One of Us

Our divorce announcement was the first thing I saw when I logged into Facebook this morning, and because I’d written about it yesterday, it did not make me as angry and sad as I thought it would. It’s like the post yesterday helped let out some of the air in my tires. But I still need some tea for this one. Irish Breakfast. I’m not fucking around here.

Hold please.

The tea that I made is very, very strong… and that’s the way I like it. Steeped for a very long time with lots of Splenda and CoffeeMate. It’s what’s called a “Builder’s Brew,” which is basically “it’ll put hair on your chest,” in the words of my friend Dianne Maurice. I’ve already had plenty of caffeine, but I don’t write well without a cup of tea beside me, and this entry requires writing well… or at least, to the best of my ability… which is slowly coming along. I think.

Dana usually called me “her beloved,” which I believe she picked up from my grandfather, who has called my grandmother that for years and years. They’ve never met, which is such a pity because it would explain a lot. 😛 My grandfather and I share a lot of the same characteristics, like a walk passed down from him to my father to me. Sam says that I “walk heavy,” and she can always tell when I’m in the house. It’s true.

It is also true that Dana looks like my grandmother in certain pictures, especially when “Nanny” was young- something I noticed long after we met and comforting when I figured it out. Over time, Dana became a Lanagan through and through, even picking up our special language, McLanamese. It’s a combination of all our last names- McCain, McMenemy, and Lanagan. There are certain phrases we’ve used over and over, since I was a teen, really… because if something is funny once, it’s funny a thousand times. Dana would slay me every time she used a “Lanaganism,” because it just proved to me that she wasn’t just my wife. She was a daughter-in-law, a sister-in-law, and an aunt to the cutest child on the planet.

However, in my family, we do not use qualifiers like “step” and “in-law.” For instance, Lindsay’s husband is not my brother-in-law, but my brother. I use them here to explain the legal family relationship, but she was a daughter, a sister, just like me. In some ways, and I’m not sure that this is a joke, my family liked her better than me… or at least, it seemed that way to me, and it made me happy. It just showed me that she was “one of us.” In that way, it is the biggest loss I’ve ever faced. Grief flows from me like a running river, because I didn’t just lose a partner. I lost a member of my family.

As an aside, the phrase “legal family relationship” reminds me of Counselor. She used to give lectures on how to get temporary restraining orders to battered women, and one of the funniest things about it was that she had to explain that you could put “husband” or “boyfriend,” but BABY DADDY IS NOT A LEGAL RELATIONSHIP. It put Dana and I into fits, and it was one of those phrases that just came up over and over… you know, because if it’s funny once, it’s funny a THOUSAND times.

I am writing all of this down to show that to me, Dana is not a person. She’s an event. My dad said that about Diane to me when I was a kid, and I instantly knew what he meant… that when I looked at Diane, I saw her in her current iteration, and every iteration that came before it.

When I met Dana, I thought she was the most obnoxious person I’d ever met in my life, and as I have said before, I looked at Diane and said, “Who. Is. That. Woman. That. Accents. Every. Word!” It wasn’t until Dana invited me into her silence that I began to love her for all she is worth, which is a whole hell of a lot. She was my world, in the very best sense of the word. In a way, we were perfect for each other, because we both had these faces that we presented to the rest of the world, and the people we were one-on-one. I learned that Dana was very different- quieter, smaller, still. And by smaller, I mean guided by the smallest part of her spirit she could find, rather than being the biggest personality in the room. I began to wish that more people could see the Dana I saw, and we had a code for it. When she was overacting like Shatner, I could lean forward and whisper, “dial it back, Dana.”

Alternatively, she could do the same for me in different ways. I am quiet and solitary to a fault as I grow older, and there is only so much togetherness I can take. Dana could tell with one look when I was done, and would start saying her goodbyes. It was marvelous having someone not afraid to run interference.

So when I think of Dana, I can see galaxies. I see her for who she is, and who she was, and I cry my eyes out thinking about the fact that I will not see her as she will be, which I have always thought was an amazing person, full in herself. Because of the way we both behaved, I don’t believe either one of us has the right to ask for forgiveness and reconciliation, not because I have the potential to act the same as I am, but because we might lapse back into old patterns and the progress we’ve made might get lost in the shuffle.

We might make good buddies, but we can’t. We just can’t. I cannot bear the thought of watching her love someone else in front of me, and I cannot speak to her future, but I can speak to the past, that when I’ve had girlfriends and Dana has filled the best friend role, she was jealous to a fault… and huge turf wars ensued. I can say for myself that the same thing would happen with me. We have so many old inside jokes that it would destroy me not to have her by my side.

It’s something that I should have known when I told her about my feelings for Argo. Period. The turf war began in her own mind, because Argo was never in the game. As I have said before, the main idea in crushing out on Argo was because it couldn’t go anywhere, and I felt safe in the knowing of it. I’d never kept anything a secret from Dana, and I didn’t think this one was one I should hold, either, because talking about it helped it to go away… until Dana became convinced that Argo was a threat because of all the truth we’d shared with each other… that Argo would fall in love with me regardless of orientation and gender. It was never true, not ever, but it seemed true to her and that was what mattered. I think I have said this before, that I shared that information with Argo, saying, “how I have that much power, I do not know.” It is true that I told Argo to relax, that I just wanted to flirt with her in a non-threatening way, and I opened the door to something I never should’ve in a million years… maybe two million… because Argo’s wordplay is sharper than mine, and without knowing it, she stepped over my comfort zone and I thought about those flirts for years… to the point where after I broke up with Dana, I had to know the truth, because Dana’s words had gotten under my skin. I took my shot with her, and I lost… but that didn’t mean I loved her any less. It wouldn’t have been fair not to love her for exactly who she is, and not some cocked up story.

My line was always that I wanted Dana to be my “I want to scratch my nails down your back” girlfriend and Argo to be my “wine and yoga pants” girlfriend- and never the twain shall meet… and I lost both of those chances when I lashed out at both of them, unreasonably so, because I did not have the tools to deal with what I was feeling. I had all the emotional tools to deal with other people’s problems when they put them in front of me, but I could not turn around and use that toolbox on myself. It is my life’s work to figure out how.

The dream of this church, St. James and All Sinners, is real… but I need to figure out my own mental shit before I can take on the responsibility of caring for others all the time. As I wrote to Susan, “I need to work on myself because pastors sometimes show up at the worst times in people’s lives. I want to feel everything, and have enough clinical separation that I am not carrying other people’s problems when I get home.” St. James is just another reason I miss Dana desperately, because she was willing to go the extra mile and become the partner I needed in ministry. Her ability to listen without trying to fix anything became a lifeline.

I met another woman at a Meetup that scared me to the point that I never called her back when she reached out to me the next morning… I just ghosted because in my mind, she was perfect for me. She’d been a church secretary for almost 25 years, and knew how to build a church from the ground up. I was still licking my wounds with Dana and Argo, and it was the last thing I needed, to feel the dopamine rush of “new relationship.” I took her goodnight kiss with me, and it fed my ego mightily, because I knew that I was attractive to someone else. But I couldn’t in good conscience drag someone else into the morass I was facing. Dana was still everything to me, and going into a new relationship would have taken away my focus on erasing that fact.

And Argo would never tell you this herself, but she is gorgeous. Just the type of goddess where if she asked you to jump naked and backwards off a diving board singing the “Star Spangled Banner” you’d do it or die trying. The dopamine rush of “new relationship” with her, no matter what it was, also had me dying inside for a while, because I’d pushed her away in the most ugly way possible. So out of character for me that I cannot help but cringe when I think of it. She thought I was angry that “I didn’t get my way,” but I never thought of it like that. I thought that I would regret it for the rest of my life if I never took my shot, and that even if I lost, it would have been heartbreaking not to ever have been brave enough to ask. Dana’s words resonated in me, hardcore, and I had to know for sure if Dana was right or wrong.

Dana was disastrously wrong, but I do not fault her for it. I take responsibility both for taking my shot (after Dana and I broke up), and the way I pushed Argo away with such vitriol. I knew that my attraction to her would not go away until she was out of my life completely (at least for a while), and I took the biggest and best shortcut to trying to push her away that my heart breaks at my own hand… just about every day, in fact.

The thing is that Argo would have ghosted had I just asked. I didn’t need to rage at her and try to make her feel like shit. It backfired in a major way, and that is all that needs to be said about that. It was a time in which I both needed her desperately as a sounding board and needed time to get my shit together before I could take down my protective walls with her. I was so utterly conflicted, confused, and angry.

I didn’t realize how much I needed medication to deal with anxiety, along with the protocol I was already taking. The medication does not deal with my mood and behavior- that is up to me and my therapist- but it does take away the impulsive fight-or-flight response to everything. It takes away the shortness of breath and the, as Nadia Bolz-Weber calls, “cortisol and sin” racing through my body when I feel anger.

I wish that Dana and Argo could both see me with different eyes, because when it was good, it was so, so good… and when it got bad, it was wicked.

If there is any hope at all in this garbage dump of a situation, it’s that this is not the end of our movie.

But it is for now.



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