A Precious Hour -or- A Long Way to Go

As you can imagine, now that my grandfather has lost my grandmother, he is quite lonely for any kind of companionship. My father told me as much, and said that the best time to contact him was at 0900. So, after staying up late last night doing crossword puzzles, I dragged my happy ass out of bed and went downstairs to get a Big Gulp of black iced coffee.

[Editor’s Note- you might think that going to a coffee shop and ordering a quadruple espresso is where you get the most bang for your buck…. not so. Because regular coffee sits in the basket so much longer than espresso, a simple large drip packs almost 300mg of caffeine. You’re welcome.]

Because I knew he was lonely, I did everything I could think of to keep him on the phone, and we talked for an hour. As much as I enjoyed talking to my grandfather, I was also proud of myself. Not only did I reach out to another grieving person, I called someone. When he picked up the phone, I could tell that he’d been crying, and I wasn’t about to try and get him to stop. I told him right away that although it was not the same losing a spouse and losing a mother that I could definitely feel his pain. I know, darlin,’ he replied… and I was grieving with you when it happened.

As time wore on, we changed to less loaded subjects so that we could both relax and enjoy each other. I learned a lot about my family history, and his own. For instance, I did not know that before he worked at Lone Star Steel as a public relations manager, he was also a copy editor and photographer for a daily newspaper in Longview and a weekly magazine in Greggton. There were two funny stories about that.

  • His editor told him that for every writer, eventually their ignorance was going to show… but don’t let it in my newspaper.
  • His editor’s other advice was never to use three words when one will do… write it tight. I told him that I had not mastered that part of it. Ever. It seems as if my personal motto is why use one word when a thousand will do?

After we talked about writing, we delved into genealogy, and that is the moment where the hairs on my arm stood up.

No, seriously.

My grandfather’s side of the family originated in County Tipperary and moved to Boston, eventually settling in Bristol, Rhode Island. I can’t remember exactly how many great grandfathers this was ago, but the year was 1847. Originally, my grandfather wondered how in the hell he got his wife and six children to America. Thought he must have stolen the family silver or something to pay for passage… but no.

Most of the land was owned by absent Englishmen. Eventually, the Englishmen were worried that the peasants were going to die off due to disease and/or famine… and honestly, didn’t want the responsibility of taking care of the Irish anymore. So, the whole famn damily was offered passage to the United States in exchange for indentured servitude for two years in the lumber industry. I said to my grandfather, that’s not bad. Most of what I’ve read about indentured servitude was more like seven years. He said, well, it might have been seven, but his legs were cut off in an accident.

“Lucky.”

I am really bad with names, so I think it was my ancestor John Lonergan (no, I didn’t misspell that), who settled on a plantation in the wilds of North Carolina and raised a rebel militia to fight with General Washington.

In short, with the exception of my family being Irish and not Scottish, Diana Gabaldon could have been writing about my family. Talk about the things I dinna ken…

It really took me a minute to recover after that.

My grandfather also told me that another one of my ancestors, I think his name was Thomas, was murdered by a gang. I asked my grandfather if Thomas was somehow involved with the gang, or whether he was just an innocent bystander. He said that in those days, the Irish were treated as awfully as the Africans, and after becoming somewhat wealthy, gained a target on his back. He was an Irish immigrant who managed to buy a house for $300, and, of course, was stealing an American job… so he had to die.

It’s amazing to me how much Thomas’ story is so relevant today.

Perhaps it’s not as far from Tipperary to Sheboygan as we think, and I feel lucky to be a part of the people of faith that are rising up to fight injustice against immigrants, because my own past is full of it. The border is different, but the mental walls that have been built are the same.

We don’t need a physical wall to reinforce horrible treatment of immigrants. Those walls are already eight feet thick in the minds and hearts that need to tear them down.

Looking deep inside ourselves is the only way forward, and I can’t think of anything more introspective regarding the treatment of immigrants as learning the hardships encoded into your own DNA…………..

Amen.
#prayingonthespaces

2016 in Review -or- It Wasn’t All Bad

2016, while it had its awful moments, has also been very good for me as I have learned who my friends are. Help has come where I least expected it… for instance, when Susan heard that my mother died, she was Johnny-on-the-spot with the e-mails of support and just checking in to make sure I was okay. I can’t help but be a tiny bit jealous that her mother is still alive and mine isn’t, but the take-home message isn’t my jealousy. It’s to treasure every moment she has left. One of the last things I said to her on the subject was do me a favor. The next time you see your mom, hold her for one second longer than you ever have.

Truthfully, I don’t remember much of the year before my mother died. It wiped out everything, because my world just tilted, and in some ways, exploded as blindingly as Alderaan. Princess Leia couldn’t go home again, and neither can I… but only in some ways. Of course I still have a place at my father’s table, but I will never sit next to my mother on the piano bench, her page turner and carrier of melody when she’s trying to learn an accompaniment for a singer.

Now that everyone has been told, I can let the cat out of the bag that it’s Bryn’s wedding I’m doing, and although I am extraordinarily nervous about going back to Portland, I am willing to do it for two reasons:

  1. It’s Bryn’s day, and it’s what she wants. I want to marry her, and as I said, with one signature she’ll have proof I did. It will be a significant milestone in our relationship, one that we’ll both remember for the rest of our lives, and I don’t argue with brides.
  2. Getting ordained over the Internet, while a bit sketchy in my book, might lead to other weddings once people realize I’m actually good at it. I liken it to when I was a trumpet player and had to play Trumpet Voluntary for honorariums because that one piece is how trumpet players eat. Of course, marrying my best friend and her fiancée is her wedding gift. I am talking about the possibility of weddings in the future that will help pay for college and grad school…. you know, the one where I am ordained by the UCC. I don’t think of it as more valid, just more accredited.

2016 was not the wedding, but the ask, and it meant more to me than diamonds.

2016 was also the year of making friendships that go deeper than surface pleasantries. I really opened up to Dan & Autumn, as well as Pri-Diddy. I am only a little bit closer to Dan for two reasons. The first is that Pri-Diddy is off on an adventure, and the second is that Dan’s mother is dead as well. She wraps me in hugs when I need it, those that last a second longer because she recognizes that particular brand of pain…. the fire pit that seems to be The Neverending Story.

Opening up to Pri-Diddy has been more about forward motion and where I go from here. She has been relentless in her support of me, whether it’s dropping going back to work and concentrating solely on school, or putting me in touch with people who could help me get jobs that would allow me the type salary to graduate without much debt.

2016 was becoming Christ Congregational’s Writer in Residence, literally, because I have an office and a red Swingline stapler. I am proud to be their “webmistress” and look forward to all the social media responsibility that comes with it. Matt asked me if I was capable of editing a book, and I told him that I’d never done it before, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t, because I am ruthless with a red pen. Here, you get all my thoughts, all over the place, but you don’t get what I am truly capable of in terms of academic and formal writing. It’s a different type completely… this is just one style, rarely crafted but vomited logorrhea. I am positive that I could do better with this web site if I did first drafts and second drafts and outlines and all that shit, but I think the blog would also lose character as I craft a narrative instead of just truly telling you what I’m thinking on a moment-to-moment basis. Even my marriage article was stream-of-consciousness, and took approximately 15 minutes to write, which is why I was so blown away by the response… and I am so sad that it didn’t work for my own.

2016 was about letting go. Letting go of Dana, letting go of Argo, letting go of anyone who thought I was crazy for opening up to someone over the Internet and developing real feelings about a virtual relationship. Though neither of those relationships worked out, the lessons I learned were invaluable and I carry them in my heart, pondering what I could have done differently so that anyone new I meet isn’t tainted by my past moods and behaviors. I had to learn to let go of rage and anxiety about those situations and just chill the fuck out. So far, it’s working. It was working before my mother died, but afterward, I realized what was truly important and what wasn’t, and decided to live in love instead of fear. I don’t always manage it with everyone, because I am quite socially anxious with people I don’t know. But anxiety about them and where our relationships have ended up is mostly gone, and they live in my memory with fondness instead of enmity…. again, most of the time. It’s a spectrum that lives in my heart and my inbox.

2016 was the year of finding the Outlander phenomenon, because I read all the books earlier than that, but not the immense fandom that lives on Facebook and Twitter. It was also the year of watching Season One of the TV show, where it cut me deeply and I had to stop. I’m not finished with Season Two because of it. Seeing that level of pain on the screen rather than reading it gutted me like an axe, as well as reading a soldier’s tweet that she’d been through the PTSD sex scene and realizing that those things happen all over the place and not just in fiction. I didn’t cry while I was reading the book, but the TV show and that tweet undid me for days on end and it took time to recover. Still taking time.

Perhaps in 2017 I’ll catch up, but in 2016, it was just too much.

2016 was getting more distance from Diane and realizing I was indeed capable of leaving her behind in a way that I never thought possible… because the break happened years ago, but it took awhile to settle in and make it really, really real. If I ever run into her again, which is possible, I know to be guarded and polite, Leslie Lanagan.™ There’s nothing in the world that would make me open up to her again, as hard as it was when my mother died. The tapestry of memories that included them both was large and somewhat depressing, but what lifted me out of it was knowing just how many people have come forward and said that they knew what she was doing wasn’t right or sane. Even “she didn’t mean to” is no longer a valid excuse. As my father would say, mean not to. This year has been learning to breathe through that anxiety with a little less labor, but especially since we are both musicians, there are still certain pieces that leave me in pieces, too…. although not as many as they used to, which is progress in my book.

2016 has been learning to breathe for all my friends that work for the Obama administration, because they’re all out of a job once Trump is in office. Living in DC has introduced me to several of them, and they are not forgotten in my mind as they go through this transition. As for my other friends that work for the rest of the government, believe me when I say that the rebellion has begun, trying to figure out how to make the bureaucracy work even more slowly than normal to avoid upending a number of good policies, both foreign and domestic.

This year has also been about me learning to be a lover and a fighter all at the same time, taking on going to meetings where the county government covers things like race relations and police brutality. People of faith have to speak up, even when it’s difficult. I know within myself that I am capable of so much, and if I get arrested for peacefully protesting, there are a number of people willing to bail me out of jail… a talk I never thought I’d have to have, but police brutality extends to people who are just sitting there. It may not be getting worse, just filmed, but there it is. I have a feeling that there will be a lot of protests this year over a multitude of things, including what we are doing militarily, but soldiers, listen up. I will never, ever, ever disagree with the boots on the ground. I couldn’t be more proud or more thankful for your existence. However, I will gladly disagree with your Commander in Chief if he is using you for inane or dangerous purposes. My Jesus wouldn’t stand for it, and neither will I.

Most of all, I have learned that no matter what I do, good or bad, there is nothing that will ever separate me from the love of God, and the whole host of faces I use to talk to them (using this pronoun because God is genderless). I have sat in so much silence and prayer, trying to find my still, small voice that it is emerging in a big damn way.

2017, stay tuned.

Forever Plaid

I wish I could recall with clarity the first time I met Bryn. She was a charter member of Bridgeport, so I am sure that first meeting would have included something tweenage. That was back in the day when I was going to Susan & Diane’s for all the parties of the millenium, which usually included a week or two at church. We’ve talked about this, and though neither of us realized when the other appeared on our radar, Bryn does remember the first time we really talked. We were both trying to escape the noise of the party, and snuck off on our own, and as we dove deeper, her friend love attached itself to me… I just wish I’d realized it at the time and taken more advantage of the opportunity to become closer before we actually did.

In those days, I thought Diane and I were better friends than we were, and I tended to stick to her at parties because I thought that they were the only chance for us to be able to talk, because it wouldn’t be long until I flew home. Sometimes, she seemed annoyed by this and left me wondering why. Sometimes, she was over-the-top affectionate and I just lived for those moments, because it was a throwback to old inside jokes, and sometimes, the deep intimate bonding that occurred between us as I came out and she was molding herself into the success she is today. I was always confused as to why it wasn’t consistent, why she wasn’t that affectionate all the time, and I realized that sometimes in public I was a way to prop up her own ego… she could say that she mentored this young girl all the way from the time she was 12 until now. When I wasn’t useful in that capacity, I was annoying. It took me a very long time to realize why. If I hadn’t spent so much time ruminating on everything I’d done wrong that had pushed her away (because it was all my fault), I would have remembered this gargantuan moment in my life.

A conversation is not just a conversation between Bryn & me. We are both deeply introspective, and are now beginning to see the galaxies that live within us… inner landscapes in which we’ve had to hold hands tightly to explore. I’m beginning to think she is my Silent Bob hetero-lifemate and I know for sure that she would be pleased at that reference… although that does make me Jay, and I’m just as introspective/introverted as Silent Bob, too. So pretend that Silent Bob is Silent Bob’s hetero-lifemate and that pretty much matches our hetero-lifemate and wacky lesbian neighbor marriage nicely.

The only thing that throws a wrench in that plan is that I am now a neighbor in the cloud. I won’t go back to Portland for exactly the same reason I won’t go back to Houston (unless my dad gets sick or something… the only reason I’d be comfortable there… I wouldn’t have time to worry about anything else). DC makes me new, one day at a time, because I don’t have any teenage memories here. I’ve always been an adult in DC, with no trace of where I’ve been emotionally under a tremendous amount of abuse so that when I drive around the city, I panic. Mostly not to an extreme, but sometimes. It depends on how strong I’m feeling that day.

In that way, I need to practice self-care by staying away from those memories and at the same time, be upset that I don’t live close to Bryn anymore. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. It is a letting go of that dream, a small grief on its own, because I cannot imagine Bryn picking up and moving here. God, in God’s own infinite possibilities, lets me believe that there’s one chance in a million, because life never knows what it’s going to throw at you until it arrives.

Bryn is perhaps the person I wish the most lived in my neighborhood, so that AM coffee became a thing, or dinner once a week. Three hours is one hell of a time difference, but we make it work through messaging and FaceTime. It’s just hard to upload coffee and/or the palate cleansing course. The care package I received from her had a dark green blanket in it, a plaid- warmer than all three of my blankets put together.

When I called to thank her, she said something I will never forget.

That blanket was really just a fabric scrap that I found at Joanne’s while I was listening to The Drums Of Autumn, and it made me want to send you my plaid to wrap around you and keep you warm.

I couldn’t stop crying, because through the magic of close friends, my Jamie comes in all different packages. I thanked her for giving me the kindest part of him…. and I’ll bet that if you’ve read the Outlander series, you know what an enormous gift she sent me emotionally… That person that says “it’s ok that our emotions are large because we’ll always be there to catch each other.”

I must have done something excellent in a past life for which I’m being rewarded “posthumously,” and feel the need to say that I am as careful with her heart as she is with mine.

And there will never be a time in which I can say I didn’t marry her. With one signature, she’ll have proof.

Stuff Happens

Today my friend Scott Lynch posted an article about Jeb Bush’s response to the shooting in Oregon, which was “stuff happens.” I get it. He’s caught up in NRA votes he doesn’t want to lose, but he also showed his ignorance of the situation in unparalleled ways. His friend Nathan left this video reply:

It was the best reply he ever could have given, and if you take a look at the comments on the video, there are a lot of people who agree with Nathan’s assessment. The first comment at the top right now is, “Jeb, if you’re listening, it was ‘stuff happens’ when we decided to kick your ass.”

I have friends in Roseburg and a bigger number of friends who grew up in Roseburg and moved to Portland as adults. So my heart is with all of them tonight, because Roseburg is the kind of town where that stuff doesn’t happen… as are all of the small towns that never saw it coming. One might not be surprised to hear of a school shooting in Bed-Stuy or Third Ward, but in tiny communities the fear is bigger because the reason they live in small towns is that crime is expected to be lower.

Gun control is not a sticky subject with me. I love guns, but I wouldn’t own one. I just like to buy rounds and go and rent them at the range. I like the loud crack, the feeling of the butt on my shoulder, the smell of spent rounds. To me, it is like going to the batting cages. I know within myself that I am a terrible shot, and it is more likely that I would have a gun wrested away from me than I would have a chance of protecting myself. In fact, that’s what most studies show… that you have to train long and hard to actually be able to use a gun in a high pressure situation like a home invasion. Inexperienced marksmen in terrifying situations are not calm enough to calculate a shot, and if you miss, you are likely to be shot with your own firearm.

However, I have no problem with training to be that good. I have no problem with former soldiers who carry sidearms using the proper certifications. When Volfe and I were together every day, he made a point of teaching me how to shoot, how to clean a shotgun/rifle, and all of the rules therein. With monocular vision, I am the type person that needs scattershot in hopes that I will hit something. My favorite time out on the range ever was shooting the fuck out of an old Dell computer. It was a bullet for every user with a stupid question who called me from their car.

The problem is that there are too many people like me who enjoy shooting, but do not put the time in to be excellent under pressure. For instance, I couldn’t hit a moving target to save my life. I especially couldn’t hit one running at me, especially if that person was armed as well. I know my limitations, and there are too many people who don’t and buy firearms for their homes, anyway.

I don’t think that the answer to school shooting is more gun legislation, necessarily. I’d have to read what was proposed to see whether I agreed with it…. because the things that school shooters do are already illegal. Schools are getting smart and putting real police on the grounds, ready to interrupt that kind of situation… and at the same time, putting cops in the schools leads to, unfortunately, racial profiling and kids that get into the system and can never get back out, because real cops are called in for minor infractions and sentencing is traditionally heavier on black students. It is a clusterfuck of massive proportions, because of course there need to be armed cops on school grounds. There have been too many school shootings to ignore this new reality. But where does school administration end and policing begin? When do you get sent to the principal’s office and when do you get arrested?

I went to a symposium at Howard University where Jeffrey Thames and several others spoke about this very thing- one case study was a policeman handcuffing a black five-year-old for a five-year-old sort of crime… something that when I was in school would have led to in-school suspension or being expelled for a few days, not an arrest record. And the bitch of it is that studies show that white students still get these type punishments while black students do not. This is just an editorial- you’ll have to do the research on your own, but I promise it is out there and it is frightening.

To change gears, where does mental health enter into all of this? Even people without a history of mental illness have got to have something loose in their heads if they think that shooting up a school is the right answer. How do we solve the underlying problem so that this doesn’t keep happening? Like I said, I am not sure that Congress can do anything- what these people do is already illegal.

I also do not think it is right or sane to own anything more than a handgun and/or a rifle, and I go back to United States v. Miller for this very thing. It was a case aimed at sawed-off shotguns, in which the court ruled that it was not in keeping with regular military equipment and therefore not necessary in a militia situation… the very thing for which the Second Amendment provides.

The interpretation we constructed in Con Law my junior year is that the founding fathers never could have conceived of such an instrument, and I extrapolate that to all firearms in that category. For instance, it is not necessary to keep an uzi in your home, particularly if you are not trained on its use. To me, that is a sign of mental instability all on its own. What kind of situation would possibly present itself in your home where you would need that kind of fire power? To me, that situation lives in your head, and not in reality.

The problem is not in the legislature. The problem is much deeper than that. Perhaps if mental health care were more readily available, the people that feel those sorts of threats in their heads can be talked off that kind of ledge.

If you really want a lesson in the Second Amendment, I suggest reading the Outlander series from beginning to end. It goes from the Jacobite uprising in 1745 all the way through the militias that won the Revolutionary War, and how the colonies handled militias that provided their own weapons. Particularly in the colony of North Carolina, there was no real government in place *but* the militias, because it was so wild that it was sparsely settled and people had to travel long distances for police and government, anyway.

We have to find a way to separate needs from wants, and fantasy and reality. I do not believe that can be done with a one-pronged approach. There has to be a mental health component to gun ownership, because no one is coming to take your guns, as long as you own them responsibly. And by responsibly, it means that if you have children in your house, you cannot have a way for them to get curious and get a hold of your guns on their own. Hiding the key to the gun safe somewhere in your house is not the answer, because your kids are much smarter than you think.

I also believe that gun ownership also depends on terrain. For instance, more fire power is going to be needed to protect yourself in rural Alaska than suburban Texas. If your house is being robbed, that’s one thing. If your house is in danger of being taken down by a bear or a moose, that’s another. Also, are you trying to protect your home or are you literally trying to feed yourself for an entire winter?

All of these questions might make a great interview before you buy a gun in the first place. If legislation is involved, to me it would be creating a way to talk to gun owners about what they’re trying to do with them.

People who steal guns are another matter entirely. Any law on the books is going to be broken, anyway. It is obvious to me that some of these problems start in childhood and compound. Perhaps the answer is more akin to raising healthy adults, and focusing on the way to do it right.

I don’t have a problem with guns. I have a problem with criminals…. because you know…..

Stuff happens.

The Luxury of Laughter

The Saturday Night Live episode right after September 11th featured Rudy Giuliani. In it, the cast asked him, “is it okay to be funny?” Completely deadpan, he looks at the camera and says, “why start now?” The crowd just breaks up, and I thought of it today as I was eating a late lunch and contemplating my next steps in terms of career ladder and home life.

Lately, my writing has been about my mourning process in the wake of losing both Argo and Dana simultaneously as our toxic triangle caught on fire, hot as a funeral pyre in the middle of a battlefield… just thermonuclear war as all of us knew we were going down. My thought process is different than theirs, because I know that even though all of us have stuff to own in the fight, I threw the first match. It’s taking longer to get over that fact than anything else. I beat myself up quite handily; I’m good at it, too. At night the “if onlys” eat me alive. I take medication to sleep because if I don’t, my mind will wander down every fight we ever had and it’ll be 3:00 AM before I finally succumb… which is not good, because I like to be up by 5:00. There’s a quiet to the morning, before everyone wakes up… a stillness only present when the “the moon has gone down and the sun has come up.” It is the point at which I feel the most hopeful for my future and for the future of St. James and All Sinners, the religious organization that I will die trying to build.

I feel that because I trashed my relationships with both Argo and Dana at a time when I needed them more and not less, the only answer is for me to pour my energy into creating something lasting, a legacy made in honor of the gifts they gave me because I can’t go back and undo anything. Diana Gabaldon has a great scene in the Outlander series (don’t remember which book because I am currently inhaling them) where Jem is responsible for making sure that the chickens are safely in their coop at night. He forgets, and a wolf destroys them. Jamie’s response is that “nothing will ever bring back what was lost- all you can do is feel like you’ve paid for it.” That is where I am today. Nothing will ever bring back what was lost. All I can do is feel like I’ve paid their kindnesses forward and forgiven their mistakes…. which, in theory, will allow me to forgive myself.

Taking responsibility for what I have done has given me a little more compartmentalization. I realized it was okay to be funny again. I don’t have to mourn all day, every day, as much as my brain leans into it. I am finally arriving at some modicum of peace with myself, because I have a plan of action and am past the stage where all I can manage is getting up, getting dressed, and going to look for work. I mean, that is something, but after that, I just come home and collapse. There’s been no room for fun. I haven’t made it, with the exception of having dinner with Pri Diddy and Elena the other night. We broke out a bottle of Old Overholt and just sat around and talked- my favorite entertainment because Pri Diddy is into self-actualization and I… well, I’m getting there. Mostly thanks to her help.

I have a psych appointment on the 28th, which I don’t know if I’m looking forward to or not. Getting to know a new psychiatrist can either be amazing or horrifying, depending on which doctor you get. Some like to do med checks only. Some do integrative care- therapy and meds. It’s a crapshoot as to which one you’re going to get, and there’s always the chance that your doctor will look at your protocol and call your last doctor a quack. That’s happened to me, too, and my general response to that is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The meds I’ve been given since I was hospitalized work great- the gabapentin was a smart move. I thought there was nothing I could do about my anger issues, and I’m just not able to get rattled like that anymore. That’s because my idea of threat has gone way, way down.

Part of the threat to me was e-mail only with Argo, because there were so many times that because I couldn’t hear her tone of voice (she’s pretty succinct, anyway), I thought she was getting snippy and she wasn’t. She’s just not as touchy-feely as me and I didn’t allow for the differences in our personalities. I’d just get pissed and fly off the handle. If I had everything to do over again, I would have called her. I would have Skyped her. I would have done something to get a feel for her real personality instead of trying to infer it all. However, if you think that picking up the telephone was easy for me, you really haven’t been reading that long. In fact, it took gathering up every bit of strength I had just to send her a voice mail attached to an e-mail. As I have said before, I am a lot bigger on the page. I didn’t want her to hear me that small. I just knew for sure she’d had a bad day, and I wanted to give her real comfort instead of just typing in black and white.

To date, I have never heard her voice. We talked about talking, and yet, it just didn’t happen. Mostly because it got weird relatively fast. Our brains connected, and my emotions weren’t far behind. As you can imagine, it did not go well for me.

Still sitting on that one… working it out… mulling it over…………………….. praying on the spaces.

But at least now I allow myself to be funny.

It’s a start.

Crater

Every so often, I can hear the earth thud when my words drop, and I just stare at the crater that they’ve left. This was confirmed for me when Argo wrote to me (a relatively long time ago) that she could hear the sonic boom from my last post. Those are the entries that frighten me the most, the ones where even my better angels fear to tread. There are days when I battle nausea just to get the words out, because I know I have to put them on paper, damn the consequences… because if I don’t, I will continue to be the same person I always was, not remembering how I felt in the moment because there is no record of it.

I have said many times, Fanagans, that this blog is not for you. It is for me, and you are invited.

You see my imperfections as extremely loud and incredibly close as I do, but there is something else I must explain. My writing life lags behind my actual life. I have trouble describing an experience as it is happening. I need clarity from the passage of time to even bring words to emotions. Falling in love with Argo’s words while I was still married to Dana is absolutely the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life. I accept that I was the cause, and saying “happened to me” is a misnomer. I am only talking about the consequences here, and not the pawns I moved. Dana was my best friend. How could I betray her like that? And yet, I did. I own it. It was a mistake. A big one, the fallout is massive as I pick up the pieces and try to arrange them into a different mosaic.

Moving to Silver Spring is the best thing I could have done, because my friends live in either DC or on the Virginia side. I am an hour away from any one of them, forced to sit in my silence as I recover from the mess I’ve made.

Every day looks the same now. I send out resumes for big jobs and little ones, because even working at Safeway requires an online application. Usually, if the job is for a store, I will go and meet the manager before I submit the application so that he/she will remember my name when the online app comes across. However, I have not gotten many bites. I am extraordinarily overqualified on paper to bag groceries, but how do you explain to the manager that’s exactly what you want? To be lost in repetition, because that’s really all you can handle right now, and you’ll be good at it, because muscle memory will take over rather than having to get lost in my head.

I would do anything not to get lost in my head for eight full hours a day.

I take my Kindle everywhere I go, because public transportation takes a long time, no matter where you’re going. Right now, I am lost in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, the Voyager novel specifically. I wish I could say that I get lost in the story, but there are too many parallels for me to ignore my own life as I read. I do not want to spoil anything for people who are just now getting into the series thanks to the TV show (Starz), but my take on it is that once I got past the betrayal of one love for another in Outlander, there’s another one later on in the series that smacks of home, too.

Home.

What a foreign concept now.

In my head, home is still with Dana on some days, because it was so stable. We had a passionate relationship for many years, right up until it wasn’t. We broke up the minute we got to Houston, because she betrayed me. Flat out. I won’t say why, but I will say that the fissure it caused was enough that when we got back together, I forgave her, but I didn’t forget. Our relationship limped along under its own weight because I wanted to heal and move on from the damage that was done, but I couldn’t. It was too much, too fast… and I would like to believe that she knew it. I would like to believe that betrayal was her way of saying “I want out,” but not telling me directly. I was angry… so angry that I told her to leave- go back to Virginia if she wanted. She had enough of her own resources to do whatever she wanted, and I do not know how or why we worked it out, because it happened so fast. It will take years to untangle that knot in my head.

Truth be told, we were exhausted. Both of us in our own way. I’d been through a tempest in the realization that I’d been emotionally abused as a teenager and still wasn’t over it. It slayed me. I talked about it over and over and over while ignoring that it was isolating her. I was folding into myself, and the only one I would let in was Argo. I told her straight out that I was writing to her because I thought Dana had already been given her fair share, and a fresh set of eyes/ears on the problem was necessary. I was leaning on Argo because Dana was beginning to tell me with her actions that I was too much to handle, and later said those words out loud.

I reeled at those words, because in terms of “too much to handle,” I have not cornered the market. Dana and I are equal in terms of the emotional problems we have, but I will talk about them. Dana will not, even to me, and in a relationship, that is everything. Everything. She wanted to break up because she was happy in her bubble, and I was exploding mine.

And please keep in mind two things- I am not writing about Dana’s reality. I am writing about my reaction to her. Her story is not mine to tell, I can only tell you what I was feeling. She told me a couple of weeks ago to stop writing lies about her on my blog. I told her that if she thought I was writing lies to get her own blog. This is not her place to vent.

It is mine.

Her perceptions are never going to line up with mine. Never. That’s why we broke up. We weren’t seeing eye to eye on anything, and instead of opening up to each other, we destroyed the relationship instead. I look at the way Jaime and Claire interact in Outlander, and know that I am ready to have someone that will bare their soul to me without reservation. I am not interested in a relationship with someone who cannot reflect on themselves. I am also not interested in being in relationship with someone who views me as scary, which was Dana’s excuse for all the reasons she kept things from me.

The reality is that yes, I am scary sometimes, because I can almost guarantee that in letters and conversations I can go deeper than you. I have a dark passenger, Dexter-like in its intensity and execution. Not many people can handle it, and I am tired of interacting with those people.

It’s not that I won’t. I am just tired. Exhausted, even.

People who are not in touch with themselves force me to hide a lot of who I am, because I know that they aren’t ready or willing to hear me where I am… to love me for all my drive and passion and not make me force it down.

In terms of deep friendship and romance, Dana and Argo were both the wrong choice at the wrong time. I say it was the wrong time, because perhaps later in life this will not be so; they both walk with thick armor, intense but not emotionally so. Their upbringing was the classic WASP stuff and deny. To talk about issues rather than pretend they don’t exist is as foreign to them as language immersion in Klingon.

The difference between Dana and Argo is that when I began writing, I struck a chord with Argo. I do not know what went through Dana’s head, because she didn’t really talk about it until we were leaving each other behind. I cannot speak to it. With Argo, she latched on to my words and told me so. That they gave her strength because I could be open in a way that she could not. It was an enormous compliment, just enormous. Those compliments carried me through the darkest time in my life so far, because it wasn’t just that one.

I have said before that she is not a God person. When I told her I was starting a church, she said she thought it was awesome and that she didn’t believe in God, but she did believe in me.

When she hurt, I prayed, and she said she thought of me as her “pinch hitter.”

My self-esteem grew, and so did the fissure with Dana… not because of my feelings for Argo as much as not knowing how to relate to the person I was becoming. In retrospect, I think I knew Dana was pulling away, and even though it wasn’t right, I leaned toward Argo to heal from it.

Because even though Argo wasn’t a lesbian and wasn’t in love with me, she loved my words… and I loved her for it. At that time in my life, it wasn’t so much needing external validation. I wasn’t looking to her for that. She was the one that kept up the attaboys when I was willing to throw down on this web site. As I led, she followed. As I told her, “your words are balm.” Lip balm. She was the Dr Pepper Bonnie Bell Lip Smacker of Stories That Are All True.

And as I wore this lip balm, my words got stronger. I revealed a lot about myself that I couldn’t talk about out loud, but somehow had no problem releasing quietly over the Internet and letting people react on their own. I learned that this was how I needed to get through life. I needed to work on my own shit and let people have their reactions away from me, because their reactions were not mine to own.

My actions were mine to own.

I have learned so much about who I am by reading this web site in retrospect, giving myself time to heal from the “sonic boom” and reading with compassion for the person that I was… because then I have enough separation from the damage that I’ve caused to read as if these stories happened to someone else. As a perfectionist, I would never berate someone else the way I thrash myself in my own mind.

There are no words that would adequately express my sorrow over the way I’ve treated my family and my friends, but I hope these words will help. Behind my enormous ego, I am just a fourteen year old girl, development arrested and trying to cover for it. So if you’ve ever thought my actions were childish, you’re right. I am just now learning how to adult.

If you have been abused in your life, sexually or otherwise, that statement may resonate with you. In the hundreds of abuse survivors I’ve physically met and talked to over the Internet, it seems as if we are all arrested at the age we were when the abuse occurred, and if we’re older than that, we’re all covering for it. We’re all learning how to adult far past the age when it should have occurred naturally… not because we are malicious, but because we are unprepared.

There have been times in my life that I have lied pathologically to escape punishment to avoid further emotional abuse… not to hurt anyone, but to put up a shield between me and the rest of the world… emotionally holding my arm over my face and saying “please don’t hurt me anymore.” Nothing should ever be able to penetrate my cave, because it is not safe out there… or at least, that has been my reaction to everything until now. It took lowering the boom on myself to really see what was wrong.

Because if you can’t see it, it’s not there.

It’s in the crater, the one you can choose to explore if you are brave enough to hike downward, not knowing where the strength lies in pulling yourself back up. The thing is, though, as you work through your own issues, you discover your own worth, and that is the earth that fills in the hole under you so all of the sudden, you are back on level ground.

Amen.

Mo Buidheag @writer_DG

Dear Diana,

Your words are with me all day, every day; they whisper on the wind as I am walking. In my head, when I think, “cannot” has become “canna,” and “mo chridhe” has replaced every endearment I use. This is because Jamie has become the embodiment of my dream for me… that I will one day be as strong and vulnerable as he is, so that when my Sassenach arrives, I’ll know what to do. I canna see her, but I imagine.

Maybe she’s a doctor, too.

I am fascinated by medicine, and thought about becoming a nurse myself. I was talked out of it by those closest to me, because they dinna believe I would realize that dream. I’d struggled with math all my life; it made no sense to them that I was capable of righting that deficiency.

I knew what they didn’t, that I’d made bad grades because I couldn’t see my learning disability for what it was. ADHD took my concentration and mangled it like a drunken head-on collision. I had never learned coping mechanisms, and I’d never taken medication. I knew that school this time around would be different, but I let my loved ones’ opinions rule over my own, because I wasna secure in my own beliefs… until…

I met the archetype for my Sassenach. She was the wrong woman, at the wrong time, the wrong place, the wrong sexual orientation. I struggled anyway, married to Laoghaire and Frank in one body. I became Lord John Grey in his smallest little boy place, loving my Sassenach at arm’s length, trying not to want too much because I wasna hurting her with my want, only torturing myself.

Slowly, over time, I came to an important realization. I’d only seen pictures, I’d only met her virtually. It was her words that got under my skin and nothing else. In essence, I hadn’t fallen in love with my Sassenach as much as I’d fallen in love with one of my own characters. The more I wrote about her, she was a 3D character that danced in my mind… but that 3D character wasn’t really her. It was part of her, with my own words filled in.

That epiphany was the one that allowed me to let her float back into the ether from whence she came, because when she realized the depth of emotion I had, her first reaction was to run away. Why wouldn’t it? She didn’t realize that, to a writer, her words were always going to be more important than her physical body. I stared at her pictures the way Jamie stared at Brianna in hers…. Love overflowing because I could match words to a face, and finally make her some semblance of real.

You talk often of your love for Doctor Who. In my own mind, the journey was trying to turn her from Rose into Amy… the face I loved without a hint of romance to it. Deep, companionate love that would last a lifetime. When I couldn’t make that leap anymore, I pushed her away with such fire that I have doubts she’ll ever return.

My cardinal mistake, the one I’ll always regret, is this one line in our letters:

I will stop talking about those in-love feelings if you’ll just allow me to flirt with you in a non-threatening way.

I flirted in one line, she flirted back.

It seemed right and good. I was laughing so hard my desk chair sagged. Things were going to be okay.

So I flirted back, and so did she.

I flirted back, and so did she.

It was in the last two lines of dialogue that I realized I could never quiet the storm raging inside me. I undid myself by opening the door to something I couldn’t handle, thinking all the while it was harmless.

I dinna ken.

Her wordplay was sharper than mine, and she stepped over my comfort zone without even knowing it… at the time, neither did I. It’s never the earthquake that gets you. It’s the aftershocks. Imagine a full orchestra on a final note, the way the reverb in a live room keeps it ringing.

It was mostly downhill from that point, because I did everything in my power to make her angry enough to stomp off, because I knew it would work. If I couldn’t have my Sassenach because she wouldn’t have me as her Jamie (or vice versa- take your pick), I had to learn to live without her. Trying to turn her into my Jenny or my Murtagh failed over and over (and over and over).

The thing that brought us together, my lifeblood, my writing, tore us apart as she saw herself in my mirror, because she dinna ken, either… that I was creating a character based on her- but could never be her because how much can you really know about a person in only black and white? Ink and paper without pictures can only reveal so much.

…or at least, that’s what I have to make myself believe, because even “Frank” knew I’d seen her soul and how I wrestled with that reality. As a writer, can’t you see how much I am lying through my teeth? That ink and paper are everything?

Jamie lived in Claire’s memory for 20 years before Frank got mad enough to stomp off. In my case, it only took two. As did Claire, I loved my “Frank.” But our love became distracted, disjointed enough to break us apart with bitter words at the end.

I did not find Outlander for myself until after “Frank,” “Claire,” and “Jamie” left. I say all three names because I canna decide who was the Sassenach and who was the Highlander in this analogy. The story has healed me in so many ways, because even though my Sassenach was never really mine, I have taken Jamie’s pain into myself.

I see his struggle. I see how he cannot even mention her name without feeling pain. I am in that same small place, not even ready to distract myself because there is no room.

Not yet, anyway.

I love easily. My love is gigantic, and I am waiting without distraction for the capability to forgive myself for letting this situation happen. In Outlander, when Claire realizes that she will betray one love for the other, my soul wrenched and nearly broke in half. In a metaphysical way, I still wear both rings. Now, I want to be free. I want to choose myself… again, so that when my real Sassenach arrives, I will know it.

I want to be able to run into the arms of the one that is capable of the same kind of soul-ensconcing passion that Jamie and Claire embody. I want to take her, own her as much as she owns me… in ink, in paper, in body and flesh entwined. The whole package I never knew I needed…

Until there was you.

Thank you for your words, because they forced me to want more. To forgive myself for all that is past to make room for the future.

…because your words are with me. All day. Every day.

Leslie