Daughters

This morning I listened to one of my housemates on the phone with her mom, making all the universal daughter sounds. Classic highlights include yes, I remember from the first time you told me and maybe we should go ask dad. Now, if there is anything I remember at all from my parents being married to each other, it is that dad does not want to get in the middle between a mother and daughter. It is a losing battle, might as well raise the white flag now….

The conversation made me so sick for my own mother that I had to go upstairs and cry for a few minutes. I would say “homesick,” except that I lived away from my mother for far more years than I lived with her, so most of our conversations were on the phone, because she didn’t like to be on video, either. When I was married and settled, I thought my life was boring in a good way, so I wouldn’t talk all that much about myself. I would listen to her prattle on about her school programs and her classes, and I related to it inasmuch as I could.

I’d give anything to let her go on (and on, and on, and on) again. I could relate to the music, though. If she’d been a math teacher, I doubt I could have followed the conversation at all.

If I was at her house, we’d sing together because she needed someone to do the melody while she learned the accompaniment…. the one thing that we couldn’t do over the phone, and something that made our “face time” together all the more special because it didn’t happen all that often. Our relationship made more sense the older I got, because she never tried to tell me to do anything or say anything with which I wasn’t comfortable. It was as if she knew her parenting job was over, and her response to it was just to try and become my friend. It worked, because nothing ever came across as judgmental or harsh. I could, slowly but surely, be myself around her, warts and all.

So, when people tell me that my mother wouldn’t have wanted me to do or say something, I feel it is a moot point. My mother would have rolled with anything I had to say, and if she disagreed with me, it wasn’t coming across as a parent, but as a concerned friend with my best interests at heart, never pulling the I’m your mother and I know best card…. because truthfully, she didn’t know me all that well. She knew as much as I was comfortable telling her, but the schism that occurred during my teenage years convinced her that just being my friend was her best bet at staying close. And, of course, I didn’t tell her for many years just how much damage that chasm between us cost me. I kick myself for the time in which I couldn’t, wouldn’t open up…. tight-lipped and silent because I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble and I didn’t want to admit that whether she liked it or not, I was choosing this emotionally turbulent relationship over the easy lightness of being we had together.

It took years to convince her that I was indeed gay, because I loved Ryan so much and had been somewhat boy-crazy from childhood to eighth grade. I can explain. That boy-crazy lasted until my young adult hormones kicked in. Before that, I was just like every girl in my class. I struggled with my sexuality the entire time I was with Ryan, because I loved him so much and I didn’t want to hurt him. As it turned out, I didn’t hurt him so much as he thought he hurt me. I was wrecked that he’d kissed another girl at summer camp, and when I got that letter, I cried for hours. But at the same time, it was also a relief, because I knew as time went on that I couldn’t give him what he needed, which was someone who knew they were attracted to men and could see keeping up the attraction for years on end.

I ended up dating a man as an adult, but not because I was in love with him. It was because he was the anti-Kathleen, a great escape from my divorce decimating me and wanting to get as far away from that pain as life would allow. Now, please don’t get me wrong. I loved him as much as I could, but I couldn’t see a future with him, either. I never thought I was doing anything wrong, because we both knew that there were problems in our relationship on each side of the equation. He told me that he wasn’t equipped to be a boyfriend, and I believed him. I also believed that a friend crush was turning into more, and I wanted to see where that went… not wanting to hurt him, but realizing our relationship had run its course. However, I will never forget that in the aftermath of divorce, he saved me from so much emotional damage. He was trained in reiki, and on the nights we were together, I’d curl up under his arm and he’d do his best to release all my negative energy before I fell asleep. It worked beautifully, and I went on to be successful in all the right ways. I also learned that you’re not supposed to make a lifetime commitment to everyone you date. Sometimes you try each other on, and it’s just not a good fit for always, but it is a good fit for that time in your life.

I identify as bisexual because even though the majority of my relationships have been with women, I never want to make the men in my life feel that they didn’t matter to me… that I was just using them when in reality, I needed and wanted them. I’ve just floated more and more toward a six on the Kinsey scale as I’ve gotten older (and wiser), because it is not a good idea for me to date people in which I cannot see a future, and I don’t like breaking up. It’s never fun, no matter what the reason, even if it’s outstandingly reasonable…. and in a less important, but no less valid reason for not dating men, I got a taste of heterosexual privilege and when I learned about it, it sucked and I cried. Because I knew it was there, but I’d never experienced it head on.

Knowing what I know, I could never fall for a man again. It’s unconscionable, even when the man knows you’re bisexual, because from day one it creates the insecurity of “you’re just going to leave me for a woman… eventually….” especially when that insecurity is completely valid.

I talked a big game about dating to get over Dana, but as it turns out, it was only that. Words that meant nothing to me as I took to my room and am only now beginning to think that I could love someone else. Two years is probably enough time to get over an almost eight-year relationship… or not. I still have my moments when I think, Dana was the love of my life and I’ll never find anyone that fulfills me that way so why even bother? I love my independence, but I also love interdependence, and those two ideas wrestle within me because the life plan I thought I had for myself is gone.

It’s just another Option B situation, in which I have to find new ideas and new people to engage me after all I’ve lost. I do know for sure, at this point, anyway, that I do not want to get married again. That may change, or it may not. I just don’t want to give up everything I’ve gained in becoming dependent on myself to make my own decisions and not have to worry about what anyone else thinks. Of course in a relationship, I can make allowances, but what I’ve learned is that when I am enmeshed, I tend to give up my power and think that my worth is tied up in what the other person thinks of me.

I can’t. I just can’t anymore. It’s too hard and it hurts too much, because once I’ve agreed to give up my power, I’ll never get it back…. and not because I can’t (in most cases). It’s because my personality won’t let me, yet another thing I need to discuss with my therapist because it’s no way to live.

I tend to go for these strong, ball-breaking women in whom I feel we can be giants together, and slowly get steamrolled as I refuse to stand up for myself. I am tired of begging, appeasement….. something I do not have in my single life and allows me to be my own person at all times. Perhaps it’s not so much getting over Dana as it is not wanting to create that dynamic again.

For better or for worse, I also had that dynamic with Argo, because I couldn’t face losing her. I have gotten on my knees and begged for that safe space again, but it hasn’t returned and probably won’t. I can’t predict what time will tell, can’t even begin to guess. But what I know for sure is that our dynamic is broken, and because so much of it was at my own hand, I can’t imagine wanting to be my friend…. and begging for her friendship just makes me seem desperate and needy, when that is the last thing on my mind. I just have a lot for which to atone, and that can’t happen in a vacuum. All I can do is say that I tried my best, and reach out to people who do want to show up.

It should make me feel lighter that there are people out there I can lean on, that do value me, that do want to be my friend…. and it does, most days. On others, I can’t stop crying because the weight of grief on me is now enormous. Between Dana, Argo, and my mother, it feels as if grief doesn’t lift. It just changes…. and never as fast as one would like.

They were all so beautiful, inside and out.

I am only now starting to believe that I am, too.

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