my taste buds. The first is that I do not enjoy drinking in front of people in recovery, and I have a lot of friends who have suffered with addiction.  The second thing is that I would rather make caffeine my drug of choice, because it makes the evening last longer. I remember going to clubs and karaoke with recovering friends in Portland. The first time I came home wired for sound because the bar gave free refills to designated drivers, and I must have had, like, seven Diet Cokes. The second time, the bar sold Monster.

Mission accomplished.

My favorite energy drink is Rock Star Recovery. I am sure it is supposed to be for the seriously hung over, because it has B vitamins in it. But it is delicious beyond belief. Most convenience stores carry the lemonade, but the orangeade seems to come straight from heaven. The grapeade is good, too, and so is the coconut water.

When I worked at the airport as a line cook, though, I depended on Monster 2x. These are not for the faint of heart, but work beautifully if you are on the brunch shift.

Speaking of the brunch shift, one of the funniest lines that Anthony Bourdain wrote in “Kitchen Confidential” is that he’d gotten fired from some kind of fancy restaurant, and the only job he could get was brunch cook. He wrote that “the smell of failure is Hollandaise.” At the time, I was a brunch cook as well, and I laughed so hard there were tears and snot running down my face, especially since I HATE THE SMELL OF HOLLANDAISE… although one of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten from Dana is that my Hollandaise is better than hers (she’s Cordon Bleu certified), and she was REALLY impressed that I never used a blender. I would just add the eggs and the vinegar or lemon juice and whisk like a motherfucker until I reached sabayon and began to add the butter.

Luckily, at Biddy’s we didn’t use Hollandaise, but Bearnaise. It smells so much better that I actually do like it a lot. Even though the smell of Hollandaise makes me nauseous all on my own, there was another tipping point. The dishwashing liquid we used at Biddy’s smelled strongly of lemon, and washing the egg pans at the end of our shift (Dana and I worked together at brunch) made it a hundred times worse. No, I take that back. It made it a THOUSAND times worse.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to that time in my life, because Dana and I were so good together in the kitchen. We had the dance down perfectly. Not only did we have “the dance” perfected, we also had such a strong connection to each other that we could save tons of time on tickets by being able to have entire conversations with our eyes. There was only one time that I made a true mistake. I had a migraine and thought I could handle cooking on my own, anyway. I cut Dana and she went to the bar for her shift drink. I got so sick I just wanted to curl up on the floor, but according to Oregon law, if you’ve had an alcoholic drink, you CANNOT come back into the kitchen. That was a pump up the gangsta rap and get it HANDLED moment as well.

There’s nothing like cooking in a pub when you’d literally rather be dead than feel the migraine coursing through your capillaries. I can’t remember who walked to the convenience store for me, but one of the cooks did and got me a Monster and I took some ibuprofen. I “Kept Calm and Sold the Rail,” but it was literally the worst day of my life in terms of professional cooking. You cannot imagine my relief when the kitchen closed for the night.

It makes me go to my happy place when I think of working at Biddy’s, especially since I feel so bad right now.

Kleenex me, Jeeves.

Superpowers

As predicted, the recruiter called and said that I was not smart enough for a basic computer support position. She didn’t use those words, of course, but that was the gist of it. I get it. I am not a math person. But never in the history of my career have I had to figure out equations in order to say, “Thank you for calling, my name is Leslie. How can I help you?” Even when the computer support job involved knowing command line linux. As I told her in the interview, those things are different skills altogether. It’s back to the drawing board, but I know something will come up. I saw a Hulu commercial that made me laugh- something about getting a job in McClean and “what can silver do for you?” For those not in the know, the silver line is basically the train to the tech corridor.

Apparently, I interview well. One of the things that the recruiter said was that I was great to work with, and I think that if the decision was up to her, I probably would have gotten the job. This is the second interview in which I have done well, but other people have done more weller than me. It’s ok. I will find the right fit, even if it’s flipping burgers. I’m actually really good at that, by the way.

I think it’s funny that I’ve called Argo a burger-flippin’ ho as a joke many times, and now I might get that chance to be my own. 😛

I can’t remember whether I’ve told you this or not (too lazy to look it up), but despite all of our strife, I got the sweetest letter from Argo that I’ve gotten in months, so I printed it out and I keep it in the pocket of my Kindle case so I can look at it when I feel sad or nervous. She has this way of building me up that no one else ever has, so it is wonderful to be able to read that e-mail when I’m about to go into a stress-filled situation. It’s one of her superpowers as I wander trying to find my own.

One of them, apparently, is interviewing. I’m not taking the rejections with me. I am taking the sweet words that the people rejecting me have said, because I know that they are sincere… especially the ones from Christ Church, because I know for sure that it was a hard decision for them. I look forward to earning my superpower as youth volunteer, because I need it for my resume in case I find another youth director position that doesn’t require being ordained. I can’t wait to meet Rev. Susannah and work with her to accomplish her goals. If she wants me to, I can also help with visioning, but that is her call and not mine. Perhaps she is a visionary as well, and I will help her carry her mission forward whether I agree with her or not. As a volunteer, it is not my job to work against her, but to help her as much as I can.

I read a post on Facebook that resonated with me to the point that it hurt. It said to be careful of destination addiction, that what you’re seeking is somewhere else. I have fallen prey to that many times, and I am committing to settling in DC forever. If something goes terribly wrong, that doesn’t mean I need to run. It means that I need to take my Klonopin and Neurontin, pump up some gangsta rap, and get it HANDLED. DC is my home now, and I am putting down some serious roots. My choir director is overjoyed that I will be here over Christmas, because we are doing some serious work together.

I am starting to believe, really believe, that singing is one of my superpowers. When I warm up, I use different muscles than I do in my daily life, and it makes me walk taller with much more confidence than usual. I am going to commit to asking Nae if he needs a wedding singer, because that would help bring in money, even if it’s a small honorarium. I have thought about looking for a job as a ringer in another church, but I can’t. CCC is my home, and it is helping me mentally as I get my shit together. I also, under no circumstances, want to stop working with Nae.

I will also commit to asking Giles if he will work with me as well, because he was my first voice teacher and carries so much weight in my heart because of it. He’s so busy during the school year that it may not work out, but all he can say is no, and he will definitely say no if I never ask the question. Giles and I met through GLOBAL, the gay/straight alliance at University of Houston. He became my voice teacher when he was taking a pedagogy class and needed a student. He listened to my recording at Epiphany, and he made me feel so good about it. He told me how much stronger my voice has gotten since we last worked together, which of course brought tears to my eyes.

I also wouldn’t mind working with Zach again, because he gave me some pointers that really, really helped, like massaging my trachea before warming up.

Speaking of which, I need to see if deep-tissue massage and chiropractic appointments are covered by my insurance. I think it would really help in terms of the problems with my back. My friends Susie and Cynthia told me that I look like I walk around in constant pain, and they’re not wrong.  When I think about my back, though, it connects to the day I sent Meag a picture of it and she said she couldn’t wait to get her hands on me (no flirt intended).  She is one of the best LMTs in Canada, evidenced by the fact that the Canadian board that certifies LMTs has asked her to be on the panels more than once.

In other news, my dad is coming to visit soon. I can’t wait to have a few days with him all to myself. His superpower is that when he called, he told me he was coming over a weekend so he could go to church with me. If that’s not the sweetest music I’ve heard in a long time, I don’t know what is. Our love is a superpower that runs so deep I’m not sure I even have words for it.

Amen.

Forgive Me Father, For I Have Sinned

I feel like a putz for not showing up at church today, but in my own head, I have a very good excuse…. literally. I have a head cold that started out as allergies and is now complete with cough. Not something that requires more than a little Robitussin, just one of those dry coughs that requires Humibid and a Nalgene full of water every time I finish the bottle. My mask is full, and my throat is dry. I thought that would make a very poor singing experience, and from past church services, I know this to be true. Plus, just in case it is a true common cold and not waking up with the traditional dryness from allergies, I didn’t want to give my choir the gift that keeps on giving. They will thank me for this when I get there on Thursday night.

I promise.

Having a cold is also a slightly different warm-up than when I am well. It requires blowing my nose approximately 58 times, taking Pseudophed to try and clear the mask, and as I mentioned above, Humibid to keep the snot flowing and to keep my nasal passages from completely drying out. You can’t just take Humibid, though, because it doesn’t thin secretions all on its own. It’s the water that helps the Humibid activate, which is wonderful until you have to go to the bathroom every 10-15 minutes…. so much fun during worship.

But back to the warm-up. I start with breathing exercises. I put a hymnal or a Bible or both on my abdomen and try to lift them as I breathe in, then switch to glissandos and portomentos designed to go to the highest and lowest depths of my range. Then, I put my tongue into my hard palate and make these loud, nasal sounds in the middle of my range, and then drop my tongue down toward my soft palate to open up the sound. A few downward scales like this, and my throat relaxes enough to do the rest of my scales and arpeggios. It takes me about a half hour to be truly ready to sing. I cannot go into rehearsal cold, because I find that getting into the zone helps both my tone and my sight-reading equally. In fact, towards the end of my warm-up, I take out a hymnal and turn to a page randomly. If it’s something I already know, I flip to another random page.

You have to be ready for music, and it has to be ready for you. I am new to this choir, so nearly everything that my conductor pulls out is new to me. While everyone else is singing something they know, I’m singing it fresh, and I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. Luckily, most of my music is marked up from years past, which helps to a tremendous degree. When I’m really having trouble with a rhythm (even as a trumpet player, I am not the best reader in the world), I cheat. I look up a Youtube video or try to find the piece on Spotify. Between those two resources, I tend to find every piece I’m looking for, especially John Rutter.

My conductor is fond of Rutter just as I am, but DAMN. Some of the things he throws at choirs are gorgeous and rhythmically difficult at the same time. As I said yesterday, I am not that great of a math person, and subdivision eats my lunch most days. Life would be so much easier if I could just change notes when the Spirit moves me. 😛

I spend a lot of time wishing everything was in Common time.

I do have a great ear, though, so most of the time listening to a piece once or twice gets the sheet music to make sense. One of these days, I’ll get a solo with a cadenza, which is code for “do whatever you want as long as it’s in the right key.” I can’t remember which conductor it was, probably Strauss, because he’s one of the funniest….. Anyway, there’s a soloist doing a cadenza that basically goes through every every key ever written during her cadenza and finally finds her way back to the one written. Strauss leans over and whispers, “welcome home.”

My other favorite story regarding Strauss is that he was conducting a piece with a lot of brass. He stops the rehearsal and says, “first trombone! You’re playing too loud!” Second trombone replies that he isn’t here yet. Without missing a beat, Strauss says, “well, when he gets here, tell him he’s playing too loud.”

Which goes back to my own orchestra days at HSPVA. I was in one of Doc Morgan’s jazz ensembles (unfortunately, the one that DIDN’T have Eric Harland and Jason Moran, but I did sit next to Jon Durbin, now in a famous band called “The Suffers.”), and at least once a week, the conductor would stop the entire orchestra and yell, “LESLIE LANAGAN! GET RID OF THAT JAZZ SOUND!” It wasn’t like I was swinging notes in William Tell or anything, but apparently I wasn’t tapering notes or something like that. Whatever it was, he could tell.

The best day in orchestra ever for me was when first chair (Norman) was absent during preparing for Christmas, and I got to be the horse in “Sleigh Ride.” It was a magnificent moment, and I’m so glad I remembered to put it in the pensieve. Apparently, it prepared me to be a splendid jackass. 😛

The other funniest conversation in my recent memory happened at Second Baptist, when I went with my dad and played in the orchestra. All the trumpet players were sitting outside having coffee during the break between rehearsal and worship, just breaking each other’s balls as trumpet players do. It’s kind of our thing.

Mike said, “haven’t you played with us before?”
My dad said, “notice we haven’t asked her back.”
Mike said, “you can replace your father at any time.”

No, I couldn’t, but it was so funny that the entire table laughed, and we continued to flip each other shit like we’d been playing together our whole lives. Trumpet players at heart, even me, are seriously fifteen-year-old boys.

No, seriously.

Believe it or don’t, but I had a hard time choosing between playing at Second Baptist as a ringer and singing at Epiphany. I think I made the right choice, though, because by that time, I was trying to become a more serious singer, and I did. Joseph Painter made me into the singer I am, the one where my opera voice flips on. In fact, he got “my opera voice” where I could control it rather than it just flipping on randomly. When my conductor at CCC did a voice placement with me, I sang higher and easily than I ever have before, including a high D and E flat that amazed even me. I didn’t know I had those notes inside me, much less in tune.

He asked me what kind of rep I wanted to work on in terms of solos, and I told him that it didn’t matter. I could do classical to Sandi Patty. And then we had a good laugh about that, because not only is Sandi Patty’s music a source of humor with church musicians, so is the fact that she has become a Botticelli painting all her own.

I also played him a bit of Cynthia Clawson’s Immortal, Invisible– one of my favorites not because of the solo, but because of the accompaniment.

For now, though, we’re going to stick with classical, most notably the Mozart Alleluia. I also want another shot at Rutter’s The Lord is My Shepherd, because when I listened to the recording, I noticed some things that were not as clean as I wanted them to be, because when I woke up that morning, I was so sick that I had to sit in the shower for almost an hour to get my voice to some semblance of normal. I didn’t have as much control over my voice as I wanted. I sang the entire solo at the 9:00 service, and I collapsed afterward because all the pressure was off and I couldn’t wait to get home because I was hurting all over. It was then that I remembered that I was still introducing the choir at the 11:00 service and I almost cried. What do you do in that situation? You take ibuprofen and move the fuck on. It wasn’t terrible by any means, but if you’re a singer, you’d be able to pick out the vocal fatigue in a hot second…. and don’t think the other choir members didn’t notice in both services.

However, I couldn’t have asked for a better recording under the circumstances. I am so proud of it that sometimes I cry when I listen to it, not because I am so impressed with myself, but because I know how much work it took to make it happen under disastrous circumstances. The flaws that I hear would only be obvious to another singer, and it was one of the joys of my life when Dana’s mom grabbed me after the 9:00 service and said, “THAT VOICE! Where did it come from!” Luckily, it came from inside me, despite all the obstacles in my way.

Which reminds me that I probably could have muscled through this morning, but it was not a morning in which I thought that would go well. My throat hurts despite all the water, Humibid, ibuprofen, and Pseudophed. There’s nothing harder than leaving the house when you feel like complete and total crap. I will probably go to the grocery store at some point, though, because I don’t actually have any Robitussin, and I might spring for some of those lozenges that deaden your throat since I’m not singing until Thursday. Those lozenges are never to be taken before singing, because as my childhood church conductor said many times, “it’s like singing with white gloves on, and you can really hurt yourself.” Because your throat is deadened, you can’t feel the pain you’re inflicting. However, they are SO nice when you just want a break from, again, feeling like complete and total crap.

No one is home, so I am putting myself on nearly complete vocal rest so that I am all better by the time Prianka and I have dinner on Tuesday. I don’t want to possibly give her the gift that keeps on giving, either. However, since her wife is a teacher, I am sure that she has a better immunity system than most. If she does get my cold, “forgive me Father, for I have sinned.”

Exhausted

Yesterday I interviewed with a company called “Frontpoint Security.” I mention them by name because there are several reviews of the interview on Glassdoor, with replies from the company themselves, so I don’t think it’s unfair to name them here. It started as a wonderful day- cold and full of sunshine. I was excited that the train ride took almost an hour and 20, because I was reading a great novel (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry). I arrived full of hope and the enjoyment of reading. That lasted right up until the interview began. Without any questions about my customer service experience, they handed me a five or six page logic test with math SAT questions. I had two problems there. The first is that I’ve gotten a D in logic twice, because I could not get the hang of taking verbal questions and turning them into equations. For instance, I am still not sure whether Jill is taller than Kelly, shorter than Kelly, or that Jill and Kelly are the same height just because Anne is taller than Jill. I am also not sure how many days it took for a water lily to become covered with water in the middle of a pond. The second is that I’ve never been through SAT prep, because I never had to take it. I went to a junior college for my first two years, and because they had their own entrance exams, I took them instead. I was placed in remedial math, and the very least I can say about that is I passed. I still have a ways to go in getting my Bachelor’s, mostly because I did not have time for a full-time job and advanced trig.

The reason that I skipped the SAT is that I was in the hospital with a migraine that wouldn’t quit, and I stayed there for longer than I’ve ever stayed in a hospital, except for the time I got meningismus, irritation of the meninges rather than full-on meningitis, and still no less painful. The migraine and the meningismus required the same battery of tests, including repeated spinal taps (I went to eleven). Plus, one of the medications I was given made me go from fine to batshit crazy in less than five minutes. A nurse got the order wrong, and instead of giving me a shot in the arm or hip of Stadol, pushed it into my IV. Meagan and Lindsay were standing there when it happened, and their eyes became larger and larger until my dad walked in and told Meagan to take Lindsay home. They were both in panic mode, because the effect of the drug was that I couldn’t stop talking, and at a pace so rapid that it was downright scary. I just kept saying over and over, “I’llbefineoncemydadgetshere. Iwantmydadbecausehe’llknowwhattodo….” along with a litany of orders to the nurses to get my dad the fuck here. When he arrived, he was in scrubs and I had never been more glad to see anyone in my life. I don’t remember what happened next, but I do remember that it calmed me down the slightest bit. Something was ordered for me- I think it was Haldol- but what the nurse did was inexcusable because she’d seen the order and didn’t read the whole thing. I think I missed three weeks of school, and when I was let go from the hospital, I still had to go for another spinal tap because the migraine hadn’t lifted. He told me to drive myself and lent me his van. I drove there, but they gave me a spinal tap and driving home was one of the scariest things I’d ever been through because I could barely lift my head over the steering wheel.

So, these questions are put in front of me and I realize how unprepared I am for this and begin to freak the fuck out. I asked the recruiter how much these questions counted, and did she want to know anything about my experience and career so far? She said,  “of course. It’s just that the manager came up with these questions to see how you’d get through training.” So, I told her everything I could possibly think of that would tilt my chances, including the Rock Star award I won at Alert Logic where a senior vice president had listened to my call and sent all the senior managers a note that if everyone else was like me, our Net Promoter Score was ensured. He talked about how I was cheerful at 3:00 AM, and thought it was brilliant that I chatted him up about football and Doctor Who since he was calling from the UK. The funniest thing that happened was that after I’d validated him by asking his security question, I said, “this is a question I ask all my British customers. Who is your Doctor?” He answered with the name of his GP. When I explained what I meant, he laughed heartily.

I also told her about the other Rock Star award I’d won because I was on the phone with a customer with another AL employee at the same time, and how he’d nominated me for it because of the great customer service I’d given while we were on the phone together. I was sitting there trying not to shake, but the memories of those two awards were something I focused on because it meant more to me than anything to prove that I was worthy of the job itself….. and worthy as a person. I was trying to self-soothe, because I knew I’d blown that test because I couldn’t even finish it and external validation was worthless.

She said I would hear something by Monday or Tuesday, so I am spending my weekend wound tight as a tick. I want a job where I can read all the way to work, and finish several chapters at once. I want a job that starts with great pay and ticks up with quality assurance. I want a job that has metrics out the ass because I like checking my performance every morning. It’s quite soothing not to go weeks without knowing how you’re doing…. like only getting a report card in school every six weeks.

It sounds like a great challenge, one for which I feel ready.

At Alert Logic, so much was going on with me emotionally that I crumpled with anxiety and threw up before meetings. I am not sure that I was healthy enough to take that job in the first place, having just come from Portland because I was so far down that I needed to come home and lean into my family for support. Now, I am free of all of it, and working with Sarah has gotten me on track for a wonderful life instead of one that’s merely mediocre. I came home because I was so depressed that I thought I might kill myself, but the only thing that stopped me was the dream of becoming a famous writer. In essence, I needed to stay alive for you, and I do not say that lightly.

Those feelings resurfaced when Dana and I had our ugly blowout, and I realized that I needed more help than my family and friends could provide. That was when I decided that being in a psych ward was better than leaning on people so unprepared to handle depression this overwhelming. As my romance with Dana and my friendship with Argo ended, I realized that the support system I had was slipping through my fingers, and I didn’t have anyone else that knew the ins and outs of the situation like they did. The suicidal thoughts and plans didn’t come from wanting to cause anyone pain, but to cause them relief that they didn’t have to worry about me anymore. Those thoughts are never reality, which is why Argo’s words gave me the strength I needed to take my life into my own hands and pull myself up enough not to ask my friends for help, but to submit to the fact that I was ill and needed to take my own steps to get better, rather than expecting everyone else to “fix me.”

My nature made it harder to get better in the hospital than I wanted to, because my empath mirror neurons went off and I began to believe that everyone else had it worse than me and they needed my support more than I needed theirs… another belief that probably cost me because I couldn’t recognize that we were all in the same boat. We were all broken in our own ways, and yes, I was just as sick as they were, but I took their stories on as my own, as I have done my whole life. The Lanagan Search & Rescue system became acute as my roommate told me she was a cutter and could I watch over her to make sure she didn’t cut herself in our room?

Luckily, she was not in my cohort, so I had meetings/classes all day without her. We all spilled our pasts and what brought us to this situation, this last-ditch effort to keep ourselves stable. The story that got me the most verklempt was a guy that wanted to kill himself over his job. God, no job is worth that, but his ego was tied to it and a project failure threw him into a downward spiral. Another reached hers by walking in on her husband committing adultery in their bed. Another arrived with scars on her wrists. It was terrifying and uplifting all at the same time, because sharing brought us close together and gave us hope that despite all our problems, we’d make it if we just stuck to the program not unlike AA, but similar in terms of sharing our stories and keeping it up during outpatient.

There were so many people I just wanted to take into my arms and not let go, because I am not the type person that can see suffering and walk away from it. However, the entire point of the program was learning how to soothe ourselves, and hugging was strictly forbidden. In some ways, I felt alone. I was the only lesbian, so there were few people that could really identify with me. I was also angry, because my social worker was a lesbian and absolutely lost her clinical separation and started to cry. Why would I be angry about that? Because it was my job to cry, and I didn’t want to sense weakness in the people around me that were supposed to help me because I didn’t want to take on their emotions about me. It was pity. Just straight out where I could see it, and the last thing I wanted or needed.

What I did learn in all of this was that I was right. Diane had been a problem, and not a solution. She knew I would need her as I started coming out, but didn’t realize that my young ears weren’t the appropriate place for her to talk about her life. She was right and wrong all at the same time, and would have been a wonderful resource had she kept her clinical separation intact as well. But she didn’t, and I ached for her in more ways than one.

If you click on both links, you will see the change in my tone in talking about her. The first is idealistic and wonderful, painful and real. The second is after all of the talks I’d had with friends who didn’t think my story was what I thought it was, and proved it to me.

Now, I am alone with my books and tea, wanting to reach up for something more than just sitting by myself, fictional characters often replacing real interaction. I’m having dinner with Pri-Diddy next Tuesday, where I know that she will enfold me in one of those hugs designed to heal pain…. because I am exhausted.

Vivid

Sometimes my medication gives me very intense, lucid dreams. Last night, my high school love visited me for the first time in years. We talked for hours, just catching up on our lives. When I woke up, I realized how much I missed her, and had some interesting insights on my current life (as dreams are wont to do). I remembered the days in which I was tortured that she was married to someone else, not because I was in love with her still, but because being an ex caused certain……… issues.

They aren’t married anymore, haven’t been for a long time. But I drew so many correlations between her ex-wife and mine that it was illuminating to an amazing and frightening degree. Her ex-wife ran hot and cold with me, because in some instances, she handled the closeness between Meag and me, and sometimes she didn’t. Does that sound familiar in any way to some of you long-term readers? The hot was just as intense as the cold. I want to talk about the hot first.

It all started with Tim Horton’s, as many Canadian stories do. Here is an excerpt from an entry I wrote about an anniversary with Kathleen. The setup is that we were staying at an inn in Vermont, and it wasn’t far to Ottawa from there:

I’d forgotten that Quebec is the only province in Canada where they don’t have to put signs in both French and English. The entire menu is in French. Not only do I not know what a TimBit is, I don’t know how to ask for one. I am standing there in a puddle of self pity. ALL I WANT IS A DONUT AND SOME COFFEE AND NOW I’M IN A FUCKING FOREIGN COUNTRY AND I CAN’T READ!

I go up to the counter. I ask for a TimBit and a large coffee in English. The woman points to the menu overhead. You can’t get one TimBit. The quantities and prices are scattered as if put there by someone with a killer hangover. I point to the one I want. I pay. It’s like ten dollars. I don’t care.

My order comes up, and all I see is this HUGE BOX. I have ordered ENOUGH FUCKING TIMBITS TO FEED THE ENTIRE CANADIAN ARMY, AND ALL THEIR SQUIRRELS.

We’re walking out of the restaurant, and I’m going to kill Meagan. All she had to say was, “it’s kind of like a donut hole, eh.” So I call her up. And she’s laughing hysterically. “Oh man,” she says. “I never should have done that to ya in Quebec.”

Years later, Deah hatched a plan.

She wanted me to come to the house without Meag knowing, and knock on the door with a box of TimBits. It was brilliant, especially because their daughter is named Tym, so they’re not TimBits anymore. They’re TymBits. So, Deah shows up at the airport with the box, and we drive straight back to the house. Deah stands back, and there are butterflies in my stomach as I knock on the door.

The look on her face was priceless… so full of love and absolute shock that I’m glad there’s not a picture. That look was just for me. She grabbed me and hugged me for what seemed like an hour. It wasn’t, of course, but in my memory it stays that way. Deah is smiling like the cat that swallowed the canary, because she’s managed to pull this off. It was #winning in massive proportions. We had a great time just BEING. We didn’t do anything, and that’s when Meag introduced me to The Joel Plasket Emergency, because “our song” became Nowhere with You:

Our thing was Starbucks, so we went for a coffee and sat there just as we did when we were 18. It was our “date place” in Sugar Land, there being few places for 18-year-olds to party in our quiet suburb. Her poison was a hazelnut latte, and mine was raspberry because I liked getting a “pink drink.” She told me that she was sorry we missed truly being partners, because she thought it was something we’d probably have done well. It was a compliment I’d been waiting to hear for a very long time, because we were secure in our places in life. It wasn’t a flirt, just a recognition that the way things went down was full of regret for both of us. She thought that she’d treated me so poorly that she didn’t even have a right to ask. My inner rage went to eleven internally, because I didn’t know what I would have said, but she’d taken away my choice. Then, rage melted away as I realized that we were exactly where we needed to be at that time in our lives, and to be angry about it was pointless. We’d made our choices, the right ones… at least then, anyway.

At other times, Deah treated the intimacy between Meag and me as a threat, when I really, really wasn’t. All I wanted was to be a part of Meagan’s life in a real way, and it wasn’t that far to Ottawa from DC, so I could really be present in a way that I couldn’t when we’d only see each other sporadically. At the time, her parents were living in Sugar Land, so visits home were always a path back to me and letting the ghosts of our past rise as we went by our old high school and “our” Starbucks (which, incidentally, isn’t there anymore… and don’t think I’m not sad about that fact). I remember clearly the time when we had to run an errand, and she leaned over and said, “want to be 18 again?” I said, “hell, yeah.” She rolled down all the windows, opened the sun roof, and turned up the stereo as we raced down Palm Royale.

I can understand Deah’s hot and cold in a whole new way, because it was not dissimilar to the way Dana treated Argo. She was never a threat, but Dana treated her that way, anyway. I think that was the point of the dream- to get me to understand in a way that I couldn’t until this morning. I am so thankful to whatever brought on the dream, but I would like to believe it was my God place, the one that whispers to me in pieces of wisdom that I, in the words of Mary, “ponder in my heart.”

It is also comforting that years after the conversation we had in the past, we are still in the places we need to be to grow in the right direction. Maybe one day we’ll have another moment in which we can just be 18 again, the ghosts rising from our past…

With TymBits.