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.

Child Support

Dana and I are both getting to that age where we’re starting to think about kids… and every. single. time. we both start yawning uncontrollably and change the subject. The fact that we can’t even talk about it for a half hour is a stunning monument to our indifference on the subject. We think we would be great parents, and we also think that we’re able to love the other children in our lives more when we don’t have kids of our own, so that whichever child is visiting us is our favorite and gets to feel special when mom and dad are gone.

The thing I struggle with the most is whether I’ll regret not having a kid that lives with us full time. The things that I thought I’d be terrible with have been proven wrong in babysitting Wi-Phi, and other things have popped up. For instance, I am more patient and kind with a screaming kid than you can possibly imagine. I go into this Zen-like state that makes me immune to getting rattled, because I know the baby will pick up on the fact that I’m anxious and use it to their advantage later. It’s just one day of your child raising you after another. That part I’m ok with.

I am not ok with writing about my own children, I’m anxious to the point of nausea over the thought of interacting with other parents at the PTA, and most of that has to do with the competitive things that I’ve watched parents do and say to each other over the years, and I hate that culture with a passion. I watch people write things about mothers on web sites that make you wonder who peed in their Wheaties this morning, because obviously something is terribly, terribly wrong.

I’m fighting against old tapes that say I can’t be a mother because I’m gay. I know plenty of lesbian mothers, but it’s funny how the things you grow up with tend to stick until you really explode them, and I haven’t had the time or desire to sit with that one, yet, because it’s one of those knotty problems that will cause me to ruminate ad nauseum (or as my friend Aaron and I call it, “moo all over the place”).

Frankly, I’m also indolent as fuck when I get home in the evenings and I am so glad that our stance on parenthood doesn’t change with a couple of beers between us. Oh, wow. I just hit the nail on the head and I didn’t even realize it was true until this minute. I don’t want to do it because I don’t want to do the work. I’m not talking about the work after the kid is born. I mean I don’t want to have to ask my male friends for sperm, I don’t want to go to a clinic and be poked and prodded until I get pregnant, and I don’t want to have to raise thousands and thousands of dollars for the privilege. If it had happened organically in my 20s, it would have been one thing. But I’m three years away from forty. In some ways, it feels like I’ve missed my window on purpose as a way of self-sabotage.

On the other hand, forty isn’t too old for pregnancy and delivery, and 58 seems just the right age for me to have a wise-cracking high school senior that I will have to drag out of the principal’s office by his ear while wearing my bathrobe.

There are all of these feelings swirling in both Dana and me as we pray for discernment, but at the same time, I think we both already know. We’re doing a great job by being those friends who can come through at a moment’s notice when their kids are sick or they’ve got vacation plans and the sitter cancels.

I have also learned through my abuser that you don’t have to be a kid’s parent to have influence in their lives… that it’s not important to the kid whether I’m related to them by blood. I can still impart all kinds of wisdom from the prophets… Finn, Jake, and Lumpy Space Princess.