The Art of War

I’ve gotten so many warnings on my Facebook account that I’m now banned for seven days, after a serious escalation in how long the bans last. It has cut me off from posting, sharing, or liking anything. Why did I get banned? Well, the last time was that a black girl called me “Raisin Potato Salad” and I took exception to that. I said, “if you’re going to talk to me about food and use it as an insult, FYI I’m from the South and a professional cook. We’re gonna throw down, and I’m going to kick your ass sideways.” Every single infraction is exactly like this one… empty threats and half-kidding. It is totally the former President’s fault. Facebook has turned on these industrial-sized content management machines that scan text for violence, and they’ve shut down every single way to get a real person to look at your account. Most of the periods you have to wait to get your case looked at last 30 days, so the ban expires before real eyeballs will sit down with you.

Once you are on their radar for “inciting violence,” you can’t get back off. The noose tightens, and there’s no recourse. Facebook doesn’t give a damn anymore. Instead of working on solving the problem, they simply tell everyone there aren’t enough people to review content, like they’ve just given up and you can die mad about it.

I’m letting everyone know about this so they can avoid saying things like “kick your ass,” because if I have any friends that don’t say it, I’m not close enough to them to know that.

At last count we were talking about Theresa. That relationship didn’t work out, and I’m sad about it. But for the first time, I’m glad that I called it early and didn’t run toward total bullshit like I normally do. She just didn’t get me, and that’s fine. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and I needed to escape before I fell in love with her and I was completely screwed up inside. I’ve spent too many years alone to spend time thinking about a relationship that’s too hard, too early.

So, I waited about a week and then asked someone else out. I finally got mad (not at Theresa, I’m not like that). I yelled at myself. I said, “Leslie, LOSING YOUR MOTHER WAS HARD. GETTING A DIVORCE WAS HARD. ASKING A WOMAN OUT IS NOT HARD.” It was especially easy because I blocked Theresa immediately and deleted our entire conversation history.

It was not because I didn’t absolutely love her pictures and artistic flair to bits, it was that I knew seeing her face in my feed would hurt. I wanted to save myself from every single bit of it. When have I done that before? It was like learning music could change my mood from the inside out. I moved on so much easier because I didn’t give myself the opportunity to get more upset than I needed to be.

I made sure to let Theresa know that I didn’t block her because she did something bad, and I didn’t block her from using my phone number or my e-mail address. I haven’t heard anything, so I assume she’s protecting herself, too. There’s no way either of us said anything to really be angry about. In fact, I can write the experience off as a few weeks where I felt sublimely happy that only half belonged to “new relationship” dopamine. The rest was feeling myself come alive. Resurrection after “the long dark night of the soul.” In that way, there is much to encourage taking the win even though I technically lost.

She was a doll and it made me happy to blush and flirt. That’s enough, and I said as much in the last entry- that if it was only the last text of the day that belonged to her, I was satisfied.

But how did I win?

I really took care of this relationship in a way that I haven’t before. I never once used a statement that included the words “you made me.” I never once directly said or implied that anything she did caused my reactions. I think that’s the hardest part to learn in any relationship. Dana helped me learn that lesson, and I helped me expand on it.

It’s comforting and settling to remember Dana that way because it shows that we were a good team, and always will be, in a way. Especially when I’m asleep, we have coffee in my dreams or I take her to lunch… but we’re not dating. That thought literally made me cackle out loud and now the dogs are barking incessantly…. it’s a double entendre… both the idea that we’d ever start dating again AND the fact that in my dreams, I am still an Idealist and I’ve gamed all this out. I am going to die of asphyxiation. Send help.

However, in the end, I trusted my love for my friends more than I trusted Theresa. It wasn’t anything that they said. It was that I knew they loved me for me because they’d been around long enough to understand me at least as much as they were capable. I am not easy. I am a magical being, a sort of unicorn. At 45, I am finally coming into my power.

Let me explain. I am not living in a fantasy world. The dragons are only metaphorical, and Winter is Not Coming.

The reason why I am magic is that I am an INFJ. It is the rarest of all the personality types, ranging from 9-15% of the world’s population. Therefore, it is so rare that there are people out there who have never met one. I can directly compare myself to Jesus, who is historically thought of as INFJ, and Martin Luther King, JR., who actually was.

If there is a Biblical story I can relate to you so that you understand who I am, it is Moses… and to be clear this is not evangelism. I don’t care if you believe in God or not. Bible imagery is just a little more universal than other books.

Back to Moses. We’re not talking about Moses at the end of his life….. Charleton Heston and all that….. We’re talking about the teenager who killed the dude in the desert, the one that was approached by God to lead the Jews and his first reaction was “you really want my brother.”

Moses had to work through everything to claim who he was, and by the end of his life he had really owned himself. I hope to do the same, but right now being an Idealist is frightening and overwhelming. What happens is that I have the equivalent of an iCloud account in which there are like, seven billion phones backing up. The stream of images is relentless. Then, I get into a crowd, and the emotions of every person in the room are on full display, as well as past history because I can see trauma and trauma bonds.

If you’ve seen the movie MiBIII, you know what I mean because you’ve seen it in action….. Griffin does what I do.

The problem with personal relationships is that beginning them can be a right disaster. You can game out all the possibilities in front of you, they can’t and think you care about them a lot more than you do…. not that you won’t (you’ve gamed that out), but that you are trying to be prepared for all eventual outcomes and that doesn’t stop, ever, because Erik Erickson posits that the core personality is set by six years old.

So, you walk the line in terms of presenting yourself because you know if you impart everything you know, the other person will run like hell. They think you’ve gone from mildly interested to stalker in an afternoon.

….and only for the simple reason that they’ve never met an INFJ before. You know, if I’m the Idealist I claim, I probably should have seen those Facebook bans coming…. it’s comforting to know I didn’t see Donald Trump coming, either.

Talking Like You’re Writing

A few years ago, I was asked why I wrote about Argo so much more than I wrote about Dana, considering that I had known Dana so much longer. My answer was this:

To me, that question answers itself. I don’t write about Dana as much because I’ve known her so much longer. Argo is “write” under my skin, emotions so close I can touch them. Dana is a river that runs down deep inside me, and it’s going to take me a long time to carry those memories upward so that I can process them clearly.

Or something like that. I’m paraphrasing.

Now that I’ve had about five years’ worth of perspective, I’ve been thinking a lot about both the good and the bad. It’s not a situation I’d be willing to go “back to the future,” because the way it began was so different than the way it ended, something I never expected that didn’t come out of nowhere… and yet it did. Now, I have the ability to see all the things we weren’t talking about that led to our demise, but at the time, it felt like everything came together slowly and ripped apart in an instant. That being said, I never mistake the part for the whole and I was damn lucky to have been married to her for as long as I was, and those memories are precious to me, save a few I desperately wish I could forgive and forget. It is not about blame. She is forgiven. I have a harder time forgiving myself, and there are some things that will take a few more years as time does its healing magic, often without me realizing it is happening. I am ready to meet someone else, to practice all that I’ve learned in the meantime. I am ready to be a better person/partner than I ever have been before, mostly because I’ve truly taken the time out to feel my grief, talk/write it out, and get over what I believe are some of the biggest glories and mistakes of my life so far.

The things that come back to me now are mostly hilarious….. like before we were even together. I went on two dates with Allison Frost, senior producer and occasional host of the Oregon Public Broadcasting show “Think Out Loud.” We were not in the same place in our lives (something came up in hers), and we never went out again. But basically from that moment forward, the inside joke that Dana and I came up with was that she was my “celebrity girlfriend on the radio.” This morphed into my “corporeally-challenged celebrity girlfriend on the radio.” And, in true “Bambelanager” fashion, “if it’s funny once, run it into the ground.”

But there are two direct Dana quotes that just slay me…. one is funny, and one is tragic.

  1. I know you are not grumpy with me, because I have been cute ALL DAY.
  2. Go write something. You’re talking like you’re blogging. You’ve been talking for two hours straight.giphy-facebook_s

I feel that it is tragic because I thought to myself, “if I’ve really been talking for two hours straight, why didn’t you stop me?” It just sounded like she was exhausted by me, and just go away.  I felt wounded, because one of our strong points in relationship to each other was long conversations that meandered from topic to topic in a very ADHD way. Story, tangent, story, tangent, story, tangent, story which circles back to the first tangent, etc. I thought that’s what was going on, and maybe it was given Dana’s love of hyperbole. But maybe it wasn’t, and I was just in this hypomanic state, and the thought horrified me because it isolated her. Inside, I was bursting with the idea that I’d read a situation so wrong.

It was at that point that I began isolating, shutting myself up in my office and either blogging or e-mailing Argo, because she was my sounding board at a time when I could really use one. I will never forget explaining a situation to her and her exact words were that I was acting like a “judgmental dickhead.” I laughed so hard my desk chair sagged, because as an INFJ, I have a real talent for letting the J stick out. Also, it was nice to have a new pet name.

(Also, in order not to get the person Argo confused with the book & movie, I will share a line I wrote to her in a “galaxy long ago and far, far away……” I sleep deeply in the belly of the ship, in whom I know my passage is safe. I tried to find a link to the post where I originally wrote it, but when I couldn’t, I realized it was in an e-mail. Sorry.)

I feel that the second quote from Dana fundamentally challenged who I was. I became worried most of the time that I was talking too much, and retreated into myself. Because I had a pen pal with whom I could be completely myself, and write for as long as I wanted, I did. I never cared whether I got a response or not; the important part was feeling heard.

Now, I use Evernote. Some notes are private letters never meant to be read. Some of them are writing ideas. Some are funny, some make me cry because they explore such deep emotional cuts. But, it’s my own space to talk for two hours when I need it…. like when I found out through the grapevine that Argo had gotten married.

I folded like a house of cards, and not because of the crush I once harbored (you can look it up in the dictionary as Worst. Thing. Ever. I would call it a decision, but it wasn’t. My brain just turned to mush and there was no consciousness about it. It was there before I realized what was happening. My heart dropped into my stomach when it hit me.).

My tears centered around me no longer being a friend who was worthy of being told those things… I would have been excited to hear about the proposal, the preparations… everything that comes with the thought of a close friend meeting their life partner. I didn’t even know it was headed in that direction, because the last time we talked about marriage, she said she hated it. In fact, I don’t even know his name. She was dating him when we met, so I jokingly called him her “boy toy.” When I said, “what’s his name so I don’t have to call him ‘boy toy’ for the rest of his life?,” she said that “boy toy” would do nicely. It was a predictable response. I should have seen that one coming from a mile away.

In fact, I thought I saw someone at a Nats game that looked like her, but decided it wasn’t because she was wearing a wedding ring. But just on the off chance that it was, I walked the other way. I got nauseated thinking about what that conversation might be like, and luckily I wasn’t close enough that she would have spotted me. Perhaps she would have walked the other way as well. I didn’t want to make either of us extremely uncomfortable and awkward to the point of onomatopoeia.

As an aside, the other thing that ran through my mind was “what if I make an idiot of myself and it isn’t her, anyway?” Through pictures, I have an idea of her in my mind, but I don’t know many of her facial expressions, the three-dimensional version of herself. In hindsight, that’s probably a good thing…. not that I wouldn’t be open to it now, but not by randomly running across each other without time to prepare for what would have been a momentous occasion for me…. a precious fixed point in time where I hoped it stood still long enough for me to take it in.

There are things for which I’d like to apologize in person, and it would feel so good to see her laugh. To be able to read her eyes and emotions as the conversation went on. To see if she judges for herself that I’m not nearly as weird as advertised. She has said that I am forgiven and she has moved on, but it would be different to feel it. To know deep within, to Robert Heinlein “grok.” But at this point, it’s just a pipe dream, and I will always walk the other way without an invitation.

After writing it all down, though, I realized that I was being ridiculous about it all. We aren’t close friends anymore, and she owes me nothing, ever. If anything, it’s me that owes her. Big time. Like, “if I win the lottery, then you’re getting half” big time.

It would help if I played, but it’s the thought that counts, right? Right? #crickets

Argo is included in this entry because invariably, if you think about a marriage’s beginning, you also think about its end, and this was a big piece. When I retreated into myself because I thought Dana didn’t want to be the person that made me feel heard, it was a small fissure that led to a big one.

But do I regret the seven years and change Dana and I were married? Not in the slightest. I learned lessons that could not have been learned in any other way. We had more fun than the law should have allowed. We thought so much alike that we joked that we shared a brain. But as time went on, we stopped sharing the deepest parts of our hearts, afraid to let the other one in for fear of rejection. And actually, I shouldn’t speak for her. I can only speak to what I felt at that time in my life.

I have come to feel that the relationship ran its course at just the right time, because both of Dana’s parents are still alive (as far as I know- we haven’t spoken in three years or so), and having a partner with no frame of reference as to what I was going through, especially in the acute moments after my mother’s death, have only made me feel relief at the fact I was single when it happened.

I know for a fact that I would have been irrationally angry that her mother was still alive and mine wasn’t, because I was irrationally angry at a lot of people back then who still had their parents, especially when they were much older than me.

If we had been living together, I would have made the huge mistake of taking that anger out on her, something she never would have deserved. She also would not have enjoyed being married to someone who became the equivalent of a shut-in. I am glad that I did not have the chance to dampen her spirit the way mine burned out until I could rebuild…. and I will never be finished. A parent’s death fundamentally rewires you down to the neurons about which you think don’t do anything. I act and react differently, my breath has changed, my outlook varies from nothing matters to everything does…. and when I say “nothing matters,” I mean the part where my mother won’t be there to see it.

She won’t be there to meet my as of now imaginary someone new, and the possibility of additional grandchildren (I don’t want to have kids at this age, but if I limit myself to dating only women without them, I will be lonely a very long time). Won’t be there to accept an autographed copy if I somehow miraculously get published…..etc., etc., etc. In the present, she’s not here to tell all my funny stories, or to read my blog and tell me everything that’s wrong with it. 😛

The thing I did miss then was having a companion, someone who would just lie next to me as I cried, and I mean that universally and not limited to Dana. I was ready to start dating again by October 1st, 2016, and on October 2nd, that thought vanished. I couldn’t bear the thought of dragging another person (especially someone I did not know well) into the freak show that was my life. I’m still not convinced my life is not a freak show at times, but at least there’s no opening song and dance act plus encores.

And even if my stories now are full of tangents that meander into other ideas and people, it is comforting to think that the river is rising, which lifts all boats.

Komodo Dragon, Straight Up

I am a huge fan of independent coffee shops, and spend my own money there. However, there are lots of people who send me Starbucks gift certificates, so I don’t think I’ve spent my own money there in years. This is because I buy the beans and drink the coffee at home, and the stars add up.komodo-dragon-blend231ac7452d2168f58d66ff0000024ad1 I bought two bags of Komodo Dragon yesterday. That means I can stop by Starbucks and get my free reward coffee for quite a while.

But just because I love independent coffee shops doesn’t mean that I don’t like Starbucks beans. Komodo Dragon is so good that if I could, I’d just snort it. It is best black, because for a dark roast, it’s quite sweet and fruity, just like me.

And, of course, I have a friend who I’ve called “my dragon” for years, so the label doesn’t suck, either…. it’s just that in my head, my friend is not gold. She’s blue and green…. although I suppose they’re a little gold. There are bright spots on the end of their tail. Rubeus Hagrid would fall all over himself….. and love them and squeeze them and call them “George.” (If you get both of those references, you win a prize. And the prize is you’re old.) But let’s be clear- the label is just an added bonus. If I had to pick one coffee that I’d drink every day for the rest of my life, this would be it…. and not for lack of searching for something from a coffee shop that actually needs the money. I will keep looking, but I am terribly picky.

I made a pot this morning and all my housemates liked it as well, which is good since I have two pounds of it.

But I didn’t start this entry just to talk about coffee. It’s just that most of the time, I begin by telling you what I’m drinking. This entry is actually about a realization that knocked me on my ass, and led me to make some life changes that I hope will pan out.

I worked through all my issues surrounding dating and why it’s been five years. Why I haven’t wanted to put myself out there, why I was more nervous about things working out than not, why it was just too much bother.

After I came to those conclusions, I used a friend as a sounding board and it was good. I told her that my knee-jerk response to figuring all of this out was to get on dating apps and try to match with anyone I thought was remotely attractive and had a good line in their profile that made me laugh.

Me being me, though, I don’t know how I came across. Not a whole lot of feedback yet, except one woman I definitely asked out. I told her that I just wanted it to be easy and comfortable, to meet each other instead of only knowing a fourth of us through text.

She said yes.

If things go the way I think they will, this is someone I can picture having long conversations with. In her profile, she said she was a chef. So, of course, I had to ask if she was a line cook or an actual chef, because there can be only one. She told me she had her stripes, where she’d been executive chef, etc.

Having been married to a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, I had to overthink about why this woman being a chef was important to me. My immediate thought was that I had taken ownership of my love of cooking and working in restaurants long ago, and therefore it didn’t have anything to do with my old life/relationship. It was a good talk to have with myself, though, just to make sure. I have also told her why I don’t work in restaurants anymore, and her immediate reaction was understanding.

Am I ready for a relationship? I don’t know. Waiting five years was probably the right choice, because I have no lingering thoughts or jealous exes that would try to make an appearance.

What I do know is that unless I marry the woman who delivers pizza to my house, I’m not going to get anywhere hiding from the world. Although, as I have said before, there are three pluses to dating the pizza woman, because up front, I know three things:

  • she is employed
  • she has a vehicle
  • she already knows where I live

There are galaxies of possibilities to that “yes,” and I’m looking forward to finding out what they might be. Whether they are positive or negative is of no consequence, because this isn’t about trying to find my forever love. This is about me, and why I’ve been scared to interact at all, especially on the dating level.

As my personality type (INFJ) dictates, I have maybe one or two friends at a time, but I know them all as intimately as friends do- walking around in each other’s inner landscapes, calling each other on our own bullshit, mutual respect and happiness between us. I am not very good at small talk, so I prefer to be able to have friends in which I can just be myself and say anything, because I know that my friends accept me whether I’m wrong or right. Most of the time, my friends have to call me out on logic, because when I think with my emotions, it’s often upside down and backwards. Creative basket cases are where logic dissipates into the ether.

And because I have such close friends, I have never been able to say I was a lonely person looking for someone to complete me. I don’t have need of the fairy tale true love. At this point in life (late 30s-early 40s), we all have our own quirks, are a bit set in our ways, and we just have to hope all of it lines up.

When I said that I just wanted to hang out- make it easy and comfortable, she said, “I feel you- it seems like nobody goes on romantic dates anymore.” I want to meet her in person first, to see what I need to see in terms of spark, but I did file it away under note to self.

Right now, I’m just feeling grateful for the coffee, and the light bulb I finally realized needed changing, because it just wasn’t helping to sit in the dark.