Shared

…there’s a ghost in this house,
When he sings it sounds just like you,
When he falls it brings me down too.

Does it get easier to do?

-Robyn Dell’Unto

When I listen to this song, I can’t decide if the ghost is internal or external. Are the people I’ve loved and lost following me, or is it the feelings I have about them? The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

For instance, if I could go back in time and not move to DC, would I do it?

I have many regrets, and this is one of them, but not because it isn’t wonderful, and I wouldn’t even think about it if my mother hadn’t died so relatively shortly after I did.

Dana made it clear that she did not want to work on our relationship, and I could not live in the same city with her and not obsess over whether I could abide by that decision and how and when to leave her alone.

Moving was a way to give her space to figure out her own shit while I figured out mine, without the need to check in with her every damn minute to take an emotional temperature. I don’t know if it was ever in her plan, but I thought that with time and distance, things would look different, that we might ultimately find our paths back to each other after an enormous amount of therapy on our own, because what we had together was spectacular.

I couldn’t imagine a lifetime of it just being over. I held on to that hope for about six months, and then I began to grieve in earnest. During that time, directly after I moved, we talked a few times, and then never again. And even in our discussions, it was never about how we were really doing, just catching up like ladies who lunch. It wasn’t a bad thing, but it was an adjustment.

I remember thinking, “this is not the Dana that I know… and that’s the point.”

I think the feeling of the rubber meeting the road in six months is relatively quick. At the time it felt interminable, but it wasn’t. Just a small part of the process in taking her from my reality to my past. The ghost that lives in my house, because I don’t lock her away and don’t care that she’s here. In a lot of ways, it’s comforting, because the memories that come up for me are of laughter and not of strife. I choose to block the bad parts and focus on the good.

And does it matter that these are the feelings I have when I’m alone, closed off to being with anyone else, because I just don’t want it? I don’t see it? That I am incredibly happy with having friends and family who love me, and that being the extent of my support system?

I am not over the way I treated her, and though I have made progress, I am not forgiven. It feels like letting myself off the hook too quickly, because I don’t want a repeat of this pattern ever again.

Also, I’ve never lived my life without a ghost that played tapes in my head, and I have work to do where that is concerned, as well. I’ve never had a mind free of wandering off into the past, reliving conversations of happier times and wondering why things went wrong… and two of them weren’t even romantic relationships, unless you count the complete mindfuck that went along with them. Although the second is self-inflicted. It didn’t have to be complicated, and I made it so.

But there’s a new truth in my life that is here to stay. Dana and I shared some incredibly privileged information that I won’t be able to bring up with anyone else, and I mean this on the serious. No one can ever know, and not because it’s dirty or bad or wrong, it just is. So part of my willingness to work on our relationship, no matter how bad things got, was the reminder that if I lost her safe space, there was no replacement, and never would be.

In that one way, our lives are connected as permanently as our matching tattoos. When I left, I made a point of calling them our honing beacons, but I wouldn’t use it now. It’s just another thing that is.

We were smart enough to be aware of the fact that we could break up when we got them, so we choose something that was meaningful to both of us severally and jointly. It’s not like I have a huge back piece that says “I love Dana.”

But in my worst moments, sometimes it feels that way.

I’m also not stupid enough to believe that her friends won’t read this, so let me assure them that I have no intention of moving backwards, of reaching out, of doing anything to endanger the peaceful silence we have achieved. My stuff to work out is owned, and I have no need for closure.

It’s been too long, it hurts too much to envision those conversations, and the ponderings of my heart are not to be shared… and by that, I mean that I don’t care if she reads my blog. Maybe she does, maybe she doesn’t. I’ll never know or care. What I mean is that it’s not her job to care about what I think or even affect her life in any way. My thoughts, again, aren’t meant to be shared.

They’re just brain droppings, and maybe not even healthy ones. They just are. It’s not my job to judge their merit, just to let them come and go, talking about them with myself and probably my therapist.

I’m not stupid enough to think that any of my ghosts aren’t secretly reading, and I can’t care about that, either, because then this space ceases to be my own and starts to be a reflection of what I think their opinions might be.

My thoughts aren’t meant to be shared, leading to common ground.

It’s my weight to carry, and they don’t deserve (in good ways or bad) to take off a few pounds.

I am a product of my own inner landscape, sharing common ground with strangers who have had similar experiences… perhaps learning about the ghosts that walk in their houses. Reaching out, but not to anyone in particular.

I remember explaining this phenomenon to Argo, when she wasn’t a ghost, but very, very present, talking about someone else. That when I found out a piece of my past was lurking, she thought I was writing to it on purpose. I told her that quite frankly, when I found out the blood drained from my face and I nearly threw up. She got it, and we didn’t have to discuss it again. Once was enough, and I love her for that. She believed me the first time, and I didn’t have to convince her. It just was. She let it be, and it was the right thing to do. I don’t think I would have been willing to continue our unusual kinship if it had become a thing.

I could easily have let Argo become a ghost, listening to our made up whispers in my dreams instead of grabbing onto reality. The truth is that she is very present in my life. But those conversations happen in daylight, steeped in what is really right in front of me and not pipe dreams.

Probably because we didn’t have as many connections as Dana and me. I never shook her hand, thought her hugs would be memorable but never experienced it firsthand. A virtual x had to do. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if virtual became real, but only from the standpoint that it would have changed operatic swells of emotion into daily normality, letting minutiae temper the page. On paper, it’s easy to run off into flights of fancy. When someone is right in front of you, it isn’t. Reading when I was making her eyes glaze over or her temper flare was different than seeing it. It would have changed my direction and my distraction.

But what I know for sure is that I achieved my own peace with it not happening, it not being likely to happen, and just smiling like an idiot that I got to meet a piece of her at all. That for a short time, we walked in each other’s inner landscapes and it adding galaxies to me that I didn’t know I needed.

Still need, but okay with it being a long time ago and far, far away.

If I could go back and change anything, I would. In a hot second. But that’s not how life works. I got on the “think it, say it” plan without realizing its consequences, which were devastating in their scope. Knowing it was all at my own hand is the worst part, and something that 25 years from now, I will still look upon with regret and shame. Not being in my right mind doesn’t erase or excuse any of it.

But because I’ve seen her picture, her face does cross my mind, choosing to ignore the raw parts and focusing on the joy she brings me now. Memories are powerful, as is happiness surrounding them.

The one that makes me laugh all the goddamn time is, “you like to rap to Eminem? Explain to me exactly how I’m not going to fall in love with you. USE BIG WORDS.” Because of course, I was kidding, but she took it seriously and said, “you might fall in love with honesty coming through our chord, but you won’t fall in love with me, as adorable as I might be.” And that makes me laugh just as much, because it is so undeniably true (both that she was right about misreading falling in love with honesty and falling in love with her as a person, AND that she is, in fact, adorable- she’s so much funnier than me, and the degree is annoying. As an aside, there was one joke between us in which I came in kings full over aces, and though I don’t remember which one it was, I do remember feeling like I’d checkmated the king using just a pawn and a knight, when every day previously had felt like grasshopper would never reach satori).

To paraphrase Maya Angelou, people may forget your words, but they will never forget the way they felt. I’m paraphrasing because I don’t like the actual quote, which is that “people will never forget the way you made them feel.” No one can make you feel anything. Your response is your response, and not anyone else’s to own. What is yours to own is either the laughter or the fallout.

I feel like that is what I do on this blog to a tremendous degree. I deal with my own responses, and their consequences. I can’t take responsibility for anyone else’s. What I can do is learn from the fallout, and try to make new mistakes. To think that everything will one day go perfectly is its own delusion.

What I do reflect on is interconnectedness, how my every response creates consequence, and how I live with it.

Because my thoughts aren’t meant to be shared.

What Am I Going to Be Weepy About Today?

One of the universal signs of Aunt Flo’s arrival is that I can start crying immediately for no reason at all… or I just make them up as I go along. Menstruation, depression and anxiety are such a lethal combination. It becomes heightened awareness of everything I actually have to cry about, although the impetus is generally nothing and expands into everything. I finally got tired of not knowing when this was going to happen, so I found a period tracker online and signed up. I also track my ovulation, because sometimes that causes cramps as well, when I am tricked into thinking “it’s time,” and it’s not. I used to have a premonition of the big arrival, and it has gone away through the use of so much Aleve and Tylenol.

Why I didn’t think of this before is obvious. Why track it when I don’t sleep with men? Why track it when I’ve been abstinent for over three years? Why track it when women’s sperm count is incredibly low? 😛 As I used to tease Dana, my then wife, “maybe boxers would help.” Of course, this was when we were thinking of trying to conceive, and after that, it was just an inside joke…. because in the Lanagan family, if it’s funny once, just run it into the ground.

I also hate changing my usual underwear. I generally go for boys’ boxer briefs because they double as knock-off Spanx. I find tampons incredibly uncomfortable, so there’s really no way around having to wear those sexy “Granny panties” we all buy at Target.

As I have said before, this blog is about my own journey, and you’re invited. I’m not trying to exclude men, but I think it’s important to reach out to other women with this entry. Women are the majority, so saying “most Americans get periods” is entirely accurate. And, in fact, I am not entirely excluding men. There are plenty of men that get periods until their transition to male is complete, an awareness that most people just don’t have, but should. For transgendered men, they also have the ability to get pregnant, so unless they’re actively trying to conceive, it’s important for them to track as well.

Transgendered men get pregnant for all sorts of reasons, the usual being that their wives aren’t capable, so they offer. It’s convenient in gay relationships as well, not having to use a surrogate.

Back to you, Bob. Let’s go to the phones.

I am overwhelmed when I’m on my period, because unless I’m in the kitchen, I tend to flood out emotionally. I’m not generally irritable, but weepy and need contact comfort, which currently is snuggling with my Postman Pat doll. You can’t get the one I have anymore- my parents bought it for me when I was eight and we were on a trip to London. It’s one of the few things we were able to rescue from our house fire when I was 12, and I am entirely grateful for “him” now. He’s big enough to be the little spoon when I feel like hiding under the covers. I kind of want to put him away for safe keeping because he’s so rare that I don’t want him to unravel. For this reason, I started a birthday (Sept. 10th) wish list on Amazon in which I added a large stuffed dog. It looks incredibly lifelike and not something that looks like I  have wished I was still a toddler. But no lie, the Gund Grover was appealing. I added it to the list and then took it back off, because I realized quickly that I would get embarrassed by it and give it away, like I did with my Alf and bigger-than-life SpongeBob dolls. I shouldn’t have given SpongeBob away, though, because I remember clearly being in the ER at Inova Alexandria in 2001, when Kathleen brought him to me and I wept into it for most of the day, when there weren’t enough beds and the doctors just pumped me up with morphine and set me in the hallway.

That is an interesting story in and of itself. When I finally “got seen,” I was having abdominal attacks that looked just like appendicitis, and I was minutes away from being prepped for surgery when the doctors realized that wasn’t it. I had a hole in my esophagus that had become infected. I was actually born with that gap, but since it had never become infected before, I’d never noticed. But, I was doubled over in pain, and since it wasn’t like there was room (or even appropriate) for Kathleen to climb into bed with me, SpongeBob was an excellent second choice.

Why yes, I know I’ve revealed I’ve been married and separated twice. Thanks for noticing. It’s not painful or anything (/eyeroll). The reason I’m not officially divorced from either of them is that one is a civil union in Vermont and one is a domestic partnership in Oregon. For the civil union in Vermont, it was 2001, when it wasn’t even recognized in other states, so the legal advice we got was to just let it lie, the idea of national marriage not even on anyone’s radar.

Dana has said that she’ll file in Oregon, and as long as I don’t contest it, it will just be over. That was long, long ago, and I am still waiting……………. I should really take matters into my own hands, but I haven’t for two reasons. The first is that I’m really hoping for some follow-through on Dana’s part. The second is that honestly, I just haven’t cared enough. Why that is, I just can’t say. I could spitball a number of reasons, but it would be just that; I’d only be guessing, not knowing for sure. The one thing I do know is that it’s taken me years to get over losing her, so with no one on the horizon, it just made sense to put it on the back burner and wait it out. I don’t feel like it’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m fully prepared to receive said dissolution. It’s more like waiting to close a really great chapter in my life and move on to the next one.

I don’t know if the rules have changed for dissolution in Vermont or not. In 2002, you had to live in Vermont for six months before you could file, and neither Kathleen nor I thought that was a good idea. “We’re not getting along, so of course we need to move to a place where most of the time it’s cold and dark.” For that reason, I am surprised I lasted in Oregon as long as I did.

But now that I have two failed relationships with legal complications under my belt, I am gunshy about ever getting married again. It is now my view that commitment and loyalty don’t need a piece of paper…. and as long as there are no health insurance or federal and state tax implications, I think that advice to myself is sound. If a wedding is important to my next partner, should I be so blessed, she’ll get one. But that doesn’t mean we have to file a marriage license. Being supported by our community is way more important to me than getting the government involved. I feel as if I’ve already been there, bought the t-shirt… and now it’s way too small…. and the tag itches. Besides, it’s already got stains on it. I don’t want to wear it anymore if I can help it.

One of the things that really bothers me when I am in the throes of being weepy is that I can’t believe I have two divorces under my belt when all I really wanted in the beginning is to marry my high school sweetheart and be together for fifty years…. Ten years after we broke up, having been friends the whole time, she accidentally gutted me in a Canadian Starbucks when she said that she regretted not being able to be partners as adults, because she thought it was something at which we would have been good. My inner 18-year-old cried big alligator tears that night. But during the conversation, I managed to hold it together, even though my insides were screaming. Most of the screaming was due to, “I treated you so badly when we were young that how dare I come back and ask for forgiveness.” My inner monologue was just wailing that she’d taken away my choice to forgive her or not.

However, the angst didn’t last long, because I think what was supposed to happen did. She used to be the friend that knew me best in the entire world, and then years later inexplicably unfriended me on Facebook and stopped answering my e-mails. It was truly painful being ghosted by someone who’d been an enormous part of my growth and development, with no explanation as to the whys and hows. I can’t think of anything I specifically did to offend her, so to this day I have questions.

She did reach out when I posted on a mutual friend’s page that my mother had died, but after that one conversation, she was gone again. I didn’t even know you could message people who weren’t your friends, so after that, I completely blocked her. It isn’t that I don’t love and value her. It’s that seeing her comments became too painful to ignore…. something that I have done with other friends as well. It’s not about my feelings for them, exactly. It’s that seeing their faces/comments on social media, especially when Aunt Flo is telling me to cry about everything, is just a painful reminder of things ending badly.

The last time I got really, really angry was when I specifically asked Dana to leave my family and me alone after insisting on no contact with me directly, then liking a picture of my sister and me on my sister’s Instagram account. But did I do anything about it? No. I pretended it didn’t matter and just ignored her. But pretending is the key word, because obviously it bothered me enough to write about it…. this was about 30 days ago, so you can guess why it got to me…………

Perhaps Dana thinks it’s been long enough that these things don’t matter… but there are parts of that relationship I’ve had a hard time forgiving, and I’ll never forget. The first is that a relationship that was so mutually beautiful still ended in a fistfight of enormous proportions, the result of keeping so much bottled that it got violent when the Mento eventually dropped into the Diet Coke. The second is that Dana’s parents live relatively close to me (within 40 miles or so), and when she came to visit them, she made a point of telling my sister through social media (they don’t actually talk, because when someone hurts me, my sister also burns the bridge). I got butt hurt that she didn’t reach out to me directly and then I realized that e-mail goes both ways. I sent her a short e-mail saying that if she wanted to see me, I was open to it, and if not, that was fine, too. What I got back was an e-mail from her sister that said not to contact Dana again through any means. The double standard is rage-inducing, so I literally took a chill pill and got on with my life. I figured if that was the kind of behavior I could expect from her, I didn’t need that temperature in my life, anyway. I think I was shocked more than anything else, considering that when I first moved to DC, we talked a few times and it went well.

But the last thing I truly have trouble forgetting (although forgiven) is that she didn’t come to my mother’s funeral. I didn’t need her there as my emotional support person. I already had “my person” there for that (thanks, James). I also wasn’t using my mother’s death as an excuse to reconnect with her romantically, because not only would it have been wildly inappropriate, I didn’t want it (not then, not ever again).

We’d had a great conversation when I was waiting to go to the airport, a distraction I sorely needed because at first it was crying, and then it was laughter until I was crying again, the kind of laughter where you’re just shaking in silence while tears and snot run down your face.

I continue to feel it was about respect for both me and my mother, and it was surprising to me that she was willing to be my friend for a few minutes, but not enough of a friend to come to the funeral of her former mother-in-law of over seven years…. and that a friendship of over four years before we ever got involved was not enough of a reason to just be there…. and not even for me directly. Just to look out into the crowd and see her face as I was giving my eulogy would have been enough.

And, of course, being weepy makes me miss the contact comfort of my mother’s hugs even more intensely than usual, because there’s nothing like needing your mom when you’re in pain and she literally can’t be there…. won’t be ever again.

I count on my friends who are mothers to fill that void, because as I have said before, they love differently than everyone else. It is enormously comforting to be in the room when they’re with their kids and soak up the mother love radiating through the room…. and with the exception of infants, remembering when I was those children’s ages and how my mom was (and what she was to me) at that time in my life.

The last thing that truly dogs me during these few days of ALL THE FEELS at once are the mistakes I made when not being as careful with Argo’s heart as I should have been, because it invariably leads to what could have been…. and how most, if not all of the destruction of that friendship was at my own hand, and I just feel that shame over and over, even though I’ve talked about it with therapists and have coping mechanisms not to get stuck in those moments, reliving them and empathizing with the pain I must have caused. There’s plenty of context, but not excuses. I hope I’ve taken enough responsibility that something like it will never happen again. It was painful enough the first time around to stop that behavior cold. Losing such a beautiful woman, inside and out, with my own cortisol and sin was akin to cutting out part of my heart with a dirty knife. When I am truly depressed about it, I think of all the things I shouldn’t have said and all the things I wish I’d said instead. Maybe things worked out the way they were supposed to, but I don’t really believe that. What I do believe is that it is a regret I will continue to carry, never truly letting it go because the reminder that I am capable of causing pain to others when I am not careful with my words doesn’t seem like a bad thing.

It only becomes a bad thing when the feeling that I can’t forgive myself rises from the ash.

Not being able to forgive myself is so much harder than forgiving others for what I perceive has been done to me. I am so much more infinitely tolerant of other people’s words than I am of my own.

It has caused me to become extremely withdrawn, so that when I’m around others I am reminded to think deeply before I speak, or let the moment pass and not speak at all…. and when I’m alone, thinking that it’s better that way because I cannot possibly hurt anyone if I’m not talking at all….. limiting what one friend calls “crazy spatter.”

Which will be infinitely worse for the next four to seven days.

Alexandria

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.

-Nelson Mandela

In May of 2001, my then-girlfriend, Kathleen, graduated from University of Houston. She interviewed with several companies, and chose the Global Information Systems department at ExxonMobil. They gave her the choice of starting in Houston or in Fairfax, Virginia. To this day I’m not sure how much Kathleen wanted to leave Texas and how much I did. I don’t know if she was excited or if I convinced her, but off we went to the suburbs of the nation’s capital. We chose to live in the city of Alexandria (as opposed to Fairfax County) because it was roughly halfway between downtown and Kathleen’s office. I didn’t know where I’d end up in terms of school, so I wanted easy access in both directions. We found a great little townhouse between the Blue and Yellow Metro lines, not too far from The Pentagon……..

The plan was solid in theory. I’d had a full-time job for the last two years, making enough to support both of us. Because I’d done that, Kat said that she’d work and I could go to school. What we didn’t factor in was the cost of living increase. Even with both of us making more than I had in Houston, we still couldn’t seem to get ahead. In retrospect, I think we just aimed too high, too fast. We wanted to live a middle-class existence, not thinking ahead that a savings account might be a nice thing. The conversation in my head runs thusly:

Me: What the hell did you and Kat do with all that money?
Me to me: We ate it.

It takes money to be around people with money and we were too stupid to realize we didn’t have any. Most of the memories I have of that time in my life involve going out with various coworkers to restaurants where the food was forgettable and the tab was expensive. If you are looking for advice on how to spend over fifty grand a year on absolutely nothing, I am an expert. It starts with caring way too much about what other people think if you turn down an invitation. There. The first lesson’s free.

My dreams of finishing school and going on to my Master’s started drying slowly and then the last bit evaporated overnight. Kathleen wanted out of the relationship, exiting in the ugliest way possible. She slept with mutual coworkers so that coming to work was excruciatingly awkward, and then I lost my job and went back to Texas as broken as I’d ever been up to that point.

I attended a grief support group, where I mourned the past and the future I thought I would have. Eight weeks later, I went to visit my friends in Oregon. Two weeks after I got back, I packed up my car and called Portland home. It wasn’t enough to put 1800 miles of distance between Kat and me. I needed the full 3,000 for good measure.

I ran as far from Alexandria as I could get without dropping into the Pacific.

I didn’t remember the good things about Virginia until the day I moved to Oregon. Because I already had friends and a church there, I ditched my stuff at my house and went to the church to socialize as we were stuffing envelopes for some campaign or another. This annoying blonde woman was wearing a George Mason University sweatshirt, the college down the street from Kathleen’s office…. because of course she was.

Eventually, the blonde wasn’t so annoying. I married her…. and had to make my peace with Virginia because her parents’ house was about 30 miles from my old one… because of course it was.

Dana and I talked about moving to Virginia sporadically over the years, Dana worrying that her parents were older than mine and would therefore, need more help. So, moving back to the DC area has been a faint spot on my radar for over a decade. By 2012, it was in the three to five year plan.

Three years, almost to the day, I arrived in Maryland alone. In the beginning, it was a severe emotional handicap. I had imagined everything about DC from our viewpoint, not mine. I couldn’t even cross the Potomac without wincing in pain, so I just didn’t. Dana didn’t have many stories about DC, because she lived far enough out that she didn’t come downtown much. So, I reasoned that DC and Maryland were my area. Anything across the river belonged to Dana and Kat. It was neat and tidy until I went and made a friend…. in Alexandria.

Walking around Old Town brought it all back. I felt joy, but it was quickly drowned in tears. Everything was familiar and, in turn, scary because of the reason it was familiar. I saw the tapas restaurant where Kathleen took me for my birthday on September 10th, 2001, where I ate bad mussels and projectile vomited so much that I had to call in sick to work the next morning, the only reason I heard the plane hit. In fact, I saw all our old hangouts… or the buildings where they used to be, anyway.

What I realized is that looking for the familiar was bringing up emotions for which I was not prepared. Up until reality hit, I’d been genuinely excited. “Alex” had felt like home when I was dreaming about it. I didn’t recognize myself in its reflection anymore. I just saw shards of a twenty-something yuppie douchebag.

Luckily, my cousin Nathan also lives in Alexandria, so after about a year, the desensitization process was complete. The only reason it took that long is that I didn’t have a reason to cross the river very often. It was easier to meet both Dan and Nathan halfway.

Over the years, though, I’ve been coming to Alexandria more and more, because context and I have both changed. It’s not where I used to live. It’s where Dan lives now…. and get this… she lives on Leslie Avenue.

The real plot twist, though, is in fact just character development. I walk everywhere I go unless it’s what I consider “too far” and take the bus or train. I spend less in a week than I used to spend on some days. I am just not impressed with clothes, cars, fancy restaurants, any of it. The Washington of my twenties was a pretty soulless place, because I was not tapped into activism on social justice issues. I was driven to be upwardly mobile without any other purpose but serving myself.

The me of 2001 would have laughed and called me a hippy. The me of now wouldn’t spend time on a retort.

The Omelet

Dear Mom,

Today my fountain pen runneth over, which is just a metaphor that sounds incredibly messy. These kinds of days are so hard, because I can only imagine your response instead of getting one for real. Though I’ve shed no tears, I am feeling the weight of grief in every muscle. It’s comforting to have an editor that would know exactly what my news means, but even though she’s a mother herself, she’s not mine. I am positive she’s proud of me, but she won’t have that over-the-top, lump in her throat excitement you would have especially for me.

You see, I got an e-mail yesterday that not only made me happy, it validated me. You’ve known I was a writer since grade 5, when I turned in an essay that Mrs. Wommack fawned over about adult illiteracy called I Forgot My Reading Glasses… In fact, I would venture to say that you’ve known I was a writer far longer than I have. Though I was made a professional writer long ago by my readers here, I’ve never had anything to add to my resumé. Now, I do. Here is the e-mail I got yesterday from the International Association of Professional Writers & Editors:

Dear Leslie,

Thank you for submitting your application. Upon further review, we have determined that your sample meets our quality standards and are pleased to inform you that your application has been accepted.

Name Redacted

The air changed in the room with one word.

Accepted.

It is an honor I share with everyone who believed in me before I did. I cleaned up my marriage article to make it more suitable for publication, and that’s what got me in… So bittersweet because it’s basically all the advice I didn’t take for myself. I figured that if it was retweeted by celebrities, it must have something going for it. As it turns out, I was right. Speaking more specifically to “bittersweet,” I share credit where credit is due; Dana is owed so much more from me than she got, one of the reasons I became successful in the first place. The sweet part is that even though I gave up nearly everything, I suppose it had to be done to find myself… finally, someone who has self-esteem and can be proud of her accomplishments… getting away from the tape Dana helped reinforce that said you’ll never amount to anything.

So, perhaps it’s a good thing I didn’t take my own advice about staying together, because it was a total deal-breaker of a conversation. Not believing in your partner is the death knell of a relationship. If I couldn’t achieve with her, I’m glad I achieved without her, even though it would have been nice to not only share credit with her to her face, but to prove her wrong… and not in an I told you so sort of way. It’s an I’m so glad you were wrong on this one, because it was really cramping my style because I believed you feeling.

Gone are the days where I feel like I torched my whole life, replaced by an overwhelming amount of emotion at breaking eggs to make an omelet.

Almost as overwhelming that I can’t see your face right now. Perhaps we can celebrate in my dreams.

Love,

Leslie

Boss Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Splitting Up (But Not Together)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know me. We’ve met.

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

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

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

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

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

I was The Luckiest.

Living Water

I’m starting to wonder if I’m ever going to figure out what to do with my life, because I can see where it is I want to go with such clarity… but there’s a deep chasm between here and there. The staircase has cracks and is, in some places, completely broken. For the longest time, I’ve wanted to work with the homeless, to be pastor of my own church, to be a writer tagged as more theologian than blogger, to help others heal themselves by laying out my own broken pieces and hoping that something I’ve said will trigger an “A-ha!” moment. I am thankful that I’ve done at least a small bit of the latter with this web site; the rest of me wonders constantly if I am healthy enough to work with other people in 3D.

It’s a question that not enough people ask themselves when considering careers as pastors, social workers, therapists, etc. Three years ago, I was in the psych ward at Methodist hospital… but I have trouble deciding how much of my depressed and anxious state was current and how much of it was a delayed reaction. While it was great to find an anti-anxiety medication that worked, and indeed, to learn I needed to add it to my already-established protocol, that was just psychiatry. Once my brain chemicals were sorted, that didn’t mean anything in terms of correcting behaviors that began as unhealthy in childhood, and proceeded to self-destructive as an adult. The difference, of course, being depth. When those behaviors were new, they would have been a hell of a lot easier to fix. And then I got old…. er.

I thought I was doing fine, and then the dam broke. All of the lies I’d used to convince myself that I was fine stopped working, and as I have said before, I just started emotionally vomiting trauma. I was a grand total of 36 years old, and I still felt like an arrested teenager, especially in my smallest moments. 36 should be old enough to know better, do better. I’d simply folded most of my hands as I watched my same-age friends come in Kings full over Aces.

I’ve never been in doubt about the fact that I was bright, had talent in multiple areas, etc. I just haven’t known how to collate that into success… and when I’ve achieved it, how to learn to live there. Every time I’ve had money and nice houses and retirement accounts and the whole nine yards, I have sabotaged myself in so many ways, torching it all to the ground.

I know how to live on no money and self-worth. I don’t yet know how to rise above it… but I’m learning. It’s probably why I made terrible marriage material… for which I owe two women an apology for being married to them and one other (okay, two… but we don’t talk about two) for thinking I could. So many of my absolutely brilliant ideas live on hope, which is why therapy is so important. It helps me to turn the abstract into logic. As a spazzbasket of creative diva energy, being logical is not my forté. Dana was right in that I tend to jump from one great idea to the next without finishing any of them, except for one. I have been faithful to a fault about cataloging everything I feel on this web site, and to me, 6.13.1_Pensieve_merged_blackthat’s the dependency I’ve needed to see up close & personal where all my flaws and failures lie. It has been a life-changing experience on so many levels to be able to go back over what I’ve written and see where I’ve changed and what still needs work. My friend Kristie calls it my “pensieve.”

She is not wrong.

I have said from the very beginning that I write for me, and you’re invited. It is so true you can take those words to the bank and cash them. Nothing I’ve ever written was meant more for an audience than it was for me, even the marriage article that got more shares and retweets than I ever expected. I wrote it when my own marriage was sometimes doing really well, and sometimes crumbling into pieces. I couched it in sharing common ground with Evangelical Christians, but in reality it was to remind myself of the things I could control in my own life, and what I couldn’t. I couldn’t make my partners do anything, but I could improve myself and hope that they followed suit… and if they didn’t, I was probably in the wrong relationship and trying to make it fit.

I cannot say that the relationship with Dana was wrong for me, only that it became so. Neither one of us really got the short end of the stick. We both participated in our own destruction, not really one person’s fault or the other, just a mishmash of problems that we thought we could solve and didn’t.

If I had it all to do over again, there would have been professional help involved. It also would have been good to either go and visit Argo or have her come and visit us, so that there was relationship on the ground between all three of us, and not a secluded bubble with swells of operatic emotion on the page. My writer personality is so different than the one I have on the ground, and it would have been good for all three of us to make that connection. Had Argo been a part of our daily lives, she would have ceased to be my “Raggedy Man.” My friends would have ceased to call her “The Doctor,” because she would have been real to them instead of seemingly this person I made up. It also would have made her concrete in my own mind, because speaking of self-destruction, the wall of anonymity between us kept even me from really seeing her in three dimensions. My lips were too loose, always. It is not lost on me that because we didn’t know each other on the ground, I was capable of more love and anger with her than anyone in my life, before or since.

That’s probably the biggest take-home message I’ve gotten from this web site…. that I need tighter boundaries with emotions all the way around. I don’t always need to be a loose cannon jackass who spouts off and regrets… or in the case of love, spouts off without really thinking of the consequences my words will inevitably bring. At this point, my life has to be all about learning to think critically while leaving my emotions on the back burner.

It’s a back and forth sort of process… one step forward and two steps back sometimes, a giant leap for mankind at others. I find myself watching TED Talks on motivation, and I haven’t found anything better for thinking while mobile than Tim Ferris’ podcast. Both deal with great thinkers- TED Talks are presentations, Tim Ferris interviews industry giants on how they do what they do. I feel stronger and more strident after listening to them, which is something I desperately need. Most of the time, I feel about thisbig, because depression and anxiety whisper, let’s think about everything you’ve ever done wrong in your whole life. My coping mechanism is to, most of the time, have something going in my headphones to drown out what my AA friends call “The Committee.” The Committee is the collection of tapes in your head that stop you from moving forward because it continually drags you into the past. Instead of how do I get there from here? it’s you’ll never get there because we won’t let you. It is the well of worthlessness from which The Committee continually tries to get you to drink.

There are better sources of living water out there, and my goal is to find them. At this point, there’s no other choice.

#prayingonthespaces