2016 in Review -or- It Wasn’t All Bad

2016, while it had its awful moments, has also been very good for me as I have learned who my friends are. Help has come where I least expected it… for instance, when Susan heard that my mother died, she was Johnny-on-the-spot with the e-mails of support and just checking in to make sure I was okay. I can’t help but be a tiny bit jealous that her mother is still alive and mine isn’t, but the take-home message isn’t my jealousy. It’s to treasure every moment she has left. One of the last things I said to her on the subject was do me a favor. The next time you see your mom, hold her for one second longer than you ever have.

Truthfully, I don’t remember much of the year before my mother died. It wiped out everything, because my world just tilted, and in some ways, exploded as blindingly as Alderaan. Princess Leia couldn’t go home again, and neither can I… but only in some ways. Of course I still have a place at my father’s table, but I will never sit next to my mother on the piano bench, her page turner and carrier of melody when she’s trying to learn an accompaniment for a singer.

Now that everyone has been told, I can let the cat out of the bag that it’s Bryn’s wedding I’m doing, and although I am extraordinarily nervous about going back to Portland, I am willing to do it for two reasons:

  1. It’s Bryn’s day, and it’s what she wants. I want to marry her, and as I said, with one signature she’ll have proof I did. It will be a significant milestone in our relationship, one that we’ll both remember for the rest of our lives, and I don’t argue with brides.
  2. Getting ordained over the Internet, while a bit sketchy in my book, might lead to other weddings once people realize I’m actually good at it. I liken it to when I was a trumpet player and had to play Trumpet Voluntary for honorariums because that one piece is how trumpet players eat. Of course, marrying my best friend and her fiancée is her wedding gift. I am talking about the possibility of weddings in the future that will help pay for college and grad school…. you know, the one where I am ordained by the UCC. I don’t think of it as more valid, just more accredited.

2016 was not the wedding, but the ask, and it meant more to me than diamonds.

2016 was also the year of making friendships that go deeper than surface pleasantries. I really opened up to Dan & Autumn, as well as Pri-Diddy. I am only a little bit closer to Dan for two reasons. The first is that Pri-Diddy is off on an adventure, and the second is that Dan’s mother is dead as well. She wraps me in hugs when I need it, those that last a second longer because she recognizes that particular brand of pain…. the fire pit that seems to be The Neverending Story.

Opening up to Pri-Diddy has been more about forward motion and where I go from here. She has been relentless in her support of me, whether it’s dropping going back to work and concentrating solely on school, or putting me in touch with people who could help me get jobs that would allow me the type salary to graduate without much debt.

2016 was becoming Christ Congregational’s Writer in Residence, literally, because I have an office and a red Swingline stapler. I am proud to be their “webmistress” and look forward to all the social media responsibility that comes with it. Matt asked me if I was capable of editing a book, and I told him that I’d never done it before, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t, because I am ruthless with a red pen. Here, you get all my thoughts, all over the place, but you don’t get what I am truly capable of in terms of academic and formal writing. It’s a different type completely… this is just one style, rarely crafted but vomited logorrhea. I am positive that I could do better with this web site if I did first drafts and second drafts and outlines and all that shit, but I think the blog would also lose character as I craft a narrative instead of just truly telling you what I’m thinking on a moment-to-moment basis. Even my marriage article was stream-of-consciousness, and took approximately 15 minutes to write, which is why I was so blown away by the response… and I am so sad that it didn’t work for my own.

2016 was about letting go. Letting go of Dana, letting go of Argo, letting go of anyone who thought I was crazy for opening up to someone over the Internet and developing real feelings about a virtual relationship. Though neither of those relationships worked out, the lessons I learned were invaluable and I carry them in my heart, pondering what I could have done differently so that anyone new I meet isn’t tainted by my past moods and behaviors. I had to learn to let go of rage and anxiety about those situations and just chill the fuck out. So far, it’s working. It was working before my mother died, but afterward, I realized what was truly important and what wasn’t, and decided to live in love instead of fear. I don’t always manage it with everyone, because I am quite socially anxious with people I don’t know. But anxiety about them and where our relationships have ended up is mostly gone, and they live in my memory with fondness instead of enmity…. again, most of the time. It’s a spectrum that lives in my heart and my inbox.

2016 was the year of finding the Outlander phenomenon, because I read all the books earlier than that, but not the immense fandom that lives on Facebook and Twitter. It was also the year of watching Season One of the TV show, where it cut me deeply and I had to stop. I’m not finished with Season Two because of it. Seeing that level of pain on the screen rather than reading it gutted me like an axe, as well as reading a soldier’s tweet that she’d been through the PTSD sex scene and realizing that those things happen all over the place and not just in fiction. I didn’t cry while I was reading the book, but the TV show and that tweet undid me for days on end and it took time to recover. Still taking time.

Perhaps in 2017 I’ll catch up, but in 2016, it was just too much.

2016 was getting more distance from Diane and realizing I was indeed capable of leaving her behind in a way that I never thought possible… because the break happened years ago, but it took awhile to settle in and make it really, really real. If I ever run into her again, which is possible, I know to be guarded and polite, Leslie Lanagan.™ There’s nothing in the world that would make me open up to her again, as hard as it was when my mother died. The tapestry of memories that included them both was large and somewhat depressing, but what lifted me out of it was knowing just how many people have come forward and said that they knew what she was doing wasn’t right or sane. Even “she didn’t mean to” is no longer a valid excuse. As my father would say, mean not to. This year has been learning to breathe through that anxiety with a little less labor, but especially since we are both musicians, there are still certain pieces that leave me in pieces, too…. although not as many as they used to, which is progress in my book.

2016 has been learning to breathe for all my friends that work for the Obama administration, because they’re all out of a job once Trump is in office. Living in DC has introduced me to several of them, and they are not forgotten in my mind as they go through this transition. As for my other friends that work for the rest of the government, believe me when I say that the rebellion has begun, trying to figure out how to make the bureaucracy work even more slowly than normal to avoid upending a number of good policies, both foreign and domestic.

This year has also been about me learning to be a lover and a fighter all at the same time, taking on going to meetings where the county government covers things like race relations and police brutality. People of faith have to speak up, even when it’s difficult. I know within myself that I am capable of so much, and if I get arrested for peacefully protesting, there are a number of people willing to bail me out of jail… a talk I never thought I’d have to have, but police brutality extends to people who are just sitting there. It may not be getting worse, just filmed, but there it is. I have a feeling that there will be a lot of protests this year over a multitude of things, including what we are doing militarily, but soldiers, listen up. I will never, ever, ever disagree with the boots on the ground. I couldn’t be more proud or more thankful for your existence. However, I will gladly disagree with your Commander in Chief if he is using you for inane or dangerous purposes. My Jesus wouldn’t stand for it, and neither will I.

Most of all, I have learned that no matter what I do, good or bad, there is nothing that will ever separate me from the love of God, and the whole host of faces I use to talk to them (using this pronoun because God is genderless). I have sat in so much silence and prayer, trying to find my still, small voice that it is emerging in a big damn way.

2017, stay tuned.

Waiting for Snow

White chocolate is not chocolate, but it had to do. I have to go grocery shopping in the worst way, and I had a ton of Lindor truffles left over from Christmas, so I ate a few………. Now my blood sugar is high enough that I can make it out the door, at the very least…. I’ll be able to shop without buying an entire aisle. I need so many things because I can’t bring myself to leave the house most days, which is good. I’ve managed to use up all the staples I’d bought previously and have avoided my temptation to eat out all at once. I wish I could feel embarrassed at my lack of productivity, but I don’t. My work is all Internet, all the time, so even if I’m still in my pajamas, I’m looking for jobs, writing for this web site, working for the church, etc. I may be wearing flannel pants, but it’s all getting done.

Where I feel ashamed is that I’ve let my personal life go by the wayside in terms of taking care of myself… not that all of the above isn’t helping. However, I just don’t want to talk to anyone, don’t want to engage. I just want to be left alone to my own devices most of the time.

The date that I went on to Kingbird in the Watergate was fun. I took the Metro so I could have a second drink if I wanted (a third and it’s hangover city, which is to be avoided at all costs). The first was some sort of whiskey shaken with something that had spices in it, served up. The second was a Stella Artois IN A GLASS. :P~~~~ (Inside joke, they know who they are). The funniest part is that Google Maps walked me right to Kingbird, but it was the back entrance and I had no idea how to get in. I ended up knocking on the glass until a waiter came to the door. The Watergate complex is immense, and if you don’t know where you’re going, there are just SO many ways to get lost.

But anyway, they had some excellent snacks to serve with the drinks, and I am embarrassed to say that since I hadn’t had dinner yet, I ate them like they were going out of style, especially the Sriracha peas. We didn’t make plans to get together again, but it was ok. I showed up, which is a win in my book regardless. I just need to do more of that stuff, you know, where I actually have to iron a shirt and polish my shoes. DC is such a mishmash in terms of getting dressed. DC is sometimes very formal, and sometimes I can’t tell that I’ve actually left Portland. It’s the same uniform here as it is there- pants, shirt, fleece… especially in hippy neighborhoods like Takoma Park. Takoma Park itself is a mishmash, because part of it is in DC and part of it is in Maryland. I think it can best be summed up in a conversation I had at church a couple of years ago.

Leslie: I feel like such a hipster in these brown pants.
Parishioner: Oh, don’t worry. Brown pants just mean you don’t work on The Hill.

Seriously, DC is so Portland sometimes. “Welcome to DC. Here’s your brown hoodie.”

It’s like living in two different worlds, and you can tell immediately which world you’re in based on clothing and Metro stop, as well as the cars parked in the neighborhoods where you’re walking. For instance, Georgetown is all new Mercedes and BMWs. Capitol Hill is old shared Mercedes and BMWs, with five or six staffers to a house.

I used to inhabit that sort of world, wearing skirt suits and panty hose every day to XOM. There were days I felt like a drag queen, but working there was, for the most part, fun…. as long as I put the fact that I was selling my soul to the devil in the back of my mind. There are all these reports about how Rex Tillerson is in bed with the Russian government, and I have a sneaking suspicion that they are Truth.™ Even in 2002, we were working on a project to extract oil from Sakhalin with the ice-breaker boats and everything. You now know the sum total of what I know about the project, but I think that’s enough to say that Rex Tillerson’s relationship with Russia is not new or exciting.

Now I work for companies who have no problem with the Dockers and t-shirt combo, which I never knew I valued until I had to spend almost an hour getting ready in the morning. Let’s not get stupid- I look amazing with my hair and make-up on point. But I’d much rather break it out when I want to instead of have to every day. Plus, because of my dyskinesia, I am awful at walking in heels. I’ll do it, but it’s not my favorite. I fall a lot more often, and as I get older, the falls are more severe…. which is why I didn’t even bring heels when I moved.

Yes, my clothes have a lot to do with not drawing male attention to myself, but they also keep me on my feet most of the time. Rarely have I ever fallen in my Chucks or Docs, even in the snow. I had a bad fall last winter, one that was narcotics worthy and yet, the narcotics still did nothing to touch it save heightening my “I don’t give a shit-o-meter.” I didn’t feel better until I got some Skelaxin on board and a lot of sleep to repair it with lactic acid refresh. The thing that really made the fall horrible was that I had my backpack on. Had I not, I might’ve had an easier time of making the fall more graceful and less painful. However, my backpack hit the ground a few seconds before I did, which made the muscles in my lower back seize. It hurt, but I went ahead and got on the bus, anyway. Several hours later, I couldn’t move. Luckily, Sam was home and came to get me and take me to the doctor.

I bring all this up because in the next couple of weeks we’re supposed to get several snow days in a row where one to three inches is predicted, without enough warmth to let some of the snow melt before it starts again. I can’t wait. I’m going to get some cream and vanilla extract at the store (I already have Sugar in the Raw™ & Splenda™) so that I can make snow ice cream, my mother’s favorite treat when she was a little girl. If she heard that it was snowing, she’d put one of my grandmother’s bowls on top of my grandmother’s car so that the next morning, there was clean, pure snow with which to work. My other favorite is just to gather enough snow to fill a Big Gulp™ and pour diet soda over it. Snow cokes are the best (which is not a trademark because everything in Texas is a coke….. “What kind of coke do you want?” “Grape.” ooooooh, now I’m thinking about a snow Purple Cow……).

Speaking of snow and cold, I’ve finally learned how to use my puffy jacket correctly. Just a t-shirt under it, because it has to soak up my body heat for maximum efficacy (yes, I really do talk like that). There can be layers over it, but if I wear a sweater or a long-sleeve t-shirt/Oxford under it, body heat is blocked from warming up the liner. I may go to Goodwill™ and see if I can find a London Fog™ so my butt doesn’t get cold when I sit down, but it’s not absolutely necessary. When it’s really, really cold I wear skiing silks under my Dockers.™ I like it because when I’m just wearing my skiing silks and a t-shirt, I look like a male ballerina. 🙂

Speaking of which, yesterday this woman at the pharmacy said, “excuse me, sir?” and when I looked up, said, “excuse me, ma’am?” and looked so embarrassed. I said, “I don’t care. Really.” I think she thought I was going to yell at her or something, but when you dress like I do, stuff like that happens all the time. Besides, I feel like I am just as in touch with my male side as I am with my female side, so neither one is a slam or a compliment. It just is. In fact, I imagine that pronoun mistakes happen a lot more than I think in DC because of the enormous amount of female soldiers in the area (Can I have your phone number? :P)

Lindsay helped me get in touch with my inner girly teenager over Christmas, because she gave me all sorts of Punk’d gifts. I am now the proud owner of a Justin Bieber singing electric toothbrush and red nail polish. The nail polish will come in handy because I need to start doing my own nails until I get a job. Then it’s back to acrylics, cut short so they are smooth and available for……………… typing.

It’s starting to really dawn on me just how long it’s been since I’ve been touched in any kind of romantic way, and it’s not a bummer in the slightest. I needed it. I had a lot of shit to own and figure out before I could be ready for anyone new, but now that it’s been almost two years, it’s not that I’m looking, I just notice these things. I notice how out of touch I am with myself in terms of burying myself in memories, which has come with both good and bad side-effects. The good is that I don’t want to hurt anyone the way I hurt Dana, Argo, L-Train, and Notorious. The bad is that I am wondering whether I am doing damage to myself or whether this much time in the desert is exactly what was needed for me to “heal thyself.” The best thing I can do in this situation is to hold the cognitive dissonance in my mind and realize that those things are both true. I am limiting myself by not putting myself out there, AND time to think has been invaluable. I liken it to when Dana and I became friends and all I needed was someone to talk to for hours at a time, without there being any pressure or need to be romantic. When I first appeared on her radar, I’d just had my heart put through a blender, because I was in an age-gap relationship that I wanted to work and she didn’t. Cut to me moving to Houston and meeting a couple with the exact same age difference as my own relationship where they were happy and so in love they couldn’t see straight and I was so jealous I could’ve spit nails. They were so affectionate that every time they kissed, I had to look away in my own pain.

It was the same way when Meag left me. I waited three years before I dated anyone else, and for ten I carried a small flame for her because that’s what first loves do to everyone (I think). It was not a flame of hope, more like “I wish I could meet someone for whom I had a tenth of the emotion.” I thought that person was Kathleen. As it turned out, not so much. Meag and I were sitting alone in an Ottawa SBUX when she said that she was sorry we’d never gotten to be partners as adults, something she thought we would have been very good at. I was glad that she said it in the way of an apology, but my heart and stomach clenched with pain. First loves are nothing to mess around with, and the pain kept getting worse. She said that because she treated me so badly, she thought she didn’t have the right to come back to me and say she was sorry and could we start over. I RAGED inside that she’d taken away my choice…. but perhaps she said it when the feeling behind it wasn’t that strong for her and gutted me.

It was so long ago that I have forgiven, but not forgotten how I felt in that moment. I didn’t find that relationship again until I was 29, about to turn 30. My 30th birthday party was a coming out of sorts, where all my friends got to find out that the thing they’d been thinking all these years was true…. Dana and I were in love with each other. We were still in the “get a room” phase and everyone at the table knew it. The looks on their faces were priceless. Yes, I was in love with Kathleen, but nowhere in our relationship did we have the depth of emotion that Dana and I did, because we spent so long taking care of each other as friends that there was no way either of us didn’t know what contract we were signing.

I suppose that’s what I’m waiting for now. Someone where it feels from the beginning that I’ve known them my whole life. It’s a tall order, but I am extraordinarily patient.

More patient than waiting for snow.

#youhadonejob

I went to pick up my nerve pills, cause everybody be wonderin.’ So I get there and the pharmacy tech hands me my prescriptions and I take them out to the car where my water bottle lives. I pick up the bottle marked clonazepam (Klonopin™) and take out two pills. I realize that they don’t look like clonazepam and there cannot possibly be 60 pills in the bottle. It was then that I realized it was escitalopram (Lexapro™) in a bottle marked clonazepam and vice versa. The only reason I didn’t notice immediately is that sometimes generic pills change shape if the pharmacy switches to a different manufacturer… but before I took two escitaloprams, I decided to check the “clonazepam” bottle first. Lo and behold, I was right. They’d given me mismatched bottles.

I wasn’t exactly hacked off about it, but I was concerned that it happened, and decided to go back into the pharmacy. You cannot imagine what an egregious mistake this is for non-medical people who wouldn’t necessarily grab on to the fact that the pills looked different and so was the dosage. If I’d taken two escitaloprams, it wouldn’t have killed me. But there are plenty of other drugs where it would’ve, and I didn’t want to get mad at anybody, but it was a responsibility/liability issue. I am the type person that would have taken them home and switched them out without saying anything in order not to have to interact again…. just not today. I was feeling angry about something else, and though I never let it show, it did give me enough courage to walk back in and talk to them about it.

Of course they were horrified, and should have been. Had I not known exactly what to look for, I cannot imagine what would have happened to my mood and behavior. It didn’t happen to me, but it very easily could have happened to someone else. Doubling your SSRI and halfing your benzo is two different things. Less clonazepam wouldn’t have hurt me, I just might have felt a little more anxiety than usual. More escitalopram would have made me euphoric at first and then disconnected from my emotions altogether after a week or so because my seratonin level would have gone through the roof.

Let me make it clear that this is an actionable offense, but I am not that person. My main concern was calling their attention to it, because what if it had been heart medication and narcotics? Depending on the dosage, the narcotics could have made autonomic breathing shut off, especially if the heart medication was halfed and the narcotics were doubled (again, depending on dosage). It’s not worth a court case, but it is worth writing about it to warn others to check and make sure that the medication is correct, as well as making sure everyone in the pharmacy loses blood in their faces, because they knew what the consequences would have been had I not been nice about it.

Here’s the easiest solution. Register for Epocrates, click on Drugs at the main menu, find your drug, and go to the “Pill pictures” link. That way, there can be no mistake. Or, if the pill looks different, just take it back to the pharmacy and ask if they’ve switched manufacturers or if the bottle isn’t labeled correctly. If the bottle is not labeled correctly, you will get the desired reaction without having to even raise your voice.

In short, be careful. No pharmacist is perfect.

All Three

Now that she has been struck down, she will become more powerful than we can possibly imagine. –Kristie Berthelotte

I feel like Carrie Fisher would laugh if I paraphrased her, so Carrie’s death hurt all three of my feelings.

Of course, realistically, it was a gut punch of enormous proportions. I don’t think that people who suffer from mental health issues will realize what an advocate they’ve lost until reality sets in, because right now we are all engulfed in shock. There’s been a disturbance in the force and we are reeling from it. The best we can do is take some of her incredible energy and put it into our own hearts, because that is the part of her which will live on. Because she was an actor, she is immortal.

My best guess is that every ticket for Rogue One today in the nation just sold out, and for those who aren’t going to the movies, the Star Wars series is queued up in binge-watch order. It makes so much sense. Watching her on screen is what keeps her alive, an idea that resonates with me because why do you think I write about Dana and Argo so much? If I do, they’re still with me. They’re still present. They’re still  three dimensional instead of flat and lifeless. They didn’t die, but our relationships did, which is sometimes harder than death because their lives are still going on, their beauty and humor still out there in the world, going on without me. There are solid reasons for it, but beyond logic I am still entitled to feelings about them…. wonderful and terrible… painful, honest, and real. In that way, they have gained immortality (at least, to me) as well.

Celebrity deaths are reminders of the deaths and immortalities that occur all around us, because we can’t say we knew them personally… and yet, sometimes they hurt that much. Star Wars and I are the same age, so Princess Leia has been a fixture in my life since I was born. Thanks to movie theaters and the Internet, she always will be.

I think it’s a classical music sort of day, listening to all the Requiems I love. Through music, I can let the people that their composers wished to be immortal live as well.

Goodnight, sweet Princess… letting everything I’ve lost so personally lie down in green pastures as well.

Christmas Day 2016

I got to the church 45 minutes early because I wasn’t sure of the call time this morning and thought it was better to be early and hang out in my office if I was wrong than oversleep. I only got about five hours of sleep last night… more than most parents still putting toys together, but less than I really wanted. I couldn’t fall asleep. I opened all of my presents save the one marked “Do Not Open Until Christmas Day” because my plan is to leave church, get some lunch, and go see Rogue One. I saw The Force Awakens last Christmas Day, so apparently now it’s a thing. In order to be a good Jew, lunch will be Chinese food.

I wasn’t technically raised Jewish, but twice in my life I’ve had Jewish next door neighbors and we’ve celebrated both holidays. The first time was when I was in kindergarten/first grade, and my parents were going to let me go to Hebrew school with the neighbor kids (if it’s allowed- I don’t know) when we got the announcement that we were moving to Naples from Galveston. I cannot imagine how far ahead I would be in life had I learned Hebrew as a child, because learning a language is so much tougher for adults than it is for kids, and both Hebrew and Greek are MDiv requirements.

The second time I had Jewish neighbors, “Mark” showed up on our front doorstep in Ninja Turtle boxers (only funny because he was in his 40s at the time… maybe still is, I’m not good with age) on a Jewish high holy day (I think it was Yom Kippur, but don’t quote me on it) and said, you want some Jew food? Yes. Yes, we did.

As t-shirt wisdom dictates, I am not a Jew, but I am Jew-ish. As Christians, we all are, really… It pains me to think of just how many people there are in this country that don’t know it. But the important thing is that I do.

In other news, today is “Ugly Sweater” day at church, and I do not have an entry in the competition. By the time I found out it was “Ugly Sweater Day” (last night) it was too late to find one. I had to make due with a plain green sweater instead, but underneath I am wearing my t-shirt that has Darth Vader walking AT-ATs on a leash like puppies. If only I’d found THAT in an ugly sweater variety. As Matt said when he walked in this morning, not that it’s a competition, but I’m going to win. If he broadcasts today, I’ll post a picture of him, because his sweater is truly…. memorable. However, if I’d managed to find a Star Wars ugly sweater, I think I could have beaten him…. Win, I would have….

I know this sounds ridiculous for an almost 40-year-old adult, but my favorite ugly sweaters and t-shirts must have dinosaurs. I went through a phase in elementary school where dinosaurs were all I talked about, so it must be a “throwback” to that time in my life. I have ordered all the dinosaur t-shirts on 6DollarShirts.com, but they were lost in the move. My favorite, which got the most comments from others, had a T-Rex lying horizontally across it and said T-Rex hates push-ups (Big head, little arms)…. another ugly sweater contender had it come in such a variety.

Now that we’ve gone from Star Wars to Jews to dinosaurs, it’s time to grab my music and get to the sanctuary. I can’t believe I just left here 12 hours ago… however, it feels like a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away….

Have a Merry Christmas you will, ya’ll.

 

Face Time

Despite my best efforts to stop it, Christmas has come, anyway. I just keep thinking what kind of world is this that my mother is not here? What kind of world is this that in some sense, I will never go home again? What kind of world is this where there will be no pictures of my possible wedding, possible kids or step-kids, no possible anything with my mother in them? The only thing I have that even comes close is a few pictures of my high school graduation, and that’s it. No graduation from college, no graduation from divinity school, no ordination, no pictures of me standing in front of my first call or church plant. No pictures of her at the piano playing during my first service. I am certainly not, but there are times when I feel utterly alone, as if no one understands and yet, plenty of people do.

What kind of world IS THIS?

It is new and frightening, not because of world events, but because of my own… although it seems as if my mother’s death should be writ that large. Everyone should know what a light the world has lost, and everyone should share in my pain. Of course, this is impossible… but when you lose a parent, it seems as if earth has stopped rotating on its axis and spinning around the sun. Nothing should ever be the same, because I won’t. It’s selfish and egocentric to think that the world should stop for everyone else, and it doesn’t.

Other people go on about their busy lives as I try to put my own back together into some semblance of the new normal. The only problem is that it can’t be normalized, and never will be. I feel guilty for all the moments I missed, and yet I know that I can’t be held responsible for what I didn’t know. And Jesus, there are so many things I didn’t know.

Why in the crippling fuck did I choose to move? Because at the time, it seemed like the most sensible solution to ending my relationship with Dana, because I never could have done it without a physical boundary. Our relationship was so sacred, so full of energy that I never would have stopped trying, never would have allowed myself or Dana the space to really think about whether getting back together was a good idea, never would have stopped thinking that she was the only person in the entire world for me, because at the time, she was my world. I couldn’t move without thinking of her on the exhale. She was my electricity and my grounding wire all at the same time. In addition to being absolutely crazy about her, she was also my “Danabase,” the person that created location memories because I’m terrible at it, so when I was tearing about the house looking for my keys, wallet, phone, etc. most of the time all I had to do was ask her for it. She was invaluable to me in both romantic and companionate love, the easiest relationship I’d ever had most of the time. Therefore, since we didn’t have children and therefore nothing tying me to Houston, I just left. I know myself too well. I would have fought to the death to get her back and gone through an even bigger world of pain when it didn’t work, and on some level, I knew it wouldn’t. It was better for me to slink off with my tail between my legs than it was to put energy where it wasn’t wanted. I could rebuild. I always do. However, to paraphrase Eleven, I’ll never forget the time that Leslie was me.

What I Know for Sure™ is that if I could go back and do it again, knowing that my world was about to end, I would have stayed put. I would have gone to my mother’s every choir performance, I would have visited more, I would have shown up. I would have completely forgotten my own needs and just spent more time getting to soak up her everyday life, and she would have wanted that. We were always trying to make up for lost time, and it has run out in the most disastrous way possible.

I am not ready for Christmas, and possibly never will be again, but my mother just died in October. It is a cruel joke that the holidays and my mother’s death are so close together. It is so hard to find new life, new hope the child will bring… and listen… to the angels sing.

I just thought the holidays were hard after torching my relationships with Diane, Dana, Argo, and countless others as I turned inward because I’d done so much wrong in so short a time. What I have to remember is that I torched my relationship with Diane because it needed to happen, butt quick. I torched my relationships with others because my reactions to it were cut down to wet cat backed into a corner, claws extended…. except with my mother.

I could cry with her, and her mirror neurons made her cry with me, simply because I was hurt. I could be vulnerable with her in a way that I couldn’t be with anyone else. I got to have conversations with her that I never thought I would have, because I thought that she was too homophobic to have them. Once those issues were resolved, the conversation I remember the most clearly is when Dana and I were trying to get pregnant (we only made it as far as seeing the OB/GYN and exploring picking out a donor) and she listened, telling me her long and difficult story of trying to get pregnant with me. It took five years, and she told me that the reason why is that something was wrong with her uterus. She thinks that she may have gotten pregnant once before, and the implantation stuck before the cells died. She went to the doctor and had the procedure to remove that damaged tissue, and got pregnant relatively easily after that… but she lamented the years she didn’t know what was wrong, and told me that she and my dad were just starting to explore adoption when she found out she was pregnant. She laughed when I told her that Dana was not interested in getting pregnant, but if her family was any indication, she knew she was “fertile Myrtle” if I wasn’t.

It now makes so much more sense about why I was such an attack dog in trying to protect Dana from her own parents, who made it clear that they wouldn’t come to our wedding (finally, finally they changed their minds on that one) and my children would not be their grandchildren. It was the only reason I wanted Dana to get pregnant instead of me… so that their grandparents would see them as valid, because my parents would have, anyway. My mom listened as I told her that if the kid was indeed mine, Dana needed to go and stay at her parents’ house with the baby alone, so that they saw her as the mother of that child and not just a glorified babysitter. We also decided that breast feeding would be limited, so that either one of us could feed our child and have those bonding moments, and my mom just listened.

You cannot imagine how hard it was to say the words to my mother that I wanted to have a baby, because I thought they would awkwardly hang in the air. Relief flooded my body when they didn’t. She just loved me so unconditionally even when she was uncomfortable. Because she was uncomfortable, I wish I’d tried harder to bridge the gap. My main coping mechanism was to have hours-long phone calls in which we only talked about her… and perhaps it was for the best, because I wasn’t running away from her entirely, just self-selecting what she knew about my life and what she didn’t.

For instance, I wore long-sleeve shirts around her for three years so she would find out I’d gotten a tattoo on my forearm so long after the fact that it wouldn’t matter anymore. She didn’t meet anyone I was dating until we we’d been together so long that the relationship was solid. The only people she didn’t meet that I wanted her to were Dana’s parents, because they had dinner with my Dad and Angela, but would have shared so much more common ground with my mom, because she struggled so much harder to accept me than my dad did… and mostly because she was worried about me, as if I had some sort of design flaw that she’d created herself. By the time she would have met Dana’s parents, she’d let go of that idea and if the conversation had steered in that direction, perhaps my mother would have been their own personal PFLAG…. and now I’ll never know, for so many reasons.

I remember that at HATCH (Houston Area Teen Coalition of Homosexuals), I won an award for all the public speaking I’d done at local churches, and she went to the awards ceremony with me. She was dating a Republican judge at the time, and she choked on her water when she found out the keynote speaker was Sheila Jackson Lee. She wasn’t threatened by a room full of gay people, but a Democrat was just beyond the pale.

As she got older, she got more and more liberal, but at that time in her life she was all “R” all the time. She used to wear this t-shirt I loved that said, “take the law into your own hands… hug a judge.” I also remember that phone call, the one where she was wailing and said, they found the judge dead in the bed… and the phone was off the hook because he’d been talking to me. She berated herself for a long time because she thought she could have done something, but his heart just wore out… probably from being too big. My mother used to teach in a school that was predominantly black and poor, and the judge poured out his pockets for it. When they needed school supplies or coats, he was all over it. At his funeral, we were considered family, and I remember riding in the limo to the cemetery absolutely not knowing what to say, because there was nothing to say.

Just like there is nothing anyone can say to me now that would carry more weight than the tapes that run in my own mind. One line that is keeping me sane is something Dr. Susan Leo said in a Christmas Eve service long ago… that Christmas Eve is the one night of the year where the membrane between heaven and earth stretches so thin we can reach up and touch it. I can imagine it. I can touch my mother’s face.

I have never believed in the traditional versions of heaven and hell, choosing to focus on the heaven and hell that’s already here… most notably, the heaven and hell I create for myself. But tonight, of all nights, I choose to believe that Susan is right, and that my mother will be reaching down to touch my face as well.

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces

Taking a Nap…

Yesterday I spent some time shopping (didn’t buy anything) and got my hair did. When I came home, I was exhausted and spent about an hour submitting my resumé for anything and everything I could think of because that didn’t take much energy and then thought, “I’ll take a nap.” I should have set an alarm, because I didn’t wake up until 0400. I didn’t even notice that my phone was ringing, I was so out of it, so I have phone calls to return today. I can only think that it was my body’s way of saying “you thought you were well? Not so fast, Leslie.” However, I feel 100 percent better this morning after having spent an hour or so with Sam drinking coffee and talking about our lives. I may or may not have drunk most of the pot myself.

On the plus side, now I know exactly how much coffee it takes to rip my stomach in half.

I’ve spent more time off the grid because I was starting to feel like I didn’t have anything to write about. There’s only so many times I want to hear that my mother is dead, much less sounding like a broken record to you. But who am I kidding? I am a broken record most of the time….. hello, Dana…. hello, Argo…. hello, incessant tapes running through my head until they’re done….

I’m going out with someone new tonight. She works in the science/medical field, which is completely different from me and yet we have enough to connect on to make conversation. I don’t know if there will be a romantic spark, but I do know that I want to spend time with her regardless. I like having smart people around me, and she’s definitely that. We’re meeting at the Watergate, and I told her I’d never been there before and I might have to geek out and take pictures. In terms of the United States, I live where the history comes from,  to paraphrase Eddie Izzard.

Because we both have Gmail, I sent her a calendar invite, and she commented on it… and I’m like, “oh my God… she might think I’m a real adult or something.” I live and die by Google Calendar because if I didn’t, I’d never make it anywhere. The Google Suite is basically my ADD medication.

So far, I’ve been on a couple of “first dates” that ended up being great friendships because you can’t force a romantic spark, especially when you’re not looking for one. “Dates” in quotation marks because I could force myself to leave the house and have a good time, but seriously still stuck on processing my old life to make room for a new one. I still don’t know that I’m ready, but what I do know is that unless I start dating the girl that delivers my pizza, it’s not going to happen in the comfort of my house.

Although as I have said before, if I do start dating the girl that delivers my pizza, I already know three things:

  1. She is employed.
  2. She has a vehicle.
  3. She already knows the way to my house.

The joke there is that I’ve only had one woman deliver a pizza to me in the entire time I’ve been ordering.

I do want to get out and do new things so that I have more to write about than the past, but depression and anxiety have stopped me from doing many of the things I’ve wanted because I just didn’t have the energy (see above). I want to be able to tell new stories instead of continuing to focus on old ones, but at the same time, it helps for my blog to lag behind my real life so that I have some perspective on what’s happening rather than it being stream-of-consciousness. Sometimes it is, but most of the time what you’re getting is reflection, and hopefully the peace that comes with it. I feel like I have reconciled all I can reconcile and everything else is left up to me.

I didn’t want to give up Argo or Dana, but I did. It “takes two to tango” is a thing, but I very fully own that a lot of it was my fault entirely. There are so many things I could have done differently over the last three years, and reflection on what I’ve done (and left undone) has made it clear to me what I don’t want in the future. I pray a lot, trying to find that still, small voice inside me that directs me where to go next. I listen to a lot of podcasts that are centered on self-improvement, my favorites being The Robcast and On Being with Krista Tippett. I also listen to Tim Ferris, but what’s different with The Robcast is that when he endorses books, I buy them. So far I’ve gotten Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich and Honest to God by John A. T. Robinson. Both are fantastic. Rob hasn’t let me down yet. 🙂

Of course, I’m also reading for fun…. a book I got for free on BookBub called Revenge and a Bottle of Merlot. It’s about a woman who is being emotionally abused and cheated on by her husband, so she and her best friends hatch a plan to get him back for it. Considering how badly the woman is treated by her husband, the book is light, funny and a quick read.

It feels nice to laugh again. I can’t laugh all the time, but when I do, I try to make those moments last. I am trying to emerge from the dark unscathed, but having my mother die so suddenly and its aftermath is a darkness for which I was completely unprepared. I know that no one is ever ready for the death of a parent, but there was no time where she was sick, no time to get used to the idea, no time to do anything but sit in mind-altering confusion.

Though the fog is still all around me, I have at least acquired lamps.

I hope that tonight will be memorable. I hope I have a new friend. Anything more than that is just icing, and if I look at it that way, then I am not afraid of letting new people in. When I take it to the extreme of planning what it would look like to drag someone into my freak show of a life, I get overwhelmed and give up, happy to stay home with a book and some tea. I tend to get too far ahead of myself, because that’s what visionaries do. It is not altogether helpful unless I’m talking about my career, because that is limited to me.

Right now I need to vision myself doing some laundry and polishing my shoes.

Because I’m meeting someone new.