Try to Keep Up

I type so fast that my keyboard is constantly ahead of my tablet’s ability to process it. Interestingly enough, my old Android tablet is probably the best of them at it, but the new versions of WordPress hate it, so I hardly ever keep it with me. The coolest thing about my Bluetooth keyboard is that it has three slots, and a dial to control it. My iPad is one, my phone is two, and my Android is three. I tend to set it in the slot vertically, because it makes the paragraphs look like normal size. 🙂

I’m at Starbucks trying to process everything that happened in therapy, because for the first time, I felt some real emotions bubble up. Most of the time, because of the meds I’m on, I can’t feel the physical reactions to stress, anxiety, and rage (using the Oxford comma because anxiety and rage do not always overlap). Today, for the first time, my chest got tight despite the medication, and I realized that Sarah was hitting me where I needed to be hit. I told her about the night Diane passed me her diary, and she started asking about what my triggers were for that event. I told her that since the relationship lasted almost 25 years, there were any number of things that would set me off, but that in particular, there are pieces of music… and that I can remember so clearly how the air smelled that if the air smells the same, I will go right back to that moment. I wish I could describe that smell in a Nathaniel Hawthorne kind of way, but what I remember most is that it was tinged with the smell of burning leaves, a clear sense of fall crispness (It was Sept 10, 1992). It’s amazing how often the air smells like that year after year. She asked if there were any songs on the radio, and I said “no, it was never that kind of music. There are just things that my conductors have pulled out over the years, even her, that I have to muscle my way through.” There was only once I completely lost it. She did not take it well.

When we were young, one of the pieces I clearly remember singing with her in adult choir is John Rutter’s For the Beauty of the Earth. She chose it for our last anthem as a choir together at Bridgeport UCC, and I didn’t know it at the time, but I was having a panic attack. Diane is one of those people that before she gets ready to do something, she wants a bubble around her of silence so she can prepare. We are not dissimilar that way, so I went to her and said, “I’m sorry to interrupt the bubble but I am so sad that this is the last Sunday I’ll have you as a conductor and this piece reminds me of being a kid in the adult choir, your elbow on my shoulder.” I was crying so hard I could barely breathe, and she gave someone the look of “get her out of here.” The rejection meant a lot to me in retrospect, because it was the moment that whomever it was that I knew wasn’t ever coming back.

Either that, or she didn’t want to become a blubbering mess, either, and I will accept that answer as well. But I did not like how she could look at me in all of my panic and tears without realizing that even a kind look or a quick hug would have gone so far… “a compliment or kindness, just to bring us into view, but you could not interpret me… and I could not interpret you.” The service itself went fine, and I was over the panic attack before it even started. I just wanted a moment of recognition that we were ending where we began, and it was sad. Extraordinarily so. Even though Dana and I were right across the street, once Bridgeport ended, I might as well have been living in Abu Dhabi.

Later on, I asked if I could meet with her, and she said no, but I could meet with her partner, instead. It worked about as well as it sounded it did. It was Susan’s job to protect Diane, and she jumped down my throat any time I had anything negative to say. My relationship with Diane predated hers by seven years- there’s no way I should have allowed that conversation to happen, because there is no way that Susan would have had any frame of reference for it. There were things between Diane and me that I didn’t want to tell Susan for exactly that reason- first of all, she wasn’t there. Second of all, she had no reason to believe me, and she didn’t.

Everything was all in my head, but I do not think that was necessarily Susan’s fault. I have no idea what Diane told Susan about me, and my guess is not enough. Susan’s idea is that my feelings about Diane were a crush that I couldn’t get over and it was just this big bag of shit I’d been carrying around for too many years.

Well, as it turns out, she was right about the second part.

Sarah told me that it wasn’t my fault that as a child, I should have taken on the responsibility of saving a full-grown adult. I agree with her, but how could I not? Her stories were all I could think of when I closed my eyes. How to get her out of her present situation. How to get her to see that I was the safe space. How to get her to see that I would never hurt her, and she was choosing to stay with someone who would. Jeri never had any intention of getting help, and there would have been no judge in the world lenient enough that Jeri wouldn’t have been locked up for keeping a pound of marijuana in the house. A pound.

I am spilling all of these “family” secrets because I don’t believe that Diane deserves to be protected anymore. I’ll never get a day in court, but I can get a day (years) in the press. It will be a Google tattoo of enormous proportion, and even if there are unintended consequences for me, there are zero fucks given. I don’t have any more to give.

It’s time to start shifting the blame where it belongs, rather than having me believe for the rest of my life that it was wholeheartedly appropriate for her to use a child for adult problems. Even when she wasn’t aware of it, I was the parent and she was the child. So many nights I went to bed wondering if she was okay…. that I thought it was only a matter of time before Jeri would leave a mark on her that would show. That it was only a matter of time until she was arrested as an accessory. That was my life, starting at 13 years old. Wondering each and every day, most of the day, with no small amount of worry…. and at the same time, feeling the worthlessness of stupidity. My instincts were off regarding the nature of Diane’s intentions, or at least they were until the adults around me convinced me to consider that perhaps Diane knew exactly what she was doing…. and if I couldn’t believe that, to believe how entirely inappropriate it was for a 25 year old woman to use a 14 year old girl as an emotional garbage can.

Part of me thinks that Diane never vetted the journal before she gave it to me, therefore she had no idea the way it would open my mind. The other part thinks that she wanted to open my mind that way so she could inflict the emotional abuse on me that she had suffered herself. I don’t think she could bring herself to perpetuate the cycle of actually sexually abusing a child, but I do believe that she thought what she was doing wasn’t wrong because she wasn’t touching me. It’s what abusers do. They justify everything, and I cannot believe a thought like that would not cross her mind at one point or another.

Years and years later, she told me that she was sorry for the way that she treated me, because she could see how some of those conversations would have been confusing and upsetting to me. It seemed too dismissively simple, and I couldn’t help it. I snapped back that if writing one e-mail of apology was all she was going to do to say she was sorry, then reading it meant “thanks, I’m all better now.”

After that, she offered to attend one of my therapy sessions with me, and I sent her an e-mail giving her my doctor’s information and told her to schedule it, because I wanted insurance that she was actually serious. She told me that she was not the schedule-maker. I wrote her a couple of days later and said that I’d changed my mind about doing therapy together, because I did not want memories of her with my doctor, or even in the room that I go for safe space… but that she was welcome to attend Al-anon with me so that in the room, we were both on equal footing.

That didn’t go over well. By that time, I was out of ideas and tired of trying to please her, so I just stopped. I started talking to Dana and my friends about what had happened, and their alarm bells went off in a major way. Finally, recognition that there was a problem, even if it didn’t come from her. I just hated that I had to get so far down before I could find the way up.

The universe is calling me to get better. Calling for me to feel rest and relief from what has been done to me. Reaching out as if to say, “I have great things for you if and when you are ready….. just try to keep up.”


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