Embarrassed

:::::::::PARTY ALERT:::::::::::::

Dana and I are getting married soon (obviously, QUITE soon), but we’re not going to do everything all at once. We’re going to go to the court house and get our legal benefits squared away immediately, then planning a wedding at Epiphany later. I cannot even. Oy the decisions. I am guessing that we will end up at a coffee shop/bar/restaurant/our backyard with food and drinks afterward. Let Dana and me know if you want to be on the txt distribution list for that and we’ll text you when we’re leaving for the courthouse. That way, you have enough time to get to our house/the meeting place by the time we’re done and can relax with “all y’all.”

Sometimes Facebook has a way of kicking me in the gut every morning. It will pass, but right now body memory is taking over and I remember exactly how I felt throughout this whole process. Soon, the memory will be our separation announcement, and even though it is here in the pensieve, it will still wake me up with sadness and rage when I see it pass by in the “memories” section that Facebook thinks is so cute.

What is so amazing is being able to go back to that memory on Facebook, and all the love that poured out for us as we began our new lives. At least 60 people expressed their sadness and their hope, and it meant the world to me. I didn’t think of it so much as an ending, but two new beginnings, and we both jumped at them. Dana found what she needed in Texas, because she didn’t have any memories attached to it save the ones we had together. I was haunted by a number of ghosts, most notably Diane’s, because learning who I was as an emotionally abused child made Houston the last place on earth I wanted to be every day. Houston had me emotionally regressing into the child I was, rather than the adult I wanted to be… which is why I think my moves to both DC and Portland fixed a lot of problems, because I was free to explore myself in a way that I couldn’t when I was so emotionally laden… until I realized that my relationship with Diane was never going to change, and in fact, our relationship had damaged me to a level even I couldn’t recognize, so I swept it under the rug for years and years until I came unglued. More than one of my friends, as I explained my teenage years, said, “are you kidding me? This IS sociopathic behavior.” At first, I couldn’t get angry with her. I recognized that if she indeed was sociopathic, that the break happened when she was a child, too. I blamed her abuser, instead of realizing that Diane needed to take responsibility for her own behavior…. which she has done with one e-mail and never face-to-face… and even the e-mail didn’t cover the extent of what I went through. It was basically, “I can see how some of those conversations might be confusing and upsetting to you.” Confusing and upsetting didn’t even begin to cover it. I was gaslit for years, with both Diane and her partner convincing me that I was just this kid with a crush who couldn’t age up. I was mentally unstable, and they were blameless.

I was mentally unstable, but they took no responsibility as to why.

Shame nearly killed me, because it was “all my fault.”

I wanted to marry Dana more than anything in the world, because I’d done it once already in the state of Oregon. I said the words I needed to say to ensure we’d be together forever, because I honestly and truly believed that we would. But as I began to see down to the core of my abused nature and just how much work I needed to do on myself, I realized that I’d jumped the gun in announcing that we were getting married, because Dana didn’t sign up to marry this version of me….. and that version is gone.

I am stronger and weaker than I’ve ever been. Some days, I am six feet tall and bulletproof. On others, I just need to hide under the covers. I am lonely, not for someone, but for her, and there is a huge difference. Someone to cuddle me and dry my tears would be a nice thing, but no one is her. In some ways, I will never get over it. In others, I am so glad she’s gone that tears of relief flow. I will never forget the moment my glasses smashed into my face and I crumpled on the floor with agony and broke up with her on the spot. I’d had about as much Dana as I could take, and I cannot speak for Dana, but I’m pretty sure she’d had all the Leslie she could take as well.

Neither of us had the emotional tools to deal with each other as we waged our own battles in our own minds. My head was in the clouds, because I wanted to be with Argo as much as I could to escape what was going on at home, and I don’t even mean that in a romantic way. We had our own language, our own emotional shorthand, and it was right and good. The idiocy of thinking that translated into romantic love is a mark left on me from childhood, and I had to learn to deal with it before I could move on.

We fought needlessly, all three of us, because I wanted to own my shit and get it right. I wanted to be married to Dana with romance and candles and “married” to Argo in loyalty and support, like all long-term close friends do. I once asked Argo what our relationship would look like in 20 years, and she told me that it was impossible to say, but hopefully strong and comfortable. I carried those words like a mantra, and destroyed them in one or two epic fights, going out of my mind with rage. But perhaps it was a gift from both of them to go it alone, and to figure out what I was going to do with me. I didn’t like me very much, and I took it out on both of them.

The reality of the situation was that I just wanted Dana and Argo to make room for each other so that I didn’t feel this constant tug-of-war between my love for both of them, outpouring in different ways. Dana told me that Argo would never see me as anything but a mental patient, and I hope that she was projecting things onto Argo that might be there and might not. What I do know is that Dana herself will always see me that way, because she has yet to own her part in all of this. The good news is that she doesn’t have to. I am far enough away from the situation to see that Dana doesn’t process the way I do, and she may never have words for me again.

One of the best examples of this is that I asked her if she could forgive me, and she said something very profound. She said, “I don’t even know myself well enough to know what you did and to figure out what I did, so forgiving you is impossible to say.” It was one of the best memories of our breakup, because those words really struck a chord with me, and I began to see her in a different light- that she was every bit as introspective as me, just not willing to let those feelings see air…. because perhaps to say it out loud makes it real, a mantra that Diane and I have had since I was little, and it is so true it hurts.

I hope that she is on her own journey now, and that the journey she’s taking brings her as much peace as the one I’ve taken alone. But it doesn’t erase my wish that there were do-overs and begin-agains. I have so many regrets, so much to work through, so much to let go before I can be the person God clearly wants me to be…. because what I have noticed is that God always calls the broken, and perhaps that is the point.

As I break open to let light in, all I want is peace. Ruminating over the end of my relationship with Dana brings me nothing but sadness, and I believe that I need to feel it. Really feel it. Get lost in it so that it doesn’t keep coming back to haunt me as I stuff it down and it comes up over and over later in life. I don’t want to seek someone else like her.

But I cannot say how utterly embarrassing it was for me to make this huge announcement on Facebook and then have to retract it. I felt like a huge failure, because I was the one that wrote an article on marriage that got shared all over the world and had I taken my own advice, I might not have felt so stupid now.

Believe me, I can solve all your problems in a hot minute. It’s solving my own that’s taking time.

Amen.

 

 

Evidential Proof

Dear Susan,

It’s funny how meeting someone on a train can change your whole outlook on life. There was a time when I didn’t know you, and then there was a time I did. It happened that fast. I feel the same way about the other friends I’ve made here. I’ve had some that have been with me since the last time around, Alexandria from 2001-2002, but not so many I don’t have room for more. I’ve met homeless people, people who work with homeless people, and heads of national organizations. My life experiences have run the gamut, and perhaps it is what I needed to open my mind to what the universe has in store for me… whatever that might be. Right now, I know that I need to focus on myself, because I cannot pour from an empty cup. After that, who knows? I just want to make sure that I have something to offer instead of giving away everything I have and feeling that there’s nothing left for me.

I am so guilty of that in the past. I would give away everything emotionally that I had inside, and then use fight-or-flight to try and get some of it back… mostly flight. I’m generally a lovah not a fightah, but I wouldn’t have said that about myself last year. I fought needlessly as I went out of my right mind and didn’t know how to handle it, and now I am picking up the pieces. There are people I desperately miss that I know will never speak to me again… I don’t even have to ask. But it doesn’t stop the hurt, mostly because it came at my own hand and not someone else’s. But, as an old soldier once told me, I can only tell you that, from my own journey, self awareness is extremely costly – and it is worth every bit of effort and expense you can pour in to it. So I’m taking her at her word.

Self-reliance is a gift, hard, hard won…. and even then, it’s not like I have some sort of special life-hacking ability. I stumble. I forget to take care of things that I should and over-worry about others. But the main thing is that I keep trying to get it right. I keep trying to prove myself to myself, when in the past, I had to prove myself to everyone else.

The best part is that I have a written record of how far I’ve come, and how far there is still to go. I was just going to write to you, and then I realized that this letter was bigger than just the two of us.

Love,

Leslie

Watermelon Rock Star Pure Zero

I slept so hard that when the alarm went off, I thought, “fuck it. I’ll Uber.” I went back to sleep for another hour, because the sleeping medication I take works really, REALLY well. I also didn’t want to walk to the bus stop in the snow, or wait for the bus while the wind whipped across the back of my neck. I don’t Uber very often, because it’s $25/ride from Silver Spring to Landover, but I make enough money that I can treat myself once in a while.

It comes time to get ready for work, and I am checking my e-mail frantically, hoping there’s a message that we can all work from home because then I won’t have to go through the hassle of putting on pants. There’s no e-mail, so I go ahead and get ready, putting on nearly every warm thing I own, because not only is it cold outside, it’s cold in our building. For instance, I generally wear skiing silks under my trousers and I am comfortable all day. I am lacing up my snow boots when I hear, “ding!” I know instantly what it is.

Yup. We’re all working from home today. It was a good thing I decided to sleep in, because if I hadn’t, I would have gotten the notification as I was on the train to Landover, and then I would have been late to work in my own home. Beat that with a stick.

It’s still 20 minutes before I need to log in, so I’m blogging and drinking the soda I mentioned in the title. It tastes a bit like a fizzy Jolly Rancher, and it’s delicious. However, now that I’m going to be home today, I am a little irritated I have drunk so much caffeine that now I can’t make myself a pot of tea without having a heart attack (I don’t have decaf).

I don’t have much to report since Sunday. I’ve slept and read a lot, plus watched Mercy Street and Downton Abbey, but other than that, nothing has really been going on. There’s a quiet to the snow. The object of the game is just to stay warm, which takes energy in and of itself… or at least, it does for me. I tend to shiver violently when I’m cold.

I’m looking forward to the sun coming out. I enjoy the snow when the sun is shining and the world is bright and cold. Right now, it’s a bit dreary, but that will change. It doesn’t stay dreary around here for long. Maryland, like Texas, has the kind of weather that reminds one of the movie “Sybil.”

And on that note, it’s time to get to work.

Sermon for Lent 1C: Crawling Toward Easter

One of the best preachers I’ve ever heard in my life is the Rev. Dr. William Lupfer. We met under very unusual circumstances, and I can honestly say that I have never been the same since. He made me laugh, he made me cry, and he gave me sentences that I will use in my sermons from here to eternity… credited, of course. But first, the story of how we met.

Dana and I had gone out with a group of friends to, I think, Ringler’s Annex in Portland, Oregon… the name of the bar is not important, but Dana was sitting next to me, and that is. Her uncle is an Episcopal priest in Sierra Madre, California, and at this table full of friends, she mentioned that fact.

The most handsome priest I’d ever seen came to our table and said, “I don’t mean to interrupt, but I heard the words ‘Episcopal priest’ and I had to come over.” He was having a beer with a friend and just decided to come and introduce himself. I was glad that he did, because he was funny, polite, and memorable.

So memorable, in fact, that when I decided Bridgeport UCC and I had had enough of each other, I remembered Bill and decided that I wanted to go to Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. Dana, having been an Episcopalian since birth, jumped at the chance to come with me.

A few weeks later, I auditioned for Dr. John Strege, and joined one of those choirs with blow your hair back repertory, and it was one of the best singing experiences of my life (singing Bach’s “Kick My Mass in H mol” conducted by early music expert Eric Milnes was a huge highlight).

This doesn’t really have much to do with what I learned from Bill, just to say that because of the choir, I got to hear him preach A LOT. He said two things that have stuck with me, one that pertains to today, and one that just made me laugh.

The first is, “when you have a theological problem, the first thing you should do is go and drink a beer with a Lutheran.” The crowd howled, because everyone knew he was referring to the late, great Marcus Borg.

The second is, “you’ll notice that in the Bible, Lent is referred to as 40 days and 40 nights… yet, on the calendar, it is 46. That is because you do not count the Sundays. Those Sundays are islands of mercy in the darkness.”

“Islands of mercy.”

That means that in the middle of the darkness, you can celebrate all the things you have given up to remind you of this penitential season.

What did you give up this year?

I decided to give up all my old stories to make room for new ones, and today, I just can’t. It’s Valentine’s Day, and I am very newly divorced, even though it’s been almost a year… or perhaps it’s that today, it feels new all over again. Last year was heart-rending in its sincerity, because Dana and I did not do anything special, but gave each other our undying love through words.

Because I gave up my old stories, these “islands of mercy” feel even more penitential. I am sorry for “all the things I have done, and all the things I have left undone…” Perhaps the things I have left undone even more so, because I could not enforce an emotional boundary with Dana, so I moved away from her to create one that is entirely physical. I cut off any chance of redemption, any chance of grace, any chance to let the Holy Spirit move in both of our hearts. However, I have come to know deep within that it was the right move, even though I am hurting. Perhaps my Holy Spirit moment was the knowledge that love, while almost everything, isn’t. My objective is to carry her in my heart, and go out with joy.

Holding on to the temptation to work on our relationship isn’t a temptation that I needed, or perhaps it was… because I needed to feel it in order to be able to turn away… which brings me directly to the Gospel reading for today.

After his baptism, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.'”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”

Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

I have said that Jesus needed to be tempered in his faith, because he needed to rise up from being a regular Joe to the preacher that moved thousands, which, in that time, was a spectacular Nielsen rating, to put it in modern terms. Nowhere in the Gospel is Jesus’ refining fire more clear.

Jesus was strong in his faith, and did not succumb to the fame and fortune the Devil had to offer. He resisted the temptation to be known as one of my preacher pals calls “Jumping Jesus, the Bouncing Savior.” I think this is partially due to Jesus’ own mettle, and, venturing into fiction, wondering if the angels would have actually caught him had he abused his God-given power. In order to become the person God wanted him to be, Jesus knew that did not include taking power for himself, because he did not want power over. Jesus wanted power with… and perhaps that is what those forty days and forty nights were about in the first place… solidifying what kind of person he was going to be… what kind of preacher… what kind of message he was going to give to people who were just as broken as we are today.

Remember that at Christmas, the angels did not announce to the Sanhedrin that the Messiah had been born. The angels announced it to the poorest people they could find… people desperately needing the hope and grace the Christ offers as mediator and advocate.

However, no one has ever said that grace was easy. This Lent, I am literally crawling toward Easter. My temptation is to sit in my grief, ruminating over and over about everything I have done wrong, all the flaws in my character, all the ways in which I created Good Friday for myself. I was tempted by all the wrong things, and, unlike Jesus, I succumbed to them. Cortisol and sin raced through my body when I got angry in a table-flipping way. Love flowed through me for someone who was not part of my covenant with both Dana and God. I stumbled over and over into a darkness I thought would never end. I very nearly committed the mortal sin of suicide, because I did not think that I was creating a permanent solution to a temporary problem. At the time, I thought I was creating a permanent solution to a permanent problem.

I do not think that suicide is a sin for other people, because everyone has their own reasons for it and I am not the one who gets to say whether it is right or wrong for them. I believe it is a sin in my own code of ethics, because when I get into my small, still place, I realize that I would be, in effect, killing the Easter that might occur if I just wait.

In this first Sunday of Lent, I realize that creating that code of ethics is why we need it. Lent’s penitential potential is to create our own saving grace, to await the resurrection that invariably happens in the middle of the mess, to quote the Rev. Dr. Susan Leo.

During Lent, we are supposed to focus on the messes we’ve made, so that when Easter finally comes, we are able to resurrect ourselves.

Some Lents are always going to be harder than others. There is no way for me to know what kind of messes you’ve created, but I know we’ve all made them. We’ve all failed to resist temptation from the devils in our own minds. We’ve all metaphysically tried to make bread out of stones in order to lift ourselves up, only to find that the loaves we thought we were getting were only stones after all.

And as we reflect on the rocks, we remember that it is not long until we are renewed once again.

Just wait.

Amen.

Too Sad to People

I am going to stay home and write about the Scriptures today instead of going to church, because I just cannot bring myself to leave the house right now. I am ruminating in my own thoughts and I just want to be left that way. Facebook presented me with all my memories from this day, and I am overwhelmed. I need this time of rest and reflection in order to function in the world tomorrow. I don’t want to hide out, but I desperately need my space.

2015

To my Valentine, Dana, my “Palentine”, Aaron, and my “Galentine,” Argo… You are the faces I look to when I need love. You are the faces I look to when I give love. I cannot imagine life without any one of you, and hopefully we’ll all be old and gray on a beach somewhere flipping each other shit until the Jack runs out and Aaron has to drive us home. Sometimes, the only thing you want from the people you love is a night by the campfire, lying on blankets and looking up at the stars.

2014

The great thing about Valentine’s Day is that it recognizes all kinds of love. This year, not only is Dana my biggest and best Valentine, but so are all of you, the people that read me every day and follow my successes and failures- offering lots of humor and love to help me get through what Mary Oliver calls “this one wild and precious life.”

2013

Dana Bamberger Lanagan, I have loved you since the third or fourth time I met you. 😛 There is no one that I would rather share my heart (and sometimes, my brain). You are the Valentine everyone wishes they’d gotten- big and glittery with extra lollipops taped on the back. The kind you keep forever. I love you, darling. You are the best thing about waking up every morning, but of course, today is the kind of day to say those things out loud.

2012

Happy Valentine’s Day to the great love of my life, Dana Bamberger Lanagan. The reason she’s the great love of my life? She’s got too much information for us to ever break up. I love you, sweetheart!

2011

I am not a big fan of Valentine’s Day, even though I am half of a couple. It’s not the sentiments I hate, it’s the stores that look like red threw up everywhere. Again, though, I love the sentiment. Dana Bamberger is the absolute love of my life, and I wouldn’t be the woman that I am today had I not met her. She’s opened my eyes to so many things- I’m kinder, more patient, and better at darts.

No One is Coming

I took Uber from work to the church so that I could get to the Ash Wednesday service, only to find out it was already over. It had started at 5:30. However, I did get there in time to clean up. At CCC, we have a professional kitchen, and I’ve been dying to get my hands on it. So what did I do when I walked in? I ate a metric fuck tonne of pancakes. But after that? John knows what I did. So do Drue, Knives, Dana, Shaun, Ian, et al. I made that grill my bitch. I used to be quite known for it, and by that I mean anal retentive. And by that I mean that if I was in the bar and it was someone else’s shift, I’d go back there and make sure it was up to code. My code.

We didn’t have any vinegar, so I used club soda and ice instead. We didn’t have a brick, so I used towels and a green scrub thingme. In fact, there’s an entire list of things that our kitchen needs and I will get them, because a day care meets in our church and I wasn’t going to let the youth group get yelled at. So I did the job with the tools I had, but next time, I’m coming prepared. I told the kids that we had to play “the health inspector is coming tomorrow.” I don’t know who it was, but there was a 17-year-old white boy I swore was an Ecuadoran dishwasher, he was so efficient. I couldn’t tell him that, only chuckle to myself, but he deserved tips. JMSK, he could have given Jimmy a run for his money, especially since we had a dishwasher half the size of one in a restaurant… but at least it was professional grade… enough to the point that I burned the ever-living shit out of my hands and I hadn’t felt more alive in months. I started giving orders, and one of the volunteers said they thought there was a janitor… I said, “not before preschool starts tomorrow.” I wasn’t dictatorial about it, just firm, because clearly someone needed to be in charge and no one had ever worked in a professional kitchen before. I knew this because no one knew that the appliances had to be wiped down, the floor had to be mopped, etc. I basically took them step-by-step through closing down Biddy’s, and it worked.

I mean, they were making *pancakes.* I assure you that no one in that kitchen knew more than me about cleaning up after brunch food. I missed Dana so much that I almost cried, because I thought to myself that if there was anything I’d forgotten, she would have remembered it. It’s scary when you realize that this IS your circus and these ARE your monkeys, but I did the best I could without her. I just made sure to go through her checklist as I was cleaning up…. and if there’s anything I *did* forget, it wasn’t anything major. Apparently, the youth group got ripped a new one last year, not by the pastor, but by the people at the day care center for the way they left the kitchen. I was not going to let that happen again. The only thing that really confused me is that there were no instructions on the dishwasher, and I couldn’t get the damn thing to drain. I pushed Off, like, ten times and then finally just closed the door. It drained and I said, “SMILINMIGHTYJESUS!” which is Christian for anything I would have said at Biddy’s.

My aim was to leave the kitchen better than I found it, and that wasn’t too hard considering they’d just stopped cooking the moment I walked in. I filled one of the sinks with soap and water and just started scrubbing everything down. The floor was the hardest, because the pancake batter was dried and stuck on like concrete. I spent quite a bit of time digging it out of the grout on the floor. I also emptied the grease traps and did all the things I knew to do that maybe the kitchen staff hadn’t done in a while.

And after all that, I did not get ashes, nor did I have alcohol.

But it was still a great holiday.

The Other Leslie

My favorite holiday since I don’t have a Valentine is Feb. 13th, “Galentine’s Day,” created by Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation. I have my own poetic and noble land mermaids, and I intend to spoil the hell out of them…. which reminds me…. I really need to go shopping after work.

I won’t mention names, but they all (hopefully) know who they are. They’re the ones that picked me up and dusted me off when I couldn’t see hope and life was this big, nebulous ball of “nunh unh.” I told Dana for a long time that my life would be boring without her. I wasn’t wrong.

But luckily, my gal pals have stepped the fuck up. It’s a different kind of love, and no less worthy of celebration. I think friendship gets ignored, as if it’s not as important as romance, but who else can you e-mail or text at 3:00 AM and say, “I’m hungry?” Who else will go to Walgreen’s for you in the middle of the night when you’re so sick you can’t move? Who else will tell you to grow the fuck up when you need it?

I wouldn’t be the person I am today had I not invested in friendship, really invested, treating my friends like family… which, to me, means “you can have anything you want out of my fridge” and “of course you can borrow that top.” I am in the unenviable position of trying to surreptitiously get people’s addresses so that they don’t know they have things coming.

My energy is creeping back up. My thought processes are becoming more and more positive every day. Dragons invade my dreams and tear through sadness with fire, and I know it’s my gal pals talking to me, destroying the obstacles in my path and helping me to reach greater heights than I could ever do on my own.

I wish I could take them all out for waffles, because they each deserve a stack on me.