Be Jesus Somewhere Else

That’s the short answer.

Bryn gave me the writing prompt of “if you could go back in time and change anything without revealing the future, what would it be?” Her example was Claire Fraser not being able to tell everyone she was from the future, but she could treat sick people with homegrown antibiotics, or tell them when to plant the correct crops, or magically knowing that she and the fam don’t have to go home, but they can’t stay here.

Because she was thinking world events, so was I. It became a Doctor Who moment for me, because I realized that no matter where I went, I’d be Jesus somewhere else. I’d be that person who tried to change things by taking care of people on a large scale, saying things that would upset people but also make them think. But I’d do it through someone else. I don’t want power, but I’m great as a backup singer/spin doctor. All it would take would be getting close to someone in actual power early on so that I can get in before the wire; many, many, many factors go into how people behave and I do not want to be the one standing there without any heuristics on mood and behavior when bad things happen. I don’t want to go back in time and start CIA during the Civil War, I want to go back to the meeting where everyone decided that Africans weren’t people. I would encourage people who actually asked themselves why they thought skin color mattered. I’d check out who was willing to talk and who wasn’t, and pick someone who I knew could change things and I’d help them. It’s the way Jesus did it. He focused on himself and the Disciples and it translated into helping the world in both tangible and intangible ways. He prayed to God, but he wasn’t ivory tower. He was sandals.

The emotional strength he portrayed wasn’t all him. He was preparing the way for something bigger.

Jesus is the main character in the story right now, but who knows whether the Disciples were better or worse at preaching than him? Was Peter better than Jesus when he was having a bad day? Who knows. All I mean is that I do not have a Messianic complex. It’s that of all those people, Jesus and I have the most in common. It has nothing to do with me wanting to be a Christ figure. If I was more like Thomas, I would tell you that instead. I don’t just know Christ, I know them all. That’s what you get from years and years of new criticism. Personalities emerge and you absolutely know that it’s fiction because you can’t infer that much about their mannerisms and habits. You read every single time with new ideas coming at you because several authors have disagreed with each other and you had to go and look it up. Very few people study Biblical geography when the setting is one of the main characters. It’s a very dry humor. They’re desert people.

I would have been happy with any character in that story, hoping not to deny that I was his friend and standing tall through my own ministry and crucifixion or being boiled in oil or whatever. Anywhere anyone is challenging the system, I’d want to be there.

I would try to change world events by becoming close to the right people at the right time so that I could counsel them away from the thing that they’re about to do…. A Doctor Who moment because I’d have an inner TARDIS that knew which problem needed me most.

The trick would be showing up early enough in a person’s life to make a massive difference in their personalities. I’m not the kind of person that will solve all your problems in five minutes. I’m the person that genuinely cares and wants what’s best for you, but it takes time to build that relationship. It’s peeling away our public armor when we talk if we’ve known each other a hundred years. By then, we have our own language because we’ve probably already been through all the ways it can be misinterpreted once or twice.

Jesus got power by influencing those in office, particularly Saul (Paul) and Joseph of Arimethea, yet quietly. Even Pontious Pilate got rattled and knew he was wrong. They heard his message and just happened to be in office. It was never about that for them. It was never about that for him, either. I’d do the same thing with the world’s most advanced intelligence agency. What it would be like to start CIA and keep it up from the time that kind of travel was possible. so that we as a country didn’t bomb the shit out of people? Because war hawks aren’t made overnight. We’ve had a long history of getting what we want. We’d be the Doctor Who of the world instead of the colonizers. They fight enemies by collating dossiers on every race they encounter and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. They don’t even have a gun.

I would want that for the US or for whatever country I was in. Just to be able to affect change with information and not violence. I’m the medium smart anti-hero who actively knows they’re too smart for some and too dumb for others. I want to find other people on that wavelength people are actually counting on, and have a mechanism that tells me to go where I am needed the most. The more emotionally safe people feel, the more you can direct change. That’s because it happens when you’re doing something else.


Picking Up the Clue Phone

Describe a decision you made in the past that helped you learn or grow.

Every decision I have ever made has helped me learn and grow, but by far the biggest was thinking “I could be good at blogging.”

This is because in my archives, I have solid evidence of what I was thinking during past mistakes, and can thereby change my behavior when I’ve been doing something for x number of years and it still isn’t working for me. I saw other blogs and I really liked them, that people just talked about themselves, writing what they knew. I have a general working knowledge about everything on earth and can talk about anything to anyone for a few minutes…. but on minute four, I got nothin.

I am a master of none, and writing is the only way I know how to express all of that. I turned feeling insecure and lonely into being able to make connections and draw parallels and be comfortable talking about my emotions in real life, with the caveat that I sense changes in energies quickly and I’ll shut down if I feel you’re not really catching my meaning. It gave me the ability to choose a direction and not a distraction, because I can tell you how “Wild Bill” Donovan started the OSS, why it doesn’t matter whether there’s a God or not, and how to cook using concepts and I’ll throw in locking down your router for free if you’re ridiculously good looking…. and most people are, depending on their personalities.

Writing taught me that I’m demisexual, that I don’t start to feel an attraction until my brain is excited to know someone. That I want to grok them… and I’ll be delighted if you think that’s dirty (it’s not).

I want you to know how the token minority became Will Truman and *not* Jack McFarland. I want you to know how Will Truman became Caitlin Jenner, the acceptable trans woman.

I want you to know how much I rail against being the token minority because it’s time I didn’t need ammunition. I’m tired of the income disparity between male and female couples, so gay (usually white) men are the loudest and get what they want. It’s why HRC didn’t support trans people for so long.

Acceptable minorities promote the majority system down to their haircuts, while minorities that wear their differences proudly and have their own culture are under just as much attack as taking over Native American land, it’s just a different culture. We’ve created a tape in cis, white men that they deserve everything, because they created that system where in order to get things, we had to ask them first.

For Native Americans, we just killed everyone we didn’t like. And that pain continues today, it’s just more emotional upheaval now. I was still looking around before holding my wife’s hand in Houston because I’d forgotten in Portland. Trying to be an acceptable minority has cost me more than you can possibly imagine and I’m done.

It’s exhausting trying to be acceptable when you know you’re not and you never will be, because this system won’t end in my lifetime. The only thing I can do is rebel against it, without actively trying to be the least likable person you’ve ever met. Writers get more and more protective of their energy as they age, beaten down by the process. Alternatively, I can be really funny and engaging, to the point where people are surprised when I say I’m an introvert. It’s not that I’m shy. It’s that my social battery varies wildly. No one who meets me at a party would recognize me the next day (in terms of mood and behavior), because they’re meeting two people. One is me when I haven’t been around people in a long time, the other is when I’ve suffered internal bleeding from taking on every emotion in the room… because of course, I don’t stick to the dance floor. I want to go where people are talking, because I’m always listening. I don’t remember anything verbatim, but it moves me to hear people talk about their problems and feel empathy for them. I often find it’s easier to soak up socialization by listening than talking until I’ve realized that I haven’t said anything for a half hour and the point is for me to actually talk because I don’t do it that often. I write, yes, but I don’t talk to people every day using my physical voice.

I think we have covered this- that I don’t like my voice because I don’t hear myself all that often. That in my head, I can read me like I want to sound, which is generally Matthew Perry in The West Wing.

I’m not a journalist, because I don’t look up anything objective. I don’t even link to things most of the time because if you’re curious, you’ll search for something. It takes work off me when I don’t need to care whether you go back to an entry or not. My current favorite of anything recent is “Your Blog Makes You Sound Like a Dick.” I keep laughing about it over and over because it was just the truest thing I’d ever heard in my life. It’s just hard when people don’t get that it’s the point. If I was 90, you’d write it off as old man grouchiness. It’s kind of true. I’m tired about a lot of shit. I’m just Tall. Mustache. Fishing Hat….. the kind of person that if I was male, in Texas they’d call me a “good ol boy,” what you call someone that has so kindly relieved you of your previously held opinions with a yarn that always ends in “you’re a dumbass.”

For people who are thought of as bumpkins across the nation, let me tell you that there is nothing smoother than a Texan telling you to go to hell, helping you pack, buying the tickets, and complimenting you on your choice of vacation spots. I’m riffing on Churchill, but you get the drift. We are every bit as bitchy as New Yorkers, we just hide the knife in a pie.

So, when I get on my high horse, it’s just me being a Southern asshole who’ll bitch slap you with a casserole dish on my hip.

Listening to it is optional. Maybe I’m not a reliable narrator when it comes to trying to describe other people’s emotions so that I can describe mine. It is not my intention, but it certainly happens and I am not immune to that fact. Everything about this blog is subjective, but it gives me what I need to function. Right now I’m working on an entry with a writing prompt that Bryn gave me about if I could go back in time and change anything without literally telling the future, what would I do? My short answer was doing everything I could to stop MacArthur from being an asshole and not listening to Bill Donovan when he told him that his entire air fleet was about to get bombed and to get his planes in the air. MacArthur wanted military to show intelligence just how much they didn’t know anything, and our bases on the Phillipines were bombed nine hours after Pearl Harbor. I don’t know how I would have done it. Maybe meeting MacArthur early (teenage) and becoming the one who can tell him he’s full of shit early on, so that when it counts, my word is law… because at that point we’ve had years of recognizing that we’re both angry hothead jackasses that pop off and regret.

But that’s just spitballing. I thought I could think bigger than that. Don’t change your dial.

She Stopped the Tape

Describe a positive thing a family member has done for you.

Bryn stopped the tape that I was worth nothing.

She didn’t do it with her words, although she did that, too. It was more than that. She told me I had something to say, and is perfectly fine with me going big or going home. We have had so many moments of just going home, my favorite thing in life. I was kidding her the other day that I loved being at her house, because I spend a lot of time there on Facebook Messenger video calls that are inordinately long because we’re both talkers (to each other, not so much in a crowd), and we don’t discuss people so much as concepts.

The biggest is that if you experience childhood trauma, and ours comes from many different sources, you are navigating the world with third degree burns and it changes everything around you. This is not a slam on either one of my parents, because my childhood trauma is not rooted in them, but in coming out privately at 13 and publicly just before I was 15. Coming out privately was the wrong tack, because I trusted the wrong person. It went from something sweet to a disaster very, very quickly.

This is because I lost myself in that relationship.

Like a lot of other women, I would imagine. She was a singer, and everyone was awed by her voice and treated her with that reverence all the time. Who even was I next to all that? Yes, she was gorgeous and I noticed. The problem came in where I was never sure whether she noticed or not. I feel like she noticed all of it, and before we could even have that conversation in an open and honest way, she’d already done things by inference that would have made being honest feel like a lie.

If you know, you know. She treats every friend like that. I was just the youngest. She has a tape in her that says you can’t be intimate with someone unless you’re romantic with them. And, of course, she’s never told me any of this, I’ve just watched it for decades. THAT’s why I freaked out at being told I was a woman she’d like to know.

Moving to Portland was enlightening as I watched several adults go through the same spectrum of emotions I did starting three months before I turned 13. In the very beginning, love was the type of excitement I felt at seeing my parents after a long day at school. Within a year, my hormones had kicked in, and at that moment, she moved away. Back then, Dallas and Portland were both long-distance calls. So I’d sneak off to talk to her when my parents weren’t looking and became the girl that sat by the mailbox, because if I didn’t and something came for me, my mother would confiscate it. Looking back, this is exactly what she should have done. I am just not the sort of person that backs away from large emotions, and the tape within me was “she needs me.”

In that time and in that place, I can believe it was true. I would like to believe that she couldn’t be honest with anyone else, because in order to function, she had to be her singer personality all the time. She didn’t want anyone to know her problems, either, because I was also very quiet about my struggle with being queer at all, much less a relationship with this woman on top of it.

I remember one friend being completely objective and shooting the shit out of all my assumptions, likening it to battered wife syndrome because there’s no way in hell I should have been responsible for being the keeper of those secrets at 14. I don’t keep them now. I will talk about what it was like, but only with Bryn, because she was there. It means a lot to me that someone who knows me that intimately is now my biggest cheerleader.

What Dana (ex-wife, beloved in my memory, no chance we’ll reconcile for those just joining us) failed to understand was why she couldn’t help me. She’d been roped into those people and that situation for as long as she’d known me. I never would have believed it was emotional abuse coming from her because to me, she had just picked a side, like everyone else when I started talking about what happened. I feel like she played all 90 minutes, but the score was equal until someone objective who didn’t know anyone in the situation at all won it for us on a penalty kick. I would have run from anyone who looked at the situation in a subjective manner, and we lived in the same house.

I know it was devastating for her that I believed someone else so easily, and you can’t imagine how much empathy I had for that. At the same time, I had never backed away from the situation so hardcore that I could look at what happened as it being in the past. I couldn’t be objective about any of our friends, including the women that came after me in the bubble that felt illicit. Her behavior didn’t stop, she just changed people, either dumping them so that they felt like they lost everything because they’d become just as suckered in as me…. or walking away when they realized their own sanity was being tested.

It surprised me when I laid all this out that people believed her charming, lovebombing personality and chose to ignore what had happened not only to me, but to their other friends. They watched all the fallout from every relationship this woman torched, and were so eager to be the chosen one that my words didn’t even matter. It wasn’t that I was right, it was that I couldn’t hack it. There was nothing wrong with what she was doing, there was a failure in me emotionally.

I could never explain to people who weren’t really listening that I’d been watching her do this to people since before I turned 13. That I knew what she was doing to her friends from decades of experience watching her do it. That me coming to Portland was the last thing that happened, not the first thing I saw.

The most fucked up thing ever is that she would do this in the congregation in her partner’s church, energies changing all the time between friends so that no one could ever be objective about anything. The more rocky it got, the more she asked of the church, like making her Minister of Music instead of the choir director when no pastoral care ever came from her at all. She was not the kind of person that cared about anyone else’s feelings. She was the type of person that wanted to put on a show about how much she cared. If the person that needed something wasn’t in her direct circle, their needs went unmet. I didn’t realize the extent of the show until it happened to me.

We stopped talking about anything important. She’d dumped me long ago because of course, she never did anything wrong. I was a problem. The biggest sleight of hand that she ever pulled was twofold. The first was when I went and told her about a conversation that I’d had with her friends where I was FNG (fucking new guy). They were very protective of her, and it devolved into them trying to prove to me that they knew her better than I did. That was a game I didn’t want to play, because the way I would “win” wouldn’t look good and would only anger them more. So, again, I told her about this because it was hurting me.

Then, several days later her partner confronted me and told me that she’d said that I was starting fights with her friends and she didn’t want to see that out of me anymore. So, I just took on all the emotions of these women who didn’t have a fucking clue and I was the bad guy, even though it was a game in which I’d already tapped out. I was done.

Then, years later, she picked me as a soloist for a requiem we were doing with a community orchestra. It was a big damn deal, my first time on a fairly large stage. She waited until dress rehearsal to have her moment in which she said that I was the closest thing she’d ever had to a daughter, and hearing me sing was like watching her little girl grow up… when that relationship had been gone for both of us from the moment I bothered to call her on her bullshit. Because no one does that. Ever.

I am sure that people believed the show, and I wasn’t going to embarrass her in front of everyone. I was just trapped in utter and complete bullshit…. which is why I married Dana and didn’t even bother telling her. I wanted to destroy her dreams of doing the same thing to me at my wedding…. which Dana and I never had. We got all the paperwork done and would have probably gotten married at Episcopal Church of the Epiphany if we’d put any effort into doing such a thing. I remember Dana asking her priest if we could get married there, and our priest asking us how long we’d been together. Dana said, “seven years,” and our priest said, “so it’s serious.” But laughing about it was as far as we got.

This is because by that time, I was vomiting up emotions I’d been keeping hidden for years on end. I was not very lovable at this point, which is why memories of Dana are so precious to me. Even when I was at my worst, she tried so hard. Because our relationship heated up to a physical fight, I knew I could never in a million years go back. But I don’t mistake the part for the whole, either.

During that time in my life, I was screwed up with love. It was coming at me from two directions, hers and the woman who gave me back to myself. Because I was close to both of them, I felt the pull between them all of the time, because I wanted to give them both everything in the world and it was hard to navigate.

I fell in love with honesty on both sides. It’s just that PK girl wasn’t gay and it quickly turned into a clusterfuck. In what world would I not fall for a white knight who loved me to the very best of her ability, even when I was completely unlovable? Love for her didn’t come out of nowhere. At that point, I hadn’t even really seen many pictures of her, so I knew at that point that I would take the whole package, sight unseen.

I had a keen awareness that it was never going to happen, but that didn’t stop those feelings from coming. I never wanted to act in a way that would alienate anyone, but I lost who I was and did, anyway… in a pattern that should seem familiar by now. I was tasked with turning off that trauma reflex, that I would live with unrequited love forever.

Putting on my big girl pants and acknowledging it was the height of my stupidity, but in retrospect I didn’t need her response. I could have gone a lifetime without knowing what would have happened. It was way more about me, and how I wanted to be different than the woman who abused me. To say open and honestly I have these feelings and I don’t know what to do with them, rather than roping her into a game she didn’t want to play. I asked for patience from her and Dana, and I got it up and to a point.

Dana’s patience with me ran out, and in some sense, I applaud her for that. Letting me deal with my shit on my own was the right answer. I wish that our relationship hadn’t ended the way it did, because I am back to my old self and have been for years. I wish she could see who I am now instead of who I was then, lost and confused.

“Lost and confused” had its limits, though. I was never jealous of the men in PK girl’s life. I wanted her to be all of her, and me to be all of me. Then I stepped over the line and our relationship crashed and burned…. but not entirely. It just became a shadow of itself, when I wanted there to be a time when I was her white knight as well.

The only thing I could do was close the door on both relationships, because at that point, there was no going back. It was just moving forward, acknowledging that I’d been an asshole but that I wasn’t one. That it was my behavior in the moment, not the sum total of who I was.

The reason the second relationship was so painful is that PK girl saw it, too, that it wasn’t the sum total of my being. That she wouldn’t hold me to my worst mistake….. sometimes. At others, her anger showed toward me in full force because she would skip over all the parts where I showed her I loved her the way she loved me, and go for the jugular.

I had to stop that pattern as well, because I tried to let her know how I felt so we could move past all that, and it was not well-received.

I chose to focus on the family member who knew everything PK girl did, but could hear things like “I think this could become trouble. What do you want to do about it?” And maybe it’s just that my tone of voice seems so different with Bryn and not my actual words, because I don’t think I’ve consciously been a different person with anyone. I’m just me.

So now we’re the lockboxes for each other and it feels right, because we both struggle with the same “stuff” left over from childhood. It’s just that I can’t tell her story for her and she’s a tremendous writer.

But make no mistake. She knows what you did. 😛

…..and the tape has stopped recording.

What Had Happened Was…

I’m thinking over so many situations and memories are fast and furious. None are painful enough where I panic, but it’s not comfortable sitting here, either. There are physical reactions to every feeling, good or bad.

I think about what really happened in terms of the friend getting in my way. The underlying message was “I care about Sam more than I care about you.” I would have handled the entire situation differently if this friend had ever met Sam, or if the conversation was over hurting her directly. I let it go, and for her to keep bringing it up was reinforcing the tape that someone who wasn’t even in our lives anymore was more important than me. I figured if it was this important a hill for her to die on, then she had no business being friends with a blogger.

When Sam hurt me, ironically I only wanted Dana… and not because we were married. We were best friends for nearly four years before that, so she’s dealt with every heartbreak in recent memory except her. So, sometimes she was the face in my head when I was writing, just telling Dana “the audacity of this bitch.” It was a comforting image of something truly traumatic. Having a relationship end before we really knew what was up, and not because I didn’t want to figure it out. I was summarily dismissed.

If you text message breakup, be glad I didn’t post a screenshot on reddit so that Buzzfeed could write an article about it. I’m not applauding my less bad behavior, I’m saying consider the source. My girl had built something with me over a few weeks and trashed it in ten seconds. I didn’t stick around for the other side of the story because she said she thought it wouldn’t do any good and I, for once, agreed and moved on.

I recognized ahead of time that I could put too much energy where it wasn’t wanted for way too long… or I could trust that something else would come along and not dwell on her any longer than I had to in order to function.

By writing about it and getting angry, I let go of everything. I processed a three week relationship in the proper amount of time it takes a normal person instead of constantly torturing myself over what went wrong, nitpicking myself until I couldn’t get up.

What I wanted from my friends on the ground is what I got from my beautiful girl… that Sam didn’t deserve me and then she said something mean….. then said even that was too kind. I do not even condone cartoon violence, but her being irate that someone had hurt me helped more than anything else. I didn’t need her to get angry with Sam. I wasn’t even angry with Sam. I was hurt. Letting her get angry was easier than getting angry myself, because it folded me back into the love of my friend and how much they cared about me vs. pouring energy into feeling miserable that Sam left.

When I think about the differences in those reactions, what friendship is to me becomes clear. In the story we’re creating, we live and die for the main characters. Loyalty is key. If you care about the impression I’m giving strangers more than you care about me, it’s not our story anymore. That probably is a rebellion against being a preacher’s kid where everything was all about what other people thought.

I can tell you from listening in on adults’ conversations and having an excellent memory that people have thought I was weird and frighteningly intense since I could walk. People are going to think that no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, no matter what allowances I make to fit in. I have spent a lifetime hearing people’s real opinions of me when they think I’m not listening, and the preacher’s family is a constant topic of conversation. I learned early on that people were going to say what they wanted whether I played the game or not.

So, in the end I chose “not.”

Feeling constricted as an adult was familiar, but not comfortable. I still haven’t lost the feeling that everyone is watching no matter what I’m doing…. That even when I’m with friends my own age, there’s going to be a narc somewhere and it’s going to be interesting politically.

God is God, yet churches are full of humans.

And if we’re going to talk about being human, I am extraordinarily good at it. Sometimes I think of my blog as teaching other people how to do life right by seeing someone else fail so many times in front of them.

It is so much better than trying to please everyone and still having them say the exact same things.

This Question is Impossible and I Hate It

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I can only do what I do. Keep putting my crappy first drafts on this web site to prepare me for my real writing. These entries serve as my warm-up, and are my favorite of all my projects because there’s no pressure. I ask for money via donations, but I don’t make you pay to read. These are WordPress ads, and I don’t make money from them, either. I’ve just made a commitment that this is important whether money is involved or not. If you’re curious, sometimes I make enough to cover the hosting and sometimes I don’t. In the meantime, I am celebrating other authors in hopes that they’ll celebrate me. Being well-respected is more important than famous. I’d be crazy to think that people adoring me is more important than me adoring Jodi Picoult when she likes something I wrote. Same with Mary Karr, Margaret Cho, Amy Tan, Wil Wheaton, and James Fell. I don’t want to be known by everyone. I want to be known by them. In fact, I once made a joke about Jonna Mendez being excited to meet me, complete tongue in cheek. SHE REPLIED THAT SHE WAS HONORED and I died for a second. This is because I sent her the entry I linked to via Facebook Messenger, literally handing her a piece of me and hoping that it at least wouldn’t offend her because her husband’s memory is my blessing.

I didn’t even know she was watching because I am a complete n00b when it comes to social media, and not because I don’t know it cold. I choose to spend my energy on something else. It’s the whole reason I use WordPress. I don’t have to do anything but type even though I could code CSS and HTML blind (I have been dared). I don’t forget because of anything but protection of my energy.

In my reflection on being a preacher’s kid, I figured out something big while I was sitting with the bees (we talk every day now, I think Brian has asthma). There are so many people in Texas that want to know what I’m up to, as well as some in Portland. Bryn is the absolute only person I record for, because she’s the one who asked me for it. It’s also a lot more work than I thought it would be, especially in terms of finding a place to store the files. It also freaks me out that my audience is bigger now, because I have followers on that platform as well in the “Storytelling” category. I’m trying to decide if I want to spy on my friends or not, because SoundClouds stats are more granular. I know which area of the city the play is coming from. Guessing there are a few people that would like to know that. If you still want to read, WordPress only counts by country. You’re welcome, three people that would freak.

Spying on my friends is not my intention because it wouldn’t serve a purpose, it would just hurt me. I’d put in double the amount of effort in resolving issues with those people in order to do the work so it doesn’t dog me. But the people in Texas have a unique need when it surfaces. I was the kid in their pastor’s church. They all knew and loved me on the platform that was his, understanding me through that filter. Then, when we moved away, it was no contact. My dad never wanted to be threatening to his colleagues and social media didn’t exist. When I was gone, I was gone.

But now, social media exists and when people Google me to see where I am, it’s important to them. It surprises me to know that other people love reading me that have no connection to me at all… that by focusing on my own people I’m coming across as focusing on the world…. Sometimes. I have my selfish moments and I’m entitled to them, because no one can give me more energy than me. No one else could or should have the time. I live here, capiche?

A lot of the people that would Google me are dead in the first place. I know that and I write for them, anyway. Breadcrumbs or complete entries all about them so that not only do I live forever, so do they. Ours is the story that will stick, not because it’s perfect, but because it exists. I live for people’s curiosity, and answer questions gladly… with the knowledge that first of all, looking at my writing doesn’t tell the whole story and I’m different in person. Secondly, allowing for the fact that rarely do I think the same about things a week after I’ve written them. That’s why I post a lot. I give myself material by reflecting on what I’ve written and a new idea will pop up. I can get through things extraordinarily quickly that way. I’ve already gone back to thinking of my beautiful girl as Supergrover, because she’s inherently cuddly and yet wears a cape and tights, in my humble opinion. I only think the opposite sometimes because her walls not only keep me out, they keep her from listening. Information is being cut off both ways, and I know that because I wrote about it. Her story is “The Monster at the End of This Book,” and not because she was a monster to me. It’s what she thought of my friends when they hurt me. Yes, she knows what you did. Every single one. And if you’ve been reading even a few months you know which bodies are buried. She’s been my lockbox because I was hers. That covenant is not broken between us. I will keep what she’s already told me walled off. I just didn’t want a future, and I wanted to be able to talk about my experience of her without her bothering me… and it’s not what you think. I don’t get irate when she’s mad about something I published. It’s when she’s touched that I just fall apart at what’s been lost.

Internet communication made both of us quick to react and quick to anger.

And yet I can bet dollars to donuts that she’ll eventually want to look me up and see whatever happened to?

This is only problematic because I don’t recognize it as only letting me know she loved something. I pick right back up where we left off and she won’t tell me she doesn’t want that. So I don’t notice that she’s not receptive and get angry she won’t resolve anything. We expand and contract over time. It would be a great relationship if I could back off and be comfortable with the pattern we set up, but it’s not. It reminds me of early days, when sharing a beach umbrella with drinks and books would have been a viable option. I can’t live with panko when I would have made breakfast for everyone, and you can’t even believe how big that is. That is a catering operation. At the time she had a teenage son, and whom I jokingly called her “hundred siblings.”

It was so amazing when we met, because then I could put one face in my head that was my audience when really it was worldwide. So helpful to think of this blog as letters to her so I could be intimate without constantly thinking of the repercussions, again, allowing my friends to listen but looking at the bigger picture. The more personal I am, the more vulnerable I am, the more you’ll see me as I am. I’m not trying to be famous. I’m not trying to be successful. I’m not trying to throw anyone under the bus because if you show up here, you’re important enough to me to look at our relationship deeply. To memorialize you in my history. Again, yours will be the story that sticks, and that may not matter to you in the moment, but what about 20 years from now? Won’t you want to remember what you were like when I glowed about you and that it showed even though you were never a perfect angel? That I loved you this big in spite of your actions pissing me off sometimes? That I loved you even when you didn’t get it? That I only walked away because I couldn’t get through to you?

I am explaining the relationship I had with my Internet friend to avoid talking about one of my real friends. I’m not going to bother with her name because you wouldn’t know her anyway. She read something on my blog that pissed her off about Sam and didn’t listen when I told her that I’d only leaked as much as Sam allowed me to leak while still being pissed off that she hurt me. She apologized, but wouldn’t let it drop. She told me on the phone that she had talked to her friends about it, and they agreed with her, never having read me at all. These were friends gathered at a restaurant where I was expected to walk in shortly. I am an introvert empath. I couldn’t take it and couldn’t believe she didn’t recognize that she was setting me up for failure, thrashing before a committee, and she’d already thrashed me twice. At this point, you’re not a concerned friend. You are in my way.

I guarantee she won’t agree with that assessment, but she doesn’t get to decide my story. She could help with craft, but she can’t help with plot. I’m sure she thought I lost it, but I couldn’t get her to understand that I was already validated by my decision to lay everything out here and that I had millions of readers over the years. That I’d been doing this for 20 years and the cost benefit analysis favored me. That I wasn’t choosing to throw anyone under the bus, I was telling other people what was happening in my brain at the time of the incident and it’s up to them to believe whether I am a reliable narrator or not.

I feel like people should self select whether they want to be on here or not. I talk about Zac and Bryn because they allow me to do it. Zac and I have not discussed the particulars of what I can say and what I can’t, but I do ask him if it’s okay to use something he said as a writing prompt. I just don’t want to tell his story for him, to intrude where I’m not wanted. My connection to him doesn’t involve anyone else yet, because I’m not friends with any of the other people he interacts with on a daily basis, and I’m not itching to get to that point with him. If we do, we’ll keep talking about what I can and can’t say. Only Daniel has said that he’s an open book, say whatever you damn well please. In fact, his actual words, and I’ll remember them forever, are “my girl, be prolific.” God damn it. Why does he have to be so impossible and so endearing at the same time?

I hope what I’m doing is talking about the “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ” moments of my life. The clusterfucks that lead to forks in the road, letting you know which one I’ve taken.

I am not saying I wouldn’t get more involved with Zac, I just don’t know yet. More than what we have right now is too much for me to think about. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t love him with the same intensity as a friendship with someone like me. That it requires care and work even if it’s ultimately platonic in the end. We’re at the stage where I don’t even know what to call him and I don’t want to, if that makes sense? When I can give energy to that question, I will. In the meantime, all I ask is that the time we’re together, we’re together. Be present in the moment. You can tell me everything and my reaction is my own. If I see a problem I’ll call it out. As of right now, you can do no wrong because I’m not sitting here thinking of all that could go wrong when everything is so right.

Maybe that sounds a little dude brah of me, not going the traditional route of a woman begging to know if she’s his girlfriend or not. I am just protecting my energy because I don’t want to fall too fast, too soon, messing up everything before I have enough heuristics to feel out what I’m doing. I just need time to soak everything in and decide how I feel, what CIA calls a “DADA loop.” I know this because I’m reading a book by a former officer called “How to Think Like a Spy.” DADA stands for “decision, analysis, direct action.” Things have changed since the Cold War Era. CIA has stepped back up to paramilitary and this time embraced it. Analysis of every decision is absolute. You better know six ways to Sunday what is most likely to happen if you do x or y…. Because the rule at CIA is that you can call off a mission even if it just doesn’t feel right… but you can’t always see those things coming. Mistakes have been made. I just choose to ignore all that because it’s not like the people who work there aren’t under the same pressure as the military. Do you think all boots on the ground like what they’re asked to do?

Part of that I got from Zac as well, because his job has always been intelligence, since the Navy, in fact. There is no universe in which I’d dump Zac over anything he’s ever been asked to do. If anything, I’d take on his pain as my own, becoming his lockbox as much as I have been for my other friends since I was five (probably earlier, but I can only remember starting at five). That’s the other thing the title of preacher’s kid gives you. You’re the lockbox and you know it (clap your hands).

I hope that in ten years, I will show the world that I have fought against this instinct because I had to have a release valve somewhere, otherwise I would explode from having so many people’s stories in them that cause me pain. I hurt when other people hurt, more than I realize when my own life is going to hell in a handbasket.

If I focus on myself, I have room to handle bigger emotions.

At least it’s an ethos.

Preacher’s Kids

If you are an empath and a preacher’s kid, you will hear everything they ever say about anything going on at work; you will take on the entire congregation’s pain as your own. How generally depends on which parent is the pastor, because of the way our filters for each parent are used to create a picture of what’s really going on. I have never done a day’s work as a pastor, and I never will in some sense. That’s because I did it by proxy for 17 years. I worried about every single one of you all the time. I listened in on every single conversation I possibly could to run it through the heuristics created by listening to my father’s end of talking someone through trauma in the moment. It was a manual on what to do when other people are in trouble. It’s the reason he got into medicine, that he was frustrated at not being able to fix people. That thoughts and prayers weren’t enough. He was that phrase before it was cool.

So, I’ve approached every church and every pastor I’ve ever known with the same recognition that part of them is totally full of crap. There’s only so much of your real self you can show in front of other people before your weird gets on them and the church crashes and burns. I have watched it happen over and over because I’ve stayed active in different churches as an observer to the same behavior I experienced in all the others. I could often predict how a church would vote on something because I’d been a preacher’s kid in a system with a Bishop and active in Congregational churches, seeing both systems and knowing the inherent advantages and disadvantages.

In a church, I’m generally the person that knows what’s about to happen and I don’t say anything because it isn’t worth it. People on committees get all up in their feelings when everything starts going down and it’s too much emotion to take on from too many people when I am standing in the room, absorbing it all and unable to shake it off. I also don’t think there’s a pastor alive that likes getting notes, so I’m much better off in every area if I pretend that no sausage is being made.

It’s why there are things that irritate the shit out of me about going to church and also why I still do it a little bit. It’s not shame or regret. It’s “been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.” I made a conscious decision to step away from ministry so that my crazy spatter doesn’t get on anyone else. I feel that way about belonging to a congregation sometimes, too, because I can’t turn off that tape that I don’t deserve pastoral care, like doctors don’t often take care of themselves. They think they can take care of themselves and they’re the best doctor they’ve got. It’s the difference between surviving and thriving. Power with rather than power over. Not only that, being the best doctor you’ve got isn’t a ringing endorsement sometimes, because you won’t call for a consult (get a second opinion from the patient’s perspective).

I have heard a lot of my stepmom’s conversations with patients and because I was also bound to HIPPA (I worked there at times and didn’t retain the information otherwise. I basically just called your pharmacy, don’t freak.), I learned how to take care of a patient population as well, not from a clinical standpoint, but emotional. Here’s how you tell someone they have something. Here’s how you take a history and physical. Here are the questions that are above your pay grade.

I never stopped being a preacher’s kid, it just added a different dimension reinforcing the same thing. It’s like INFJ on the job training. Just bleed out emotionally for everyone because they deserve it so much more than you. It’s knowing you need to protect your energy; that will save you from a lot of harm, not knowing you can’t literally pour everything out for other people and expect to maintain normalcy in your own world. I have a very live and let live with this. Stay in my life or go, because I’ll handle it whether you take five minutes for me to grieve or decades. I am strong enough to know that no matter what, I’ll be okay. I have an emotional toolbox and the willpower to use it.

I only need to focus on what I have to write that day to understand me. I can’t think of anyone else who needs it more, on both the medical and pastoral spectrum. Comprehension of another person is key, so why am I not giving this kindness to myself? I have myself permission to stand up. To at least apologize if I couldn’t do more to ask for forgiveness, and at the same time, knowing when it was wasted energy. People only hear you through the filter of what they understand, so if the same fight keeps coming up over and over and over, you know that the person isn’t hearing you and you need to change gears or it will never resolve.

I think of every relationship I have in that pastoral way, which is why my gift is helping other people. I have had an example of what to say when people are in crisis since I could talk. I am often not as gentle as I could be about it because I am not a patient person after a certain amount of time. I give much, and keep my hopes up, It serves neither of us in a relationship…. because you constantly waffle between asking for things and apologizing for your existence. Only the words “I’m sorry” mean that someone is. Adding or subtracting anything, as well as never saying them, are both issues. I do not mean that you do not mean an apology. It’s that people don’t naturally infer them. Saying that you’re not perfect isn’t the same as I’m sorry even if you mean it that way. It makes the other person do too much work trying to figure out what is even happening.

There’s also a difference between “I’m sorry I behaved that way” and “I’m sorry your reaction was so large.” There are very few problems in the universe that are black and white. The former is a genuine apology. The latter is caring more about how you felt in the moment than they did. It doesn’t make the other person feel acknowledged, like you recognize the gravity of the situation even if you can’t change a thing.

With preacher’s kids, they hear these patterns described so they see them coming a mile off because their sample size for heuristics is the size of the congregation. My father’s last church was approximately 1600-2000 people depending on whether it was Ordinary Time, Christmas, or Easter.

It helps when I’m in any relaxed group to know how they work, because church is more relaxed than the office right up until someone’s in trouble. The larger the congregation, the more times this can happen. It was hell week at my dad’s largest church, but it didn’t affect me as much as the people involved. Seriously, the week we got there, a teenage boy’s father (also a member) died in a boating accident, another teenager found out her father was keeping her away from his other family, and the youth group had been caught at camp playing strip poker. That’s what I was walking into as a preacher’s kid. An intruder on all kinds of grief, especially if they didn’t know my dad and thought the last one was better until proven otherwise. He had no trust capital, so neither did I.

I carried that around with me, too. People think preacher’s kids are supposed to somehow be better than everyone else, judging them harshly for falling from any height at all. There’s very little gray area between perfectly perfect and “the one we don’t talk about.”

There’s not really a point to this except character study. To show why I do understand people and groups because I’ve been doing it the whole time, even when I wasn’t actively looking.

The Five

What are 5 everyday things that bring you happiness?

Most of the things that make me happy aren’t the thing itself. It’s the circumstances around the thing.

The first thing that makes me happy is CIA swag. Zac has gotten me a baseball cap, a t-shirt, and a beautiful cocktail glass… smoked with 1947 etched in the glass all over and the seal affixed on the front. Again, it is not the thing. It is the thoughtfulness of knowing I like CIA swag and seeing something you know I’ll love at Langley. It is seeing an atheist’s divinity every single day.

Secondly, my tablet brings me happiness, a blanket statement because I have an old iPad Pro 10.5 inch and the newest version of the HD Fire 10+ (and a Fire 8 Plus for the road). I use the two largest as “desktops.” My iPad Pro is basically “The Ted Lasso Machine,” and my Fire has my whole life in it… sometimes a little too literally. I put a HUGE SD card on it, and I download everything at top quality. OF COURSE I need Jack Reacher and Jack Ryan and it’s going to take up 30GB. Please.

I write to people all over the world and carry them with me. This blog is written almost exclusively from one tablet to another. If you want to know the difference as to which one I’m using, the iPad knows how to spell Beyoncé and corrects to a special character when I’m typing. The Fire does not, and is poorer for it. Now you know that I’m on my iPad.

Thirdly, fizzy water. I am surprised and delighted by it, because carbonation is one of life’s great mysteries. Of course the science can be explained. I am not sure I could do a great job of describing what it feels like to drink something carbonated. Every single time, I’m all like “how do they DO that? How do they literally put joy into water as if it is excited to be drunk by you?”

Fourth, my watch. I have an Apple Watch now, but I am not specifically talking about it. I am talking about every watch I’ve ever worn and feel naked without. Here is the one thing about me that has always been true. I love classic Mickey Mouse watches. I have worn them since I was four. Now, I put Mickey Mouse as the face on my Apple Watch and have a red leather band. My Apple Watch was a gift from my dad because it will alert the authorities if I fall and black out. I have a mild case of cerebral palsy, so this feature on a smart watch is comforting, if not happy. There’s no way I could get in a situation so bad no one would come find me.

Lastly, every day my web stats make me happy. I don’t care about numbers, I care about flags. I have now been visited by every single country in the world, including Vatican City. I like to pretend that Pope Francis is dying laughing that I called Jesus a judgmental dickhead, because he knows him. They’ve met. He just can’t tell me. 😛

The fact that you show up whether I’m happy or angry or morose or delightful means something to me, and it doesn’t matter how many there are…. In fact, it especially doesn’t matter how many there are, because if I thought about the fact that so many strangers know all my flaws and failures, it would create such fear in me that I would never post anything. I just have to remember the little girl I’m writing it for, and just how much she looks like the rest of them.

I Am…

Describe something you learned in high school.

Here’s the link to the audio. You might have to download it into your own media player or the Mega app. SoundCloud wants me to pay because I “upload a lot,” and I get it. I just didn’t know the space limit was so incredibly low. I’m searching around for options, and most of them rely on using my desktop, of which I am not a fan… mostly because I’m not really using SoudCloud to increase the popularity of my blog. The audio is just a convenience.

High school is divided up for me in two segments. The first is that I spent my freshman and sophomore years at High School for Performing and Visual Arts as a trumpet player. The second is that my junior and senior years, I didn’t. I went to a regular American high school. I was still in the music program, though. My junior year I was in varsity choir and varsity band at the same time, the first in the history of the school to do so. I learned how to be in a marching band. My symphonic band was better than the one at ‘PVA (no judgment, it’s just true).

Then, my counselor suggested that I drop one of my music classes because if I took Microcomputer Applications, I could get what was called an “Advanced Diploma.” The band was gearing up to go on all these trips my family couldn’t afford, and it was an easy out to drop band because I knew I couldn’t sell enough fertilizer to pay my own way. Yes. Really. They asked us to sell shit to people.

I dropped choir because I didn’t like the new director coming in, because I knew other people that had her and it wasn’t my bag. I was not a “show choir” person. I do not think that if you can sing, you should automatically be capable of dance as well. I liked great repertory, and pop music wasn’t it (for me). If that sounds persnickety for a teenager, remember that I was a classically trained singer from being in an adult church choir since I was 13.

I didn’t care about Britney Spears. I loved Bach and it showed.

For the record, I care about Britney as a listener. She’s great. I just wouldn’t sing her stuff unless I was doing it as a joke, because I couldn’t pull it off where people would take it seriously. It’s a totally different type of training.

I think I’ve said before that Beyoncé left HSPVA because she didn’t want to be classically trained, and that I continue to be devastated that it did not work out for her. But same vibe, we’re just opposite. She didn’t want to learn everything I’d been taught about being able to blend into a choir, breath control specific to that kind of music, etc. It’s a lot. By the same token, I didn’t want to learn the proper breath control to sing whatever it is the Star Spangled Banner is now in professional football. Whitney Houston doing it in four was the high point. ::looks pointedly at other pop stars:: No one will ever be her, and I knew that I’d only be a cheap imitation. I don’t want that for me, or anyone else. Do what you do and make it count.

Since my dad had left the church, I also got a job in hopes of getting my own spending money. I was 16, so no one thought anything of screwing me over to save themselves, like making me pay things back when I was short on the register when they’d been stealing from the drawer. I’m bad at math, so of course it was all my fault when the drawer was missing $50 at the end of the night. Of course it should come out of my paycheck. It’s what a teenager owes a national corporation, right?

I would never sue them over lost wages, but I would get a kick out of it if they sent me a product and swag box if someone is reading who thinks such a thing could happen at the company. I once proposed to Zyrtec on Twitter and told them they were paying. Then, they later kidded me about forgetting our anniversary and I said, “how do you think I feel? You didn’t get me anything.” The proposal rocked, though….. that I had 99 problems but a itch ain’t one.

I worked for SuperCuts, and in this instance I am not talking about the company. I am talking about the sleight of hand with my own team, not every employee who ever worked there. I mean, I was great at my job in retrospect. They had me, so you’re definitely safe in giving them as much money as you want. I still look back on my time as magical because things that are commonplace today were introduced while I was an employee, most notably, American Crew (for which I am grateful… white people pomade). I think the Paul Mitchell Tea Tree line came out then, too, a total game changer. It was also amazing learning the jargon of how to tell people I want my hair cut so that there’s less room for a mistake.

It doesn’t always work, but it helps.

By the time I graduated from high school, I had set myself up for life in terms of my opinions on everything that is still true about me today. The only thing that’s changed is that I call myself out as I am, bisexual, instead of telling the world I’m a lesbian while not thinking that way, because that label wasn’t something I gave myself. I just have to be louder about being bisexual in a heterosexual relationship than I would if I was actively partnered with a woman, because you can see it with every kiss.

The one thing I didn’t see coming that I didn’t know I needed was dating a bisexual man. That way, we still have all the same cultural references, though I’m older and have more insurance. He doesn’t care whether I look high femme or butch because in one outing, we’d look depressingly heterosexual and in another, it’s a whole bear/twink mood without all the lights, drum & bass, and Ecstasy.

To stop joking, we’ve both been bullied for being queer. That trauma for him is a different playing field, because mine is rooted in embarrassment. I’m either gross and wrong or a plaything given to men, because why wouldn’t women being with women be nothing but a male fantasy? Why would women have agency in this society? Straight women don’t even have it.

Men harass me by seeing me with my then-wife (Kat, in this example) and asking us to kiss in front of them, or come home with us, or any number of things that hurt way more than they would have if it was original. Those examples aren’t all Kat, when it was 2000, or even Meag, when it was 1996. It’s all picking at the same scar every day of my life, because I heard about it before I experienced it. Being an empath made me experience that trauma before it was direct. I felt it on my skin when it happened to my friends.

For men, it’s horrible that they want to be female, their tormentors’ perception and not reality….. but seriously…. As if being female was the worst thing that could happen to a person…… hello…. All connected. Except men don’t stop with horrible comments with other men. It often leads to outright violence and death. I only say this because it happens to men more frequently, but violence against lesbians exists.

It’s a shared understanding, a shared library of images that create empathy. To me, it is especially important because the one thing I really hated about dating Matthew had nothing to do with him at all. It was gaining heterosexual privilege for the first time and rebelling against it hardcore. I remember one instance we’d gone to meet some of his friends, and someone did that thing where they looked around before they told a gay joke, and I wasn’t the picture of volatility you see here.

I said nothing, and just felt all of it. I know now that I should have ripped the dude a new one, but I didn’t want to upset the apple cart when I was meeting my boy’s friends the very first time. I was also like, 24, maybe 25. I was older than Matt, but still a child in my eyes now. I didn’t know what to do, and I was scared.

So now I can look at that and say I’m in a better place because Zac has probably been there. He’s just as out and proud as me. On Wednesday, I noticed right off that his nails were painted teal and he was wearing flowy pants. He’s the head of the queer group at his intelligence agency. I don’t know how he sees himself, but I see him as George Smiley if he had grown up like us. (Smiley is the protagonist in John Le Carre’s most famous series about MI-6.) I showed up in a black t-shirt, jeans, and tie-dyed pattern Crocs. I later put on a navy hoodie and my CIA baseball cap- some of you will remember that was a gift from Zac because he has the badge that allows you into Langley, but not the capability to escort visitors. I wear it almost every day like I’m pitching the afternoon game. Now do you see how we’ve inverted the binary? From the outside, I’m the butch and he’s the femme…. And no one would ever guess that we were into each other unless we weren’t holding hands or being cute to the point of nausea (our MO most of the time).

Editor’s Note: I learned that it was important on the train Thursday, when a young girl at the Franconia Springfield Metro said, “I want to be CIA, too.” I told her that I wasn’t CIA, I just had cool friends, and to call me when she got there. 😛

“Grown up like us” is emotional shorthand for Zac and I having to deal with the perils of being queer from a very, very young age. Zac entered the military under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” At the same time, I’m not dating a gay man and he’s not dating a lesbian just for kicks. We’re not playing at anything, just being the most authentic versions of ourselves.

I have always been that in some capacity, but I have graduated. You don’t learn that you are brave and unique until someone tells you. In the moment, you’re just doing what you have to do to survive.

In high school, I learned that I would HAVE TO be unique.

My freshman year, I told one person I was gay and by the end of the day, everyone knew. In retrospect, it was the best decision I ever made, because any bullying that came my way was tiresome. They couldn’t blackmail me anymore, and they couldn’t get away with anything more original because they weren’t that clever.

Because I was moving out of the gay neighborhood in Houston to a suburb where everyone knew each other, I went back in the closet…. To save my father’s job according to my mother. My father didn’t care. He knew me. We’d met. But guess which message I heard?

Being in the closet for a school year was amazing and gave me the worst panic attack of my life. Both of those things were true. I would not have wanted to miss the chance of being in marching band, would not have traded my conductors (Mr. Matysiak and Mrs. Bueller [really]) for anything in the world. I would never have wanted to miss learning that I was not only a singer, I was damn good at it. I stood on the shoulders of giants, and my mother accompanied me through it all, literally.

She played the piano for my solos no matter what she was doing, and in seventh and eighth grade, she played for all my friends, too. This was not a small feat, as most piano accompaniments for solos are orchestra reductions. So, my mom hurt me a lot, and she also came through in equal measure. Not only was the piano our lighthouse when we were ships passing in the night, she left it to me in her will. She didn’t give me a setting. She gave me the main character.

In terms of hurting me, all of the panic I’d been feeling that year came to a head when my senior best friend asked me to come with him to his prom. He was literally on the way to pick me up, my hair and makeup done to perfection, when I melted down physically. It caused a monster reaction, a rash, shortness of breath, everything- so the doc came over and gave me a shot of Depomedrol and off we went.

That was the first time that I learned everything can be fixed before school, you’re going. It only backfired once. I had the flu, and Tamiflu was YEARS ahead in the making. If it had, I would have been going to school without spreading it. To be perfectly fair, I’d woken up feeling a little miserable and bloomed at school. It wasn’t a big deal right up until it was.

Actually, that leads to a really funny story. One of our parishioners while I was at HSPVA was a Republican judge, so I went to their convention in like, ‘92, before they were complete nut jobs. While I was there, I bought a button down that was made of real American flag material, and the colors were very dark. It looked sharp…. Or so I thought. I was really sick on my birthday, and nothing would have stopped me from going to school that day in my new threads. I get there and first period was band…. And if Jack Lucas had been there, he would have been SO PROUD OF HIS STUDENTS.

Editor’s Note: I also went to St. Martin’s Episcopal as a teen, where I was unimpressed with President George H.W. Bush….. and thrilled to meet a former Director of CIA (of course). Therefore, it always thrills me that Jonna Mendez managed to fool him, because of course now I know we have mutual friends…. And I am laughing so hard that I can’t even breathe right now.

Those motherfuckers broke out in four part harmony, because they were musicians. They could sing their parts blind. Then, they get to “free,” and Dan Kovaly hits the fucking *cymbals.* I was just as self-deprecating then as I am now, so I thought it was absolutely hilarious while still mortifying. Later, my mom and dad brought me my favorite food, cherry chicken from Ruggles. We got to eat lunch together in the commons, and it was sad that there wasn’t a Happening that day.

Happenings at HSPVA are code for what would now be called a flash mob, probably. You never knew when they were coming, and it was always unique no matter which art area was on showcase. It’s one of the core memories that made me who I am.

Back in high school.

The Yellow String

Describe one positive change you have made in your life.

In my world, a connection to someone that’s romantic is a red string. A connection to someone that’s platonic, but every bit as intense as a romance is yellow. Right now, those people are Zac and Bryn. I made the decision to have Bryn as my emotional support because we’ve been tight since I was 19 (off and on until I was 23 and moved to PDX). That means we’ve been friends since Jesus gave me his beeper number. Being that close to someone and having that kind of emotional shorthand takes time to build, and for me, is too heavy to put on any relationship I can’t define.

It’s a whole different vibe, to feel like I have a ride or die who, if she could, would drop everything and run right over. We’re planning a visit where she comes here eventually, because last time it was my turn. 😛 It will be great to show her my version of DC, where the wings and mumbo sauce live.

I was kidding her about renting a hotel room for the express purpose of watching trash TV and eating cereal out of the box, which in my opinion, is a good time. My sister and I have done it, so I speak from experience…. Although I don’t think we had cereal. When she comes here, we tend to stuff ourselves at Zaytinya to the point we can’t move.

Here’s the important thing that’s come out of having Bryn as my top priority. Conversations like this, where I’ve said that being with Zac has stopped the tape in my head where I have to figure out everything from soup to nuts in five minutes:

Cheers to that. So much of my healing is learning to listen to myself and my body and frankly increase my selfishness to allow my selflessness to have actual meaning and not just be a trauma response. And it is amazing how much loving myself more allows others to feel I am loving them, when that wasn’t my goal at all lol but shhh dontell

I told her that I felt the same way, but that she put it better than I would have. I don’t want to increase my selfishness to an obscene amount. It’s that previously I wasn’t taking care of myself or setting boundaries at all.

With the ones who wouldn’t or couldn’t set them with me, I let them go because I was tired of living in gray area. I’d been running full steam ahead towards relationships that weren’t definitive in terms of who does what. Elizabeth Gilbert has said, and I’m phrasing, that she doesn’t believe there’s any story of self actualization that doesn’t begin with getting tired of your own bullshit. That’s where I am. Looking back over the wreckage I’ve done to myself by letting things remain so unclear.

I have a feeling that started when I was young. Keeping every option open all the time because I never knew when she was going to put me back in the sunshine. That’s all my own crap now. I’m an adult. I can decide if someone is worth waiting for or whether it’s costing me too much in self-esteem.

Here’s the thing that melted my heart with Zac this morning, our string turning burnt orange (because who doesn’t like burnt orange, hook ‘em amen?). He’s a fan. He knows how much my faith means to me, and he’s an Atheist. He proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that things that are important to me are important to him, something that friends should share. He gave me a button that says “God is in the details.” I told him that I loved it because theologian Pete Rollins says that a/theism is the greatest love story ever told, and the truth is in the slash.

I know that there have been horrible things done in the name of God. I deeply apologize for all of it, because I am not here to defend any of it. I’m here to tell you what I’m reading, written long before the Crusades, for example. Jesus is my perfect example of more power with than over.

There’s also a reason that my favorite friendship through reading and watching YouTube is Christopher Hitchens and Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury, and had to retype because I wrote Rowan Atkinson first. I coexist because of the same spectrum through which I see gender and sexual orientation. Specificity is in tiny degrees, and there are millions of permutations.

One of my favorite classes in College was Logic I. I was terrible at it, but fascinated by the subject. Using symbols to reflect arguments made sense to me, up and to a point. Then, my brain just scrambled.

The argument was God, for half the semester. Then, it was not God for the rest. I spent that class all up in my feelings, which is probably why I nearly flunked. I was thinking so hard about the emotional complications that I didn’t have room for stuff that was math adjacent.

It boggles my brain to hear people arguing about religion, just the easiest way to blow my hair back with excitement. I have a limit, though. I do not like atheists who proclaim their lack of religion as my moral failing, like if I didn’t believe in God I would be a better person, but I’m not.

Let me say for the record that it doesn’t matter whether there’s a God or not. I don’t pray hoping for answers. I pray and the process of laying out my thoughts gives me the answer. God is the voice I call my inner monologue, because that’s where I’m open to receiving spirituality. People do that in different ways, and it is not about “one is better than the other.” It’s about being able to access that part of yourself at all. Christianity is my way of doing it because it’s how I was made, my default setting. Plus, it’s a universal library of images which lets more people understand me than would’ve had I used something specific to the US.

When I access that part of me, I can talk to myself for hours in pro and con arguments, because I want to know and be prepared for anything and everything that could happen, amen.

I am the president of Overthinkers Anonymous, except there’s only me and a VP, so there’s only one chapter and it’s really only us…………… and we’re not friendly, Bob.

As I was telling Bryn, I can be more present in the moment with Zac because I don’t have any real heuristics on dating them. Patterns don’t emerge for me the way they would with a woman because I have no idea what in the hell I’m doing and for once, I’m okay with it.

For once, I can sit in cognitive dissonance and not be threatened by it. I know that no matter what, I am safe to say what I mean and mean what I say. This is because Bryn and Zac are both the kind of people that are hugely capable of knowing their opinions on how they feel. Thoughts and feelings working in concert. I am giving my energies to them in different ways. I’m a handful, and they’re capable.

It’s just that Bryn has a quarter century more blackmail material than Zac, and not for nothing, she doesn’t use it. I would be ripe for the pickings, I’m telling you. Not only that, she’s seen a lifetime of the real me, even when I didn’t know she was looking. Her teenage perspective to my twenties is so amazing, because she remembers things that I don’t and it makes our institutional memory stronger. She reminds me of everything good and everything bad about Portland, and I let her. That’s because she’s the person I can just say, “I feel horrible right now.” I never require her to agree with me about anything, but I know that she’ll hear it. I also am surprised by how many of our memories line up, to a degree in which it’s a bit frightening. That’s what I mean about my love for my friends being gigantic. That shared history means every bit as much to me as finding a partner.

The difference to me between my relationship with Bryn and in relationships I’ve had with women previously (save Dana, she was also driven by emotion), she doesn’t ever shut down. Not ever. She will say things like I can’t talk about it right now, but that’s so different than we’ll never talk about it ever. There is also no gray area in our relationship. It is for life. We will never leave each other. We commit to hashing it out. Every bit as important as my biological sister and my eventual partnership.

If you can’t be honest with someone you met when you were 19, you can’t be honest with anyone.

We get into things I won’t even publish, because only she is allowed access until I can bring it up without feeling the physical effects while I’m writing. In some ways, all that was ten years ago. Then someone will hit a trigger and I will flash back, and it literally takes my breath away. It doesn’t even have to be a someone. It could be a scent, like a certain mixture of fall air and leaves burning. It could be a perfume.

It’s intense and I can’t remember the good parts in that moment. I just feel used, because she didn’t set any limits with her words, it was all inference all the time. Therefore, I spent my entire life lost and confused until there was one moment when I was working out at a credit center in the suburbs of Portland, and I get a phone call. It’s the woman that emotionally abused me. She’d recently brutally dumped someone as her “pet person,” and she told me that I was a woman she’d like to get to know, but her tone was off. A bit seductive, but not romantic. Just going back into a more secretive bubble that felt illicit. And perhaps that was my perception of what happened given the trigger’s origin, and not the truth. I am telling you what I felt, and I did not take it well.

I thought, “she’s finally giving you all the attention you wanted and it feels all wrong. Why? What is wrong with you?” Now, I can tell you exactly what happened. I saw how she treated this person that she called her pet, and I wasn’t having it. For the first time in my life, I recognized a train wreck before it happened. I didn’t want to become an object of scorn to her partner, as if I wasn’t just an annoying dipshit to begin with. And dipshit is a direct quote.

So, when my beautiful girl wouldn’t set boundaries and would waffle between outright, overt, out loud protection and “you’re trying to provoke me,” I got tired. I wanted her to look at herself with the same fierce protection she saw my other friends. I wasn’t trying to create feelings of guilt, but change.

There was no change. Dreams of it, but none. I wanted a relationship with her that felt solid, and either I couldn’t feel it or it wasn’t there. I don’t know, and it’s not up to me to know. I feel like I have stated everything I needed a hundred times over, and she continues to shoot in the dark. It’s also frustrating when someone who used to be glad you’ve called them out on the carpet because they’re famous for walling off and moving past something starts using those walls with you……. And being furious that you’ve noticed. I could see that pattern coming from a mile off, and I still put so much energy into rearranging the dinner napkins on the Titanic.

She says that nothing was ever good enough for me, and her barometer was way, way off. She’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, bar none. I am a better person for having loved her, and that part of me will never change. It’s why she is still welcome if she figures out what it is that she actually wants from me.

In the meantime, it’s good that I’m not spending my time waiting on something that may or may not ever come. Maybe she’ll keep reading, maybe it will be too painful. Who knows? I cannot predict when and if she’ll hear my meaning, but what I wanted to put a stop to was being able to drop in casually as if we had no history and keep it at that. I felt awful when she said that she hated it when I expected her to be the expert on our friendship at some times and that I was talking down to her when I explained the memory to which I was referring. I couldn’t win either way, because either I came off like a lecturer or someone trying to hurt her, and neither of those options were in any way true.

I was doing the work because I wanted to show up. The way I do for Bryn. The way I do for Lindsay.

Zac remains to be seen, but I am enjoying the moment, breathing and staying in one place. Changing my reactions and responses. Healing. Being able to talk through some issues that resolve my others.

Getting tired of myself is the best thing I’ve ever done, much less one positive thing. It’s all of them. ALL THE THINGS.


What’s the most fun way to exercise?

Let me start by saying that my first thoughts were fairly unprintable on this topic, but I decided to take it seriously, anyway.

I don’t exercise at all. Not purposefully, anyway. I walk a lot because I don’t have a car and I like it that way. A lot of my writing gets done on Hwy 29 between East-West Hwy and Franklin Ave. I wear Bluetooth headphones and listen to music, left foot on the downbeat. When I think of something good, I stop and record what I’m thinking.

A typical walk for me is at least a half hour. That’s because I keep changing my mind. I walk to the bus stop, and get bored of waiting, so I’ll start walking and tell myself there’s a bus stop every major street, so why worry? But then I get to the next bus stop and I still don’t want to wait. I’ll go three miles that way, anything to avoid slowing movement. Movement is creativity.

I’m not talking about dance. Movement creates inertia. If I start out with an idea at the house, I’ll have a book series at the entrance to the Metro, and a short audio clip of what my topic is to get started. When I’m on the train, I get out my tablet and keyboard.

I would like to be serious about exercising, in a perfect world. I’d like a trainer and I would work hard with them. For me, it’s not about losing weight. It’s that I have balance issues and a brain palsy that makes my muscles rebel, against what I have no idea. Strengthening my core is essential to staying upright. I am also of the age that I have been laid out flat on my back from a bad sneeze. Training would stop most of that, too.

Something to think of for the future, that walking won’t solve everything. My body is complicated, and yet, it’s not. I don’t care about what and when I eat, ever, because my blog won’t write itself. I know I will walk until I have something. It’s funny how my weight goes up and down dependent on how much I’m thinking about that day. If my mind is full, I can predict six miles. Not in a row, but throughout the day.

There’s a ton of shops within walking distance of my house, whether it’s going toward downtown Silver Spring and into DC, or toward my neighborhood shopping center, which has the basics. 7-Eleven gets most of my money, because when I forget my water bottle, I stop in for a soda. I like Big Gulps best, because I generally want the ice as bad as I need a shot of caffeine. Or, at least, up until I found Liquid Death sparkling water. If I’m going the fizzy water route, I’ll also “do a shot.” “Doing shots” is how I refer to getting pep in the middle of the day in hopes of not seeming so incredibly old. 5 Hour Energy is the top brand, but there are a hundred of them. My favorite is sour apple with a lime seltzer “back.”

Today is a bit different because I’m packing my “going to Zac’s” bag. Zac has an appointment on this side of town, so he offered to swing by and pick me up rather than me taking the train. My “going to Zac’s bag” is basically full of electronics. Getting on the train home would be impossible without my phone/smart watch, and of course they don’t have the same charger…. That would be insane.

I’m writing about going to Zac’s so that when I read this later, I will remember that Bryn asked for a picture of me with Oliver, Zac’s puppy dog. I am already blessed with “The Daily Zac” and “The Daily Oliver” photos, so it wouldn’t naturally occur to me to take one myself. 😛

Getting those two pictures are the highlights of my day… fuel for the road ahead, which is often lonely due to necessity. I can’t just hand off my story ideas to anyone else and say “I’m tired. You do it.” It’s not that I wouldn’t. It’s that I would feel terrible about asking people to work for free on the off chance a book does well. I am not so precious about my idea that I wouldn’t like a research assistant, for example, but I am also not willing to pay them in dreams.

I just have to keep walking so that my ideas flow organically through me and onto the page. Getting a proposal together is difficult, but definitely easier than trying to finish this book on my own (meaning the alternate history). It’s such a large scope and I’m such a small person. I continually hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew, especially in terms of showing talent.

All I can do is believe in myself, and keep walking, one foot in front of the other.

Chapter and Verse

What book could you read over and over again?

Just one book? Forever? If I only get to have one, it’s a Bible. Not because I’m a religious zealot. I enjoy theology and reading criticism… but in the absence of other books, I’d have to make my own. Very, very hard without the source material. Over time, I would absolutely entertain myself by writing both First and Second SpongeBob to see if anyone noticed.

The Bible isn’t an answer. It’s a lens through which I see everything else. By taking these stories seriously and not literally, I can tap into something useful… the power of me. When I look at the historical Jesus, I’m looking in a mirror. I feel like every Christian says this, but I’m never sure if they mean it. They leave out the “historical” part and that’s what creates problems. They’re not connecting to him, but the marketing campaign that tried to rebrand him as white. They’re connecting themselves to something that has never even existed.

The “prosperity gospel” people drive me up the wall, and it is extremely important to understand why. Jesus is all about setting priorities, and money wasn’t on the list. I am angry that so many people think Christianity is *only* mega churches so that small communities engaging in social justice are also thought of as suspect.

Meanwhile, the income disparity just gets more intense as people want church that looks like a rock concert, when to me it’s the very worst of both. It’s pedantic to preach to people on an eighth grade level. Assume your audience is smarter than you are, because it is true.

Moving what is basically my textbook out of the way, you guys already know I love Argo, but it’s not my favorite book by Team Mendez. That’s Spy Dust, the love story between Jonna and Tony. I read it shortly after I met Jonna in person, and it was exactly the book I needed at exactly the right time. They’d both been married before. It was their second act after facing lots of hardship, and it was beautiful (both their relationship and the prose that came out of it).

Fiction changes by the hour. It would be impossible to list all the novels I love. When push comes to shove, I still can’t pick one.

Catcher in the Rye comes up quite frequently. People love it because of the foul language (for the time) and the “Holden Caulfied is just cool” factor. I also love those things, but it’s more than that. It’s written from my favorite perspective, probably because I’m a blogger. It’s first person with an unreliable narrator. Holden’s were stories that were all true and God knows if any of them happened.

I am also very impressed with my own writing, but not in the moment. It takes about five years for me to be proud of an entry because I have to be a different person than I was when I wrote said piece. I’m proud when I look at it with a more objective eye… I feel like I’m connecting to another writer and critiquing their work because at that point, I’m not emotionally attached to it. I also have to be my own biggest fan, because to make my blog dependent on external validation is crazy. It’s a journal and you’re invited, both to read and talk back. To need your love and adoration is to handicap myself, because it’s letting the audience become my boss, writing what they want to read rather than this space actually being useful for my own growth and development.

I absolutely do go back and read what I’ve written, because again, that’s what’s useful to me. I read my entries and look at what I was trying to accomplish and ask myself if I’ve done it. Most of the time, I am not sure. What I do know is that people don’t think I know how I come across, and they are very worried. To me, that’s caring about what other people think more than I care about myself.

I’m not being cruel and callous about hurting people with fallout. I am saying that I can’t think about the outside world. I have to let the audience find me because I need this web site more than everyone else.

My personality type says there are callbacks and patterns, so I go back and find them. I throw things back in my face. I get angry at myself. And somehow, good writing comes out of it sometimes. Not all the time. Sometimes I’m an angry, judgmental dickhead. I like the bumper sticker wisdom of “when you ask yourself ‘what would Jesus do,’ remember that flipping over tables and chasing people with a whip is a viable option.”

This is why I’d take a Bible over anything else. People worried over him the exact same way that people worry over me. They even say some of the same things. It is enough to make me shut down this whole site at times, and I have to force myself not to do it; I’ve done it once before and it really screwed up my future.

It screwed me up inside when the same people that tried to force my hand were so outraged in the moment, then months later said, “you were always such a great writer. Why don’t you do it anymore?” Notice I said that they tried to force my hand. It didn’t work. What did work was feeling so terrible about anything and everything I’d done that my poor self esteem cased and trashed everything I’d built in less than 20 seconds. At the height of my popularity, I was up there with Wil Wheaton and Heather Armstrong. Dooce had only started a couple of years before me, when she actually talked about things that got her in trouble. She built her entire audience off of brutal truth…… and then….. didn’t.

I can’t be bitter, because it was my decision. I am just telling you the cost of shame that comes with having readers. As a writer, you only fear two things. The first is that no one will read your work. The second is that everyone will.

Over the years, people start to appreciate my writing more and more, and I’m not talking about strangers. I’m talking about my friends who don’t remember what happened when and I’m the only one that remembered to write it down. That’s why I’m so careful to talk about people in a three dimensional way. Once the subject removes themselves from the equation and starts reading about themselves as if they were a different person, “all of a sudden” I’m the greatest writer who ever lived because mine was the story that stuck.

You can look it up in First SpongeBob.

A Rhetorical Kevin

If you could be a character from a book or film, who would you be? Why?

The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the prompt is “Tony Mendez in Argo,” and then I realized that I’ve said that dude is my favorite writer for eleventy billion entries so maybe pick someone else. It’s not an actual Kevin. It’s a rhetorical Kevin.

If you get that joke because you’re also an Argo fan, you’re welcome.

I think I would be a good spy because my survival instincts make me sharper and more creative, focusing on “stage presence” and not the information smash and grab that comes along with it. Tony believed that it was all a show, magic tricks and transcendent acting, because to fail is the worst kind of anxiety. From his books, it’s not that bad when something is happening to you. It gets bad when something is happening to your asset, because the lack of control and the helpless feelings come and visit you in the night.

That could be the whole entry right there, but at the same time, you already knew all that about me and I’m going to branch out.

There are lots of good options. I’m sort of like Michael Valentine from “Stranger in a Strange Land” already, because I am the same personality type as Jesus (INFJ). I didn’t just make that up. Jesus is historically thought of as INFJ, and Martin Luther King, Jr. actually was.

Wow. There’s my answer. Huh.

The writing prompt doesn’t say that it has to be a fictional character.

I don’t identify with his divinity, I empathize with his humanity.

Martin Luther King was just as flawed as I am now. Led people toward the promised land, yet wanted to bang everything that moved. Cheated on his wife multiple times, but we don’t remember that part of it. We remember the story that stuck.

I am hoping that even though I am just as flawed, I am worthy of that kind of redemption in history. That I’ll be remembered for calling out prejudice and hypocrisy wherever I see it. That I will acknowledge that white supremacy Evangelical Christianity has ruled the United States for hundreds of years……. and the black Evangelical church also gives itself permission to think I am only sin personified. It is not the same, but if we walk a mile in each other’s shoes, we can tell where they pinch.

All I am saying is that when you’re talking about discrimination against queer people and the “word of God,” all races are equally bad at it if they’re the sort of people who think God wrote the Bible, that people like Matthew and Paul were just conduits because God couldn’t hold the pen.

The evangelical church has given its followers permission to exclude and berate anyone they don’t think measure up to their standards, and it’s funny how keeping those standards applies to everyone except them…. when being queer was never actually a sin in the first place. At some point, I will probably go through the “clobber passages,” the pieces of the Bible taken out of context to say that I’m a sin. I will refute them all and then I’ll get raked over the coals on social media. But if you aren’t willing to take the chance that Westboro Baptist will picket your funeral, you’re not doing Christianity right.

I’m picking up the mantle they left behind, but not because I’m all that and a bag of chips. It’s that talking to people and making them believe in themselves is my gift, and thus far, I haven’t been using much of it.

Or have I?

Who knows. It’s not an actual Kevin. It’s a rhetorical Kevin.

Stories That Stick

Link to audio for Easter, Year A, 2023

Editor’s Note:

I posted the audio yesterday as well, but here is a transcript if you’d like to read instead of listen.

I know you guys generally don’t know or care about the Revised Common Lectionary OR the Book of Common Prayer, but the people who steal my sermons DO and I let them because I don’t care. I want my words heard all over the world whether I get credit for my ideas or not. If I hit a home run, it’s always because I’ve stood on the shoulders of giants- Jesus, most notably. Use all my stuff and forget about the brand on the ball. Also, I post late in the day so you can’t use it this year. The Bible is put together by the Church universal so that you go through the whole thing in a cycle, complete every three years.

Here is the gospel on which I am basing this entry/sermon. It’s one of my two big holidays, just roll with it.

John 20:1-18

Every sermon I preach, when I am preparing I realize that Jesus and I are the same person (within reason). He was Jewish, I am Christian. He chased tax collectors from the temple with a whip, and I feel that way about anyone who excludes anyone. I’m also older than Jesus now, so I know that had he lived longer, we would have been more alike. We are both judgmental dickheads, and not because we’re not correct. We just get angrier than everyone else… ok, maybe not everyone. Jesus is the kind of empath that I feel he popped off and regretted a lot, another hallmark of people who know you’re not doing life right, because that’s what our personality does. We don’t want to rag on you. We want to build you up. We want you to join us in our utopia, and you will get there if you listen to us. But if you’re going after people with a whip to do it, I’m guessing there had to be a game of “Let’s Be an Asshole” somewhere.

I do what he does with language. My words are often harsh because I don’t feel heard, and neither did he among his family and friends. Nothing good could come out of Nazareth because they couldn’t see him for what he was and is…. an INFJ with anger management issues. Tell me that’s not me sitting on a Ritz, because nothing good has come out of DC, either.

If you’re lost right now in terms of the phrase “nothing good can come out of Nazareth,” it’s emotional shorthand for strangers listening to you easier than your own family and friends when you have big ideas that seem crazy. According to a Chiat/Day commercial, the only people that are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the only ones who do.

Jesus was insane. Just batshit.

He thought he could take on everyone who would listen, and like me, if you miss the message, he will flat school you. To me, he is also very funny. Anyone who can make a fig tree die just by yelling at it is familiar with my work………………… #shatnerellipsis

For me, the message has always been his. Widen the net. It’s the biggest message there is. For God’s sakes (literally), the symbol that best represents him IS A FISH. Here’s why. Wearing a crucifix is focusing on his death and not his life. It’s skipping over everything he was trying to accomplish and focusing on everything he didn’t. Do you think it really mattered to Jesus that he was sent to die? He ALREADY KNEW it would happen. So he made the best of it. Out, loud, and proud in terms of knowing what he was here to do….. “I’m here to help the shit out of you. Roll with it or don’t. I don’t have time to want people who don’t want me.”

Tell me THAT’s not me sitting on a Ritz.

If you think that I am trying to say that I am also literally the child of God, remember that I have always said that I do not identify with his divinity. I empathize with his humanity. My heart is continually broken that he didn’t get to live out his entire life naturally, speaking in plain language so that people could understand (Aramaic rather than Hebrew). He was an Idealist painted as someone trying to overthrow the government when he just wanted to feed people.

Besides, God might not be my father, but I was born to upper management. My street creds are solid without any letters. I don’t need them because I’ve been steeped in these stories since I was born, and when I’m preaching, I do every bit as much research as can be done from one Sunday to the next…. the interminable march of Sundays back through the ages and forwards towards our own deaths and resurrections. It’s just that we don’t take resurrection literally, and it’s the one thing we should. If you take nothing else away from the Easter story, it’s this one. Your story matters. You are every bit as capable of telling it as Jesus was. I got a line from an Atheist that I’ll use today, on the most holy of days, because I find absolute truth anywhere I can get it.

At the time, there were lots of people claiming to be the Messiah. His is the story that stuck.

Holy God. “His is the story that stuck.” I went dumb and mute (dumb being a double entendre, for the record).

I was talking about how the Bible is an ancient blog at best, the story of how Christianity was born according to the people who lived it. We can argue all day over whether it’s real, or we could stick to the story that stuck.

Today’s gospel is the story of Mary Magdalene running to tell Simon Peter that Jesus is gone.

Skipping over the OUTRIGHT AND TOTAL MISOGYNY of this passage to focus on other things (this might be a clue we’ll use again later), both Mary and Simon Peter walked into a tomb and saw that their best friend’s body had been stolen. Let’s leave Jesus’ resurrection out of this. Imagine the horror of losing your friend/possible husband to death and not being able to bury him. Imagine the sheer panic of finding out that the grave of their loved one had been robbed, the logical conclusion. Some of the disciples went home. They didn’t stick around long enough (no guilt, they couldn’t have known) for the rest of the story and had to endure that shock. In this moment, the resurrection doesn’t even matter. I wonder how long they sat there and kicked themselves over Jesus saying that they had to walk with the light while they had it. The Disciples are often portrayed as dumb guys, but here’s what I’ve learned in my 45 years. It’s not that anyone is stupid. It’s that the message doesn’t mean anything until you’re ready to hear it.

They did not hear “you have to walk with me, because my life isn’t going to be very long.” At this point, I start wondering what messages I’ve missed in the middle of the mess.

Even The Book of Acts reads like “holy shit, what do we do now? I know there were instructions.”

Their best friend has just died. In that moment, I’m surprised they were capable of any complete thought….. and then his body was stolen.

It’s a miracle that Jesus even ended up in a tomb in the first place. He was poor and the Romans wouldn’t have cared about burying any of the people they crucified. The only reason that Jesus was buried is that he had a very powerful friend that the government needed, so he could ask for something large and actually receive it.

Here’s the moment that judgmental dickhead became divine.

He told you that. He told you that you could ask for something large and be powerful enough to actually receive it. Grace and mercy are free of charge. So is forgiveness. You can let go of anything that is keeping your body in a tomb, graduating into the promise of new hope.

Let yours be the story that sticks.

Anything Anywhere All at Once

What job would you do for free?

Link to audio.

I will do anything for the experience of having done it, because I am a firm believer that you don’t say something is bad if you’ve never eaten it…. and that statement has many transitive properties.

Most writers work for free while they’re doing something else for money, and everything I do for money feeds this web site in more ways than one. So whether I’m in Global Information Services or trying to be a cook, I’m still me. To really understand me, you’ll have to read “The Sol Majestic,” which explores the idea of ivory tower vs. hard work. I am both sides of the equation. I am blue collar and an academic because one feeds the other. I do not need a job that captures any more of my attention than is necessary to feed myself, because I don’t live on earth most of the time. My head is in the clouds, and I am constantly wandering for a foothold.

In the clouds, there are no footholds. Blue collar work is an anchor to keep me from flying too close to the sun. Brandon Sanderson says that if you want to be a writer, lay brick or similar, because you need something that your body can do independently of your mind. I agree, because you can get into a rhythm while at the same time giving your characters room to play. I only have two fiction projects in the works and trade off between them, and it’s slow going because I’m a blogger. It’s not that I’m a bad writer, it’s that I’m so inexperienced with style and structure.

At some point I will have to borrow structure from Jonna Mendez, former Chief of Disguise at CIA and in my opinion, the best non-fiction writer that ever lived tied with her husband. Here’s why. Jonna and Tony have the ability to capture what fiction does without writing it. Their books present like spy capers and you get lost in their movies, internal videos that play as you’re reading. I didn’t just read about trying not to get caught in Tehran and Moscow. For the length of the book, I lived it.

Then I met her in person and the books changed yet again, because not only could I picture her more completely in her stories, they were scarier because I really, really liked her. It’s one thing to read about strangers in peril… quite another when you have an emotional attachment to the story. It made me a bigger fan, though. I have two copies of each book by Team Mendez, autographed paper and Kindle.

If it seems weird that I have both, it’s that the Kindle versions came first and the autographs are keepsakes. Plus, I don’t like to write in the margins of my books and it’s not because I’m a purist and think writing in books is bad. It’s that if I want to make a note about something, I want data I can use. If I write a note by hand, I then have to type it. Wasted energy when I can just attach a keyboard to my tablet or Kindle (yes, Kindles support them). I wouldn’t have thought of this unless I’d reviewed so many books that it was necessary. So much easier to copy and paste text from my notes, and it syncs with Goodreads and a few other programs so I can access everything on every device I own.

I would like to say that I love reviewing books, but I don’t. I’m a voracious reader and therefore, my standards are extraordinarily high. I also don’t want to hurt any writer’s chance of making more money. Even if you’re a shitty writer, you still deserve to eat. It’s a different perspective for me because I am also a shitty writer who deserves to eat, so I probably empathize too much when I should be ruthless.

Speaking of which, I still owe Finn Bell a couple of reviews, because he’s one of my favorite writers in the entire world…. mostly because he writes characters and mysteries that you don’t want to end and there are too many questions running through my mind as to what happened after the story ended. I asked him about that, and he said he couldn’t tell me anything because he was keeping things tight for future stories.

I get it, and at the same time, “AAAAAAAAGH! WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PRIEST, FINN?!?!?!?!”

Speaking of priests, preaching is another job I’d do for free as long as I didn’t have to do anything else. It is ultimately the reason I changed my mind about starting a church. I realized that I was too immobilized by grief over my mother’s death to do things like pastoral care when I was the one that needed it so badly. You can become a wounded healer, but only up and to a point. It’s a balancing act of being empathetic and not getting your own crazy spatter all over your congregation. Don’t think it doesn’t happen. I have watched it on many an occasion and didn’t want that for myself.

It was hard enough coming unglued with no one watching except readers who weren’t in the room where I type. I could say what I liked and process “verbally” without feeling like I had a responsibility to keep it together for everyone else.

Here’s what you don’t know before your mother dies that you sure as hell know afterward. If you are the oldest, you are the new matriarch of the family and it might not be because your family wants or needs that. It’s your own mother lion protection mechanism because you were the one your mother trusted with “the rest of them.” You aren’t prepared for that kind of responsibility and if your siblings are also adults, they didn’t give it to you. You took it because that’s what you’ve always done… sacrificing self to take care of everyone that came behind you.

You feel alone in a way you never have, because now it’s all on you…. even when no one needs you and the responsibility is an illusion.

The phrase “even if no one needs you” is not wiping the blood off my cross or anything. It’s that at adult age, “need” is relative. For instance, I want people to want me, not fall apart because they think they can’t function without me. So many people confuse desire with need, and it ate my lunch for a while as I walked toward the new normal. The pace never accelerates. I have run toward nothing.

I’m not sure there’s ever been a sense of loss as great as continuing my own life afterward, because it was so painful. I didn’t want to die, and I didn’t want to live because who cares? That’s the other part no one will tell you. When the person who brought you into the world leaves, a huge part of your tether develops a rip and you aren’t carrying a needle and thread.

Of course this is magnified by my bipolar disorder, but I do know these feelings are also universal. Specificity is measured in tiny increments.

I’d be a grief counselor for free. Nothing fills my soul faster than a mutual stitch and bitch, because if you haven’t lost a parent, there’s no way to understand. I am not being pedantic. You just don’t even know until you get there. It will hit you like a head on collision where you’re driving a Trabant into an oncoming train, and this is true whether you liked said parent or not, because those two people made you. I am not speaking literally. Adopted kids go through the same stuff.

It’s that the core personality is set by six years old, according to Erik Erickson, and generally your parents are there for that. Even your facial expressions and mannerisms take on new meaning when you realize that you are indeed looking at your mother (in my case) and you aren’t offended that she’s staring back, because you’re not a copy anymore. You’re what’s left.

If you haven’t lost a parent, you can empathize with me, but don’t you dare say you know how I feel. I wouldn’t even say that to another person who lost a parent. Just because their parent died doesn’t mean they’re having the same experience.

The one thing we have in common is that “hell is other people.” They don’t know what to say and you can’t get mad because you know they mean well…. even though when they say “I would fall apart if my mother died” you want to scream “WELL IT’S A GOOD THING I’M GOING THROUGH IT AND NOT YOU, JACKASS.” Don’t get me started. It isn’t helpful to get angry, just to say to people the best thing they *can* say to someone grieving is “I’m so sorry.” Don’t add anything. Let those words be humble and enough because they are….. and let me explain why.

When MY mother dies, it’s not your turn to have emotion. It will be your turn, but it is not in that instant. To focus on how you would feel if it happened to you is bullshit to someone to whom it has happened. It will come across as “God, I am so glad I’m not you.” It’s also frustrating for people to say that they don’t know what to say and avoid you when you are literally handing them a script with only two or three words.

When I was in the thick of it, just deep, deep grief, I needed people to do things for me. Two problems with that. I didn’t know what I needed and couldn’t ask for help because it was too much energy… both in the figuring it out and in the asking. I was alone in my room for months because no one is prepared to have their mom die. No one. At the same time, I wasn’t prepared in the slightest. It’s not like anyone could have predicted an embolism because the doctors didn’t know they needed to look for one. I can imagine the notes:

Patient is a 65 year old white female presenting with moderate pain and limited mobility in her left leg. Waiting for x-ray to confirm fractOH MY GOD SHE’S DEAD.

Speaking of “white female,” I’m laughing because one of the doctors I work with decided to create a macro in a word processor that would automatically change “if” into Indian female. Hilarity ensued. EVERYTHING in medicine depends on “if” and “it depends.”

My analogy for this is that all doctors are half programmer, half waitress. All of them. Doesn’t matter the specialty. It’s soft skills and “if, then.” So many medical problems are just spaghetti code (everything loops back around into a tangled mess).

And then you look at psychologists/licensed counselors and the spaghetti code analogy gets even stronger. People aren’t machines, and logic isn’t emotion.

It’s honestly why I’d cook for free, and I proved it when I was willing to do it for eight bucks an hour. I needed a logical job so that my emotions were a separate part of me. The place I kept to myself because I already had a place to vent and a partner to help carry the financial load (absolutely the most important reason to keep Dana in the back of my mind if and when I start making real money).

So if you ask me what I’ll do for free, I have touched on so many subjects that the answer is anything, as long as it serves a purpose. I think it’s good advice. You can have it.