Monthly Archives: November 2016

Dancing with the Scars

I’ve reread a lot of what I’ve written over the past few days, and what’s jumped out at me is the dance of intimacy I present with Dana… how fully fleshed out she is in terms of how much I love her and don’t. I fluctuate between pushing her away and wishing she were here in the biggest breaths of my life. Knowing for certain that she doesn’t want to reconnect doesn’t keep me from wishing we were closer, and it also doesn’t keep me from talking about the bad parts, either, which are what keep me from wanting contact even as laughter envelops me when I think of one of our legendary adventures.

  • When I told Dana that when I met her, I thought she was a loud obnoxious blonde woman, she started putting that on her name tag at church.
  • When I moved to Houston the first time around, Dana made me a cat at Build-a-Bear, complete with her famous Stitch impression that used to illicit tears… because she said that line.
  • Dana drove with me to Houston and flew back. We’re punch-drunk as hell trying to make El-Paso for dinner. We come up with this bit… “Excusth me, do you have a margarita asth big asth my head?” “I want a margarita asth big asth her head, too, ’cause she’sth got the bigger head.” “Yesth, your head might be taller, but mine hasth more circumferenceth.” We never actually did get margaritas that night- we ended up at Sonic. How I let her get on the plane back to Portland is beyond me.
  • I remember seriously planning our first child in the moments after our first kiss, because my biological clock exploded as if my uterus was talking to me, telling me I was home.
  • Dana used to work at a grocery store, and the first flirt I really remember was that every time I went to the counter, she’d say, “hay sugar” and wink as if I was the only person in the room.
  • When Dana and I were in the same room, the air was different… electrified. It not only energized us, but fed others…. mostly by being explosively funny.
  • We were Jeopardy! fiends, and constantly amazed each other at the sheer amount of random shit each of us knew. This led us to compete in pub trivia, and one of the moments my pride for Dana knew no bounds was when she won THE ENTIRE THING BY HERSELF…. and she was playing for money.
  • One of Dana’s ex’s friends was playing on our trivia team one night and David and Nathan knew something was up. They knew that we were thick as thieves and it was only a matter of time. We giggled in just that way, and just got a knowing look. So, said friend goes to the bathroom and David says, “ok. What’s up?” I said, “we’re so in love we can hardly see straight.” David: WELL IT’S ABOUT GODDAMN TIME. When Dana called her dad, even he said, “I’m surprised it took this long.” And that’s just two people in a two page list.
  • I was celebrating my breakup with Katharin when Dana came over and we got trashed to Talladega Nights. I don’t handle alcohol well, and the next morning when I woke up, Dana was gone. In my deepest Southern drawl, I said, “did I do anything last night for which I owe you jewelry?

Looking back on it, that’s when the barrier broke for me, and I couldn’t stop wanting her, when before I was stuck on the idea that all this emotion was just what best friends had. Surely all best friends can finish each other’s sentences… surely all best friends wake up in the morning and snuggle? Surely all best friends are automatically assumed to be a couple wherever they go because they act like it.  Surely all best friends avoid going on dates because they feel coupled enough? Moving to Houston was the best thing for us, because it forced us to realize that the people we loved were fine for someone else and treating us like crap so that the timing for us was finally right.

When I was living in Portland the first time around, Dana was married and I was single and badly needed a friend…. and over time, pushed away dating in favor of hanging with her. When I got to Houston, I had two girlfriends who were both convinced Dana was my soulmate and I was just trying to hide it by being with them. They didn’t give themselves enough credit, because I valued my time with both of them, but ultimately they were right. I was lying to myself because I had to.

I think it’s the reason I remember our first real night together so clearly, because it was so emotional. Everything that had been bottled for almost four years we drank in with laughter and tears, because it was a moment a long time in the making. I went to sleep with tears of joy streaming on my cheeks because I felt home.

In that time and place, she was my sun- accurate because she’s blonde.


Anatomy of a Moment

I just sat down and realized my mother was dead. In an instant I see her as the children’s choir director when I was in third grade with her little skirt and jacket combo… which she later replaced with a scarf because of Liz Claiborne. She’s sleeping next to me in my queen-sized bed and we’re talking late into the night and I see her at McDonald’s carrying a second full order of food because I had already gotten our food, sat down, and she told them they’d forgotten our number. I ate too much Filet-O-Fish but I hadn’t eaten in two days so I didn’t mind… until we went on a tour of the city and I felt like a Sumo wrestler as I walked. There’s the moment at my thirteenth birthday party where she told me I was getting my own phone line and crying at the prose on the Hallmark that she wrote under the obligatory rhyming poem. There’s sitting on a stool at the bar doing my homework while she cooked and I couldn’t do math. There’s watching her call out every name in the house until she gets to the dog. There’s the way she drove, rocking the accelerator so you felt like you were on a dinghy about to get sick. There’s my third grade birthday party set up as a Peter Pan amusement park and I was Peter Pan. There’s my mom after me coming home from a date with a boy and I had a hickey on my neck and failed to convince her it was a curling iron burn. There’s the way she carried the picture of my junior homecoming in which I was wearing a rainbow ring and standing next to my beard for years on end, but said it was just a good picture and it was really the last one she’d see in which I looked remotely heterosexual. I am positive that it stayed in her wallet until she died, along with my eighth grade prom picture I made by myself because my boyfriend went to a different school and I couldn’t invite him…. but there was no way I was wasting that makeup and that hair. There’s everything she wanted me to be and everything I actually was.


Venti Christmas Blend

I’m at a SBX waiting for a glasses shop to open. I love my black and white-checkered frames, but I also really like my blue wire-rims and I think when I fixed them with my own screwdriver, I pushed one of the prisms to a different angle. There’s no appreciable difference in my vision, but of course as a Virgo the lack of symetry is intolerable. It will be my Christmas present to myself, and it may not even cost a thing. I will probably want more frames in the future, because my earrings are semi-permanent and, well, fashion.

Since I have both blue and black glasses, I need a brown pair. The ones I have now are keyhole bridge tortoise shell and way too big for my face. Working Girl is just not what we’re doing now. When I ordered them, I thought they were tiny and cute. When they got here, I thought, “the eighties called. They want your glasses back.” In the right fit, keyhole bridge is timeless… an axiom for fashion. There will never be a time in which sport coats, crispy button-downs, and Converse All Stars™; for whimsy and comfort will suddenly be Right. Out.

I need to take my brown Converse to the shoe hospital because they need to be re-soled and stitched in a few places. The reason I’d rather pay for that instead of just getting new ones is that they’re leather and keep out rain, even when I step in shallow puddles.

It’s funny how I got them. I was shopping at Ross and there was only one pair in boys’ five and a half. This woman was saying out loud that she didn’t think they’d fit her nephew and I said (a little too loudly), “can I have them?” I said it so fast that she started laughing and said, “you clearly need these more than me.” Yes. Yes, I do.

Because I liked the brown ones, I bought the black ones with black rubber as well. Converse for every outfit, although I’m wearing my hiking boots more than ever because they accomodate huge wool socks. I look a bit funny considering that with their classic fit, my hiking boots make my feet look huge…. and there is no euphemism for that. #lesbianproblems

We’re supposed to get cold rain for the next two days, thus Bigfoot. Ugh. When it gets a little warmer, my leather Chucks will be ok again. If I lace them tightly, I even get feeling in my feet.

Again, too cold with no payoff…. no pictures of beautiful trees, no snow angels, no nailing the kid on my street with a snowball for having a Doctor Who backpack out of jealousy.

Last night, I was playing around on Facebook™ and found this quote on my wallpaper changer. Posted it with #INFJ….. Also me: Strong people don’t put others down. They lift them up and slam them on the ground for maximum damage. -Abhishek Shukla

The duality that has lived in me for so many years is finally ready to laugh at. When I walked in darkness, I wanted to. It was an unexplored version of myself that I didn’t know existed. And then I got tired of that duality and show mode melted more than it ever had before. Integrating my compensity for both lightness and dark, it has been an interesting process of rejecting the past and rewiring a ton of neurons that were just dead before. New pathways are growing and I listen to music for it the most, because if you set words to melody, it makes recall mostly instant.

I had that moment with Nine Inch Nails, listening to Closer and ruminating on everything that had happened to me from 14 on. What jumped out at me is how much the song changes when you think of it as the dance between an abuser and a target. It started with you let me violate you, and all of the sudden I pictured every abused child I’d ever known…. My skin crawled as I realized that you let me violate you are the words that create back-door access to someone trying to gain control of you. Because if I let you, it’s all my fault, and that abuser will pull those strings until he/she can’t because you’ve created your own scab over the wound, because no abuse victim gets closure. They just get stronger.

The death of innocence is every big a grief as losing someone close to you, with one giant exception. Your body betrays you. You know it’s wrong, you know you should run, and you are frozen in place with loving the idea of having secrets. Your brain turned off to save you from fear, betrayal is getting wet or hard. Part of the guilt and shame that lasts your whole life is that you knew it was wrong and you loved it, anyway…. because inappropriate or not, nerves go off autonomically and your brain associates this terribly wrong thing with something incredibly desirable. The majority of abuse is done by someone you love, someone you trust, someone you can’t even imagine doesn’t love you in the same way or is even capable of it…. which makes it harder to break away because there are genuine moments in a twisted reality. How do you think they keep us hooked? They twist us into believing they own us…. “pet people.”

As you realize the extent of the abuse, you resent the genuine moments because you learn just how much they weren’t. You let a hacker in the back door because there are no security updates for threats of an emotional nature. As Brene Brown says, and I’m paraphrasing, shame is the one thing every therapist in the world is trying to uncover. You can be absent from your abuser for years, and reestablishing contact opens all those doors you thought were closed. One sentence becomes a rootkit in a matter of hours, and there you are, under control once again. If you are an adult when this happens, you’ll be surprised at how fast you regress.

What adult could not be undone by seeing the person that abused them?

So many people went through much worse than I ever did. The dopamine and sexual rush was all in my head… but not of my own hand. As I have said before, it was a plant that outgrew its pot quickly. I remember with clarity a letter Diane sent me that said, “I shudder to think the depth of emotion you’ve had for me.” Meanwhile, all the time reinforcing our verbally abusive relationship so that I was the one who was always trying to make things right in a relationship that never should have happened in the first place. What child wouldn’t give you more emotion than you could handle when I think I am as close to you as my own parents?

I never thought of her as anything else until she planted a seed in my imagination and my body betrayed me. There are plenty of people out there who absolutely cannot believe this is what happened, but they weren’t there and we were. Who’s we? My parents, my sister, and all of the choir members who saw it happening and didn’t say anything then, but have come forward now that the statute of limitations has run out to say that yeah, they knew something was off, but they couldn’t quite put their fingers on it so it wasn’t worth pursuing, because they loved Diane just as much as me. Surely this person who charmed everyone couldn’t be the same person that was traumatizing me?

My mother was the first to say she wanted to press charges, but for what? She could have gotten a TRO, but it wouldn’t have worked. We found ways to sneak around. There’s nothing that would have broken us apart until I realized what was happening and stopped it. No contact has been the right choice for me, because I don’t spend my time processing what she’s doing and being afraid I’m not there to protect her…. so much love and care dumped into a hole when I was too young to understand why.

I will protect all of my friends to the death, because I know for sure they’d step in front of a bus for me, too…. they know I’ve got their backs. That’s been the biggest revelation in this whole thing…. noticing when I am pouring love and protection into people who wouldn’t do the same thing for me. If there is no reciprocity, there is no relationship anymore.

It’s called (really) the INFJ door slam. We require equillibrium, and we’ll do anything to get it. If the relationship is off to an enormous degree, we will love your ghost eternally while not interacting with you. It’s not that we don’t love you, don’t care about you, don’t wish you well. We’re just done.

There are so few people that fit this mold for me, but the relationships I’ve severed have felt right for me over time, because I realized how much they were draining my ability to practice self-care. I was always pouring from an empty cup. My closest friends know to bring water.

With me, there are so many types of social interactions that leave me drained, and others I could maintain for days. Some people are just exhausting, and some give away their life energy in sync with as much as you’re giving them. It’s this mutual admiration society that keeps me going in the face of enormous obstacles.

My job this year has been to learn to reach out and listen more, talking less. It’s just one more step into being able to welcome someone else in my life, because I am trying to create relationships that have an easy give-and-take like I do with my friends. Being more compassionate all the time won’t hurt, but especially in romantic relationships, I’d rather be ready for one than try to jump in unprepared. Some people believe that jumping into a relationship helps fix those things… I don’t think it does. I think you create the same pattern with the new person that you had with the old, fighting about new things in the old dance of intimacy. Last time around it was the brand of toothpaste. This time it’s the dishes by the sink…. the small issues that are covering up deep wounds.

Let’s start with the deep wounds instead, so that the dance is new- with music in a different key.

Devotional for Advent IA: We Interrupt This Broadcast… -or- Trending: #Jesus

In order to understand the past, you have to understand the future.

It was October 2nd, 2016 that I was sitting at my computer, completely in the writing zone, typing 80wpm, when my sister called me to tell me that my mother was dead.

Two weeks earlier, I texted her to call me ASAP. This was not, in fact, a good idea. I wanted to ask her if I should just get in my car and drive down because she broke her foot and my dad was going through a series of surgeries. It was, like, 9:45 and I just wanted to talk to her early enough that I could stil get going depending on her counsel. I emotionally “fell asleep at the wheel,” because why did I have to base it on permission- or at the very least, approval and a heads up that I was on the road? For some reason, she didn’t get the message until 2:30 in the afternoon and by then thought I was mangled horribly or dead. She called me, and I didn’t reach the phone in time. I called her back, and she was on the phone with my sister trying to decide just how much danger I was in. In retrospect, I should have known that if I wrote “as soon as possible,” it didn’t mean “as soon as possible.” It means that I am telling you I am getting mugged at this very moment.

I didn’t keep watch.

I slept through my life as my father recovered from surgery and my mother died instantly. If I’d listened to my intuition, I would have been there. I could have done something… not to save my mother or heal my father but to just be there when our world exploded. My sister needed me and I needed her. There’s no way I could have known that I was coming home to a funeral, but at least I would have been there in minutes and not hours, getting to spend two weeks memorizing my mother’s face before it was embalmed and never the same. Before she died, it had been a year since she’d visited.

I didn’t keep watch.

It only took one crack in the foundation of my marriages to let the water flow through and erode the cornerstone. I buried myself in other things, convinced that there was no such thing as a Schonanagan or a Bambelanager divorce. Through the years, we’d developed an intricate emotional shorthand and a language all our own. We could have entire conversations with our eyes, as well as conversations no one else in the room would understand… to their consternation that we were just being too “inside.” There were plenty of things wrong that I own, but I do not own that our marriages came apart in one moment. The last moment was just the last moment. Kathleen and I were married for 11 mos, but we’d been together three and a half years before that. Dana and I were married for seven years, having an intense best-friend relationship for almost four years before that which didn’t make a lot of appreciable difference in our relationship after we married except for about a third…………….

The roots withered on our family trees while I was completely oblivious to the role I was playing in all of it. Those things that could have been small, but grew into great big things before I paid attention.

I didn’t keep watch.

From the very first moment I met Argo, her words were strong, secure- so much love and respect that if I could have bottled it I would have used it as hair product. By the time I told her flat out I can’t do this anymore. I have feelings for you and I cannot continue to be friends and stay married to someone else. I can’t look at myself in the mirror, she told me that I was tossing away a friendship like it was nothing. She was willing to let me have my feelings and let them be large and watch the process it would take for me not to feel them anymore. I assumed that the energy I was throwing at her was not the kind of energy she wanted in her general direction, and the assumption cost me, because I stupidly didn’t realize how much I meant to her and how much she was willing to try and understand, even when it seemed impossible. She was willing to walk in my inner landscape as long as I was willing to walk in hers. Again, a crack in our foundation that allowed the water to disfigure our rock.

I didn’t keep watch.

I’ve let friendships go that would have been lasting because I didn’t recognize their depth of feeling for me and let go in my own worthlessness… I could not see that I was worth their time, but they could. I was so attuned to how I felt that it kept out what would have been enormous had I taken it in. I could have had the support system I needed no matter where I’ve lived, but I could not trust myself to open up to create it. My personality type dictates that I have lots of acquaintances and very few friends, so the idea of reaching out to people I did not know well was intimidating.

I attended a youth group trip to an amusement park minutes after Diane’s graduate school going away recital was over. I was crying so hard I couldn’t stand up straight, embarrassed to be emoting publicly and my parents made me go, anyway. Instead of trying to shut off my brain and reach out to the people around me, I went straight from distraught to show mode, because I was fine. I was not open to friendship, because I couldn’t focus on what might be coming… friends my own age who could help me re-focus on eighth grade banalities so that they became reality again.

I didn’t keep watch.

In this first Sunday of Advent, it is this very idea to which we are called, for we do not know when the Son of Man will be lifted up. Our meditations center on the ways we’ve checked out of our own lives, shutting ourselves off to the possibility of what might happen. There is a lot of language about how we, as Christians, need to behave… but they are not just for Christians. It is not a calling out of immorality, but a refusal to do those things which allow you to zone out the easiest. Perhaps in those days, it would have been taken that way, but I have to believe that it is just an example of how not to live our lives with only the instructions on the shampoo bottle… Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

As the sun grows darker, we turn inward, but not in a penitential sense… it is a call to arms, apocalyptic language that says to examine what you are doing that will keep you from recognition of greatness when it arrives. There are two scriptures, taken together, that are our invitations and anthems:

Jesus said to the disciples, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Matthew 24:36-44

The disciples did not know when Jesus was coming back, and did not think it was going to be in their lifetimes. The Epistle, written in the spirit of Paul, attests to this fact because Matthew was not written down until about 50 years after Jesus’ death, borrowing heavily from Mark, indicating that according to everything this “early blogger” had read, we’re still waiting. Note to self: put on pants.

You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Romans 13:11-14

It is a story repeated through time.

If you get there,
before I do,
comin’ for to carry me home…

Tell all my friends
I’m comin’ too
Comin’ for to carry me home.

Who are those children all dressed in Blue?
God’s gonna trouble the water.
Must be the ones that made it through.
God’s gonna trouble the water.

To the Freedom Fighters call,
Black, Brown and White American say,
Segregation must fall.
Good evening freedom’s fighters,
Tell me where you’re bound,
Tell me where you’re marching,
From Selma to Montgomery town.

Keep your mind sharp, your bags packed, and your sandals on your feet, because you never know when something is about to happen.

In order to understand the past, you have to understand the future.

Some people were not open to the glorious signs all around them, asleep to the rest of the world. Love arrived with the simple words “I’m pregnant,” such an ordinary thing few would have paid much mind…. unless they’re the family that’s expecting.

We have the advantage of knowing we are. I’ll meet you at the hospital.

I’m keeping watch.


Forever Plaid

I wish I could recall with clarity the first time I met Bryn. She was a charter member of Bridgeport, so I am sure that first meeting would have included something tweenage. That was back in the day when I was going to Susan & Diane’s for all the parties of the millenium, which usually included a week or two at church. We’ve talked about this, and though neither of us realized when the other appeared on our radar, Bryn does remember the first time we really talked. We were both trying to escape the noise of the party, and snuck off on our own, and as we dove deeper, her friend love attached itself to me… I just wish I’d realized it at the time and taken more advantage of the opportunity to become closer before we actually did.

In those days, I thought Diane and I were better friends than we were, and I tended to stick to her at parties because I thought that they were the only chance for us to be able to talk, because it wouldn’t be long until I flew home. Sometimes, she seemed annoyed by this and left me wondering why. Sometimes, she was over-the-top affectionate and I just lived for those moments, because it was a throwback to old inside jokes, and sometimes, the deep intimate bonding that occurred between us as I came out and she was molding herself into the success she is today. I was always confused as to why it wasn’t consistent, why she wasn’t that affectionate all the time, and I realized that sometimes in public I was a way to prop up her own ego… she could say that she mentored this young girl all the way from the time she was 12 until now. When I wasn’t useful in that capacity, I was annoying. It took me a very long time to realize why. If I hadn’t spent so much time ruminating on everything I’d done wrong that had pushed her away (because it was all my fault), I would have remembered this gargantuan moment in my life.

A conversation is not just a conversation between Bryn & me. We are both deeply introspective, and are now beginning to see the galaxies that live within us… inner landscapes in which we’ve had to hold hands tightly to explore. I’m beginning to think she is my Silent Bob hetero-lifemate and I know for sure that she would be pleased at that reference… although that does make me Jay, and I’m just as introspective/introverted as Silent Bob, too. So pretend that Silent Bob is Silent Bob’s hetero-lifemate and that pretty much matches our hetero-lifemate and wacky lesbian neighbor marriage nicely.

The only thing that throws a wrench in that plan is that I am now a neighbor in the cloud. I won’t go back to Portland for exactly the same reason I won’t go back to Houston (unless my dad gets sick or something… the only reason I’d be comfortable there… I wouldn’t have time to worry about anything else). DC makes me new, one day at a time, because I don’t have any teenage memories here. I’ve always been an adult in DC, with no trace of where I’ve been emotionally under a tremendous amount of abuse so that when I drive around the city, I panic. Mostly not to an extreme, but sometimes. It depends on how strong I’m feeling that day.

In that way, I need to practice self-care by staying away from those memories and at the same time, be upset that I don’t live close to Bryn anymore. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. It is a letting go of that dream, a small grief on its own, because I cannot imagine Bryn picking up and moving here. God, in God’s own infinite possibilities, lets me believe that there’s one chance in a million, because life never knows what it’s going to throw at you until it arrives.

Bryn is perhaps the person I wish the most lived in my neighborhood, so that AM coffee became a thing, or dinner once a week. Three hours is one hell of a time difference, but we make it work through messaging and FaceTime. It’s just hard to upload coffee and/or the palate cleansing course. The care package I received from her had a dark green blanket in it, a plaid- warmer than all three of my blankets put together.

When I called to thank her, she said something I will never forget.

That blanket was really just a fabric scrap that I found at Joanne’s while I was listening to The Drums Of Autumn, and it made me want to send you my plaid to wrap around you and keep you warm.

I couldn’t stop crying, because through the magic of close friends, my Jamie comes in all different packages. I thanked her for giving me the kindest part of him…. and I’ll bet that if you’ve read the Outlander series, you know what an enormous gift she sent me emotionally… That person that says “it’s ok that our emotions are large because we’ll always be there to catch each other.”

I must have done something excellent in a past life for which I’m being rewarded “posthumously,” and feel the need to say that I am as careful with her heart as she is with mine.

And there will never be a time in which I can say I didn’t marry her. With one signature, she’ll have proof.

Clean House

I have a lot to do today that I just haven’t been doing over time. I’ve let it build up in my grief, and I’m to the point that I have to dig myself out. I thought about calling a maid, but then I thought that wouldn’t create lasting change if I knew I could just call someone when I couldn’t figure out How Clean is Your House? Kim & Aggie have long been my inspiration in this area, and I tend to watch a few episodes before I get started. It’s as energizing as Hoarders. It’s moments like this where I wish I still had Shirley, my little Nissan pickup, because there’s nothing like I’d like more than to be able to dump all my recycling and trash into the bed and drive it to the dump, because of course our trash day is on Thursday and tomorrow is a holiday. I am putting this all out here because I don’t know of anyone alive who can manage their own lives in the aftermath of deep grief. I’ve always been a little messy, with the exception of one time in my life. Things got so bad that I reached out to Dana and said, “I need help. I’m too far gone.” When she said “yes,” I made it my personal mission not to ever have to ask her again as a thank you. My apartment was so clean that you could eat off the floor, and I mean that literally. I used Fabuloso,™ which Ralphie May says “gets out Third World dirt.” I still have a lot of the concentrate, I just need to go and get a spray bottle so I can mix it properly.

The common areas of my house are no problem, because I love cleaning the kitchen and the bathroom because there’s no clutter. I can start with cleaning products in an instant gratification sort of way. I spray and wipe and within a few minutes, it’s perfect. I leave the door to my room closed all the time and hope that no one comes in. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until I watched an episode of Doc Martin that I could even wrap my brain around why. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to find the exact clip I am looking for, but both Dr. Ellinghams go to visit an old man who has just lost his wife. The senior Dr. Ellingham is talking to the patient, and since she is a psychiatrist/psychologist, explains that his hoarding is a function of his wife dying and since he’s lost everything, he doesn’t want to lose anything else, so everything he owns is all over the place… basically leaving everything as it was when his wife died and just putting things on top of the mess.

I took my anxiety medication this morning in order to have some clinical separation in this area; perhaps if I can look at it objectively without emotional attachment, I can finish. But this will not be a short or easy job. First, I need to clean out the back of my car so that I have enough room to put my trash and recycling in it, because I can’t just leave it on the sidewalk today…. Neither do I have enough room to stack the trash bags on top of each other until the next trash day comes ’round. It is my own fault, even if I do come by it naturally. When my mother got depressed, she had the same reaction, stuffing things into closets and drawers and under the bed if she knew people were arriving at the house imminently. As her mental health improved, so did the state of her home.

I also have a lot of dry cleaning to drop off, because I do not have enough living space to set up a full-size ironing board and I like extra starch, anyway. The only problem with this is that some of my shirts cost more than others, because the men’s small will go on a regular-size board, and my boys’ shirts have to go on the women’s (I think). I do have a small, pull-out ironing board that I can use for my Dockers,™ because all I want to do is get the stains out and then put a crease from the knee down. If, eventually, I do move into my own place, a fabulous iron/ironing board and several cans of Magic Sizing™ and lavender Faultless™ are in order.

It was my stepfather, Forbes, that taught me how to iron properly, because no one can teach you how to iron more effectively than a former Marine. In fact, I asked my mother for an ironing board and all the accoutrements years ago when I had my own house, and told her that if it didn’t come directly from Forbes I was going to be very upset. 😛

Ironing is also one of my favorite memories with my old girlfriend, now a good friend, whom I called “Angela the Red” to differentiate her from “Angela the Med.” She told me that her favorite movie to put on while she was ironing was Steel Magnolias, so I bought a copy of it and told her I had it in case her clothes became wrinkled at my house.

In my current house, it is all hardwood floors, but back in the day, my favorite chores were ironing and vacuuming, because they are the best examples I know of instant gratification. It’s wrinkled, and within minutes it’s not. It’s dirty, within minutes, it’s not. The same thing goes for my room when it’s clean. It’s just too small to take long when everything is done in small doses. I’ve just let it get out of hand with my low-energy approach to life. I am slowly coming out of it, a butterfly emerging from her cocoon, but these things take time.

There is nothing on earth that would have prepared me for losing my mother so suddenly, and I am reeling from it. I am running away from all the things that require me to take care of myself, to the point that I will avoid showering until absolutely necessary…. although I can’t blame that all on grief. It is really, really cold here… currently 43° during the day and when I woke up suddenly in the middle of the night, only 28.° Even though the shower is hot, there is really nothing that makes me want to take off all my layers to get into one. I did today, though. Progress. Perhaps I will get a space heater for the bathroom, or at the very least enough candles to warm up the room before I go in. One does not cut it… and Dollar Tree has an amazing selection considering that the jar candles I’ve seen elsewhere are 20 times the price.

You would think that the upstairs would be warmer considering that heat rises, but it’s actually a lot colder. On some days, it is warmer outside than in. Last night I put my ski jacket on over my pajamas and turned on my electric blanket. It worked, but it also made me incredibly reticent to get out of bed…. though I did.


Right now, I am making due with warming up my coffee as often as I can, and am searching for the perfect fingerless gloves so that I can still type.

Speaking of which, hold please…………………….

There, that’s better.

The other thing that seems to help is that I have a great pair of Bluetooth™ headphones that act as earmuffs, so there’s little part of my day where I take them off. Perhaps now that I have realized I have tools at my disposal to stay warm, loud music delivered wirelessly so that if I have to go to a different part of the house I won’t lose connection, it will propel me in the right direction. At some point, I need to go to “Targay” to see if I can find a comforter that fits my requirement of insulating the heat from my electric blanket. I have several blankets on top of it, but it’s not pretty, just functional. Perhaps that’s something that needs to go on my Christmas list, but I do need to go shopping to make sure it’s heavy and not one of those “bed in a bag” contraptions where everything is cheaply made. Because I don’t have a cat, it will last a long time, but if I had to put in an adjective, warm would not be one of them. I actually found a Doctor Who set I liked very much, but again, it was cheap. Perhaps in order to find the pattern I want, I’ll just buy several more layering blankets. The warmest one I’ve ever had was an old U-Haul blanket covered in sheets to make it comfortable… the last gift my first wife, Kathleen, ever gave me because it was a running joke throughout our relationship that if we ever got a divorce, I wanted custody of it. She’d already left the house, and when I went to get my own, there it was, folded neatly on a chair. It was just one of the things I’ve lost over time as I’ve “cleaned out my closet” over several moves.

Every move, including this one, has begun with losing everything on purpose in order to truly start over without reminders of the past. This time, however, I cannot get away from it due to the “magic” of Facebook. There are cute reminders every day of who Dana and I used to be to each other, and I alternately cry and laugh over them. I am sure that by now, the dopamine rush of “new relationship” would help me to let go more fully, but at the same time, I have too many memories that plague me to make it fair to my new love, especially someone who thinks that disconnecting from the past “helps.” All people my age come with an incredible amount of baggage that do no good to cover up. I know that memories fade into the background, but the way our relationship ended alternately has me wanting to forget everything and the trauma it caused running through my mind as if it’s still actually happening.

Perhaps the first step is to clean house.

The Care Package

I have it on good authority that I am getting a care package from Portland today. These things are my sustaining grace, those people who care about me no matter where they live. I am alternatively living in deep grief and on top of the world, and care packages are one of the things that rescue me from thinking that things are all bad, all the time. The other thing that has me rising above all of the grief is that I am doing a wedding in August. Since there’s no way I’ll be done with grad school by then, I’ll get myself ordained over the Internet and keep on truckin.’ I want to be ordained for the wedding because it will give me the ability to a) say those special words b) sign a marriage certificate so that I will be on the official record as having done my first wedding ever. It’s the care package I’m giving myself.

I have already done many church services, but this is a special one. I have a few “tricks up my sleeve,” handed down from both my dad and Dr. Susan Leo. Susan and I have had our issues over the years, but I cannot mistake the part for the whole. Susan was the first person that believed in my ability enough to not only hand me her pulpit, but the direction of the entire service as a whole. I even did communion once, to the consternation of the congregation, because they did not know that in the UCC, you do not have to be ordained to do any of the rites. It was the first time I realized I knew the entire communion service by memory. Although I never did it again, because even though you don’t need ordination for it, I didn’t want to make anyone angry, and even in my own mind, I needed to first “wear it like I stole it.”

That moment was when I realized that I started exploring the idea of the confirmed ministry program as opposed to grad school, and I still may deciding on where my life takes me from here. I know within myself that I am not ready to take on a congregation of my own, simply because I am not finished working on myself. However, it wouldn’t hurt to be an associate pastor, soaking up all the knowledge my senior pastor has to offer. In some ways, I think I would make a better associate, because I have the ability to show up and preach, as well as being a part of planning and execution, but not responsible for everything until I am ready to fly solo. I go back to my father’s time at Moody Memorial Methodist Church in Galveston, Texas, where my father served under an incredible senior pastor named Asbury Lennox, and realize that at least for a while, I need my own Asbury. To know him was to love him intensely… especially as a child, because he took me in as my own when my own grandparents lived five hours away by car. Our special date was to go to King’s Candy on the strand, where we would sit and eat licorice laces and divinity.

Good things come from NE Texas, and I am one of them. But I am glad that I also got the chance to live in both Galveston and Houston, as well. For those who are interested, Josh Rushing of Al Jazeera America/ Control Room fame is also “one of us.” Josh’s grandmother was even mayor of Lone Star for a while… the little town in which both my mother and father were raised. As for my father, I don’t think that anyone expected that in a town of 600, he would rise to be a musician of that caliber. In that vein, I cannot leave my mother out of that crowd, either, because she was a church musician starting as a child and rose to greatness at Kilgore College, taught by the same piano teacher that taught Van Cliburn.

Good things come from NE Texas.

The way our family ended up in NE Texas after living in Galveston is that the senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Naples died suddenly and my father was sent there in an emergency appointment. We stayed there for five years before we left for The Heights near downtown Houston. It was a great place to grow up as a child, but we left just in time. The only reason I say that is junior high and high school were when my friends started to experiment with drinking in cow fields, very much the picture of Friday Night Lights. They turned out to be responsible adults, but it was just not my scene. I went on to join a fabulous band at Clifton Middle School, and to attend The High School for Performing and Visual Arts. Though I went there for instrumental music as a trumpet player, I was exposed to all kinds of art. The only program they started after I left that made me a little melancholy was creative writing…. because you know I would have been terrible at it.

Through those experiences, I learned that there was more to life than I ever thought existed, because even though I left HSPVA after two years, I wouldn’t have traded being in marching band and taking mission trips to Mexico for anything in the world. I learned more Spanish through immersion than I ever did in school… my apologies to my Spanish teachers, but there was no substitute for being forced to speak Spanish… my favorite phrase being habla despacio, por favor. I could understand most anything if everyone would just slow down.

I would like to do more immersion over time, because it would thrill me to be able to preach in Spanish.

As the weather gets colder, my heart gets warmer.

Good things come from NE Texas. I am banking on the fact that I am one of them.