Dogs

I woke up at 0500, as I am wont to do. I generally fall asleep to movies or podcasts, and last night it was Battle Royale II- Requiem. I made it through Battle Royale earlier in the day, because it just cracks me up. Yes, there is so much violence and not very much humor in the movie as a whole, but the instructional video makes me laugh until my sides hurt. I’m going to have to go back and watch the ending of II, because I should know by now that I cannot start a movie between 2030-2100. It reminds me of my dad coming home from a Covey seminar on time management, where the instructor told a funny story:

Instructor: I get my kids to wake up at 4:00 AM for a planning session every morning.
Guy in Class: How do you do that?
I: I put them in bed at 8:30 PM.
GIC: How do you manage THAT?
I: I get them up at FOUR IN THE MORNING!

I’ve puttered around the house for a little bit… went through the trash looking for recycling because my roommate is not so good about it. Made myself both a Hawaiian Punch and strong black coffee. Took all my psych meds so that I can ignore the “Meeting with Bob” reminder later (I call all my medication reminders “meeting with Bob,” and it really caught on when I was in the psych ward at Methodist. By the time I left three days later, I had my entire cohort saying “I have a meeting with Bob later.”

Yes, children. I checked myself in at Methodist thanks to an ass kicking by my precious Argo, who put everything succinctly: why do you expect everyone else to fix you? Can’t you see the common denominator is you? I didn’t realize that asking my friends to safety net me was in fact keeping me from moving under my own power, failure to take responsibility for my own actions. When you’re that far down into depression, anxiety, and PTSD, it’s hard to see. The kicker was suicidal ideation that I knew would go away with a trip to a psychiatrist who could adjust my meds, but I called and I could not get a new patient appointment for another three weeks. Anyone who’s been in that situation knows three weeks is way too long- halfway to SpongeBob Squarepants headstone (don’t think I won’t do it- not the suicide part, the hilarity of an actual SpongeBob headstone for all eternity).

Teenage trauma was compounded by my relationship with Dana ending in a fight to end all fights. Dana pushed me over and I just went off like a chihuahua with a God complex. All the fight was taken out of me when Dana punched me in the face so hard that for a moment, I thought my eye socket was broken. It wasn’t, but I had a pretty nice bruise under my eye that my glasses didn’t cover. I forgive, but I don’t forget. I concentrate on my hilarious memories with Dana now, because I cannot live my life in the smallest place possible. I take responsibility for not running away at the first sign that the fight was turning physical.

I, however, have stopped feeling that I deserved to be hit, because the fight absolutely made me come emotionally unglued. It took a while. The mobile assessment team that evaluated me at Methodist reassured me that I had a natural reaction to being pushed over, but that it was probably a bad idea to try and fight back with someone whose fist was three times bigger than mine. In the moment, my thought process was that it was a bad idea not to stand up to a bully. To Dana’s credit, she was immediately sorry and didn’t just give lip service to it. She really put herself through an enormous amount of self-help, which is why I can forgive her so easily. I wouldn’t be so laid back about it if I thought that there was a possibility it could happen again.

The one mistake I made was going home after hospitalization. I didn’t count on the emotional swings between us getting much worse. I made due by sleeping at friends’ houses and going to the house to pick up my stuff when I knew she wouldn’t be there. It wasn’t that I carried anger around. It was that I was trying to cut any and all fights off at the pass. It is a very, very difficult thing to go through that with someone you love so desperately, so my choice is not to be bitter and to remember all the things that happened between us that were overwhelmingly positive. It is enough that we are not in contact anymore, reducing the possibility of hurting each other again to zero, whether that means emotionally, physically, or both.

But that was a little over three years ago, and I cannot emphasize enough how much different my world has become. I’ve had an enormous swath of time to think things through and work on my own issues so that I’m less quick to anger, and trying to love my friends through their own problems, because so many people did it for me. I’ll never be able to pay it all forward, but it helps to try.

I am very open and honest about what it took to get past all this, but the stigma is there. People don’t always realize what it took to get you to the place of hospitalization, and only concentrate on how crazy you must be if you had to get that kind of help. It’s a black mark, whether it is deserved or not. I’d had severe psychological issues since I was a teenager, and I can’t help but think how much better my life would have gone had I been hospitalized in the moment rather than stuffing everything down into my socks. It made me feel like I was fine, thank you very much [Morgan Freeman: Leslie was, in fact, not fine].

I was able to lay everything out in front of Argo because she was a stranger on a train, not part of my physical life so she saw everything differently. She asked pointed questions that made vomiting up old trauma unavoidable, and I cracked into pieces. And then, with two sentences, I make no qualms about the fact that they probably saved my life…. yet another thing that I’ll probably never be able to repay.

I do, however, offer up prayers into the universe for her a lot. It gives me something to pray for her happiness, healthiness, and the joy of being alive with possibility. Her sunshine is bright, and it was a gift to stand in it. I simply would not be the person I am today had I not been able to see every place I went wrong in black and white.

It was an incredible motivator to keep going with psychiatry, talk therapy, and instituting behavioral patterns that keep me from going back to the dark emotional place that doesn’t allow for my own sunshine. I truly have a lot of it to give. It’s hard to notice when I’m spilling my guts on this web site, because most of my entries deal with problems I’m trying to process, but I am incredibly funny. My love is gigantic, from the personal to the international. I don’t just care about my friends and family, but the problems that arise with just being a human.

All of it shows more easily in person than it does while writing, something I am trying to change as both my marriage and the death of my mother fade further into the back of my mind. There are always going to be times when I’m incredibly sad over each, but especially my mother would be horrified to know that losing her caused me to lose my knack for both cracking jokes and laughing easily when others do it.

I am looking forward to a lot of laughter starting on Tuesday, when my little sister arrives for a work trip. What cracks me up the most about her is that when I say something sweet, her response is usually, “thanks, Boo.” It works on two levels; the first is that it is a loving term of endearment. The second is that my mood often bears a striking resemblance to Boo Radley.

Harper Lee is my spirit animal, and I will speak more as to why.

It is my unverified opinion that Scout and Boo are the same person, Harper Lee at different points in her life. Think about just how much she isolated after To Kill a Mockingbird was published, and I think you’ll see it, too…. keeping in mind that I’m wrong a lot. 😛 It seems to me, though, that there’s probably at least a grain of truth in my ramblings about somebody I don’t even know. The now unanswered question in my mind is whether Lee was reclusive before or after creating Boo…. did she base Boo on herself, or did writing about him put her into that place? Chicken, egg, etc. Either way, I’m not sure it renders my opinion invalid.

When I am able to support having a pet, I’d really like to get a dog. This seems unrelated, but it’s not. I often need forced interaction because it’s hard for me to do it on my own, and taking my dog for a walk provides just that. I know this because I used to live in an apartment complex, so letting my dog relieve herself in the backyard was not an option. Therefore, I met lots of other people who also had dogs, which not only gave me opportunities to socialize, but something about which to discuss that didn’t dig too deep. It was just fun. And, of course, if it’s a boy, his name will be Arthur. If it’s a girl, her name will be Louise.

Perhaps I should get a chihuahua with a God complex. Apparently, we’d have a lot in common.

A Little Bit of Everything

First, let’s get some business out of the way. My domain name needs to be renewed, and it’s only $18. If you haven’t donated and enjoy this site, please do. If you don’t enjoy this site, donate anyway. I will be allowed to keep feeding your dislike. :P~~~ If every one of my readers dropped a dime in the box, I’d have at least a dollar. I think. Anyway, more than grateful if you can do it, not a problem if you can’t. Just putting the idea out into the universe. Paypal link is on my sidebar.

And now, on with the show.

I got to hold one of my three-week-old “nephews” I’ve adopted through chosen family, and I am not exaggerating when I say that my ovaries exploded. I absolutely cannot imagine having my own child, so it was very nice to borrow one for a few minutes. We sat on the couch as he alternated between sucking his bottle and falling asleep in my lap- the most perfect moment I’ve had in a long time. There is nothing that lifts the grief of my mother’s death better than watching a new baby come alive with personality. For instance, one twin finds it comforting to be swaddled. The other will kick off the blankets immediately. I am grateful that they are fraternal, because as they grow I’ll actually be able to tell them apart. Right now, I have to look very, very closely…. or, at least, I think they’re fraternal. I will have to ask. Right now, they’re so little that they look alike in the way that all babies do.

We had to cut off the water main to the house so we could take out a washing machine. Hopefully, it won’t take that long, because I’m supposed to FaceTime with my father and grandfather later. They really won’t care what I look like, but I do. There’s only so much I can do with my current haircut that doesn’t involve a lot of wax. My hairdresser thinks it looks cute. I’m not convinced. I’d show you a picture, but I really don’t want to. Theoretically, I could fix my hair with bottled water, but it’s in the refrigerator. That is a no dice situation right there.

The weather is beautiful, and I’d like to get outside. I’m having to weigh that against my allergies. I’ve taken Zyrtec, Sudafed PE, and Advil. Therefore, I am now allowed to complain. I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s a thing in my family:

Family Member 1: My ____ hurts.
Family Member 2: Have you taken anything for it?
FM1: No.
FM2: Has it kicked in yet?

I’m sure I’ll feel better a little later, but right now I’m waiting for everything to start working. It can’t happen soon enough. Regardless of whether I decide to take a walk, I have to venture out eventually to get groceries. Even that small time outside is a problem without Zyrtec on board. Spring can really hang me up the most. Once summer rolls around and most of my irritants have burned off, I’ll be fine. Now, everything is starting to bloom, and it’s not deadly, but it is truly annoying.

The only thing to which I’m allergic that will literally send me into systemic urticaria (full body hives/rash) and shortness of breath is sulfa drugs. When I was a kid, I had to spend an entire week in the hospital being pumped full of adrenaline, susprin (basically adrenaline extended release), and steroids. It was so much fun, and I looked attractive. It did save my life, though, so I got that goin’ for me.

Back to you, Bob. Let’s go to the phones.

I watched the president’s entire rant on Fox & Friends, and it was hysterical. He just went histrionic on every topic. Even the anchors looked like deer in headlights. This is because they couldn’t figure out how to get him off the phone. The best part was him going full tilt batshit crazy by saying that he’d made NBC a lot of money, so it wasn’t fair that they were now treating him badly. He also called basically every news organization fake news, for which the anchors at least had the decency to look uncomfortable and awkward.

You know, if every news outlet is “treating you badly,” at what point do you make the realization that you’re the common denominator? With Trump, my guess is never.

The other funny part was when he was ranting and raving over DOJ, and the anchors were all like, “Mr. President, it’s YOUR justice department.”

There was only one point at which I truly got angry. The rest of the time, I was just writing him off like Anderson Cooper, who said that he sounded like a crazy guy on a park bench. The anchors asked if the Republicans had done a bad job of representing the black community, and he said “it was a custom….” Then, he backpedaled and said that Lincoln was a Republican and he did the thing.

I assume he meant freeing the slaves, but he did not give any more details. I honestly believe he couldn’t, great history scholar that he is.

I’m actually starting to feel bad for the Republican party, because even when they try to reign him in, try to get him to keep his damn mouth shut, they fail miserably. If Democrats hate President Trump, I truly believe they hate him less than the people who have to work for him.

The problem with not picking an establishment candidate is that they often have no idea how anything in Washington works, and are dumbfounded once they get there. However, this president is not dumbfounded. He doesn’t know anything, and doesn’t seem to care.

I am mystified by all people like that… both people who think education is elitist, and the people who vote for candidates who believe it, too. I don’t understand not wanting the smartest people in the room to be in charge. If you ask me, and so far, no one has, the biggest problem in American politics is that the skills needed to campaign and the skills needed to be president are at complete odds. For instance, policy wonks like Al Gore and Hillary Clinton would have been great presidents, but they’re just not as capable with “show business.”

And that’s what campaigns have become, starting in 1960 with the first televised debates between Kennedy and Nixon. Now, believe me when I say that this is not a treatise on why Richard Nixon should have been elected that year. It’s just that one of the reasons President Kennedy beat him was that he looked like a movie star while Nixon sweat profusely and had to change shirts during commercials. Leaving politics out of it entirely, people are naturally going to vote for the candidate that’s poised and eloquent over the guy who consistently looks like death warmed over.

Much like I do right now, because I can’t take a shower or fix my hair…. and I’m about to be on camera, too.

Send help.

Alexandria

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.

-Nelson Mandela

In May of 2001, my then-girlfriend, Kathleen, graduated from University of Houston. She interviewed with several companies, and chose the Global Information Systems department at ExxonMobil. They gave her the choice of starting in Houston or in Fairfax, Virginia. To this day I’m not sure how much Kathleen wanted to leave Texas and how much I did. I don’t know if she was excited or if I convinced her, but off we went to the suburbs of the nation’s capital. We chose to live in the city of Alexandria (as opposed to Fairfax County) because it was roughly halfway between downtown and Kathleen’s office. I didn’t know where I’d end up in terms of school, so I wanted easy access in both directions. We found a great little townhouse between the Blue and Yellow Metro lines, not too far from The Pentagon……..

The plan was solid in theory. I’d had a full-time job for the last two years, making enough to support both of us. Because I’d done that, Kat said that she’d work and I could go to school. What we didn’t factor in was the cost of living increase. Even with both of us making more than I had in Houston, we still couldn’t seem to get ahead. In retrospect, I think we just aimed too high, too fast. We wanted to live a middle-class existence, not thinking ahead that a savings account might be a nice thing. The conversation in my head runs thusly:

Me: What the hell did you and Kat do with all that money?
Me to me: We ate it.

It takes money to be around people with money and we were too stupid to realize we didn’t have any. Most of the memories I have of that time in my life involve going out with various coworkers to restaurants where the food was forgettable and the tab was expensive. If you are looking for advice on how to spend over fifty grand a year on absolutely nothing, I am an expert. It starts with caring way too much about what other people think if you turn down an invitation. There. The first lesson’s free.

My dreams of finishing school and going on to my Master’s started drying slowly and then the last bit evaporated overnight. Kathleen wanted out of the relationship, exiting in the ugliest way possible. She slept with mutual coworkers so that coming to work was excruciatingly awkward, and then I lost my job and went back to Texas as broken as I’d ever been up to that point.

I attended a grief support group, where I mourned the past and the future I thought I would have. Eight weeks later, I went to visit my friends in Oregon. Two weeks after I got back, I packed up my car and called Portland home. It wasn’t enough to put 1800 miles of distance between Kat and me. I needed the full 3,000 for good measure.

I ran as far from Alexandria as I could get without dropping into the Pacific.

I didn’t remember the good things about Virginia until the day I moved to Oregon. Because I already had friends and a church there, I ditched my stuff at my house and went to the church to socialize as we were stuffing envelopes for some campaign or another. This annoying blonde woman was wearing a George Mason University sweatshirt, the college down the street from Kathleen’s office…. because of course she was.

Eventually, the blonde wasn’t so annoying. I married her…. and had to make my peace with Virginia because her parents’ house was about 30 miles from my old one… because of course it was.

Dana and I talked about moving to Virginia sporadically over the years, Dana worrying that her parents were older than mine and would therefore, need more help. So, moving back to the DC area has been a faint spot on my radar for over a decade. By 2012, it was in the three to five year plan.

Three years, almost to the day, I arrived in Maryland alone. In the beginning, it was a severe emotional handicap. I had imagined everything about DC from our viewpoint, not mine. I couldn’t even cross the Potomac without wincing in pain, so I just didn’t. Dana didn’t have many stories about DC, because she lived far enough out that she didn’t come downtown much. So, I reasoned that DC and Maryland were my area. Anything across the river belonged to Dana and Kat. It was neat and tidy until I went and made a friend…. in Alexandria.

Walking around Old Town brought it all back. I felt joy, but it was quickly drowned in tears. Everything was familiar and, in turn, scary because of the reason it was familiar. I saw the tapas restaurant where Kathleen took me for my birthday on September 10th, 2001, where I ate bad mussels and projectile vomited so much that I had to call in sick to work the next morning, the only reason I heard the plane hit. In fact, I saw all our old hangouts… or the buildings where they used to be, anyway.

What I realized is that looking for the familiar was bringing up emotions for which I was not prepared. Up until reality hit, I’d been genuinely excited. “Alex” had felt like home when I was dreaming about it. I didn’t recognize myself in its reflection anymore. I just saw shards of a twenty-something yuppie douchebag.

Luckily, my cousin Nathan also lives in Alexandria, so after about a year, the desensitization process was complete. The only reason it took that long is that I didn’t have a reason to cross the river very often. It was easier to meet both Dan and Nathan halfway.

Over the years, though, I’ve been coming to Alexandria more and more, because context and I have both changed. It’s not where I used to live. It’s where Dan lives now…. and get this… she lives on Leslie Avenue.

The real plot twist, though, is in fact just character development. I walk everywhere I go unless it’s what I consider “too far” and take the bus or train. I spend less in a week than I used to spend on some days. I am just not impressed with clothes, cars, fancy restaurants, any of it. The Washington of my twenties was a pretty soulless place, because I was not tapped into activism on social justice issues. I was driven to be upwardly mobile without any other purpose but serving myself.

The me of 2001 would have laughed and called me a hippy. The me of now wouldn’t spend time on a retort.

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Today I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by Julie. Thank you, Julie, for knowing I could use a little sunshine. I hope I’ve done “write” by you……the-sunshine-blogger-award-2018

Here are the award’s rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog. (Really? There are people who wouldn’t say, “Thanks!” if it weren’t a rule?)
  2. Answer the 11 questions your nominator asked you.
  3. Nominate 8 to 11 blogs, and ask them 11 new questions.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

1.) To-MAY-to or To-MAH-to?

I’m from Texas, so it generally comes out as “tuhmayda.”

2.) What fictional character would you like to meet in real life, and why?

I have several, but it’s all the same theme. I want to meet Harry Potter the day after he first talked to a snake. I want to meet Peter Parker the day after he was bitten by a radioactive spider. I want to meet Carrie Mathison the day after she was approached by The Agency.

I want to meet these people before they became larger than life- would like to know how they’re coping in the midst of enormous change. Harry Potter didn’t know he had magical powers. He thought the whole world had taken crazy pills. Peter Parker wasn’t handspringing off the Empire State Building on day one- he barely knew how to use his new body. Carrie Mathison wasn’t station chief in Kabul/The Drone Queen the first time she drove up to Langley. I’d like to know how those huge personalities incubated…. like meeting the non-fictional Oprah as a high school freshman.

3.) What music do you listen to while writing, or do you prefer silence?

I go back and forth. It’s the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time, I listen to the rhythm of my fingers on the keys. 20% of the time, I’m listening to jazz, classical, or film scores…. nothing with words, and nothing unfamiliar. If it’s new to me, I’m not really paying attention to my writing.

4.) Sunrise or sunset, and why?

I prefer the wee hours of the morning, starting between 4:00-5:00. I used to stay up all night just to get that kind of quiet, and then I learned about this new thing called “going to bed earlier.”

5.) What aspect(s) of blogging do you find most rewarding?

The single most rewarding thing about blogging is being able to go back and read my thoughts… the ones from the people I used to be. They should have been on the list of fictional people I’d like to meet now. On the other hand, what I could say to them without spoilers is it’s going to get so, so very much worse before it gets better, and I’m not sure that the “it gets better” would be the take home message. I would also advise myself to buy a lot of Finnish flags, because I couldn’t tell me why, but I could tell me they’d come in handy.

6.) What food is your guilty pleasure?

Rice Krispies. I swear to Christ I could eat an entire box in one sitting, preferably with whole milk.

7.) What advice would you give to younger you?

I think I’ve sort of covered this already, but I was such an introverted kid who made people laugh to cover up huge flaws and insecurities… so I would say that I couldn’t give myself any advice because I wouldn’t have listened. The younger me was lost in my own little world, and even an older version of me wouldn’t have known how to interrupt it. Other people were frightened by what an intense kid I was- why wouldn’t I looking back? I wouldn’t have any advice, just comforting knowledge. Teenage me couldn’t have conceived of federal gay marriage, or even the majority of the country not thinking I was mentally ill (well, I am, but not because of THAT).

8.) What is something other people seem to find important that you just don’t see the point of?

This is going to sound completely judgmental, but it is a personal choice. I don’t see the point in the emphasis on how much people need alcohol to get through their day. It’s not the drinking itself that bothers me, it’s the craze around Facebook/Twitter/Insta/etc. memes that make alcoholism look adorable.

I don’t know if it’s that I’ve had friends in AA who made me look at the issue differently, or whether culture itself has shifted. What I do know is that people look at me weird when I order a cherry Diet Coke in a bar, and I used to say I was driving or that I was taking medication or whatever. And then it occurred to me that there haven’t been very many times in my life where people haven’t looked at me like I was weird for some reason or another and to just stop caring what other people thought. Now people look at me weird when I do want a beer. I’ll never win, and that’s ok.

9.) Do you have any famous (or infamous) people in your family tree?

I seem to remember my mother’s father tracing our genealogy back to Zachary Taylor and James Madison… but my grandfather died when I was in middle school and I am WAY too lazy to redo all that research. I wouldn’t be if I was actually interested in genealogy, but it’s just not my bag.

10.) Which of your blog posts has had the most surprising response? (Comments you didn’t see coming, traffic that was unusually heavy/light compared to your averages, etc.)

My article on marriage had the most surprising response, because it was shared literally all over the world, and landed in both Martina Navratilova and Margaret Cho’s Twitter feeds. It wasn’t like I sat down that day and thought I MUST WRITE SOMETHING POPULAR. I’d gotten my nose out of joint by straight people thinking that gay marriage was this alien concept, so I was typing like a madman and hit “Post” fifteen minutes later. It astounded me that something I spent so little time on was a “hit,” and other things have taken hours and hours with no response at all… which is honestly how I prefer it. I write better when I don’t realize there’s an audience. I kind of picture my blog as an open dress rehearsal.

11.) What do you do when you get writers’ block?

I write about nothing. Literally, I just narrate the smallest things until an idea catches and I think, “well, there’s something.” Writer’s block comes from thinking you have to wait for an inspiration to write when it’s the other way around. In the process of writing, you find inspiration. It’s like waiting for a good mood. It rarely happens on its own- you usually have to put on loud music, go for a walk, etc. Your mood didn’t just lift on its own accord- you lifted it.


Here are my list of nominees:

Last, but not least, are the things I want to know about you……

  1. What is the smallest situation in which you’re embarrassed? For instance, even when I am wearing high tops and long pants, I am embarrassed when my socks don’t match.
  2. What do you do really well besides write?
  3. What do you do badly, but participate anyway?
  4. What is your favorite creative swear?
  5. How long can you go off the grid without twitching?
  6. What do you do professionally if writing is not your day job?
  7. What’s the best picture you’ve ever taken? Describe the landscape.
  8. Are you from a big city or a small town?
  9. What is your idea of home?
  10. Do you like your current haircut?
  11. What is the absolute funniest thing that has ever happened to you?

The Omelet

Dear Mom,

Today my fountain pen runneth over, which is just a metaphor that sounds incredibly messy. These kinds of days are so hard, because I can only imagine your response instead of getting one for real. Though I’ve shed no tears, I am feeling the weight of grief in every muscle. It’s comforting to have an editor that would know exactly what my news means, but even though she’s a mother herself, she’s not mine. I am positive she’s proud of me, but she won’t have that over-the-top, lump in her throat excitement you would have especially for me.

You see, I got an e-mail yesterday that not only made me happy, it validated me. You’ve known I was a writer since grade 5, when I turned in an essay that Mrs. Wommack fawned over about adult illiteracy called I Forgot My Reading Glasses… In fact, I would venture to say that you’ve known I was a writer far longer than I have. Though I was made a professional writer long ago by my readers here, I’ve never had anything to add to my resumé. Now, I do. Here is the e-mail I got yesterday from the International Association of Professional Writers & Editors:

Dear Leslie,

Thank you for submitting your application. Upon further review, we have determined that your sample meets our quality standards and are pleased to inform you that your application has been accepted.

Name Redacted

The air changed in the room with one word.

Accepted.

It is an honor I share with everyone who believed in me before I did. I cleaned up my marriage article to make it more suitable for publication, and that’s what got me in… So bittersweet because it’s basically all the advice I didn’t take for myself. I figured that if it was retweeted by celebrities, it must have something going for it. As it turns out, I was right. Speaking more specifically to “bittersweet,” I share credit where credit is due; Dana is owed so much more from me than she got, one of the reasons I became successful in the first place. The sweet part is that even though I gave up nearly everything, I suppose it had to be done to find myself… finally, someone who has self-esteem and can be proud of her accomplishments… getting away from the tape Dana helped reinforce that said you’ll never amount to anything.

So, perhaps it’s a good thing I didn’t take my own advice about staying together, because it was a total deal-breaker of a conversation. Not believing in your partner is the death knell of a relationship. If I couldn’t achieve with her, I’m glad I achieved without her, even though it would have been nice to not only share credit with her to her face, but to prove her wrong… and not in an I told you so sort of way. It’s an I’m so glad you were wrong on this one, because it was really cramping my style because I believed you feeling.

Gone are the days where I feel like I torched my whole life, replaced by an overwhelming amount of emotion at breaking eggs to make an omelet.

Almost as overwhelming that I can’t see your face right now. Perhaps we can celebrate in my dreams.

Love,

Leslie

Shelanagans, etc.

As predicted, I’m going to miss Walk-Up Wednesday at the African American Museum of History and Culture. Time, again, has gotten away from me. I even set reminders and they didn’t help. I woke up later than I usually do (0700 as opposed to 0500), and for some reason have the urgency to nest rather than to people. Had I not waited until the last minute, I would have been excited to see the museum, but there was always another Wednesday until now. Perhaps I will wait until someone in my family comes to visit so that we have something touristy to do together that I haven’t done already.

I have found that I am somewhat of an anomaly in D.C., because I’ve met few people around here that are willing to brave the crowds of tourists and would rather stay in their bubbles than constantly “staycation.” In fact, I’ve had roommates in the past that have never been to The Mall for the fireworks on Fourth of July even though they’ve lived here their whole lives. My excuse is that I just haven’t been here long enough to do everything, but it will happen.

One of the reasons I love D.C. so damn much is that it is a wonderland of free stuff to do… not that I’m opposed to paying for good entertainment, but why? The government has seen to it that I get a marvelous education in all sorts of subjects for the cost of a Metro ticket. The only museum that actually cost money that I’m desperate to see is the Newseum, which I saw in 2001 but has had a complete overhaul since. My greatest memory of the old building is standing in front of Helen Thomas’ press pass with tears in my eyes.

A few years before, I’d gotten to meet my hero when she came to University of Houston for a continuing legal education course at the law school, and I went as a reporter for our Information Technology newsletter. I asked her how being a reporter had changed in the age of the Internet, and she told me it was a great question and expounded on the 24-hour news cycle. My hero, badass reporter, told me I asked a great question. Touch me.

12068483_10153535115995272_1984648205932577198_o

My favorite story that she told involved a Halloween party at The White House, where a pilot tried to crash his plane intentionally on the grounds to kill President Clinton. Luckily, his plan failed miserably, but she said she’d never forget thinking that if he’d succeeded, Vice President Gore would have had to take the Oath of Office dressed as Frankenstein.

My second favorite story involved President Reagan. He invited Helen to take part in breaking ground for the Lebanese Culture Center (or something like it- can’t remember exactly). Then, after it was over, Reagan told her that as she dug the first hole, he could hear the ghosts of all the former presidents saying PUSH HER IN!!!

The first time I came to Washington (to visit), I was in second grade and eight years old. Though I loved The White House, I am infinitely grateful that I’ve come back as an adult so that I can better appreciate everything the city has to offer. For instance, I learned recently that Gore Vidal is buried here, so that’s my next cemetery trip. Perhaps writing advice will come to me by osmosis.

At this point, I’m willing to try anything.

It’s almost time to start writing the review for The 11:05 Murders, and I still owe Finn Bell an Amazon review for Dead Lemons (Finn, if you’re reading this, I haven’t forgotten). My morning coffee has turned into my afternoon coffee for this very reason. Trying to stay sharp despite the medication I’m taking is not effortless. I read somewhere that Lexapro has an effect on cognitive function and thought, great. Something else to make me dumber. I really don’t need help in that department. I also try to stay away from Klonopin unless I’m really distressed because it makes me sleepy. Perhaps that’s the point. It doesn’t solve anxiety so much as make you tired enough you don’t care you’re anxious.

Speaking of which, I need to read Dead Lemons again, and not because of the review. There’s a great therapist character in it with solid advice that I’d like to go back over. I’d tell you what it is, but I want you to buy the book.

Technically, I want you to buy all the books I mention, because then I’ll be able to discuss them with people who already know the end and I’m not responsible for spoiling the whole thing.

A great discussion about a book might make up for not going to the museum.

Right now, though, Brian O’Hare and Finn Bell are counting on me, so perhaps waiting is for the best. My sister and Pri Diddy are both coming to town soon, and who knows what “shelanagans” we’ll create. I would stay tuned if I were you.

I know I will.

Now That Some Time Has Passed…

I’m trying to take stock of the ways my life has changed since my mother died, because now that it’s been a little over two years, things look different than they did when it first happened. I have found a new version of normal, although I am emotionally bleeding out for my cousins because their father just died unexpectedly. Additionally, this is the second sibling my aunt and uncle have lost in a very short time (the uncle that died was the second of four children on my mother’s side). So, we are all trying to find a new version of normal, trying to wrap our brains around two people in our family that have died very young. My mother was only 65, and my uncle died the day before his 64th birthday.

This is crushing because as people in grief know, birthdays and anniversaries are the hardest to get through. I cannot imagine having those two days so close together, yet another thing that makes grief as individual as a fingerprint, because even though my cousins and I share the pain of losing a parent, no situation is the same. I would not presume that they’re feeling the same thing I am (or even did), particularly because I am further along in my process of finding Option B.

I do remember how terrible those first few days were, because I saw everything through a deep and penetrating fog. People would say things to me and I would forget one second later what they said, or not even reply because I would go deaf and dumb to the world around me. I completely fell apart. For months, I would forget where I was going, or even the way out of my own neighborhood. For even longer, I wouldn’t interact. For instance, one day I’d think getting together with friends or going to church would make me feel better, then not only regret that decision, but drop off the face of the earth and people would wonder where the hell I went. Ummm, I went home. And not only did I go home, I didn’t even take up space in the house. I confined myself to my room for far longer than anyone thought I could or should.

I would (and still do) bounce between zero and what seems like 50,000 calories in a day. Grief took away hunger and thirst until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. It also occurred to me that drinking alcohol is often a trap when someone close to you dies, so being completely sober was a good and bad thing. There was no social lubricant for anxiety at being around people, and when I felt my feelings, I really, really felt them.

I am normally a little bit socially anxious, for which I take medication. But social anxiety is different in deep grief. People notice when you look like crap, and will tell you, not knowing the bomb you’re about to drop on them. See, the reason I look like a hot mess is that my mother just died…. and that’s when you can literally hear the whistle with Doppler effect. You desperately don’t want it to, but the conversation goes from zero to weird in 2.5 seconds and you regret you said anything. The hardest part about telling people someone close to you died is that the air in the room changes, and people start treating you differently.

Some people know exactly what to do, which is either say they’re sorry and leave it at that, or say nothing and just give you a hug. With others, it is a litany of I know just how you feel, and then tell a story that legit has nothing to do with what you’re going through.

30704001_1986837498021611_1417297838002122399_nThis is the Facebook meme I found today that made me laugh and cringe, because for the grieving, it describes our experience perfectly. I really don’t fucking care how sad you were when your cat died and how it relates to my grief that I’ll never see my mother again. I also don’t care how you’ll feel when your mother dies, because first of all, you have no idea how you’ll feel when your mother/father/spouse dies, because thinking about it ahead of time is so much different than when reality punches you in the face. Secondly, my smart ass response is always going to be, well, it’s a good thing I’m going through it instead of you. However, that part generally seethes inside me because I know no one is trying to elicit that response. They just have no idea what to say, so what they think they’re saying is good and what they’re really saying hurts.

The other thing that happens is that your mother/father/spouse’s death becomes a subject no one wants to touch, so they stop bringing up the person altogether, as if remembrance is the worst thing ever. Say her name. Tell me funny stories about what you remember, especially if you knew her at a time when I didn’t.

I learned this lesson initially through divorce, that people thought bringing up Dana was somehow verboten, when it would have meant the world to me to laugh about the funny things that happened to us…. and at first, it really hurt that Dana and my mom have the same birthday, but now it feeds me because I think about celebrating Dana instead of being mired in grief…. mostly the old joke about how since she’s two years older than me, she’s just that much closer to death than I am. 😛

Yes, divorces are terrible. Yes, deaths are terrible. But it doesn’t render my great memories invalid. Just because it’s over doesn’t mean I don’t want to remember.

Speaking of “over,” I don’t view my relationship with my mother as such. I have a long history of writing letters to people or entities who are unlikely to respond. It doesn’t seem weird to me at all that we still “talk.” Maybe other people have trouble bringing up the topic of my mom, but I don’t. During the day, I basically narrate to her in my head, and in my dreams, she responds.

She thinks Dan and Pri Diddy are good for me. We agree on so much.