Seventeen Cents, Part II

Here is Part I. It is not necessary to read it to understand this entry, but recommended.


Fires cause emotional distress as well as physical damage. They threaten life and property and are unpredictable, uncontrollable, and terrifying. Children often are affected by what they see during and after a fire, whether or not they are physically injured. The best predictor of postfire distress in children appears to be how frightening the experience of the fire was and the extent of the loss.

-National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Ever since I saw the three gravestones of the children who were burned up in a house fire at my mom’s cemetery, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what happened in the aftermath of our own. I don’t remember what the symbols on the other graves were (Tigger? Marie from Aristocats?), but one stuck out. It was a GIANT R2-D2. While it is certainly what the child would have wanted (and I take nothing away from that fact), it is a punch in the gut to walk past, because you instantly know you are not walking past the grave of an old adult who died of natural causes. For instance, no one who dies at 98 is going to have people gathering around the casket at the visitation saying, dear God… they took her too soon. R2-D2 gravestones subvert the natural order of things, for me presenting with stomach-churning, bile-inducing nausea. Those graves tapped into every scar they could find that was still covered in the lightest of scabs.

I was 12, and my sister was seven; it was late enough on the calendar that we were only five years apart instead of six. As is often the case, Lindsay’s reaction was delayed, because we’d spent the first few nights at our mother’s parents’ house, a short while in a borrowed lake house, and then settled into our own home… at which point the bishop told us to move. There was not really enough time to settle before another enormous change happened, and though it was difficult for me, I met Diane the first Sunday in my new church, and the world was never the same after that. I was too busy to bother with the house fire anymore.

It wasn’t all her- it was discovering a part of me I didn’t know was there… only inklings and worry that I was an abnormal psych case waiting to happen, not knowing that it was healthy and just plain average to have same-sex attractions. It’s even sort of average to have the bipolar depression, anxiety, and ADHD combo meal (I think that’s a number 11, if you’re ordering). One in four people get depression at some point in their lives, but it isn’t all the same. For some, it’s situational. For others, it’s not. But the fact that so many people might not be in the same boat with me, but certainly navigating the same waters makes feeling normal despite not feeling normal comforting & safe.

I can honestly say without reservation that something has been wrong since childhood- nothing I’ve been through has changed the fact that I’ve had a chemical imbalance far longer than I’ve been taking medication for it, and it took years to find the right protocol because no one suspected I was on the bipolar spectrum until college, when I went back to University of Houston in 2006. Therefore, upping seratonin didn’t do a whole lot for me. It wasn’t until I was put on a mood stabilizer that I knew what it felt like to live without depression at all.

The hardest part was hearing my doctor tell me that he thought I was bipolar, because the images it brought to mind were nothing close to my reality. As I told Dana on the phone, “I don’t want to be Sally Field from ER!” Bipolar disorder, like Autism, is a sliding scale of challenges, and I’m on the end where my lows are so low that my highs are barely noticeable, but there. When I’m on a high, I act virtually the same, I just can’t sleep. There’s a line drawn in the sand between what I deal with every day and the complete sensory overload flipout I had three years ago, because it wasn’t due to being bipolar. It was completely psychological, not psychiatric. A med change helped, but I was vomiting up old trauma that I’d boxed up and put away, and when it was unearthed from deep within, I could not even. Psychotherapy and medication have to go hand in hand for true relief, and unfortunately for me, I didn’t think there was anything psychologically wrong with me right up until I found my emotional baggage hold. There was a pilot case for the fire, a hanging bag for internalized homophobia/emotional abuse, and a Samsonite 29 inch spinner for pent-up rage about just damn everything. I spill fun secrets. Ugly ones were eating me alive.

Now that I have made significant changes to my life, starting over in a new city without any triggers, eating good things, and nearly cutting alcohol out of my diet because it makes my medication work better, I am back to the same boring, average person I was before. Still working the combo meal, but blessedly stable. I would have become a teetotaler if that’s what my doctor said would work, but he said that every once in a while, it was okay. Especially when I was working in a pub, I’d have a drink every night after work, using the free “shift drink” to try everything in the bar at least once. It didn’t undo me, by any means, but I am going for maximum efficacy. Plus, over time I have noticed that since my tolerance is in the toilet, it takes one drink for my brain to feel a little fuzzy, and as a writer, that makes me (more) crazy. I spend most of the time after drinking a cocktail wondering when it’s going to wear off. It’s just not relaxing to me unless I’m being social.

Wondering is useless, but I do it. I wonder who I would have been without emotional trauma, because that was the shitty icing on the burnt cake. I wonder what my life would have been like had I only been through a house fire, and that was the beginning and the end of childhood emotional malady. I had enough family support that I rebounded quickly from it, but then fell headlong into another disaster. Or perhaps it was one continuous disaster without a break, and I just felt like I was over one before the other started because frankly, the second disaster was exciting. You never know when a relationship is going to turn out to be a train wreck, because everyone‘s nice in the beginning.

If there’s a good thing to letting it all out, it’s that the healing process can begin in earnest. In my wandering/wondering state, I project that without so much emotional burden, I would have been a doctor by now (of divinity or psychology, maybe higher mathematics [If you don’t know me, let me ASSURE you “higher mathematics” was a hilarious joke.]). But the bright side is that I only just turned 40. Lots and lots of people achieve doctoral degrees way after that…… Hope and time are on my side…. mostly because as Elizabeth Gilbert so eloquently said, I’ve never seen any life transformation that didn’t begin with the person in question finally getting sick of their own bullshit. I’m still not done blaming my emotional trauma for where my life has taken weird twists and turns, but I would had I been a responsible adult when it happened. It’s different when you’re an adult, because you have no one to blame for poor life choices except yourself, because you actively choose them.

I’m not over the ways emotional abuse changed me that I’d never have chosen on my own. I’m not over how long I didn’t understand why I couldn’t get it together, not realizing that tissue is stronger after it is scarred and took a much bigger knife to find the original wound. As Jonathan Kellerman says in The Murderer’s Daughter, and I’m paraphrasing, The Haunted need a surgeon, not a barber. Now that time has passed, though, and the poison is out, I’m on my own… which doesn’t render the previous sentences about not being done invalid. These things are both true, both equally valid. There’s a reason it’s called recovery, and there is only healing, never a cure.

So, tl;dr…. I saved up all the feels until I couldn’t anymore and exploded. I’m okay now. The end.

Lindsay had a much rougher time than me after we moved, because she did not have systemic euphoria to turn her head. She did not want to go to school. I do not remember this happening before we left Naples, only after we moved to Houston, because again, I think it was too much change, too fast. In the Methodist Church, everyone moves on the same day so no church is left pastorless (under normal circumstances). It was summer, so we were all together for a few months before Lindsay’s PTSD surfaced. Not going to school was her way of trying to control whether our new house burned down or not. I attribute this to a truly dick move on the part of one of the firemen, who didn’t look around when he started speaking and said that the fire started over Lindsay’s room, and if she’d been sleeping in it, she’d be dead. That one phrase repeated in Lindsay’s mind over and over and over to the point of paralysis, until second grade seemed impossible to contemplate. If she wasn’t home, she was helpless should anything happen…. interesting because not being home kept her from danger in the first place.

I can’t remember whether my parents talked to a psychologist or to her teachers, but someone came up with the idea that there should be a routine each and every day. My dad started out by walking her into class and staying for a little bit until she got settled. He gave her a “slap bracelet,” all the rage then, so that she’d know he was always with her.

Editor’s Note: My God. My God! Dan. Argo. Lindsay. Slap bracelet. Click.

Additionally, before he left her classroom, and later, before she got out of the car, he said the same words Every. Single. Day. Lindsay would say them with him:

Lucky Day…..
Gonna Getta E Today
Like I Say….

Wave to me!

An E was for excellence, I believe in conduct. Lindsay has what would be called “leadership skills” now, but then rendered her to a table with three other people also named The Bossy Girls. Perhaps feeling so out of control during the fire made her want more control over her environment later. Conjecture, but probably an educated guess.

It’s interesting how Lindsay’s trauma turned her outward, making her able to achieve incredible things at a very young age. Now that she’s a lobbyist (the good kind- things like helping people with cancer and getting money for state-run programs), I want to take a picture of her in the Willard Hotel and get it framed for my room.

The reason it’s so very interesting to me is that my trauma turned me inward, unable to stop the rumination until the puzzle was solved. Once I was out of high school and early college, focused on the college courses that piqued my interest rather than the have-tos, learning turned me on, made my internal flame burn white. But all of the rest of my available time was dedicated to this mystery. Even in the face of enormous interest, I’d find a way to let my mind wander away from it, especially when textbook passages got dry.

I am only now beginning to compartmentalize, marking cases resolved. I want to be a bossy girl, too.

Standing Outside the Fire

My Kindle Fire has a slow processor. Not a big deal, except when I started it this morning, I clicked on my WordPress app and it said that the SD card where I’d stored the application wasn’t available, and I needed to re-download it. At roughly 0600, I am slow on the uptake, and I started to panic. Almost immediately, I thought, “JFC. I’m going to have to go back to factory settings to fix this thing.” Because that’s what I do. I get enough of tech support to last my whole life when I’m working. I don’t fix my own computers for shit. I keep everything in the cloud and on a 3 TB backup drive so that if anything goes wrong, I am free to wipe any device and just start over. It is my go-to answer for anything and everything.

I realize how ridiculous this sounds, especially since I am really good at troubleshooting problems on every operating system imaginable. But think of it this way…….. when I was working in a restaurant, the last thing I wanted to do was come home and cook for myself….. and that attitude has lasted for quite a while. I would much rather run on sandwiches/not dogs, snacks, and Cheerios with yogurt than stand in front of the stove. Part of it is indolence. Part of it is that meals have ceased to be an event. I need fuel, not fancy. When I got that through my head, my whole attitude toward food changed.

When I cook, I want to use all the classic techniques I’ve been taught, plate beautifully, etc. That pretty much means a thousand calories more than my computer ass needs…. and that’s a thing. My musician friends call it piano butt…. although I am sure that playing the piano is much more of a workout than playing the keyboard…. or maybe not, since I type 80 wpm on a bad day (let’s be clear- I type that fast when I’m thinking, but not nearly as fast when I’m copying something that can’t be cut and pasted, like a document….. and I’m too cheap to pay for good OCR software).

Speaking of documents, for one job in which I applied, I have no idea why, but they wanted a copy of my driving record. I ordered it over the Internet (not cheap), and it came with password protection. In order to upload it, instead of using OCR, I just printed it and rescanned it to a PDF. The encryption wasn’t hard, just my driver license number, but what employer wants to go through all that shit?

In case you’re wondering, and I’m sure you are, I haven’t had a wreck or a ticket in three years and three months, which means everything on my record has fallen off for insurance purposes. That may change with this latest wreck because I was ticketed for failure to control my speed, which basically means I wasn’t speeding per se, just going too fast for that curve since it wasn’t marked. And paying the city back comes out of the property damage part of my insurance, and I don’t know if that adds points to my insurance or not. I’ll have to ask my aunt, because even though she doesn’t write for Maryland, it would be easy enough for her to find out.

That being said, I have no plans to get a “new to me” car anytime soon. This is because when I am forced to walk everywhere, my depression fades into the background without having to buy a gym membership. Even the Y is expensive…. although I can’t help it. I saw on a Facebook image a copy of the application for the Y, and when asked how the client heard about the YMCA, he put The Village People. I am driving that into the ground for all eternity. Every Y application I fill out. Every. Single. One.

When DDD (Darling Dangerous Dana) and I lived in Portland, there was a YMCA that had pay as you go. It was like, $3.50 a visit. So perhaps I will call them and see if they have the same deal. I think it would be fun to walk to the Metro and back (about four miles) and then get into a hot tub almost as large as a swimming pool. My bathtub just cannot compete.

Walking downtown is infinitely easier than taking the bus. That is because the bus that picks me up at the end of my street (closer than the school bus when I was in elementary school) only runs about every half hour or so, whereas the bus that runs along Hwy. 29, Colesville Rd., runs every 10. However, in order to get to the direction toward downtown, you have to cross that busy highway in front of drivers who rarely, if ever, notice you at the crosswalk. I have almost been hit a number of times, and Franklin Ave., the crosswalk that has a light, has no sidewalk down to Colesville. I run the likelihood of getting hit either way, unless I manage to catch the 14. That bus is rad, though, because one direction goes directly to the Silver Spring Metro stop, and the other way goes directly to Takoma Park, where my favorite restaurant is located about three blocks away, Busboys & Poets. There are many in the city, but Takoma Park is so easily accessible that I’ve been to very few of the others. Taking the Metro is paramount, though, because parking is so limited Jesus might come before you get a space. It’s one of the few places I took my mom while she was here, so I also have that memory to tie me there… even more so that she liked it and thought it was cool.

The other thing that made me so happy is that she didn’t rent a car while she was here, because she wanted to see how I got around and see how my life really worked. We took public transportation everywhere, and it was so much fun to, for once, have someone sit next to me on every trip for a week. The only thing that went wrong is that my mom and I almost got separated on the Yellow Line, and I got stuck in the doors trying to keep my mom from wandering off without me, because trust me when I say that she was directionally challenged and being separated would not have ended well… especially since I didn’t have time to tell her to just wait for me in the station because the next train was only four minutes away.

They finally noticed me an opened the doors again in order to keep me from riding with half my body outside the car…. but I often wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t. #gozoey

Kevin Spacey. Gotta talk about it. You knew I would. Talk about standing outside the fire. That bastard blamed his behavior on drunkenness and gave every evangelical Christian in the nation reason to believe what they already do….. that pedophilia and homosexuality are the same. Luckily, there are less people on that bandwagon than there used to be, but how DARE he.

In the Catholic church, no communion wine is allowed to be left over at the end of the service. It’s like blaming raping an altar boy because the priest had to celebrate five times in a row.

Gay people aren’t predators. PREDATORS are predators.

Once more for the people in the back………

GAY PEOPLE AREN’T PREDATORS. PREDATORS ARE PREDATORS.

If you read the story in its entirety, Spacey got this kid alone (classic looking for a target) and then got on him like white on rice before this kid even knew what was happening to him.

Well, there goes watching Glengarry Glen Ross again.

Maybe Kevin Spacey should just GO TO LUNCH.

Standing inside the fire, because go to hell. I’ve spent too much time with too many narcissists to think you’ll ever change, and I won’t even give you the benefit of the doubt. You can share a table with Sam Adams, Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, and Mark Saling.

You can all deal with the heat together… and if, by some chance, hell freezes over, I hope it’s still cold enough to burn your skin off.

This is where I say the part where I’ve gone into my “nothing box,” and my actions will never meet up with my angry words. I’m not going to slice off their heads, but I for damn sure am going to fantasize about it…..

Standing outside the fire.

Tolstoy Abridged

…she had learned from experience that Need was a warehouse that could accommodate a considerable amount of cruelty.

-Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

It is funny the lengths to which we will go, the things we will withstand, when we think we need something or someone… most likely someone. Things are an achievable goal. People are moving targets of emotion. In most relationships, but not all, there is some bit of lopsidedness to it. Not everyone finds that marriage, that friendship, that boss in which esteem and respect are equal to one another.

And yet we go on, trying to please and tolerating others’ behaviors as if they are normal in order to learn their particular brand of dysfunction. As Leo Tolstoy says in Anna Karenina, “all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” No family is immune to it- to fit in, we adjust our expectations from the ways we were raised to the way they were… because equality is about compromise, and need is ingratiating ourselves, sublimating the parts of us that are completely different so “we’re on the same page.”

I didn’t learn this from my biological family. I learned it over years and years of emotional abuse. Early and often I changed my behavior so that I didn’t rock the boat, and walked on eggshells, afraid to be myself… because when I was, it was a signal to me that I wasn’t needed anymore. Agreement meant love; disagreement meant “I just don’t know what to do with you. I can’t win, so I’ll just leave.”

Appeasement was the name of the game, and we all do it, but some less than others. Take, for instance, your work phone voice and the voice you use when you’re just shooting the shit with your friends. If “the customer is always right,” sometimes that means swallowing words that need to be said and aren’t… mostly things like “you kiss your mother with that mouth?” Customer service is the only profession I know in which trying not to fake your own death so you don’t have to go to work is a daily struggle…. because people won’t unload on the others they’re mad at, but they have no problem treating the clerk at Target or the waiter at Jaleo like that. They think it’s impersonal, having no idea how deep their words cut… because hey, they’ll never see you again.

And that’s where they’re wrong. They need you. It’s not like they’re going to abandon going to Target or Jaleo, and they’ll see you again whether you want to see them or not. As soon as they walk in the door, you remember their “kick the dog” syndrome and try desperately to find someone else to help them.

But sometimes you’re stuck, and it’s a crapshoot as to whether they’ll remember and apologize.

This same behavior happens in relationships. We’re mad about something else, and unload on the people we love the most, because we know their softest spots. Unsurprisingly, they also retreat, and if the words cut deeply enough, and apology isn’t necessary, because they won’t hear it, anyway.

Because sometimes the emotional abuse is given, rather than received… especially if that’s what’s been modeled for you long enough. Others tiptoe around you, so that you don’t pick up your toys and go home… the exact scenario you were trying to avoid with someone else. You watch as they change their behavior around you, rarely self-aware enough to know they’re doing it, because you’re doing the same thing… your own egocentricity in the way… both saying to each other “please don’t leave me. I am broken and I know it, I just don’t know how to fix it.” Just not with words.

But that’s what happens with fully-functioning adults. As a child and an adult in any kind of relationship, the balance of power is off to an enormous degree… and any perceived anger is all their fault. There is nothing within them that says “this person is treating me unfairly and I need to stand up for myself.” This is because when the child tries to stand up for themselves, it leads to witholding of affection and long, drawn-out silences in which the child takes on the “I have to fix everything” mentality. Instead of another adult compromising themselves into your crazy as you adopt theirs, children cannot begin to comprehend what they’ve done wrong.

And often, this is the root of the problem with adults who also think that every slight is their fault. You don’t get away from it, there’s no relief until you can take back your own power… and it never, ever happens in an instant. It is a lifelong process of examining why you think the way you think, because even when you think you’ve made progress, you’ll fall back into old patterns because they are so ingrained. It is a lifetime of two steps forward, and between one and four steps back. Just like one is never cured of addiction, one is never cured of codependency.

Adulthood modeled badly for children leads to future adults that cannot trust their own intuition, often relying on other people they perceive as just as damaged as they are because they know they can take a healthy person and destroy them. Sometimes it’s a good thing to share experiences, as my friend Donna calls “compatible wounds.” At others, it’s one awful pattern feeding the other with no end in sight, because neither one is aware of just how much they’re doing to excoriate good memories.

The eternal rub, the thing that makes both of you bleed, is that when you’re saying awful words to each other, it’s really just a cover-up as to how you feel about yourself. If you think you’re worthless, that’s how you’ll treat others. You don’t really think that about the other person, you’re expressing your own disgust at yourself, and it comes across as rage and anxiety… words coming out of your mouth before you even have a chance to connect consequences. If someone has treated you that way, why would you? It’s “what you’re supposed to do” in an argument. For two people abused as children, these are fights that are designed to cut both people off at the knees, mutually assured destruction in which both parties have trouble standing back up.

The craziness continues because you’re so afraid of getting “crazy spatter” on healthy people… or at least, the people we view as such… not really taking in that everyone is fighting a battle of some sort. These days, I tend to believe that there are no healthy people, only healthy actions… and, as Elizabeth Gilbert says, “I don’t know of any story of self-enlightenment that doesn’t begin with getting tired of your own bullshit.” I had to decide to get healthy. I had to decide it was time to, in the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians, “put away childish things.” However, just like deciding to come out as GLBT, you don’t do it once… you do it every day. I can’t just decide once. I will die having to make these decisions.

If Need accommodates cruelty, it is a choice to step away from it…. not once, but each and every day. I would amend that statement to say that Need only accommodates cruelty when it is based in lopsided affection, when you think you need something not meant for you. Healthy need is interdependence, not wishing and hoping someone will finally realize what you have to offer… because pro tip… they won’t. Users that make it impossible to please them will only move on to someone else when they realize they can’t get adoration from you anymore. They’ll just lovebomb someone else until they’re so wrapped up in the lovebombing that they can’t understand why it would go away, and what they did to deserve it.

“Putting away childish things” is the realization that you know exactly what you did. You took those childhood behaviors and carried them into adulthood, where they no longer serve you… but again, it’s not a realization that happens once, but every time you interact with others. You have to ask yourself if you are really happy and healthy, or in the company of others, whether everyone is just unhappy in their own way. You have to stand up and say………….

I’m not going to get into the ring with Tolstoy. – Ernest Hemingway

Crater

Every so often, I can hear the earth thud when my words drop, and I just stare at the crater that they’ve left. This was confirmed for me when Argo wrote to me (a relatively long time ago) that she could hear the sonic boom from my last post. Those are the entries that frighten me the most, the ones where even my better angels fear to tread. There are days when I battle nausea just to get the words out, because I know I have to put them on paper, damn the consequences… because if I don’t, I will continue to be the same person I always was, not remembering how I felt in the moment because there is no record of it.

I have said many times, Fanagans, that this blog is not for you. It is for me, and you are invited.

You see my imperfections as extremely loud and incredibly close as I do, but there is something else I must explain. My writing life lags behind my actual life. I have trouble describing an experience as it is happening. I need clarity from the passage of time to even bring words to emotions. Falling in love with Argo’s words while I was still married to Dana is absolutely the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life. I accept that I was the cause, and saying “happened to me” is a misnomer. I am only talking about the consequences here, and not the pawns I moved. Dana was my best friend. How could I betray her like that? And yet, I did. I own it. It was a mistake. A big one, the fallout is massive as I pick up the pieces and try to arrange them into a different mosaic.

Moving to Silver Spring is the best thing I could have done, because my friends live in either DC or on the Virginia side. I am an hour away from any one of them, forced to sit in my silence as I recover from the mess I’ve made.

Every day looks the same now. I send out resumes for big jobs and little ones, because even working at Safeway requires an online application. Usually, if the job is for a store, I will go and meet the manager before I submit the application so that he/she will remember my name when the online app comes across. However, I have not gotten many bites. I am extraordinarily overqualified on paper to bag groceries, but how do you explain to the manager that’s exactly what you want? To be lost in repetition, because that’s really all you can handle right now, and you’ll be good at it, because muscle memory will take over rather than having to get lost in my head.

I would do anything not to get lost in my head for eight full hours a day.

I take my Kindle everywhere I go, because public transportation takes a long time, no matter where you’re going. Right now, I am lost in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, the Voyager novel specifically. I wish I could say that I get lost in the story, but there are too many parallels for me to ignore my own life as I read. I do not want to spoil anything for people who are just now getting into the series thanks to the TV show (Starz), but my take on it is that once I got past the betrayal of one love for another in Outlander, there’s another one later on in the series that smacks of home, too.

Home.

What a foreign concept now.

In my head, home is still with Dana on some days, because it was so stable. We had a passionate relationship for many years, right up until it wasn’t. We broke up the minute we got to Houston, because she betrayed me. Flat out. I won’t say why, but I will say that the fissure it caused was enough that when we got back together, I forgave her, but I didn’t forget. Our relationship limped along under its own weight because I wanted to heal and move on from the damage that was done, but I couldn’t. It was too much, too fast… and I would like to believe that she knew it. I would like to believe that betrayal was her way of saying “I want out,” but not telling me directly. I was angry… so angry that I told her to leave- go back to Virginia if she wanted. She had enough of her own resources to do whatever she wanted, and I do not know how or why we worked it out, because it happened so fast. It will take years to untangle that knot in my head.

Truth be told, we were exhausted. Both of us in our own way. I’d been through a tempest in the realization that I’d been emotionally abused as a teenager and still wasn’t over it. It slayed me. I talked about it over and over and over while ignoring that it was isolating her. I was folding into myself, and the only one I would let in was Argo. I told her straight out that I was writing to her because I thought Dana had already been given her fair share, and a fresh set of eyes/ears on the problem was necessary. I was leaning on Argo because Dana was beginning to tell me with her actions that I was too much to handle, and later said those words out loud.

I reeled at those words, because in terms of “too much to handle,” I have not cornered the market. Dana and I are equal in terms of the emotional problems we have, but I will talk about them. Dana will not, even to me, and in a relationship, that is everything. Everything. She wanted to break up because she was happy in her bubble, and I was exploding mine.

And please keep in mind two things- I am not writing about Dana’s reality. I am writing about my reaction to her. Her story is not mine to tell, I can only tell you what I was feeling. She told me a couple of weeks ago to stop writing lies about her on my blog. I told her that if she thought I was writing lies to get her own blog. This is not her place to vent.

It is mine.

Her perceptions are never going to line up with mine. Never. That’s why we broke up. We weren’t seeing eye to eye on anything, and instead of opening up to each other, we destroyed the relationship instead. I look at the way Jaime and Claire interact in Outlander, and know that I am ready to have someone that will bare their soul to me without reservation. I am not interested in a relationship with someone who cannot reflect on themselves. I am also not interested in being in relationship with someone who views me as scary, which was Dana’s excuse for all the reasons she kept things from me.

The reality is that yes, I am scary sometimes, because I can almost guarantee that in letters and conversations I can go deeper than you. I have a dark passenger, Dexter-like in its intensity and execution. Not many people can handle it, and I am tired of interacting with those people.

It’s not that I won’t. I am just tired. Exhausted, even.

People who are not in touch with themselves force me to hide a lot of who I am, because I know that they aren’t ready or willing to hear me where I am… to love me for all my drive and passion and not make me force it down.

In terms of deep friendship and romance, Dana and Argo were both the wrong choice at the wrong time. I say it was the wrong time, because perhaps later in life this will not be so; they both walk with thick armor, intense but not emotionally so. Their upbringing was the classic WASP stuff and deny. To talk about issues rather than pretend they don’t exist is as foreign to them as language immersion in Klingon.

The difference between Dana and Argo is that when I began writing, I struck a chord with Argo. I do not know what went through Dana’s head, because she didn’t really talk about it until we were leaving each other behind. I cannot speak to it. With Argo, she latched on to my words and told me so. That they gave her strength because I could be open in a way that she could not. It was an enormous compliment, just enormous. Those compliments carried me through the darkest time in my life so far, because it wasn’t just that one.

I have said before that she is not a God person. When I told her I was starting a church, she said she thought it was awesome and that she didn’t believe in God, but she did believe in me.

When she hurt, I prayed, and she said she thought of me as her “pinch hitter.”

My self-esteem grew, and so did the fissure with Dana… not because of my feelings for Argo as much as not knowing how to relate to the person I was becoming. In retrospect, I think I knew Dana was pulling away, and even though it wasn’t right, I leaned toward Argo to heal from it.

Because even though Argo wasn’t a lesbian and wasn’t in love with me, she loved my words… and I loved her for it. At that time in my life, it wasn’t so much needing external validation. I wasn’t looking to her for that. She was the one that kept up the attaboys when I was willing to throw down on this web site. As I led, she followed. As I told her, “your words are balm.” Lip balm. She was the Dr Pepper Bonnie Bell Lip Smacker of Stories That Are All True.

And as I wore this lip balm, my words got stronger. I revealed a lot about myself that I couldn’t talk about out loud, but somehow had no problem releasing quietly over the Internet and letting people react on their own. I learned that this was how I needed to get through life. I needed to work on my own shit and let people have their reactions away from me, because their reactions were not mine to own.

My actions were mine to own.

I have learned so much about who I am by reading this web site in retrospect, giving myself time to heal from the “sonic boom” and reading with compassion for the person that I was… because then I have enough separation from the damage that I’ve caused to read as if these stories happened to someone else. As a perfectionist, I would never berate someone else the way I thrash myself in my own mind.

There are no words that would adequately express my sorrow over the way I’ve treated my family and my friends, but I hope these words will help. Behind my enormous ego, I am just a fourteen year old girl, development arrested and trying to cover for it. So if you’ve ever thought my actions were childish, you’re right. I am just now learning how to adult.

If you have been abused in your life, sexually or otherwise, that statement may resonate with you. In the hundreds of abuse survivors I’ve physically met and talked to over the Internet, it seems as if we are all arrested at the age we were when the abuse occurred, and if we’re older than that, we’re all covering for it. We’re all learning how to adult far past the age when it should have occurred naturally… not because we are malicious, but because we are unprepared.

There have been times in my life that I have lied pathologically to escape punishment to avoid further emotional abuse… not to hurt anyone, but to put up a shield between me and the rest of the world… emotionally holding my arm over my face and saying “please don’t hurt me anymore.” Nothing should ever be able to penetrate my cave, because it is not safe out there… or at least, that has been my reaction to everything until now. It took lowering the boom on myself to really see what was wrong.

Because if you can’t see it, it’s not there.

It’s in the crater, the one you can choose to explore if you are brave enough to hike downward, not knowing where the strength lies in pulling yourself back up. The thing is, though, as you work through your own issues, you discover your own worth, and that is the earth that fills in the hole under you so all of the sudden, you are back on level ground.

Amen.

Get Real

My friend Sash gave me a huge compliment when I was going for a job interview in Portland. She said, “just be Leslie, and let the world fall in love.” Of course I cried. Are you kidding me? Now I’m just in the process of finding out what that means to me. I’ve been such a tool lately that it’s trying to find balance in the middle of the storm I created, so that it fades back into Portland spitting. There’s never going to be a time in my life where there’s no rain, but there’s a way to handle it and a way to let it handle you. I want to cross over. I have given my power away so many times that I don’t even know where it is. I see inklings, especially now that people are starting to recognize me as a writer.

It’s an interesting gig, being a writer. There are no rules except complete isolation, and I mean that in the best way possible. You become an observer in the quiet, because the interruption in the silence ruins sentences that cannot be reconstructed in the same way. It’s another excellent reason to be single, because I know that isolation is necessary and that bothers girlfriends. A lot. I have said many times that the perfect girlfriend for me lives at least ten miles away, and I mean it. I don’t think that Dana and I will ever reconnect as a married couple, but I do know this for sure. We would have been so much more successful when she moved out, because I got a taste of it when I moved into my own bedroom. It allowed me to feel autonomous and married at the same time. So, future significant other, please have a big house. I’m thinking at least four bedrooms with a maid, because bitch please. I know myself. If we have five bedrooms, I want her to live with us and follow me around with a dust buster and a trash bag. I am a Virgo, and I want things perfect and precise. I am ADHD, which means that I cannot live up to my own standards. What do you do in that case? What all people do in these cases. Hire an undocumented worker.

I want to be a person that offers sanctuary to those less fortunate, whether it has two legs or four. Undocumented workers need jobs. Children need love because, for whatever reason, they’ve been given up by their biological parents. Abandoned pets need homes. There is never going to be a shortage of need, and there seems to be a shortage in kindness. I am not judging, I am just reflecting on the fact that there are people waiting for white babies and letting minority children starve. There are people who have no problem with the homeless because they don’t see them, anyway. There are dogs and cats that stay in shelters because their personalities are great, but they just don’t have “the look.”

I am not one of those people who’s interested in adopting 15 children and 73 dogs. I’m just one of those people that will love the ones I am capable of saving. I know there’s a dog in my future, because I love my adopted ones now. Daisy belongs to Samantha, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t glued to me when I’m around. We love to walk and talk, and I tell her all my problems, because like God, she doesn’t talk back in words. It’s helpful. I’ve told her the story of my life so far, and she still walks with me. That’s grace and mercy all rolled into one. She just listens without judging and licks my face when tears well up.

I seem to cry a lot. That’s because my emotions run so deep that I cannot help but show them. It’s the blessing and the curse of being in touch with your feelings. The blessing part is feeling everything deeply and knowing what you think about it. The curse is wearing your heart on your sleeve in public. When my dad brought me a Springboks jersey from South Africa, he told the story of getting to meet Desmond Tutu, and I fell apart at the seams. My heart just swelled, which came out in tears and lots of snot.

Sometimes I hate it when I………… emote. It’s embarrassing, really. But at the same time, I have been so closed off for so long that I think it’s natural to overdo it until you find a balance. It will come with time, but it’s not like a manic swing. It’s just that I don’t hide myself anymore. I don’t try to keep myself from feeling things. I don’t stuff and deny anymore, which is more than I can say for my past.

It helps me when I am on the street. Really, it does. You would think it would be a barrier between homeless people and me, because you’d think every story drives the tears and the snot and the whatnots and whathaveyous. But no. Actually, it helps me meet them where they are. It helps me to listen without judgment as to how they got where they are and why they’re having trouble pulling themselves back to safety. Mostly, I believe it is mental illness. With mental illness, it’s hard to hold down a job. I know because it’s happened to me. If I didn’t have loving parents and friends, I would have ended up homeless long ago, because they pull me back into my body, back into my godspace so that I can center myself enough to face another day. People with social anxiety do not do well at work. They just don’t. They cover their fear and anxiety to the point that no one can figure out what’s wrong, but something is. They do know that much.

I had no idea how much my childhood trauma played into the adult that I am until I went to the hospital for psych issues. That’s because what I thought was just anxiety was every symptom on the trauma checklist. My reactions were finely tuned over time, so that no one could guess how much pain I was really feeling. It was stuffed down deep into my core, and I could not handle it anymore. I had to come clean, and when I did, the best thing happened. People LISTENED. They understood me in a way that they’d never had the chance before, because I wouldn’t talk.

Argo was so sweet when she said to keep talking, because I could save the next girl if I did. I hope that’s true, because I would like nothing more. It took me so long to realize who I actually was instead of who I thought I needed to be in the world to survive. Survival led me to dark places in my mind that I never want to revisit. Instead, I talk to my ghosts as they slowly fly back into the ether.

I should really write an age-appropriate version of “The Cost of Shame,” because emotional abuse is so hard to find that young girls might not even realize it’s happening. Whenever I doubt the fact that I was emotionally abused, I turn back to my eighth grade history teacher, who saw it happening. It was so clear to her, and so defiantly murky to me. I never would have given her up, even if there had been massive destruction to me, because I thought our relationship was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me.

I didn’t know it wasn’t until I got real with myself and others. It was then I realized THAT was the best thing that ever happened to me instead.