The Holiday Party and Other Stories

Last night was Dan and Autumn’s annual holiday party. It was a smash success for me, as I am normally not much of a partygoer. I prefer to spend time with friends one-on-one, two or three at most. The conversation is generally more interesting. However, there is nothing a diarist likes more than walking past random conversations, especially in DC. The funniest line of the night, which gets top billing, is “Chelsea Manning taught me everything I know about Excel.” I found it tragically comic, and on the inside, I was shaking with laughter for hours. My personal opinion is that overall, Chelsea is a raging dumpster fire of a human being, but that didn’t make the quote any less funny.

The other hilarious story of the night involved a scavenger hunt at the Pentagon, where soldiers were looking for a pink flamingo. They round a corner and none other than “Mad Dog Mattis” jokingly tells them to get back to work. My comment on the matter was that the pink flamingo was probably in his office, and the main reason he took the job, because “hey, free pink flamingo.”

It is flat amazing to me that I came to DC to be at the cool kids’ table, and here I am. I would like to say that it was through hard work and persistence, but no. It was sheer dumb luck. I met one soldier online (we both deemed each other worthy of a meetup) who now works at the State Department, and it changed my whole life. Now we’re really good friends and within a few months, I was friends with her friends as well…. kind of like being the new kid at school that someone takes under their wing.

Because of this, she is my precious, precious Dan. When you find true friendship in this world, you grab on and never take it for granted. Don’t think that lesson wasn’t hard won.

I would never say that being single and having really close friends for support is better than being married, or vice versa. I would say that they are two sides of a rare and beautiful coin. Situational depression over divorcing Dana didn’t fade quickly or easily, but it at least happened…. and what I have found now is priceless. I would not give it up unless I met someone truly extraordinary… and not that I haven’t met them. Most of them are just already partnered and uninterested, and I can’t say I’m all that interested in dating to begin with. Self-reliance is a beautiful thing, and it’s nice to feel it deeply. It makes my self-esteem go up in spades.

I often wonder if I will be single forever, for a multitude of reasons…. the biggest reason is that I value my alone time, something that has been new for me over the past five-ish years. It allows me the freedom to release pain through writing, something for which I need a completely silent room and large swaths of time. It feels good that I’m completely okay with the idea of being “alone,” and that wondering if I’ll be single does not come with a hint of longing or desperation. Whatever happens in the future is all right with me.

In some ways, I feel as if I am just stopping chasing a high. Every single person I’ve ever been interested in, I became infatuated because they had great minds. Conversation was explosive, and that goes quite a bit further with me than how someone looks. I saw a Facebook meme that sums up my feelings perfectly….. that if you don’t have a great personality to go with your beauty, it’s just “congratulations on your face.”

I noticed something at the party that was unsettling. Normally, I am reserved and dry-witted unless I feel that The Leslie Lanagan Show™ is necessary to keep a wall between the world and me. I had a cocktail (maple-flavored whiskey and almond milk eggnog), and all of the sudden, I could feel myself putting up that wall unintentionally. But to other people, it’s not a wall. I’m generally funnier and more gregarious than normal. But it just doesn’t feel like I’m being myself…. just a persona I’ve created through years and years of practice being in front of people with which I absolutely couldn’t be authentic. Not necessarily by choice, but to hide the business of being alive from people who don’t deserve the right to know, e.g. parishioners are not friends. Most of them don’t want to know that their preacher’s kids sin and the degree of severity. My dad was a pastor until I was 17, so that is a lot of years to wear a mask that apparently hasn’t fully gone away in social situations. However, I am continually a work in progress.

It’s not surprising that I grew up to be a writer who vomits emotions all over the internet. Everything you stuff down eventually comes back up, with no small amount of indigestion. It is a universal truth, but few people do it in a public forum…. although more now. Blogs are no longer unique or special to anyone but its author.

And, of course, there are millions of words I don’t say here, but I do have one friend in particular that doesn’t seem to mind hearing them.

Did I mention that she’s a soldier who works at the State Department?