The Very Beginning

This blog is the beginning. I have to remember that it is not my end goal. It is building an audience, slowly but surely, for people who actually would like to see something out of me that’s not a complete mess. Plenty of people would buy it just to make sure it was finished.

The urge to blog is relentless because you and I are always talking. I say too much because I need it, not you…. And yet, you’re an amazingly kind and tolerant audience for something I thought would be maybe three people and a few cats.

It’s funny how I got the idea to blog. At first, it was writing letters to the woman who abused me, because I thought I had to think big thoughts to keep someone older interested in my little musings… When I started Clever Title, I thought of her as my blog before I could type……… but it was the same style. Just lay out all my crap, see what sticks. Her lines are housed in my head (though no longer enshrined) to this day, the few genuine moments I remember. Those words will stay between us, but they explain explicitly how a young writer could fall in love with another’s work. The way she writes is more flowery than she talks, but more direct because there’s no one in front of her. The words are smaller and carry more weight. Clearly there was something there besides us both being queer. We were both young musicians, exploring the world in secret…. And each other, but only to the extent that nothing was off the table in terms of what I could and couldn’t say. My letters ran the same gamut as five years’ worth of entries.

My second biggest influence was Doogie Howser, MD.

I wish I’d had the self-deprecating meme back then that I did with my beautiful girl…. “Sending you six unrelated texts in a row is my love language, and I’m so sorry….” She was my blog within a blog, because she read everything I can’t show you. She was the one who listened as I floundered around on every topic imaginable in order to discover how I felt to the point I could write about it. For people who garden as writers, we are discovering the plot as we go along. We don’t make an architecture. Therefore, this blog-within-a-blog was the very beginning of crafting an idea. Before I can write about it here, I have to let the raw emotions fall on the page.

What I am finding is that I was so shaken up by the experience that I thought because I’d wronged one woman, I didn’t deserve any of them until I could truly make amends with her. I wanted her to stop being sorry that she chose me to be her confidante, and I think she was trying to tell me that she was sorry for opening up to me for different reasons, but I only saw rejection and pain. So, whether I tornadoed this relationship or she did is up for grabs, because I couldn’t tell from one day to the next how she felt. It was always precarious, and I didn’t like that anxiety at all. I was given the choice- live with that anxiety or don’t. My grief is unlearning that pattern. I had gotten so used to uncertainty. I had gotten so used to not knowing because it was all my fault we were in this mess to begin with.

Not being able to move on was not about being so blindly in love with another’s letters that I was ignoring my own life… although I can see how someone would get there. It was that I was suffering under the weight of all my guilt because things would get better and worse at such a rapid pace. If my narrative was wrong, I wanted her to lay out all those feelings and let me respond to them. Let me hear what really went on in her mind so that I can take it in, bless it, and release it. So that I can clear up any misconceptions. I can explain where I absolutely was not trying to guilt her, telling her what she had nothing to feel guilty about. In fact, all I ever wanted her to do was to look at my letters as if they had more to say than she should feel guilty.

For almost ten years of my life, I got to be a part of someone’s life that I desperately needed to meet. I regret all of the bad and celebrate all of the good. Nothing in my life matters more than the gifts she gave me of self confidence and belief in my own intelligence. I have managed to fool her into believing that I am smart, and somehow she made me believe it, too. I also know that I am wrapped into her equally wild and crazy mind, but what was too painful not to know was whether she still felt the same way about me.

I don’t know why I didn’t just say “what exactly are you regretting here?”

Actually. Yes, I do.

I didn’t ask, because I was afraid of the answer.

I knew what it would be because I was focusing on what I’d done rather than what she said. However, it wasn’t all beating myself up. It was getting mixed signals that were probably caused by not normalizing having conversations on the phone or in person so that when I was reading, I heard her voice instead of the one I made up for her in my head. I also didn’t make enough effort to hear her when she did emote, because I didn’t lift myself out of the situation long enough to be able to tell her that she was focusing on the wrong thing and so was I.

Neither one of us were very good at saying when something made us feel loved and when something made us want to stab each other with a fork…. We’d both hold it in fearing the other’s reaction. I’d finally get tired of sidestepping something and then all hell broke loose. It seemed like the thing that attracted her to me was the thing that repelled me the most over time…. Being able to communicate on the Internet and yet….. not.

I think it’s because we had different ways of being in this relationship, not due to us actually wanting harm for the other. We both spoke to each other in our own love languages, disappointed when the other didn’t respond the way they’d hoped. It wasn’t manipulation on either of our parts; I think it was just plain frustration because when we thought we were winning, we were behind. I never got the message in terms of how our relationship needed to change, because I was all in and I didn’t know if she was or she wasn’t. She wouldn’t set new boundaries, new rules of engagement so all topics of conversation were so hit or miss I didn’t know where I stood. Perhaps I overfocused on the negative responses and there’s a lot I’ve missed…. But I’ll never know whether I did or not because I couldn’t sit there long enough to wonder anymore. What is real? What is in my head? What can I expect from you? What do you expect from me?

As I told her, “I am not trying to take a plate that’s been smashed into a million pieces and make it look like it never broke. I am trying to work with you to mold new glass.” The cord connecting us to each other was massive because there were no constraints and no context.

I got tired of wondering what I could do better because I’d already laid myself bare in as many ways as I could, and none of it was coming across in the way that I meant it. I spent so much energy trying to figure out what I could say and how that I lost sight of the big picture. I needed her forgiveness in a very solid and concrete way.

I needed to know that I was worth meeting, not because I am perfect and need to be gladhanded, but that forgiveness is real with no lingering aftereffects. For her, that forgiveness was given on the surface, and it was murky whether it was real or not because even though we were still interacting, the tape that I was worth nothing to her wouldn’t leave me alone.

I realized no relationship was worth that much in self esteem, because it was dependent on whether I thought I was good enough for her or not. Who cares whether I thought I was good enough for me? Hadn’t I already proved I wasn’t worth anything?

How I conflated not being worth her time with self worth is not new or interesting. I ended the longest relationship with anyone in my adult life because I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts. I’d constantly think of ways to explain something that only served to make her feel worse, when I was trying to solve a problem, not create one.

It was a weight I could no longer carry, because living on wishes was not nutritionally filling. Neither is grieving someone that I thought I knew well, and also never met. The realest thing in my life, and also the most precarious.

“Hope is a thing with feathers,” but no one talks about how extraordinarily difficult a thing it is to get off the ground. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into that hope. I wrestled it like Jacob, and my hip is permanently disfigured.

The belief in this message of hope is that I tried the best I could, and I’m sure she did, too. Being able to communicate is a rare and beautiful thing; in this case, we never relearned each other. I know I missed a lot and am personally responsible for the initial break. Feeling the weight of that pain and embarrassment consistently undid me.

I am having dreams about what I wish would have happened, because it moves the story along with a natural denouement instead of a lens cap. The thing that keeps reappearing is that moment. The one where the other becomes real…. A handshake to anchor us so that finally, we are facing each other.

And I’d get to say, after almost ten years, “Hi. I’m Leslie.”

Going back to the very beginning.


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