It happens every time.
Well, not every time. But almost every time. You’re at a gathering of friends and theres always at least one person that finds out you’re ex-military and you can just see the question forming on their lips but a struggle of “do I ask???” And usually they can’t help themselves and ask.
“Did you have to kill anybody.” I sigh, because I fucking hate that question. It was one of the harsh realities I had to struggle with spiritually before I joined, knowing that scenario was going to present itself. You ask yourself day in and out what you think you will do in “that” scenario.
Before you are assigned to a Marine Corps unit as a Corpsman, you go through a 9 week course called Field Medical Training Battalion. It’s essentially a crash course in being a grunt. You familiarize yourself with the M4 and 9mm and 50 cal. You go through what’s called Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain. And it’s not a video game situation. Were armed up with paintball guns, and the instructors play the part of the locals/Taliban.
That’s one of the mindfucks about MOUT. Who is a civilian just trying to make schwarmas, and who wants to kill me? And heres another mind fuck—these mother fuckers don’t play fair. They will use “civilians” as explosive devices.
The kids will come up to the Marines on patrol asking for candy or whatnot but they’re really a lure to get you to drop your guard long enough for them to shoot you from a second story window. Look up then down then up again was the training mantra…. but MOUT was a humbling experience in just how quickly it could all be over. I remember one of my guys getting shot in the leg. I went to pull him behind a wall to kwik clot the wound and I didn’t get down low enough and took a paintball pellet to the neck. If it was real, I just died. I didn’t sleep that night.
So to truly answer your question you have to start back behind the wire.
You could be playing football and grilling hamburgers when your fire team is called to gear up. A fire team is a group of 5-7 that patrol together. It consists of either a Sgt or Corporal that’s the Fire Team leader.
You’ve got a doc, an EOD guy and the rest are gunners. So you’re playing football and talking shit about how Tony Romo would always break your heart and then the next moment you have to go put all your gear on and get ready to go complete a mission. As Doc that sucks even worse because you wear everything the Marines wear plus your med bag.
You’re responsible for making sure your whole fire team has certain things in certain places. Their tourniquet on the top right; kwik Clot in the right cargo pocket. Things like that.
Not knowing when your team is going to be called sucks, but knowing 12 hours ahead of time is worse. All that time waiting around to be under the stress of “is this the last thing Ill ever do?”
Some of my grunts thrived on the anticipation of getting to kill bad guys. That was part of the mission. And they had no moral qualms about it at all. They saw it as a very clearly black/white/them or me, no fuck that these people want to take me from my wife and kids and they can go fuck themselves. So in that aspect, the boys’ conscience is totally clear and the more people they shoot the better. I don’t think that makes us sociopaths. I think it makes us like Dexter [Dexter was a sociopath.]. Vigilante killers of people that need to die, minus the vigilante part.
I am a corpsman, so I am not wired that way. Every time we went out my prayer was 1 that I come back alive, and 2 that I bring everyone back with me, and 3 not to have to use either of my firearms.
On the shittiest day of my life we went out just like any other one. The mission was to go into town and give hep A and b, hep c , smallpox and anthrax vaccinations. My spot in line was last, giving hep a/b.
I don’t even know why there was a lull in the line. I think we had run out of smallpox spears or something, so I was looking around.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw it happening.
Dipshit wasn’t even trying to be subtle. So without thinking, safety goes off; I used my marine’s shoulder to balance my weapon on and I shot the fuck stick through his eye. Then I yelled “FIRE FIRE FIRE” which was the alarm for a bomb. EOD snatched the kid and worked their magic. My first trained response was to look for others because they are human hyenas and not averse to sacrificing one for the sake of the many.
At that point the field ex was terminated and it became about securing the town. No one was hurt, and that’s all I remember of the post action. We all came back across the wire and that was that [also terrifying that you have to feel like you’re in that much danger to feel comfortable in that much danger].
I can’t tangibly measure what my cortisol levels were. I know when I came back I was like “holyfuck holyfuck HOLYFUCK.” And I couldn’t get still. I couldn’t stop shaking.
I cried because now I knew I was capable of taking a life. Commander Baker, our on site Psychiatrist, talked to me for about two hours about innocuous stuff; the first Van Halen album; why the cowboys can’t win in December; why The White album should have only been one album of 14 songs. He gave me some Xanax, ambien and dilauded and sent me to a drug induced sleep. The next day they handed me my down chit, which meant I couldn’t go past the line for 6 days. So all I really had time to do was think.
And one of the things I thought about the most is that regardless of what we think over here, over there, we’re the heels and they’re the babyfaces. They are the heroes of their country trying to rid it of these arrogant westerners that think their culture is so superior to their own. They have families and dogs. And that family and dog hated me. I took someone’s dad, husband, favorite uncle, drinking buddy.
A day doesn’t pass where I don’t think about it at least once. And that’s part of why I drink like I do. Because when I’m sober it comes back to haunt me, and when I’m drunk I can let it go and forgive myself for doing what had to be done……………………………………
Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been here to see The Cubs win their first world series in a century; hear the first new Guns n’ Roses music in 17 years; to get to the point where I played 50 shows a year. And most importantly to be able to see my kid graduate high school, to make the very brave decision to come out as trans; to develop into this fabulous artist, to see my sister realize her dream of having a goat farm; to be able to help my mom through her post cancer recovery.
And to get to marry you.
And now im going to go cry.
Editor’s Note: I have been sitting on this for a while, because I thought I had something to say here. I don’t. It’s perfect on its own. I’m still crying.
He can’t leave. He’s The War Daniel.
I am not saying he did or did not leave. I am saying that I am wrestling over what kind of impact I’ve had and continue to have on someone I love to a nearly desperate, crazy amount. I just don’t show it. I haven’t seen his body in years, but I see his soul on paper multiple times a day, just bleeding out in front of me while I go blurry with teary eyes and back into my own history, particularly with alcohol. I’ve never truly had a problem, but I used to be really bad about counting and timing because if it had ice in it, I wanted some. I have literally gotten drunk by accident. I helped it to continue, but originally the loopiness came on because I was thirsty. I know how that plays out in an alcoholic’s eyes.
This is my experience from what my AA friends have told me, particularly the ones I’m closest to, but reflect a lot of people there. They can’t watch you sip. They can’t watch you take a drink and sit it down and walk away, then come back. It has nothing to do with cravings, or at least, over time it’s not about that. Over time, it’s shame. You have done something they could not. You left a drink on the table and walked away.
Something broke in me when Dana got her DUI. However, the way it broke let light in. When she was asked to go to these classes on alcohol and the brain, I went with her and sat in the back. I was in my 30s, it was like doing an extra rotation after going to medical school in the backseat of a Lexus.
I don’t diagnose anything, but I know a million symptoms and how they connect. I recognize things like shingles by the pattern. I can recognize the emotional fibromyalgia of trauma. As a resource, I am a great friend. I have the capability to listen and an acute awareness of when you are above my pay grade, Clown Shoes. The closer you are to me, the more I hug and kiss you while I tell you that you’re not only clown shoes, you’re all three rings and a big stripey tent……. and I wouldn’t have it any other way. All my friendships are this deep. I love my friends until they can’t take it. Literally. There have been meetings, most of them on what to do about me. 😛
Add alcohol rehab onto major trauma, and it’s just like real fibromyalgia. You might never get rid of it. You just have to manage it. My poet friend Wendy said this to me a hundred years ago, and it’s how I express this idea now that I’ve ripped her off verbatim for like 15 years…… She wrote me an e-mail that said, “you don’t have to love it, Leslie. You just have to live it.”
This is what I think to myself when I’m thinking about rehab and everything that goes with it. The semicolon and the ampersand, if you will. In fact,The War Daniel is the semicolon itself, and the ampersand is all that comes with him. Everything about who Daniel is contained in one punctuation mark (Full Stop and Keep Going), and everything that’s important to him in another. I have nicknamed it the “andhausen.” Daniel and his daughter will fall on the floor laughing at that.
I want to give it to them, because their word for the best of the best of the best is actually a suffix on the end of a word. For instance, Doc and Cora are Dochausen (or Danhausen) and Kidhausen, or Corahausen. Cora is not my daughter’s name. It’s from Coraline, Neil Gaiman’s novel.
[Incidentally, my favorite movie is now Argohausen. Bryn is going to love that. She calls me Rev. Argo. I did her wedding. I have literally married her. Just not to me…. I’m a Rev. in the Church of The Latter Day Dude because none of my friends wanted to wait until I finished grad school to do a ceremony I’ve had memorized since I was like, nine.]
Here is my own best of the best of the best. Daniel is “The War Daniel.” Cora is The Doctor’s Daughter. Do you see it now? Do you SEE IT?
The War Daniel is from Doctor Who. The War Doctor without an MD…. He’s not a fan, but says he wants to be. I hope when he sees John Hurt he will remember who he is. HE IS THE WAR DANIEL. I told him that if anyone needed a clarification, not to say to a Whovian that it was my own way of saying that he was my River Song, and that he wouldn’t even know for a few years what that even meant….. also that he could make very, very large men weep in the street, particularly in the UK.
I didn’t want to be married to this Doctor. I wanted to be married to all of them. I wanted the young boy. I wanted the teenager. I wanted the man he is. And I am so curious to find out what happens next. Literally I will watch this next regeneration that chooses the same face and hope to God he remembers that his companion is me. I’m your Amy, and you’re my Rory. You cannot even imagine how that feels. That out of nowhere, Rory Williams showed up…. and Rory is a nurse.
That’s just the Doctor Who connection. We haven’t started on MASH yet. Sorry, it’s not spelled right because my 8 key isn’t working, but you get it. Saying that he’s Hawkeye and Honeycut and Winchester and Potter all rolled into one is an understatement, because they never really got bombed. But all of these medical characters mean something to me, Hawkeye in particular. I have said for a long time that it was rough being a Hawkeye in a Frank Burns world…… and then Hawkeye showed up on my Internet front porch.
As Jill says, “you are really not subtle about hiding Daniel from all your friends. You only have one friend named Daniel on Facebook, and his last name is Williams.” Given that I think he’s part Rory, his last name counts. I was never trying to hide him. He told me that he’s an open book. I am sure that he is looking for a PowerPoint presentation on his flaws that’s just not going to come until I’m not punching down anymore. I want him fighting fit.
Yes, I’m terrible about hiding things. I should learn to leave so many less breadcrumbs than I actually do. But this is not one of them. I will wait and change my relationship status based on two things. The first is staying out of Facebook Jail long enough to do it, and whether or not this miracle occurs. I only own half.
Because here’s what I see. I see a writer that should be teaching how to write war fiction or journalism. It seems like everything I know politically boils down to David Halberstam’s books. I know I’m marrying The Best and the Brightest. If he were alive, he would approve… and probably retort that it will get better…. it’s just The Coldest Winter. The War Daniel has Pulitzer Prize talent. What he does with it is completely up to him. It’s just that the raw talent is there.
He’s also electable. He could do any job in this country, including president, because the US elects war heroes all the time. I know him. He would turn down POTUS in a heartbeat to get right to Veterans’ Affairs. The first time I brought it up, some light came into his eyes and he said, “I could help my brothers.” I’m just talking about his character. That’s the man I want to marry. I don’t care if we stay on the beach and do nothing. It’s not about that. It’s about seeing options and choosing from them (not always saying “this is the very best bad idea we have, sir. By far”).
Like choosing to have a daughter.
I have been “Other Mother” for a little while, and I have to say, I really enjoy it. Falling in love with a child is a whole different ball game. Here’s how much different. I am going to make you bawl, because I’m about to make myself bawl for like the 30th time so I am telling you, get the Kleenex.
Cora and I were talking about trans pain vs. queer pain and how they’re different and how they’re the same. I told her I felt like she was overfocusing on her own pain and that it might be holding her back from empathy.
Holy God I have never seen anyone turn around this fast. The next day, she was talking about getting new driver’s license, passport, etc. We were talking about names. I said, “Cora, I want to change your deadname for you a little bit so that you can think of it as someone else’s name, and only two people in the world know what it is…. and in fact, I would be very surprised if it was information retained. Is that okay with you?” She said, “sure.”
This may be telling tales out of school, but it needs to be.
“When Meagan and I were planning our own future, we picked baby names for our future son and daughter. Your deadname was going to be the same name as my own son should he have appeared, and isn’t it crazy that I named my son your deadname and your father, who I will remind you I have known since I was seven, thought of the EXACT SAME NAME for his kid.” It wouldn’t be a thing if it was a common name.
It is, but I wanted it spelled differently, and he picked the same spelling I wanted. Not so much “isn’t this eerie…. we’re mated now based on that one fact.” No. Bullshit. I just meant that great minds think alike. This time, really. An INFJ and an INTJ belong together. No one else can stand us. This has been proven to both of us time and again. 😛
Meagan proposed to me when we were 18. It was just as ridiculous as agreeing to marry someone who was going to rehab, but I said yes, anyway…… like two months before she noped back to Canada and found someone else. What is different about Daniel is that he is everything she’s not. She was a romantic who didn’t really think things through, and I could say the same about myself now except I’m almost 20 years older now and I’ve learned from my mistakes. He is a seasoned combat veteran and doctor. I will put his street creds up there with any trauma surgeon in the nation. His stitches may not be art, but you’ll live. If that kind of person can’t be trusted with my heart, it will only be due to incompatibility and/or timing. Not that he’s not the right person- for me or anyone else.
The first lesson in being older is don’t marry someone you think you love but underneath realize they’re kind of a jackass. Marry someone who wears their jackass proudly, like I do (and like many of my friends also do, because I wouldn’t love them as much if they didn’t).
Here’s why being a jackass is important to the story. I’m not the same person I was when I was 18, but I’m grateful to her, the woman I was. She protected me from me. She was a musician, yet alone. She found ways to disappear. She’d been outed at school and humiliated. It was ninth grade. By 12th, I’d had enough. I just wasn’t that smart. I did everything right, and I still got dumped in a terribly humiliating way, which is completely forgiven a hundred times over because her friendship has been so valuable… but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t hell on earth back then.
In present day, after we’d talked about The Struggle, I told Cora everything about my name and why I hate it so goddamn much. Leslie is fine. The D is no longer with us. It humiliates me to even think about changing the name my mother gave me now that she’s dead.
Cora, in her empathy, said, “I have a name that I’m not using. Would you like to have it?”
When your child says something like that, their name could be Osama and you wouldn’t blink. I actually think Osama would be a cool name for me, based on the movie about the girl who had to become genderqueer on purpose to fool the Taliban into believing she was worthy of education and training. She’s adorable, and she has my heart…. and if Daniel and I ever travel to the Middle East, you can bet my gender non-conforming ass that I will carry her picture everywhere and say, “See? I’m like her. I’m just ancient.”
When I loved my name, I wasn’t ashamed of who I was. I was lonely. It was Meagan or nothing. I would have died rather than choose nothing, for only the simple fact that Southern women are sold a bill of goods that only one person will fulfill their every need until they die… forever and ever, to God be the glory, Amen.
I do not believe that. I believe that The War Daniel and I have woven through each other’s timelines, and because it’s always the future, there’s never a conflict…. no moments of “fixed point in time. I’m so, so sorry.” I also believe that being married to Dana was also wonderful, and being with Kat was adequate. It just wasn’t all wonderful, all the time…. and neither is this. It’s just a much bigger gamble. If I win, I win big. If I lose, I still played a part in keeping my friend alive.
Relationships can be built. Regenerations are a fairy tale told to children, and they work so wonderfully well because you do the same thing your whole life…. instantly recognizable on the outside. Completely different on the inside.
Same software, different case.
It was an astounding offer, one that could only be made by someone with childlike wonder and innocence. Someone who’d been beaten down by the world every bit as much as me. Her trauma might be more prevalent nowadays because people don’t understand the ideas of transgender or genderqueer as easily as they accept queer sexual behavior. I don’t know why it’s such a mystery that people have a spectrum of sexual behavior and gender identity, but it’s becoming more nd more true every day. I am just a regular queer, but people have been coming at me 20 years longer than they have Cora. Cora’s 24. She has no idea. None. I don’t think she even knows how big a sacrifice it is. To hear her deadname come out of my mouth, to see her letter where mine used to be… it’s too much for me. I can’t do that to her, even if it wasn’t her real reaction. I can’t take that chance. To be that careless with a deadname would be devastating if it hurt after the fact. I see her pain, she sees mine. I am sensitive to it in all ways.
Daniel and I might want to foster/adopt kids in the future. The first thing I did was ask Cora if it was okay. The girls (important, because our idea was getting children out of impossible situations, like being betrothed to a Talib fighter who is 47 years old) would be at least a decade younger, possibly more. It was important that she see my dreams as clearly as I saw hers, and we talk about them.
Last night, I remembered almost 20 years ago, curling up with the thought of my wife and my son….
I woke up this morning thinking of my daughter. The D is no longer with us, but only physically. I have a right hand ring that’s him all over. A claddagh with skeleton hands. My daughter and I are bonding without him, which is a very good thing for all three of us. You can’t be in love, or even think you love an alcoholic/addict until you’re ready to think about murder. We need each other. If for nothing else than going to Finland so he can stand out in one of FORTY BAZILLION FORESTS and take the band pic. It’s Finland. There’s only one.
Why yes, he did want to move to Helsinki at first. I’m glad you asked. I believe that I have talked him down off the ceiling by agreeing to go and live there for a little bit and see if we like it. As I was telling Zachausen the other day, “I’m using the Internet wrong. I don’t think I’ve even adapted to the reality that Air BnB is a thing we could do.” It’s just not all about us (Zachausen can come, too).
I got Cora at such an incredible time in my life, the part where she’s young and doesn’t have anything figured out and doesn’t know shit about Civil Rights or where we came from in terms of people like JFK, RFK, MLK, Bayard Rustin, and all of the best and the brightest Halberstam talked about. Talked about how three of the brightest stars in the Civil Rights firmament were all assassinated and how Bayard Rustin was out of he closet for ALL OF IT. MLK knew. Baptist preacher. Knew his top advisor was gay and didn’t give a damn, because he wasn’t perfect.
She also doesn’t know that Jesus isn’t perfect yet, but I will definitely disabuse her of that notion. Dude who killed a fig tree just because there wasn’t any fruit on it is not the picture of mental health you see before you today… you know, the one that’s white. What, like he’s the only baby born in Israel with French features? Seriously. Explain it to me like I’m five. Everyone around Jesus was brown. Get there faster.
I’m not pulling for her to choose Religion or Not Religion. Just that it’s a spectrum as well. One of the funniest things that The War Daniel has ever said was when he was angry, so it was not appropriate to laugh as loud as I wanted to… because it wasn’t Doc making me laugh. It was the characterization of “show me someone who can keep their anger in check when they’re angry and I’ll show you Jesus Christ.” I fell out thinking about how many tax collectors of the day might have taken exception to that.
Every day, I know more about Jesus just by being me. I’m not saying I’m divine, I’m saying that the Historical Jesus posited by Marcus Borg is very much like me. Being the son of God and a preacher’s kid can’t be all that different, right? Jesus was born to the Source. I was born to upper management. We were both baptized, but I’m going to bet that since he was an adult and I was an infant, he peed on John a lot less than I peed on Bishop Crutchfield.
But when you are baptized with the power of the Holy Spirit, stand up. Don’t you dare think you are any less than it is or Jesus was. We were never meant to be Jesus. Jesus was always meant to be us.
The writing that comes out of me when I’m thinking of Daniel and our daughter is better than anything I’ve ever written in my life, and it’s not all here yet. Some of it is praying The War Daniel to DC or Baltimore.
Some of it is praying we just make it through tomorrow and tomorrow without reliving yesterday.
Who knows? Who…. nose.
I’m an idiot. I pulled a classic IT geek move. Claim to know about computers. Forget to attach link and/or image.
On December 31, 2022, at 8:00 AM, “Leslie D. Lanagan” <the famous lanagan @ gmail . com> wrote:
Really all I want you to do is read my blog and listen to the story of my boyfriend and one-day husband, Daniel. Then boost the signal if you like what you read. However, I am not only checking in with you because of that. Just asking what I need up front in case you’re busy.
First of all let me say that you are one of the people I love most in the world just for being you. I am proud to see that when you were acting, you took a huge risk and it paid off big. I take you as you are. All your crap because all people have it and your incredible capacity for love shows through every damn day. We are not strangers, but I doubt that you would remember me because we have not communicated since roughly 2003. You used to be one of my fans and on my Blogrolll (orwhatever). We exchanged comments a few times, and then when you published “Just a Geek,” I came to Powell’s on Burnside to get it signed (Or did you do Powell’s Technical Books that tour? I don’t remember). My blog back then was called “Clever Title Goes Here,” and when you matched a name to a face, you signed my book, “Dear Leslie, Clever Inscription Goes Here.” Those are such precious memories.
Are you tight with Anil Dash and Chason Chaffin? I remember you commenting on Chason’s web site as well, but he hasn’t told me if you stayed in touch. I’m a huge fan because you’re famous, and the way you got there was being well respected at craft. If you have any teaching experience in writing, I’m all ears.
I am definitely writing this to ask you a favor, but not one that’s hard for you……. yet impossible for me. I just need a tool that you have and I don’t. You’re famous, full stop, and you’re a well respected writer. I wrote a blog entry about my boyfriend winning a medal of valor that just left me emotionally spent, and it was short. If you like it, could you put it on blast?
I’m in Facebook Jail because a black girl called me “Raisin Potato Salad” and I took exception to that. She was clearly trying to insult me based on an hour’s conversation and she wore down my last nerve. I am a line cook. Food is life, and Africans/African-Americans have always been trailblazers In the kitchen. I said nothing racist, but she said something prejudiced. I said, “if you want to come at me with ‘raisin potato salad,’ you are messing with the wrong bitch. I’m from Houston, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world be cause it’s a port. We will throw down, and I will kick your ass sideways.” As my college roommate and soul sister would say, “I am a Christian and I also have no problem breaking your back tooth and praying later.” I don’t even want to tell you what she does for a living, but if she was queer, I would have married my life partner in 1999. This is because she’s already my life partner in a platonic sense, because she’s just one of the people I do life with and have since I was 20. Her daughter is a lesbian, and I said two things that are worth putting here in response to it.
The first was, “you know why your daughter’s gay, don’t you? God saw how you treated me and decided to give you a special girl of your own.” The second is hearing how she deals with homophobia. See above. “I need you to be my mom now. Fight for me the way you fight for her.”
My skin is white but I have a black soul when in comes to cooking because so many racist Southerners (only white ones. Racism is a system. People of color cannot even begin to create such a thing) eat the same shit and turn food into a ridiculous stereotype but only for POC.
Soapbox over. Rooting for you to win Celebrity Jeopardy. I think Ken Jennings is a hell of a guy. Never met him as a writer/content producer, but he’s bomb. Mayim Bialik is the absolute hottest choice known to God and man for this role. Fight me, although I know you won’t. Privately, rawr in the most respectful tone for the good doctor as possible.
If you have a minute, will you tell me what it was like to work with Gaiman once the adrenaline wore off? I’m not digging for dirt. I just want to learn what you learned about his craft, because I know you’re smart enough to have analyzed it by now. Actually, any stories you’d like to share with me about fellow creatives’ process would be wonderful. I’m very positive, not being a dick, wanting to be a student like watching Inside the Actor’s Studio every week even though I don’t act. These days I’m obsessed with carpentry and making check out Laura Kampf on YouTube- gay movies tend to suck because production values are low. So gays went to YouTube and made their own content. They own HGTV now, it’s just not on cable.
That’s what’s running through my mind as I’m discovering I’m not gay, I’m just queer. I’m writing through it. If you think of a project I’d be right for, I’d love to be in the writer’s room. I have legit no experience, but if T**** can be the president, I really don’t mind just shooting my shot and seeing what you say. Not willing to move to LA but would come and visit if you could pay. I don’t want your money. It’s just a tool you have that I don’t. I would also love a digital autograph I could use as the background on my tablet (not for publication ever in case you’re a privacy nerd like I am), also assuming that I’m not taking too much of your time.
All love, brother. I hope all is well. You seem good on the outside. Is that true? You okay?
I want to tell you something about the man I eventually want to be with for the rest of my life. I need you to really hear me, really cry with me, really feel the pain and joy that I felt when Daniel decided that I was trustworthy enough to be trusted with a story this big. I want it to go around the world by tomorrow, and I’m not kidding. I want you to lose your MINDS when you hear his story, and I want to make myself the best known writer in the world for this one entry alone. I do not think this is undoable. Please make me famous for this one thing, and I will owe you everything.
I just got a text message from Daniel that said, “my girl, be prolific.”
Well, I am nothing if not that.
It was a calm day in the market when Daniel was in country. He noticed something out of the corner of his eye. He stood strong and shot.
The “noticing someone” was a terrorist wiring up a five year old child to explosives so that he could blow up everyone in the plaza.
If I showed you the award he got for it, the Marines in the audience would lose their minds.
I did. I took on all his pain. Just all of it. I sobbed and sobbed and couldn’t get ahold of myself for hours, and I’m sobbing even now. I can’t get over it. I am too filled with joy that even though it was the worst day of his life, it feels like the best day of mine.
I definitely had thoughts. The first was the strength it took for a military-trained nurse practitioner to break the Hippocratic Oath…. to wrestle with it, because he was tasked with saving life, not taking it. I wonder what it was like to look a terrorist in the eye, knowing that under normal circumstances, you’d be taking his history and physical. The second time was just how close I came to losing one of the great loves of my life before it ever happened…. well, as children. It counts, but there’s so much more. The third was how humbled I know I’ll be to be in his presence. It’s a reverence that will fade when he hasn’t done x or y, but will never be forgotten. Please don’t let it be forgotten by anyone else.
But don’t you DARE do it to honor me. I’m just the messenger.
This entry is going to be short, but I hope it hits you like you didn’t even see gravity’s rainbow until the bomb NEARLY went off, taking a five-year-old with it.
Sit in that. I did. I am humbled. Just bleeding out with gratitude. My heart can barely take it, but it wants to.
Editor’s Note (DW): When we called general quarters on the ship, I never felt the mixture of fear and excitement. It was all business. I took control of my sound powered phone with my CSOSS manuals and a dry erase marker and kept track of what systems were up and down. That was my job during the shit in the shop. Afghanistan isn’t even a different animal. It’s a different being. You literally see a bag of chips and ask if that’s a ied. The excitement is skipped and the fear is squared. Getting back to the wire was a tear leaking experience , because thank fuck today wasn’t the day and all 7 of us came back
I just had a thought that is so funny that I cannot end the entry without telling you. “When you want something done right, hire a Corpsman.”
Let me also add a note to my dad and all my friends in Naples, particularly Tiffany Anthony, MD. I am fully convinced that I am eventually going to marry Hawkeye and House, mixed with the very best of Jimmy Leeves we have left in this world and Dr. Anthony in our corner from Dallas.
My conversations with Daniel in preparing content are tough shit, and I am so glad that I’m a blogger because of it. When I go all up in my feelings, I have a place to express them without having to think about what he’s going to think when he reads the entry. It’s a mixture of fear and excitement, because if you get PTSD from combat, those are generally the only two emotions in a story.
And then there are things that make me bleed out, like telling Daniel why I have PTSD and Daniel explaining to me why mine was so much worse than his…… Daniel’s enemies were clearly defined. Mine were turncoats, both of them, at a time when I was too little to know that wasn’t okay and took it on as all my fault.
One of the things that’s so different with our two cases of PTSD is that I cannot define triggers before they happen. I’m fine one minute, and inconsolable the next. He actually has enough self awareness to say that he doesn’t like the sound of popping popcorn, because “that’s what M4s sound like when you put them on fully automatic.” He can do something that at this point, I cannot. He can tell me what his triggers are, and I can avoid them. I have tried to quantify what a trigger means to me for nine years, and I haven’t really come up with a good solution.
The biggest trigger I have is smell. Whether it’s my abuser’s old perfume, or the air smells just the way it did when I was standing there with that journal, asking what certain things meant. I think that is true for all trauma, the way the smell of the smoke in our recent house fire took me back to the one my family had when I was 11.
Music doesn’t bother me, generally, but there are a few choir pieces and opera arias that I have put away. If I’m in a church choir that is doing one of the pieces that for me, acts as a trigger, I don’t sing that day. I don’t even go to rehearsals that contain it.
One of the things that I’ve done for the last probably, ten years that I refuse to do now is minimize. Everything that has happened to me is now being given its full meaning and weight. I am no longer trying to make it look lesser than, that things weren’t as bad as I thought. In order to know how bad it was, you cannot just know my side of the story. You have to know the life story of the woman who emotionally abused me as well, and how that pathology affected me. I can only tell my story and a teeny, tiny part of hers. There’s so much more you will never find on this web site that you would find if you looked in other areas. For instance, none of our mutual friends except Dana has ever talked to my dad about what I was like as a teenager.
I can think of a few more I’d like to have him school. Some because I still don’t understand their reactions, some because I just want my people to know who I really am without pretense or bullshit.
I am coming into my power. I am 45 years old. Either this year or within a few years half of my life will be over, using my 92 year old grandfather as an example. A whole lot of shit I used to care about doesn’t even exist now in terms of my focus.
Like getting all upset because Daniel is in love with me and I know it. He has been for 36 years. Let me get this straight. A military doctor wants to be with me, and he’s telling me up front that he’s an alcoholic and has PTSD and is going to rehab to change himself and just wants another writer to lie next to in bed with both our laptops going…… and I’m going to freak out because he’s male and not female? I got this picture in my head of Jonna and Tony Mendez writing “The Moscow Rules” on a king-sized bed and thought, “why not?”
Here’s why I didn’t freak out, and it’s all my trans friends’ fault (I’m really grateful and I’m teasing). I realized that there was just enough man in me to be absolutely terrified that a straight dude wouldn’t like me AS A PARTNER. Straight dudes love me in general. Instead of thinking of myself as a bisexual woman, I had to game this relationship out as a trans man. This is because I knew that Daniel had never been in a gay relationship before, and so his reaction to my gender identity would never be negative, he just might be confused. I needed him to know that I express as male sometimes, and that has to be okay with him. Luckily, it very much is.
But this is just the beginning of a very, very long story. Please do not think that I have lost my fucking mind. Daniel doesn’t start rehab until January 5th. He lives in NE Texas. There is no possible way we will even see each other until his rehab is over, and that could take up to a few months. We’re talking about living separately for at least a year, because if he moves to DC we might screw ourselves over by skipping dating and just moving in. It wouldn’t be a deliberate screwover- DC is expensive and it might seem tempting to have one household “since we want to be together, anyway….” Eyeroll………
My perfect picture of Daniel and me is that we visit each other a few times in 2023, and then think seriously about stability after 2023 is over. This does not mean that we won’t be in contact at all, just not physically sharing the same space. Rediscovering each other through calls and letters for a year before going all in.
I am also not saying that Daniel is my forever person. I am saying that he’s one of them. Maybe it will be this fairy tale in which I suddenly transform into the perfect heterosexual wife. However, my money is not on that. My money is on Daniel becoming so important to me that he becomes a priority, and it is too damn early in our relationship to put constraints on what that actually looks like. Just be happy for me that I have someone that loves me and is in my corner. That if I get into a Situation, it’s handled. Don’t look into the future and try to pigeonhole us as friends or married. Let us decide that over the next few years on our own.
I am turning a corner in my sexuality. I am less sure about my gender than I ever have been, which has made me flexible about everything else. I was telling my friend Zac that I was feeling very non-binary, without the need to come out or change pronouns. How that plays out in my relationship with Daniel is that I feel like a partner, not the archetype one sees in their minds eye of a “wife.”
I have also been a wife before, but not to a man. My definition of “wife” comes from that context, and I don’t know enough about men to know whether my definition and theirs is similar. My saving grace is that Daniel is attracted to my personality. I don’t think he would have been attracted to me if I was male on the outside, because sexual orientation is a thing. But what I do know is that if I look at myself in the completely genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary but doesn’t give a crap about pronouns kind of way, Daniel still loves that person.
I’m not becoming less. He’s becoming more. He’s opening himself up to the possibility of not being with the picture and definition of “woman” he’s always known.
It took me back a bit. All of the sudden, someone from my past reappeared, and I want to talk to her “privately.”
I remember the first time I saw you like it was yesterday. We were out in the sun at Chuy’s on Westheimer, and I was completely suckered in by your preppy attire. I mean obviously, my wife teased me about seeing you and running into a door for like four years. What might have seemed schoolgirlish actually made me relax and find peace within myself. You were the first woman I’d ever met who identified as straight and also wore men’s clothes without making it a big deal. Nine times out of ten, it was men’s styles in a women’s cut. Every time I looked at you, I saw a little more of who I wanted to be on the outside. I saw a style that fit me on someone else.
You might think it’s because I thought you looked like a lesbian. Actually, that’s not it at all. I saw the way your husband looked at you and realized that I was putting too much emphasis on my clothes. That what I wore wasn’t advertising anything. That if a straight woman could out butch me any day of the week, then wear whatever I want. Nothing about my wardrobe says that I am seeking attention from men or women.
I know this because now I’m divorced, it’s eight years later, and now a man wants to be with me. I said yes. I said yes because I looked at you on that warm April day, and knew that he would love me no matter what. I saw a style that fit me on someone else.
I absolutely fell apart last night, because for the first time in legit years all I could do was cry and miss Dana…. just inconsolable that she wasn’t holding me while I cried. This is because when I heard the news that Julie Powell, of Julie & Julia fame, had died, I folded into myself with memories.
That movie never fails to bring me to tears. Watching Meryl Streep cut onions while studying for culinary school always reminds me of my curly haired spitfire, a description that one of my friends gave her and will stick for the rest of my life.
Yes, we are broken up. No, I am not confused. I have a good memory, that’s all. When I’m not thinking about it, she’s out of sight, out of mind. But we all have our triggers, don’t we? And some of them are actually sweet rather than terrifying. So if anyone, friends or potential new girlfriends, has a problem with me having memories, good luck and God bless. I’m sure you can find a woman somewhere without memories, but I’m sure she’ll also have other symptoms from getting hit on the head that hard. Bless your heart.
I would be a total narcissist if I didn’t realize that I was at fault as much as anyone else in the world is responsible for a breakup, try to learn from my mistakes, and move on completely. Luckily, I know I’m not a total narcissist because that’s exactly what I’ve done. Believe me, if I hadn’t, I doubt I would have many (if any) sweet triggers left.
Also, I think it’s important to reconcile your past because then you stop torturing yourself over it. When I look back on Dana, 80% of the time it’s to laugh and smile about a memory. It’s not like I don’t have negative triggers, there’s just so many fewer than there used to be with the passage of time. I can honestly say that we were amazing right up until we weren’t, and those communication issues went back far longer than I originally assumed. My teenage crushy, blushing feelings for someone of the opposite orientation were a reaction to something both in me and that Dana triggered at the same time. My reaction was my own, I have no bones about that. She didn’t “make me do” anything. I’m just saying that I reacted poorly to stimuli I didn’t realize was there. Does that make sense?
I thought I would start writing incessantly about her as time wore on, because I’d have some perspective on our relationship and could dive deep into the wreck. It has always been an assumption on this web site that I am leading from the back, laying out all my fears, experiences, and dreams for the future in hopes of helping someone else.
Here’s what I didn’t count on. The wreck is as much of a mess as old necklaces stuck in a drawer and somehow over the last 20 years they’ve knotted, attracted dust, and probably have gum on them and smell like old purse. Diving into it takes so much out of me that I don’t have any stomach for it. Maybe I’ll never write about it, maybe I need another 20 years. What I do know is that I lost the love of my life so far. It’s been a blessing to know I am capable of eventually having another.
Then the 20% becomes the 80% and I don’t like who I become thinking about that much trauma happening in that little time. Two years of awful destroyed some five years and change of wonderful. Only thinking about those five years is akin to loving The West Wing right up until Aaron left.
The changes in my personal life were just as dramatic, but they evened out. Maybe Aaron Sorkin writing my life was just a little too dramatic for me. Maybe Amy Sherman Palladino will call. Great writer, and she seems to be connected umbilically to Alex Borstein, so she’ll be in my TV show and I will pay Amy extra every time she gives me a kissing scene with Alex. Seth McFarlane and Seth McFarlane could play our next door neighbors if it was animated. I would love to have a weekly show on free television that stars Seth MacFarlane as a gay couple. I’m dying laughing just thinking about it.
Back to you, Bob. Let’s go to the phones.
I slowly slide back into humor, leaving the wreck untouched. We are picking chesterberries, we are running a kitchen, we are sitting outside by the fire in various states of sobriety. Drunken trivia nights where winning was dependent on who could remember the answer. Going to pub trivia and deciding that our team name should be an ellipsis and a sentence, so that when we won, it would be stuf like “And the winners tonight are….under investigation by the FBI.” Days spent working on Katrina’s yard together, or running “our kitchen.”
Phillip Hunker and Outpost were talking about living your dreams in “Grind” by saying “stop trading five days for two, and do with your love what you’re supposed to do.” It works the same way in reverse. I will never stop trading my two for five with Dana. I’m working on the other thing.
It’s what I think about when I’ve been inconsolable and crying.
It is one of the darkest days we’ve had in a while. It is not currently raining, but the storm has started and stopped multiple times, and the sky still looks threatening. I have my Carrot Weather app set to “homicidal personality,” and she says I should stay home today because no one likes me and she blames me for the bad weather.
That’s my girl.
Today is both my mother’s and my ex-wife’s birthday. They’re both on my mind today, but it’s only about remembering joy where Dana is concerned and muted sadness regarding my mom.
In terms of my relationship with Dana, the reason I now choose to remember good things is that I tortured myself for a long time. Anything and everything I could possibly do to blame myself, I did in spades. It’s been six years, so about a year ago I decided to let myself off the hook… not in terms of no longer bearing responsibility, but that the time for self-recrimination had passed. It was only making me miserable to remind myself of all that went wrong. The flip side of the coin is not mistaking the part for the whole. The overwhelming majority of our story is hilarious.
The only thing that’s still hard is seeing her picture come up in my Facebook memories, because I alternate between thinking they’re adorable and feeling like I’ve been stabbed. It’s not that I haven’t moved on, it’s just a trigger, and tiny moments like that take the longest to fade.
My sister went out to the cemetery and gave me an update on Fred, the one silver lining in the absolute shitshow that is grief over the loss of a parent. Fred was the seedling that was planted next to the foot of my mother’s grave… not in memory of her, it’s just that her death and his planting happened simultaneously. It was the birth and death life cycle in front of our eyes. He gets stronger every time we visit. Whereas he used to only have “kid-sized” branches and leaves, now he spreads out over a granite bench and Lindsay got to sit in the shade. The shade. We were joking that our little boy has grown up.
I think the reason we gave him a human personality is that my thought was that I couldn’t hug my mother, but I could hug Fred so tightly that you’d think I went to Berkeley. It will be a sad and proud day when my arms no longer wrap all the way around.
There are some commonalities in both types of grief. If I mention either my mother’s death or Dana, the conversation looks like gravity’s rainbow, the image so loud I can almost hear the whistle. It is as if both of them have turned into “she who must not be named” as it makes other people feel awkward to the point of onomatopoeia. For me, it’s the old trope of losing someone and they’ve just slipped into another room. Their ends of the conversation are over, but that doesn’t mean I’ve gone all “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotted Mind.” I got divorced and my mom died in relatively quick succession. One loss compounded the other as I wasn’t really done mourning the first when the second one started.
There are good things I remember in the wake of my mother’s death, though, because I must. It doesn’t heal anything- it sort of helps. For instance, I remember being on the business side of death for the first time, and how it was comforting to pick out her casket. I know it sounds weird, but it was literally the last time we’d ever shop for her, and we wanted it to be something that if she saw it, she would have been pleased. The fact that I know her casket is her favorite color and has stenciled birds on the inside is enough for me.
The difference between losing people close to me is night and day from being a preacher’s kid and attending funerals of parishioners. This is because so much time and energy were poured into my mother and Dana that I didn’t know what to do with it afterward. I also locked down my emotions, even now but especially in the beginning. In the aftermath, I couldn’t manage to be the appropriate amount of emotional in public, so I just chose not to have them at all unless I was home alone. It was either resting bitch face silence or complete hysteria with no middle ground.
It’s just that no one knew about it unless I was willing to let them in, and at first “them” added up to exactly zero persons. I branched out to people who had also lost parents, because no matter how hard people who haven’t lost parents try, they cannot grasp the enormity of the situation.
It is because of this that I know my divorce and my mother’s death happened in the right order. The people closest to me had the ability to wound me with stunning accuracy, because if I didn’t know them that well, I could either write it off or decide to end the relationship altogether.
There’s also a special list in my head of all the people that claimed to be my close friends and didn’t come to my mother’s funeral. I don’t want to keep track, but I do it anyway. I feel that the friends who don’t show up when you are in crisis are claiming to be better friends than they actually are. I’m sorry if you feel slapped by that statement, but emotions are emotions and logic is logic. Never the twain shall meet. Even if it’s irrational, it’s my truth. My brain just isn’t capable of telling my heart what to do. However, I am not unreasonable. I did not expect my DC friends to fly to Houston with me.
I think the reason that I’ve described today as “muted sadness” is that it’s not only grief over my mother and Dana, but grief over the pieces of me that died inside at their departure. I am no longer person I was six years ago, and it doesn’t matter whether some of the pieces lost are good. Trying to get them back is futile. A dead end, as it were.
In the meantime, I have turned to books. This blog has become a bit bipolar, because I used to post quite frequently. Now, it’s hit or miss. This is because I have a binge and purge relationship with reading vs. writing. I noticed a long time ago that when I read and wrote at the same time, the tone would sound just like the last author I read. I’m not a great writer, by any means, but I do know myself well enough to know when the “voice” I’m using belongs to me. For instance, when I first started blogging in 2003, I am sure I sounded like Dooce for at least a year.
Speaking of which, I had a friend tell me that Dooce used to be good, but she’s not as good a writer as she used to be. I told her she needed to send me an e-mail when I got to that point. It was her job to tell me to retire. I haven’t gotten it yet, so unless she got bored and stopped reading altogether, I’m probably doing ok. Thanks for asking.
I have read so many books in different genres lately. Last night it was a novel in which a woman gets into a car accident, hit by a drunk driver (“A Curve in the Road”). In the emergency room, she finds out that the drunk driver is her husband. Everything unravels from that point forward, and it’s masterful.
I’m also taking my time with a non-fiction book about one of the first same-sex marriages to be recognized in the United States (“Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America”). The two women met in the late 1700s. As I quipped to a friend, “that’s impossible! Lesbians weren’t invented until 1805!” I admire the couple a great deal, because in order to stay safe, they basically gave generously to the town. It meant that the mayor and council literally couldn’t afford to piss them off. If there’s anything I adore, it’s a clever “scheme.” I’m not sure they even realized they were running that game, only that the results paid off. They managed to be together until one of them died, so I think it was 40 or 50 years…. impressive by any and all standards. The prose is a bit dry, but the subject is fascinating. I would absolutely love to teach a high school history class with it, because it’s not just focused on the couple, but the war around them. There aren’t any graphic sex scenes or violence, so it would be an important alternative perspective while also being suitable for teens.
If there’s been anything good about my silence, it has been the addition of hundreds of unique voices that let me travel all over the world. If there’s a scene from a book that transported me to the point where everything else fell away, it’s from John Brennan’s “Undaunted.” When he was in college, he went to the University of Cairo. His experiences there are humorous and convey the beauty of Egypt. Plus, it’s fun to picture a White House staffer that used to be a kind of rebel, pierced ear and all.
I’ve read those passages multiple times, because sometimes I just need to lift myself out of what I’m describing as “muted sadness.”
I just finished watching “To All the Boys: Always and Forever.” I’ve been waiting for inspiration to write; I needed a memory far enough back in my past that the blowback from myself would be minimal. (I’ve often thought that other people’s opinions stop me from writing- most of the time it’s to keep myself from exploding.) The movie is about Laura and Peter’s senior year of high school, which inevitably made me think of my own. It was so messy and difficult- like many people’s, probably, with the uniqueness of coming out all over again.
I was out at HSPVA, but my mom didn’t want me to come out at Clements. I had the chance to start over, and she wanted that for both of us. Even at HSPVA, I constantly worried that coming out at school would lead to people finding out at church…. but I didn’t have to worry about that. Everyone in my life figured it out before I had the chance to tell them.
I remember fondly the night I came out to my friend Dianne Maurice, who said “if this conversation hadn’t happened, I would have sat you down and told you.” She didn’t have to worry. I’d thought and felt attraction to women my whole life, but didn’t have the words to express what I was feeling until I turned 13. But that didn’t mean I didn’t have my share of boyfriends as well, just that it was what I thought I was supposed to do, and dating Ryan was a mountaintop experience for someone so young. How many middle school couples make it to a year and two months? I’m guessing it had something to do with us as friends being two halves of the same person, and middle school romance is sweet and lingering without the constant peer pressure and internal drive to sleep together. As a result, that friendship has grown more tender over time, because we didn’t have a horrible break-up, either….. although it was strange. I came out to him by telling him all the attraction I was feeling to people that were not him, to which he had the best response ever, which was that I was free to think but not to act.
He eventually found someone else, which was wonderful and terrible all at once. Part of me was relieved for him to find someone whose heart wasn’t tearing them apart. The other parts of me felt his absence like a missing limb, and I didn’t date anyone else until the summer before I was a senior. It was a terrible decision, because six weeks later, I met someone I thought was THE ONE, and had to go through the heartbreak of breaking someone else’s heart, always harder than someone breaking yours. It wasn’t a cheating situation- THE ONE didn’t even know I was alive until Christmas.
But I was her friend from the first day of school, because once my dad left the church, I felt free to be whomever I was going to be that year…. which was wearing pride rings to advertise.
I will never in my entire life forget our first phone call. Dr. Steed, my senior English teacher, told us to get the phone number of someone in our class because the work was going to be difficult. I knocked over two desks to get to her and slipped her my number, because it was easier than asking for hers.
The moment I walked into the house after school, literally 30 seconds in, my phone rang. I said, “hello?” She said, “do you wear those pride rings because you’re gay, or because you’re an idiot?” I said “I’m gay. Do you have a problem with that?” She said, “no. I’m a Melissa Etheridge fan.” It was not a euphemism.
She was dating a hockey player at another school named Mark, a beard she kept up a little too well because it was excruciating watching her basically make out with him on New Year’s Eve. By then, we were together on the down low, even to her closest friends….. because I was out, but she wasn’t. Who would have thought the goalie for the women’s soccer team at my high school was a lesbian? That just doesn’t make sense. 😛
Prom night was also a mess, because we’d sort of gone to Homecoming together- I went with one of her friends so we could be near each other. But by Prom, school was ending and she thought she was ready to be truly seen with me. I bought the perfect dress, and she backed out. She ended up coming over after she was finished at the dance, because I couldn’t just go and watch her. I thought that was crazy. People have asked me many times why I didn’t just break up with her and go out with someone who didn’t have a problem with being out. Listen, it’s not like the lesbian dating pool at my high school was huge. In terms of out lesbian, I was the entire club. It was scary walking in the parade all by myself.
But it wasn’t a lost cause. I made it safe for people in younger classes to come out. By the time my younger sister got to high school, people were putting rainbow flags on their backpacks, and Lindsay asked who started it. They said, “I think it was this kid named Leslie.”
For those who don’t know me in person, the school year was 1995-1996. In that time and place, homosexuality was still considered a mental illness by most of the people around me. It wasn’t that they were hateful, just woefully uneducated. Back then, when I was out and about with my girlfriend, we watched our backs constantly, knowing where and when PDA was appropriate.
Thinking something was wrong with us included her parents. We didn’t tell them- they searched her room and found one of my love letters. We were forbidden to see each other, and like with all teenagers, it didn’t work. We were just even more secretive than we were before….. to the tune of making out in her car near some woods and being caught by the cops, who luckily didn’t do anything except tell us to move along.
In the end, she wasn’t THE ONE, a fact that I ignored for at least ten years. She decided to go back to Canada for college, but before she left, she wanted to get married. Why that didn’t set off alarm bells, I’ll never know…. because how did she think it would work? She couldn’t hide me forever. No way was I going to be her roommate at 30…. even 18 was stretching it. But “roommate” was how it was done in those days, so the fact that same-sex couples can get married and is now so accepted is something I never thought I would see in my lifetime.
Like most high school kids, I let the relationship go on too long because I didn’t know how to let go. We were long distance, and I looked into immigrating to Canada, but before I could really start the process, I learned something truly disturbing.
Since I was the internet guru, I looked up all the places gays and lesbians gathered in her city. Well, she went, and she met someone. That wasn’t the problem. If she’d come home that night and said she’d met someone else, it would have been all right. But she didn’t. She dated this person for months, to the point of moving in with her before she was forced to admit what she was doing. I didn’t even find out from her. I found out because her girlfriend e-mailed me, saying that my girlfriend had never told her she was seeing someone when she left Texas and that I should just back out because my girlfriend was hers now. I can still feel that pain as if it was yesterday- not that I live there, it’s just present when I think about that time in my life.
Despite that asshole move on both their parts, every trip my ex-girlfriend made to Texas was filled with fun and flirty dates where it felt like we were our old selves, and then a line would get crossed and we’d have an old fight over again or I would get torched with jealousy.
Eventually, she settled down, got married, and started having kids. It was only then, a decade later, that she said she was sorry we couldn’t have been partners as adults, because she thought we would have been good at it. Her words were sweet, and I knew that’s how she meant them. A compliment didn’t line up to the way I took it. I was burning with rage. She said something to the effect that she’d thought about getting back together, but she knew she’d treated me so badly that how dare she have the right to ask me to try again? I think all the anger I’d stuffed down so that she’d still want to be my friend surfaced in that moment- not only at the way she’d treated the end of our relationship, but that she took away my choice as to whether I’d have forgiven her or not.
As it was, I was so hurt that I didn’t date anyone from the fall of my freshman year of college until I was a junior. I had major trust issues, and it took me three years to work them out enough to be able to open my heart to someone else.
Apparently, it’s a pattern, because I haven’t dated anyone since I broke up with my most recent ex (five years ago, almost six). Probably it’s been twice as long because it hurt twice as much, especially since I did a lot of things I’m not proud of in addition to being hurt by her.
I think it might have been different if a couple of years later, my mom hadn’t died. Though I was screaming for a companion in those days, I didn’t want anyone but her- and not because I was stuck in the place of “she’s THE ONE and there shall be no one else.” It was that I didn’t know anyone as well as I knew her, and the thought of having no history with someone and dragging them into the shitshow of my grief was not appealing in the slightest. I got through by trusting friends, but it wasn’t the same as having someone to hold me at night while I cried.
As I started to come alive again, I realized that going through my grief on my own was a good thing, because I didn’t realize how jealous I was of other people my age who still had their parents. I don’t know how we would have managed that, but my guess is “good, most of the time, but the bad would have been egregious.”
I sometimes think it would have been nice to have a mother-in-law as backup, but she wasn’t completely on board with her daughter marrying a woman, either, so I waffle on that point. What I do know is that waiting so long has been helpful, because I feel much freer than I did three years ago. There’s no lingering emotion from that relationship that would help push a new person away. What I do know, though, is that my next relationship will be completely different, both in my approach and the fact that no one can compare to her- a new person would be in her own class, with her own unique gifts rather than trying to think “she’s better.”
The last piece of the puzzle is that I haven’t met anyone who has swept off my feet with awe and lust. Of course, that is not how all relationships begin, but in order to want to be romantic with someone, you have to feel something. I did have a conversation with someone about dating, but it was one of those things where my interest was piqued, but I didn’t make any declarations of love or anything. It was just “maybe dating each other would be fun and we should try it.” We didn’t, and life quickly moved on because I was never pining.
I really don’t have time for it. My attention is taken up with other things, other people with whom I am not romantic but are such good friends that intimacy happens regardless. A person does not have to be in love with you to see your soul if you make it visible to them. I am lucky to have friends that walk in my inner landscape, and it is surprising how much I value it over finding a partner. It’s not that I’ve given up, it’s that I’m perfectly happy to stand back and let them come to me. I don’t have a mad drive that says I’m going to die alone, no matter how many people say that to me because they’re worried. Trust me, that’s a them problem. I will never die alone because I have friends, constantly undervalued in our society because the fairy tale says I need to find one person that completes me and live happily ever after.
For me, the fairy tale is having friends that truly care what I think and feel, the best lesson I’ve learned in the years that have passed since my first high school romance. I don’t have one person that completes me, I have several who oversee different aspects. I don’t want to live in a world where that is seen as deficiency, but celebrated in its abundance. I know love as deep as an ocean because of them. Our shared history has provided ups and downs that stick in my mind, learning and growing every bit as much as I did when I was partnered- perhaps more as each of them show me who I am. They love me as fallible as I am, which is everything I could hope for in a romance, anyway.
To all the girls, all I can say is “thank you.” They are such small words, but the depth behind them is huge. Your love is #relationshipgoals enough for me, and I hope I am half the friend that you have been to me. It has certainly been and will continue to be my honor……
Always and forever.
Sandra Cisneros just floored me while listening to “On Being with Krista Tippett.” She said that the Sufis say life keeps breaking your heart over and over until it *stays* open. Words to live by, because heartbreak is inevitable in a multitude of ways, and to me, this saying gives it a purpose. It is a deep, lifelong learning.
It came up in my Facebook memories this morning that Dana and I broke up five years ago today, and so the quote was especially apt in that light…. I feel that heartbreak was so great, it is the one that keeps me open to the world. No one ever expects to start a marriage preparing for its end, but I felt especially blindsided by all the things I couldn’t (or didn’t want to) see. There were many things I took seriously, and things I didn’t take seriously enough. In retrospect, knowing which was which is still a mystery. I just know they exist and don’t feel the need to talk it out with her, like some sort of post-mortem closure. I don’t care to know how she feels. It is not a matter of feeling heartless, just done.
And in fact, I care even less about how our marriage came apart than I do about our friendship, which preceded marriage by almost four years. Though it’s not like we talked daily when I first moved to DC, we did talk a few times and laughed a lot. But there must have been too much pain roiling underneath to keep it up, and that is the beginning and the end of it to me. I don’t have need to cause her more pain just because of something I wanted. Her feelings do matter in that respect. But it was extraordinarily difficult to go from talking from the moment we woke to the moment we went to sleep to absolutely no communication, ever. I didn’t insist on it, but I respected her wishes. It was a large factor in my moving to DC, because I am not the best at emotional boundaries. I figured that with half a country in between us, it would be so much easier to find new people to fill the void, and I was right.
I met a swath of people who had no connection to me as a married person, didn’t think of me as “DanaandLeslie,” and for that I can be grateful. Friends who had no connection to my history at all allowed me the freedom to discover who I was on my own again. I was alone, but was not then and never have been lonely. I decided to move into a house with landlords on site and three other roommates so that I would not come home to an empty apartment every night. I figured that with my mental illnesses, living alone with no one to drag me out of my shell would be a very bad thing. The last time I lived in a one bedroom, even then I sort of had a “roommate,” this loud, brash best friend who never really wanted to go home because her own house was empty….. and I grew to love her company more and more every day.
Eventually, there were three of us, all single and looking for family. I don’t know why my apartment became the hang, but it did, and I was grateful. I knew ahead of time that in DC, I didn’t have the built-in connection of friends of friends and church and all that, which is why I opted for a group house. It would take at least a few months to reconnect with the friends I’d made here before, and to find a new church because with public transportation, my old church was too far away to really get involved on any kind of deep level (I was actually involved with two of them back then- Westminster Presbyterian in SE DC and Fairlington UMC in Alexandria, VA).
I realized I could make it on Sunday mornings easily, but not choir, and choir is far and above the biggest reason I love going to church. I feel that I am a much better soprano when I can feel the other moving parts under me, and even though I’ve done solo work (even well), it’s not my favorite (my favorite is actually singing in a quartet so I can hear myself think……..).
It was also important to me that I be free of any connections to Kathleen, my first wife, as well. I bear no ill will toward her, either- we never should have gotten married in the first place, but I was filled with so much hope as an early 20-something that it didn’t register that even though she was bisexual, her preference wasn’t women….. or at the very least, it wasn’t me…. and we’d attended both of those churches together. One of my favorite memories of that time in my life was helping to put in the stone floor labyrinth, because, of course, you can still see my handiwork…. but you better get there fast because they’re about to build a new building. 😛
I also went to Foundry United Methodist for one Sunday just to check it out, but Fairlington was so much closer to my house and just as liberal (one of the first Open & Affirming congregations in Virginia).
Now, I don’t go to church at all (but will someday…. just be patient and stay tuned…), but do go to Foundry on Thursdays for a mental illness support group when I can feel confident about getting out of the house when I don’t specifically have to do so……
It also took me a while to get out from under the burden of people thinking I moved here specifically to be closer to Argo, because that was never the case…… just a persistent rumor that affected me greatly because it was never true. What was true is that I could have moved in next door to her and she still never would have seen me, because I tend to hole up, anyway. As I have often said, I mostly sit at my computer or tablet with my headphones blaring, so a bear ripping out the side of my house wouldn’t even have registered unless I was facing that direction.
Even though I thought of DC and Alexandria as my “home towns,” I still didn’t want to take the chance of feeding that rumor even more than it already had been, so I chose Maryland. It turned out to be the best decision, anyway, because my cousin Nathan (who is a psychiatrist in Alexandria) told me about all the mental health services available in Maryland that Virginia couldn’t even touch….. and even if I was perfectly healthy when I moved here, going through a divorce still would have required talk therapy, especially after a friendship of over a decade and a marriage of seven years and change. So I got hooked up with talk therapy and a psychiatric nurse practitioner that really worked with me instead of at me, which I require because I know enough about medicine that I abhor being patronized. Additionally, I have suffered enough that not only do I know the drugs that do work, I’ve been through the list of everything that doesn’t.
There are two instances where my nurse practitioner really shone. The first is that he wanted to change my SSRI to Prozac, and I shuddered. He asked me what was wrong, and I said that it made me so nauseous that I couldn’t function or eat. The second is that we were talking about ADHD, and he asked if I’d tried Stratera. I told him that it was interesting, that opioid agonists work on me, like Tramodol, but methamphetamine agonists didn’t. That was how our relationship matured quickly, because he raised his eyebrows at the fact that I knew the word “agonist,” and his tone quickly changed to “ok, we’re equals now.”
He really listened to me as I told him that I liked to do short courses of Ritalin or Adderall in order to get my coping mechanisms under control, then stop them until I felt I needed a refresher course, and I liked the lowest dose possible to get the maximum dopamine effects without the awful side effects.
At the time, I didn’t have any weight to lose. I was so sad that I wasn’t eating, anyway. I survived on drinks, because I had a block on eating. Things like Carnation Instant Breakfast, Slim Fast, Ensure, etc. were the basics of my diet until I felt better. I am now up to a healthy weight, but back then I looked like a heroin addict (which, for the record, I was not). I also stopped drinking alcohol almost in its entirety, because I noticed that I felt and slept better when I didn’t, and I really needed sleep to let my body recover from trauma. Divorcing from Dana was traumatic on so many levels, like the fistfight that ended our relationship permanently because I didn’t want to leave the house at all until the bruise under my eye was gone and the phantom pain wasn’t all day, every day.
And it turned out that the phantom pain lasted for months, because I was devastated and that’s how it manifested. It’s gone now- forgiven but not forgotten. But I was so weak in the moment that even a punch to the face didn’t stop me from wanting to get back our relationship at first. It was moving away and really reflecting on what happened that convinced me that while I could accept friendship, I could never accept getting back together, because I couldn’t live in fear that something like it would happen again.
I was not innocent in that fight in terms of emotional escalation, but when Dana broke the physical barrier, I went off like a rat dog with a Napoleon complex…. an apt description because Dana was over a hundred pounds heavier with a fist three times bigger.
And perhaps that is yet another reason I’m so much more willing to talk about Argo now than I am about Dana, because Argo has never hurt me…. I mean, she has, but less than I’ve hurt her and never in a physically threatening way.
I actually just put that together, that I can’t extricate myself from thinking about Dana without going back to that moment in time where my eye was bruised and my heart was broken….. and that with Argo, all I think of is love and laughter. It’s just so much easier to go back to those moments, because even when I try my absolute best to only remember the love and laughter with Dana, I still hang my head in shame.
Although I do hang my head in shame at the relationship with Argo crumbling at my own hand, because even though it was never true that I moved here to be closer to her, it would have been a dream and a half to get to know the real her instead of just the black and white version….. to include her in my family of friends rather than always being on the outside…. my Raggedy Man.
My body memory is so strong for both of those days, my love for both women an intrinsic part of me, just in vastly different capacities. I saw a funny memory on Facebook the other day about having to stop calling Argo my “wine and yoga pants-type girlfriend” because I kept getting ads for wine and yoga pants on my feed. 😛
It was an unfortunate side effect that at the beginning, my wires got crossed and I had a mountain of shit to work through regarding the toxic version of friendship that was presented to me at a very early age, the part where all close friendships initially made my teenage heart go haywire. But to my credit, I worked my way out of that hole, just not as quickly as I would have liked, because first I had to get rid of the toxicity that made me think those things in the first place….. and I did, very successfully. Now I am in great shape when it comes to friendship, being close and vulnerable with people I respect and admire without the emotional baggage of my own teenage “stuff.”
I feel it is apt that “Clearing Iranian Airspace” from the Argo soundtrack just started playing, because I am ending this entry on a major key.