Thanks, Y’all

Lately I’ve noticed that my stats and followers are going way, way up. The Board of Directors (donors that set me up years ago) is going to be pleased. Not that I’m counting on you to give them stock dividends or anything, but it’s good to be able to say to them that their contributions didn’t go to waste. No one has been more surprised than me to learn that my writing is actually worth something, that people are willing to pay when they come to a site they can read in the bathroom at work with no ads (don’t think I don’t know that last part is fo’real). I’m starting to feel more comfortable with telling you how I feel about issues as opposed to just running commentary on my life, going from personal to global. Not every entry will be about politics and the weather, but it’s nice to know it’s possible. You’ve just made a lot of my friends more comfortable, that’s for damn sure…. well, except the ones that are genuinely excited when they appear and search for their names.  ::squinting at James::

Hopefully in the running commentary department, you’ll get to hear more about “my babies,” the three new characters I’ll be adding to Stories in the coming year. The twins (boys) were born a few days ago, and the little girl whose face I already love will be born in the next few months. Rooting for her to be a not-too-early preemie so one of my best friends doesn’t have to be gigantic pregnant in the South in the dead of summer. I’ll never give up writing about my life, because this site will first and foremost be the repository where my memories go so that a hundred years from now, genealogy on me won’t be hard. Here’s everything you never wanted to know about me, kids. Sometimes it’s comforting that writing on the Internet is as permanent as a tattoo on the face, because even if WordPress doesn’t exist, Wayback Machines that archive everything on the net certainly will. I know because I can still access Clever Title Goes Here, the popular blog I impulsively tanked because I had a much thinner skin then.

It was a #dumbass attack, because I was in on the ground floor, when Heather Armstrong, Anil Dash, Wil Wheaton, Jason Kottke, Eden Kennedy, Ernie Hsuing, et al were also coming up. It felt amazing to be part of such rareified air, especially w/ Wil, because I met him at a reading at Powell’s and he knew exactly who I was, signing a copy of Just a Geek with:

Dear Leslie,

Clever Inscription Goes Here…

Love,
Wil

Writing has never been about money, but respect. I’ve never gotten rich off it, but it was nice to walk in those circles. The difference now is that my entries are generally much longer, with more to chew on. Hopefully you’ve picked up nuggets of wisdom along the way by me laying out all that I’ve done wrong AND right, rather than thinking I pimp out my friends.

Believe me when I say that they notice, all alert to the fact that they never know when an entry will pop up about them, and within limits, I will not give them the luxury of taking things down, because it’s not about them. It’s about my reaction to them, however untrue they think my statements are… there’s a reason for this. I am aware that I have huge flaws and get things wrong a lot. I change my mind on a weekly, if not daily basis. I am not waffling, it’s that every entry is full of my revelations to myself and what I think about what happens. I can only hope that when I write about my life, it is the good and the bad, so that you see a full picture instead of only amazing and horrible with no grey area. Something that was true for me on Monday is not true by Thursday. Evolution of thought happens, as does cognitive dissonance with relationships. Sometimes, disparate ends of the spectrum are both true.

For instance, I will never give up loving my friends and myself, even in those moments where I’m not altogether pleased with them/me. Just like you, I love them even when I can’t like their actions whole lot. But fortunately, not being happy about what they do in reaction to me is extremely infrequent, and I have no problem with not excusing how I behave, because I don’t often come away from a situation looking like a hero…. more often than not, I’m the antagonist and the protagonist in my own story. Through this web site, I have learned not to always be the one that throws the first match. I see up close in black and white how I could have done something differently, and I do. I look back and say to myself, well, that could have gone better.

Stories is basically a chronicle of learning to get out of my own way. I try to gather intel on how not to sabotage the good things that come my way. Also, I am a person in 3D. You don’t get to know everything, and often when people meet me in real life that have only known my writing, they comment on how different I seem (I thought you’d be taller. #dead).

The weirdest and most fulfilling is hearing people quote me to me, because it just feeds my self-esteem that there are indeed lines that stick with people.

On the flip side, it’s excruciating to meet readers who try and prove to me that they know me better than me because of the silly thoughts I write down, not allowing for the fact that my thoughts evolve. This has happened on several occasions because I put my URL in my OKCupid profile. I don’t use it for much except finding local friends, but I will never be friends with a fan who’s impressed and/or throws things I’ve written back in my face because it holds me to my past instead of allowing for the future. If they knew me well, throwing things I’ve written back in my face wouldn’t matter, because I know that they’re not trying to hurt me, just showing me old patterns of behavior and wondering if I might be repeating them. A first meeting is not that emotional place.

I will not take my URL off my profile, though, because it’s a separating the women from the girls sort of thing. If someone can’t deal with the fact that I write so publicly, the relationship won’t last for more than about five minutes.

I feel like I should buy five or 10 t-shirts with the words I’m blogging this and just wear them daily. This is because I’ve had several non-romantic relationships end over not knowing and caring a little too much when the mirror I hold up to the world points toward them. Often these are the same people that say I have great insights regarding everyone else, and those insights don’t translate to them. I can write about everyone in the world amazingly well except for them.

I get it. It’s not a big deal until it’s personal.

My heart is heavy thinking about the lives I’ve interrupted out of idiocy and not malice, often presenting as headaches or stomachaches. It’s the entire reason CTGH doesn’t exist. I got tired of this whole idea, forsaking the thousands of people who genuinely loved my writing and my excoriation of myself in the quest to make me a better person. No one should ever think that being a personal blogger is easy, because it comes with…….. consequences.

With Stories, I constantly adjust the limits to which my writing matters more than my friends, because in some ways, my on the ground relationships take precedence. In others, I have to look at what matters more, my ideas or theirs. It’s an inner landscape, and I should be allowed to have it. I often choose between being self and other-aware.

….because a lot of my inner landscape is me emotionally bleeding out to find others who’ve had similar experiences and say, I know how that feels. I have worn that scar on my skin…. because maybe someone in my real life has never had my experience, but someone in China has… and can look at my situation more objectively than I can because they’re not in it or of it.

I need people that disagree with me, call me on my bullshit… to gently argue with me to get me to see something they do.

Personal blogging is a mixed bag, just like me.

Black Coffee with Splenda

Because yesterday’s post got so many likes, I feel that talking about depression, anxiety, and ADHD are fairly universal. So, I want to speak to a little more to connect with “my tribe” (I accidentally typed “trible” before tribe,  reminding me of one of the only Star Trek references I actually get. I’m the only nerd I know who’s maybe seen three episodes….. and The Trouble with Tribbles is one of them.).

It is amazing how much I will give up out of anxiety. For instance, I need to go to the grocery store in the worst way, because I’m out of milk and coffee creamer. I haven’t because I couldn’t people. I like sweet black coffee, so it wasn’t a big deal, but still. If I’d been a little more brave, I’d have fat in my coffee right now. I need it, because when I’m this down, I won’t eat. I don’t have a block on drinking, so I try to add calories to my day in coffee or Instant Breakfast. I think it’s because I feel out of control, so not eating is the one thing in which I do have domain. It’s not an eating disorder, I don’t think, because I’m mindful of the fact that I still need intake. It’s just the delivery method with which I have issues. Sometimes I will order pizza as not to leave the house. I’m making it to all my appointments and such. It’s the voluntary socialization that goes by the wayside, unless Dan calls or Pri Diddy is in town. They are the two people I will let see me even when I feel the worst.

It’s funny that Pri and I have been friends since, like, 2002 over the Internet, and met in person when she and her friend Nina came to Portland years later. I thought moving to DC would be a way for us both to be a part of each other’s daily lives, and not long after, she left. I don’t begrudge her wanderlust, though, because she’s gotten to see some amazing places and is now relatively parked in Rome. So, part of the reason that I will drop everything for her is that we have friend intimacy (into me see- Harville Hendrix), and part of it is that we don’t see each other that often and I have to make time with her where I can get it.

With Dan, she helped me get through my mother’s death by sharing her own experiences. Therefore, I will drop everything to support her, because she supported me first. I actually met her online as well, but after a few days of writing back and forth, we met up at Ted’s Bulletin and it’s been on like Donkey Kong  ever since.

So, to Pri and Dan, thanks for being the two people I can stand all the time.

As a depressed introvert INFJ, my personality type dictates that I will only have one or two close friends at a time. It is very true. I would much rather have an inner circle than a ton of acquaintances. Small talk drives me up the wall, so I don’t hate people. Rather, I hate people in groups (I accidentally sent a voice dictated e-mail to a friend saying I hit people in groups and had to apologize for my phone not understanding my accent. I think the last time I was proficient at typing on a phone, it was the Palm Treo.).

Having bipolar depression is a little different, because when I’m on a hypohigh, or Diet High as I’ve coined, impulse control goes out the window. The only time this has really bitten me in the ass is not realizing I was flirting with straight girls too hard and didn’t mean to offend them, but I absolutely did. The memory is so cringeworthy I wish I could delete it.

Other cringeworthy hypohigh moments include off the charts rage, and couldn’t help transference to someone who didn’t deserve it. I wasn’t mad at her, I was mad at life. She just happened to “walk by,” and I stepped in it up to my ass. I pissed off the one person in my life that would destroy me if I couldn’t talk to her anymore, and then it did.

Yes, it was Argo. Yes, that ship sailed (I see what I did there). Even though Argo is actually named after the ship, I can’t even watch the movie without feeling pain, a damn shame because it used to be my favorite (it’s like talking to those two old fucks from The Muppets). I forgot in those moments that this was the same person about which I wrote I sleep deeply in the belly of the ship, for I know my passage is safe and one of the reasons I spill so much to you is that I feel like I go into my God space. I can’t know that God is listening, but I know you are. Those are my true feelings about her, but “being high” turned me into a loose cannon jackass, and I said some truly hurtful things for which I will never be able to apologize enough to make things right.

When cortisol is racing through my brain, I sometimes feel as if I leave my body and lose sight of important things, like some words not being able to be forgiven. “Sticks and stones” is a crock of shit. Sometimes, I’m not fighting with the person in front of me, they’re just the unlucky target and the person who deserves it isn’t even in the room. I had that realization from one of the comments on my marriage post, because it cut into my heart with Truth.™ Reflecting years later, it has only carried more weight.

I let my “dark passenger” rule me because I couldn’t stop long enough to realize what was happening. In the years since, I have learned how to control brain race with cognitive behavioral therapy so that I don’t “go there” with anyone else. Changed behavior is probably the best apology I’ll ever be able to offer.

CBT helps remind me that I am kind, lovable, and easygoing. Rage is just my illness talking, and not who I really am. For the record, though, over the top rage comes with a long fuse. I will sit there and think for a long time before I explode, just a Mento™ suddenly dropping into a Diet Coke™ because I’ve been stuffing so many emotions down. So, CBT says let’s not do that.

When you know better, you do better…. or at least, that is what is supposed to happen.

On my very best days, I feel six feet tall and bulletproof. On my worst, I have to take Klonopin just to make a phone call.

It’s all about balance.

Boss Music

I don’t know what it is, but I am feeling heart-pounding, nauseous anxiety today. I just took 1mg of Klonopin and am waiting for it to kick in. I’ve gotten down to Klonopin prn rather than BID, 051f2a74996fd032410fb6966aa7b50038ff44-v5-wmbecause some days are much better than others. I do self check-ins a lot, running through the list of things that might be the root cause, and here, in no particular order, is what bothers me the most.

  • My mom just died three seconds ago instead of October 2016.
  • I did the right thing by getting a divorce, but what’s next? How do I find it?
  • I absolutely did the wrong thing by getting a divorce and the grief will never go away. Give up trying.
  • Argo and I called it quits because I did all the wrong things even though I didn’t want to and old programming ate my lunch and there will never be a bacon cheeseburger and it is absolutely all my fault and I will never stop being sad and I will never find a person I want to walk next to me on my journey more than her and I don’t want to hurt anyone else and OMFG I cannot even when does it stop and how do I get there quickly because it can’t keep gnawing at my soul every day? Do I just die sad about it? I probably will because I have to actually meet people to solve the problem and I don’t get out much and this is going to lead to everyone leaving me out of plans because it’s so likely I won’t come because I’m a terrible person that way. (Read this all in one shallow breath, very quickly, squishing all the words together with no spaces.)
  • Old programming.
  • I am a terrible person all the way around and therefore, pretty unlovable.
  • I abandoned Dana. I shouldn’t have been so quick to leave her in a relatively new city and I did it, anyway.
  • I have to make small talk with the grocery clerk.
  • I have to organize.
  • I will be alone for the rest of my life (when I’m not depressed, this is delicious).
  • Even though I’ve been told I have much to be proud of, I can’t take it in.
  • When is the part where I learn to deal with success so I don’t continue to torch everything to the ground when I find it? Burn it anyway!
  • When is my Jimmy Neutron hair going to finally grow out?
  • Nothing. Nothing is actually wrong. It’s just my brain telling me it is.

It is at this point that someone needs to tell me to calm the fuck down and slow my roll. Not every problem needs to be fixed in the next fifteen minutes. But if someone did tell me to calm down, it would make me even more anxious out of fear that I’m not capable.

I’m waiting for the drug to kick in because it will slow down the freight train. As of this very moment, fight, flight, and freeze are duking it out. My adrenaline is way too high and my heartbeat is racing. I wish I had some methylphenidate to take once my heart is back to normal, because unlike a normal brain, it will also make me take a step back and concentrate on solutions to one problem at a time instead of 57 channels screaming at me simultaneously, all of them going to 11 (why don’t you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?). I could go to the doctor, but I won’t.

I don’t need to be on that train all the time. It’s great in the moment, and over time is just bad juju. Maybe I just need to wait for the nine-year-old dealers to get out of school (that was a joke). Real Sudafed PE™ is an option, though. Some of the same effect and OTC.

OK, the first twinges of relief are washing over me, although my chest is still tight and I’m struggling to breathe all the way down.

I took the time to watch the Monty Python witch scene linked to above, and now my breathing and heart rate are getting back to normal. Time to drink another cup of coffee (the other main stimulant I use to s l o w  d o w n). Coffee is a lifeline because it’s cheap and effective.

Do not try this if you are not ADHD (I am not hyperactive, but the DSM doesn’t differentiate anymore). The amount it takes for me would keep you up for days. In me, however, it wouldn’t even slow down a desire to nap.

Speaking of stimulants, there’s a great documentary on Netflix called Take Your Pills. It covers everything from people taking it just to get an advantage to people who really need those drugs to function. I absolutely agree that it is over-prescribed, especially to children because it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between ADHD and six. But in cases where the disorder is real and it’s deep, they’re a lifeline.

medicated_for_your_protection_large_mugWhen I was on them, I learned enough coping mechanisms to stop them. Or, at least I think I did, which is why I sometimes put that problem in my pipe and smoke it. Endgame is always #nope. While your brain is steady, the rest of your body isn’t. Your appetite is suppressed to the point of nausea and it leads to your brain telling your body to eat your muscles for breakfast. It dismantles care of your teeth, just like street meth. I could go on, but those two are scary enough.

It is a continuing problem that sometimes I have to choose between mentally crazy and physically healthy.

The best medication for that is knowing I am not alone, even when I’m hearing the boss music.

Splitting Up (But Not Together)

Last night I watched Ellen Degeneres’ new show, Splitting Up Together. She’s not in it, she’s the producer. So, I expected a comedy about a family struggling to keep it together despite divorcing and trading off kid care. Every week, mom and dad switch places. One lives in the house, one lives in the garage. I laughed a lot, and I will definitely keep watching. What I didn’t count on, however, is crying so hard I wanted to curl up into the fetal position and eat an entire package of Oreos™ while mainlining Diet Coke.™ For the record, I did not. It was This is Us-level stabbing into emotional wounds, but perhaps it’s for the best. It does feel amazingly cathartic.

As most of you know, I am estranged from my wife, and have been for years now, but we still have a domestic partnership in Oregon that says we aren’t. The recording of our entire relationship plays in my head constantly, and not because I ever want to reconcile. That part of my life is over, and I am looking forward to the chapters that are coming and excited I got a fresh start in a new city. That part is solid, and I don’t feel like I’m still in love with her, or pining, or any of those things. But I do feel empathy for her and all that went wrong, all the things I should have taken responsibility for and didn’t, and all the things I thought at the time were her fault and absolutely weren’t. I can’t live in regret, and most of the time, I don’t. What is true for me is that I am absolutely split myself. I don’t regret the actions I took to completely get away from her, because I know myself. I would have kept trying to make things work whether they were wanted or not for years upon years. I’m an empath. I feel my own and others’ pain so deeply that it’s like walking around with an open wound. But at least it’s clean. So, therefore, the split comes from wishing things could have been different and being utterly amazed at how they really are. Both of those things are true, and I can live with cognitive dissonance for the rest of my life if the past is any indication.

I can’t speak for Dana, but what I believe happened is that both of us took our eyes off the ball, because we had been taking care of each other for so long that it never occurred to either of us that something could happen that would make us not. That fact does not make us special. I think it’s universal for half the population. The television show just reminded me of it by playing Ben Folds’ The Luckiest while the husband reexamined something he’d done to wound his wife, realizing that he’d lost her even though she was right there. I’ve had that feeling since, oh, about fifteen seconds after we broke up. I know for certain that I might find someone else, or I might stay ridiculously happy as a single person, because either way, life is what I make it. That being said, there will never be another relationship like Dana’s and mine. It will be quite different, hopefully for the better, because I won’t settle for less. I think it’s okay to realize how incredible something was and love it without wishing time would go backward. I think it’s okay to think, wow. I really messed things up without wishing to make the amends necessary to put a relationship right. Sometimes, you just have to let relationships rest in peace, but rumination is necessary to keep from making the same mistake twice. I also treasure just about every memory I have with Dana, but don’t wish to make new ones.

Originally, I really hoped that our separation would be so good for us because it would ultimately lead us back to each other. Now, I think that what was meant to happen did. After some time had passed, I realized that there were fundamental issues we’d never solve, especially if I continued to write, and absolutely no amount of threatening me would have ever (EVER, not in my five dollar life. Die mad about it.) made me give up the relationship with Argo. I could redirect a lot of energy, but my boundary was don’t make me stop talking to her altogether. I am still continually proud that I stood up for myself, not an easy task for someone so Type B I’m the poster child.

I hardly have hard lines at all, but that was one of them. Just an absolute deal breaker. I wouldn’t let her isolate me from a life line, because at that time in my life, she was. Especially because she wasn’t geographically close to me, she could listen more objectively than anyone else in my life. Two things about that…. the first is that I loved her because she had no horse in the race. The second is that she was my safe place, not ours, but I am absolutely certain that she would have been had Dana put in the effort. She either didn’t or wouldn’t, a mystery that I can’t and won’t solve. I am sure it is my fault in a lot of ways, but in others, it’s a choice she made and I had nothing to do with it.

For me, it was like Stedman saying to Oprah, I will lose my shit perpetually if you don’t stop talking to Gayle…. maybe not a fair comparison because it’s not like Argo and I had ever taken a road trip, or even shaken hands, but letters go a long way (literally and figuratively). It’s not exactly logical, but it’s how I felt and I take nothing away from it. Logic is not emotion and vice versa. Trying to make it so (see what I did there?) has never worked in the history of the world.

I needed them both in different ways, as is how it should be. I never should have had to think about giving up one for the other, but Dana lost. You don’t get to say truly shitty things to me and then not give me a place to vent about it to get perspective, perhaps even realizing that it wasn’t that shitty, just a piece of reality that I needed to check. Argo was no stranger to calling me out on my bullshit, which is exactly why you need THAT friend in the first place. Who else would I have let get away with calling me a judgmental dickhead and laugh my ass off about it rather than sulking in a corner?

I know me. We’ve met.

Of course there were other issues that led to our demise, but I don’t want to talk about them, because they were problems that stemmed from what I believe was on Dana, and that isn’t mine to dissect.

What is mine is what I own, what I did to make things fall apart.

I can’t heal the split between us, I can only heal the split in me. But that won’t ever mean forgetting how much I absolutely adore Dana’s spirit, because my love for every one of my relationships is written in marble, and my anger is written in sand.

It has done me well to remember that……………..

I don’t get many things right the first time,
In fact, I am told that a lot.

I was The Luckiest.

The Sook and the Book

I am starting this entry at 0613, and it is currently 28º (F) in the nation’s capital. Opinions are mixed as to whether we’ll get any snow this week. Being the snow lover that I am, here’s hoping. If we do get any, Capital Weather Gang is saying it will be the last little bit. Spring is coming early, and the Cherry Blossom Festival is scheduled around St. Patrick’s Day.

As long as I’ve lived here (three years in Silver Spring, MD and, in 2001-2, 18 months in Alexandria, VA), I’ve never been. Perhaps I will brave the crowds this year just to take pictures. The Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial make an excellent backdrop for the flowers… so much so that there are plenty of photographers better than I am who’ll sell their images to the media for almost as much as an average IT paycheck. Maybe I’ll skip taking pictures and just “live in the now,” although my camera is an excellent way to be alone in the midst of a crowd.

Photography allows me to feel like I am floating above the fray, which is exactly the way I like it. I have a lot to do before I can think about pictures, though. As I’ve said, I’m now on my second book review. I’m not finished with the book yet, and I have to get a rough draft to my editor by Thursday. This book is also about a group of women, which I didn’t know when I offered to write about it. I was hoping for something completely different just based on the title. However, it is a little different in that the women are British and the slang doesn’t always translate well. Sometimes I can pick it up just from context clues, sometimes I feel dumber than usual. I also have no idea what any of the acronyms mean. I need to get in touch with an ABP,™ which in my own lexicon stands for “Authentic British Person.” That being said, I don’t have any friends in Manchester (I don’t think), and I don’t know how much of the language is regional. My go-to ABP is from Scotland, and I’m sure she’d help me out to the extent that she could, but I think I’ll actually finish the book and then think about reaching out.

I will say that the writing style is different and much more emotional. I got weepy yesterday, made worse by well, sometimes I get the menstrual cramps real hard… Quite frankly, this book makes my insides squish and I think about Argo intensely, because it’s about the kind of friendship we could have had if I’d not been so blind, fumbling around in the dark. I have others to fill the void quite nicely, but no one is her and it’s not like I can go to the Argo store and pick out a new one. The mold broke after she was made… and I’m betting she knows it. It’s pretty good odds. 😛

It also makes me think about Dana, but to a lesser degree. We did have that kind of friendship, but I have truly blessed & released her into the universe because we both broke each other’s hearts. In this case, we’ll never go home again. I am sure I have said this before, but because Dana and I had such a mutually assured destruction, I feel so much less guilt regarding her than I do about being such a loose cannon jackass to Argo. I “clicked off safe” and said things to her that I’d never say to anyone to their faces, so why I did it online weighs on my conscience heavily. It doesn’t work for everyone, but guilt, for me, was a powerful motivator to become a better person…. a constant reminder that I didn’t like that person and I never want to see her again, because she’s so mean……… often not even realizing it until the consequences arrive. Again, blind. Fumbling in the dark. Loose cannon jackass.

My actions remind me of the Billy Joel classic, Summer, Highland Falls……. they say that these are not the best of times, but they’re the only times I’ve ever known, and I believe there is a time for meditation in cathedrals of our own. I can’t tell you how many times I went to the Episcopal church in my neighborhood just so I could recite this specific excerpt from the prayer of confession and pardon:


Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone
.

Those are the words that every week would beat me into submission, because I realized that although God might forgive me for these things, I couldn’t…. at least, not then. I’m doing much better with absolution now. I realized that I couldn’t beat myself up forever, because it was stopping me from moving forward. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you can’t make yourself put on boots in the first place.

But there are always going to be things that trigger me into the past, and I have to work hard not to stay there. I’ve always been this way. If someone sculpted me, they’d call it The Overthinker. Now, though, when rumination eats my lunch, I can find my way out… mostly through great music……

And books to review, because the rough draft is due on Thursday.

The Book Review

There’s an organization that’s willing to pay me between $5-60 per book review, but they ask that you write the first one for free so they know you’re capable….. They do, however, gift you the book on Amazon. The company doesn’t want me to talk about the book or the content of the review, so I’ll post a link to it on their site if it gets chosen for publication. I’m not on a deadline yet- the book doesn’t have to be finished for 30 days (read it in two sittings), and I have another four after that to write. It’s a different style than blogging, but I am well-schooled in all of ’em. My classes in college required extensive amounts of research and written responses once I got out of core curriculum (with the exception of intro English, of course). I will say that the book isn’t easy. I think I chose……………… poorly. As I said, I finished the book in two sittings, so if you’re guessing that it’s the writing that’s difficult, you’re onto something.

So of course I’ve now run all the errands that have been on my list for ages and scrubbed the bathroom. Even though it’s 8:30 at night, I decided to make myself some coffee and power through. I chose a friend to be my editor, and she has time to read it on Thursday night. That gives me plenty of time before I hand it over, as long as I don’t leave it to the last minute. I had to stop doing that- ADHD eats my lunch. Occasionally, the pressure after procrastination makes my writing stronger, but more often, it’s frenetic. You can tell that I’ve just rushed through and hoped for the best.

I chose said friend as my editor because I needed a closer deadline to help me focus. 30 days in the future will render me into thinking that I have a few more days right up until I’ve forgotten to review the book altogether. A lot is on the line here, and it has little to do with money and more with getting my name out there. Respect as a writer means more than getting paid, although that doesn’t hurt, either. As Dorothy Parker said when asked about her two favorite words in the English language, mine are also “cheque” and “enclosed.”

I do have quite the following already, though. Thanks to you “Fanagans,” I have about 48,000 readers (which seems enormous until you look at it in internet terms- not that I’m ungrateful), but I have literally been read in every country in the world…. even tiny ones, like Lichtenstein and Micronesia. I feel the most humble when I think that there are people on six continents that know my name. There might even be readers on seven, but since Antarctica is controlled by 40 different countries without a government of its own, I don’t think there’s a way for it to appear in my stats. I would bet dollars to donuts that at least one of my readers has been there, though. #fingerscrossed

If you are wondering, the greatest international following I have changes between Australia and the UK every few months. No offense meant to my UK fans, but it makes me happy when my biggest followers are from a country founded by criminals. It makes me feel like I’m in good company. Bad girls of the world unite, mmmmkay……

Speaking of bad girls, it’s only the best day of the year- Galentine’s!!Galentines-Day-Card-1 I wish I could send all of you a stack of waffles. One of these days, when I am obviously rich & famous, I will do it. We will take over Waffle Houses from Alaska & Hawaii to Maine…. or perhaps International Houses of Pancakes, because they’re international. It says so right in the name.

But whether I can actually send you breakfast food, know that I could not live my life without the women around me, both the ones I see (almost) daily and the ones who connect with me here. Just because we met over the Internet doesn’t mean that our friendship is any less real. Sustenance comes from a variety of places, and it has done me well to remember that fact.

To wit, I have never met The Divine Mrs. B in person, and I can think of few people who are that flat-out awesome. I can tell from DC. While it’d be nice to give her a hug, care comes through over black and white text just as easily.

My first Galentine, my sister Lindsay, and I ended up at a fantastic restaurant in the District last night, Arroz. Nestled in the Marriott Marquis lobby, they offer up both tapas and full-sized entrees. I also played against type and had a cocktail- one of the most delicious of my life. Called the “World Famous,” it contained chamomile bourbon, coconut, pineapple, lime, tiki & mole bitters. It was garnished with orange slices and a cinnamon stick. The pièce de résistance was the ice. I normally like my cocktails to have one huge piece so that the drink is cold, but doesn’t dilute quickly. I changed my mind when the ice was straight out of Dairy Queen. That right there was a “shut up and take my money” reaction. If bourbon didn’t make me stupid, I would have ordered five. In retrospect, I should have ordered an iced tea (the house wine of the South), because the water was served chilled in a carafe.

The food was good, too, but it’s definitely not what I’m going to remember in years to come. I will just remember how kind it was of my sister to “take me on staycation.” I need her brand of extroversion in my life, because left to my own devices, going out is the last thing on my list…. and not because I don’t enjoy it once I’m there. While you might not be able to tell just by looking at me, I am an absolute workaholic when it comes to writing, and it would never occur to me to leave my desk unless issued an invitation.

I will leave you with a funny story. One of Lindsay’s friends that I clicked with in Houston just moved back to the area (went to college at American). I told Lindsay to tell her that if she didn’t have a date for Valentine’s Day, I’d be happy to accompany her (in a Galentine’s sort of way). Lindsay said that she lives with her family, and I said, “that’s ok. We need a chaperone. I’m trouble.” Keeping in mind that my sister knows me better than anyone, that I am shy to the point of wallflower, she laughed heartily. We shall see if said plans materialize, but I am proud of myself for putting myself out there regardless of outcome. It wasn’t a “fix-me-up” kind of ask. Have never really asked the friend about orientation and assume she’s straight. But everyone knows how hard it is to make friends as an adult, and taking a chance on that type of mutual respect was hard enough for me without adding anything else on top of it.

Speaking of which, Dan and I haven’t gone out in a while. I need to call her…… but not until my editor sees if I am doing well, or have the talent of pudding.

#prayingonthespaces

Forward (and Backward) Through the Ages

I’m starting to wonder when I decided I was old… not in words, but actions. I don’t look in the mirror very often, and my mind’s eye stopped adding years long ago. For instance, high school and early college don’t seem like they’re that far away, but 2016 was my 20 year high school reunion (I didn’t go, but I did note its passing). The past few years have slipped by quietly without fanfare, as I have become extremely introverted…. have always been, and yet compounds yearly. It takes more energy than I’ve got most days to get out and play. I prefer to read, write, and watch streaming video… in that order. No longer do I plan outings on a daily or even weekly basis. I plan outings around how lonely I feel, and solitude is addictive.

Alone, I do not wonder if I have said the wrong thing. Alone, I do not worry if I’m wearing the right outfit. Alone, I do not have to compromise. Alone, I do not have to share.

To paraphrase Hafiz, I don’t surrender my loneliness quickly, letting it cut more deeply to ferment and season me as few human or even divine ingredients can. It has been the only solution to overcoming emotional instability, and not because I don’t like people. Like most introverts, I’m hilarious at a party. I just need absolute quiet to recharge. What has been different over the last three or four years is that behaviors once acceptable to me aren’t, and I only truly enjoy being around people when I feel strong enough to uphold my own standards of excellence.

Wow. I just reread that and thought, so you’re curating your real life existence like a Facebook page? Shudder. And yet, it’s true. In no way am I ready to let anyone past the walls I’ve put up to avoid talking about all manners of grief. When I go out, I want to experience pleasure, which invariably means putting away all the things that have caused me to recede from interaction in the first place.

However, there is no barbed wire around my heart, no need to sting anyone if they try to jump the fence. If I feel like one of my boundaries is coming down, I question myself.

  • Do I want a deeper friendship with this person?
  • Does what I’m about to say improve on the silence?
  • How much do I care if this private thought becomes known to another person?
  • How much am I hurting myself if I don’t share my thoughts? No risk, no reward.
  • Is the idea I want to share appropriate for this friendship?

They are questions I can answer fairly quickly in my head before beginning to speak, and I believe that is the difference between the me of a few years ago and the me of now. I have always been intense; I have not always been the type to think deeply before I speak. The “think it, say it” plan wore itself out.

I am infinitely more measured than I used to be, because it took emotional disaster to make me realize that I could have avoided hurting friends and family alike by taking in everything they’re saying, and letting silence hang in the air until I have a chance to respond thoughtfully.

I don’t crave solitude because I’m afraid of getting hurt; I crave solitude because in it, I cannot hurt others. I feel I have done enough of that for a lifetime, and though of course conflict is unavoidable in life, there are certainly good and bad responses to it. It is my work to do to learn healthy coping mechanisms and implement them, lest I have a repeat of the end of vitally important relationships.

It’s getting to the point where people are starting to ask me why I don’t date, that it’s certainly been long enough since my divorce, etc. I don’t want to start dating just because it’s socially acceptable for me to do so. I want to start dating when I feel I’ve learned the lessons that the universe wanted me to learn before making any committment besides friendship. I find that I am learning plenty in how to be a responsible and responsive friend, and that is enough… mostly because in my struggle with grief, responsible is easy and responsive is hard.

If being responsive to friends is hard, I do not want to even think about romantic interests feeling ignored…. because, of course, nothing says I care about you like unanswered texts and cancelled plans. It is a morass in which I’m unwilling to engage.

This has much less to do with my divorce and much more to do with my deceased mother. While Dana is the greatest love of my life up to this point, I am and have been ready to leave the past there. I just can’t see inviting someone else into the deep grey haze my life has become. My friendships are helping it lift, but not enough. Not yet. My thinking is that you have to walk before you can run, and being a good friend is several steps in the right direction. A lot of people don’t give friendship its full due. I didn’t until relatively recently, and I will never make that mistake again. That warning is etched deeply into my bones.

My friendships are what remind me that I am indeed not as old as I feel, because laughter makes me lighter.

For instance, tonight I went with Dan & Co. to see Pitch Perfect 3. Fat Amy finds out that she has money, and wants to create more shows. I lost it at Fat Amy Grant…. oh, that’d be so good for Christmas. Now, most people would laugh at this joke. I howled so loud that I think everyone in the theatre heard me. For most people, they’ve heard of Amy Grant. Preachers’ kids of my age are STEEPED in her. I laughed for me and my mother alike. We would have run that line into the ground, and it would have provided us entertainment for years.

That moment felt like metaphorical communion….. a moment just for us, without letting anyone else in. I could feel her laughing inside me….. and for a few seconds, I felt….. young.

Cold

Today is the first I’ve taken a shower and put on real clothes in, like, four days. You’d think that this is because I suffer from depression, but no. It has been in the 20s and 30s this week; when I went to bed last night, it was 25 (that’s in Farenheit, all y’all :P). There is absolutely no part of me that wants to take off clothing for any reason whatsoever. Also, my hair never looks better than after three or four days of bedhead with strong wax in my hair, and it chafes me that my best hair days come when I’m just about to wreck them.

Now, once I am in the shower with screaming hot water pouring down, I’m ok. But those few moments in the cold bathroom are not just dreadful, they’re more than dreadful. I would rather wear my skiing silks, my flannel pajamas, a t-shirt, a long sleeve t-shirt, a double-weight hoodie, and three pairs of socks. During the day, I also put on my snow boots (mainly because they’re warm, but also keep me from sliding down the stairs in wool socks). It’s a look.

Yes, we do have heat at our house, in case you’re wondering. I just get cold easily, and it’s hard for any heater to keep up with DC winter. Besides, the electric company has never charged me for putting on a sweater.

When I had my own place, I never heated it very much- maybe to 50 or 60- because with all the winter clothing I own and an electric blanket, I didn’t need it. I would rather have it cold and be bundled up on my own… except for when I have to change clothes.

I do, however, feel better now that I’m clean and smell really good… but it’s not just that. Laying out all my frustrations yesterday really put things in perspective, because depression and anxiety feel so real, but in reality, it is your brain lying to your face… and as my friend Phil so eloquently said, they know the very best lies to use against you. Going back over and reading what I wrote let me see those lies up close.

I am indeed so much stronger than I usually think. No one that digs a hole as deep as I did and then has a parent die while trying to dig themselves out isn’t. You can either get stronger, or you wither away. I’ve already gone the “withering away” route, and it didn’t do anything for me. I got stronger because there wasn’t a choice… anymore.

The lies my brain used on me at that time in my life were that I was a burden to everyone I knew and it was better to just disappear off the grid. It did not seem like a permanent solution to a temporary problem, because there was nothing about my illness (I’m bipolar, for those just joining us.) that said this is manageable, and you will improve. Everything in my life pointed to getting progressively worse, akin to terminal cancer but closer to alcoholism due to the strange and self-destructive behavior it presents. To me, the worst thing in the world was to have my loved ones watch the roller coaster, knowing it would never end.

It was during one of our legendary blowouts that Argo saved my life, and I mean this quite literally. My response to feeling that ill was to talk about it to my friends, hoping that they’d safety net me until I could function again. It seemed reasonable at the time, but it was leaving out a crucial piece- responsibility & self-reliance. We were talking (well, arguing) about everything that was going wrong and she said, can’t you see the common denominator is you? Why do you expect everyone else to fix you? It got through to me that I wasn’t moving under my own power, and within minutes I was on the phone to my insurance company and checked myself into the psych ward at Methodist Hospital. I wouldn’t have done that had it not been a real emergency. I didn’t have a psychiatrist and couldn’t get a new patient appointment for three more weeks, and I absolutely needed help that day, right then. My depression was telling me I wasn’t going to make it three more weeks.

So, if you ask me what really saved me from myself, it was a friend who was willing to kick my ass when it needed kicking. The treatment did not work overnight- it was not a miracle cure- but it definitely pointed me in a better direction. That being said, the group therapy I experienced made me vomit up even darker emotions than usual and the better direction came from everything getting a lot worse before it got better. The biggest regret of my life is the way I treated those around me during that time, because everything spewed at them was a direct reflection of how I felt about myself. The old axiom is true- hurt people hurt people.

By then, Dana wanted out and I needed a sounding board more than ever, but I’d used up every “get out of jail free” card I had with Argo and I didn’t trust anyone else. But panic attacks that presented as rage burned that bridge butt-quick. I feel more guilt about pushing Argo away than I ever will about Dana and I breaking up because Dana was in the room with me. She participated in 3D. Argo was just on the receiving end of words she didn’t deserve without my ability to see her eyes, her reactions, and know when to back the fuck up. There could only be so much in the way of damage control because of it… because I know the first time I saw her eyes flash in anger or sadness, I would have become a sobbing mess on the floor, all the fight taken out of me because I couldn’t just hear about the damage. I could experience it. I could see up close and personal what I’d wrought.

With Dana, I saw everything.

It’s not worth revisiting, but the picture was bleak. All the color in our world just bled out on the floor, and I ran. We were way past the point of reconciliation, and I knew within myself that if I didn’t run, I’d spend way too much time trying. We were past the point of no return, having alienated each other with mutually assured destruction….. robbing me of all but the deepest regrets. Yes, there were (and are) things I still have to get over, but it was also extraordinarily freeing to be able to walk away knowing that I’d made the absolute best decision I could make with the information I had.

When I arrived in DC, it was April and there was still snow on the ground. The weather matched my mood.

It was cold…. like those few seconds in a cold bathroom, angry in the moment and yet, knowing that warmth will eventually arrive.

Dark Roast, Double Eggnog

I don’t know why, but lately I have been waking up ridiculously early, even when I go to bed at midnight. If I had to take a wild guess, it’s that I’m on an upswing, which literally means nothing except I sleep less. It’s Bipolar I that reaches into true mania, while Bipolar II has what’s called “hypomania.” I like to call it Diet Mania,™ or maybe Mania Lite.™ Because my lows are so low, it’s only when I’m on an upswing that I really feel like getting out and doing things. Maybe I’ll take a nap in a few minutes and then head out…. to do what, I don’t know. I’ll think of something. In DC, it can go two ways. I could see something literally mind-blowing or I could end up at Safeway because we need paper cones for the coffee maker. The permanent filter is a pain in the ass.

I posted on Facebook that my roommate broke our coffee maker, but I don’t know that I said it here. Luckily, there was a brand new one when I came downstairs the next morning. It was nice not to have to wait for the new carafe to arrive, but it was a KitchenAid, and it was red. The new one does have a very nice feature, though. On one side you brew coffee, and on the other (even at the same time) you can heat up water for tea. This means that every morning I am faced with a “serious” dilemma…. although perhaps since I’m on said upswing, I should choose tea until I go back to making shut-ins look like their dance cards are full next to mine.

A couple of days ago, I had to grab a few things at 7-Eleven and, on impulse, grabbed a quart of eggnog. I like it on its own, but I love it in my coffee. So, rather than going back to bed, I went downstairs at approximately 0430 because I couldn’t wait any longer to have some. Strong coffee and lots of fat. #treatyoself

That reminds me I need to go and get some more coffee… not another cup. I need another bag of beans. I buy it at Starbucks because people give me gift cards all the time, and I get the reward stars for it. That way, I am spending gifts and getting free drinks in the process. I love how that works…. although I get this a lot… “that’s really all you want with your reward? A red eye?” Ummmmm, yes. I like coffee, not candy. “Do you at least want a venti?” Ummmm, no. I’d like to sleep this week.

Once, this barista thought I had clearly misunderstood the concept of “order anything you want,” so when she handed me my red eye, she said, “I put three extra shots in it for you.” She was being really sweet, so I wasn’t angry. I still drank it. But none of my sentences had spaces between the words for at least six hours. It’s hard to make a barista re-make a drink when they look so earnest and caring.

I now have a third Angela in my life, one I wasn’t expecting. There’s Angela the Med (stepmom), Angela the Red (ex-girlfriend), and the best nickname I can think of for this one that fits the theme is “Angela the Read.” We went to 7th and 8th grade together at Clifton Middle School and she turned out to be a journalist. She used to be at the Houston Chronicle, but now she works for a niche scientific publication. It’s nice to have a person in my life with so much shared experience- not that we were besties in middle school, but that we both come from the same place. We both miss H-E-B and Whataburger. But mising those things is a small price to pay for living in a liberal state.

Angela and her husband, Michael, have been extraordinarily kind to me. Because I don’t have a car and it makes shopping harder, Angela took me to Dollar Tree so I could get water bottle mix-ins. It’s a small thing that is huge. We had other errands, so we both did nothing together. It was the best day I’d had in a long time, because I laughed.

Losing my mother reminds me of the Saturday Night Live episode the Saturday after September 11th. Rudy Giuliani said that the cast had asked him if it was ok to be funny. Completely deadpan, he said, “why start now?” The exchange sticks with me because I often have to give myself permission to be funny and/or to laugh.

The other extreme is that sometimes I’m hilariously funny in order not to talk about the elephant in the room. Well, actually, that’s not true. I’m not avoiding it. I’m being funny so that the conversation never reaches a level deeper than an orange juice glass to begin with. I like talking to people who have no idea who I am to get away from, “so… how are you…. really.”

How am I really?

I am lost and confused and don’t know where to turn for guidance that only one’s mother can give. I have friends with kids, so the best I can do is just to soak up the mother love in the room. I know if my life had taken a different path, I’d be leaning on my children just to hear my own mother’s words come out of my mouth… or, perhaps not her exact words, but her tone. My imitation is pitch-perfect. I can even do her stern teacher voice.

And what that stern teacher voice is telling me right now is that I should get ready for the day. I’ve had eggnog and coffee. I’m good.

Flights of Fancy

The life of a writer generally means that we look lazy on the outside, but our minds are running a thousand miles a minute. I have great contempt for people who think writers aren’t doing anything when they’re staring into space. For bloggers, how do you think we dig deep enough to remember stories from our past? For fiction writers, how do you think those exotic worlds we create form themselves? For non-fiction writers, how do you think all that information synthesizes from something only a niche market would read into a consumable for the general public?

We just sit there.

Additionally, there are only certain personality types that think writing is a real job to begin with, because they don’t think about what it takes to write and market something that might be successful… especially the books they’ve already bought and loved. Books that are already on the bestseller list mean that the writer is respected. Writers who haven’t published anything there are dreamers with blind ambition, head in the clouds, with no respect for the real world.

When are you going to get a real job? and it must be nice to have a partner that supports you so that you can just do your little writing hobby are constant issues brought up in my writers’ group on Facebook. It makes me angry on their behalf, because as primarily a blogger, I have to have a real job, because it gets me out of the house enough to have experiences about which to write…. and I don’t mean writing about work (Dooced…. look into it). It’s just that once I leave the house, I am more likely to do outside activities after work than I am when I am homebound, stuck in my own head. It leads to being relegated to writing about the past, rather than the “character” changes that come over time as I do.

Sometimes, though…. just sometimes…. I stop thinking about the past and start imagining the future. Most often, it’s about actually following through on finishing my Bachelor of Arts and going on for my M.Div. Thinking about my own dreams is infinitely more satisfying than the other fantasies that run through my head. My Bachelor’s is a political science major and a psychology minor, because even when I started college, I was thinking about what it would take to pastor a modern church. It is not up to me to encourage my congregation as to how to vote- that crosses all sorts of lines- but regardless of party affiliation, there is plenty of legislation that is right or wrong in a black and white sort of way… like minority treatment in America, immigration, the constant battle between giving the queer community rights and threatening to take them away, ridiculous ideas like killing gays or putting them in concentration camps that thankfully don’t come up that often and yet, are ideas in the current marketplace. There are all sorts of ideas that the legal definition of a reasonable person should not support, and I could care less whether any of them identify as Democrat or Republican. These are not party issues, they are human ones. I have said that my dream is to go to historically black Howard University. This is because I have gone to majority white schools my entire life, and if I am to understand anything at all about the minority experience, I have to observe it.

There is nothing within me that says I will ever fully understand, because I will never have black skin. I will never wear those problems. My aim is just to listen and soak up everything there is to learn.

But that’s not all there is to the dream. A lot of my career has been spent in academic technology, so I have applied to every college within a 50 mile radius in the hopes of working there, because generally a university staff position comes with tuition waivers. If I get a job at Howard, for which I have an application pending right now, that would be my ideal dream. But if American, Georgetown, or University of DC get back to me first, I’ll have to consider them.

But that is only where my mind goes when I’m thinking about myself. I also live in the clouds at times over where my life would have gone had I not reached a boiling point and exploded “crazy spatter” all over people I love dearly.

Argo

The most consistent message I get from my friends about this relationship is to just let it lie. Stop thinking about it, stop wishing it were different, just… stop. I followed through on stopping contact, but there is a part of me that cannot help going back over it in my mind, thinking about dialogues it would have been nice to have. Susan fills this hole in my heart quite nicely, but as I know for sure and have read from others, no one is her. It took me a long time to realize that the teenage blushing butterflies were love for an idea, not a person, and once that connection was made, it was over… meaning that for me, I could look at her as a ride-or-die without seeing stars, and for her, it was a little too little too late. I understand this more than she knows, so there is no residual anger. I behaved poorly; I do not deserve her. But we often go for coffee in my dreams. Those conversations are hilarious and heartwarming. It is and has to be enough.

Dana

God (literally), where do I begin? When I think of everything I’ve lost over the last three years, the only reason Argo comes up first is that our relationship was the shortest. She got under my skin in the only way someone else besides Dana could… her words. Therefore, I have never had a shortage of them regarding her, because the connection was so cerebral. It may not be fair to start a paragraph about Dana talking about Argo, but I do it to illustrate the inversely proportionate nature of the grief. Dana is not just under my skin, so close I can access those emotions at a moment’s notice. She is the river that runs through me, emotions so deep that they stay buried most of the time so I do not drown. Having been married to each other for so long is akin to having phantom limb pain. As time goes on, it gets less and less intense….. sometimes. But then I’ll remember something touching and time erases itself instantly. We just broke up yesterday. Additionally, there were so many years where we weren’t married, just very close friends, and that weighs on me, too. I initially thought that we’d be able to put our relationship back together to the point where it wouldn’t be weird to talk and laugh. I can say for sure that was the case when my mother died, and Dana kept me company as I was waiting for my flight out of BWI. But we hadn’t talked for months before, and I haven’t heard from her since…. and yet, that’s ok. Again, there is no anger. In a lot of ways, I got exactly what I deserved. Behavior always has consequences.

One of the behaviors I sincerely regret, even though there were a lot of reasons for it (context, never excuses) is that I stopped being a true partner. I was there, but I wasn’t present. I was in the midst of discovering just how bad emotional abuse as a teenager had rewired my actions/reactions as an adult, and all the unhealthy patterns played out with the people I love most. I couldn’t give much, because I was reduced to survival mode. I was trying to let her in, and at the same time, not realizing how repetitive it sounded, especially since it probably didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of room for me to listen to her (because I cannot and will not speak for her). The truth is that I did care, deeply, about her thoughts and feelings…. especially the ones I was engendering in her. I didn’t want to be a bad partner. I just was. When it got to the point where it was clear Dana didn’t want to listen to me regarding my constant rumination, I went looking for dopamine wherever I could find it…. yet another series of terrible decisions (see above).

In my dreams, she knows me now. She knows who I’ve become, and not who I was. Recovery takes time and backbreaking effort, and she has not been along for the ride unless I’ve been asleep. I often don’t want to live in a world where I cannot hear her laugh, so I close my eyes and it becomes clear as a bell. My regrets fall by the wayside because we have moved on. They cannot torture me because they cannot touch me. I am only getting the conversations I want when I am playing both sides.

When I am awake, the thing I think about the most is that in February, we’ll have been married ten years, virtually estranged for a little over two, but the paperwork is no less valid. It’s been a long time since Dana told me that she would take care of the dissolution, and I waffle every day between wanting her to come through on a promise and getting tired of waiting and taking care of it myself. The rumination is endless… does she just forget, or is getting divorced too painful and she’s waiting for something to happen for it to be less so? I know that feeling. Anxiety makes me wait for a day when I feel stronger on some things; it was not until I put it together that I had to change my own mood that I realized waiting until I felt stronger was pointless.

Another thing I know for sure is that if and when I have a partner again, they’re just going to have to accept that I have a past (like we all do), and I do not want them to be a jealous ball of spazzbasket if stories about her come up. I don’t want to tell the painful ones. I want it to be okay to laugh about the funny things that could only have happened to us. I want it to be okay that I will love her for the rest of my life without being in love with her, because there is too much shared friend history to just forget.

I refuse to be bitter. I refuse to think that there will never be another love for me. I refuse to think that the mistakes of the past will haunt my future unless I let them. To me, the whole point of life is that you cannot avoid making mistakes, but you can certainly avoid making old ones.

You just keep making new ones until eventually, you die…. which brings us forward….

My Mother (Carolyn)

I have five old voice mails saved from her that are so painful to listen to that I want to erase them, but I can’t, because then I’d never hear her voice again. The most recent was three or four days before she died, because I wanted her advice on whether I should drive to Houston to spend time with both her and my dad, because she had broken her foot and he was going through multiple facial reconstruction surgeries after a tumor the size of a quarter was found in his nose. I sent my mom a text message in the morning that said get back to me ASAP, because I wanted to know if I should get going soon. Well, she didn’t have her phone on her and didn’t return the call until about 2:00 PM, and in classic tiger mom fashion, the voice mail was full of anxiety saying that I had scared her, not my intent but her perception was that I was in danger…. and then, of course, I didn’t hear my phone go off so I couldn’t relieve that anxiety immediately.

The rest of them are pleas to call her, because my mental health was not good and I wasn’t in a place to talk to anyone. It was not personal in any way, shape, or form. It is the most guilt-inducing feeling I’ve ever had in my life…. how many more conversations we would have had if I’d just picked up the damn phone? Because here’s the thing. I couldn’t always take off the mask and just be small-l leslie with her. Picking up her phone calls, for me, required a certain amount of being “on.” It’s sad and terrible and no less true. At the time, it felt like altruism. I didn’t want her to feel my pain, because she had shown me over and over that she couldn’t take it. She would bleed out for me, and I was unable to take it in because I didn’t want someone who was only on my side. I wanted someone to tell me that I was right in knowing I was wrong. Her empathetic nature was to feel sorry for me, when I didn’t feel sorry for me at all. It was hard to listen to, hard to accept as valid when I’d made so many errors in judgment. Therefore, just about every conversation was between my mom and Leslie Lanagan.™ I suited up so I could act happier than I really was- the conversations were light and fun. But in my worst moments, I couldn’t even muster that.

I just have to remember that before she died, we had a two and a half hour conversation in which there was nothing left unsaid, no unfinished business. Those voicemails are just an echo of the past, and not representative of what really happened before she died. The conundrum is wanting to hear her voice in any way I can, and knowing that if I listen to it, all I will take away from it is what crappy moments I made in our timeline.

In my dreams, none of that ever happened. We’re at Starbucks, we’re in her classroom, we’re at the teacher’s center laminating ALL THE THINGS. I’m helping her with bulletin boards and fixing her computer and trying to teach her how to use Netflix on a smart TV. We’re waiting in line for the new iPhone. We’re literally next in the queue, and my alarm goes off…. and any flight of fancy in which I’ve been enmeshed touches down at DCA.