Laughter in the Morning

I have a roommate named Valentin (but pronounced like the holiday) whose mother is visiting from Cameroon for the next four months. When I came downstairs to fill my water bottle, they were speaking in a foreign language that I couldn’t quite place. When he and his mother stopped speaking, I said, “Valentin, what language are you speaking?” He said, “French.” I am thinking that it was the African dialect that threw me off, because I did not recognize it as such. So, I say the only sentence I know in French off the top of my head…. “Francais c’nest pas comfortable pour moi” (French is not comfortable for me). From behind, I hear this CACKLE as his mother just loses it and starts shaking, she’s laughing so hard. I turn around and she gives me a high five.

It’s the first time we’ve really connected on something, because she does not speak more than a few words in English. We have mostly communicated through gestures, like “here’s the one button you press to turn on the dishwasher.”

Laughter filled the kitchen, lighting us all up from the inside.

Baby steps.

The New Theme -or- Every. Single. One.

I haven’t had much time to actually work on my site, because I’ve been too busy wrapped up in my own head and trying to create a life worth writing about…. even if I did have to end that phrase with a preposition. Yes, I realize. Know the rules, break the rules, etc. Hopefully the new design is a bit cleaner, easier to read, and has less of an annoying footer on every post that I didn’t even realize was there until I delved into the “widgets” section. Well, technically, that’s not true at all. I knew it was there. I was just too lazy to do anything about it. Perhaps lazy is the wrong word. Unmotivated at best, which is different because I’m not lazy about the writing. Just how it looks to the general public. I also didn’t realize that my PayPal link had disappeared, so I fixed that, too. I hardly ever talk about money on this web site, but domain name cost has come around, so anybody that has a spare dollar would be thanked immediately and profusely. There are some of you that have donated that have not given me your home addresses so that I can send you a thank-you card, complete with signature in case it ever becomes worth something. Let me know. My e-mail address is ldlanagan AT gmail DOT com, and you can always find me on Facebook.

However, even if no one ever donated, I’d still be spilling my guts, because as I’ve said from the very beginning, this web site is for me, and you are invited. Money helps, but it is not the driving force as to why I do this. Not then, not now, not ever.

The whole reason I chose WordPress.com over buying my own server space is so that I didn’t have to work on development in the first place. I mean, I’m a total bad ass when it comes to HTML/CSS, but that’s never been the focus of this web site, and it never will be. I had a donor who bought me WordPress premium for a year so that I could add my own CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and what I found was that I used it for custom fonts and not much more. I can only hope you don’t care about drop shadows and shit…. because you know it’s true if it has a drop shadow, an impressive font, and a graphic  that expresses more than I do.

WordPress already does all the things I need, and the free themes are infinitely easier to deal with than either creating my own or customizing something already built to my own satisfaction. If I went down that rabbit hole, I’d never get back out. I am a perfectionist. Every #class and #id would have to be perfect, and I would drive myself crazy in my own Virgo way. It’s such a blessing to have all of those things already set. I nearly said “taken care of,” thus ending another sentence with a preposition. I AM TRYING, PEOPLE.

Perhaps a couple of cups of coffee will help, as I have not had any for three or four days, and because I haven’t kept track of how long it’s been, I didn’t realize that my headaches were almost entirely due to the lack of them. I’ve been waking up dehydrated, and I don’t like the metallic taste of water, so I add mix-ins to my water bottles and drink two or three as soon as I wake up. Because of this, I always feel better, but not thirsty enough to brew coffee as well. Then, about 10:00 AM, I’d get a horrible headache and not be able to figure out why. #dumbassattack

I realize that I could have just rode out the withdrawal, but coffee is also motivation to adult…. you know, using my grown up manners and able to speak in complete sentences, even when it’s early. I do limit my caffeine intake, though, because I need to get to bed early, as well. I am much more productive in the morning than in the evening. To get to peak performance, I usually sleep from 9p-5a. As of late, I have given this up, and it shows. “Peak performance” has dropped off in the face of grief, which leads to depression, which leads to isolation, which leads to not having enough energy to use my grown-up manners and speak in complete sentences (just making sure YOU’RE PAYING ATTENTION). It’s getting warm enough that I can also write outside, which is my favorite thing ever… although today is out because it’s raining cats and dogs. Even though the porch is covered, rain blows in sideways and I hate writing while soggy… much less taking the chance that my iPad will get ruined. I’m about to switch to a Windows 8 tablet, though, because the WordPress app I use now requires iOS 10, and my iPad isn’t new enough to upgrade.

My dad sent me a full-fledged Windows 8 tablet, which means it has a touch screen and tablet mode, plus full desktop mode so that I can install regular apps like Quicken and Plants vs. Zombies. It also has a keyboard with a USB port, so that I can use a regular mouse, and Bluetooth so that I am not tied to said keyboard if I want to add a mouse and headphones. It is superior to my iPad in every way, not because I don’t like iOS, but because it offers way more functionality. The only way in which it is inferior is that I’ve looked it up, and it is not upgrade ready, because Windows 10 works on a different partitioning scheme and will brick the whole tablet if I try. But Windows 8 isn’t that bad as long as I keep it in desktop mode. Plus, there’s no better price than free.

I thought about selling my iPad and getting a new one, but because it can’t upgrade past iOS 9.3.5, it isn’t worth anything. And yes, I know Android tablets are cheap, but the ones I can afford won’t upgrade past the OS that comes with it, either…. even though they are also superior to the iPad because Jesus will come before Apple offers an expansion slot and a radio. I suppose that I don’t necessarily need a radio anymore, because most stations stream…. but the radio uses less battery and I love NPR.

My local station doesn’t stream (or it didn’t the last time I looked), so I usually download OPB, waiting for the woman that Dana and I used to call my corporeally challenged celebrity girlfriend on the radio. This is because I went out on two or three dates with her before she admitted she already had a girlfriend in San Francisco and I was out. I didn’t even touch her, thank God, but that didn’t stop Dana and me from making fun of the situation for years on end…. actually, almost a decade.

It’s stuff like that I really miss, those conversations that were epic tennis matches in which the story didn’t really exist without both of us telling it at the same time. They were much, much funnier that way- between my dry-witted delivery and Dana’s rubber face/physical humor it brought the story to life, as if you were dancing in it.

There were so many of them I’ve forgotten, but I promise that if Dana started her part, I’d pick it back up like no time had passed.

I can’t think of any friend in my life that I have that with anymore, but it came from being best friends for almost four years before we realized what everyone else knew first. I was so pissed at her when she told me that she had a crush on me six weeks after we met, because I wasn’t there yet and I couldn’t even conceive of returning her affections. It got weird, but we pushed through it…. and it wasn’t until we had time apart that I realized she’d become the face I loved, wanted to see every day for my whole life, and when she helped me move all my stuff from Portland to Houston in a very ill-advised move (which I was excited about at the time, but in retrospect…..), I realized 20 minutes after she left that my entire world had just gotten on that plane…. and even then it wasn’t about romance. It was that Dana’s wife, Carol, was on the road all the time, and we’d developed our own routines (both comedic and practical), the thing that saved me over and over when I got my heart broken and needed a friend.

Dana came to visit me in Houston and I went to visit her in Portland. When she came to visit me, I had a girlfriend at the time who was overly jealous and paranoid that I would leave her, to the point that she didn’t even want me to go back to night school because she thought I’d run off with my professor. She didn’t want me to see my doctor because I mentioned in passing that she was cute. But that was nothing compared to seeing the tennis matches between Dana and me, and then later on, Meag and me… even though both were married and settled and there was no chance in hell that I was out the door with either of them.

When I went to visit Dana in Portland, she was having ankle surgery, and the front door was unlocked when I got in from the airport. I walked in and said, “honey, I’m home!” It was a joke that didn’t turn out to be so much of a joke…. but if you know anything about me, it’s that I often say things before my brain has a chance to connect consequences. It didn’t necessarily change Dana, because I’d told her over and over that I wasn’t interested. It was just the thing that started the tape that I was wrong.

On that Sunday, we wrestled with whether to go to the cathedral or to Bridgeport, because I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to go to the church that sustained me when I fell out with Diane and Susan, or whether I wanted to take a chance seeing all my friends. I argued with myself until 10:00, which made my decision for me because Trinity had already started. Of course it was on purpose….. not in the moment, but in retrospect…..

So, I show up for the service with Dana and Carol in tow, and I was excited for about fifteen minutes. The rest of the service, I cried like a baby. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t seeing Diane and Susan that broke my heart, but the woman I’d loved beyond all reason and responsibility, a relationship that started out as a May/December fling and was supposed to stay that way until shit got real. To my friends, age didn’t matter. Her friends, which had once been mutual, dumped me in a hot second.

I have said many times that my friendship with Dana started as a pity invite to Easter dinner, because her empath heart went out to me. For me, it was joining a new social circle so that I wasn’t lonely all the time, and still scary because it wasn’t like I knew these people well. We’d run into each other at church, but that was the beginning and the end of it.

Attending Bridgeport brought all of it back. All of it. The anger at me for supposedly “taking advantage of her,” the humiliation of having been dumped by someone I could see a life with, despite all odds and reason, because she couldn’t see a life with me. It wasn’t just that I missed her. It was that I missed the person I was when I was with her. Stronger, more capable, ready to take on the world. Those three months helped define who I am now, because what I’ve found is that it’s not the amount of time, but the amount of growth that happens in it. However, we didn’t really “break up” so much as take our relationship underground and hope no one found out. When I realized just how much I was being gutted like a fish, I was out. It took almost a year to realize I didn’t want to be with anyone who was seemingly ashamed to be with me.

By that time, Dana had earned her best friend status, and she listened patiently and picked up all the pieces of my heart (and my apartment) so that I could function again.

She was also the person that picked up all the pieces when Diane decided that she could drop in and out of my life at will… and as soon as I started to emote, would ghost again and put my heart into a blender. It was in those moments that I realized that I didn’t love Dana, I was in love with her, and it came down to something very, very simple and profound at the same time.

My friend Holly told me it would help if I went into the Gorge and sang it out, that music would fill the hole that Diane left. So, Dana and I hiked up to Wahkeena Falls and I stood up to my knees in freezing water and, with my voice shaking, started with the Rutter Pie Jesu and ended up screaming my lungs out. It wasn’t enough to sing. There was so much pain inside me that I didn’t even have words. It was as if I’d turned from choir nerd to insane banshee on a mission.

Dana was sitting on a rock about four yards from me, and when I turned around, tears were streaming down her cheeks, and I knew. The fact that she was crying simply because someone else had hurt me was the tipping point.

I waited patiently until we were both ready to end the relationships we were currently in, because we realized that if we’d stayed with them, life would have been fine… but we didn’t want fine anymore. We wanted spectacular. It didn’t come around again until I went to Portland for a job interview and my girlfriend forbade me from seeing Dana at all. The final blow was my girlfriend realizing that I’d made a purchase in Dana’s neighborhood (not with her), and my girlfriend blowing up at me because she was tracking me through our checking account. So, after that, I did what I always do. I went to Dana for her advice and counsel.

For the first time, I saw the white hot flash of Dana’s anger as she told me I needed to leave under no uncertain circumstances. That this girl was ruining my life and I was oblivious to it. Believe me when I tell you that she was right. Not only was my girlfriend’s paranoia over the top, I got an internship with the Human Rights Campaign writing national Sunday School curriculum and I was forbidden to take it because my girlfriend thought that I’d go for three months and it would turn into a permanent position and I would leave her. There was no universe in which she thought I would’ve asked her to move with me and that I wasn’t out the door at all. I lived an entire life of appeasement, being isolated from all my friends because she thought any one of them could be my next great love.

Dana, again, was crying because someone else had hurt me…. so I hatched a plan to leave and so did she. It was time to stop putting things off, because our marriage was inevitable. There was no one that understood me better, no one that would more willingly step in front of a bus for me if it meant I was safe. There’s no one I should have listened to more than Dana, and for that, I’ll always be sorry.

In many ways, I put Argo’s needs above hers, even when I didn’t realize I was doing it. Though the flaming disaster where everyone got burned and scarred didn’t happen overnight, it did indeed happen… at my own hand, no less. And, actually, that is not entirely true. I wonder every day what might have happened had Dana and Argo become friends as well, so that Argo and I were not living in our own little bubble, with no one anywhere to pop it.

It might have avoided so many tears on my part, because I couldn’t endure the tug-of-war. There were so many things that Argo specifically told me not to tell Dana, so that I retreated from her in every way, because I wasn’t programmed to keep secrets from her, ever. And then, Argo told me to make sure Dana saw everything, to ensure that she knew Argo was not having an emotional affair with me… and when I showed it to her, unedited, Argo was furious. Actually, furious doesn’t even begin to cover it, because I didn’t know that what she meant was to keep our confidences and show her everything else when she said “make sure Dana sees all.”

Dana waffled between thinking that Argo was telling the truth and Argo was lying to herself. Pure, unbridled jealousy and anger came out at both of us…. obviously, because it led to Every. Single. Fight. turning from me wanting to work on our own issues and Dana turning it into why should we work on this when you don’t love me anymore?

I would have agreed with her had it been even remotely true. I loved Dana like I love air and water. I’ve never forgotten her kindness, her protection, her unlimited capacity for love.

I’ve never been polyamorous a day in my life. A passing crush was just that. It went away, just not as quickly as it appeared. Because of confidentiality, I can’t say why. I can say that I was lost in trying to fix everything in Argo’s world…. my natural state of fixer/pleaser on high alert. The problem was that I didn’t need to fix anything. I just needed to listen. She wasn’t looking for solutions, just a place to vent.

Once I really took that in, I let go of all of it. The blushing teenage feelings, the need to fix everything, the need to put Dana at arm’s length so that Argo and I could have our secrets in a place Dana couldn’t reach.

It was just too late in the game, and even a Hail Mary pass wouldn’t have won it… mostly because by the time I could have made it, Dana had made her choice to take our fights from emotional to physical, and even though I entertained the idea that it was a one-time thing and we could go back to normal, in my heart of hearts I knew nothing would ever be the same again. I couldn’t apologize enough, I couldn’t walk on eggshells for the rest of my life knowing that the possibility of violence existed.

Physical violence was a huge reason that I moved so far away. I wanted to make sure it never happened again, and her fist couldn’t reach 1800 miles…. the flip side being that I thought if we had long enough to cool off, a visit to her parents might include a visit with me, not to reconnect romantically but to start our tennis matches over. At first, it was a yes, and then it was a no…. not even when I reassured her that it wouldn’t just be a visit with me, but Pri-Diddy as well (they’d met before in Portland). It wasn’t just us sitting alone with no one to run interference…. not that I really thought I needed it, I just thought it would be more comfortable because it would ensure that our conversations never went too deep for comfort…. that we could be funny again.

However, again, I don’t want to be friends with anyone that doesn’t want to be friends with me, so saying goodbye got easy…. not on this web site, for sure, because I had so much to process about her that was my own journey and not one I needed to take with her. It’s all my work to do to prepare myself for my next chapters, whatever they may bring.

I realize that this entry has jumped all over the place, but the beginning was just turning on the faucet before it really began to run. I tend to start writing about anything until I find a groove and things start spilling out.

If you’ve stayed with me this far, know that I am grateful. I reread my own words all the time to hold myself accountable, but it doesn’t hurt to know that someone is listening, especially people who have no horse in the race. You are all invaluable to me.

Every. Single. One.

 

 

 

Pursuit of Joy

In order to write, you have to have something to write about. Most of the time, I’ve been lost in brain-bending fog, but lately a couple of my friends have dragged me out of it. Dan and I had lunch yesterday in Foggy Bottom, near where she works with State. It was nice to just sit and talk outside, and she told me that there are probably resources for loss and grief on Mother’s Day. I think I’m going to need it. The last Mother’s Day picture I have of us together is Lindsay and Mom sitting in a car holding me up on an iPhone with FaceTime going, so that my face is a little blurry. It was really funny to me at the time, but feeds into my regret that I didn’t actually show up that day. But I can’t beat myself up for everything I didn’t know, even though I am really, really good at it.

Today is the kind of day that I’m really missing Argo & Dana, because one would have had virtual hugs and one would have had real ones. Romance means nothing to me, I just wish I had my friends back… but it wasn’t a mistake to leave, because I realized early on that my relationships with both were complicated and might not necessarily get me where I want to go… but that doesn’t stop grief, which is different than losing a mother but, in some ways, no less painful because I lost a support system in the process.

And then I think about how you don’t bounce back with an enormous amount of work, especially with physical and emotional violence, and how I never want to be that friend again. I am infinitely careful with my heart, because not only do I not want to hurt anyone, I don’t want them to hurt me, either.

But it has come to my attention that perhaps I am trying too hard, because the past dogs me in a way that I’ve never experienced. First it was marriage divorce, then friend divorce, then my dad getting cancer, then losing my job, then my mother dying, then my stepfather getting throat cancer with decreasing will to go through all the horrible treatment in store for him…. he’s had cancer before, and it was relatively easy to show up for chemo. This time around, the radiation is painful and awful on the body and the heart. My family is rallying around him, but there’s only so much one can do with the depression of chronic pain. In a lot of ways, I feel like my track record for surviving crappy days is 100%, and this, too, shall pass. It’s just hard to sit on my perch from Silver Spring and watching these things happen to people I love. With the death of my mother, it is not her death that’s hard. It’s the aftermath that leaves my family and her friends lost and confused.

I am doing my best to kick the shit out of Option B, because like Sheryl Sandberg, Option A no longer exists. Now that I’ve had time to grieve, really grieve, I am ready to accept that reality. Bringing everything from pain into promise won’t happen overnight, and in fact will take baby steps in that direction until I don’t realize how far I’ve come. When you see small changes every day, you have to look back over a month or so to see how far baby steps have taken you.

Prianka and Dan are a large part of why I am not completely losing my mind, because they’re up for both laughter and deep conversation in which I can say anything I want without judgment, and instead of just listening, offering concrete suggestions. Some of them do not apply to me- I don’t have money to just take off on vacation… well, I do, but it would completely wipe me out in terms of savings. But there are small vacations all over the place, like laughing with them.

Being able to have more than one friend in which I can have a full range of emotions is helpful, because they both know that I am capable of laughter, but sometimes it doesn’t come easily. The thing about grief is that sometimes it comes out of nowhere, and sometimes, I’m just not feeling happy that day all around.

After lots of time to process it, I realize that I made a mistake in thinking that I’d never get what I wanted from the friend that only wanted to joke with me, because it was the one source in which I could forget about life for a while. The problem was that I didn’t want to. So what if she doesn’t want me to have a full range of emotions? So what if she doesn’t want to have conversations that lead to forward motion. Perhaps breathing and staying in one place would have been a better option. But the niggling thought in the back of my head is that I am not that person anymore. I don’t have surface level laughter unless I am in that head space, which doesn’t happen on days when I am sad about everything. She thinks it delves into negativity, which is the last thing on my mind. I needed to breathe through what I wanted, and a friend that ghosts when I need her the most and not the least is damaging.

The thing is, though, there are cords, which as a music person, I prefer to call “chords,” that run between me and all my friends. I truly, desperately cannot afford to cut any one of them, even if it’s better for me in the long run. Losing a friend is the last thing I would want to happen in a time when I have already lost so much. But, as I’ve thought about extensively, at what cost?

Is it doing more damage to hide my full range of emotions, or is it more important to keep that chord alive in the remote hope that it eventually goes both ways? I am not sure that I cannot torture myself over the things that won’t happen over the sure things that will. The other thing is that I don’t tend to go for one-sided relationships in which the other person doesn’t want anything but one-liners. I need more than that, so is the question is whether I can get those things with other people without hoping she’ll eventually relent and let me talk about the things that bother me? Technically, I believe I can write about my own life and she’ll hear me, but I don’t believe that she’ll respond in kind so that the relationship doesn’t continue to be one-sided, and that hurts as well… I don’t want to be a taker all the time. I want to be a giver, and that is the part that’s missing…. the ability to listen to what’s going on in her life and offer her the type support she’s offered me over the years.

Because my mother died, I have taken up more room in all my relationships, but with people who know that when something goes wrong in their lives, I’m up for those conversations as well. In fact, it’s a welcome distraction to think about someone else’s problems for a change. My friends have intentionally held space for me, and it’s time to return the favor.

My mother is gone. Gone. It’s been enough time now that I don’t need or want to think about it all the time. I want to hold space for my friends inasmuch as they’ve done it for me. I am growing tired of isolation and am ready to rejoin the world, and would have been months ago had interviewers actually called me back. It’s hard not to have a place to go that will distract me in a way I truly need… which is why it may be time to go back to the kitchen, a job that will take over my whole life if I let it, and I will.

I picture a griddle letting burgers confit. I picture perfect French fries and desserts that will make you slap your mama. I picture soups and chilis that dance on the palate… all things of which I am capable while I eat sandwiches at home because the last thing I want to do when I get home from cooking is cook for myself.

IT makes me more financially stable, but it doesn’t make me happy. So, whichever interview I get first is the job I’ll take, because there are advantages to each. I know enough about IT that when it doesn’t make me happy, I can find small things about the job that will…. mostly coworkers and a lack of isolation.

I did get out yesterday. I got a cute haircut and some brown sandals so that as the weather heats up, my shorts won’t look weird with knee socks. Neither were expensive, but it did make me feel better to have talked to my hairstylist and the woman who’d rung me up at the shoe store. It was a release to do normal things…. even when it feels like normalcy lives in a different galaxy from where I sit.

 

The Demanding Companion

A week or two ago, I was listening to On Being with Krista Tippett. Her two guests were Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant (link to podcast and transcript), authors of the book Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. In the intervening time between the podcast and the purchase, my grandfather recommended the book to my father, who then recommended it to me. I told him that I’d already heard of it, but didn’t plan on purchasing until I realized that Facebook and Amazon ads for Mother’s Day were becoming pervasive, as if I was somehow delinquent in buying my mother something. She’s already got the only jewelry she’ll ever need…. and the days of making her a card with macaroni and glitter are long over.

Amazon, I understand. Facebook (where, ironically, Sandberg works) should know better. Their targeted ads should have picked up that my mother was dead in a hundred different ways, most notably that I added “Loss of a Loved One” as a Life Event and tagged my mother’s profile. That realization led me to the “Buy with One-Click” button in about 5.5 seconds, because ladies and gentlemen, I am exhausted.

I started the book, and only got two pages in before I highlighted a sentence. My own mind lifted me from the pages and into my own stream-of-consciousness. The sentence is, grief is a demanding companion. I have found this to be true, akin to Dexter’s “dark passenger,” without the need for plastic wrap.

Grief is the shitty roommate who always leaves its dishes in the sink and never remembers to reload the toilet paper. Grief is the toxic friendship who says it’s all about me, isolating you from other loved ones because its idea of give and take is that there isn’t any…. won’t be for a long time, and with a parent or spouse, longer than that…. never truly losing its grip, but loosening from a choker to a pendant… perhaps moving from a tight hold around your neck to your watch wrist instead. It will never be the other one, because grief revolves around time…. taking out the linear and the chronological.

The main idea of the book is that Plan A is no longer an option, so live the hell out of Plan B, providing steps forward to create one. Some of the concepts I’m already familiar with- that you have to make plans to be happy to change your own mood, rather than waiting for the grief to lift so you can be happy. Your mood doesn’t change on its own, and won’t no matter how hard you beg.

This is perhaps the hardest part of being in grief. Knowing that you have the choice to make yourself happy or miserable and not being able to see joy as a valid option. Logically, you know if they knew it would make your dead loved one inconsolable that their death left you incapable of living your own life. Emotionally, there is a mental-which-leads-to-physical brain fog that upends everything. Where am I? What year is it? What am I doing? Who are you people again? This is because you attempt to distract yourself and all the while, grief is screaming thinkaboutmethinkaboutmethinkaboutmethinkaboutmethinkaboutmethinkaboutmethinkaboutme……………………. like being stuck in an Evangelical church where the accompanist only knows one praise hymn. #liveit #loveit #singitahundredtimes

Barbed Wire

I am a Highly Sensitive Person, meaning that I feel things far deeper and for far longer than I should. I hold on to mistakes I’ve made for years on end, turning them over and over in my head until I can make sense of them, often through dreaming. I want to make things right that cannot go back together, which often stops me from moving on and creating a future. I cower in fear at the thought that I might hurt someone with my own “crazy spatter…” especially after having done it already and never wanting to go back to rock bottom again. I have always been funny and polite, and I’d like to keep it that way… not in a “hiding my authentic self show mode” kind of way, but honestly being that person.

Watching myself “going Bodmin” was literally that… an out-of-body experience that seemed like it was happening to someone else because it was so contrary to who I’ve always been. I lost many allies in the battle against myself, the best reason I can think of for keeping myself well and healthy emotionally.

I can’t thank my doctors at Methodist enough for seeing the PTSD for what it was, and bringing down my anxiety from 11. This is because I never realized I even had PTSD until I began exploring my youth and what it had done to me on this web site. Watching it surface in black & white made the blood drain from my face, and the anxiety I didn’t even know I felt rise to my throat and simultaneously drop to my stomach.

Watching all of this happen turned me into a different person, one who pushed everyone away in every way I could think of to make them realize I wasn’t worth their time and effort… not because I didn’t need it. I needed it more, not less. I felt it was protecting them from me. If they went away, I wasn’t capable of hurting them anymore. It was cutting out my own heart with a sword, but I thought it was better than cutting out theirs.

What I didn’t realize then that I do now is that it was too late. I’d already cut out their hearts with my words, ones that I’d give anything to take back, but it’s all a little too little too late. Finding new life and new hope in DC was the jump start I needed to recover, but it doesn’t help in my darkest moments. I am more careful than I’ve ever been with friendships in terms of holding them at arm’s length for their protection, not mine. This will change the longer I know them, but even two years is too soon to know my entire life story. Everything has to unfold in its own time, even if they’re readers of this web site… because even though this site reveals snapshots of what I was thinking, it is just that. A snapshot of me and not who I am in three dimensions.

For instance, if you only read me, you’ll never know how quick I am with a hug or an arm around your shoulder when you need it. You’ll never know how I would literally give you the shirt off my back if you didn’t have one. You’ll never know the lengths to which I would go to take care of a friend in trouble, and now that I know better, how hard I would fight in the midst of you trying to push me away when you need me the most.

The hardest part of being a person with a mental illness, and I’m pretty sure this is universal, is admitting you need help. I took that brave step and admitted myself to the hospital when I couldn’t get a new patient appointment with a psychiatrist for three weeks and I needed help right the fuck now.

I will never forget Argo’s words, the ones that made everything click and all the puzzle pieces fall into place… why do you think it’s everyone else’s job to fix you? The reason those words spurred me into action is that I didn’t realize my own power. I didn’t trust my own intuition enough. I let others decide things for me to evade culpability when things became a disaster- it wasn’t my decision, it was theirs.

It was an AHA! Moment when I realized I could trust me, and that I was strong enough to take criticism for the decisions I made when other people didn’t agree with me. Criticism used to be my kryptonite, the thing that rendered me helpless because God forbid anyone think I was doing something wrong.

There are still words of criticism that gut me like an ax, words that won’t go away under any circumstances, and they are Dana’s… being in a relationship with you is too hard. They are words that keep me from moving forward, because I cannot tell whether they say more about me or her…. because she didn’t say that being in a relationship was too hard for her, but universally. So I take it to mean that I am too hard to be in relationship with, period. It’s been over two years and I can’t bring myself to let go with my friends, much less any potential romantic relationship.

The one time I put myself out there, it didn’t go anywhere, and for that, I am grateful… but it still took over two years to even take that one step in forward motion.

In a lot of ways, I feel like I am resting on my back foot, that comfortable place that isn’t scary and reaps no rewards.

What might I have gained with said friend who only wanted to talk about pleasantries a year or five down the line? What might I have gained without being so protective of myself? Would I have ever gained a safe space to be who I am, or did I do the right thing by thinking up front that it would never happen? Was I trusting my intuition, or pushing someone away that ultimately had my best interests at heart?

My protection mechanisms are too great, and I know it. I have often accused others of having a barbed wire fence around their hearts without realizing that I have one, too… and when we meet each other, closeness cannot happen because neither one will take it down.

The only people I have trusted completely are my choir, because I thought they had a right to know why it was so difficult for me to come to rehearsal and church. That being bipolar and anxiety-ridden extends even to people I know well, and my mother dying only makes it worse because she was a church musician her entire life, and there are pieces that my conductor pulls out that I just lose my snot and cannot breathe. Even though it is okay with them when it happens, that it wouldn’t matter if I cried through every piece, I don’t want them to see me that way. My biggest fear is coming completely undone in public, and it has happened twice more than I’ve wanted, which is a grand total of two. Even in safe space, I am afraid.

I am lost and crying even as I write this, because living in a world without my mother so prematurely is a different kind of lost than I’ve ever felt. Losing your mother is never, ever easy… as is losing either parent or step-parent… however, a life cut short is a different kind of grief. You are not just mourning the past, but the lost future as well. Forbes, Lindsay, and I should have had 15-20 more years with her than we got. Forbes is over a decade older than my mother, and it is inconceivable to him that she died first. It’s six months later, and time is still malleable, because sometimes it has passed and sometimes it hasn’t.

My friend Susan said that her mother was still alive, but that when she died, it would bring her to her knees. At first, I was angry and jealous that she said it, because her mother was still alive and mine wasn’t. Anger and jealousy turned to gratitude when I realized she’d expressed something that I couldn’t and didn’t.

“Bring me to my knees” is so accurate that it hurts to even type. She saw writing on the wall that I couldn’t read until I began to live it… those words have soaked into my muscles and I carry them as if they are sewn there, right next to Dana’s… mostly because my mother was one of the people who never thought I was hard to love, even when I made it so.

I’d like to believe that I’m making it right, one day at a time, by becoming more open and actively trying to live as if I’ve been hurt, but I will recover. I just have to remember that recovery is a process, and it won’t come together all in one day… or even in the same way it used to be. It is the creation of the new normal… that even if Dana and I were still married and Argo and I were still flipping each other shit across the miles time would still weave in and out because sometimes the light in me can’t help but extinguish itself….

because I’ve been brought to my knees.

Your Right and Responsibility

I don’t know how I got so lucky that when session ended in Annapolis, Lindsay’s job moved her to working on federal legislation. She still comes to DC on a regular basis, though not quite as often when she was trying to get a bill passed in Maryland state congress. The bill made it through the House and on to the Senate, but was defeated. I don’t want to write about the bill itself, or the company where my sister works, but what I will say is that the legislation in question made perfect sense and there is no sane reason why it shouldn’t have passed, especially since in 49 other states, it’s already law. The only comfort in this is that perhaps the bill will come up next year, as some form of it has for the last nine years, and she’ll come back just as frequently as she did this year.

I know it’s hard for her being so far away from home all the time, but selfishly, it is exactly what I need. Watching her work activates my “go button,” the part of me that’s interested in government and how it works…. or not.

Voting in local and state elections is abysmally low, and turnout is key. I don’t understand why others don’t understand that local and state laws directly affect their lives so much more than the president ever will. My county (Montgomery) is important to me, as well as my state. There are lobbyists pushing legislation through that would raise ire if there wasn’t so much apathy toward it. Outrageous things get passed because no one notices… and on the flip side of the coin, really good legislation gets passed over because no one is calling their state representatives to tell them what they want, because they have no idea what the issues even are, much less care.

National laws are important, but not nearly as crucial as “small things,” like the school board, how/when the trash gets picked up, and the way the local police treat people. The local issue that really cramps my style (being the tender-heart bear that I am) is that in Montgomery County, homeless shelters are closed from April to November. Obviously, it’s sometimes very cold in October, but April is no picnic, either. Plus, it gets every bit as hot in Maryland as it is in Houston during the summer, and to me, being outside all the time is local legislators not caring whether people suffer horrendous sunburns with blisters.

Thanks to Maryland state-run health insurance, homeless people have access to free medical and psychological care, and medications that are only one dollar a bottle. But for homeless people who do not have jobs, one dollar can seem like a hundred. It’s a misconception that homeless people do not work. When you’re poor, the idea of first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit, especially in this area, is unobtainable. If people manage to only stay on the streets for a few months, it is less likely that they will suffer permanent mental health damage, but the longer people go without basic necessities, it is a chicken and egg situation. Did they become homeless because they were mentally ill and unable to hold down a job, or did being on the streets do them in?

I would say that it’s different in every case, but I can see how being reduced to absolute survival mode can do so much damage in so little time…. especially if said homeless person is arrested and thrown in jail. Jail is not a happy place, especially when you’re put there due to circumstances beyond your control. People get arrested for all kinds of inanity, such as loitering, because where are you supposed to go when you don’t have an address?

Add that to the inequality in both hiring and sentencing leads minorities down a pipeline of enormous proportions. The first is that a resumé with the name Michael Smith is so much more likely to get an interview than one with the name Tyrone Washington. The second is that minorities are more likely to get harsher sentences than whites, so something that should have been a misdemeanor is adjudicated as a felony, and that always looks good to hiring managers.

Nothing makes my blood boil faster, because even if the minority is guilty, that does not mean that he/she deserves to be treated more harshly than anyone else. It’s white privilege at its finest.

My pastor, Matt, said something interesting regarding this very thing. Minorities are allowed to be prejudiced against whites, but there is no such thing as “reverse racism.” That is because prejudice in minority communities is relatively harmless, a way of dealing with earned scorn toward whites for the systematic oppression of minorities that they’ve endured for centuries now. There is no comparison whatsoever, and to do so is to willfully ignore the difference. Prejudice is personal bias. Racism is institutionalized from the top down, with no end in sight. No matter how much we march and protest against it, President Trump isn’t going anywhere, and neither are his goons satisfied with the status quo.

That does not mean that protesting is useless, however. With enough people in the crowd, it’s hard to be ignored by Congress or the media. There is also the community that comes together with a common goal, the creation of safe space…. the seeking out of like-minded people that is a lifeline when there is such a feeling of hopelessness.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that Sunday morning at 11:00 is the most segregated hour in America. In a lot of ways, this has not changed, but it has changed for me. I am blessed to have a community in which whites and minorities worship together under both a #blacklivesmatter and a rainbow flag. I am blessed to have a community that shows up for marches demanding equality for all people, despite the violence that has occurred as a result. The scariest was when our #blacklivesmatter sign was vandalized and pictures of the reporters shot in Roanoke on live TV were taped to the side doors.

It led to one of the biggest turnouts on Sunday morning that I’ve ever seen in any church anywhere, because we were there to say we were not afraid. Looking for succor, yes, but there was power in showing up. Jeffrey Thames preached that day, a sermon I’ll never forget called The Certain Samaritan. It was built to comfort us in our distress and distress us out of our comfort.

We will not back down from attending church because of this threat. We will continue to do the work of peace and justice that we always have, because it defines who we are as a congregation………………….

We will continue to let people rest and recuperate as they need. We will continue to clothe the naked. We will continue to feed the hungry. We will continue to make people of all faiths and origins our friends. We will continue to fight without a fight. It doesn’t take violence to respond. It takes certainty.

It was a beautiful illustration regarding now that this has happened, what are we to do? Applause is for a performance, not a worship service, and yet he deserved a standing ovation. He pointed the way from pain to promise in a way that people will not soon forget.

Whenever you think local politics don’t matter, remember that law & order starts in your neighborhood and branches out. When the leaves are turning brown, remember that it is your right and responsibility to turn on the sprinklers.

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces