SUIT UP! Part II

I downloaded Amazon Prime Music for my phone, and put it on the Top Country station. I can’t say I’m really a country fan, per se, but I enjoy the fact that most songs are slow enough I can actually understand the lyrics. So I’m listening along, and I hear this song, and it just breaks my shit up. I realize that losing Argo is not about “breaking up,” because she’s just my friend, but it still hurts like a bitch. So it was great to laugh in the middle of pain. By the time the song was over, I was all like, “behold the field where I sow my fucks, and see that it is barren.”

I’m going to be ok. Everything is going to be ok.

As Humans Ever Get…

Today I’m using Microsoft Word to blog, when I normally just use a text editor. I’m trying to cut down on the number of typos I get from rushing to publish, because I think that my courage will run out the longer I look at something… and it’s true. The longer I spend on editing, the more I believe my words don’t matter, so I’ll move on to something else rather than writing anything. Perhaps it’s a little too stupid and careless to publish whatever I want, but for everyone that thinks as such, there are a hundred more who applaud me for my bravery in just telling what’s going on in my life. As for the last couple of days, “shitstorm” just about covers it… and in the end, my life hasn’t changed all that much. I lost a friend who’d no longer become good for me, and I can feel good about that. I miss saying things like “kick ass, take names, be good, all that shit…” but in the end, I realized that I was saying those words every morning just as much for me. Uplifting myself by uplifting others, so perhaps I should just e-mail myself every morning. It would do just as much good, perhaps more, because I know I’m pouring a go-get ‘em attitude into someone that really needs it.

Last night I went to bed at 7:30 and slept hard until my alarm went off. The last two days have been emotionally draining as much as physically. When I’m upset, I don’t eat. This morning looked a lot brighter and I was able to manage cereal with bananas and yogurt and a couple of tangerines. I still feel stupid at all the signs I missed, that this thing could have entirely been avoided if I’d just realized nothing was ever going to go back together and to stop trying. It’s not in my nature to think that way, but perhaps it needs to become so. The well of hope became poisoned water, and I drank enough of it to get sick.

All I wanted was to be heard, understood… and when that didn’t happen, the breakdown was complete. I remember years ago that Argo hurt me HARDCORE. To the point where we didn’t talk for hours in a day when we were used to not going 15 minutes. She said that my silence was voluminous, and when I told her that she’d hurt me, she said that she wouldn’t apologize for what she’d said, but she’d apologize for hurting me.

In this instance, I see no difference. I couldn’t apologize for something I didn’t think was wrong, but I could apologize for her hurt feelings, so I did.

It doesn’t matter what the truth is. She’s going to believe what she wants to believe, thus my need to get as far away from this situation as humanly possible. The bitch of it is that if she’d bothered to get to know me, we could have cleared up a lot.

During my illness, she didn’t talk to me a whole lot, just to Dana… and I can’t imagine what those conversations might have entailed, but my guess is that they were a far cry from reality.

Because reality is that I couldn’t get a new patient appointment for three weeks, and I didn’t have any other choice but to go to the emergency room, because there was no doctor that would prescribe for me without me actually being their patient. My time in the hospital was very successful, by all counts, because I learned that there are coping mechanisms for anxiety and angry that I’d just never learned (and lots of people never do). The other thing I learned is that a lot of my “attention deficit” was actually boxes that could be checked on a trauma diagnosis kit. That when I didn’t know what to do, my attention would shift to something I did know… my own memories. If I couldn’t solve the present, I would continually try to solve the past.

And in retrospect, this is starting to sound very familiar and scary. However, I am so much better at solving the present now, because I have the tools to do it…. But not with people who know the old buttons to push to ensure that they will get an old reaction instead of a new one. No one is immune to being “worked over,” and I am no exception. It was a stunning realization that I had grown past Argo, that I didn’t want to be held to my old self because if we had anything to resolve, she wouldn’t approach me as someone who’d been working on my issues. She’d just push buttons until she got what she wanted.

Pushing those buttons has never and will never make my behavior okay, but it takes a gargantuan amount of strength to walk away when you are feeling threatened. I don’t know too many people who would have walked away from having the same buttons pushed I did, and it doesn’t matter what they are. People who feel provoked are provoked for all sorts of reasons, and we all struggle with those moments of “cortisol and sin” that we know aren’t going to end well, because in the end, we’ve given the provoker exactly what they need to “prove” their rightness.

I keep going over and over in my mind what I should have done instead. The first is that I never should have responded to her e-mail. I said I was done. I should have meant it. That would have cut the fight off at the pass, because it would have been me saying, “fight with God if you have to, but you’re not going to get to me.” But our relationship has been like that for years- Argo coming after me with both guns blazing and when she sends across those escalated words, I jump on them like a dog with a bone. I undo myself, not her.

It reminded me of the fight with Dana, where I couldn’t let her just provoke me and walk away. What I should have done in that situation is gotten in my car and driven away. But I couldn’t let her be “bigger than me.” I couldn’t let her win. Anger bubbles up in me from deep inside, and over time, both Argo and Dana learned to capitalize on it so that I would feel ashamed at my behavior with no recognition on their part that I was capable of a calm conversation, I just wasn’t going to have it if there was already a gun on the table.

Feeling threatened is what has driven most of my emotions since I was a teenager. I have so much work to do on responses to adrenaline, because fight-or-flight overtakes me in a way that I cannot see clearly anymore. I can only see spots in front of my eyes and not a path through to get what I want without trying to threaten the person more than they’ve just threatened me.

I don’t know what to do to de-escalate the conversation myself to get the guns off the table in the first place.

When Argo wrote to me and said that she was getting blowback from her friends and I said I was done, she said, “If you continue to refer to me in your blog, drive by “areas of interest”, and send me fucked up emails, I will be forced to seek legal action. I can promise you that.” My throat closed up because I was like, “what fucked up e-mails? Yes, I realize that there are plenty from over a year ago, but nothing since and in fact, signs of growth in others. If I’d known that driving by places I’d seen in pictures and wanted to see for real was going to lead her to that place, I never would have done it, because it was the last thing on my mind to hurt someone. Facebook is just a medium. Real life is real life. I could understand the stalking aspect if she thought I was trying to get pictures of her house or something fucked up like that. But I was 50 miles outside of the city, most notably to see all the places I wanted to go with Dana and just didn’t get to while we were together. Imagining what those friendships might have been like had we not used C3 to blow them up.

While I was on my sightseeing trip, it was incredibly sad and cathartic, and I cannot help that part of my strength in letting go of Argo now is due to the fact that some of the places I saw said, “let her go” as well. The reason I kept holding on to our strength is that perhaps a month ago, she told me that the best present I could have given her is getting well. Her nastiness now is uncalled for, but not unexpected. Like every fallible human ever, she escalated and I engaged, thus “proving” that I haven’t gotten well at all. I am sure she has all the proof she needs to believe that I am the villain in all of this. I don’t believe that I am a villain. I believe that I am perfectly imperfect, that I have the ability to accept myself in the face of being unacceptable, to quote Paul Tillich.

I am as perfect as humans ever get.

SUIT UP!

I woke up so depressed that I thought I needed a mental health day, and in the end, just threw on my clothes and ran. My job is muscle memory, for the most part, and I decided that I could either feel like shit at home, or feel like shit at work. I chose…………. wisely. Argo sent me a note that said she was getting some blowback from people who wanted to make sure she was okay, as if I had something to do with blowing her cover. There’s only two people in the world that I’ve ever told who the nickname really is. One is Dana, and one is someone I thought was my friend, but as it turns out, not so much. I was pleading for help, years ago, where we’d gotten into this place where neither one of us were good for each other anymore, and I would have given a limb to make it right. So if anyone knows outside of them, I didn’t tell them, and in my humble experience Dana can’t keep a secret to save her life. This is not a slam; she just gets exuberant and things slip out, one of the many reasons I realized I couldn’t trust her as far as I could throw her and getting the hell out of Dodge allowed me to stop being afraid of what she might say at any given moment. So, the breech didn’t come from me, and of that I am sure.

Argo told me to shut it down and never contact her ever again. The contacting is easy. A snake bit me, and when a snake bites you, you don’t blame the snake. You just move on and try to get the venom out. But it is quite a different thing to tell someone that they cannot have their personal space to say what they think and mean it. I told her I’d lawyer up if I had to, because she didn’t have a case. Sedition and/or libel have no place here, because I have been up front that these are my opinions, not facts, and they never will be. Freedom of speech is freedom of speech, and of course, this was after telling me that she hadn’t and wouldn’t read what I had to say. My only reply to that was that it was like telling me she didn’t like oranges without ever actually having one.

At issue was the trip I took down to Dumfries, Stafford, FXBG, etc. because there was nothing that I could do to overcome the idea that I was somehow stalking her, even though that was the last thing on my mind… I have said this before and I will say this again, that it was important to me to see things in real life that I’d only seen in pictures, without bothering anyone and without even anyone knowing I was there. I wrote about it because that’s my thing. I go and observe and take pictures and spend some time reflecting on the past three years and all the things I’ve done to isolate people I truly love. I thought it was benign, so I sent her a picture of my adventures and the response was swift and immediate. I felt like I was a mere journalist. She thought I was trying to seek out ways to make her feel uncomfortable. I apologized profusely and told her that there was no way I meant to hurt her, but by then, she was already on the fucked-up train of “I wish I’d never met you, that there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t regret letting you into my life.”

And finally, I got angry enough to feel the same way. Apparently, for Argo to feel heard, I have to agree with her assessment, and I didn’t, but I did apologize for engendering her discomfort. That it was important for me to have my own space, and important for her to have her emotional space as well without discounting how she felt and writing it off. I handled it in the best way I knew how, which was to just listen, take in her words, and own that her feelings were important whether I agreed with them or not. I can’t erase her feelings, but I *can* stick to my guns that my intentions were pure and I will not be held hostage by her shitty accusations anymore. It just doesn’t work like that.

I’m angry that prayers, well-wishes, check-ins, and just general friend-love have gone out the window in favor of burning this bridge to the ground over something that I feel she’s been waiting for. If her hatred of me was so deep-seated, it’s something I would have liked to know as I tried to put the work into solving something I thought could go back together with enough work and time. That I owned every bit of what I did to make her uncomfortable and did everything to get out of the situation that caused me to act and react that way, including getting away from Dana and Aaron, with whom I was content to sit in my nothing box and have all these dreams without action. There’s a solid reason I left Houston, and it wasn’t to be with Argo. It was to find myself, and I have.

What I realized is a friend that placates you into thinking that things are getting better while just waiting for you to fuck up isn’t a friend at all. Waiting to push my hot buttons untll I regress into the person she wants me to be is just about the shittiest thing she could have done, because she ratchets up that anger in me that needs to pop off just to treat her as shitty as she’s just treated me, without letting anger roll off because she’s intentionally trying to get me to pop off just so she can “prove” I haven’t changed. It is as if she stores up those hot buttons and uses them to great effect, such as telling me that she would not hesitate to get a restraining order even though I have been nowhere near her ever in the history of this move.

I told her that if anyone needed a restraining order, it wasn’t her. It was me. That I was tired of being placated and lied to while she held on to this undercurrent of hatred and regret without telling me she was doing so. Any friend that would do that to me just isn’t.

I don’t want any contact with her, because I see that she brings out the worst in me because she actively tries to escalate a conversation and I fall for it every time. I just regress because she won’t accept me as I am, just pigeonhole me as the bitch while she walks away clean. It is never *our* fault we’ve fucked things up, just mine. According to Argo, she’s never done anything wrong in the history of our relationship except befriending me. It hurts like a motherfucker to hear, but at least now I know her true colors instead of her hiding behind this facade of “I’m glad things are beter.”

She doesn’t have the right to make me feel small anymore, because I won’t let her get away with it. I never have, and I never will. The fact that she will not look inside herself is not my problem. The fact that I carry all this weight of grief and sadness has nothing to do with her… because like I said, in this relationship, she hasn’t made a mistake yet. It reminds me of Katharin, because when she was a school counselor at JJP (John J. Pershing Middle School), she said that if you believe the parents, no kid in the history of the school has ever done anything wrong.

Her days of treating me like shit are numbered, because one day I will look back at this relationship and decide that I was never worthy of the hell she put me through while denying it ever happened. I wish I could hate her. I wish I could get angry enough not to want her in my life. I wish I could tell her to take a long walk on a short pier. But when I look back at the interactions we’ve had, the good wins out and I cannot focus on the bad. But she can. And therein lies the rub. We’ve both given each other a good amount of road rash, but at least I can admit my part. She sticks hard to her guns that I created this entire thing. I hope that strategy works out well for her. I’ve always thought it was better to keep the peace and take it and just sit in my wrongness, hoping that one day, she would, too. But none of the resurrections I’ve hoped for have taken, even when I thought they did and we were good. Because I cannot get out from under things she won’t talk about…. and there are fucking plenty.

Yesterday, when she contacted me and said that people were checking on her based on what I’d written, I said, “I’m done. Your mess. You clean it up.” It’s not my responsibility to take on the feelings of her friends, especially since they are her place to fall and not mine. I didn’t tell these people she was Argo, but someone did, and instead of asking me what I meant, she just came out guns blazing. I got provoked into white-hot anger, and again said some things that were beyond the pale.

I apologized this morning, saying that even though I felt provoked, that didn’t make my words okay, and that it wasn’t important to me whether she responded, but it was important to me that I returned to an even keel.

But I also expressed my feelings about that matter, that when a snake bites you, do you really blame the snake? No. You just try like hell to get the venom out. Her snake in the grass approach to treating me like a friend and having these deep-seated feelings of hate and regret running underneath were not the way I expected this relationship to end. I thought that my words and actions would count for someting, that she would see that I only wanted the best for her, and I can’t help but think that this latest iteration was planned. It was her chance to get rid of me and she took it, because then she’d never have to face the reality of her own mistakes. She could just hold everything over my head and continue to believe that she is always right, no matter how I feel about the situation, because of course, my feelings don’t matter.

I should have listened to Dana when she said that I was pouring emotions down a hole; that I’d never get anything back… because in the beginning, our relationship was mutual and beautiful and the friend my INFJ personality profile said I’d get… this person that would walk with me my whole life because I only have the ability to create a few friendships at a time and devote myself deeply to them without having a ton of acquaintances just to make small talk. But when that piece of us broke, there was no redemption, as much as I might have wanted it. I feel wrecked at all the times I prayed for her, wished her well, sent peace offerings, and thought we were on our way to being the valued people to each other we once were. But Dana was right. That part of us would never come back, and I couldn’t love enough, forgive enough, apologize enough to make those dreams come true. All the love and care we poured into each other turned nasty on a dime, and if things could change that quickly, where the hell was I that I didn’t see it?

I just feel so stupid that I didn’t recognize what Dana was trying to tell me… that the relationship was broken beyond repair and yet, I still tried in vain. It’s the hardest part of me to realize that relationships are broken, because I don’t think they ever end. If I think of my whole lifetime in DC, what if we end up at the same party? What if I innocently end up in her neighborhood because one of of *my* friends lives there? Is she going to see that I have my own life and my own friends, or is she going to try and take that away from me as well? I don’t think that these things will come to pass anytime soon, but I have a long vision and a long memory.

So, in short, I have to stop caring altogether and just say “que sera, sera.” Her take on it is that I will never hear from her directly ever again. She’s said it before, and within a few days, we’ve been in contact with each other after having the make-up conversations that needed to happen. But I don’t think it’ll happen this time, because I am too strong to let her in. I have real trust issues now. I spend my days regretting I ever met her, when I never had to before. I was doing my dead-level best to be open and transparent, and if I truly was the stalker she’s making me out to be, I never would have told her shit. Stalkers live on being secretive and obtuse about what they’re doing. Stalkers have this dark side to them that says people need to be watched from the bushes. I don’t have that bone in my body. I have a writer and observer’s point of view, curious to a fault, and obviously that curiosity was scary to Argo and I didn’t think it would be because again, I was so transparent. I even said, “I’ll send you a picture of my license plate if that’s what you need to know that you’ll NEVER see me in your neighborhood.” I was willing to work with her fear to resolve it, not add to it. I am not the person she believes that I am, and to live with these false assumptions is hell on earth, because I just start to feel more and more worthless, more and more depressed. I WILL NOT let her put me into that place of fear ever again, and I will not be scared of her. She wants a restraining order, get one. Total waste of money because I wouldn’t choose to be around her for a million dollars. She gutted me like a fish, and I know I hurt her, too… so why add to it? Why cause even more destruction without meaning to? I stepped into it up to my ass without ever meaning any harm. She’s the one that took it and ran with it, and how could I have been so stupid that sending little prayers and checking in when she’s had a bad day and giving her jokes to lift her spirits would count for anything? It must be a good feeling to know that you’ve never done anything wrong. I can’t say the same, but I can say that I own it. She emotionally can’t, and never will, and I should have known it long ago.

But my family will catch me. I know they will, both bio and my host family.

Please hold Sam and Dominic in your prayers as Dom’s mother is about to transition due to a long battle with cancer.

Those are the people I need to focus on, pray for, check in, and love to the best of my ability. But at the same time, I will have a hard time ever letting anyone in, letting anyone see the real me, because I don’t want a relationship in which people use those flaws to beat me with them. So perhaps I will have a lot of acquaintances, because I don’t want relationships that are more than orange-juice glass deep. Maybe someday someone will change my mind, but it won’t happen anytime soon. I’m too busy trying to go back inside myself, trying to get rid of the hot buttons Argo knows to push so that if she ever tries to push them again, they just won’t work.

If there’s any time I wish I was six feet tall and bulletproof, it’s now. I’m going to go home and do all my laundry so that I can suit up. Leslie Lanagan™ is back, because I need a chance to put this away and lock the box so that I’m not undone by Argo’s revelations. Right now, the box is too small and I can’t close the lid. But when I do, I will feel like there’s nothing she can do to scare me, nothing she can do to make me regress in a ball of anxiety, nothing she can do to get to me… and I will protect myself from anyone else ever trying to do the same.

It would be so easy to say, “fuck off.” But it’s more complicated than that. As things always are. I have my good memories, and I will take those with me instead. What she does with our memories is none of my business, but if no contact is what makes this better, I’m all for it. I don’t want strife, I want peace… and trying to prove it failed miserably. I can’t help but think what might have happened if she’d really just taken in that I was curious, being the me I always am, rather than jumping on the “you’re a shitty person” bandwagon. But again, if she can’t love me, I can. There is no one smarter than me ABOUT ME. And What I Know for Sure™ is that I have a well of love within me that’s waiting for the right friend and not the wrong one. I just hope that when he/she shows up, I’m not so jaded that friendship cannot happen… the kind that is real, painful and honest, true to its core.

I miss Aaron desperately because I’ve already let him in. He knows my shit and chooses to love me, anyway. But I made a mistake with him, too, and it caused me to suit up. I was talking to him about Dana, and he lost his shit saying that I was putting him in the middle. It was then that I realized he’d become Dana’s friend and I couldn’t count on him to be my person anymore. A wall went up that will never come back down.

It also saddens me that Dana isn’t my go-to guy anymore, but so many walls have gone up there that I won’t let her in, either.

It’s time to go for lunch with Pri-Diddy if she’s in town, because what I know for sure is that she will come up with several TED Talks and motivational videos that encourage my growth forward and not back. Maybe she is the person that my INFJ profile said I’d get, bcause every time I see her, I am filled with peace…. my enormous guru in a tiny body. But at the same time, I am not ready to give all of myself to her in the way that old friends do. I am too content to suit up.

At this point, I trust no one except myself, and maybe that’s what the snakebite was for. To learn that lesson wholeheartedly. If you want to see the real me, you’re going to have to fight through layers and layers of mistrust because I didn’t know just how much this relationship was going to wreck me and hopefully build me up in ways I didn’t know I needed. Moving on from a fountain of dysfunction is what’s best for me right now, as well as suiting up to prove to myself that I am worthy of love even through the wreckage.

I feel like last night was a car wreck of enormous proportions, skidding on a mountain without a guardrail. I’m supposed to take a Klonopin in the morning and one at night. Instead, I took them both so that I wouldn’t feel the physical effects of being so angry at all the lies. I wanted to be able to write about them clearly, without cortisol and sin racing through my body. After I finish, I’m going to listen to Nadia Bolz-Weber preach, because her words have a way of breaking down my walls. I could let her in, because we both have some of the same wounds. I need someone who will understand them, but I’m not going to seek her out because I know she has a million people who already want a piece of her.

Instead, I think I’m going to start group therapy, because I got more out of Al=Anon than I’ve ever gotten anywhere else. I never forget that my troubles started with the revelation of Diane’s partner being an alcoholic and a weed dealer, that it made me on high alert as a 7th grader, taking on problems that were never meant to be mine but wanted to solve, anyway. You can’t imagine what it was like to see my friend in pain and wanting to be the knight in shining armor that destroyed the situation for her. But I was so little, an ankle-biter at best.

I think it was the start of wanting to join the military, because not only could I be in a jazz band, I would get bigger… more muscular, able to take on the destruction that Diane’s ex was putting into her life.

I couldn’t join because of medical reasons, but I still want to be one of those people that abides by the code. Honor, justice, impeccable honesty, and the ability to see violence for the greater good as our world continues to be attacked both literally and virtually in the cyber world.

I have great role models for this, soldiers that I look up to in times of great need. They don’t need to interact with me, because I’ve learned from them in the past and I carry their lessons in my heart.

But Volfe will always be my person, keeping me on the right track. He was the first person to tell me that I was amazing, Dana was amazing, but we were not amazing together, and that it was better for us to be amazing apart. He saw things in our relationship that bothered him to no end, and as we chatted in a parking lot, he laid out for me what he saw. It was truly the beginning of the end, or two new beginnings, as I prefer to think of it.

It was at that time I leaned on Argo for emotional support, and she was giving it to me in spades. I got so desperate for Dana to calm down that I sent Argo an e-mail that said, “could you send me a 12 page report with graphs and pictures on how much you like dick? It would help. Thanks.” I laughed until I farted when she e-mailed me back and I realized she’d changed the subject line to “bullet points.”

It’s that kind of shit that makes me want her in my life, no matter how much it costs me, because those e-mails were life rafts, and I took them. I grabbed on to Argo’s belief in me that I could accomplish anything I set out to do, and left Dana’s shitty words that I’d never amount to anything. I’ve said this before, but taking that life raft was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, because of course my worthlessness loop said that Dana was right. She was just throwing emotional grenades designed to hurt, and that one put me on the ground.

But Argo’s belief in me made me realize that if I wanted to start a church and touch many lives, I WOULD. She sent me an e-mail that I stared at for an hour without being able to say anything…. “I don’t believe in God…. but I do believe in you.”

I will sit shivah for this relationship, perhaps for far longer than I need to because it takes me a while to get this shit out of my system. When Meag and I broke up, I didn’t open up to anyone for three years. It was Kathleen that finally got through to me, because I saw clearly that we had what my friend Donna Schuurman would call “compatible wounds.” As it turns out, those compatible wounds were our undoing, but in the beginning, they were comforting and familiar. Why wouldn’t I want to be with someone who’d survived something every bit as traumatic as me? But the relationship turned bipolar, dealing with the same issues over and over as we both rose and dipped into good feelings and awful ones.

I could say the same for Argo. The relationship became bipolar, hot and cold. When the sun shined, it was magnificent, and the chill was frightening. All I wanted was for the sun to shine again, and I thought it would this year. That things were getting better to the point where the bipolar would stop.

It didn’t, and I am left with picking up the pieces, meat tenderizer on my skin as I pull the poison out. It is not lost on me that some of the poison is mine, but it is also not lost on me that some of it is not.

I give thanks for the way that Argo carried me, loved me like a mountain lion biting a cub on the neck to carry it to safety.

I also give thanks that when that part of us ended, I could own my own stuff and walk away, whole and complete within myself.

Amen.

The Impossible Argonaut… Again

I can’t hide it anymore. I tried. I wanted the relationship to be publicly dead so we could work on our issues in private. We started doing some really good work, listening to each other and trying to hear what the other needed. I sent peace offerings because I truly believed that saying I was sorry wasn’t enough if it didn’t come with changed behavior as well. I wanted to be the friend I couldn’t when I was so ill, stuck in the middle of a morass I thought I’d never be able to release. I put things on her plate that never deserved to be there, because I didn’t have Diane anymore, and that dark place in me that believes others’ stories are more important than mine reared its ugly head. The sunflower within me leaned toward her light, because it was immense and powerful when it shone upon me. I felt special in a way that I’d never felt before, because I was truly sharing my pain, rather than someone just listening. We had our own emotional shorthand, our own fights that ended in “make up text,” kisses on my boo-boos of enormous proportion. Because I was so far away, it made perfect sense at the time that sharing ourselves over text was a way to be close to each other without the impossible task of meshing schedules…. although I was excited by the possibility of having her visit Houston so I could show her my house, take her to my Mexican restaurants, take her to all the places I loved because I thought that just like having Dana and Chef there making Houston feel different, she would be no exception. Back then, it wasn’t a thing for us to visit each other, because the rabbit hole had not become something to isolate us from each other rather than bringing us together. Dana and I had a huge guest bedroom, and nothing would have pleased me more than for it to become “Argo’s Room,” if only for a few days of getting to know each others real personalities instead of the ones we presented to each other in black & white. For instance, we are both fucking hilarious, and the days of flipping each other shit are the ones I remember so very fondly.

But things happened that because of my abused nature, I had a hard time dealing with on my own. I should have gone to therapy immediately, rather than trying to heal myself on my own. For instance, we were intoxicated by our conversations from the first time we had a real conversation. My favorite memory of that day is when she said she ran to Eminem, rapping as she went along. I said, “I’m sorry… you rap to Eminem! Explain to me exactly how I’m not going to fall in love with you….. USE BIG WORDS.” Of course, I was joking at that time, but Argo took it seriously and said, “you won’t fall in love with me, as adorable as I might be. You’ll just fall in love with absolute and complete honesty.” It was just true… and at the same time, she is, for a fact, adorable. 🙂

My abused nature says that I need to know everything about you in the next twenty minutes… you’re my new best friend, call me every day. It was intense and beautiful, this way that we came together in moments of need for both of us. I cannot tell her story, but I can tell mine. When I began throwing up all my emotions about my abuse, for the first time in my life, getting angry and despondent that I hadn’t been smart enough to figure it out long ago, she took those wounds and cleaned them with disinfectant, putting on band-aids and xs and os for support.

Wires were crossed in ways that I never meant for them to happen. Dana was just as completely threatened as I was, because I was not immune to the fact that Argo was getting energy that wasn’t supposed to go to her. Dana and I had a coming to Jesus meeting over it, because I could handle not talking so much with Argo, not sending so much energy her way, but my boundary was “you cannot take her away from me. I need her.” Separating from her completely would have been damaging for both of us, and it has been every time it has happened, because it’s happened now more times than I can count. It is the continual dance of intimacy, having a close moment and realizing that shit got real and pulling away from each other afterward.

I kick myself every time it happens, because I have never had a friend who was willing to be wrapped up in me, that it actually would be damaging to her to pull away. I’ve underestimated friendship my whole life, partly because I believed that if there was no sex involved, there couldn’t possibly be that much emotion attached to a relationship… and partly because I didn’t think I was worthy of such a relationship to begin with.

After I became so mentally ill and needed my psychology and psychiatry adjusted back to normal, Argo’s attitude toward me never changed. She still saw me as someone whose bad side would always be lurking underneath… that nothing I could do would correct the way she felt… although she did say that the peace offerings I sent her were very cool and thoughtful, which made me feel like a million dollars… a win at the end of a long football game where we’re just grinding it out. Thus, my impression that we were doing good work to rebuild from the scorched earth up.

But I made a mistake, and instead of seeing it as a mistake that I dearly wanted to rectify, she used it as justification that I’d always be this dark personality, that I’d never really get away from it, and I just couldn’t live like that anymore. I couldn’t live with someone hanging my past over my head, because any credit I’d earned was destroyed in a hot second, rather than seeing me as the entire narrative I am. I will always be a work in progress, I will never be perfect, and I also will never make her dark opinion of me come true.

It was Lindsay that opened my eyes, that every time Argo says something negative about me, I lose the light in my eyes because her opinion means so much that I can’t take in others’ love of me, the people who really want me around and value my opinion and treat me like the lovable nerd I am. When I get into this dark, dark space, the thing that sustains me is realizing that people really do treat my Facebook and Twitter pages like “the hot list,” and if I look at my stats by country, I have literally been read in EVERY country in the world. Taking that in is just enormous, and something I continue to wrap my brain around because it is too much to take in all at once.

Argo can have all the shitty feelings she wants about me, because it’s not my job to listen to them anymore. It’s my job to find people who want to support me in all that I do, rather than getting under my skin in a way that makes me take those shitty feelings and start the worthlessness loop running hardcore. I don’t hear from her when I am doing great things, but I will always hear from her if she feels the need to read me the riot act. Living like that is so harmful that I can’t take it anymore, because our relationship will never change unless she can give me some credit, and she. Just. Won’t. We both think it’s better not to communicate now, and I am ready for it. I never thought I would be. I never thought I would be strong enough. I never thought I’d be ready to slice out a piece of my own heart and call it good.

But don’t get me wrong. I won’t get over this overnight, or even over months. Slicing out my own heart is so much harder than having someone else do it. I don’t want to be angry, I don’t want to be sad, I don’t want to create problems where they don’t exist. It is just a letting go, and I am accepting of it.

Because I just can’t live this way anymore. I am not the person she thinks I am, and her insistence that she can read me over e-mail is not reality and never will be. I am gestalt in the best sense of the word- more than the sum of my parts. Now it’s my job to decide what I’m going to do with it.

Amen.

Bigger on the Inside

I am not feeling well today. I got some blowback from my trip yesterday, and I don’t want to talk about it. I just want to be sad. I was trying to let go of all my feelings of anger at everything that’s gone down over the past few years…. just me and my journal and my camera. I went to all the places I thought would help, and it worked. I came home feeling like a million dollars, until someone told me it seemed stalker-y and truly baffling. I think that’s because I handle problems differently than most people. I want to go back to the scene of the crime and try to put my self-worth back together one picture and one blog entry at a time.

But today my self-worth is in the toilet, and I haven’t taken my lunch break until now. I just wanted to stay busy, muscle-memory floating me until I couldn’t avoid crying anymore. It’s as if perception is more important than reality, and people would rather believe their own realities than trying to understand mine.

The point is that I wanted to be alone.

I wanted to let go of things that truly trouble me, not create problems for anyone else. I am a writer and observer, and that’s what I was doing. Really feeling my feelings, digging deep into them so that they wouldn’t dog me anymore. There are times when I cannot breathe, the past eats me up inside. I needed to relieve the pressure as to keep my even-keel personality. Anxiety medication can only do so much, so I took it and went exploring.

I got to see things I’ve only seen in pictures, and thought they’re worth a thousand words, it was nothing compared to seeing everything for real. Sitting at Dana’s old school was a way to see how she incubated. It was sad and beautiful in one breath, and I chose to take pictures of beautiful things there. But the blowback was not from her, just another friend who deemed it “creepy AF.” Well, I think it’s “creepy AF” to try and dictate to someone how they should grieve, how they should act, how they should process.

I wish I could tell you why it was important, but I don’t exactly know. I didn’t take off with a specific mission in mind, just an idea that it would help me let go…. and as I was driving home, I really felt it.

She is not of me anymore. I do not see her as an extension of me, a missing limb with extraordinarily intense phantom pain.

There’s no need to go back in time anymore. I saw everything I needed to see in order to move forward. A huge wave of peace washed over me as I saw things for what they were.

But I cannot ignore the blowback, and I am blue and just want to crawl under my bed. I am not “creepy AF,” and I know this within myself…. but the person who said it got under my skin and my coping mechanisms in order to see myself for who I am and what I believe have been stepped on to an enormous degree.

I know myself, and what I know is that I need to put on some gangsta rap and get shit handled. But even that will only do so much, because sadness is threatening to undo me. I am caught between a rock and a hard place, and trying not to explode in anger or tears.

Tears would probably be more cathartic, because anger would only lead to those words getting more under my skin than less. I am trying harder these days to let anger roll off my back, because it doesn’t serve me well. When “cortisol and sin” threaten to come out of me, I pray without ceasing. I pray because I can’t help myself. I don’t pray because it changes God, I pray be cause it changes me (paraphrasing C.S. Lewis).

All I want is to walk humbly, and hope grace prevails. But that does not happen can cannot when perception means more than reality. It is a lesson I am learning slowly but surely. There’s nothing I can do to change anyone’s impression of me. I can only reach out to people who want the same things I do. Peace in the world and peace within ourselves, the ability to stumble and be forgiven for it.

I will not let this overtake me, ultimately, but I feel like complete and total shit right now. I can’t wait until it’s time to go home, so Eggsy and I can blast NWA (just saw Straight Outta Compton and so damn impressed) and I can try like hell to forget this day ever happened.

The Accidental Tourist

I was up before my alarm this morning, and decided it was time for Waffle House. I was on the road by 7:00, and had a lovely conversation at the breakfast bar with some serious hikers. They told me some places to look, and I asked if there was anything around here (Dumfries) that I shouldn’t miss. They told me that the Marine museum was cool, so I said I would check it out. Before I did that, though, all three wipers on my car (I have one of those cute little rear ones) needed to be replaced, so I set out for Wal-Mart (shut it). I got three Rain-X brand, but the book was wrong and none of them fit. So I took them back off the car, returned them to Wal-Mart, and headed to AutoZone, where I should have gone in the first place. They had the front to, but the rear was out of stock. They told me that they could hold one for me at another store, and they listed several. Apparently, I do not know Virginia as well as I thought I did, because I thought Stafford was on my way back to Maryland. As it turns out, not so much. Stafford is way the hell out into nothing, about 15-ish miles from Fredericksburg, or “FredVegas” to locals. I do not know why they call it FredVegas. It is the AntiVegas…. but I’ve heard it referred to as such since 2001, so I know it’s not a new phenomenon (menomenon). Fredericksburg is about the size of Longview, Texas in 1980. Though I did see a few tattoo shops, I believe that is the limit to their Vegas-ness…. because of course if I was only a few miles from there, I had to see what it looked like.

So I went antiquing in a few stores (didn’t find anything I’d be caught dead with… much less alive), took pictures of the foliage, and stopped for a beer at Capital Ale House. Then, when I looked at the food menu, I decided I needed a pimento grilled cheese sandwich with ham and bread and butter pickles. NEEDED.

The main drag in “FredVegas” looks a lot like The Strand in Galveston…. so familiar and warm. All that was missing was a Yaga Ragz and King’s Candy.

I also got a chance to do some grieving, because I looked up Dana’s old high school on my GPS and walked around. I’d hoped that she’d be along with me for that ride, but no matter. It felt good to be on my own, just taking it in. I didn’t cry, but I almost did when I realized that a spider had gotten under my sleeve when I got back in the car… and in fact, the first time I went there, I didn’t take any pictures… just drove off toward FredVegas and then realized I wanted pictures, so I drove back. It didn’t matter. I didn’t have anywhere to be. It was just me and my little egg car, my Eggsy, and our NPR One (coolest app on earth). I call my car Egsy because he’s my favorite spy in Kingsmen: The Secret Service, and in my head, Mike Meyers as Austin Powers always says, “your spy car’s a YARIS?”

And in conclusion, here’s some of the pictures I took:

The Wholly (Holy) Other

First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.

-Epictetus

I generally leave for work really early so that I get there just as the office is opening. Several times, I’ve gotten there before there was even anyone to unlock the door. In light of this, I saw a police car on the side of the road with one policeman trying his best to change a tire. I’m no expert except in holding things, so I pulled up in front of him and asked him if he needed any help. He said no, he was good, but thanked me profusely for stopping. I said, “thank you for your service,” and got back into my car feeling that at least if I couldn’t help, I payed attention to the Good Samaritan law. In this day and age, I wonder if he thought I was stopping to shoot him while he was down, so I approached carefully and yelled before I got to him that if he needed help, I was available.

The Good Samaritan law comes from the Bible, a parable about how two men on opposite sides politically came together when something like that seemed impossible. The injured man’s own people “Kitty-ed” him, a phrase I use for Kitty Genovese, who was murdered because no one wanted to get involved for fear of being thought as suspect. Literally, no one did anything.

It took an outsider, a hated man in that territory, to see need and respond to it. I can’t think of a more apt description than stopping to help a white policeman, someone I am groomed to hate because of all the bullshit I see with inequality with arrests and the sheer number of blacks being incarcerated for the smallest of things. White college kids carrying pot are just “boys being boys,” and black ones stay in the system forever… and let me remind you that this happens in Washington, DC, where laws state that pot is legal to begin with.

So I, this wholly other, stopped to help someone in need even though I was wary to do so. I was the Samaritan, and I felt every bit of it.

My last Good Friday was abominable, and I felt like starting this one out right. As I told Susan, “I want to be right with God and my neighbor.” This helped me to feel like I was putting words into action and not just saying things to make myself feel better. It reminds me of Argo, my little lost lamb (although she is not so little… she’s a badass with muscle to prove it). In that entry, I talked about putting actions behind my words, rather than just saying and not doing. The peace offering was a special order from Share a Coke, a bottle that says “Share a Coke with Argo.” It never arrived, but the sentiment was the same… I have done you wrong and I don’t want to ever do that again. To want a response, again, was not giving just for the spirit of it. It gave me something to give something to her.

I am finding that the Good Fridays of my life are slowing taking on “resurrection in the middle of the mess.” We blessed and released our relationship, so all is well even though we don’t communicate. I didn’t want my past to be my only narrative, that source of anger that bubbled up in me without an appropriate outlet. I wish to God I could have been the friend she needed, instead of regressing into my abused nature.

Susan came into my life at the perfect time, my stranger on a train (literally) that doesn’t mind hearing me out in the same way I want to hear her. I feel that I have more tools in my emotional toolbox, and I want to be able to show them… to be the friend to her that I couldn’t be to Argo because I was so damaged at the time. I still can’t believe some of the things I said to push her away, and the blowback was enormous… just enormous… because for every hot button I used to push on her, she knew all of mine as well. The weak spots that would hurt, and they did…. enormously so.

It is my life’s work to put that in my past, and to become the wounded healer both Jesus and Henri Nouwen want me to be. I pray every day for both my own healing and the healing of others for the destruction I caused. I pray for Dana, that she will one day work past her hurt and anger so that we can at least have a less awkward relationship than we would have if we were constantly running into each other. I pray for Aaron and the way I bitch-slapped him for wanting to move to Austin after his divorce, because moving after mine was so hypocritical, and in effect, abandoning someone I’d really grown to love… showing me was true, deep friendship meant without the undercurrent of sex that led me to believe sex and friendship were the same thing.

That is the mark that Diane left on me, another part of my life’s work to erase that is coming along nicely. The thing that gives me hope is that Dana and Aaron continue to be friends, and so even if I am not there, they at least have each other. I miss the days of hanging out with the two of them, in effect Aaron being our “third mike” like Jimmy Norton on the Opie & Anthony show. However, I could not be in that situation any longer, because that piece of me fell apart, and I knew I could never go back. To say why is to betray someone I love dearly, but sufficed to say I wanted to be a different person and I got it.

My little town (Silver Spring, MD) rescued me. Hayat was the first call I made when looking for a room on Craig’s List, and even though I can afford my own apartment now, I don’t want to move. I like having a family around that checks in when I am sick, depressed, or both. They are Lebanese, wholly other to me, and the wholly, holy other I needed to get my life back on track.

For instance, the checking in came when I texted Hayat and said, “do you have a little bit of whiskey I could have? My cold is so bad that I want to make a hot toddy.” She said she didn’t have any whiskey, but she would leave brandy on the kitchen counter. I added it to some black tea with lemon and sugar in the raw (I didn’t have any honey), and within a few minutes, I felt better.

It has always been like this, from the first day. A family I could count on that would help me when I was down and get excited for me when I was up.

This company is the same way. We all have a good time while we’re working hard, and I can’t imagine life without any one of them…. which is why I’m usually the first one here and the last to leave. I don’t get overtime because I’m salaried, but I have drive to finish projects and not leave them in the middle just because it’s 6:00. Today we’re having burgers delivered for lunch, and I got a “hypocrite,” a veggie burger with crisp bacon. I am salivating just thinking about it.

Good Samaritans abound if you’re looking for them. If you are in the middle of your own Good Friday, they will help you find your Easter.

Amen.