What Do I Do Now?

One of the things that happened during the relationship with my beautiful girl was a very skewed sense of self. This is because she would say things that were completely counter to what the rest of my friends said about me. This was a very good thing in some ways, because I needed an outsider’s perspective. It was therapeutic to be able to talk about everyone in my life with no strings back to her, because we existed out of each other’s time and space. The dark side of it was believing a lot about myself that wasn’t true, because she wasn’t there. She was commenting on “there.” It took me a long time to take in that difference. It made me wonder what we’d have been like as a part of a larger group, because it would have made her commentary on my behavior so much different (I think).

The thing that reads universal to me is the difference between how you present in person vs. online. Seeing someone in their context matters. Isolating so that you’re only seeing each other is a blind spot. Tone of voice matters. How I see you treat other people matters. It is a different feeling of inclusion, physically and virtually. I will always be this person, the one that prefers virtual to physical, and the one that shouldn’t doubt its power. I get caught up in my writer personality, which leads me to ignore meeting in person until long after I’ve needed it- absolutely starving for a hug.

I wouldn’t even have suggested to said Internet friend that we should meet if I hadn’t discovered every single way my writing personality could fuck something up first. I wanted to meet up because I was tired of being misunderstood, but wouldn’t have cared about meeting in person if it wasn’t affecting us negatively. Text can only impart so much, and comprehension is due to context clues. It’s freewheeling to disconnect from anything that provides them. This is why I use the phrase “the emotional equivalent of freebasing cocaine.” Everything is coming at you straight, no chaser.

What would it have been like to know her as a girlfriend and mom- not because she told me she had a boyfriend and a kid. Because I was there and I saw them interact? Neither of us were keeping those things out, they’re just impossible to add as attachments (at least with Gmail). I would have loved to see her wipe the floor with her husband, because if she’s as brilliant with conversation as she is with writing, I could have popped popcorn. What I can do virtually is love him as an idea, a concept. What I can’t do is look at him while he’s looking at her to make sure he knows he’s the luckiest bastard on earth.

I also know that anyone she didn’t like wouldn’t last long…. Except maybe for my own amusement. Hearing her get bent out of shape over my dating life led to some of my favorite quotes ever…. All of them unprintable. I wonder what it would have been like for her to see me as a wife and a friend, and how fiercely devoted I am to both roles. I could tell her about it, but so different than her observing everything.

I’d want her to tell me when my girlfriend wasn’t looking at me the way I wanted her husband to look to look at her. She’s an excellent judge of character, and I could make a meal out of watching her feral nature when it comes to the people who are allowed to date me. I laugh when I think about how different it would have been had we experienced her physically meeting these people. I double over picturing asking her “what do you think?”

I grieve for that image as well. I feel like a bad writer when I cannot capture exactly what I mean, and I am sure a lot of what I’ve written has made wanting to meet me impossible. She thought I was a loose cannon as often as I thought she was, because physical interaction wasn’t slowing anything down. Anonymity helped at first and was hard over time, and not because of anything illicit or bad. It’s that only so much of each other comes through when you are not physically sharing the same space.

It’s a weird feeling knowing that there is so much I would have said with my body language that was cut out entirely. For me, it is similar to having a conversation with someone in Spanish. If they only spoke to me in Spanish, they’d think I was an idiot because I can’t even speak in more than one tense. I don’t know how to tell you what happened or what will. I can only tell you what is happening right now…. And even that is garbled. They will have missed what I can do with language when I have it. Choosing to be only virtual pals was the equivalent of being limited to Spanish when we were both natural English speakers.

It informs how I proceed. I make an effort to see Zac and not just Facebook Messenger him all the time. I make the effort to video call Bryn (though right now she’s on vacation). I try not to write so much down, because it’s not exhausting to write, but it is to read and it’s too much to ask of people who are too polite to say anything. Part of my love language is hearing the emotions that come up for you when you’re reading, and I know that if I send too much at one time, it’s overwhelming. When I have physically spent time with someone, it lessens my need to write to them because we just talked. Not having that guardrail is also problematic, because the last thing I want is for people to think that I am just rambling on for attention. From my perspective, I am including you in my life by describing it. It comes across to others as too much homework. Therefore, I am reticent to begin relationships over the Internet when I know there’s not a chance we’ll meet. You can only be so vulnerable with me in a vacuum, because I might know things other people don’t know… and yet I don’t know anything they do, either. Everything I know about that person has been distilled into black and white, where their pictures are all in color.

Color in a black and white relationship blossoms in commentary. Connection is so easy on one level, complicated on another. You can’t get to know a person’s natural rhythms, even in speech. The tendency on the internet is to pick out the angry things and comment on them first, without seeing what kind of day the other has had in any real sense… over time, it just becomes your perception of what their life is like. Perceptions attach certain moods and behaviors that compound in the other’s mind without ever being founded in reality.

I don’t know whether I am foolish for thinking it was better not to have this friendship than it was to live with the disconnects, because the perks were great. She’s my favorite humorist because there is literally no topic on earth she doesn’t know about, so no matter what ball I’m lobbing, she’s there with the world’s best pithy comment…. And the best ones are unprintable.

At the same time, I was carrying a lot of pain knowing that in some ways, I’d made meeting me feel scary. It made me afraid of myself. Not knowing where I stood gave me more reason to doubt our relationship would ever be more well-rounded, and that there would be an end to feeling like I was hurting her all the time. I knew innately that if I could emotionally injure her, I could emotionally injure other people. So I absolutely fixated on trying to make things right because if I could be redeemed from this mistake, I might be capable of a relationship where no one got hurt.

I had these perfect pictures in my head, changing as she and I did. Funny moments teaching her how to cook, joking with her husband because we know we’re the roadies on a pretty great tour. If the fates had aligned differently, I know I would have been Paul Child, not Julia…. And that’s why I needed her in a nutshell.

I don’t want to be the Julia. I want to be the Paul. I want to be the one cheering people on to do what they do and be who they are. Being supportive of her fills my purpose in life, too. But in this case, I am not limiting Julia to my beautiful girl. I just know I was born to help other people be great. Not having been that for the one I love the most is an exercise in torturing myself and leads nowhere good. Now, I absolutely know what I want in order to avoid the same mistakes. It is learning to negotiate those desires with others so that they also feel heard where the sharpest pain lives, because now I am overly protective of myself. I don’t let people in the way I should, because I’m thinking constantly about what I have done versus what I will do.

Telling me what you think while looking at me has become important again where it wasn’t for a very long time. I was afraid to come out of my shell for fear of rejection, so I just wouldn’t. Asking my beautiful girl if she wanted to hang after she’d already witnessed the worst things about me mattered. However, it was not a moment I knew I could take. It had to be given. So, when she said she wasn’t ready, I didn’t bring it up for years. It didn’t seem important in the grand scheme of things.

It became important because of all the things being lost in translation. Particularly, not knowing if saying that someday you might be ready is real or is something you say when you don’t know what to say. It is impossible to glean from mere words.

I made a meal out of someday without really looking at the amount of time that went by, engaging in the same behavior patterns over and over. It wouldn’t resolve without one of us doing something. I couldn’t stop feeling these large feelings, but I could do something to discourage them. I could turn my attention. I was tired of all of it. All the self recrimination. All the guilt. I have learned that I am not a bad person, and I should stop treating myself like it. I was holding myself to my worst mistake, reliving it in a way that she never would have endorsed. She would have protected me from me if I’d let her.

Dear God, how she tried.

Knowing she loved me that much, to try and understand something that wasn’t tangible or explainable, made me ferocious in trying to understand everything about me that repelled her. This is what I mean when I say that she’s always been the most honorable part of me even when I couldn’t be that for myself. She was rock solid in all the areas I was blind. She taught me to me in a way that will never be duplicated, because I had a yardstick to measure my success. Not in terms of material things, but in terms of emotional strengths she had where I was weak and needed time to grow.

But if the other person isn’t learning and growing with you, the imbalance shows quickly. There are too many chances for things to go wrong when 93% of you is somewhere else.


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.

Marketing to Me

What are your favorite brands and why?

I used to think that it was easy to market to me. That I’d buy anything with a sticker that said “new and improved” or “20% more real cherry flavor.” Now, it’s because I know I am a hard audience. That if you’ve won me with your wordplay, you have accomplished something because I do not suffer fools gladly. In order to be a wordsmith in my world, you have to earn the “smith.” You have to show me that you sweated over this ad and it’s actually the best you’ve got and you’re proud. When an ad hits me just right, I feel parental toward the writers and choking up with pride. The feeling in me is always Don Draper watching Peggy Olson…. “Think Different.” “Crazy” for Apple Computers. “1984” for the Macintosh. These ads are all for Apple because I like shopping for technology the best, and they put out stunning commercials.

What Apple ads don’t do is work on me. You do not need a Macintosh for anything, ever. It’s the same chipset as a Dell or HP or whatever so there’s no practical difference between buying a Mac and buying a PC…. the Motorola PowerPC chip vs. Pentium debate was worth having, and I wonder if M2 and ARM are going to come to blows in the same way. I doubt it. Linux has so much that will run on bare metal without having to rewrite software that MacOS just fails all the way around. That translation layer between hardware and software takes most of the power difference away because the OS may be written perfectly, but it’s going to take app developers a while to catch up. There’s just no reason to install MacOS as your main unix box when you can get rid of that translation layer altogether with ARM. I also hate not having a desktop and having the graphical user interface on my desktop feel like an iPad. Lastly, I don’t need a $4,000 Facebook machine. If I wanted to edit video, I’d still go with Linux over Mac software because I can download it for free without stealing. I suppose what I’m saying is that Jonny Ive has made Apple money because there was a market for great design in computing. I’d rather have computers I can work on myself. We are not the same. There is nothing like praying that plug and play works, but then also being able to find the drivers you need and they’re generally only a few megabites- came on a floppy disk or CD that you lost after you made a disc image and put it on your Google account. Learning to compile drivers and download dependencies like a boss. It’s the basics, and it’s more than most people could do and I’m proud of it.

Doesn’t mean the marketing at Apple isn’t inspiring, though. Apple products are great for the people who don’t want to be me. I can hate the player, not the game. They’re winning and I don’t mind being the underdog. I just like what I like. For instance, there are way better MP3 players than an iPod because the iPod died a slow and horrible death without ever supporting SD cards or terrestrial radios. MP3 players that run on linux (Android) can hold as many songs as you can throw at it because most support up to 512 gigs’ worth of music…… or be able to hold your entire library at full quality with no degradation of quality? Being able to rip your own collection and sneaker pimp the rest while never having to change the disk inside the mp3 player *ever?* People don’t do that anymore, but they still do if they’re nerds and my age. (I also know how to rip DVDs at full quality as well.)

What is even having a portable music player and not being able to listen to NPR? At the same time, MacOS is unix. They just don’t want to play. No one in my world wants to fool with that. Desktops are serious business, and by limiting home repair and making the computer report to the mothership, they’re convincing people that’s normal. It’s totally normal that your computer wants to know everything about you….. so it can create an ad profile for things you don’t need so they can sell you more stuff through your Facebook machine….. for which you spent way too much money.

But damn are those amazing ads.

Anger Management

I am often so poor at controlling my anger when typing, because my mind works faster than my mouth. Because of this, it often takes me a bit to respond, because I need time. I would rather sit in an extra second of silence than stammer and sputter my way through a conversation. When I am the most angry, it’s when I’ve isolated the most and only use my keyboard as my voice, because I forget to add in as much love and humor as I would while watching someone’s face.

Because when I sound angry on the internet, I’m not. I’m scared. I feel powerless and alone, taking on your emotions to an enormous degree without being able to express the ways it moves me in ways that don’t sound like I’m nitpicking, because anger is a PTSD response. I often don’t even realize I sound like I’m nitpicking. In Daniel’s case, it was a double edged sword, because on video and the phone, he could tell how I felt about him. What he couldn’t see was my alarm. I was trying to get him up to speed on a lot of things very quickly, most of them having to do with escalating fears for Cora’s safety and how we could protect her as a family. It had to start with her family not hurting her, first.

Everything he was going through changed me as I navigated what I was doing emotionally in response. Anxiety I’d felt for years mixed with anxiety I’d felt for weeks, and on top of it my new mother love created powerful fear that I could not do enough for her. I could only get Daniel to understand that I needed him to change. I could not get him to see how freaked out I was, how I needed him to look at what the situation was doing to me and not just assume I was trying to reprogram him. I was walking with him in a world he’d never had to think about until his daughter transitioned. I also wasn’t saying that he wasn’t doing the best he could. I was saying “we need to do more,” which he heard as “you are a failure.” I can’t go back and undo anything, I can only explain that he was very certain I was wrong and asked me to walk back some of what I’d said, even though it was true. I’d just done a lot more work on my white fragility. I even said, “I’m not picking on you because you are a racists. White people are racists. Period. It’s baked into the system.” To me, it’s all the same struggle. If you’re talking about one, you’re talking about them all. It’s all about getting respect.

White people think they’re hilarious when they say something the way a black person said it as if their impressions are cute and won’t said people be impressed at their astute mimicry? Sometimes, it’s true. I used to imitate Chris Rock all the time, but stopped when I found out that it wasn’t received in the way it was intended. The joke was about OJ Simpson. Some people thought the joke was the way I was imitating him. So my conversations with Daniel would run the gamut on this topic, me thinking that I was getting him up to speed and him feeling constantly guilty and irritated. If we’d been talking on the phone, I would have changed subjects a lot more, able to notice when a subject should drop. But at the same time, I didn’t say anything wrong. I said how I felt. I didn’t watch my tone because neither did he. I let him gut me with an axe over and over and over, and called him on it so he would stop.

He didn’t. He said some really, really terrible things on the way out. Stuff that will stick around in my head and make me wonder what happened with me for years on end. I don’t know why he didn’t see that I was taking on his pain as much as my own, and asking that he carry his load when it was all mixed together. He also broke up with me by text, and even that was okay because I knew what kind of pressure he was under to get himself well. I am left with a lot of pain that doesn’t actually belong to me, because I agreed to carry it.

I don’t like to believe that I was too harsh, and at the same time, I know it’s true. I don’t like to believe that Daniel was too harsh, but at the same time, I know it’s true. If he couldn’t see the enormity of what I was giving, why would he see that he needed to give me anything in return? Some words of encouragement would have gone a long way toward resting my fears that he heard my alarms. But that’s my best hope for what should have happened, not my expectation. People are going to react the way they react, and I give myself that same right. I think he also really needed someone to blame for all the guilt he felt and I was a great target because I was calling him on his bullshit at a time he didn’t want it….. and couldn’t ignore it anymore, either, if he wanted to be with me. I don’t regret standing my ground because ultimately it would have devolved into him feeling like I was trying to reprogram him all the time when I was trying to teach him. I needed him to let me be the subject matter expert on this one because he wasn’t queer. I already let him be the subject matter in other ways. This one was mine.

I am left shaking in righteous, Christ-like anger because I wasn’t trying to hurt Daniel. I was trying to liberate Cora.

I am right, and I am wrong….. all because I wasn’t looking into his eyes, searching them for what was real. How would this conversation have gone had we had more ways to express love and fear? With coping mechanisms that allowed us to open up?

I think I want that. He’s in my dreams, always. But then I go back and read our old letters and think “it’s going to take so much work now, because there’s so much more here than I thought.” And it’s not because I don’t want to do it. It’s because I don’t think he does. I don’t think he’s brave enough to admit that though I was wrong with my tone, nothing I said was inaccurate. He does lead a charmed life because of his straight, cis, white male perspective not because he is never discriminated against in terms of his skills and what he can bring to a job. His path to employment is not hindered by his skin or his sexual orientation. That he thinks it is while having a bisexual fiancee and a trans daughter is completely laughable. And that’s probably what felt so pedantic….. that I’d spent years and years studying this stuff and he was in 101. I didn’t have the patience to stick with 101 AND have a trans child living in NE Texas where I was afraid for her physical safety.

They’re problems in which both of us would have to be extraordinarily vulnerable, and say that we were both right and wrong…. but for different reasons than we think. Daniel is so wrong in thinking that I don’t have empathy for him. I absolutely do. I just want the same in return, and feel cheated when it doesn’t happen. If you want me to be all in, I am, but I can give what I require. I need patience, but it’s more than that. I need the people closest to me to see when I’m panicking and asking why so that I can release the pressure valve. Sometimes, it’s society. Sometimes, it’s between us. Sometimes, it’s between me and someone else and I don’t want to talk about it, I just want you to let me cry. What I don’t want you to do is think that I am being panicked for no reason at all. Just because my problem is big in this moment doesn’t mean that yours aren’t big to me the rest of the time.

I am programmed to think of everyone else first. So please believe that if I have a problem I believe is worth talking about, it really is. I am a people pleaser by nature, and would rather stand there and apologize for my existence most of the time.

It was a big deal to give up my label as a lesbian, because traditionally bisexual women are thought of as untrustworthy. We are not more untrustworthy than anyone else. Lesbians also have no problem screwing you six ways from Sunday, only a few of them enjoyable. (And straight girls are just the top shelf you can’t afford). Humans are not remotely clever in the ways they screw people over, and to get cheated on hurts no matter what. To cheat on someone hurts no matter what. We all go through it, all the time, male or female, mono or poly.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t a big deal to change what you’ve always known is true and haven’t because of flat embarrassment…. mostly because the stereotype for bisexual women is definitely not “I’ve been with women my whole life until now and I’m old.”

That lesbian label for me fell apart when I realized that I could love myself better when I was with him, that I didn’t want to fight him. That we were fighting each other because we were both in the shit, both intimidated, both directionless because it was too much to take in all at once and be comfortable at the same time. The flip side of the coin was that I chose it. I chose to be there and I was punished for it, and I’m sure Daniel feels the same way.

It’s just a shame that when he felt punished, he didn’t also keep in mind that I would have turned him out. The fact that he would have done the same to me definitely kept my feeling punished at bay. It’s hard when you can’t change the direction of an argument by unbuttoning a button…. and does it matter if it’s yours?

Many, Most of Them Mine

Do you have a quote you live your life by or think of often?

This is going to sound like the most conceited thing ever, but the quotes I live by the most are my own. This is not because I count on them to tell me what I’m doing right, but what I’m doing wrong. I can hold myself accountable for my actions, publicly, and I am hugely capable of dealing with criticism given enough time and space. I can’t say that I never feel rejected, because it simply isn’t true. I react because I don’t take time for myself and really figure out what I want to say. My trauma reflexes work faster than my superego, where everyone should be able to operate. I go back to id over and over because I’m in survival mode. If I am writing down what I am feeling over time, then I can tell when I’m solidly all id and need to protect my energy, because giving more emotional energy to myself so that I can fly under my own power is the most important thing on earth. That’s because in order to get rid of my rejection echo chamber that turns everything from a simple mistake to life-ending crisis, I can never, ever count on external validation. I have shown that I am willing to run my life based on what other people think, and it doesn’t pay off for anyone on earth. I am not special.

I think one of the things that bothers me about the internet relationship is that because it was all written word, all the time, the punches felt so much harder. I’d hear whatever she said in my head constantly, and focus on the ways I wasn’t serving her by being her friend, because I didn’t get the reaction I wanted. I think that’s because she was unwilling to notice we had a problem and face it head on. When we’d get the most angry, we weren’t even seeing the other. We’d go into id jointly and severally. Or, I thought we were, anyway. I think this because she never thought she could do enough for me, either. We had that same worthlessness loop inside us because I felt horrible that we had problems at all and wanted to move past them, she thought I was being a drama queen and making it worse than it was.

It was even worse when she’d get offended at the smallest amount of teasing her ever. I don’t mean the big things that actually were offensive. It was even offensive to joke about our city mouse, country mouse existence. To not even notice that your reaction probably comes from something bigger than that always came across to me as “I don’t care how you feel.” When I told her how she was coming across, she’d change the subject. It didn’t matter if she changed how she treated me… to her, that is. I wanted to know it was going to get better in the future, and the only way to do that was to talk about it. You can’t build a relationship with someone who always sees conflict as the other person trying to hurt you, which we both said to each other on multiple occasions. We hit the same triggers in each other all the time. What wasn’t getting better was either one of us turning them off. Now that she didn’t fit into the mold of friend I needed her to be, of course I was out. It wasn’t because I couldn’t be that for her, it’s that I couldn’t be that for her anymore. She’d told me too much for me not to be absolutely wound into her the way I’m protective of Bryn, Cora, and Lindsay. When I say that just because she was chronologically older than me and it not meaning anything, I mean that I am older emotionally because I was allowed to grow that much more early on. In fact, she’s never had a big sister, and I have a feeling that went into our demise as well. Once we had one fight, she couldn’t see me as trying to protect her anymore. Being stern with her the way I would if any of my babies had problems- trying to say what I felt in a way that would help them without seeming judgmental. And stern is even the wrong word here, that’s just how I’d describe my writing because I can’t hug someone while I’m only writing to them.

I can’t tell them all the times that tears have been running down my face in empathy, and at the same time, knowing that if I don’t say what I mean and mean what I say, then I won’t get what I need out of our interactions, either. I can’t tell them how much they mean to me if they’re not looking for it. All I can hope for is that my words matter to them enough to go back and hear the message they missed in the middle of the mess. She thought I was ragging on her, I thought I loved her more than life itself…. but how can someone take in that message if they’re determined to believe that someone is hurting them, or wants hurt for them?

What I’m learning is that every time I go back to this topic, I hurt a little less because it’s a shallower well of injury. I care so much less about the outcome that I’m able to do the emotional work more objectively (I hope). I am trying to explain what happened so that I understand where I’m coming from. To acknowledge that I’m an angel and an asshole. That I am capable of every emotion in the spectrum. Sometimes I use my power of empathy for good, sometimes for bad, but generally when my propensity for bad decisions comes out, it’s from trying to get approval from someone else.

It bothered me that it pleased her to be thought of as the mom in my life, not because she became my mother, but because I’d describe her mother love as that feeling inside me when it was good. She’d cut and paste those lines into an e-mail and tell me she loved them…. while also not letting me talk about problems we had on that level, either. I took the good with the bad, loving her whole spectrum of emotions and respecting all of them. Hers were even bigger than mine if she looked at them that way. I chose to focus on her superego, she chose to focus on my id. I don’t blame her for that in the slightest, because I barked up the wrong tree. But my god is it easy to see how I got there.

I am not letting myself off the hook, nor her. Because for all the up and down, hers are the quotes I live by…. even the tiniest.

Sausage, bacon, light mushrooms.

In More Ways Than One

Have you ever been camping?

My church had a campout on Mt. St. Helen’s so yes. I have camped. I hope it’s the last time until I find a place that’s warmer. It was great during the day. I froze my ass off every night. To her credit, Kari tried. She gave me a sleeping bag that was rated -20. It says more about me than it does about the sleeping bag, because my body temperature didn’t get high enough to provide the insulation and that’s on me.

Therefore, I have nothing against camping, per se. I don’t mind being dirty at all. It’s just that I’ve never been able to sleep outside without massive amounts of bedding. Which I have at home. In my bed. In a house.

Even my coldest outing wasn’t as bad as camping out in my mind tends to be every day. That’s because in order to maintain the good, I have to look at the bad. I have to go back and read what I’ve written so that I understand the context in which it was written and what I’ve actually written down…. and I can only go back long enough before the context fails, and then I can see if an idea is local or global. Am I ranting, or is it a problem that lots of other people deal with? Is it my bipolar spinning out? I have to make sure it’s not that, because it’s the kind of mood and behavior that isolates people. In a lot of ways, I camp out in my mind to make sure my story is consistent, and letting my emotions evolve day by day. The facts are consistent. It’s how I “treat myself,” and I’m delighted by that little double entendre.

When I see what my behavior is doing to people, I can look at others and see if my problem reads universal or personal. I can separate reactions from responses. I can separate their childhood shit from their adult behavior because I do it to mine all the time, comparing against the heuristics of all the human behavior I’ve seen my whole life. I had a platform to be able to see down, but I was looking up. My congregation has been teaching me to be a better human since I was born, both in learning to lead and singing in the choir.

The most disturbing thing I’ve ever thought is that if the woman who emotionally abused me had stayed, I might have been the pastor of the church. That she would have made me into her partner, and I mean the one she has now. If you look at who I am and who she is, it’s a fucking jump scare. She didn’t pick a person, she picked a pattern.

I could have turned into an arrogant asshole, but I didn’t. It probably wasn’t how she came across to her congregation, because when you’re already in love with yourself, you have the ability to lead and it’s whether you like it or not how the ones around you are treated. If you need to feel powerful because you feel powerless, you’ll take it from people who you deem inferior to you…. according to your own personal ranking system. Nature does not deal in absolutes.

I would like to think that I would have remained myself, and realistic about the fact that it was just the hand I was dealt. I don’t know what I would have done had I actually taken on pastoring a church… but here’s what I wouldn’t have done. I wouldn’t have made everything dependent on my mood and behavior so that pleasing me was a guessing game…. because microaggressions don’t lie. If someone picks it up, they won’t believe your words for a second because the energy is off. Your words and behavior don’t match. That way, other fixer/pleasers don’t feel like they’re not getting recognition, because it’s the easiest and kindest way to let them know they matter…. because they do. To treat them as anything else is crazy and won’t win you any points. If you have turf wars because you can’t delegate, it’s the beginning of the end because no one is empowered except you. Let your board feel like they’re failures long enough and berate them when they complain, and then either they’ll replace you or you’ll throw a fit and go tell them to fuck off and fire yourself. Picking up your toys and going home is never a good look, and you’ll burn down your legacy in any church at all. It was a difficult thing to stand in the flames because I had bought tickets to the show for 20 years.

No one will ever win an argument by thinking they’re always right. But let’s be real. In a congregational church, you have a boss… and the boss is the equivalent of an Episcopal vestry. In a large denomination, you have a bishop, and the conference is responsible for conflict resolution because they’ve SENT you to a church instead of you applying for the job. If you’re not humble enough to work by committee, it’s a losing argument in the congregational church. The board’s general problem is thinking they’re smarter than the pastor, and it makes the pastor feel like “if you wanted to lead the church yourselves, why did you ask for someone with a Master’s and treat them like crap?” Doesn’t expertise count for anything? It’s a give and take, a spectrum just like whether there’s a Bible or not, a God or not. It takes a tremendous amount of vulnerability on both sides, and torture when either can’t do it. The pastor isn’t always right, and neither is the committee. They will repel and attract for the entire length of their stay, and it very much depends on whether you were on a committee or not as to how you feel the church is being run. Only the people in the room know what happened.

So if you are in a church, and someone tells you the pastor did something or another, have empathy for all this. Listen objectively, and don’t let them get away with anything, either. It keeps both parties honest to hear the ways they can help each other so their future keeps getting brighter. The same things that work with leaders and groups work in marriages. People in homosexual relationships know this better than anyone else, because marriage between a man and a woman comes with a very strict power dynamic. Letting your penis inside something is good, being vulnerable enough to give that power to your partner is bad….. and leads straight men to treat gay men like they’re sinning. Not because they’re gay…. because they’re vulnerable and men don’t do that.

Straight women don’t get their glory because straight men won’t switch hit. They know it will change the power dynamic and they just don’t want to do it. That’s because most of the time, it’s the only power they’ve got. They’ll do everything from raping women and children to pretending it’s not sex with men if they’re on top. That way, one person thinks they’re in a relationship and one doesn’t. It is……. problematic. I remember getting dicked around by a straight girl that way. I knew I was an experiment…. the next morning. Speaking about not looking at microaggressions… she was a walking time bomb.

It was just a coincidence that I started hanging out with her ex later, because she’d already left my life for good. That didn’t stop her from calling my answering machine and saying that Kat had been abused and listed all the ways in which it happened. That time, Kat was in the room where it happened. It filled me with love for her that I was able to hold her while she cried about it, to say to her honestly and completely that I loved her and that nothing her friend had said made any different. Her friend had outed her about something that I would never have wanted to hear about her unless she told me, but it did give me the opportunity to be even more loving than I could have been because we started the relationship both knowing everything about everything and nothing was holding us back from honesty. That’s why I called the police when the ex showed up at our house unannounced and Kat said she didn’t want to talk to her and stood her ground. The ex wouldn’t leave and broke our screen door. Whether that was on purpose or by accident is a non-issue. It happened, and facts are facts.

Being me is knowing that I’ve also felt like her, but never done anything to that degree in my life. Thinking is free. Saying something is optional. I try to wish things into being, and work toward it. But that doesn’t mean I’m not human. It doesn’t mean my words come out right all the time so that people never misunderstand anything because I’m so great. It depends on how much they desire to understand that makes listening to me get easier. That’s because the less I need to process something, the less you’ll hear about it unless something pops up suddenly that connects to something in the past………

Probably because I’m camped out in my mind.

Every Minute of Every Day

When do you feel most productive?

There will never be another moment in which I think I’m not productive. If anything, I am prolific. My ideas about writing flow through me, and I am just standing by the river. Speaking of which, I thought of another fictional character that is just like me. Literally the spitting image. It’s Norman McClean from “A River Runs Through It.” Never have I wanted to marry a fictional character (in terms of the movie, not the person) as bad as him. Most people love Brad Pitt. I love Craig Sheffer, because he explained me to me in such a deep and profound way. Norman McClain is the Mr. Darcy of my life, because every woman I’ve ever known who reads literature has told me they pine for him on a spiritual level.

Norman’s dad was a minister, caring for people and me with a liberal perspective. He had the same idyllic childhood I did, but with the same pressures. He was also the oldest, and the bag that comes with. They literally acted out all the “my brother’s keeper” plays. Norman’s ideas, and his father’s, flowed out of them best when they were fly fishing. I chose to believe it’s because rivers talk.

The best preaching advice I’ve gotten has always come from my dad, but I had to adapt it to my own style and not his… for two reasons. The first is that I wanted to be fierce about establishing my own thing. That I was doing it because I wanted it, not because I was jumping for his approval. The second is that we couldn’t be the same preacher because my perspective was so wildly different from mine. He didn’t wrestle liberation theology to the ground like I did because he didn’t need it. He didn’t need to believe that “the cross and the lynching tree” extended to him… that I would be rescued from horrible oppression by setting my sights on the one who came to liberate me. That is very much the best of what the black church has been able to do for its people, and James Cone criticism is where I start any sermon ever. I want to take being responsible and mindful to the next level, freeing you from your bonds so that you can love yourself. That you have strength to move on, because your prayer life is telling you what to do. You can trust your intuition, because your brain will do everything it can to protect you from harm. You just won’t allow that protection in if you can’t sit with yourself long enough to contemplate letting it in.

It is when you become God, to let in that protection so your intuition is accurate. But in order to receive it, you have to look at your emotions in third person. If you don’t, ego gets in the way. You’ll just run on lizard brain because you’re surviving and not thriving. Praying is a way to clear the obstruction. In your prayer life, when you are asking God to give you relief, you find that you already have it because you prayed about it. It doesn’t matter if God is listening. What matters is whether you are.

I’ve talked a lot about God on this web site, but I rarely talk about what I believe. Here is my creed.

Heaven and hell were created to keep people in line. The resurrection could have been literal or a marketing campaign, and there’s no way to know that because there are no eyewitness accounts. The gospels were written down long after Jesus was crucified. But to take the Bible seriously is to pick up the lessons we can learn from those stories whether they’re factually accurate or not.

In my prayer life, I use a person as an image so that God feels like a literal person instead of a green screen. That was the moment I connected to David Morse’s character in Contact. Incidentally, I also loved that movie because Matthew McConaughey played me in a movie. That connection is very, very deep. My dad was Matt’s pastor and my mom was Matt’s middle school choir director. If you ask Matt’s mom, she’ll say my dad was amazing because he was the first one to pronounce their names right before she told him how…. and according to my dad, Matt’s dad was a mess, in that Texas way- completely affectionate the way good ol’ boys talk.

When we lived in Longview, I was a toddler. He wouldn’t remember me from Adam, but he’d remember my parents in a heartbeat. My mother’s favorite joke in life was “I’ve seen Matt in a bathing suit.” Then, when everyone expressed excitement, she’d say “of course, he was 12 at the time.” Sometimes I wonder what kind of interactions we had. Whether he’d ever asked to hold me or joked with me in a memory I can’t recall. That’s because if my mom went to a pool party at all, I was also there.

Swimming has always been where I experience God the most, and my dad reminded me of it the day I preached my first sermon. He said “it’s a river. When you get up there, just step into the flow.” Here’s the even bigger part. I didn’t have my cell phone on me, so he called the church. I wasn’t the one who answered it, so when I was sitting there borderline panicking because I couldn’t ask for a blessing, someone came up to me and said, “Leslie…. it’s your dad.” I’m crying right now just feeling that relief.

Some of you may not know that when I preach in person, I do a pastoral prayer before I get rolling. It’s not for them. It’s for me. I need to know that I have the confidence to lead people by being humble. That opening up won’t hurt, because I might be able to help people more than hurt. It is asking God to work through me so that hopefully, my words resonate instead of making them feel like they have to listen to me to be polite. I want to be worth their time, because nothing is more precious to me than time. To waste other people’s makes me feel terrible toward myself. Letting myself suck until I got better was a necessary evil, and I apologize for ever misstep ever made.

Here’s the most intimate moment that has ever happened to me with a parishioner. At our church, we only did communion once a month. One of the Sundays when the senior pastor was going to be out of town fell on it accidentally. Before the service, I was so nervous I could have thrown up, because I’d grown up in a church that had very strict requirements on who could and could not do communion, and the United Church of Christ doesn’t have any to my knowledge. But it didn’t matter. Someone I wasn’t close to gave me the biggest moment I think I’ve ever had.

I was on the Worship Team, and we were the people gathering before the service to make sure it was going to run smoothly. The question at hand was whether we should skip over communion, because it was already in the bulletin and I was freaking out. It was something I wanted to do because I knew I could, and knowing that it was not a moment I could take. I needed it to be given. I needed someone else to tell me I was worthy before I launched into something that shouldn’t have been done in the first place according to the tapes in my head.

I was standing next to a full length mirror when a woman came up behind me and placed a rainbow stole on my shoulders. She said I should look like a minister, but holy God. In that moment, she became my only ordination to date. It was worth getting raked over the coals by the senior minister when she got home, because I didn’t ask to do communion, I just hoped I would be allowed it. I was, because my support team said that it was more important to follow the bulletin than it was to leave something out. I had my moment not because I asked for it, but because said pastor didn’t proofread…. so she couldn’t take it away from me even if she was going to beat a dead horse for all eternity. She couldn’t steal the gift that I’d been given…. self confidence.

The United Church of Christ is not what’s called a “creedal church,” one that sets in stone what should be said for every occasion… see “Book of Common Prayer” for details. 😛 Since there wasn’t a template, the United Methodist words of institution floated off like I’d been doing it my whole life, completely comfortable in my skin because I knew I wasn’t stealing anything. I was serving everything. I held he literal body and blood of Christ in some traditions, an honorarium in others, right in my own hands. My faith allowed me the strength to believe that I was worthy enough to give people that gift of resolution and redemption that comes with believing in the risen Christ. That rainbow stole was everything when it came to believing that I was both the Moses that killed the teenager in the desert and the one that led the Canadian houseguests out of Iran. I wanted to know if I had enough strength to take on the mantle of being able to lead people rather than follow. I didn’t.

But Brenda did.

She let me know in 60 seconds that my words had value. The table had been laid. I was present in an intentional way. The river was flowing beside me, and all I had to do was step in.

Teaching Me

It’s starting to set in that the relationship with my beautiful girl, my SuperGrover, my whatever term of endearment I’m thinking of that day is really gone. Traditionally, by the time I’ve made the decision that she’s really gone, that’s the moment I get an e-mail and the cycle starts up. Now, I’m left alone with my reality and I can’t decide whether it’s better or worse. That’s because she was my real friend and a figment of my imagination the whole entire time. She has lived in my head for three different cities, numerous sets of friends, and so much to talk about besides the things I never should have said. Now I just feel like I’m losing my mind, literally.

At nine years, she was a reflex. I had to change her e-mail address to my phone so that I knew I could still use that reflex, she just wouldn’t actually receive any of the e-mails. Funny how I set that up a month before all this happened because I knew it was what I wanted and tried to keep fixing everything, anyway. I don’t think I even really wanted it for me. I think I thought it would be easier on all of us if we were a foursome, the way we would have been had I not opened my big mouth.

But what I have to sift through now is regret, because I don’t think I’ve ever done the wrong thing for me except telling her that I wanted her, because she knows I loved her long before that. I didn’t leave Dana behind because of this relationship, and I didn’t leave Houston because of it, either. It made me feel guilty for living in DC in the past and thinking of it as my home, because no one else thought that. I cried the entire plane ride here, because I was walking into the belly of the beast. I was being vulnerable because I had to put physical distance between Dana and me, because after the physical fight, I was scared of her.

You’d have to understand context here. When I started feeling those butterfly feelings, I knew my relationship with Dana wouldn’t last much longer, because I’d already broken up with her for something else. We reconciled, unfortunately, and I only say that because the emotional swings got worse until I ended up on the floor with a bruised eye socket. So, to say I did anything because of my beautiful girl is just nonsense. By the time I got to Washington, I was done.

I wanted to apologize, and again, it made our relationship go up and down with me never knowing what was going to happen from one day to the next. In retrospect, if things were going to change, they would have long before now. The hardest part is not missing her, but missing my safe space, where I was both talking and listening. After it began to be only me that was talking, I felt like she was keeping me under her thumb, afraid of what I could do to her as a writer. I was asking her to think about what she was doing to me because she’s a writer.

It was never important to her to go back and clean up a mess, so I just began ignoring it because it was easier not to tell her things that hurt me and just let them slide. When I didn’t, I could count on being body slammed into the ground. She said so many times that she wished she’d never said anything, never met me that I believed it with my whole heart, and tried constantly to ask her questions that would reveal both her anger and her hesitation.

It being over was when she said she disagreed with a lot of what I’d written, and didn’t want to tell me why. That’s when I decided that what she was really saying was that she was ready to move on and I was asking her to let me go. It didn’t feel fair for my emotions to be that large and for her to blame everything on timing, as if there was going to be an alternate future in which she was willing to disagree with me without going nuclear every single time. She took all of the affection out of her tone, as if I was going to forget for one second of a single day that she wasn’t interested. As if I wasn’t paying attention to her and intentionally trying to gut her with an axe. I’m sure it feels that way if you don’t know how to navigate conflict, or you do and your way of doing it is you’re a hammer and everyone else is a nail.

I can’t think of a time in the past seven or eight years where our relationship didn’t heat and cool like April in DC. The day I arrived, there was snow on the ground, and it was almost May.

I know now that I wished for too much, and the only one keeping me company is me. That’s because I go back and read what I’ve already read to make sure that I know reaching out is a bad idea, because I’ll have time go by and regret the way I acted and apologize. Alternatively, she’ll forget we had a fight and reach out without resolving the last fight, so the triggers keep multiplying because only I’m talking about what they are. Telling someone that they’re creating the narrative that they’re a victim is easy when you’ve never created a narrative of your own. If someone feels victimized by what I’ve done, and she has every right to her feelings if it’s true, it would help if they just said that.

Because I certainly have no problem with taking responsibility for everything I’ve done and left undone. I cut my own heart out with a knife because I was tired of feeling like there was this seething anger in her that she wouldn’t tell me about, she just alternated between being loving and furious about everything else under the sun, things that were covering up our real issues when we were both hurt and afraid of what the other would do.

Because I really was the bad guy here, I have problems starting new relationships because I don’t want to hurt anyone else. I see the ways I’ve participated in our mutually assured destruction and I don’t want to be that for or to anyone else. I didn’t even want to be that for her the moment I realized the horror of what I’d caused. I made someone else feel fear, and I didn’t care that she made me feel fear, too, until I’d apologized for my actions so many times it basically became a form letter.

I couldn’t undo what I’d wrought, and yet, neither of us pulled up. We got in a tailspin and trying to right it was futile. Just the worst thing I’ve ever done because it didn’t allow me to move on. I just beat myself up, all day, every day. I told myself that I was doing better, that we were mending our connection, and then a fight would start out of nowhere.

So, in the end, I wish she had asked herself if she was really going to change, or if I was going to be stuck apologizing for everything, forever… and been honest about the answer, telling me before it took me eight years to figure it out on my own. Nobody is that busy.

Which is what I remind myself as I read my own words without ever going back to hers. I still have everything, but I keep it for sentimental value. I can’t look at it yet, but I know I will hate myself if I delete everything. Perhaps it would give me a new start, but I’d rather just archive them so I don’t have to look at them until I’m ready.

My stuff is probably already gone, because she’s deleted everything else in recent memory. I used to think I made a difference in her life, and now I feel like a burden to her…. that I am only the person she keeps in her sights to make sure I can’t hurt her, when I was out of my mind to do it in the first place.

But like I’ve said before, if it hadn’t been this, it would have been something else…. because conflict resolution doesn’t change with relationships. It’s based on how your first family dealt with it and how you learned to deal with conflict in the first place. It is not a comfort, it is reality that this relationship would have gone the same way with a different monster conflict because we didn’t just have the one.

I wasn’t asking her to take responsibility for my actions. I was asking her to take responsibility for hers. But then it was that I was asking too much and I needed to find other friends, because who cares what she thinks?

And still nothing is resolved. I’m finding closure on my own…. and finally, I have enough reading material to tell me that I’m doing the right thing and heading away from feeling like a failure a hundred percent of the time.

Today, though, I’m crying like a butt hurt little girl. Tomorrow, everything will look better. That doesn’t make it easier right now.

I am teaching me, and it’s okay to be in 101 this semester.

How Are We Talking Today?

What topics do you like to discuss?

I will discuss anything, but it’s different in person and in letters. I weight my letters because it’s the easiest way to go deep without expecting the immediacy of a response. I would even snail mail people if it were a viable option, because I don’t think printing out an e-mail is worth it. Plus, the strength in my hand to write with a pen is all but gone and my handwriting always reminds me of both the person who taught me to write and the person I’m currently thinking about, because I’m picturing the letter they wrote me and matching style…. for instance, Meag always used block letters and I thought it looked cool, so I’d waffle between block letters and the flowy, left-handed scrawl of the woman who emotionally abused me, because we were writing those letters to each other when I was learning to write in the first place. That part is permanent, and another reason not to put out the energy to hand write something. Giving people time to sit with what I’ve said without putting them on the spot is the most important thing if you really have something to say. It is my belief that if you have the ability to sit in the cognitive dissonance of waiting, use it. Seeing everyone’s first reaction when it could be anger is something I avoid… and yet, I don’t run away from problems, either. I want you to know what they are, but in a way that is non-threatening because I am not expecting you to have the answer today, right this minute. I learned that because I don’t even trust my first reaction to something. I react, and then I think about what I think.

I’d rather have the knee jerk reaction on my own, then give you a weighted response to show that I am taking you seriously; I have thought through all the implications of what you said and can see how my first reaction was wrong because of three things I wasn’t thinking about.

In person, I have learned that the best way to get close to people is just to let them talk about themselves. It’s what they know. I’m not trying to rope people in, I just have that personality where people want to spill things to me, because my personality dictates that I can help them. Most INFJs end up in social work of some kind or another.

In order to meet someone, I look around for the person I feel is most dressed like me…. has one item that stands out, like wearing solid black and having tye-dyed shoes or red glasses. Then, I go over to them and compliment them on that one item that stands out, asking where they got it. If they’re excited to start talking, I recognize that energy. If they’re not, I walk away. I think I mentioned this- that I met the chairman of the National Black Journalism Association because I ended up next to him at a bar and said I liked his shoes.

Whether the person is Joe Nobody or Joe Scarborough, it doesn’t matter. I say the same things. That’s because I can’t be offensive if I am only complimenting them on where they got something and not trying to broadcast “I know who you are and I care.” It doesn’t make the other person want to open up to me, and what is communication without a two-way street? I’ve never been impressed by anyone in terms of them having a much bigger life than me, a much bigger platform. This is because I know that people knowing who you are is not the flex you think it is. What’s important is what you did to achieve recognition. I like standing next to greatness, not to soak up fame, but to see brilliant people do what they do best.

I choke up with pride when I really think about the work my sister is doing. She’s one of the most powerful people I know, and yet my favorite thing about her is an energy she’s had since childhood. She’s a leader. People have wanted to follow her into the ocean since she was born. She has a charisma that is literally magnetic. She can do in person the kind of things I only write down. Watching the way she negotiates with the world without letting it get to her publicly and listening to her privately is astounding, because she makes everything look effortless even when it’s not.

It was a long time before I realized that I could lead people as easily as she could, I just wasn’t emotionally capable. I didn’t have the stomach for feeling rejected in person… which is why when I’m given power, I can be trusted, because I don’t want it. She feels exactly the same way in terms of not wanting to be powerful, she just is. Her physical appearance disarms people, which also goes into the way the world reacts differently to each of us, because our barriers to entry aren’t even close. She’s so self-aware and so compassionate because of it… probably the reason she works in queer issues today. Here’s what I want her patient population to know, and know it well. She will fight for you like a three-headed dog, because no one has ever been able to pick on her big sister, either.

Where I start to lose the plot in a discussion is when I think you just want to emotionally vampire me, because I’ll say something and you’ll go on forever about yourself without realizing that you haven’t even acknowledged what I’ve said. I get uncomfortable always fading into the woodwork, because I don’t have a God complex, but I would like to feel included. It makes me feel like a ghost when the only thing that matters is the other person feeling important. Our relationship should coexist, because the more I feel lonely even though we’re talking, the less I’ll show up at all.

I would rather spend time by myself if every time we get together, it turns into your therapy session and not ours. Meaning, I will listen to anything and everything you say, but I expect that you will, too. The most exhausted I get is when people say “we’ll circle back to it” and funny how that doesn’t seem to ever happen.

That’s generally when I resort to letters. It’s not easy for either party to feel put on the spot, so I’m taking care of me, too. Yes, I am an INFJ. I am built for doing exactly what you need me to do- listen. However, just because I can be that for everyone else doesn’t mean I don’t need someone as well. I’m already as introverted as I can possibly be to protect myself from having to be constantly drained. I need friends that give me energy, not take it.

So, basically I’m using the least intrusive means of telling you what I think no matter what. I calculate my responses in terms of whether I’m letting people in closer whether I’m in person or writing, dependent upon how open they are to hearing. I sense changes in energies very quickly, because the same things that work with feeling like you’re losing a crowd work in a conversation. Although, you work a crowd. You don’t work a person. You can just feel that shift and know you need to regroup…. like knowing it’s okay to come out to someone by getting their opinions on a few other topics, first. I feel similarly to Roy Wood, Jr. that we shouldn’t get rid of the Confederate flag so we can tell which white people are all right…. because where prejudice against skin color goes, so does their view of me. I hate walking into traps, and I’ll do anything to avoid it because I don’t like who I am when I feel caged.

Therefore, protesters at Pride parades never phased me. I knew they weren’t the right white people. I have never, ever seen black people protesting against Pride marches. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, that’s just my experience. I know that discrimination against queer people is rampant in the black church, but there’s a line drawn there. I would like to think it is sympathy for the struggle, that there are big differences… and too many similarities to count. For instance, we have both struggled with law enforcement. If you were caught in any homosexual behavior, the newspaper could absolutely ruin your life, because the news would be out publicly, both that you were arrested and why.

Getting your name published in the paper went away, but not the stigma. On a very basic level, humans are taught that sex is gross, but their particular brand of sex is right and good while someone else’s is bad and wrong. When you teach 80% of the population that they are right and good, what is the other 20% supposed to feel?

This is still happening today in classrooms across America, kids getting indoctrinated that those who don’t struggle with problems due to race, gender, sexual orientation, and/or religion matter so much more than the others…. that their lives are worth more because they were born “perfect.” This system reached ungodly levels of insanity during the Holocaust, where I never forget that Anne Frank and I are the same person. If I had been there, I would be dead…. she in her yellow star, me in my pink triangle.

If you’ve never had to carry that burden, you don’t have empathy for it and minimize it until it doesn’t exist. The best we can hope for is “I don’t see color,” which means that you’re okay as long as you don’t seem any different from them and understand completely when they’ve misgendered you or misnamed you for the 50th time that day… White, straight, cis people have no idea just how relentless it is… how much work it takes not to feel that pain all the time. How much we can’t laugh off your forgetfulness.

And if I feel this way, someone with browner skin than mine feels this phobia about themselves in a way they can’t hide from anyone else… same with trans people. They are physically different from me, so their differences get noticed quicker than mine…. but it’s all the same struggle. There are many, many basketball courts in that one gym.

When I’m really turned on in a conversation, it’s generally about issues like this, that affect more than just me. I can talk for hours about how I owe everything to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bayard Rustin. I have often pictured what their conversations look like back at the hotel.

Mostly because I’m a Bayard, constantly seeking their Martin.

Am I Being Punk’d?

When is the last time you took a risk? How did it work out?

I take risks all day long. Up until now, I’ve been in relationships with women. I’m genderqueer on the outside, genderfluid on the inside. Stepping out my front door is an act of courage, and not cowing to the demands of what society puts on women is another. I do not owe it to the world to put on makeup.

It might not make me look like a drag queen, but I certainly feel like it sometimes. I’m just not used to it anymore. It doesn’t feel natural like it used to. It feels like paint. So, I’ll still wear some (occasionally), but only mascara, eyeliner, and a bit of lip gloss. Jeremy Renner was a makeup artist before he was on camera, and he said something that made sense to me. All you need is to frame your face.

I have cut foundation out entirely, because that’s where skin problems start. I had horrible systemic acne as a teen, and fixed it with Accutane. Since then, I’ve just taken care of my skin. I don’t really have to do much- soap and water is just fine, as long as it’s not the cheapest soap you can find. Right now, I’m using African black soap, which clears up acne naturally…. And yet, Dove works fine, too. All I’m saying is that I chose to clear up the problem with pills rather than a multitude of creams that probably wouldn’t have worked, anyway.

After a time, it became impossible to control my acne with just topical applications, and it was a risk taking Accutane at all. There were horrible side effects- bone pain in my back and legs, dry skin (which wasn’t that bad until it was my lips), and my emotions were all over the place. I wasn’t on any psych meds at the time, but it wasn’t unrelated, either. One of the primary warnings is suicidal ideation….. probably because it makes you feel so bad that if you’ve been on it, you know that some days death would have been a welcome relief rather than trying to stand up fifteen minutes in a row.

In the end, it was worth it and I would do it again. But while you’re going through it, there’s really no end in sight. It takes six months, at least, and if it’s bad enough, you have to do it twice. You’re basically trying to kill all the oil glands in your face. It works, but it is a bitch and a half.

It was most embarrassing having to say to people so often, “no, I am not pregnant. I am not planning on becoming pregnant.” No one was being mean to me, the effects on the baby would have been that severe. But of course, it tapped into my worthless feelings because I knew I’d never have a baby. That’s crazy talk. Keep in mind, I was like 19. I finally just started saying I was a lesbian, and it stopped cold…. And then lesbians just HAD to have kids and make it normal….. God, you guys. 😛

I was completely obsessed with myself, but not in terms of vanity. I hurt all over, from constant headaches to backaches to period cramps being ten times as bad. That kind of constant pain wears on you, and I was waiting tables at the time. Just pain on top of pain.

When I think of that time in my life, the pain resurfaces, but it’s filtered through the fact that I only had to endure it for a short while…. Maybe a year. But I know chemo patients who have had it less rough than that.

Now, I have really good skin, but other problems with my health that need addressing…. And that is a risk, too, just because I don’t like going to the doctor. I think I know everything. But as I’ve said before, being the best doctor you’ve got isn’t a ringing endorsement.

And the truth is that I hate going to the doctor because no one knows me in Maryland. Outside my little Texas bubble, I don’t have any connection to a medical family and doctors get pedantic with me right away…. Even when I say things like “I have Aleve at home and it’s not working. Could I try Celebrex?” Then the doctor will say something like how I don’t need anything that strong and I’ll say “I don’t need a stronger dose of anything. I need both the Cox-1 and Cox-2 inhibitors” and all of the sudden a light dawns AND I CAN SEE IT HAPPENING. “Oh, she wasn’t kidding when she said she came from a medical family. Maybe she does know something.”

I am not here to give medical advice to anyone. I know my own body… and I am perfectly fine with OTC pain meds 90% of the time. If I was asking for Tylenol #3 or Vicoprofen, I could understand a doctor’s hesitation. No one is trying to scam you for narcotics, dude. I have enough issues. I don’t want addiction to be one of them.

Plus, I’m an introvert, and I don’t like dealing with people. It is a necessary evil. So, if I am not in any danger and I already know what’s going on, I can treat myself within limits. I don’t need to go to the doctor for bad allergies or a cold. I don’t need to go to the ER because dollars to donuts my pain won’t be taken seriously and I’ll be given a prescription for 600mg ibuprofen when I CAN COUNT, thanks (regular is 200mg). The one thing I won’t do is argue, because I don’t want to be accused of drug seeking behavior. That means even when you’re *really* bad off, no one will pay attention to you. It’s The Boy Who Cried Wolf…. Even when it’s not.

It’s a risk to see a doctor because you’re working off a thousand assumptions that have nothing to do with you. The doctor is running heuristics on my pain as easily as I do with emotional situations. However, I have never had a doctor be compassionate enough to see that I needed more than over the counter medications and I’m not dumb enough to insist that’s what they should do. I grit my teeth a lot.

In fact, the one doctor who did think I was in that much pain didn’t go to medical school in the United States, and therefore, could hold my hand and do little else. I had a housemate from Nigeria, Franklin, and one night I was cooking for us. I managed to slice into my finger while cutting a raw sweet potato, and the knife came down on my finger with force…. To the point I was scared to cook for a while. Franklin said later that he should have taken me to the ER because I needed stitches. I told him he was right, but that I had enough experience in a professional kitchen that it wasn’t an emergency. It was Tuesday.

It took forever for the finger to heal, but luckily, no nerve damage. The only nerve damage is from before I was a cook. I was 16 and still living in the parsonage when I sliced my thumb while cutting a lime for my Diet Coke (yes, I was 100% That Bitch). I’m 45, and there’s still a dead spot on the palm side.

Learning to cook professionally was a risk because I knew I wouldn’t be spectacular at it, I’d just have a ton of fun. And I did. Even when I was injured, it was fine…. Most of the time. I won’t lie and say I was always Mama’s brave little soldier, but in that kind of pressure cooker, losing your shit has to be in very small increments. There’s no time for anything else.

The job that came with the best perks was working in a restaurant at the Portland airport, because I had a badge that let me walk directly onto the tarmac. It was refreshing to go and take a break and watch the planes, which you can do in an airport restaurant because you can look at the loads for the day and tell when the pops are going to be.

It’s also a big risk to take a kitchen job, because there’s always a definite start time. Good luck finding the end.

I had a love-hate relationship being the last one out, because the last one out is the first to get blamed in the morning. Part of it was petty day crew/night crew bullshit. Part of it is that I’m physically weak and forget a lot. So whose fault it actually was in each instance isn’t important. What’s important is that it was relentless. I couldn’t win either way. So, whether you believe I am the best cook or the worst, it still sucked to walk in to a laundry list of my failures…. Particularly when another cook told management that I was the one who left something out, and he did. I took the fall for his raw chicken sins.

Being a writer is a risk. People think I flippantly post things, and I sweat blood. I had to get into the habit of hitting post as soon as I was done with an entry, because to wait was to let imposter syndrome set in. Nothing would ever be good enough…. And it still isn’t, but you people are too kind.

I would like to take a risk and go sit with the bees, but I can’t today. They don’t like rain, and today it is big, fat drops. I’m not sure I would love it out there, either. But Magda has grown lavender in the side yard or at least a year, and the bees love it more than life itself. I just wanted to clear it up that we do not have a hive. I have not had an audience with my queen. I just know all her loyal subjects, who listen to me as if they have nothing else to do because they’re better at multitasking than I am.

If I wear my blue hoodie, I am more attractive to them. I can’t decide whether I like that or not. They’re never aggressive, not ever. I just have to decide how comfortable I am with bees on me… because if I make a bad move and it is misinterpreted, there is no “Undo” feature.

I’m just glad that we have a safe space for bees in our yard, because I feel emotionally connected to them in more ways than one. Claire talks to her bees in “Outlander,” which makes me feel like less of a crazy person for doing the same. And I’m a cook. The plight of the bees is mine as well. Incidentally, my favorite version of “Flight of the Bumblebee” is twofold. The first was hearing Wynton Marsalis on a recording. The second was hearing Clark Terry do it live in a master class.

Speaking of which, I love meeting famous people. It’s always a risk, but it pays off. I come away with an interesting story, some of them interesting enough where the famous person will remember me, some not so much.

I could tell that I tickled the hell out of Wynton Marsalis when I told him I’d been waiting my whole life to meet him…. Just stifling his laughter at how long that must have been in all of my 15 years.

It’s kind of fun being able to say that I met so many people at HSPVA before they were famous, because the part of them that’s not famous is what I like best.

One of my favorite random conversations happened at the pub where I worked before the pandemic. I sat down at the bar for an ice water and a shift drink, and asked the guy next to me what he did. He said, “I’m a sound engineer for NPR.” He said, “what do you do?” I said, “I sling hash for a living.” The fucking bartender said, “I thought you worked here. You didn’t tell me you were a drug dealer.” The NPR sound engineer laughed until he cried.

I couldn’t even breathe I was laughing so hard, because this bartender was young enough to be my son. “Slinging hash” had a different meaning in his world.

Moving to DC was a big risk, but it paid off because I get to have these conversations all the time. I am permanently stuck at the smart kids’ table, right where I need to be just to soak up information…. And not filling my ears with hot air. So much more interesting to talk to people who make the news than watching it at night or listening on the radio.

Also, not going to lie…. Pretty great standing in front of a gaggle of groupies and talking to Robert Glasper when he says, “SHIT! You from the crib…” Grabbed me and hugged me like Mr. Hattox’s history class was yesterday and not 30 years ago. We didn’t take a selfie that time, but I think I got one on the next tour. By the time I got to talk to Robert after the first time I saw him, we were both exhausted and I didn’t think either of us would look good, anyway.… nothing to put on the refrigerator, anyway. I prefer it. I didn’t capture the look on Robert’s face when he saw a high school friend. That look was just for me.

I think I’ve said this before, but I knew Jason Moran back in the day better than I knew Robert Glasper, but yet still a risk to go and talk to him because I wasn’t sure if he’d remember me or not. He absolutely did, and I felt silly for wondering. I told him that I’d written to one of his albums, Ten, for a year. He turned around to the whole band and said, “hey guys… she wrote to Ten for a year.” I was so honored, because it meant something to him that his music fueled me, and meant something to me that he thought it was important enough to tell the band.

One of the big risks I took in high school was attending Summer Jazz Workshop, where I got integrated into the Houston jazz scene. My one claim to fame is that I was the trumpet soloist when my band was on a local television show called “Black Voices.” It was hilarious because the “Black Voices” logo appeared, and then my big white face with even bigger glasses.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t a prodigy at trumpet or anything else. I just decided to take a risk, because getting to be in the band at all was the point. I remember Doc Morgan, my jazz director at HSPVA, saying that he was going to miss me getting to do the traditional “senior tune,” where every graduating member of the band gets their own solo. I told him not to worry, that he’d featured me so much as a ninth grader that I felt like I already had mine… and it was true. I remember one solo that went extraordinarily well, and he said, “Leslie Lanagan… Ninth grade, ladies and gentlemen… NINTH GRADE.”

I peaked too soon, but it was worth it. I got the experience of a lifetime before being thrown to the wolves in marching band. That was its own special kind of risk…. But at least I only fell in rehearsal once. That is because I was marching backwards and either I ran into a bass drummer or he ran into me…. Unclear.

It was physical and alien, made torturous by the Texas heat. I do not regret the risk of staying in, of feeling embarrassed until I didn’t, allowing myself to suck at something until I didn’t. Being in the marching band was required to stay in the symphonic band, and came with a free trip to San Antonio, where we were presented The Sudler Flag, honoring the best of Texas music education…. And since my mom was a music teacher, she was already at the (Texas Music Educators Association, or TMEA) convention and got to hear me.

The last huge risk (huge) was preaching at Bridgeport, and I didn’t even do that until I was asked. No one really knew me, didn’t know where I’d come from, and didn’t expect anything. Sometimes, I was on fire (according to me) and sometimes I sucked (also according to me). But the thrill was becoming experienced at something I’d only watched from a distance…. And as it turns out, I’m like every preacher in the world. The sermon you think sucks is what everyone remembers, and the sermon you thought was gold is straight trash.

So that’s how I view this web site, too. It’s a risk, but I know that the very worst entry I write, someone will absolutely adore. Something I like will languish, because people don’t think the way I do, and thank God for that. Otherwise, I would be preaching to an echo chamber.

A risk all its own, and one that never pays off.

The War Daniel, Part II

Describe a risk you took that you do not regret.

I took a risk in getting close to The War Daniel, and it paid off in spades. Yes, I went through so much, but I am hugely capable of dealing with things so it never felt like a burden. I know I came across as harsh, but that’s because I wasn’t holding him while we talked. I hope he understands, even if we never reconcile, how much he changed my life for the better just by having the courage to ask me to marry him… because it showed that he was dreaming of a better life down the road as well. I want nothing more out of him than that; I want him to find his best life, even if I’m not involved. I want him to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs or a war journalism professor or a lazy bum on a beach in a country where you can live on $20 and a coupon for frozen yogurt.

I just want him to live like he means it, because that’s what I want for myself. To free myself of the bonds that make me think the world is better off without me. The War Daniel and I have both gotten close, and it’s an institutional memory of what we hate most about ourselves, because it matches up so closely. I spoke the other day about my conversations being tough on anyone who doesn’t live on my “Island of Misfit Toys,” and Daniel knew enough right off the bat he bought a house.

Can you see what that means to me? Out of all the people in the world that could have picked me, he did. He knew every single thing he needed to know and nothing frightened him, because if I’d been through it, so had he…. Just from vastly different perspective. In fact, the only thing that gave me pause before I said yes was wondering why a Doc of that magnitude was even interested in me. Who even am I next to all that?

I empathized with his problems to the point of not being able to move at all. My mirror neurons were constantly overloaded, and it was because we were having the same experience. I was awed with him because I felt worthless, and vice versa. Neither one of us believed we truly deserved each other, and it showed quickly. However, I won’t ever believe that he’s not the perfect match for me, because we have just enough in common and just enough difference to change lives just by being us. We change each other all the time.

Cora is part of my story now, and in some sense, we are raising a child together. This is because my mother love kicked in the moment she realized she wanted that… a queer mom to help her translate her feelings so that her parents could hear her better. To teach them queer history so that they knew what our triggers were so that at least when they hit them, they’d know enough to apologize. I needed us to be one big happy family, three parents and a child, because I can’t think of a child that needs it more than Cora.

I cannot underestimate how much danger I feel she is in, both with Texas laws and attitudes toward trans women in particular, and to get even more granular, if white trans women have it bad, the darker your skin gets, the worse the crime statistics. Everything in that regard is par for the course.

When she told me how bad it was down there, my first reaction was “I want you to move in with me. Can we make that happen? I don’t even know if I can make that happen, but we can work on it together.”

She told me that she’d be open to it, and that she’s wanted it since I said it. Whether The War Daniel is an active participant or an NPC is of no consequence. They can walk away from me, but I will never in my lifetime walk away from her. That is my daughter out there, and I dare you to prove it’s not true. The only evidence you don’t have is DNA. Good luck. God bless.

So now I need to start researching the best place for us. If it was a cheap city, ideally it would have enough room for both her parents to visit, together or separately. It’s not that I have my hopes up, it’s just that if you commit to a kid, their whole famn damily comes with them. It doesn’t matter how they react to me, because I can only control what I’m putting out. So, The War Daniel is free to tell me he made a mistake and free to move on all in one breath, because I can’t care about him anymore. I need to care about her.

I have entirely pure motives because I can’t afford to be wrong on this one. I cannot live with a world in which I do not do everything I can to convince Daniel to get her the fuck out of NE Texas. I left because I got tired of fighting the system. I needed to live with other grown-ups.

So do I regret opening my heart so quickly to Daniel? Absolutelyfuckingnot. I got the best relationship of my life out of it. I just can’t be the only one getting up in the middle of the night when the baby is telling us she needs help. My best hope is that he does choose me again, for all sorts of reasons, a lot of them practical. I had to let go of wanting a man I couldn’t have because all of this is bigger than me. But that doesn’t mean I am counting on it. That would be insane. I want to be wanted, and a campaign for anything else is beneath me.

I think the biggest reason I’m loud on the Internet where it comes to Daniel is that he knows it’s here. He can look it up. He can see that he is wanted, loved, and cherished even when he irritates the shit out of me. He struggles with feelings of inadequacy, too, so more than anything I want him to know that I love him despite his flaws and failures because he loved me in that same extraordinary way. There were also so many callbacks to our childhood that we could pass on to Cora, and it’s not as fun doing it without it being a tennis match.

I took a big swing, and I’ll hit home plate one way or another. I can support Cora from a distance or she can live with me, but there’s not a person alive who, if they had a chance to get a trans kid out of Texas, wouldn’t.


Write about a time when you didn’t take action but wish you had. What would you do differently?

I wish I’d had more empathy for all of my friends when they were angry and escalating. I shut down at mean words and will match you because I am no longer taking in information. I am too overstimulated and get brain race. If your words are angry in tone, mine will match it. I finally learned to say “peace out. I need time.” But if you choose to throw a match in response, I will go nuclear. You chose not to give me time so I didn’t explode for what, the thrill of it? Some words you can’t take back without significant work, and I’ve only just now recognized to stop trying when people aren’t interested. I ask them to stop doing what is hurting me, and then it ceases to matter what you think of me. I want to stop those emotional swings from happening altogether, because it might feel powerful in the moment, but it will hurt me forever. If I’d been given time to think about it, my response would have been different. I’d have had time to come down from physical rage.

I know life gets so overwhelming, and to pay attention to my emotional needs is exhausting because I talk a lot. On the flip side, I will cater to your every emotional need if you let me know what they are. If you don’t want to, I want to move on. There is nothing more painful than realizing that the season of a relationship is always set to Death Valley heat. It’s especially painful when you realize it at the same time, because both parties know that they’re hurting and there’s going to be so much left unsaid, because each one is emotionally injured in different ways. One from showing their emotions, one from keeping it all in.

Over time, the one that’s putting it all out there resents that the other one isn’t. This is because they get blamed for emotionally needing things or cajoled into thinking they’re crazier than they are, if at all.

The one that keeps all their pain bottled up either feels guilty or angry. So the cycle continues until the one who’s putting it all out there realizes that the person is always going to be locked up. That they’ll give the appearance of change and growth but their natural personalities win out. To an extent it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you can hear change happening, you can anticipate good things. If you’re shut down, you know it’s going to be a train wreck because you’re not open to hearing what the other person has to say, and yet still trying to maintain a picture. It’s the difference between only knowing someone to the extent that you meet people in public and not behind closed doors. This happens even in marriages, because it’s a familiar dance of intimacy to many, many people.

I wish I had known how bad it was for me long ago to engage with people who weren’t emotionally available, capable of receiving and giving large emotions. So many times over my life I haven’t walked away fast enough. In particular, it was a big mistake to be with Kat at all. She was so abused, so young, that even though I was, too, our trauma was not on the same level. She was a wire monkey, blaming me for anything and everything that went wrong while just being affectionate enough to think we had a future. Then, while I was at my mother’s wedding, she slept with two of her male coworkers, left me, and married another man entirely like three months later. I wish that I could have avoided that happening altogether, but my heart went out to her quickly. I have been the Lanagan Search & Rescue and the Build a Butch store all in one.

It just reinforced the tape that I was worth nothing, that I’d been so horrible to her that’s why she left. It took years for me to figure out that I could have avoided that pain by recognizing the pattern faster and not letting her get away with shutting down as much. It wasn’t serving either of us to stay together, because she didn’t know how to handle my large emotions and she didn’t know how to handle hers, either.

Dana did, but only up and to a point. Her trauma was on a different playing field than mine, but she thought she was over it… yet still had the same trauma reflexes as me. We abandoned each other and we meant it. When we both calmed down, we regretted it. I just regretted it a lot more, and allowed her to have access to me even though she’d already made the decision to leave and just hadn’t told me about it.

I thought we had a chance at so much more if we worked on ourselves and at the same time, knew I couldn’t look back. I’d been forgiven to the point that she kissed me on the sidewalk where anyone could have seen, and it was a ruse. I know this because she made sure to tell everyone else what a project I was while I assume, trying to keep me calm. She didn’t have to do that, because it was an even worse gut punch. I was in a bad place, and feeling coddled made it worse. I did everything I could to convince her that she was capable of more than she was giving the world, that she needed to be a storyteller and get back to theater or teaching. We both numbed out too much and made each other laugh without talking about our real issues. She became a wire monkey and in some sense, she had to be. She didn’t want to take in any more information. She was done.

I am taking responsibility for my half and saying that yes, I am a complete train wreck of a human being, but it was never your job to fix me and I wouldn’t put that on anyone else. I would rather someone stop interacting with me than keep that vicious cycle going.

My entire world hung on two words when I put it out to my beautiful girl that we should hang out, and if you’ve been reading, you know what they are. “Someday, perhaps.” She became a wire monkey, and in some sense, I made her that way. She wasn’t ready, and it was okay. I said the ball was in her court, and nothing changed for years. She felt like I was picking on her, and picked me apart in return. I felt like I was handling both sides of the relationship at all times, responsible for provoking her and responsible for fixing it and responsible for making sure it never happened again. Trying to figure out what was making me come off like the irritating jerk she thought I was, because nothing was ever going to normalize without rethinking meeting in person. It’s a different pace, talking. I never could have said anything I told her that was personal if I thought she didn’t want to hear it; I would have been able to see her eyes when we talked and judge whether she was really open. I grieve for all the lost opportunities to give her a love of cooking.

The worst part for her is regret. She’s made every opportunity to tell me that she regrets ever meeting me because she’s told me personal things about her- while still being curious about my life. Treating me like her secrets weren’t important to me made me feel worthless. She picked the right person to tell, and I wanted to prove it to her. Then, I broke trust, and I earned everything I got afterwards and wouldn’t have blamed her for anything that happened after that. I didn’t expect this relationship to last almost ten years, but I was exhausted at feeling like I was the wrong person to open up to because sure as shit I wouldn’t change. Except I did. She doesn’t even realize how much work it took for me to forget the pain of loving someone I couldn’t have in order for me to make a joke like that. How much I sat in it until it didn’t hurt anymore so that when she dropped in a propos of nothing, I wouldn’t react. I wouldn’t hope for more. But the longer it went on, the bigger I hoped.

It felt like she was a priority, and I was an option. It made our relationship go up and down so fast it was like a new brand of roller coaster…. mostly because I thought the best way forward was straight through, and her route was around the city. Sometimes you’re just stuck in front of the Pentagon for a while, and then you move past it and the monuments just get more stunning. But if you don’t realize that I’m going to the Lincoln Memorial, and I don’t realize you’re halfway to McClean, we both miss the beauty of each other’s experiences.

Just like I’ve been stuck in many, many other cities.


What makes you nervous?

Before we go any further, I need to correct myself on yesterday’s entry. I wrote “rejection sensitivity disorder,” and I meant “rejection sensitivity dysphoria.” This means that if I feel a tiny bit of rejection, my echo chamber turns it into “the sky is falling…. all is lost…. all is lost.” It’s like weighing 400 lbs, losing 250, and *insisting* you need to keep buying your old size. It is why I struggle with office politics. Everything I do wrong, no matter how tiny or insignificant, means automatic termination. The bosses I’ve had haven’t worked with people who aren’t neurotypical, or if they have, they’ve treated me with the same heavy hand. There is no reason at all I should know the logic behind anything. Do what I say and don’t talk back, even if I have more experience than you. People with ADHD and Autism are naturally curious about the whole world, and just because we want to know why something is the way it is doesn’t translate into behavior issues. Nine times out of ten, we just want to know the purpose of what we’re doing so that we can feel like we have one, too. We spend most of our lives feeling unneeded and unwanted because the system isn’t built for us, go sit in the corner.

We also get that we’re irritating as fuck because if there’s a time crunch, none of that matters and we don’t realize it. The only reason I had to cure myself of this is cooking. But with my friends, I have as much curiosity as I can. Also, I like to post-mortem things and only some people like to do that because it makes you closer. Others are so focused on being fast that they aren’t thorough. They don’t completely clean up their messes and realize that the argument won’t go away if they don’t, because self confidences thrives with people being truly forgiven. There are no callbacks because they understand each other and can completely move on. Rejection sensitivity dysphoria makes me freak out at the slightest indication of unhappiness, especially in long term relationships because I’m angry that I’ve taught you all my quirks and they’re not important enough to remember. You’d rather set me on fire, where passive annoyance becomes rage. For me, the last straw with my beautiful girl was making a joke about our past history and using a trigger word as a response. She said, “gross.” Which in any other circumstance would have been fine. I knew that she was correcting me on my behavior and not my queerness, but every time I’ve ever been called that was ringing in my ears despite it. When I told her it was a trigger word, she dismissed me entirely. Fuck that noise. By nine years and some odd months, I feel like I should be able to say what I mean and mean what I say.

She had the right to be grossed out if she wanted, but she didn’t have the right to go nuclear on me when I told her why I was telling her what was going on in my head. She automatically hates anything I write when it comes to our friendship, as if having a friend that’s bipolar is so much worse than actually being sick with it. It’s like being angry with a dialysis patient. Yes, I’m still sick. I’m so sorry it sucks, but I can’t help it and it makes me angry at my body. So please don’t do anything to irritate my mental health, and if you do because you don’t know, start asking questions. No one has any idea how they’re coming across to me, and when I say something hurts, most people aren’t bothered enough by my words to do anything about it. This is because those conversations are deep and exhausting for me, so they must be impossible for who doesn’t live on my Island of Misfit Toys. Here’s the kicker. Because they don’t want to go that deep, they miss out on the best part of what I can do for them. I can make them mentally healthy again. I can’t prescribe medication, but I can use my words to make you believe that you’re the most important person in the world, no matter how small our interaction. I try to recruit assets, but they have criteria because I don’t want to live a lifetime of frustration. I had to stop thinking that the whole world should have access to me because it doesn’t leave me enough energy to take care of myself. It also takes up too many threads because my chip only has so many cores…. and my graphics card is also fucked up. I’m a 720 in a 4K world.

I desperately want to be a different person, because even I can’t handle it. This is the only way I know how to get there, and it is pissing people off left and right, because their previous impressions of me allowed them to get everything they wanted because it was true. I wasn’t setting boundaries and allowing them to use me up because I needed to feel needed so bad. I flounder without purpose, and it leads nowhere good if someone becomes your focus and doesn’t want it. Too much energy coming at them, especially if they’re not emotionally intelligent and self-aware. The more you understand yourself, the more you can keep from doing damage to other people. I have done damage to people both by giving everything and being too angry to discuss the issue calmly. I feel like it’s a tradeoff, and miserable when it’s not….. to varying degrees, of course. Forgetting my birthday? No big deal, because I notice but don’t say anything so you’ll have more compassion for something else. What I’m trying to change is feeling like I don’t deserve you (plural) because in the end, I’m not worth it. I’m too much for everyone, and I’m afraid someday it will work.

So I do everything to fight that instinct because I’m not finished with life yet. I have books to get rejected. I need to stay alive at least long enough to see what would happen. I won’t be able to live with myself if I had a chance to anonymously pay off some houses. There are several people out there who think I’m really negative toward them because they don’t understand me. They don’t like it that I’m curious about everything, including them, because asking them deep questions is intrusive. I just think that in time, people should be able to talk to each other open and honestly. Getting your emotional needs met is the most important thing on earth, and people without mental health issues don’t know what it is to relate and don’t look it up.

Over time, it gets old fast. And that’s what makes me nervous. That I won’t find someone willing to put up with my quirks if I’m willing to put up with theirs. I often end up in bad situations because of it. I take their issues very seriously, and don’t even tell people what I need so that their energy sucks up everything in the room. Yes, we’re communicating, but it’s all about taking care of you. I haven’t given you a problem to work out with me because I don’t think you’ll do it. I’m not worth it. It would be so much more about the dysphoria if it hadn’t already happened my whole life. I get angry because you have an emotional maid and I don’t.

Most people can’t sit in conflict long enough when it’s the only thing that will help.

A Tribe That Would Have Me

The title comes from “Kitchen Confidential,” the Anthony Bourdain expose that set The New Yorker and then the world on fire. It’s how he describes the brigade, and how I use social media. Many people do not think of this when it comes to me, but it’s easier for people who aren’t neurotypical (ADHD, Autism in particular) to connect on the internet because we have enough clinical separation to express our emotions. In public there is no delete key. You have the option to go back and erase your angry paragraph, and it’s a damn shame most people don’t use it. Intellectuals are caught between two ideas…. the internet is a place of wonder because we can share so much knowledge, and the person who decided everyone should be on the Internet should be handed their ass on a platter.

Even the way I use social media comes from a different place than most people. I helped power the Internet. I was one of the first account administrators in the nation for distance learning. I helped professors take their offline courses and turn it into media content before anyone really knew how to do that. It was 1999. I was part of the team that wrote copy for the Information Technology Daily News at University of Houston, our journalism club of three or four depending. This was 2000. In 1999 was when I started learning unix, Linux, and VMS/VAX (yes. I had an account on jetson. Touch me. Inside joke, talk to your parents.). I can tell you why I thought Fedora was difficult and Debian wasn’t. I have slowly turned into a curmudgeon who doesn’t want to learn CentOS because I’ve picked a team. It doesn’t limit me in any way. Debian (Ubuntu) in some form is the most popular distribution. I chose the underdog (for the time) and I was right. That means something to me.

I was on IRC. I know the reasons behind what you think is funny. I was an early adopter. I can’t keep up now, but I was part of the wave of people who did it first. I read Slashdot and Kottke religiously. It’s one of the reasons I’m hardcore pro-Finland. Anyone who can produce a programmer like Linus Torvalds is okay in my book. The only thing we disagree on is desktop. I like Cinnamon and Mate (like the tea), he likes KDE. It’s all the same shell, the commands like you’d use in DOS. I don’t care if you don’t want to know computers and just want to click a button. I can launch programs as fast as I can think on a keyboard. It’s only now that I’m beginning to be irritated by it in the general sense of going the Microsoft route and choosing the option that launches slowest for everyone if you don’t have the newest and fastest computer. It used to be the best way to put life into old hardware, but you don’t know that unless you’re willing to do the deep dive on which desktops hog memory (KDE, anything but vanilla Gnome) and which ones don’t (Mate, lxde). It’s too much work. What I don’t like is that the alternative only has one desktop, so if you’re a DOS person, Windows is irritating as shit and there’s nothing you can do about it, die mad.

I don’t like being handheld through goddamn everything and not being able to turn it off without installing hacks like OpenShell. It replaces the whole Windows 10 interface with something more reasonable, like easy access admin tools and turning on old school Explorer. In linux, I am free to wipe my entire computer if I wish… while I’m still on it. I just can’t reboot. 😛 In the beginning, everyone was like “fuck it. They’ll rebuild. Life is on the wire. The rest is just waiting.” So, whenever Windows trys to configure things for me I feel murderous toward every single Microsoft employee who ever lived, even though 2000 was great because there was so little difference between running a web server that I could afford to be operating system agnostic. Every OS sucks, it just sucks according to your personal definition of what would make things easier… a phrase with many transitive properties.

With Windows, I’m in the place where I can’t afford to go bigger, so I have one drive dedicated to it because I like older games like Skyrim, Oblivion, Fallout 3, and Fallout New Vegas. I know they’re all Bethesda games, but that’s just a coincidence. I liked Fallout 3 because I could navigate without a map. It was a smaller version of DC, I just had to learn quirks instead of directions. My brother-in-law introduced me to Skyrim, but Oblivion wrecked me. The priest as Christ writ large in Bethesda-speak. The Lone Wanderer is also a Christ figure, so that’s probably why I love the game so much. I can think about that world in terms of what’s best for it without thinking of my own problems, translating interactions between personal and in-game. Communication is therefore a two-way street because it informs me about my real life, this creation of who I wish I was. I have never played an evil character. I have tried so many times just to see what would happen, and I have rejection sensitivity disorder and can’t go there. Watching people actively hate me is bad enough in real life. I choose to live in the real world instead of being the characters’ god. I use cheat codes in everything because I just want to see the story, choosing to act like an intelligence officer instead of killing everything I see. In Skyrim, I use the invisibility spells and potions more than anything else so I can steal what I need before I get unalived.

Here is the one commandmant in Skyrim that should not be ignored under any circumstances. Do not kill a chicken.

Here’s what I won’t do. I won’t kill the other Christ figure in Skyrim, a dragon, either. I have never even watched the video. I have never blown up an entire city in Fallout 3 just to see what would happen, getting to rule the violent Capital Wasteland with even bigger violence to keep things calm. Even in a video game, I can’t be that mean… unless someone starts a fight with me. I will damn sure finish it.

I have a very loyal personality, with teeth and claws. No one in my inner circle would dispute this.

I think that where I get the most hung up is with friendships with women, because to be a woman is to be a fixer/pleaser who serves at her husband’s pleasure, according to the men that wrote the system we live under today. Therefore, because I know what I want and say it, I come across as demanding. In reality they could have asked me for anything, they just don’t, and not because they don’t want it. They’ve been taught not to want anything.

I can give what I require, and asking for it doesn’t require getting it. I just might not come to you again. I also don’t realize I’m asking too much if you don’t tell me that and instead, expect that I think you’ll be what I need you to be at all times with no thought for your needs at all. In a way, that is true. I am not reading your mind and thinking of all the things in it. I am calculating my responses based on what you need, and trying to figure out how we can help each other with the least amount of effort so that neither one of us feels put-upon. We’re a team.

So whether you think I’m the holy or the moly is generally dependent on your ability to tell me what you want, because I tried for so many years to read minds and I am, in fact, terrible at it. I have had too many relationships with Type A ballbreaking bitches (in a good way, truly) on purpose not to accomplish two things… feeling totally run over in most conflicts and learning how to stand up for myself, but only after everything else didn’t work. I have managed to pick the wrong tack in most relationships, because I had and continue to struggle with rejection sensitivity disorder. Over time, the symptoms have changed. At first, it was feeling like I needed to do everything someone said to keep them happy so that I didn’t get rejected. Now, it’s shutting down emotionally and not creating new relationships so that I don’t have to worry whether someone is happy or not. My world doesn’t break apart when someone is (generally rightfully) angry with me. I either push someone away first so that the story can’t be that they left, or won’t open up at all without significant evidence that I am wanted.

I am also hugely capable of telling you what my love language is so that if you want to say something, I’ll hear it. I don’t like walking-the-tightrope anxiety in trying to figure out if something is up and when conflict is going to hit so that I can prepare for every eventuality. I am an INFJ. If there is conflict between us, it causes me physical pain. My emotions are large and I am not medicating them away as much (I still take them; just different doses). Too much serotonin and I’m not really in touch with me anymore. We just chat at the office.

I’ve been this angry the whole time. I’ve been furious since I was born, because I have not lived a moment of my life without trauma. My mother said I cried all the way through physical therapy when I was a baby and I wish I could tell her that history repeated itself when I hurt my back a couple years ago. Again. Not one moment of my life has gone without me being physically or mentally seething with rage at myself.

I had a college doc say that he’d really never seen anyone with self-esteem this low… and that wasn’t after a session. That’s after I took an electronically graded personality inventory.

Now, it’s time to take that information and figure out why, letting myself feel the anger and process it out so that I’m not constantly a time bomb. I self destruct so easily it’s like a magic trick, because I cannot navigate the system as female, queer, and physically disabled. This is not to say that I am incompetent. This is to say that my voice isn’t as loud as others. They get what they need without asking because the system is built for people who already fit in that box…. which is white, cis, and straight (most of the time).

It is hard to be a person that wants to change something and is routinely ignored. This is micro and macro. Everything from speaking my love language to minorities in the system in general.

Personally, speaking my love language is not giving me gifts. They’re great, but I’d rather hear about your emotions. If we are in conflict and you send a gift, it’s not that it doesn’t matter. I just won’t connect those two things and automatically infer what you were trying to say. In my world, only the words “I’m sorry” actually mean you are. If you treat me differently after a conflict than you did before, I’m going to sense it before you even say anything because I’m excellent at reading body language. I’m good at inferring things from text…. and you can only push me away emotionally so many times before I decide that when you say fuck off, you mean it.

Equally easy to let go when you’re the one I go to with issues, but you’re not the one who comes to me. I don’t divine problems, but I feel when there is one. For instance, saying that you’re exhausted by what I need when you’ve never given me a chance to refill your energy stores so it doesn’t feel like that. If you handle conflict by saying “I’ll deal with this on my own,” how am I supposed to know that I’m doing anything wrong?

Additionally, freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences. This is with all my friends, including you (plural). I don’t think I’m untouchable. I think I’m being honest about what is true according to the filters in my brain. It is entirely subjective and doesn’t take into consideration anyone else’s feelings because I assume that if you have a problem with me, you’ll say what it is and we’ll work it out.

By far the biggest reason that I won’t work things out (generally) is when we are in conflict and I have heard you, but I don’t agree with you. Generally, when people disagree with me, they turn very pedantic. There are many things I need explained to me like I’m five, but emotions aren’t one of them. I’ve been feeling the emotions of the whole world since I was born. The dark side that no one will tell you is that INFJs are very, very prone to addiction, because they’re trying to numb out everyone else’s feelings. I absolutely feel your emotions that deep, I’ve just learned how to handle it (most of the time). Handling it comes from saying the thing I’m most afraid to say, because when I set boundaries, other people do, too.

It’s a negotiation, unless I feel that the conversation will end with only you being happy because I gave up everything. I know what that looks like and I become a shell of myself. I will become frightened of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing, breathing the wrong way. I will bleed internally so you don’t have to, which has been great for my partners over the years because they never had to figure out how they felt about anything.

That is doubly problematic in close female relationships, because both halves of the relationship do the same thing to each other unto time immemorial.

“Being Loud on the Internet” is just my way of having a voice. Spilling out how I feel about relationships so that hopefully it accomplishes healing my flaws and failures while pointing you in the right direction of finding yours. I don’t need you to try and make me happy. I need you to make you happy so that we can stand in each other’s stage lights.

How is This Entry Different From All Other Entries?

Jot down the first thing that comes to your mind.

I’ve been listening to a podcast where a white woman and a black woman are taking the Outlander series apart and it is so damn funny. For instance, Claire being upset that Jocasta had slaves from the jump like she didn’t even know she was walking right into it. Like, no money to her name, no place to stay, still morally outraged. Now I know that Claire and I are the same person.

I feel like the web is the great equalizer. That there’s just as much chance that Oprah is reading as my best friend from third grade. I can go big with my ideas because I don’t have the power to implement them, but someone does. And someone who knows someone and back down to me. I don’t charge for my ideas because if they’re on this web site, I already know that it’s possible someone will just copy and paste and it’s fine. I don’t care about you. I care about top executives, intelligence officers, military personnel, lawyers, doctors, etc. If something I said rings true with them, that’s a chance to change the world.

The truth is that I have no idea what sticks and what doesn’t. I don’t know when I’ve written something profound until long after I’ve done it. For instance, my marriage article started out as a Facebook post and maybe 700 people read it. Once it transferred to my blog, it was……… more than that.

What if I said something in that article that actually affects the way the people who shared it act? Margaret Cho and Martina Navratilova both put me on their Twitter feeds, both people with huge platforms. A blog is the great equalizer because change happens when you’re doing something else. And whether that change happened to my next door neighbor or Barack Obama, it means something to me. It’s just that if I’ve meant something to someone with a bigger platform, it translates tangibly because I’m not powerful. He is.

I’m a songwriter looking for the right voice to amplify it, functionally speaking. I think the reason the marriage article appealed to people is that I actually took the cover off my life and let people see the real me. It wasn’t an advice column. It was what I’d lived… that I wasn’t speaking to people from a place of power.

That attitude continues today. It’s a noble effort at which I often fail because sometimes I lose sight at loving the whole world at once. Going back to brass tacks, loving myself, being selfish and impossible and human until I can get over whatever it is that’s currently making my asshole chew crackers.

I think it’s how most people operate, they just don’t write that down. They especially don’t write how it feels in every stage, so that you can see cognitive dissonance the way it’s meant to be seen. I do not have a 2D opinion of anything or anyone. That’s why I hate people’s actions and not them. I would never mistake the part for the whole.

My little brain gremlins will tell me all day long how incapable I am, and then either a friend will tell me something I’ve written resonated with them, or an author will. It means so much, personally and professionally. I know I can’t do right by everyone all the time because I never have enough information. People are so much more complicated than I’ll ever make them out to be, even though I already know that for adults, the reason why someone does anything is dependent on a bazillion factors. There’s no way to predict what’s in someone else’s head and where it came from without constant contact; being absolutely honest is key, because when my mind runs heuristics, I need them to be accurate. I am not constantly trying to predict someone’s behavior, but constantly trying to figure out what will resolve a conflict.

I work on probabilities in terms of what happened with my last interaction with you, and the way I’ve seen you treat others. It tells me how much I need to protect myself, because the more your words and actions line up, the more I know I’m safe. It is a series of questions all minorities face because they need to know if they need to be The Acceptable Minority or not. I am very, very good at code switching from having lived everywhere from NE Texas to Portland, OR.

I believe the black community came up with “code switching,” but it’s also the perfect name for “the pronoun game,” where you try to say “they” until you slip up and say “her” (in my case). It’s the perfect name for hiding all the things that make you culturally queer so that “no one can tell you’re gay.” We don’t much care around people who are already vetted. We care about strangers on the street. It could be deadly.

And, of course, I am not speaking as a young person here. I saw some shit.

Luckily, the culture has grown past that in some ways, and in others has just found other people to hate because it’s not as interesting to hate gay people anymore. Trans people are in the spotlight, because the culture doesn’t understand gender any better than it understood sexual orientation, religion, or race.

This gets harder when people want to elect a reality star with no experience over a war vet who speaks six languages and plays the piano. If that doesn’t prove my point, they didn’t elect anyone that smart in the primary of the party, either…. on both sides. We in the United States have lost our thirst for being smart. Everything needs to be short soundbites when there are none to be had.

I am just one person, and I can’t even do that about myself. I can’t give you a soundbite, which is why I’m horrible at Twitter. Sometimes I Tweet just for the exercise of seeing if I can fit a complete thought into the character limit and my Mark Twain starts showing….. I can’t make it shorter. I don’t have that kind of time.

I don’t have that kind of time is a recurring theme in my life because my mother died so young. I have to remind myself that my grandfather is 92 and doing fine, repeatedly. I also have mental health issues that are every bit as serious as diabetes, and I have to constantly monitor it in a way that’s exhausting. I have to think about what I think, then separate myself and treat myself like a patient. What behaviors do I actually mean, and what behaviors are a symptom or a trauma reflex?

The thing I monitor more than anything is people’s reactions to me. It’s not just their words, it’s the energy around them. It’s the subtext and the body language and the way we move around each other… whether or not touching would seem offensive, whether you’re turned off or on by what I’m saying, and calling it early when I sense you’re bored. I also don’t like when people talk to the point that I never have an opening to say anything, because at first I want to be gracious and then I become impatient. It just takes a very, very long time…. to the point that only the most self absorbed person in the world wouldn’t notice that I had only said my name so far. In fact, I am overly sensitive about talking too much and will often feel slighted and just let it roll, because I am so much more comfortable about letting someone else ramble on than thanking I am.

Except here. It’s the one place I know I’m not rambling too much because you picked to hear it. Whether it’s five of you or fifty million, you chose to be here and forget about your own life for a hot second.

I am currently waiting on a thunderstorm, windows open so that I can smell it rolling in. Petrichor is my favorite scent, and I’m not sure you could bottle it…. though if capturing it were possible, I’d bet on Jelly Belly.

The smell of the air when the clouds are so full that they’re going to explode imminently is a whole mood. There’s lighting in it. So much possibility and yet, I have to do ordinary things. I have to wash my clothes, make my lunch, and decide what I’m going to do when I can’t do anything else. I mean, I could go somewhere, but why? I have several good books in the works whether I’m reading or writing… right now I identify with the phrase “writing is like reading except the book is trying to kill you.” It just seems like a better plan to stay home than to walk to the bus stop in a gullywasher.

I would like to get margarine, but I think I’m just going to sub coconut oil for the roux… thinking out loud about lunch, macaroni and cheese with some sort of mind altering hot sauce. I’ve tried all the lesser brands, it may be time for one drop of Da Bomb. Bryn got me a bottle when I first moved here seven years ago and it’s still full. Doesn’t mean I don’t like it. I just just add the amount on the end of a toothpick and that makes the entire dish hotter than the other six sauces I have combined. If you’re going to do it, I wouldn’t recommend wings, because Da Bomb appears there (on Hot Ones, I mean). That’s because you’ll get it on your lips and that will be painful for WAY longer that you’ll want it to be. The fat in the cheese can support the heat of the sauce and you can eat it with a fork. This is my commercial for all of those sauces. If they’re meant to break your brain, but you actually like the flavor, add sugar or fat or both.

As good as Latinx sauces and spice mixes are, when I’m really going big or going home, I like Carribean. Nothing better than a hot sauce flavored with pineapple, or fresh chopped in a habanero mango salsa. I need heat as much as I need my mood stabilizer to function- it’s controlling my congestion with food and not Sudafed.

Somehow the rest of it got cut off…….. I have no idea what I’m saying. I apparently need to eat.