Talking Like You’re Writing

A few years ago, I was asked why I wrote about Argo so much more than I wrote about Dana, considering that I had known Dana so much longer. My answer was this:

To me, that question answers itself. I don’t write about Dana as much because I’ve known her so much longer. Argo is “write” under my skin, emotions so close I can touch them. Dana is a river that runs down deep inside me, and it’s going to take me a long time to carry those memories upward so that I can process them clearly.

Or something like that. I’m paraphrasing.

Now that I’ve had about five years’ worth of perspective, I’ve been thinking a lot about both the good and the bad. It’s not a situation I’d be willing to go “back to the future,” because the way it began was so different than the way it ended, something I never expected that didn’t come out of nowhere… and yet it did. Now, I have the ability to see all the things we weren’t talking about that led to our demise, but at the time, it felt like everything came together slowly and ripped apart in an instant. That being said, I never mistake the part for the whole and I was damn lucky to have been married to her for as long as I was, and those memories are precious to me, save a few I desperately wish I could forgive and forget. It is not about blame. She is forgiven. I have a harder time forgiving myself, and there are some things that will take a few more years as time does its healing magic, often without me realizing it is happening. I am ready to meet someone else, to practice all that I’ve learned in the meantime. I am ready to be a better person/partner than I ever have been before, mostly because I’ve truly taken the time out to feel my grief, talk/write it out, and get over what I believe are some of the biggest glories and mistakes of my life so far.

The things that come back to me now are mostly hilarious….. like before we were even together. I went on two dates with Allison Frost, senior producer and occasional host of the Oregon Public Broadcasting show “Think Out Loud.” We were not in the same place in our lives (something came up in hers), and we never went out again. But basically from that moment forward, the inside joke that Dana and I came up with was that she was my “celebrity girlfriend on the radio.” This morphed into my “corporeally-challenged celebrity girlfriend on the radio.” And, in true “Bambelanager” fashion, “if it’s funny once, run it into the ground.”

But there are two direct Dana quotes that just slay me…. one is funny, and one is tragic.

  1. I know you are not grumpy with me, because I have been cute ALL DAY.
  2. Go write something. You’re talking like you’re blogging. You’ve been talking for two hours straight.giphy-facebook_s

I feel that it is tragic because I thought to myself, “if I’ve really been talking for two hours straight, why didn’t you stop me?” It just sounded like she was exhausted by me, and just go away.  I felt wounded, because one of our strong points in relationship to each other was long conversations that meandered from topic to topic in a very ADHD way. Story, tangent, story, tangent, story, tangent, story which circles back to the first tangent, etc. I thought that’s what was going on, and maybe it was given Dana’s love of hyperbole. But maybe it wasn’t, and I was just in this hypomanic state, and the thought horrified me because it isolated her. Inside, I was bursting with the idea that I’d read a situation so wrong.

It was at that point that I began isolating, shutting myself up in my office and either blogging or e-mailing Argo, because she was my sounding board at a time when I could really use one. I will never forget explaining a situation to her and her exact words were that I was acting like a “judgmental dickhead.” I laughed so hard my desk chair sagged, because as an INFJ, I have a real talent for letting the J stick out. Also, it was nice to have a new pet name.

(Also, in order not to get the person Argo confused with the book & movie, I will share a line I wrote to her in a “galaxy long ago and far, far away……” I sleep deeply in the belly of the ship, in whom I know my passage is safe. I tried to find a link to the post where I originally wrote it, but when I couldn’t, I realized it was in an e-mail. Sorry.)

I feel that the second quote from Dana fundamentally challenged who I was. I became worried most of the time that I was talking too much, and retreated into myself. Because I had a pen pal with whom I could be completely myself, and write for as long as I wanted, I did. I never cared whether I got a response or not; the important part was feeling heard.

Now, I use Evernote. Some notes are private letters never meant to be read. Some of them are writing ideas. Some are funny, some make me cry because they explore such deep emotional cuts. But, it’s my own space to talk for two hours when I need it…. like when I found out through the grapevine that Argo had gotten married.

I folded like a house of cards, and not because of the crush I once harbored (you can look it up in the dictionary as Worst. Thing. Ever. I would call it a decision, but it wasn’t. My brain just turned to mush and there was no consciousness about it. It was there before I realized what was happening. My heart dropped into my stomach when it hit me.).

My tears centered around me no longer being a friend who was worthy of being told those things… I would have been excited to hear about the proposal, the preparations… everything that comes with the thought of a close friend meeting their life partner. I didn’t even know it was headed in that direction, because the last time we talked about marriage, she said she hated it. In fact, I don’t even know his name. She was dating him when we met, so I jokingly called him her “boy toy.” When I said, “what’s his name so I don’t have to call him ‘boy toy’ for the rest of his life?,” she said that “boy toy” would do nicely. It was a predictable response. I should have seen that one coming from a mile away.

In fact, I thought I saw someone at a Nats game that looked like her, but decided it wasn’t because she was wearing a wedding ring. But just on the off chance that it was, I walked the other way. I got nauseated thinking about what that conversation might be like, and luckily I wasn’t close enough that she would have spotted me. Perhaps she would have walked the other way as well. I didn’t want to make either of us extremely uncomfortable and awkward to the point of onomatopoeia.

As an aside, the other thing that ran through my mind was “what if I make an idiot of myself and it isn’t her, anyway?” Through pictures, I have an idea of her in my mind, but I don’t know many of her facial expressions, the three-dimensional version of herself. In hindsight, that’s probably a good thing…. not that I wouldn’t be open to it now, but not by randomly running across each other without time to prepare for what would have been a momentous occasion for me…. a precious fixed point in time where I hoped it stood still long enough for me to take it in.

There are things for which I’d like to apologize in person, and it would feel so good to see her laugh. To be able to read her eyes and emotions as the conversation went on. To see if she judges for herself that I’m not nearly as weird as advertised. She has said that I am forgiven and she has moved on, but it would be different to feel it. To know deep within, to Robert Heinlein “grok.” But at this point, it’s just a pipe dream, and I will always walk the other way without an invitation.

After writing it all down, though, I realized that I was being ridiculous about it all. We aren’t close friends anymore, and she owes me nothing, ever. If anything, it’s me that owes her. Big time. Like, “if I win the lottery, then you’re getting half” big time.

It would help if I played, but it’s the thought that counts, right? Right? #crickets

Argo is included in this entry because invariably, if you think about a marriage’s beginning, you also think about its end, and this was a big piece. When I retreated into myself because I thought Dana didn’t want to be the person that made me feel heard, it was a small fissure that led to a big one.

But do I regret the seven years and change Dana and I were married? Not in the slightest. I learned lessons that could not have been learned in any other way. We had more fun than the law should have allowed. We thought so much alike that we joked that we shared a brain. But as time went on, we stopped sharing the deepest parts of our hearts, afraid to let the other one in for fear of rejection. And actually, I shouldn’t speak for her. I can only speak to what I felt at that time in my life.

I have come to feel that the relationship ran its course at just the right time, because both of Dana’s parents are still alive (as far as I know- we haven’t spoken in three years or so), and having a partner with no frame of reference as to what I was going through, especially in the acute moments after my mother’s death, have only made me feel relief at the fact I was single when it happened.

I know for a fact that I would have been irrationally angry that her mother was still alive and mine wasn’t, because I was irrationally angry at a lot of people back then who still had their parents, especially when they were much older than me.

If we had been living together, I would have made the huge mistake of taking that anger out on her, something she never would have deserved. She also would not have enjoyed being married to someone who became the equivalent of a shut-in. I am glad that I did not have the chance to dampen her spirit the way mine burned out until I could rebuild…. and I will never be finished. A parent’s death fundamentally rewires you down to the neurons about which you think don’t do anything. I act and react differently, my breath has changed, my outlook varies from nothing matters to everything does…. and when I say “nothing matters,” I mean the part where my mother won’t be there to see it.

She won’t be there to meet my as of now imaginary someone new, and the possibility of additional grandchildren (I don’t want to have kids at this age, but if I limit myself to dating only women without them, I will be lonely a very long time). Won’t be there to accept an autographed copy if I somehow miraculously get published…..etc., etc., etc. In the present, she’s not here to tell all my funny stories, or to read my blog and tell me everything that’s wrong with it. 😛

The thing I did miss then was having a companion, someone who would just lie next to me as I cried, and I mean that universally and not limited to Dana. I was ready to start dating again by October 1st, 2016, and on October 2nd, that thought vanished. I couldn’t bear the thought of dragging another person (especially someone I did not know well) into the freak show that was my life. I’m still not convinced my life is not a freak show at times, but at least there’s no opening song and dance act plus encores.

And even if my stories now are full of tangents that meander into other ideas and people, it is comforting to think that the river is rising, which lifts all boats.

Being Kind to Myself

I wish I could say that I’d been on my first date in the last (almost) five years and it went spectacularly well, and that’s why I haven’t written anything.

But no.

She ghosted and I’ve never heard from her again. Maybe it was something I said, maybe it wasn’t. I’m not going to wrack my brain about it, because there weren’t enough interactions to be offensive in either direction. Perhaps she didn’t like being written about, and if that’s the case, then I’m glad we never actually met in person. It’s really hard to date a blogger if you don’t like being written about and/or don’t like their work. I am not interested in dating a fan, just someone who isn’t opposed to it.

In fact, one person did ask me out for coffee once because she was a fan, and it literally drove me up the wall. This is because (I think) she wanted to meet the person who wrote all that stuff, and apparently, there should be no difference between that person and me at all. She kept measuring the person she saw in front of her against stuff she’d read from years ago, as if I was telling the truth then and lying now, and seemingly competitive over who knew me better (wtf).

She did not accept that over time, people change their views on things. She also wanted the me that existed before my mother died, and that Leslie is gone. I know I’ll never be the same, and that’s all right… but being around people who expect me to be her is not.

Right now, the most important thing is that I’m being kind to myself. I told my two closest friends here and my sister about said ghosting, all of them later checking in to make sure I was okay. Of course I was. I wasn’t putting pressure on this to later do or be anything, so it didn’t exactly feel like a loss. More like a little bit of hurt ego and nothing more, because I was happy before she agreed to go out with me, and I am happy now because of my friends’ and sister’s reactions of kindness.

My expectations were so low that it would have been impossible to feel disappointed. I liked her, but I wasn’t pining- we didn’t e-mail/talk on the phone long enough for her to get under my skin before I saw her. The momentousness of the occasion wasn’t about her. It was that I felt ready to meet someone else, that I felt free enough to do so… and that in a sense, I’d let go of the past and it, in turn, had let go of me.

Komodo Dragon, Straight Up

I am a huge fan of independent coffee shops, and spend my own money there. However, there are lots of people who send me Starbucks gift certificates, so I don’t think I’ve spent my own money there in years. This is because I buy the beans and drink the coffee at home, and the stars add up.komodo-dragon-blend231ac7452d2168f58d66ff0000024ad1 I bought two bags of Komodo Dragon yesterday. That means I can stop by Starbucks and get my free reward coffee for quite a while.

But just because I love independent coffee shops doesn’t mean that I don’t like Starbucks beans. Komodo Dragon is so good that if I could, I’d just snort it. It is best black, because for a dark roast, it’s quite sweet and fruity, just like me.

And, of course, I have a friend who I’ve called “my dragon” for years, so the label doesn’t suck, either…. it’s just that in my head, my friend is not gold. She’s blue and green…. although I suppose they’re a little gold. There are bright spots on the end of their tail. Rubeus Hagrid would fall all over himself….. and love them and squeeze them and call them “George.” (If you get both of those references, you win a prize. And the prize is you’re old.) But let’s be clear- the label is just an added bonus. If I had to pick one coffee that I’d drink every day for the rest of my life, this would be it…. and not for lack of searching for something from a coffee shop that actually needs the money. I will keep looking, but I am terribly picky.

I made a pot this morning and all my housemates liked it as well, which is good since I have two pounds of it.

But I didn’t start this entry just to talk about coffee. It’s just that most of the time, I begin by telling you what I’m drinking. This entry is actually about a realization that knocked me on my ass, and led me to make some life changes that I hope will pan out.

I worked through all my issues surrounding dating and why it’s been five years. Why I haven’t wanted to put myself out there, why I was more nervous about things working out than not, why it was just too much bother.

After I came to those conclusions, I used a friend as a sounding board and it was good. I told her that my knee-jerk response to figuring all of this out was to get on dating apps and try to match with anyone I thought was remotely attractive and had a good line in their profile that made me laugh.

Me being me, though, I don’t know how I came across. Not a whole lot of feedback yet, except one woman I definitely asked out. I told her that I just wanted it to be easy and comfortable, to meet each other instead of only knowing a fourth of us through text.

She said yes.

If things go the way I think they will, this is someone I can picture having long conversations with. In her profile, she said she was a chef. So, of course, I had to ask if she was a line cook or an actual chef, because there can be only one. She told me she had her stripes, where she’d been executive chef, etc.

Having been married to a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, I had to overthink about why this woman being a chef was important to me. My immediate thought was that I had taken ownership of my love of cooking and working in restaurants long ago, and therefore it didn’t have anything to do with my old life/relationship. It was a good talk to have with myself, though, just to make sure. I have also told her why I don’t work in restaurants anymore, and her immediate reaction was understanding.

Am I ready for a relationship? I don’t know. Waiting five years was probably the right choice, because I have no lingering thoughts or jealous exes that would try to make an appearance.

What I do know is that unless I marry the woman who delivers pizza to my house, I’m not going to get anywhere hiding from the world. Although, as I have said before, there are three pluses to dating the pizza woman, because up front, I know three things:

  • she is employed
  • she has a vehicle
  • she already knows where I live

There are galaxies of possibilities to that “yes,” and I’m looking forward to finding out what they might be. Whether they are positive or negative is of no consequence, because this isn’t about trying to find my forever love. This is about me, and why I’ve been scared to interact at all, especially on the dating level.

As my personality type (INFJ) dictates, I have maybe one or two friends at a time, but I know them all as intimately as friends do- walking around in each other’s inner landscapes, calling each other on our own bullshit, mutual respect and happiness between us. I am not very good at small talk, so I prefer to be able to have friends in which I can just be myself and say anything, because I know that my friends accept me whether I’m wrong or right. Most of the time, my friends have to call me out on logic, because when I think with my emotions, it’s often upside down and backwards. Creative basket cases are where logic dissipates into the ether.

And because I have such close friends, I have never been able to say I was a lonely person looking for someone to complete me. I don’t have need of the fairy tale true love. At this point in life (late 30s-early 40s), we all have our own quirks, are a bit set in our ways, and we just have to hope all of it lines up.

When I said that I just wanted to hang out- make it easy and comfortable, she said, “I feel you- it seems like nobody goes on romantic dates anymore.” I want to meet her in person first, to see what I need to see in terms of spark, but I did file it away under note to self.

Right now, I’m just feeling grateful for the coffee, and the light bulb I finally realized needed changing, because it just wasn’t helping to sit in the dark.

Shared

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

Does it get easier to do?

-Robyn Dell’Unto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because my thoughts aren’t meant to be shared.

Crazy on a Cracker

Tonight I am going to meet a new friend who I hope will one day become my old friend… a great pen pal becoming real. Religion major in college, writes, and reads more in a day than I do in a week… which is very hard.

Speaking of which, I am engrossed in a new novel for review called The 11:05 Murders, by Brian O’Hare. It’s another one I thought was deserving of more than a few words written about it, and again e-mailed it to my editor… and not even selfishly because reviews might be easier when she’s also read it. Just because the book was so great I wanted to share. It is a very, very cheap way to show someone you care- and are genuinely excited to be able to provide great entertainment through e-books even when the person lives thousands of miles away.

It’s also nice to get a book that I’m genuinely jazzed to review by a polished author. That doesn’t happen very often. I’m also glad that when I’m finished with this novel, there are two others.

It’s also a nice thing that when I shop at Amazon, a small percentage of my purchase goes to Doctors Without Borders, my charity through Smile. I try to donate to them personally when I have a chance, but it’s not always possible. It makes me feel good that I can get my needs met and contribute to theirs. So much is going on in the world today that’s negative… cheering on their efforts is just one way I hope to combat it.

Not only am I thinking globally about negativity, but personally. I am still messed up over the last four years, and in some ways, I think that loss will never get better. It will become a shallower well of injury, or something that hurts more and more sporadically, but nothing will ever be the same. This is because dealing with grief over the alive and well is different than grieving the dead. Each hurts in its own special way. I am struck by the fact that other people’s lives will go on without me, and brought to my knees that I will never see my mother again.

If in saying that Barbara Bush’s death wasn’t that sad, I didn’t mean to be callous. It’s just a whole other thing when someone dies naturally after living an incredible amount of time vs. the shock of losing someone in the blink of an eye when their lives were cut short by at least 15-20 years. Some days I actually forget time has passed and am just struck dumb with the immediacy of it all. A parent dying suddenly and younger than you thought is like being in a car accident repeatedly, with the same amount of haze-inducing shock. The worst part is that I didn’t agree to this (as if one would, but stay with me, Jimbo). It just happens unexpectedly, a truly unwanted side effect. I am just blindsided all the time. I go into a space where I can’t remember anything, I can’t move, I can’t think clearly. I am just walking through life trying to nail Jell-o to a tree.

What is truly heartbreaking is knowing that my mother would never have wanted this for me. She was always so self-sacrificing that she would have done anything not to die if she could help it, and not out of self-preservation. What keeps my heart from stitching is that for most of my adult life, I lived out of state… so there are days when I regret that fact and others where I completely forget she’s dead because I’m not used to talking to her every day, anyway. I’ll reach for the phone to call her and absolutely freak. Grief then becomes extremely loud and incredibly close. What helps is not thinking about my own situation, but the thousands of other people that have also had this experience and that even when I feel like it, I am never alone. Someone on earth has felt what I’m feeling at any given moment.

There’s also the two-sided coin of losing someone suddenly. It is the combined feeling of joy that they felt no pain and the anger that comes with not being able to say goodbye. Let me be clear, though. I am not angry at her. I am angry at the situation.

It is the same with divorce… more angry at the situation and myself than I ever will be at Dana. In fact, I would go so far as to say I’m not angry with Dana at all. Everything is forgiven on that end. It’s me that needs work. I got started praying for her health and happiness early and often. It gives me something to give to her, even when it’s just sending energy into the universe. Because we’re not in contact, the chord between us (as I’ve said before) becomes a loopback, feeding me. It gives me the feeling of peace and calm that I’m somehow contributing, I guess. At this point, guessing regarding the nature of karma and the universe is about as much control as I’m allowed to have. Surprisingly, it is more than enough.

I feel like I should get into that space quickly, the one of sending good thoughts into the universe, because I am more downcast today than usual. It’s grey and awful outside, which only contributes to the storm within. Everything is making me sad, and I just feel like a disappointing excuse for a human being. Now, logically I know this is not true. I just can’t seem to make it happen emotionally. I am sure that things will look different 30 minutes after I take my anxiety medication, for which I need to make a pharmacy run. I don’t want to show up to a first impression feeling like crazy on a cracker.

Because unfortunately, that’s what grief does. It causes anxiety about just damn everything, even the things you never thought about before said loved one died. There’s so many new depths to plumb. Even the fact that people die young is something you used to know and now smacks you in the face. It’s one thing to know it, quite another to feel.

As far as I know, besides Dan, I am the first of my friends to lose their mothers. It is a comfort you would not believe that although I am incredibly sad for her, I have a person who understands implicitly the hand that I’ve been dealt. I have someone who can tell with one look that I need a hug or an arm around my shoulder. Not only am I perpetually bereft in some respects, single people do not get nearly enough contact comfort. It is such a blessing to have someone in my life who gives really great hugs without a hint of romance, because it’s not about that and never will be. I just give friendship its full due, that chosen family is everything.

The reason I believe in chosen family so wholeheartedly is that I don’t think it’s fair to the person I would date to drag them into the sideshow that is my current life. I would much rather wait until things calm down, when I am much less angry at me for the way I treated Dana and much less overwhelmed at the state of my world. The one good thing I remember about being divorced is that not only did I behave badly then and am grateful I don’t now hurt her repeatedly, I never would have wanted to subject Dana to the person I’ve become in the aftermath of grief…. and not because I think she couldn’t have handled it. I just think that it’s a pain for which she would have no frame of reference, and therefore, would not have been impressed with my need to isolate, to the point that I would have isolated myself from her, too. I can’t imagine how short I would have become with her, snippy not because she did anything wrong but because her mother is still alive. It’s a helpless place when someone is mad at you for seemingly no reason, unable to take it in that you shouldn’t take it personally- that person is mad at the whole damn world. For me, it was a lucky thing to be on my own, so that when I was literally unable to function, no one had to deal with me. I’m so much better now, but it was a long row to hoe. My entire garden just died.

And though most of the plants are still dead, at least I see shoots of green.

Living Water

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

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

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

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

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

She is not wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

#prayingonthespaces

Rats.

I am going (more) crazy trying to find my phone. “Find My Device” says it’s here, but the last ping was 18 hours ago, so I could have left it pretty much anywhere since then. Trying to decide how long I’m going to search frantically before I give up the ghost and activate my old iPhone… because of course the minute I get home from AT&T is the moment I’ll find it. I wouldn’t be so quick on the draw to give up except that my sister is coming to town tonight and we need to be able to communicate.

My sister being in politics is the best thing that has ever happened to me, because I see her almost as much now as I did when I lived in Texas. She makes enough money that she could come visit whenever she wanted, but it’s nice that her trips are already paid for by someone else. Getting to see me is just icing on an already pretty great cake. She says she wants to go back to that ramen restaurant we found on H St. At the moment, I don’t remember what it’s called, but they have tsukemen and I’m all about it. Tsukemen is a different style of soup, where the ingredients are served separately from the broth. That way, the noodles don’t continue to cook, and you just dip. I learned about it from David Chang on The Mind of a Chef. It was exciting to taste it because I thought the dish was exclusive to Japan.

I don’t know whether that’s actually where we’ll end up, but it’s a good place to start. Eventually, I want to take her to Ben’s Chili Bowl, a DC institution that’s been serving up the “half-smoke” for over fifty years. I’ve never been there, either, so it would be nice to have a new experience for both of us.

At some point, perhaps not this trip, I want to recreate a picture taken of us at the Jefferson Memorial that I don’t have anymore. We’re standing between the columns, holding hands and pushing on the stone so that it looks like we’re holding it up. She flew into DCA the weekend that my mother was performing with her choir at Carnegie Hall so that we could road trip up together. I will never forget cruising down West Side Highway, looking out over the water.

One of the reasons that I wanted to get back to the mid-Atlantic in the first place is that the cities are so concentrated. It takes about four hours to get to New York City, about seven to get to Boston. Both are incredible experiences. I’ve seen the hole where the World Trade Center used to be, but not what has been built in its absence. Interestingly enough, Kathleen and I had tickets to see Rent on Broadway that weekend, and unsurprisingly, the show was canceled, so we went to Boston instead as a stopover for Vermont when we got our civil union. Man, that was one of the best and worst decisions I’ve ever made in my life. We were together for three years before we got married, and after that, it all went to hell in a handbasket. But we were the first gay couple to get joint health insurance at ExxonMobil, because a PR guy said in the Washington Blade that XOM would recognize officially married couples. We sent our certificate to HR, and they freaked out a little bit, because they didn’t know that PR had said it. They literally had to create a policy for us overnight…. they either didn’t think anyone would take them up on it, or perhaps the PR person was speaking off the cuff and didn’t really have the authority to promise something like that. However, domestic partner benefits were published in the newspaper and it wasn’t something they were going to be able to ignore. We were legit heroes to other XOM employees, but what would have been even sweeter was the marriage lasting more than 11 mos. Sigh.

That being said, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on being with Dana for anything in the world. The old saying about not crying because it’s over, smile because it happened is one of the truest statements I know. When I left for DC, I was also incredibly happy because I didn’t think of it so much as an ending, but two new beginnings. I don’t have many regrets in life, but I do think about what I could have done to be a better partner to Dana all the time. This is not because I’m scheming to get her back, only what I will have to bring to the table in my next relationship so that it goes even more smoothly.

But that is for later- not now. I made jokes about getting a new girlfriend right away, but my actions have proved them to be only that. I love my independence, and I am not willing to give it up, as well as working on myself to be my best before the next great love of my life shows up. I have a great gaggle of friends for companionship, and that is enough. More than enough, actually. I wish I could say that I missed romance, but I don’t. It’s just not a priority right now. Too many things up in the air for me to commit to it. I’ve been on a few first dates that never amounted to anything because they were more akin to job interviews, and that’s when I realized I was done.

But wait, that’s not entirely true. One of my friends got under my skin, and when I told her that, she didn’t blink. It was not entirely unwelcome news. But we had different priorities and nothing came of that, either. We laughed about it, but never took any actions to further the cause. Laughing about it was enough for both of us.

And then my mother died, and my world tilted so that I couldn’t even go out with myself, much less anyone else. When I was in Houston for the funeral, I invited Dana just to say that she wasn’t unwelcome, that it was her mother-in-law for seven years and change and I was not insensitive to that fact. But she didn’t show, and that was fine, too. I had plenty of other people around me in person, by phone & text, and by e-mail to worry about anyone in particular. In fact, the shock of losing her suddenly rendered me pretty much under anesthesia. It was akin to the twilight after surgery.

I would say that the aftermath, when reality truly set in, has been much, much worse than those first few days…. although I am still susceptible to shock that renders me unable to remember where I’m going, or where a particular item might be after I’ve put it down and started thinking about other things.

Like my phone.