Paw Paw

I would not be the person I am today without my father’s father, and I am slightly unmoored at his passing yesterday. I say “slightly” because he was 92. At that age, it’s never unexpected, and he was ready to go. He had a health problem serious enough that to put him through the treatment was to make his chances of survival worse. He said he wanted to see Mary, my grandmother, and we were all at peace with it. Still sad, but happy that he got to make his own decision.

It reminded me of the last time I talked to him about a death in my own family. I have never seen him come unglued, and he was sobbing when he told me he was sorry about my mother. I think it’s because he’d known her since she was a little girl, and losing your child does not follow the natural order of things. It doesn’t matter that my mom and dad divorced. He was just as much a part of her life while the marriage was happening. I am grateful for nothing about my mother’s death, but see a silver lining in processing that grief with him. It made me feel less alone. I’d known her for so many less years. We chatted about “Option B.” He said he thought it was written for younger people. I agreed in sympathy. By then, he’d lost my grandmother and we were both sad and lonely. Leaning on each other was a golden thread between us.

When my grandmother died, we became closer because of the phone. I hate talking on the phone, and he didn’t like doing it much, either. Not a computer person. So, there we were, the two biggest introverts on earth, not really wanting to talk to anyone and making conversation, anyway. We found connections in movies, writing, and that there were five Gospels including Rachel Maddow…… both very religious and very liberal, two ideas that don’t always make friends but should.

My granddad worked for Lone Star Steel, the largest company in his area while I was a baby, but has dwindled now. He was the corporate version of me, writing copy and taking pictures for the steel plant. Then, he began writing a story about our family when I was older, starting with the ancestors from Ireland/England and filtering down to me and the rest of our generation. That was the original idea that my story was worth something. My granddad wasn’t rich and famous, yet my dad has five volumes on where we came from and where we’re going.

I see my story as the same thing- I’m not rich and famous. I just live here.

Therefore, my story is not valuable to everyone, but to some it is priceless. My grandfather taught me that; write it tight, shoot it anyway. The fact that copy, pictures, and videos exist may not matter right now, but it will in five. Get people while they don’t know they’re on camera to make sure that there’s at least a record that someone was there, they don’t have to talk.

Music can say what you can’t.

I didn’t get much of my theological upbringing from him, but I did get his dry wit and delivery. If there’s anything my grandfather and I share, it’s being the quietest person in the room until we’re engaged…. and then it’s generally an acid funny comment that you may or may not have been meant to hear. 😉

My granddad gave me someone in the world I could look at and say, “yeah. I’m his. No DNA test needed.” My dad is more extroverted than I am. My grandfather is where I got my style…. which is mostly to be entertained by everything, just watching and absorbing. We both get into moods where we want to hold court, but that is not our default setting. We want to cook. We want to read. We want to watch videos of PBS and the BBC.

Seriously, go find something to do. “Two Fat Ladies” is on.

I’m going to close with a video, but not because it’s of me. It’s because he made it. The video is of me being born, but the first few minutes is all made up. That’s because I was born five weeks early (my mother says eight) and at 9:59 in the morning, so NO ONE was prepared. My mom hadn’t even gone through Lamaze.

And when you watch it, please remember my family. Nearly everyone in the video is gone except for me and my dad, which makes it all the more precious. Please note my grandfather’s voice in the beginning, because it’s one that I dearly love. Remember him as young and handsome and funny as he was.

I feel that I know intimately how handsome he is, because he helped make me. 😛


Life Before The Internet

Yesterday’s writing prompt was asking if I remembered life before the Internet, and I have to say “not really.” That’s because I’m the last generation born that didn’t have technology everywhere as a small child, but it started creeping in when I was older. Nothing felt like a leap, just solid movement forward. For instance, I had a computer in my room when I was eight. It didn’t connect to anything, and I was still obsessed with it. So, my memories of life before the Internet are limited to age 15 and under. As I age, those memories are slipping away no matter the subject.

I miss the simplicity of computers without networking, because I knew for sure my files were safe at all times. I didn’t have to worry about viruses because my computer was what we’d now call “air gapped.” That’s keeping a server offline on purpose so that no one can get into it that doesn’t have physical access to the machine. I air gap my desktop when I’m writing so that I can’t zone out. I put my tablets in airplane mode. I care about security, and have encrypted and password protected anything I’d hate for others to see, because no one is close enough to me to read them. In some cases, no one ever will be that close to me because I have to have that one space where I can say anything and come back and read it later. I teach myself about relationships by writing letters never meant to be read by them, because I’m through trying to solve our problems with their input. It’s what brings me closure faster than anything else. To reread my own words and be critically aware of the ways I’m participating, because I can’t do anything to control the outcome of another person’s reaction to something I’ve said. The only thing I can control is my own actions, and why at times the Internet is more of a threat than it’s worth.

I decided that if we were going to have this new form of communication, I was going to learn everything about it. I started using Linux because I thought of myself as a coder, but over time have realized that I just prefer the environment as a daily driver- just a menu and a terminal. HTML and CSS are not considered “programming,” per se… and I have a third grade education in SQL. I can read a program and tell what it is supposed to do easier than I can create one on my own. Speaking of SQL, databases have fundamentally changed the Internet, because all of the sudden script kiddies had access to information they never could have gotten without an inside job, like any rando with an A in hacking could try for the firewall at the NSA. There are dire consequences for it, but only if you get caught. A virus hidden in the RAM of a server is barely detectable, and affects computers all over the world simultaneously. That is why people were so reluctant to do online banking, and the only thing I miss about that is human interaction. No one has to be up close and personal with anyone they don’t know. There is an epidemic of loneliness in the US which we perpetuate in our relentless quest for personal freedom. The Internet has changed our DNA to fully believe that those small interactions don’t matter, and now half the country believes there’s such a thing as alternate facts, and that no truth is objective. There are no subject matter experts that rise above party, because we don’t have to know them. We live in echo chambers because we can….. at the cost of a loving society because if you don’t want to know a wide range of people representing all sorts of opinions, you won’t. You miss out on the pain of opening up and having your thoughts rejected, and the beauty of being changed by something the other person did.

I was born during the Carter administration, so my first real memories are of President Reagan. Therefore, I’d been born during the last time there was hope for bipartisanship that didn’t set out to emotionally destroy people, like the insurrectionists turning on Mike Pence and threatening his life…. People he had once thought of as his base pursued him relentlessly. When you escape with your life, you’ll never be the same. No one is taking responsibility for that, when they absolutely turned off their brains and stopped seeing real people, or real information.

It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times, because pre-Internet was pre-24 hour news cycle and the urge to keep up. There wasn’t the hunger for knowledge there is today, which has turned the Internet into America’s next civil war, emotionally speaking. The cult started with lies that spread while truth was putting on its shoes. It was too late to be objective because they’d been brainwashed to believe that everything in front of them was wrong except for one guy with no qualifications who made himself seem that important and for some reason other people believed it.

I don’t think that could have happened in the late 70’s/early ‘80s because interaction through face time and touch is key to not losing connection with them. It doesn’t create false courage, the ability to rip people a new one in public with no regard for real life consequences…. Even if it’s your mother.

In the entries where I’m taking my mom to the mat, it’s only now that I can reflect on her whole life without offending her. This is because she would focus on the negative instead of the positive. Would only see me as trying to hurt her rather than wrestle with real feelings on my own. She doesn’t need to know what I thought now, because I know we did our best and now there is no chance that anything will change. Something fundamental and precious was lost, but that doesn’t mean people don’t have problems that take time to resolve.

For instance, I can fully accept that not wanting me to be who I am because she thought I’d cause my father to lose his job was traumatic. I can also relate to her treating me that way because she didn’t want to make things harder for either one of us. She didn’t know the first thing about being gay, and relied on her own instincts. She didn’t know, and so it wasn’t malicious. That’s how we could be so close and so distant at the same time. We rejected each other over mutual fear, and resolved it toward the end of her life. I’m glad for that, but destroyed she didn’t live longer so I’d have more memories of complete peace and security. There were so many ups and downs that I own all of them, because when I became an adult, she was no longer responsible for my actions. I shrank back from her in some ways, because over time she hadn’t committed to learning anything about me and I didn’t want to press because she’s already shown me she wasn’t comfortable.

I think the Internet changed that, too, because she could see how mainstream being queer was becoming and didn’t feel like it was such a burden carrying what other people thought of me. Before the Internet, we talked through the Oprah Winfrey show. It’s the only thing we were both obsessed with at the time. I started watching when I was nine. I saw a gay person for the first time on her show. I saw a trans person for the first time. I saw a person with AIDS, and the families with their quilts.

So, by the time I actually came out to her, at least she’d welcomed gay people into her home through the magic of television even if she didn’t know she’d met a gay person before. That’s because it would be impossible to go your whole life and meet one. They just might not tell you.

Memories of my family reign before the Internet because we spent more time together. The thirst to connect virtually because it was easier became so vitally important. The Internet plays to my strengths, because I communicate better in writing. I just need to watch what I’m saying and how I say it…. Not so much with my blog, but with my letters. I’ll get all riled up about something and release too much fire. If they release more, I feel bullied and get angry. I pop off and say things before I’ve had time to think about it. I think the difference is that traditionally I haven’t been good at getting over the things I’ve said because they torture me…. This is because I can only do something about my own behavior, and I don’t see it until I’m outside the situation.

I feel like working on issues is key, because I don’t ever want our communication to come across as bullying again. I have often been close to people who think that working on issues is bad, and I have learned to walk away when I continue to feel bullied because I take responsibility for the times I pop off and get angry when other people don’t do the same thing. Their anger is completely justified, and mine is not. My words were hurtful, theirs were not. I’m just being a victim, they didn’t do anything. The fact that this is the pattern with which I am the most comfortable disturbs me, because I know I have a lot of work to do in the areas of being patient. Taking a step back.

The Internet changed me because I thought that being physically in the same room was equal to feeling emotions when I read. That’s because I tended to get frustrated when people were talkers and not writers. It’s not because I wasn’t willing to change mediums, it’s that their reaction was that their words weren’t good enough for me because they couldn’t write as easily as I could. Intimidated by me to an enormous degree, when I could care less how people communicate as long as they’re doing it. I don’t like when people tell me that my words are so intimidating that they don’t want to communicate at all. They don’t want to even try. Meanwhile, I am begging for them to show up. I don’t want to beg to people who use their lack of skill with writing to avoid talking about a situation at all. If you don’t want to write to me, I will try to keep from overwhelming you with reading… provided you’ll actually go for coffee or a cocktail. Tell me that working on something with me is important to you even though my medium of communication is the written word and yours is not.

Don’t let me be lonely even when we’re together. Otherwise, I count on interactions with people who don’t mean as much to me. I have to force myself to engage in small talk, otherwise, I won’t talk at all. I don’t have the safety and comfort of history with the tellers at the bank. It’s only sad when I want people to feel close to me and they don’t want me to feel close to them, and not because they don’t want it. They aren’t prepared to accept that my emotions are large on the page, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are in real life. It’s because when I’m trying to convey an idea, I might not know your history with what I’m about to say and tap into an image you think is one thing, but I meant it as another. Like saying I wouldn’t want to have something and it comes across as “I think you’re bad” when I mean my quota is full on that particular desire. That you’re giving me all I need already.

In person, I could say that with my eyes, and do.

But I did it so much more frequently in my life before The Internet.

I Don’t Know, So I Don’t Know

What does “having it all” mean to you? Is it attainable?

One of the things I’m pondering this week came from a Twitter thread on habits…. that neurodivergents don’t have them, and that’s what neurotypical people can’t understand. Neurotypical people can make things happen automatically by repetition, and for neurodivergents, every task takes the same amount of energy as it did the first time, because every routine you have is a conscious decision. I have no executive function, nothing that makes me form a habit in the same way someone who doesn’t have ADHD would.

If you have no ability to create habits, life is exhausting. You are spending so much energy remembering what it takes to get out the door and you’ve been doing it since childhood. When your brain is unmanaged attention-wise, other thoughts invade while you’re trying to make a memory. That’s why I, a Virgo, am classically great at creating systems of organization that don’t last very long. Every “Back to School” was so much hope.

I am deeply in discernment about what my definition of having it all means, because it has shifted in quite a few ways. It’s great because my sister and I are having some of the same epiphanies, and it’s great being able to share. I saw her for lunch the other day, and she looks great. I was going to go with her to a thing where she was speaking, and I backed out because I couldn’t find an outfit. It was impossible. I’d lost so much in the fire by having to evacuate my room and I haven’t had time or need to replace anything until now.

Part of having it all for me is nice clothes, which is why I have a black belt in Goodwill. I can take a thousand dollar outfit and have it for $40, because it probably cost $20 and needs hemming.

In terms of clothes, I dress like every tech nerd in America, I just have sensory perception issues and would rather have an old shirt that was made to last two generations than fast fashion because it feels better. It’s the difference between a Target button down and Brooks Brothers.

I already have it all in one area of my life- this web site. I’ve made friends from it all over the globe, and it’s tremendously validating that I got here just by being myself. I didn’t set out to teach anyone but me, and ended up connecting with everyone else. To be honest, I post an entry frequently because I’ve come to visit this web site and it is now boring. That blogger sucks. Then I remember it’s me and get back to work.

I’m sorry that in some ways, entries seem repetitive if you show up every day, but to me it feels like I’m workshopping an idea. Clarifying. That’s what I mean by teaching myself. Reading myself closely and seeing how I come across to the outside world informs what I do next, and that feels right, because none of my ideas are coming from external validation and I am not trying to please an audience. I can see structure over time where I am woodshedding, purposefully running selected measures over and over until the tempo is right…. when I feel my inner Aaron Sorkin kick in. A phrase rises from being able to hear it in your own cadence to being able to hear it in mine.

Having it all is knowing I create reactions in you when you read, and you’re not shy about letting me know how you feel. Even when you disagree, I know I’ve made you feel something, which is so much better than nothing. It’s been such a rewarding relationship over the years, the one between you and me. I strongly believe it’s the only one that will last the rest of my life because I’ll still be able to write even if everything else goes away. In fact, I need it more when things go sideways. That’s how I teach those things not to hurt. I don’t approach every relationship thinking it’s going to end, I just know that I’ll be all right if it does.

Having it all is being open to the possibility of having kids in my life, which is to say that Cora already is, but it would be different living with her or any of the kids I would come to love. I’m also at an age where many of the people I meet have grandkids, because either they had kids early or they’re a few years older than me. That’s exciting to think about as well. I wonder all the time how it would change me, because I’ve had to think about it before and it all made me smile. I’d even be up for pregnancy and childbirth as long as it wasn’t mine.

I would be the greatest dad ever. I am already an old grandpa on the Internet. I already make terrible jokes, and I’m not offended by dating someone younger if they’re aiming for kids or already have them, because in that case they’re already better at adulting than I am, so why worry? I am not aiming for a young trophy wife, I’m just saying that I can’t know what circumstances people are in until I talk to them. Who knows what my next love will bring to the table? Whether they’re older or younger, childless or have many, none of that matters. I want someone who has an exciting mind and doesn’t care that I’m a bit of a homebody who needs to sit alone for long periods of time if they can’t sit quietly. That’s how to be a writer. To have everyone understand that they know where to find you in an emergency, but please don’t interrupt. In exchange, when I am not writing, I am completely and totally available. This gets easier when the other person is really busy.

It would help if my next partner had as big a worldview as Zac, because it gets me out of my own head to talk about things that affect countries and not me personally. I often need to be dragged out of thinking about myself, because it informs where I’m going on this blog. It’s developing ideas on what to say so that I’m not threatened by a blank page. It’s having more to talk about than just me.

I also feel like I’m the authority on me, but I don’t want to presume I’m an expert on anything else. Some of my assumptions are flat out wrong, because I don’t have all the information. When I do, my opinion changes and I write about that, too. I process emotionally pretty fast, which leads people to believe I am up and down mentally. In reality, I just let go of what I think quickly because new shit has come to light.

My mind moves fast, and it’s hard to keep up. Sometimes I’m proud of that, because it gives me self confidence to an enormous degree. I am literally not carrying around anything, because I talk about it here and then I’m done. Everything else I do to prepare just feels like writing a letter into the void, hoping that someone a hundred years from now will find it interesting. Knowing for sure that people who have crossed my path will live forever because I think that highly of them. That our story goes up and down because life can’t do anything else. I embrace change now in a way that I haven’t before, because I have a repository that tells me how strong and resilient I’ve become. That I have a place to fall that makes good stories out of bad situations. Future generations will read it like a novel, or a collection of letters in great grandma’s trunk.

Lately, happiness has written white for me, the ink not dark enough to be memorable. Having it all has been adjusting my expectations so that they’re much smaller. Noticing how good a cup of coffee tastes, even the day after with ice. Having the world’s most comfortable bed, surrounded by friends I never would have made had I not moved here. When Mother’s Day manipulation is not raining down on me, more of my funny moments with my mom shine through, because there were so many. It’s just that when shit goes down, you’re not always thinking of the sunniest thoughts, and that’s okay. My dad said something in a sermon once that’s stuck with me to this day, which has to be almost 30 years by now. He said, “death is 50% anesthesia to the living.” That when people die, we tend to saint them and not talk about what they were really like.

My mother and I are both full characters. We laughed, loved, lost and found each other. None of that can be contained with mere words. I accept all her love and genuine homophobia (she was never a bigot, just uneducated and afraid). Those things are not mutually exclusive. They are both true, and always will be.

I hope that with all of my entries, you can see that I hold the same opinion of all people. I accept that people do things that make them come across like an asshole, and so do I. They also do things that make them come across like an angel, and so do I. Sometimes I’m so focused on trying to resolve my issues that I forget to acknowledge how blessed I truly am, the only words I also love and hate. I want to talk about Christianity, but with the same foul-mouthed academia you’ve come to know and love, not Christianese.

I like that when I’m angry, I can still count on Jesus to have had a similar experience in which things also sounded better in his head.

This is another way of having it all, and it comes from the blessing of one person in particular. Love me or hate me, I was this way before Nadia Bolz-Weber, and then I got worse. 😛 Finally, someone who preached in my style because she used to do stand-up. Her sermons could make you roll in the aisle with laughter, which came as a relief because you were sobbing a second ago. It opened me up to hear that being human was a viable option. She didn’t inspire me to follow in her footsteps, only that being a regular person with a full range of emotions didn’t make me a less serious academic when it came to research and the humor I attached to it. Seriously, it was like Moses whispered in my ear that he killed a guy. A blog didn’t render me less worthy to talk about God. But it was a much bigger sin, just to be clear.

Note taken.

The Very Beginning

This blog is the beginning. I have to remember that it is not my end goal. It is building an audience, slowly but surely, for people who actually would like to see something out of me that’s not a complete mess. Plenty of people would buy it just to make sure it was finished.

The urge to blog is relentless because you and I are always talking. I say too much because I need it, not you…. And yet, you’re an amazingly kind and tolerant audience for something I thought would be maybe three people and a few cats.

It’s funny how I got the idea to blog. At first, it was writing letters to the woman who abused me, because I thought I had to think big thoughts to keep someone older interested in my little musings… When I started Clever Title, I thought of her as my blog before I could type……… but it was the same style. Just lay out all my crap, see what sticks. Her lines are housed in my head (though no longer enshrined) to this day, the few genuine moments I remember. Those words will stay between us, but they explain explicitly how a young writer could fall in love with another’s work. The way she writes is more flowery than she talks, but more direct because there’s no one in front of her. The words are smaller and carry more weight. Clearly there was something there besides us both being queer. We were both young musicians, exploring the world in secret…. And each other, but only to the extent that nothing was off the table in terms of what I could and couldn’t say. My letters ran the same gamut as five years’ worth of entries.

My second biggest influence was Doogie Howser, MD.

I wish I’d had the self-deprecating meme back then that I did with my beautiful girl…. “Sending you six unrelated texts in a row is my love language, and I’m so sorry….” She was my blog within a blog, because she read everything I can’t show you. She was the one who listened as I floundered around on every topic imaginable in order to discover how I felt to the point I could write about it. For people who garden as writers, we are discovering the plot as we go along. We don’t make an architecture. Therefore, this blog-within-a-blog was the very beginning of crafting an idea. Before I can write about it here, I have to let the raw emotions fall on the page.

What I am finding is that I was so shaken up by the experience that I thought because I’d wronged one woman, I didn’t deserve any of them until I could truly make amends with her. I wanted her to stop being sorry that she chose me to be her confidante, and I think she was trying to tell me that she was sorry for opening up to me for different reasons, but I only saw rejection and pain. So, whether I tornadoed this relationship or she did is up for grabs, because I couldn’t tell from one day to the next how she felt. It was always precarious, and I didn’t like that anxiety at all. I was given the choice- live with that anxiety or don’t. My grief is unlearning that pattern. I had gotten so used to uncertainty. I had gotten so used to not knowing because it was all my fault we were in this mess to begin with.

Not being able to move on was not about being so blindly in love with another’s letters that I was ignoring my own life… although I can see how someone would get there. It was that I was suffering under the weight of all my guilt because things would get better and worse at such a rapid pace. If my narrative was wrong, I wanted her to lay out all those feelings and let me respond to them. Let me hear what really went on in her mind so that I can take it in, bless it, and release it. So that I can clear up any misconceptions. I can explain where I absolutely was not trying to guilt her, telling her what she had nothing to feel guilty about. In fact, all I ever wanted her to do was to look at my letters as if they had more to say than she should feel guilty.

For almost ten years of my life, I got to be a part of someone’s life that I desperately needed to meet. I regret all of the bad and celebrate all of the good. Nothing in my life matters more than the gifts she gave me of self confidence and belief in my own intelligence. I have managed to fool her into believing that I am smart, and somehow she made me believe it, too. I also know that I am wrapped into her equally wild and crazy mind, but what was too painful not to know was whether she still felt the same way about me.

I don’t know why I didn’t just say “what exactly are you regretting here?”

Actually. Yes, I do.

I didn’t ask, because I was afraid of the answer.

I knew what it would be because I was focusing on what I’d done rather than what she said. However, it wasn’t all beating myself up. It was getting mixed signals that were probably caused by not normalizing having conversations on the phone or in person so that when I was reading, I heard her voice instead of the one I made up for her in my head. I also didn’t make enough effort to hear her when she did emote, because I didn’t lift myself out of the situation long enough to be able to tell her that she was focusing on the wrong thing and so was I.

Neither one of us were very good at saying when something made us feel loved and when something made us want to stab each other with a fork…. We’d both hold it in fearing the other’s reaction. I’d finally get tired of sidestepping something and then all hell broke loose. It seemed like the thing that attracted her to me was the thing that repelled me the most over time…. Being able to communicate on the Internet and yet….. not.

I think it’s because we had different ways of being in this relationship, not due to us actually wanting harm for the other. We both spoke to each other in our own love languages, disappointed when the other didn’t respond the way they’d hoped. It wasn’t manipulation on either of our parts; I think it was just plain frustration because when we thought we were winning, we were behind. I never got the message in terms of how our relationship needed to change, because I was all in and I didn’t know if she was or she wasn’t. She wouldn’t set new boundaries, new rules of engagement so all topics of conversation were so hit or miss I didn’t know where I stood. Perhaps I overfocused on the negative responses and there’s a lot I’ve missed…. But I’ll never know whether I did or not because I couldn’t sit there long enough to wonder anymore. What is real? What is in my head? What can I expect from you? What do you expect from me?

As I told her, “I am not trying to take a plate that’s been smashed into a million pieces and make it look like it never broke. I am trying to work with you to mold new glass.” The cord connecting us to each other was massive because there were no constraints and no context.

I got tired of wondering what I could do better because I’d already laid myself bare in as many ways as I could, and none of it was coming across in the way that I meant it. I spent so much energy trying to figure out what I could say and how that I lost sight of the big picture. I needed her forgiveness in a very solid and concrete way.

I needed to know that I was worth meeting, not because I am perfect and need to be gladhanded, but that forgiveness is real with no lingering aftereffects. For her, that forgiveness was given on the surface, and it was murky whether it was real or not because even though we were still interacting, the tape that I was worth nothing to her wouldn’t leave me alone.

I realized no relationship was worth that much in self esteem, because it was dependent on whether I thought I was good enough for her or not. Who cares whether I thought I was good enough for me? Hadn’t I already proved I wasn’t worth anything?

How I conflated not being worth her time with self worth is not new or interesting. I ended the longest relationship with anyone in my adult life because I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts. I’d constantly think of ways to explain something that only served to make her feel worse, when I was trying to solve a problem, not create one.

It was a weight I could no longer carry, because living on wishes was not nutritionally filling. Neither is grieving someone that I thought I knew well, and also never met. The realest thing in my life, and also the most precarious.

“Hope is a thing with feathers,” but no one talks about how extraordinarily difficult a thing it is to get off the ground. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into that hope. I wrestled it like Jacob, and my hip is permanently disfigured.

The belief in this message of hope is that I tried the best I could, and I’m sure she did, too. Being able to communicate is a rare and beautiful thing; in this case, we never relearned each other. I know I missed a lot and am personally responsible for the initial break. Feeling the weight of that pain and embarrassment consistently undid me.

I am having dreams about what I wish would have happened, because it moves the story along with a natural denouement instead of a lens cap. The thing that keeps reappearing is that moment. The one where the other becomes real…. A handshake to anchor us so that finally, we are facing each other.

And I’d get to say, after almost ten years, “Hi. I’m Leslie.”

Going back to the very beginning.

The War Daniel, Part II

Describe a risk you took that you do not regret.

I took a risk in getting close to The War Daniel, and it paid off in spades. Yes, I went through so much, but I am hugely capable of dealing with things so it never felt like a burden. I know I came across as harsh, but that’s because I wasn’t holding him while we talked. I hope he understands, even if we never reconcile, how much he changed my life for the better just by having the courage to ask me to marry him… because it showed that he was dreaming of a better life down the road as well. I want nothing more out of him than that; I want him to find his best life, even if I’m not involved. I want him to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs or a war journalism professor or a lazy bum on a beach in a country where you can live on $20 and a coupon for frozen yogurt.

I just want him to live like he means it, because that’s what I want for myself. To free myself of the bonds that make me think the world is better off without me. The War Daniel and I have both gotten close, and it’s an institutional memory of what we hate most about ourselves, because it matches up so closely. I spoke the other day about my conversations being tough on anyone who doesn’t live on my “Island of Misfit Toys,” and Daniel knew enough right off the bat he bought a house.

Can you see what that means to me? Out of all the people in the world that could have picked me, he did. He knew every single thing he needed to know and nothing frightened him, because if I’d been through it, so had he…. Just from vastly different perspective. In fact, the only thing that gave me pause before I said yes was wondering why a Doc of that magnitude was even interested in me. Who even am I next to all that?

I empathized with his problems to the point of not being able to move at all. My mirror neurons were constantly overloaded, and it was because we were having the same experience. I was awed with him because I felt worthless, and vice versa. Neither one of us believed we truly deserved each other, and it showed quickly. However, I won’t ever believe that he’s not the perfect match for me, because we have just enough in common and just enough difference to change lives just by being us. We change each other all the time.

Cora is part of my story now, and in some sense, we are raising a child together. This is because my mother love kicked in the moment she realized she wanted that… a queer mom to help her translate her feelings so that her parents could hear her better. To teach them queer history so that they knew what our triggers were so that at least when they hit them, they’d know enough to apologize. I needed us to be one big happy family, three parents and a child, because I can’t think of a child that needs it more than Cora.

I cannot underestimate how much danger I feel she is in, both with Texas laws and attitudes toward trans women in particular, and to get even more granular, if white trans women have it bad, the darker your skin gets, the worse the crime statistics. Everything in that regard is par for the course.

When she told me how bad it was down there, my first reaction was “I want you to move in with me. Can we make that happen? I don’t even know if I can make that happen, but we can work on it together.”

She told me that she’d be open to it, and that she’s wanted it since I said it. Whether The War Daniel is an active participant or an NPC is of no consequence. They can walk away from me, but I will never in my lifetime walk away from her. That is my daughter out there, and I dare you to prove it’s not true. The only evidence you don’t have is DNA. Good luck. God bless.

So now I need to start researching the best place for us. If it was a cheap city, ideally it would have enough room for both her parents to visit, together or separately. It’s not that I have my hopes up, it’s just that if you commit to a kid, their whole famn damily comes with them. It doesn’t matter how they react to me, because I can only control what I’m putting out. So, The War Daniel is free to tell me he made a mistake and free to move on all in one breath, because I can’t care about him anymore. I need to care about her.

I have entirely pure motives because I can’t afford to be wrong on this one. I cannot live with a world in which I do not do everything I can to convince Daniel to get her the fuck out of NE Texas. I left because I got tired of fighting the system. I needed to live with other grown-ups.

So do I regret opening my heart so quickly to Daniel? Absolutelyfuckingnot. I got the best relationship of my life out of it. I just can’t be the only one getting up in the middle of the night when the baby is telling us she needs help. My best hope is that he does choose me again, for all sorts of reasons, a lot of them practical. I had to let go of wanting a man I couldn’t have because all of this is bigger than me. But that doesn’t mean I am counting on it. That would be insane. I want to be wanted, and a campaign for anything else is beneath me.

I think the biggest reason I’m loud on the Internet where it comes to Daniel is that he knows it’s here. He can look it up. He can see that he is wanted, loved, and cherished even when he irritates the shit out of me. He struggles with feelings of inadequacy, too, so more than anything I want him to know that I love him despite his flaws and failures because he loved me in that same extraordinary way. There were also so many callbacks to our childhood that we could pass on to Cora, and it’s not as fun doing it without it being a tennis match.

I took a big swing, and I’ll hit home plate one way or another. I can support Cora from a distance or she can live with me, but there’s not a person alive who, if they had a chance to get a trans kid out of Texas, wouldn’t.

Anything Anywhere All at Once

What job would you do for free?

Link to audio.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Morning Choices

What are your morning rituals? What does the first hour of your day look like?

This particular morning is thinking about Easter. Not only that there are a million metaphors for resurrection, but that you can choose them. You are capable of telling your energy which resurrections are necessary. Sometimes, you have to decide which hurts worse. Living with the idea that a situation is dead or overindulging the fact that it is alive and nourishing because you are wishing it into being. It’s a bubble. What happens when it pops and it doesn’t even resemble reality? What if the resurrection is metaphor for changing the story you’re telling yourself?

For me, it’s looking at relationships. For you, the thing that’s “alive” might be that you’re happy at your job. It’s up to you to decide if death and resurrection is worth more than life limping along. And yes, I will use death and resurrection because anyone who has ever attempted to change careers knows that’s exactly how hard it feels some days.

Which brings me right back around to morning routines. Morning is when my mind naturally works the best and most efficiently. In my world, mornings are absolute quiet, because I cannot think and do anything else. I dedicate myself to an idea completely and don’t move until I am capable of a complete thought, which leads to me either getting out a tablet and keyboard or Moleskine that already has a pen attached because Lord knows if I don’t keep it attached I’ll never see it again.

I start writing (or talking into the microphone, or making a video) between 0530 and 0700. The variance comes from my medication. I take a mood stabilizer which sometimes keeps me awake, therefore I sleep a little later some days to compensate. Truly, though, my best work is at 5:00 AM. It doesn’t matter if I got up or stayed up. If I notice my edge is slipping, I’ll take sleeping medication during the evening news because I know that myelin on my nerves and getting up when I’m naturally the most fighting fit in terms of writing will do me a world of good with self esteem.

For instance, in doing the post-mortem on this friend breakup, I realized that I’d lost myself before it even began and these problems predated anything I ever did to sexually harass her, which I absolutely did and for which I take complete responsibility. I was a mess, but my damage didn’t have to become hers and I’ll always be sorry for it. What I won’t miss is her blunt assessment of everything because it made her sound like such a hardass all the time, and because I loved her, I ignored how it made me feel. When I said something about it, I was abruptly invited to go to hell. I can point to that fight less than a week after we met.

I knew when I broke trust that it would be an uphill battle based on not just the original fight, but every fight after that. We had a fundamental issue with communication from the beginning, and I wish I’d kept her as a fan who wanted access and otherwise just left well enough alone. I’m just not smart enough to ignore that much dopamine in one place. I am also not the type of person that can squeeze my feelings back into a smaller container. I would much rather you just take your leave because you’ll pull back, but my feelings won’t. I will just put too much energy where it isn’t wanted for *years* because I believe that scar tissue is stronger, that our relationship will be better once we’ve actually talked through something big.

If your whole idea of relationships is that they deserve to die a horrible death once trust is broken, there’s not a lot of hope for me in that equation. I am so, so human. I will never live a life free of sin, and I forgive just as easily during the phase where we’re fighting it out in hopes of a better outcome. But I won’t yield until I hear something that rings *true.* One sentence is all it takes. One moment of real vulnerability.

The part of realizing that resurrection shouldn’t happen in this case is that my friend said she didn’t hold anything over my head, that we were all good, while at the same time treating me completely differently. A decade ago I knew things about her no one knew, and vice versa… compared with not mentioning that the guy she started dating but hadn’t met her kids yet was now her husband. If you want that marked a change in our relationship, it’s fine, but don’t pretend that everything is the same. It’s not and it never will be. Things being the same is just a story you’re telling yourself, or more accurately, the story I told me.

Her reaction was not trusting that I do love her for absolutely everything she is, not trusting that my love for her would extend to her husband as well. I would step in front of a bus for him, no questions asked, simply because she loves him. Everything that matters to her matters to me. Besides, if he’s any smart at all he already knows she’s too good for him. I don’t have to remind him…

I also know that her trauma reflexes caused her to react that way, because they told her that once I screwed up, I was always going to screw up. Opening her heart to me was always going to end badly. It’s true I needed time to recover. You don’t get hit in the face with that much fantastic every day. I took my leave, tail slung between my legs, and she kept reading.

I thought we were done for life and then I wondered how in the hell she knew my dad was going in for heart surgery (I really do think of this blog as letters to myself in the future and sometimes forget that looking up what I’m doing currently is a thing that people do). I should have known we were done when my mother died two or three days later and her response was an e-mail when she lived a half hour from me. Nothing was the same because we were both scared of each other. I got over it and eventually started letting her see everything again.

She continued to be shut down like a steel trap unless she was laying out her feelings about my other love interests/friends/reptiles of some sort. I am not devaluing this aspect of our relationship, because it made me feel guarded and protected. Not being able to see herself as clearly as she saw others made it feel as if I was on the outside of that protection in those instances, because I didn’t have anything helpful to say anymore. My rights had been revoked. It was a credentials fail all the way around.

Speaking of credentials, that’s one of the funniest conversations we’ve ever had. Her not knowing jack shit about computers and me teaching her how to irritate the fuck out of her IT Guys at work. Their misery is my happy place.

I’m processing out all this pain because hurt people hurt people. I don’t want to be capable of losing myself this way anymore, hoping against hope and trying not to breathe wrong. Remembering making her laugh is the best I can do right now, otherwise my rage takes my breath away. I don’t feel emotions at half-strength. I find that if I get as angry as I need to get and grieve as hard as I need to while it’s happening, it won’t come back in five years and bite me.

I am letting the death and resurrection occur within me as we speak, because I chose it. This one matters, and it is necessary. I know I’m lost, and I’m trying to get found because amazing grace does have a sweet, sweet sound. You’ll just never hear that hymn out of me if I can help it because I’ve sung it enough now for four lifetimes… most especially irritating at the tempo of a funeral dirge.

It’s not time for that…. Well, I suppose it is until Sunday morning. But the point is that come Sunday morning, it’s time for lilies and a pipe organ and a brass quintet and the Widor Toccata with the all the stops pulled out. I want to feel the bass in my chest. I want resurrection to burst forth as new as it ever has been.

Even though it is thousands of years old.

Now the morning routine is switching to making a cup of tea and regathering the strength to resurrect something else.

Without Tears

I am not sure that this entry will be written without tears, because I’m thinking about so many things that my emotions might leak. I might let the audio sit for a day or two, just to get some emotional distance. It helps the narration if I don’t have to blow my nose. Also, I’m sorry if the audio is poor. I have five housemates and I don’t have an “on air” light, nor would they pay attention to it. I am, however, surprised at just how much my Bluetooth mic picks up. The mic is literally in my ear, and it still picks up noise from all over the second floor. It helps me, though, because it keeps me from flooding out…. So that I can record an entry without tears…. 98% of the time.

I am positive that some people were confused at me crying over the death of Tony Mendez, but let me tell you why. I wrote about it, but it’s been long enough and I haven’t mentioned the connection more than once so it’s time for a rehash.

I wasn’t finished with grieving my mother when Tony died. Grief compounds. Therefore, I knew innately what his widow, Jonna, was going through in terms of having to tough out a public event all armored up while dying inside. My mirror neurons went off like crazy. My grief mixed with hers even though we didn’t talk about it. I took all of that grief home with me and mourned Tony and my mother simultaneously. Therefore, years later, when I think about grief, Tony and my mother both come to mind.

Mourning my mother was so great a loss that I put it deep down inside, hardly ever talked about it unless the other person in the conversation had already lost a parent. This is because the chance was too great that I would open myself up to further injury, because people have no idea what to say and often make it worse.

I will tell you right now that the only thing I actually wanted said was “I’m sorry.” I loved people that showed up and were willing to sit in the silence until I could emote.

Digging that deep was so incredibly hard that I still hadn’t cried as much as I needed to. Crying about Tony was only partially about Tony. The loss of a new book from him ever again really was devastating. But mostly it’s that the grief I felt regarding him was so much bigger than that. Grieving over him allowed me to process my mother’s death, because it was the entrance to a deep, dark cave, ripe for excavation. I just didn’t have any spelunking equipment.

Meeting Jonna was at least the hat with the light.

She broke me open in just the right way, at just the right time. Her armor was my armor laid out in front of me where I could take it in… where I could see my own actions in the third person omniscient.

So, when I talk about Tony Mendez, I can’t do it without tears.

Going through a breakup with a friend has been devastating, and yet not at all. It just depends on the day. Some days I think “no one is her,” and some days I just can’t. What has helped is a book called “My Other Ex,” stories of women who’ve lost their best friends and why “no one is her.” One thing they expressed universally is that with other women, you get so close you can speak without words, but there is no recognition of that type of grief.

I am an INFJ. I feel emotions so deeply that they’re capable of overtaking common sense, and I could write a seven volume book series on my dumbass attacks. Not only do I understand, I grok.

I understand so completely that their grief is my grief. Grief compounds. I cannot talk about that relationship ending without tears. So I compartmentalize, and armor up. No one is trying to see me cry in line at Whole Foods.

Armoring up is necessary only because if I don’t, I will just bleed out emotionally. In the moments where I am not capable of armoring up, it means the grief is too deep. So even though no one was trying to see me cry at a Whole Foods, they must have thought that them being out of the veggie dogs I like was being taken way too seriously.

Although I will say that it was legit a problem. If veggie dogs, vegan cream cheese, and hot sauce didn’t exist, I’d probably be dead by now. I eat them all the time. It’s my favorite lunch, because it takes about a minute to make. Yes, I am a very good cook, but I eat prepared foods most of the time. This is because I don’t want to devote the time and energy to prep. If you come over to eat, I will pull out my good knife. Left to my own devices, I run on sandwiches and Crystal Light.

I believe in Crystal Light, because Crystal Light has always believed in me. Also, not going to lie- finding out there are flavors with caffeine in them has made my whole life easier. I cannot talk about Crystal Light Energy without tears. 😛

“Spare” is a rough read, and I cannot do it without tears, either. Prince Harry and I have so much in common. My platform as preacher’s kid was so much smaller, but I can empathize with his pain. I’ve cried over the loss of Princess Diana, being different than everyone else because he wants to speak his truth, and the list goes on.

And then he went to Afghanistan, and I went from tears to the full-on sob.

I have said over and over that The War Daniel is my primary partner, and that if he changes his mind about marrying me, it’s over for anyone else. The reason that they don’t stand a chance is that we have a trauma bond, which is like a regular bond on steroids.

He’s the only person ever to make me feel better about the emotional abuse handed down to me over the years. I couldn’t listen to him without tears of relief. He said, “your trauma is so much worse than mine, because my enemies in Afghanistan were clearly defined. Yours were the ones closest to you, turncoats all.” If he is willing to walk in my inner landscape, I am willing to walk in his.

In fact, I am hoping to God I didn’t just reject a call from him.

The area code on my phone was his, but the name was “Telemarketer.” They didn’t leave a message, so I hope that means it really was an auto dial. Someone in rehab feeling rejected is not my MO, especially because I need him to know that I love him, honestly and completely.

The only reason I’m even saying that it’s up in the air is because I’m willing to date people casually until January. At that point, it’s a different ball game. I need to know if he still feels the same way after the fog has cleared from his brain. Again, I am trying to think logically through rehab and its aftermath, experience I’ve gotten from being a friend and a coworker.

But even though I’ve dealt with addicts my entire cooking life, that doesn’t mean I can do it without tears. What if he doesn’t come back? What if I’m waiting for nothing? I only think that in my smallest moments, though, because I’m not ready for a serious relationship, anyway. Even the relationship that Daniel and I created previously wasn’t serious. He didn’t tell me to break up with Zac, and thinks he’s adorable (because he is). I didn’t tell him I needed him to be faithful, either. He was going to be off doing his own thing. The best I hoped for this year was letters, calls, perhaps a short visit since he can fly here so easily and without money. The only constraint that the military would put on him is time…. Being flexible about his departure and arrival depending on how many standby seats were available.

The only part that was serious is dreaming of the life I wanted to create with him once he was capable of doing so. It fits my purposes nicely that he doesn’t drink, because I so rarely indulge. Zac likes cocktails, and so do I, especially if it’s something I’ve never tasted before. Therefore, I will always take a drink if Zac is bartending, but I don’t even keep alcohol at my house. I would rather drink Crystal Light. I think we have covered this. 😛

Right now, I am not communicating with Doc. It’s not because I don’t love him more than life itself. I need him to get well, and I don’t want to be a distraction in any way. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if he thought I needed help more than him and decided to come to my rescue at the expense of his own. The best thing I could possibly do is let rehab have him, and he’ll be done in May.

On the surface, it looks like I am batshit crazy and I realize this. Combat vet and alcoholic. Leslie, are you insane?

Yes, and that’s the point.

Daniel was HM2 in the Navy. That is the equivalent of a civilian nurse practitioner. Therefore, I feel safe with him because me being bipolar would never be an issue. I trust his judgment. If Doc says he can tell whether I’m up or down, I will take that check to the bank and cash it.

On the flip side, is it any wonder that I know how to support a Doc? My family is all medicine, all the time.

A really funny conversation between Doc and me ran thusly:

“I think I’m getting hypomania.” “And what are your qualifications to make this diagnosis?” “I went to medical school in the backseat of a Lexus.”

I am good at standing (sitting) behind people and listening closely.

I have been listening to Doc closely, and trying to understand his pain. Most of the time, I cannot do it without tears. If I start down the road of Doc doing this brave thing and how it was his worst day, I will collapse in a heap. It’s why I’m wiling to forgive him, and struggling through it. I have to forgive him whether he reappears or not. The forgiveness isn’t for him. It’s for me. I won’t be myself until all of this is resolved, even if it’s just getting my own closure.

The only reason I haven’t closed the door is that I can’t think of him going through rehab without tears, either. I know what that’s like, not from a first-person perspective, but from having a best friend back in the day who went through what Doc is going through now. I remember that I gave her a ring that looked like leaves encircling her finger, in honor of turning over her new leaf.

I wear my skeleton claddagh with pride on my right hand, or I did until the silver wore off and it turned my finger green. That’s not Doc’s fault. It wasn’t a gift. I bought it as a placeholder and told Doc where to find my favorite jewelry.

I should call around and see if I can find a maker who does plating. Even nickel would protect the metal. The only reason it’s worth plating a ring that cost $3.00 is that it’s so unique. Doc is a death metal fan. Skeleton claddagh is not my style, it’s his. Even after he broke up with me, I still wore it like a #livestrong bracelet. It didn’t mean we were still together, just that I hope to God that sending support would help, even if he never knew about it. I mean, he knows I have it and I have sent him a picture, but it might surprise him to know that the ring turned my finger green a few days ago. I didn’t give up on the ring, it gave up on me.

Perhaps it’s for the best that I’m not constantly looking down at my right hand, longing for a dream that might never come. I just don’t want to be certain about anything regarding him, because rehab is hard work and your emotions are all over the place. Again, Cora has said that she doesn’t think my faith in her father is misplaced, so I’m choosing to believe her. Keeping my own strength up is what’s important, because my faith in her father is important to me being who I am through all of this, too.

What kind of partner would I be if I gave up on him while he needed so much compassion? I know what it’s like to push someone away because you’re traumatized, and his trauma goes to eleven. Our pain isn’t even on the same playing field.

….and I can’t think about that without tears.

The Monster in My Head and the Ghost Out to Get Me

The blog post, read poorly by the author.

I just watched an exploratory criticism of “Vincent and the Doctor” that I really love. It talks about depression, because there’s who The Doctor thinks is an aggressive alien chasing after Vincent, because only he can see it. The Doctor has to use a gadget with a mirror so he can see the alien in reverse, and it’s not aggressive. It needs help.

Which the creator of the video calls the alien representative of depression itself. It’s a monster only you can see. Depression is also not feeling sad, necessarily, because there is no rhyme or reason to it. I could be panicky, I could be absolutely devastated regarding something, so that pain also mixes in…. But mostly, depression is the absence of emotions at all. People, places, and things don’t matter. You have to drag yourself everywhere, even into the shower or actually completing any task that would make you feel better…. Because of course, it’s what depression thinks you deserve. It knows the very best lies to use against you…. That you are worth nothing, that you are not deserving of being able to take care of yourself, because you don’t matter to anyone… and if you do matter, you think it’s just because other people are being nice to you.

Because who could ever love dumbasses like us?

If people do show that they care, genuinely, you still can’t accept that fact… because depression knows the very best lies to use against you. It is an alien who needs help, a foreign brain infection. Depression thinks that it’s saving you from pain, because you think you’re a burden on everyone, especially when they tell you that.

I’m Bipolar II, which is like regular manic depression but without caffeine or calories. Nothing to get you going at all. You’re just hanging in until you get just enough hypomania to function out in the world without being stuffed full of bravado and confidence that is unparalleled and leads to extremely poor impulse control. One of the worst thoughts I’ve had after an appointment with a psychiatrist. He said that he thought I was bipolar, not unipolar, and switched out my medication. I was over the moon that I’d found a really great doctor, and eventually learned once my protocol changed that a mood stabilizer was the right answer.

I called Dana in tears, the kind that threaten to swallow you up. I said, “I don’t want to be Sally Field in ER!” If you know, you know.

Bipolar I is so different from Bipolar II that there’s not really a direct comparison. You don’t go up in to true mania, where you’re buying ten cars in one day or putting yourself in more danger than is necessary because you like the thrill.

Bipolar II is a lot of depression without coming back up. My hypomania presents as insomnia. I don’t get it very much, but I wish I did. Depression is a complete shitshow, because it will rob you of thinking you deserve anything at all. You’ll pick the most toxic person in the room because you actually think that being treated poorly is almost necessary. You’re still getting some contact comfort, and still focused intensely on how bad you should feel for inconveniencing other people. If they’re crazy, too, you figure that taking on their pain so they can function is the one thing you can do to prevent them walking away. It generally doesn’t work for either party, because two people care about them to the point of losing ourselves. For unipolar and bipolar depression, this pattern occurs a lot… because again, you think your job is to take care of everyone else so that they see you actually have something valuable to contribute to the conversation, because if you’re dealing with your own pain, adding on someone else’s is a no-brainer. If they’re not a narcissist, you’ll get support and love because they may not be able to sympathize, but empathy goes a long way.

But that’s a healthy relationship, and we don’t find those, because it would show self worth and esteem, and we don’t do that either. Why would we? We don’t even like ourselves…. And from the Gospel of RuPaul Charles, “if you can’t love yourself, how in the HELL are you going to love someone else?”

I feel it’s time for a snarky reminder that RuPal is a drag queen. Get out of here with your bullshit. You’ve loved RuPaul since high school. “But I’m a Cheerleader,” “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and the list goes on.

I didn’t think of it before, but I’m thinking of it now. Minorities are more adept at thinking they’re trash than the cis, straight, fits in everywhere sort of person…. And white people are awful. Full stop. It’s embarrassing. Even though I’m white, I use the queer card everywhere because I want to take people’s slurs and stupid comments because it makes me feel less like a traditional white person and more like the minority I really am.

Being queer is great if you keep to yourself, because no one can tell if you’re queer just by looking at you…. Even though I joke about it all the time. For instance, “are you pregnant?” “You can see me, right?” But the hard truth is that I am not having the same experience of the US as people of color. I could absolutely hide from it. I want to marry a man. To me that says bi pride flags everywhere and Daniel becoming a part of my community because Cora will also be there. Kidhausen and Lesliehausen are a team for life.

The suffix -hausen is used to represent the best of the best of the best. So of course my favorite movie is now “Argohausen.” Seriously, I love the dialogue.

“I should have brought some books for prison.” “Oh, they’ll kill you long before prison.” “If you get caught, The Agency cannot claim you.” “They barely claim me as is.” “What’s your demographic?” “People with eyes.”

And the list goes on. My favorite that runs through my head when cooking in a professional kitchen is “I’ve seen suicide missions that had better odds than this.”

In case you were wondering, I did type all of it without looking up. I have seen it so much that I’ve memorized most of it. The only part I cannot do is speak Farsi…. But don’t think I haven’t tried to learn it by transliteration.

Tony Mendez is literally in the Top 50 spies to ever work for CIA.

There is an Argo line or conversation for every occasion. This is “He (meaning President Carter) says you’re a great American.” “A great American what?” “He didn’t say.”

But my favorite has to be when they go to present their very best bad idea… by far. “Careful. It’s like talking to those two old fucks from The Muppets.”

Things that really make me laugh are important, because it lifts my mood overall. I have learned that I am not the sort of person that can go without listening to music for more than five minutes, because it silences “The Committee.” You didn’t show up knowing what that meant, but if you have depression or alcoholism, you know. It’s the tapes in your head that tell you you’re no value add.

It’s why most people die of depression, and I will say it exactly that way. It’s a disease in the sense that the brain is an organ, focused on survival. It will do anything to protect you, because to it, protecting you means isolating. It’s “obvious” no one likes you. They can’t get away from feeling that we don’t deserve to be alive at all.

Because it’s the monster in your head, and the ghost out to get you. For a lot of people, it does. The one that hurt the most was Tommy Raskin, son of Jamie, because Jamie is brilliant and I had to watch him on TV while bleeding out emotionally because I know what it’s like when someone close to you dies. Every neuron in your body is re-wired to accept the loss and move on. Losing a parent or a child fundamentally changes you in a way that people who haven’t lost parents or children will never understand.

They don’t realize you are literally a different person than you used to be, and you can’t go back… especially when they look at your method of grieving and decide it’s unacceptable, because they also don’t realize that grieving is as individual as a fingerprint. Everyone reacts differently. For Nora Ephron, it was keeping her husband’s shoes because she thought he might need them. She’s right. It’s at least a year of magical thinking. The brain fog is interminable, like putting whatever you’re holding in the freezer whether you meant to or not. I thought my notebook was missing for days. It was in the pantry.

For me, grief was being “show mode” in public and unable to function when I was alone. I’m not sure I got out of bed more than a few times in the first month my mother died suddenly. She broke her foot and developed an embolism. In one way and one way only, it helped a lot to know that there wasn’t a doctor on earth that could have done any better. They would have had to catch it early on. When it blows, it blows. Periodt.

The part that was terrible was that I had just come home from church, where I talked to Sam, my choir director. She asked me if I would do a solo, and I asked her if it was okay to invite my mom to play for me.

I was writing a blog entry about it when my sister called and told me that mom was in the hospital. I wasn’t even finished with it when Lindsay called to tell me that she died. She died and I was so far away, when I still had a car and was “threatening” to take a road trip home. She said she thought it was a bad idea, and I have been kicking myself ever since.

I went into complete shock mode, putting away my emotions because I knew that a crowd of people I didn’t know would be filing past me to give condolences, or coming up to me at the potluck afterwards, etc. The worst comment I got was that a woman said she knew how I felt, because her cat died. It’s not the same playing field, Karen.

No one saw me cry because I was incapable of doing so. Falling apart in front of strangers is not something I do, ever. I could cry in front of this audience because I was alone in my room, and it felt natural. I just left it that way, even though the moment I started telling the story of how I met Jonna Mendez, Tony’s widow, made my stomach clench and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop from showing grief.

Showing grief is uncomfortable, almost as uncomfortable as being depressed. People don’t know what to say about your loss, and you are mindful that people have no frame of reference for what you’re going through, because again, grief is as individual as a fingerprint. Sometimes people who are grieving are surprised that you’re not doing it the same way they did.

It felt like “you’re not doing it right, Leslie.”

I wouldn’t have survived if I hadn’t turned on my inner sociopath (in terms of cutting off your emotions, not nefarious activity). It was the only way I would survive the onslaught of being thrown into public, akin to being dropped in the middle of Tehran without language skills, a map, or anything else that would have been helpful.

I felt like Marcus Brody in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”

“Marcus? Marcus would get lost in his own museum.”

Oh my God it’s just the truest thing ever. You only think you’re prepared, but you’re not, because you have no idea what your brain is going to do to protect you. It might be close to how you think you’d react, but it’s a sure bet it’s going to be absolutely nothing like what you thought you would feel. It’s also a different scenario when a parent dies suddenly at a young age rather than you getting to enjoy them until you’re both relatively ancient. I feel like I got robbed of at least a decade.

If someone is dying slowly, you have the opportunity to ask questions, get educated on what’s going to happen, make major life decisions for them, etc…. Most people think of it as a burden to become a carer. My response in my head is generally “fuck off,” and not because I’ve suddenly started to hate this person. It’s because they seem ungrateful that they get to watch their parents finish their lives instead of it being stolen.

My mother would have hated every minute of it, and would probably be grateful that she died suddenly. This is because she would literally rather die than let us take care of us. Depression is genetic, and she was never diagnosed or treated. You could just tell, because you think you’re good at hiding it until someone finally tells you they can see you and it’s astonishing how much you think you’re hiding it. If I had to take a guess, my mother was dysthymic, which is a low level of depression that presents all the time. You don’t feel bad enough to go to the doctor because you think it’s just a case of “the blues.” You’ll get over it soon. And then you don’t realize that ten years have gone by.

But it’s a bullshit diagnosis because I’m not an actual doctor. I just call ‘em like I see ‘em, and I’ve had enough experience with crazy people to see them. Acknowledge that they’re hurting and try to help. I have actually been to what poet Mary Karr calls “the mental Marriott.” It was great meeting my cohort because all of a sudden, I had seven people who understood me completely.

Because they too have a monster in their heads and a ghost out to get them.

Cooking and Cleaning -or- New Hat. Who Dis?

So, here’s the thing about the hat. I am not sure what happened to my original khaki hat that said “The GAP,” but I flipped houses in it so my guess is that it just fell apart. Then, my sister came to visit and left it here. I have conveniently forgotten it for what will be eight years at the end of April.

I normally wear my CIA baseball cap because of what it took to get it. Easy for my friend Zac, not so much for me. Because he works with classified information, he occasionally has to go to different intelligence agencies, and one of them is Langley. If he thinks I can be bought for a baseball cap… Yes. Yes, I can.

I just figured a new look was probably called for. Half my videos I can’t tell the difference when they were made. 🙂

Progress Notes

Blue Bird Circle Clinic for Pediatric Neurology

Name: LANAGAN, Leslie Diane

Staffing Conference

Date: August 25th, 1978

Staffing Physician: Robert S. Zeller, MD

The history and physical of this now 11 and one-half month old girl was reviewed in detail. Although she still manifests a great deal of hypotonia, it appears to have improved from the time of her examination one month ago. She is still, however, hyperreflexic.

Our impression is that of hypotonic cerebral palsy, that is in all probability secondary to insults received during the immediate post-natal period. There is also secondary delayed motor development and she is felt to be functioning in approximately the 6-7 month age range. The parents were counseled in depth and told that we could not predict at this time her future motor function or intellectual capabilities [emphasis mine]. She will be referred to the Infant Stimulation Program in Kilgore, Texas within the next week. We would like to see her in our clinic in six months to evaluate her language and motor development. A letter of our findings and recommendations will be sent to the referring physician, Dr. J.B. Bates, and two copies will be sent to the father.

Sheila Owens, MD
Pediatric Resident

When I was almost one, here is the sum total of my physical accomplishments:

  • Does not seem to vocalize to recognition.
  • Infant rolls from back to stomach, turns head toward origin of voices or sounds and looks at toys in her hand as she plays.
  • She can hold a cube in each hand and picks up a cube from table and side.
    • It is difficult to say if she definitely looks for fallen toys.
  • Her muscle tone is not wasting.
    • The tone is moderately decreased and there is weakness of her lower extremity musculature being unable to support her weight.
  • Still unable to sit without support.
  • The infant has the appearance of a 5-6 month old baby.

When I finally did start talking, I didn’t look older than that. The harder my mother tried to convince people in the grocery store that she was not, in fact, a ventriloquist was met with derision. Instead of suing the pants off the hospital, my mother helped me strengthen my legs. It’s actually amazing that I can walk as well as I can, and that I’m only partially terrible at it. I continue to misstep all the time, mostly due to balance issues. Physical therapists are the bane of my existence because I say I don’t have enough balance for something and those idiots will let me fall and bruise myself a couple of times before they’ll let me be right. I also bruise easily, and I have no idea where most of them originate, because it happens too frequently to count.

My parents both got sort of lucky. I wasn’t an easy kid, but I wasn’t the worst in terms of medical needs….. until now. I met a spy at The International Spy Museum named Tracy Walder, and she had the same thing. She told me that I was the first person outside of her family that she’d ever met who had it. I don’t know how bad her case is, and whether mine is better or worse.

Therein lies the rub.

I’ve been told that I’m intellectually brilliant my whole life, and yet, I don’t really fit into the whole picture of healthy family, either. I was never allowed to play sports, probably why I was attracted to Meag in the first place. She never read this report, so she had no problem taking me out to the soccer field and kicking the ball around. The best compliment I ever got from her was standing in goal, and out of nowhere I hear her booming voice…. “NICE DROP KICK, SWEETIE!” That fed my ego for like five years. It was one good kick. I’ve never even scored a goal, but I might as well have for what it gave me.

It was the first time I realized that I didn’t need as much protection as I thought, and it was the first time I was wrong about something so huge.

So, if Daniel is right that I do choose a devil du jour to fight, this is it. I’m fighting my own body because I’m not even sure if I’m disabled or not. No one has been any help with this, because my sister found this report with my mother’s things after she passed. She didn’t want me in the “special classes.” I didn’t need them intellectually, but I was the physical class clown whether I liked it or not. It’s the same way at work, because work can be high school (except the bullies are bigger). Don’t think adults are above staring at my alternating isotropia, the thing that makes my brain choose one eye to focus with and the other drifts. As my vision has gotten poorer in my left eye, this has helped somewhat because my brain doesn’t choose it as often.

I made a chef miserable because I didn’t have enough strength in my arms to push an entire potato through a fry cutter. I made an owner miserable because I couldn’t carry a mop and a full bucket of water up two flights of stairs. Both of these things led to me getting fired because obviously I was too stupid to do these things.

Tech was difficult because it was a boys’ club, so I constantly felt pressure to carry around desktops and 21-inch CRT monitors to prove myself. It didn’t get really problematic until I had a cart loaded with 20 that it became too heavy to push…. which leads to another impossible kitchen job. Running loaded carts of food and beverages between Terminal A and Terminal E at the airport. That cart had to weigh 2-300 pounds, and the wheels didn’t help at all. I couldn’t even push it enough to get it going.

I’m having the same identity crisis as Daniel, except that I’m just now finding out what it is. I don’t know what I can do and what I can’t. My passion has been ripped out from under me, because I have the heart of a chef. There is nothing I love more than making dinner for my friends. I can still do that, but it’s nothing compared to the rush of 300 covers a night and you’re winning. I just don’t have any consistency, because sometimes my muscle tone and balance is better than others.

I also don’t see in 3D, so no matter how many times I am shown how something is plated, it is physically impossible for me to see height without other points of reference. This carries over into just about everything. I see the world differently. I am often in my own little world because I have so many insecurities that it’s easier not to engage. My whole life I’ve felt something was wrong, and I’ve been treated with kid gloves. Living in the real world takes an enormous support system, and I’m having to do therapy and medication for all the anxiety those appointments bring me…. which is why I haven’t made them. I’m older. I’m arthritic. Everything feels worse when I fall.

Luckily, I am very small. Therefore, when I fall, it’s easy enough to pick myself up or have someone else give me a hand. I rarely pratfall. It always looks like I’ve really hurt myself. I generally just get bruises, but some have been deep. I also used to rip the knees out of my pants from falling on the sidewalk.

This is also not great at work. Everyone is so concerned, and yet nothing changes.

Add being female and queer to all of that, and it’s just being behind an eight ball I never knew was there. I’m not just queer so I get homophobic comments, and I’m not just female so I get misogynistic comments, I also move weird and fall a lot. And people ask me what the hell I’m looking at all the time.

I’m looking at pictures of beautiful, strong women in my head.

Like Tracy Walder. I’m the only one outside of her family she knows that knows (perhaps) how it feels to be her.

I know we only met for a moment, Tracy, but it was a symphony for me. I hope you felt it, too. Solidarity is the name of the game. You’re the first person like me I’ve met, too.

Leslie D. Lanagan
Diarist in Residence

Paschendale, by The War Daniel

I am going to be writing about very real experiences that ended tragically in suicide in many, not all, but many cases. Don’t read this if that is going to trigger the darkness to rise within you. We don’t need to lose anyone else.

I listen to Iron Maiden A LOT. Almost obsessively, some would argue. And much of that has to do with a quote I heard a long time ago about how music has the ability to take simple words to places that mere words cant go. When you record a song, it’s chordal movement, melody, inflection, tonality, and most importantly the emotion evoked by going from E minor to C to A minor to D minor. God’s saddest chord progression, I always call it. Obviously I learned it from an Iron Maiden song. And so many of their songs, somehow, capture the aesthetic, the horror and the harsh realities of the things we’re asked to do. Take this verse from “Afraid to Shoot Strangers:”

Trying to justify to ourselves the reasons to go
should we live and let live
forget or forgive
But how can we let them go on this way?
A reign of terror, corruption must end
And we know deep down there’s no other way
No trust, no reasoning no more to say.”
It’s a total “what the fuck are we even doing here anyway?”

From “These Colours Don’t Run:”

Far away from the land of our birth
we fly our flag in some foreign earth
we sailed away like our fathers before
These colours don’t run from cold bloody war.”

“I guess we’re doing it for ‘Murka but I don’t know why I’m mad at these people.”

The one that hits me the hardest goes as follows, it’s called “The Longest Day.”

In the gloom, the gathering storm abates
In the ships, gimlet eyes await
The call to arms to hammer at the gates
To blow them wide, throw evil to its fate

All summers long, the drills to build the machine
To turn men from flesh and blood to steel
From paper soldiers to bodies on the beach
From summer sands to Armageddon´s reach
Overlord, your master, not your God
The enemy coast dawning grey with scud
These wretched souls, puking, shaking fear
To take a bullet for those who sent them here

The world’s alight
The cliffs erupt in flame
No escape, remorseless shrapnel rains
Drowning men, no chance for a warrior’s fate
A choking death, enter Hell’s gates

Sliding we go
Only fear on our side
To the edge of the wire
And we rush with the tide
Oh, the water is red
With the blood of the dead
But I’m still alive
Pray to God I survive

How long, on this longest day
‘Til we finally make it through?

Steve Harris, who is a trusted student of the history of war and observer of the human condition couldn’t have written it better if I was sitting there dictating to him.

The anxiety of the training “all summers long.” I can still see my dumbass Marines fucking with a western diamond back rattlesnake and letting them get bitten because I knew it would be a dry bite and I hoped they would learn to be 5% less stupid.

“From paper soldiers to bodies on the beach…” We’re a volunteer military now. The “paper soldiers” Steve is referring to is those poor sods that were drafted into the War. Our paper soldiers now are a reclamation of the phrase to mean those of us to have the guts to sign the line when we weren’t forced. All our choice. And then “Armageddon’s reach” whatever middle eastern hell fate directed us. Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan. Somalia. Yemen.

I don’t have the space to do a full analysis of these lyrics and the experiences they capture here, but trust me when I say that Steve captured the raw feelings and fears and resolve that you feel.

And perhaps most poignantly, from Paschendale:

Cruelty has a human heart
Every man does play his part
Terror of the men we kill
The human heart is hungry still

I stand my ground for the very last time
Gun is ready as I stand in line
Nervous wait for the whistle to blow
Rush of blood and over we go

You can’t understand war unless you’ve lived it. And it isn’t your fault. We are a volunteer force. This isn’t WWII where my grandfather was drafted, and was eventually discharged for telling his higher ups at one of the prisons why he didn’t shoot someone running for freedom by saying “there’s been enough killing.”

And that was during a time when, even if its war, people were playing by the rules.

Now it’s like Fuck Yo Rules. A box of Lindt chocolates could be an IED. In my time on the ground it wasn’t the guys on fireteams that were the most exposed. It was the logistics guys in their vehicles transporting supplies and such from point A to point B. The enemy did everything it could to blow those vehicles and the brothers and sisters in them to oblivion.

We had a POA for every evolution with a dossier of who would be involved from the turret gunner on down the line. And when those guys got to our side of the world it was a party, because we had thwarted the cocksmokers one more time.

Objectively, I had it easy on the ground. I was almost always in the BAS treating nagging things like back strains and hamstring pulls and the sports medicine like injuries that come from carrying almost your own weight hour after hour. And as such, I don’t have many of the “did you see action” stories.

But you know what I did see? The payoff.

I saw what happened when we got back home and knew we were safe and had time to finally process everything that did, didn’t and almost happened.

We went to our post-deployment screenings 3, 6, and 12 months after we got home. Well that is the ones of us that were home that long. Despite rules to the contrary, a lot of guys were sent back with 9 months of coming back home.
And don’t get me wrong, some of these guys didn’t want to be back home. Because the stereotype of the military wife that just waits on her husband to leave so she can cheat—that’s real and fuck those bitches in the very worst way for it. I hope they get a UTI, Herpes and bitten by a copperhead all at the same time.

The names in my phone are funny. If you’re a person I talk to often and are my closest people, the suffix -hausen is added to your name, i.e. Fuckingstirlhausen, Jennyhausen, Mistihausen, mommyhausen. Princesshausen (for my bestie heather). You get the picture. It’s added because my favorite comedy wrestler Donavan Danhausen adds it to the end of almost everything that is deemed to be cool. Also I’m told its an actual German thing.

There’s also a contingency of people in my phone with “Goddammit” in front of their names. They know precisely who they are. Because for a while it was just constant bad news of our guys winning the fight over there only to come back here and lose the war in the most heart breaking way. It got to a point where my lady at the time wanted my buddies to stop calling me because she knew I was going to be crushed to find out that we’d lost someone else. Because she knew I was going to feel like a steaming pile of triceratops shit because I didn’t reach out. I didn’t take that nagging clue to call them to see what was what. I didn’t call when their marriages ultimately failed.

You may say that this is borrowing grief for its own sake. And to that I humbly suggest you do the following in this order:

Leave my yard by taking a right out of the driveway.

Take the curve around to the main street, making sure to stop at said curve and pay the Molly toll by tossing a dog biscuit to an especially, erm, “hefty” Australian Cattle Dog.

When you get to the stop sign, take another right. Go down to hwy 2744 where the turn off is for that cattle sifter.

Go past that pasture about ¾ of a mile until you get to the pasture where the Santa Gertrudis bulls with their horns in tact still are.

Jump the fence.

Smack a bull on its nose.

When the bull goes to toss you, take the horns up the ass and FUCK OFF.

When someone dies in country, or on the ship or even in the hospital, there’s a suddenness that is almost easier to take, because you know their suffering was minimal. When you lose someone to suicide it is the most gut wrenching passing that can befall your brothers and sisters. Because they lost the hardest war of all: the one at home.

And here is something I haven’t told very many people.

Every single time we lose someone to suicide, I start getting the texts and phone calls that “(you’d) better not be next!
And heretofore I have maintained that promise, for here I am, dear reader, laying myself bare for you on this page.
It is no secret I struggle with alcoholism, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and probably some mental illnesses that don’t have names yet.

There was a time when I called the veteran’s suicide hotline, because I had tried and failed for over 3 months to find a job and just nothing good was coming of it. Because the harsh reality is that so much of what we do in the military that should 1 to 1 translate just doesn’t. Its like we’re speaking not just a foreign language but a dead language.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced since I came home is the struggle to answer the question “who am I now that I’m not HM2 (FMF) Williams the Grumpy Cat anymore?”


HM2 Grumpy always had or could find an answer. HM2 Grumpy could anticipate his Flight Surgeons concerns before they ever happened. HM2 Grumpy made sure no one fucked with his Jr guys for things they couldn’t help. HM2 Grumpy knew that he couldn’t pay them more, give them more leave, but we he could do is give them time. So I’m not saying I ever told someone “You need to go to your squadron RIGHT (insert bug eyed meaningful look here) “Yeah Grumps, I think I need to go talk to my Sgt Major about whether I should get a boxer or a pit bull.”

“Good fuck off and don’t come back until tomorrow.”

Now I, like a lot of you reading, am just a guy trying to navigate a world that isn’t sure what to do with us. Sure there’s a fuck ton of forward facing “support for our troops,” but yo, my snake needs rats and my guitars need strings, and my car needs an oil change—help brothas and sistas out. Because that’s what ends up getting us. It’s not even the trauma endured over seas—you can anticipate that. It’s coming home to a largely insouciant audience that gives lip service to being “veteran friendly” but that doesn’t end up translating into anything tangible. And that’s when it happens. When that last vestige of hope falls away. When that guy that was a cousin of an uncle was going to be hiring preferably a veteran welder. And it just doesn’t happen for long enough that you cant take one more drink, or take one more Ambien. You take ALL of the fentanyl and dilauded and whatever else so that the embarrassment and feelings of being a burden will go quiet.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Remember my dears, These Colours Don’t Run. If you can do something for just one or two of our siblings, you will earn their love for life and then who knows how far your one act of kindness can go.

Hopefully far enough for the next graduation, prom, drivers license, one act play, football playoff, singing competition—that one more step down the hill that makes life worth living.

Cruelty has a human heart. But kindness does too.

I would love to take a lot more calls lauding the great works of our brothers and sisters than that gut wrenching call to find out we lost someone else.