On the Nose

Remember a few weeks ago when I said that I had a knee-jerk reaction to moving to Houston? Well, the things I could not tell you are public now, and though I am making my peace with them, I am glad that I am released from keeping the secret. It’s time to process everything I’ve been feeling since my dad’s last trip to DC.

I spent every moment memorizing his face, whether he was aware of it or not. I spent every moment wondering what his new face would look like, and whether he would still look like my dad when his plastic surgery was finished. He’s not having anything fun like an eye lift to make him look 30. He’s got a tumor in his nose, and surgery is the best option… and not a small one. In fact, it may take several before it is all said and done. He will go in for the first surgery to take out the tumor, and then they will let that heal before they take a flap from his forehead and recreate a nose. The pictures I’ve seen of others who have had this same surgery look relatively similar once the surgery is done, but not THE SAME. And then this comment on his Facebook page made me crumple in agony when they said, “will you still be able to play the trumpet?” I hadn’t even thought of that.

Six weeks before my dad’s senior-year-of-high school All-State Band audition, he had to have an appendectomy. He spent the entirety of his recovery working on fingerings without even putting his horn to his lips… and ended up winning first chair, which means that his senior year of high school, he was literally the best trumpet player in the state of Texas for the 18-and-under crowd. He got 26 scholarships, from Julliard to Curtis to University of Florida, an invitation to tour Russia with the great Frederick Fennel. He’s kept up his chops, and is still one of the greatest players to ever pick up a horn, even though he knew he was going into the ministry by the time he got to college and never pursued a place in a symphony. When he was a sophomore in college, he was invited to give his senior recital, because as his then trumpet teacher said, “I have no more to teach you.” The thought of these surgeries ruining his embouchure is a gigantic loss if it happens, but I know for certain that if there’s a way, he’s got the will in spades. But that comment, tho…. Nothing like having the shit scared out of you this early in the morning.

Only time will tell as to whether he’ll be able to play, because I can’t imagine him “tooting his own horn” the day after surgery, but again, if there’s a way, he’ll find it.

The reason he came to DC in the first place was to see me before he was stuck in his house for months in recovery. We did some sightseeing, but mostly we just broke bread together and talked. While I was at work, he toured DC on his own, taking incredible pictures and finding out of the way gems in places like Rock Creek Park. He taught me how to use Air Drop on my iPhone, because even though I am a computer person, my dad knows more about Apple products than I’ve forgotten. As he sent his pictures to my phone, it was a metaphor for the brain dump I was trying to acquire, because I knew it would be a long time before we saw each other again. Letters and text messages can only go so far, and I imagine there will be a lot of video calling once he’s well enough to talk on the phone.

I have much less feeling about my dad’s face looking different than I thought I would; it’s more that I hope the surgeons get clean margins on the tumor before it has a chance to spread. However, I am trying hard not to look into the future, because there’s no way to prepare for it except worry, and that always does a fat lot of good. I’d just be sitting and stewing in my own misery, afraid of the unknown, when in reality I need to be trusting of the process and waiting until the doctors tell me I have something to worry about. No need to worry preemptively, as it will do nothing but make me miserable when in reality, there may not be anything to be miserable about. The best I can do is to move on with my own life, checking in as we go along.

My father’s Facebook post about the subject started out with take a long look at my face… I was already asleep when the notification came through, and the buzzing under my pillow woke me up, and that sentence has rung in my ears for hours… because when he was here, it was all I could do.

My sincere thoughts and prayers are with my family as I sit 1800 miles away, in a small and helpless place. I am glad that I have such good friends here that are willing to catch me when I falter, because I talk a big game in terms of not worrying… and the reality is that it is not ever-present, but comes in waves. He is one more person to add to my prayer list as it grows, sending light and peace and joy through the chord that runs between us. I wish I could do more than that, but at the same time, even if I was in Houston, there would be a limited amount I could actually do for him… he is in his oncologist’s hands, and not mine. I’m not a surgeon, and even if I was, I wouldn’t be allowed to work on my own father, anyway.

Again, I just have to trust in the process, trust in his doctors that they will always have his best interests at heart, and hope that things like possible infections are resolved quickly and easily. At times like this, prayer flows ceaselessly from me, but I also turn to writers like Atul Gawande, whose words of comfort in the world of medicine bring me comfort in the chasm between concern and hope.

It also leads me to thoughts of my own mortality, because at this point, both my grandfather and my father have had cancer in different areas of their bodies, this being my father’s second bout. But I am not being selfish about it- this is not about me, and never will be. But when someone you love is going through something traumatic, it reminds you just how precious life is and continues to be with enough gratitude for small things… like how one day, we will be together again, my father’s face regenerated like my precious Doctor.

It is here that I place my hope and fears in the hands of The Great Physician, hoping that His influence will extend to the doctors on the ground…………………………

Amen
#prayingonthespaces

Guts

I finally got up the courage to send a message to the woman from Ireland and laid it all out there- that I’d been looking at her profile for months trying to think of a way to ask her out just so I could listen to her talk. Yes, I really did say that. But I also acknowledged just how drooling fangirl that sounded. It’s all about balance. Hey, if geeks can’t be awkward when asking girls out, WHEN CAN THEY BE AWKWARD?

I just realized it’s nearly midnight. I need to go to sleep. I’m not used to staying up past 9:00. You were going to get this great entry and then all my energy just zapped out of my body at once.

But I at least think I placed that zap of energy in the right direction while it lasted.

She’s cute.

CIA……… and Bob

Today was my first ITIL v3 Foundations class, and it was a blast. Everyone except me worked for the government, and as we were talking about upgrading old systems, I said something about, “yeah, ’cause Bob’s about to retire,” and that became the running joke of the day. This one guy talked about this old Army system that a few people know how to run, but they have no idea how to extract the data “because Bob’s dead.” My only reply to that was, “they say you can’t take it with you… but apparently, you can.” Bob became an icon for all old technology that’s fading because it is no longer worth the cost of upgrading, or perhaps has to be printed out and retyped because the database no longer matches up to anything in the modern world.

Later on, the instructor gets up in front of the class and says, “let’s talk about CIA… and I don’t mean those guys from Langley.” It’s an acronym, and it stands for Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability. Basically three questions:

  1. Is the data restricted from those who should not have access to it?
  2. Is the data complete and legible to those who do?
  3. Is the data accessible?

The last question has more to do with network connectivity than the data itself, but you get the picture. It’s more a question of network drive redundancy in several different physical locations, because you have to take into account things like Acts of God (in the insurance sense…. I doubt God cares much about your PDFs). In terms of computer support, it means a “follow the sun” approach, something I first experienced at Alert Logic when I worked in Houston and the Cardiff office opened so that I wouldn’t have to stay up all night… so when you have questions about why you can’t access your data at three in the morning, it’s not three in the morning for the people answering the phone.

All of these things prevent disaster recovery, because it’s much easier to set up failover devices preemptively than to rescue a dead hard drive.

This is going to be short, because I have homework to do for tomorrow. I don’t think I’ve had homework in ten years. I bought a new pencil and everything.

More tomorrow once I’ve finished the class and the exam, although I won’t know my results for about three weeks. I better pass, though….

Because Bob’s about to retire.

 

Sermon for Proper 21, Year C: “Poor People”

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.

-Stephen Colbert

If you are really paying attention to the Gospel today, and I mean REALLY, it will lay out for you everything you need to know about what it means to be Christ in the world, because this scripture does not address sin, but sin of omission.

It means something to see suffering and just walk by. It means something to be okay with letting poor people eat the food you toss in the garbage. It means something to hoard away video game levels‘ worth of money and ignore everything else because hey, you’re not one of them. We are all guilty of grouping together poor people in order to keep them at bay. It’s much harder to know someone and not help them than it is to lump them all in one category because then it’s not personal. They are wholly other, set apart in their apparent lack of work ethic and inability to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and grab on to all the things we have, as if it were just as simple in practice to do so as it is to say those words out loud.

Maybe that’s why this parable is the only one Jesus ever told where someone was given a name. He didn’t say “poor people.” He didn’t say “homeless.” He didn’t say “the sick, the friendless, and the needy.” He used a man’s name… and to GREAT effect.

The man’s name was Lazarus, a variation of Eleazar, which means “God is my help.” Every day he laid in front of the gate to a rich man’s house. The rich man is not named, but over time, theologians have called him “Dives,” which literally just means “rich man.” And we are not talking about just any kind of rich man. We are talking about somone who wore dyed purple robes, hideously expensive even by today’s standards. Someone whose gate was not just a wooden fence, but the kind you’d imagine at a celebrity’s house. Someone who ate Michelin star meals every day in a land where people were lucky to get meat once a week.

By contrast, Lazarus could not get up, so covered in sores that he could not even keep the dogs from licking them. In terms of begging for food, we are not just talking about the crumbs under the table. In those days, there were no napkins or utensils, and it was common practice for everyone to wipe their hands on pieces of bread that were then thrown out. If you’ve ever seen a homeless person taking a cheeseburger out of a trash can and wiping off the coffee grounds first, you get the picture.

The best part of the whole story to me is the first line… “Jesus said to the Pharisees…” It is the ass-kicking they so richly deserve, because these are exactly the people that Jesus is talking about when he mentions “Dives.” Whether or not the Pharisees picked up on the fact that Jesus was talking about them or not is moot. It brings an evil grin to my lips just thinking about it.

In the parable, both men die. The rich man is in hell, and Lazarus is in heaven, and they can see each other. What becomes immediately clear right off the bat is that “Dives” knows the man’s name. He knows Lazarus. He has walked right by him every day, so this was not an unknown person to him. Did “Dives” sin outright? I mean, he didn’t tell him to leave. He didn’t mind that Lazarus ate his trash. But Jesus clearly wants more from us than that.

“Dives” begs for water, and Abraham is unmoved. According to Jesus, Abraham says, “my child, remember that you have received what was good in your lifetime, while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.” “Dives” isn’t tormented for all the things he’s done, but for all the things he failed to do. He walked around with blinders on his whole life and it cost him dearly.

And here is the crux of the gospel that continues to this very day. Jesus preaches Abraham with words so sharp you could pierce steel. Write them down.

Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours. He (“Dives”) says, “Then I beg you, Father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them lest they too come to this place of torment.”

Abraham says that the brothers already have the Torah and the prophets, and “Dives” begs, “but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”

Abraham’s reply is so chock-full of reality that the words resound today. If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.

The chasm between rich and poor is still here, and we are still so ignorant of it that mummies could dance before our eyes and even then, it might not change our behavior. Charles Dickens was the only person we know of that actually changed someone by making Jacob Marley resurrect, but let us not forget that Ebenezer Scrooge was a fictional character.

And, of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Jimmy Carter is the first person that comes to mind. But there are so many more Christians that say the words rather than putting in a quarter of the shoe leather he does.

We are on a ledge with this election, not in terms of candidates, but in terms of issues. Republicans want to rip apart an already tenuous social safety net aimed to help poor people when they cannot help themselves, particularly the homeless who are mentally ill and often unable to hold a job because of it, thus continuing the problem of homelessness as they go untreated. Democrats support these legislations, but the problem still remains as to how to get money allocated efficiently so that resources go directly to the people they’re trying to help rather than being tied up in overhead.

Many people say that there should be no safety net under poor people by the government because charity organizations exist for people to give privately, but the truth is that they don’t. Charitable contributions are down across the board as the chasm between rich and poor gets deeper and the once great middle class has no extra to give… and the richest of the rich avoid paying taxes due to a series of loopholes so that all the Lazaruses of the world are just left out in the cold. There is no easy way to solve this problem, especially when there is no state in the union where working 40 hours a week leaves enough income to rent a two-bedroom apartment, and God help anyone who’s trying to buy a house.

Where is the hope in all of this? Where can we find succor?

It starts from the inside out, deciding what kind of people we want to be. Do we want to be the type people that think it’s ok for others to eat out of our trash, or do we want to be the type people whose eyes are open wide to the Lazaruses of the world?

Our choice is not to blanket stereotype “poor people,” and learn their names. Learn their histories. Learn what they need, rather than trying to guess.

Because of this chasm between rich and poor, our choice may not be to give money, but we can give time at local soup kitchens. We can see homeless people and buy an extra entree to give away on the way out of a restaurant. Tiny things add up, because what might be a widow’s mite amount of money to you might mean the world to someone else.

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces

Day by Day, Night by Night

I’m in a bad way today. My stomach is still torn up, even though I have finished all the Tamiflu and am still taking the Zofran. But it’s not just feeling physically ill. I found a Facebook memory that took my breath away, and this morning I could not get out of bed, because I just wanted to hide from it and hope it went away.

The physical is much worse than the mental, which is why I decided not to go to the book fair. There is nothing more embarrassing than being out and about in town and realizing you need a bathroom RIGHTNOW. RIGHT THE FUCK NOW. This was not a case of psychosomatic illness, but the after-effects of not being quite over the flu yet, and I didn’t want to push it.

But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t tell you what the Facebook memory was:

Favorite tongue in cheek comment so far, because I love my friends: “I didn’t watch the video, just saw that it existed. I just felt like someone who caused you so much trauma probably wasn’t the best person to tell teens that “it gets better.”

It was Diane Syrcle’s It Gets Better video made at Oregon Ballet Theater. In response to the post, I said something about loving that video, because it showed her without The Mask.™ Then I realized I hadn’t seen it in years, and when I made the egregious mistake of watching it again (at that time, not today), I ended up with vomit on my shirt. That’s because the new context in which I saw it made all my kid nightmares/fears bubble up to the surface and I could not ignore them anymore, as I had for so many years previously. I haven’t watched it since, because things certainly did not get better for me. Only more muddled, more fear-induced, more protection mode for someone who didn’t deserve it.

The same friend in the above quote said that one day she would have no more power over me, and when that day came, I felt a freedom I hadn’t felt since I was 11. There are still selected moments in time where she can still rattle me, but it has more to do with destroying old tapes than it will ever have to do with trying to reconcile something that never should have happened in the first place.

For instance, about a year and a half after I left Portland, I got an e-mail from her that contained a photo of her with a Timbers scarf and a program autographed by every player that said without my influence, she never would have become interested in soccer. My reaction ran thusly… everything I had to say about all the emotional abuse I’d suffered as a teen was already out on this web site, and I have no doubt that she’d followed every word closely. Because I knew this, I said, “we haven’t talked for almost two years and this is the first thing you want to say? Go fuck yourself.” It was a reaction and not a response, but I doubt after thinking about it I would have said anything differently. Pretending like nothing had happened and just wanting to be buddies creeped me the fuck out, and always, always will.

That’s been the hardest part of this whole process… discovering ways in which I felt entirely creeped out and was powerless to do anything about it… and later discovering I wasn’t powerless, it just seemed like it. If I’d been willing to talk as a teenager, I wouldn’t have spent years pouring meat tenderizer on my skin, trying to get the poison out.

It is not a shock to me that I got so ill I had to be hospitalized, because that’s not something that should have happened as an adult. That’s something that should have happened about the time I turned 15, and yet kept everything locked inside until I exploded. I was so lucky that I had a gaggle of women ready to catch me when I fell, but ultimately, it was up to me. Argo gave me a swift kick in the pants when she said, why do you think it’s everyone else’s job to fix you? When she said that, I was on the phone with my insurance company within the hour. I didn’t just need medication by that point, but a cohort of people who’d been through similarly horrifying experiences with which to debrief in a very real, no bullshit sort of way.

I had leaned on Argo & Dana long enough, because they weren’t trained in dealing with mental health issues this severe, and I don’t think I realized the toll it was taking on them to try and be my support system…. because how do you do that when you’re in the situation and not looking down on it? I couldn’t make myself have enough out of body experiences to be able to look at the situation logically, because even though I could disconnect from my emotions, it wasn’t always in the healthiest of ways. Sometimes I thought I was coolly calculating my next move. In reality, I just made things a whole lot worse for myself, and have had to dig myself up from enormous emotional holes that I spent a lot of time digging, not realizing that if I didn’t stop, the earth was going to swallow me up… not in terms of dead, but in terms of losing everything I held dear and not being able to repair those relationships because too much had happened for them to feel safe with me.

The two sentences I have had to give up thinking that mean the most to me are:

  1. Hey Argo, can I buy you a beer? I’ll make good on Aaron’s promise since he isn’t here. 😛
  2. Hey Dana, let’s go away for the weekend and see if we can come to some sort of understanding, a working relationship not tinted with the past.

With both of them, there is everything to say and nothing. What could I possibly have to offer them that wouldn’t end in what a piece of shit I was to them previously? What could I possibly offer that would say “I am not perfect, but I am trying?”

It’s all connected, this creepiness I’ve felt over my lifetime except for the first 11 years. My psychosexual dysfunction has crept into every relationship ever, and working with a therapist has helped enormously, and why I didn’t think of it before is something I’ll regret until the day I die.

Life is all about putting away regret and shame, but there are always those cuts and wounds that stay with you, healed over into scar tissue that hopefully makes you stronger. But sometimes, just sometimes, the scab gets ripped off and that part of healing has to begin again.

What I lost in the transaction with Argo & Dana is a lot of laughter, for a lifetime, really.

I am still trying to gather what I gained in terms of life lessons and perspectives. I have a great big tapestry to look back on, but that doesn’t always help. Sometimes, I giggle through our memories, and sometimes really tough ones come to mind and I lose myself in the rumination of what should have happened instead of what did.

Knowing myself is the key to moving forward, but that doesn’t make it any easier to live with, day by day by day by day by day, Sisyphus pushing as hard as he can only to have the rock fall night by night by night by night.

I wish I could have their grace and mercy, but at least I know I’m working toward my own. And, in the end, that’s what has to matter most. I hope that this is the part of my life meant to propel me into the person I’m supposed to be, because I don’t have any desire to keep repeating mistakes. I at least want to switch to new ones.

Going Around

  • Are you named after someone?
    • Yes, but not anyone I know. My mother saw the name “Leslie Diane” in a church bulletin once and thought it sounded pretty. I think she was the organist.
  • When is the last time you cried?
    • I don’t remember. I could make up something, because I cry a lot, but at the moment, nothing comes to mind.
  • Do you like your handwriting?
    • I like the weird way my handwriting starts to look like the person I’m thinking of while I’m writing… like, say I’m thinking about Meagan. Involuntarily my handwriting goes into block capital letters.
  • What is your favorite lunch meat?
    • It changes all the time, but right now it’s brown-sugared ham.
  • Do you have kids?
    • Not that I’m aware of……. ;P
  • If you were another person, would you be friends with you?
    • It depends on the day I met me. How did we see each other the first time? Was I laughing or sitting in a corner? It matters.
  • Do you use sarcasm?
    • I don’t so much use it as bathe in it daily.
  • Do you still have your tonsils?
    • Yes, but I am not sure that this is necessarily a good thing.
  • Would you bungee jump?
    • I think so. I’d have to get the opportunity to say yes or no first. However, the fact that I have not put down money on my own says it’s not necessarily a life goal.
  • What is your favorite cereal?
    • Multi-grain Cheerios straight out of the box.
  • Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?
    • I have to- I wear Chucks and Docs, neither of which lend themselves to kicking them off by bending the heels.
  • Do you think you are strong?
    • Only after the fact, never in the moment.
  • What is your favorite ice cream?
    • Spumoni
  • What is the first thing you notice about people?
    • Whether or not they hold my attention intellectually.
  • Red or pink?
    • Why choose? I wear them both, but rarely together.
  • What is the least favorite thing you like about yourself?
    • I have to pick just one? I hate the extraordinary lengths I will go to be “right,” and even then, I’m usually not. Just leading the charge into hell, anyway.
  • What color pants and shoes are you wearing right now?
    • You mentioned nothing at the beginning of this survey that said I needed to be wearing pants…. That being said, I still have my red plaid pajamas on, and I am barefoot.
  • What was the last thing you ate?
    • A miniature Mr. Goodbar
  • What are you listening to right now?
    • Mostly silence interrupted by cars passing outside.
  • If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
    • Cerulean, which is the color of most of my wardrobe, too.
  • Favorite smell?
    • Dr Pepper, with the soda close enough for the bubbles to tickle my nose.
  • Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone?
    • My dad- I was telling him about Google Allo and Google Spaces
  • Favorite sport to watch?
    • Baseball…. Always baseball.
  • Hair color?
    • Brown, but with more and more grey with each passing haircut. It looks distinguished. I like it because I look less like a ten-year-old.
  • Eye color?
    • Brown, although I like to call it “limpid pools of espresso.”
  • Do you wear contacts?
    • I would if I could, but there are prisms in my glasses.
  • Favorite food to eat?
    • I’ve been on a potato chip craze lately. Found Ketchup Chips at 7-Eleven Thursday and I haven’t stopped thinking about them since. THANKS, CANADA.
  • Scary movies or happy endings?
    • Yes.
  • Last movie you watched?
    • The Secret Life of Pets. It was ok.
  • What color shirt are you wearing?
    • Multi-colored. White background with rainbow letters that say “women’s rights are human rights.” It’s from the Clinton campaign, and it’s got her signature stamped on the back.
  • Summer or Winter?
    • Having lived in Houston for so many years, I will always choose winter. I’ve had enough deep heat to last my whole life. MD/DC/VA can be just as hot, but not for as long.
  • Hugs or kisses?
    • From whom?
  • What book are you currently reading?
    • Too many to list, because I have a Kindle and just pick something based on my mood.
  • What is on your mouse pad?
    • I don’t think I’ve owned a mouse pad since the early 2000s… perhaps late ‘90s.
  • What is the last TV program you watched?
    • Breaking Bad….. again.
  • What is the best sound?
    • Someone saying “I’m sorry” and/or “I forgive you.”
  • Rolling Stones or The Beatles?
    • Who are the Rolling Stones?
  • What is the furthest you have traveled?
    • Off meds- and it was memorable enough to realize chemical imbalances are a thing.
  • Do you have a special talent?
    • I have plenty of them… not all for publication.
  • Where were you born?
    • In Tyler, Texas, at Mother Frances Hospital with the statue of Jesus directing traffic.

Well, that was anticlimactic. Any other questions? Just ask.

Joining Them

It’s finally starting to cool down around here, but not by much. However, it is a welcome change. I love the turn of the seasons, and this weekend holds an enormous amount of promise. I’m going to see Sarah Vowell & Bob Woodward at the Library of Congress book fair, and unfortunately all of their books are on my Kindle… however, I might bring a sharpie to have Woodward sign the back. It just depends on how “drooling fangirl” I feel when I get there. My favorite book of his is easily Obama’s Wars, but I believe i have read them all. Having read that book introduced me to the idea that you don’t have to wait to be president in order to get national security sitreps, the candidates get them, too. I can only hope that Donald Trump’s sitreps are just a series of SpongeBob coloring books. Having Donald Trump know actual state secrets sounds like the Worst. Idea. Ever.

If I can find a cheap copy, I might take a DVD of The Incredibles for Sarah Vowell to sign. 🙂

There are many other authors I’d like to see, but they’re at the top of my list. The biggest “name” that’s going to be there is Stephen King, but I’ve never read any of his books (I don’t think), so even though he’s known the world over, he’s not that big a draw for me.

The biggest draw for me would have been David Halberstam, but he won’t be there. He’s the one author I would literally follow into the ocean if he asked, but he was killed in a car accident years ago. I believe that when he died, he was the first author death in which I literally fell to pieces.

Some people’s words stay with you for a lifetime, and his are enormous.

I could use a little inspiration from great people about now, because I’m on a ledge ready to jump and hope I fly. I have enough savings that it’s now or never. School is important to me, obviously, and I need to get back to it if I want to achieve my dreams. Back in the day, I made an egregious mistake by leaving UH before my coursework was done, and here’s why. I paid for Kathleen’s last year of school in terms of rent, books, food, etc. because I was the one with the full-time job, on the agreement that she’d pay for me to finish up at George Mason, because it was right down the road from XOM. That deal lasted a grand total of when she graduated, and DC was so expensive that we both had to have jobs. We both got them, and I was going to go to night classes. Before that happened, she broke up with me…. no contract signed, no nothing. She definitely got the sweet end of that deal. I’ve been playing catchup ever since.

I was making good money with a computer career, which is why I’ve been able to live comfortably without a degree. I believe that the college model is woefully outdated when it comes to technology, because by the time the books are printed, the information is out of date. Learning on the job has always come easily to me, and I have just socked away money by being the biggest hermit ever. It isolated me from friends, but watching my accounts fill up didn’t suck.

Then, when I moved to Houston, I met a woman that I thought was The One.™ The exception being that she isolated me from all my friends, and told me I couldn’t go back to night school because she was afraid I was going to fall in love with one of my professors and run away with him. Anyone who knows me knows how ridiculous this was, and it was the same with my doctor. She wouldn’t let me see her anymore because she thought I’d run away with her, too. In retrospect, it was classic dry-drunk behavior… all of the manipulation, none of the alcohol. Not marrying her was dodging the biggest bullet you can possibly imagine… but the thing is, she was a junior high school counselor, so everyone thought she was perfect, the one who had her shit together while I was just twisting in the wind. But no one saw what went on behind closed doors, especially when she’d laid down the law about me not going to night school and then having the audacity to tell me that she really wanted me to finish my degree so that she wouldn’t think I was such a flake. I also got an internship at the HRC in DC during that relationship, a three-month contract writing national Sunday School curriculum. She didn’t want me to do that, either, because again, it wasn’t about furthering my career. It was all about me running off with someone else and never coming back.

If I’d had any damn sense, I would have done exactly that.

We were the perfect couple to everyone but me.

She even hated that I was getting my paralegal certificate, comforted only somewhat by the fact that my sister and my dad were in the class. She raged that I wasn’t available on the weekends, even though it was only four or five. All of these manipulations started to add up, and I was entirely beaten down.

I went to extraordinary lengths not to be alone with her, because that’s when the emotional violence was at its worst. I finally broke up with her when Dana put her foot down, because she could be logical and I could not. I was visiting with Dana and I noticed that my girlfriend was tracking me through my bank account, noting the address of every transaction and beating me over the head with it every night… because obviously, I didn’t have any other friends in Portland except for Dana…. and I was going to run away with her, too. That didn’t cross my mind until much later.

Eventually, I did, but not before seeing what a freak show of a relationship I’d gotten myself into, and watching Dana hurt for me. There were a lot of times that I watched Dana hurt for me, and it is something for which I will always be grateful, even though it is time to move on. But no one can take good memories from me, and I choose to focus on that fact.

My then-girlfriend came by emotional violence honestly; her parents did two unforgivable things. Maybe she has forgiven them, but I have trouble. The first was that when she came out, her parents pretended she was dead for a year. A year. The second is that they were running low on money, and took out an enormous amount of credit in her name, and refused to pay it back, calling it “the gay tax.” In my case, shit rolled downhill.

I don’t know why I didn’t tell anyone how hurt I was until I was neck-deep… used to it, I guess. But I knew something was horribly wrong, and I was at a loss as to how to fix it, because I’d made promises… it took realizing that I shouldn’t be expected to stay no matter how bad it got, and I would never realize my dreams if leaving the house meant a fight about how every outing was an opportunity to cheat… I did nothing to deserve this scrutiny- Argo or anyone like her wasn’t even a twinkle.

And even when Argo came along, there was only one adjective in my vocabulary that fit- stupid…. just all the way around. And perhaps I am being too hard on myself, knowing that it wasn’t just my issue to deal with in terms of that relationship. It was also Dana’s continual jealousy that something was going on that wasn’t. Argo made me feel like fifty billion dollars when she told me that she pulled back so she wouldn’t be Dana’s excuse anymore. I told her thank you for picking up something I could not, because again, I was too emotional and not so much with the logical.

I needed time to sit with my feelings and work them the fuck out, which now I have. It hurts that I had to do it alone, and at the same time, is extraordinarily freeing. I have had time to make room for light. I have had time to forgive an enormous amount of shit, not for them. For me.

So I will go to this book fair, and take in all the light that published authors have to offer… because one day, I will join them.