Christmas 2018

I am sitting at my desk with a very large cup of coffee, praying to the little baby Jesus that I don’t spill it on the sweatshirt I’m wearing. I used to wear it for Christmas when I was a teenager, then I gave it to my mother, and when she died I took it back from her closet. The first year I wore it was to a Christmas choir party at my friend Suzanne’s. David, a notorious troublemaker of a tenor, looked at the bells stitched on the front (the graphic is a Christmassy horse) and announced that “everywhere you go, you tinkle when you walk.” So, of course, that’s the first think I think of when I pull it over my head.

The sweatshirt came in handy during the carol singing portion of the evening. As Suzanne played “Jingle Bells” on the piano, I jumped up and down. People howled, as did I. I am nothing short of extraordinary at laughing with and at me.

As I got older, though, I was embarrassed by it, and wouldn’t wear the sweatshirt even when my mom asked me specifically. As I go about my day, I’m thinking that she would have enjoyed me wearing it a lot more when she was alive. In the spirit of gentle chastisement, when your parents ask you to wear something ridiculous, just do it for them. You will be less uncomfortable knowing just how much joy it gives them. I mean, I’m sitting here looking like a third grade teacher who just can’t give up appliqued anything and so far, I’m fine with it.

And another gentle chastisement for parents. If you’re anything like my mom, even though you hate having your picture made (especially in the first few moments of mad dash to the tree with your hair unbrushed), just take the damn picture. I can’t tell you how many precious moments I am missing because of her reticence. Don’t be camera shy with your kids. Those photos will be everything to them when you die. I repeat…. everything.

I have really loved all my Christmas presents, but I am even more excited to learn how my friends and family like theirs.

The funniest thing I got was a Ruth Bader Ginsburg action figure…. and two are tied for the most useful. My weighted blanket is worth its weight in gold, as is a teapot for a single mug with an infuser and lots of looseleaf tea. I have a teapot, but I don’t often drink four mugs in a row. The sizing fits me just right. I also like that the infuser is very deep, so I can make black tea strong enough to put hair on my chest. I like a builder’s brew with a little extra cream, and I use CoffeeMate in my tea because I can make it creamy without bringing down the temperature of the water.

I also got a bag of Starbucks coffee that I’d never tried- Holiday Blend with maple notes… and of course, I opened it after I’d made a fresh pot and kicked myself because I’m a sucker for new food and drinks. I am an advertiser’s dream woman. 99% of the time, if I haven’t seen it before, or it says “new and improved,” I’m buying it. I’m surprised my friends didn’t get soda and cookies under the tree from me.

Not that they would have minded.

Additionally, I talked to my family (both chosen and biological), and actually took a shower today. I prefer most of the time to just fix my hair, because it’s so cold I don’t want to take off my HeatTech extra warm long johns and warm sweaters. They didn’t have “extra warm” last year. These are new and improved. 😛

And, of course, right after I bought them they came out with ultra warm.

But taking a shower and putting my HeatTech back on came secondary to answering a video call from Ryan and his family.

Because I take the damn pictures.

Where the Weather Takes Us

The meetup with the pen pal went well. Let’s call her “Zoey,” because there’s a connection that goes beyond New Girl. Of course if she becomes a regular and doesn’t mind me using her real name, that’s fine. But I’m not going to “out” her on a first meeting. That’s just rude. She is just as cute and funny as me, so I think it will be a great thing to have another person to pal around with…. although perhaps not so much in the immediate future, because she’s vacationing to Peru (I think…. my memory is failing in my elder years). But I definitely see hiking in the hills and walking around town in our future. Talking makes walking so much easier, because I am not constantly enmeshed in thoughts like, “my feet hurt…. my legs are sore…. how much longer?” Talking shuts down the complaint department. Yesterday was just about spending some time together and seeing if we’d click on any level. We definitely did, starting out at Kramerbooks and when they were slammed, walking to Teaism, instead. I love tea at every moment of the day, but for Zoey, she was disappointed they didn’t have hot chocolate. So we toasted to new friends with cold water. My pot of Darjeeling went quickly, and then we walked to the Metro.

Two things about that.

I started talking about the weather with my seatmate, who said that it reminded her of Germany and Switzerland. In my head, I was thinking she must be military, because obviously Germany and Switzerland are known for their large black populations. My assumption was correct. So, I asked her what her job was in the military, and she said slyly, intel. She’d retired long ago, looking for all the world like a sweet grandmother, the type no one would look twice at while carrying sensitive documents. But perhaps she didn’t look like that, then. She was retired now, having scouted out secret documents during the Cold War. My mind was blown because this was an absolutely random encounter, exactly the kind of thing I live for in DC. I am certain that by now, there are tons of movies that talk frankly about the types of ops we pulled off during that time, most of them declassified by now. It was also very interesting that she wasn’t stapled to CIA, that smash-and-grabs for documents also happen with soldiers. I don’t know why I didn’t make that connection until last night, because I saw 12 Strong, and even though the soldiers had a CIA contact to lead them through Afghanistan to the warlord contact who was willing to team up with them to overthrow the Taliban, he left after that and the soldiers were on their own.

So, this woman and I are engrossed in conversation and before I even really had a chance to ask questions, it was her stop. I was so lost in thought that I got off at the “wrong one,” or perhaps the right one considering that I was only a couple of blocks from Busboys & Poets. I had a vegan salad and vegan mac-and-cheese, possibly the first time I’ve eaten actual nutrition that wasn’t all carbs this week. MMMM, bread.

I’m not vegan, or even vegetarian, but I truly do not eat enough plants. I have to remind myself that veggies exist.

While I was eating, though, I had a truly surreal experience, because there was a mentally ill person at the bar trying to score free fries from the restaurant. Two patrons offered to have his fries added to their tab. Then, when he got them, he would neither leave nor get a table. In Takoma Park, there are literally two governments, because part of it lies in Montgomery County and part of it is in the city of DC. I had no idea where I was in terms of that line. But what I do know is that there’s no real way to call someone regarding the mentally ill except the police, which brought up such a dilemma that I’m still thinking about it. He was definitely harassing other customers, because they didn’t offer to pay for his snacks without him strong-arming them. And yet, he was black, which said to me, no one call the police under any circumstances. This is because there was little to be done except take him to jail, because there’s no way they would have taken him to a psych ward. It’s just not in their purview. So, what to do? No restaurant wants a loiterer asking for money and, oh my God, emitting such a smell that it cleared out half the bar.

It’s hard to be compassionate when you really don’t know how. He needed more help than he could get in the restaurant, and the police couldn’t give it to him, either. I think because everyone was so sensitive to racial bias, that made it even harder. We didn’t know whether the police that showed up would show compassion or wrestle him to the ground. It’s not even equal odds at this point. None of the people in the bar were worried about racial bias on our end, because it was never about the color of his skin. It was about mental illness, full stop. But we couldn’t count on the police having an equal amount of compassion.

What he needed, in my opinion, was a few days in a psych ward to get balanced again, and then a truly safe place to stay. Neither of those things would happen unless he went to the county intake facility in Rockville, now closed for the night. Having to sleep in a jail cell might have only exacerbated the problem, contributing to putting someone in the system that can’t get back out, because he has no concrete concept of acceptable behavior.

All I could do was pray that someone would stick with him long enough to get the help he needed, because nothing was going to happen in the moment. We were all just on pins and needles waiting for him to leave, and not because we weren’t trying to help in the moment. It’s that no one could stay in the restaurant overnight, and it was kind of a scary situation because we did not know the extent of his mood and behavior quirks. For instance, when the fries were brought out to him, paid for by the other customers, he threw them on the floor and insisted that new fries be brought to him that he paid for himself, completely oblivious to the fact that he had no money.

My superpower was an out-of-body experience, where I left the situation and went back to Teaism, thinking about new adventures Zoey and I would have in the coming months (years?). There is just so much to do and see around here that it doesn’t take much to find a glorious afternoon, and great conversations that begin with the weather.

Thanks for Coming Over- Have Some Tea

Today I’m dressed to the nines, just because I can. I like the way I feel about myself when I’m the male equivalent of “all dolled up.” It’s not that I’m not female, it’s just that I don’t really look it in black Dockers, a grey t-shirt (complete with blue TARDIS), a Nautica blue and white striped button-down, neon green and TARDIS blue striped socks, and black leather shoes. Samantha saw me and I said, “do I look cute today?” She said, “yes, why? Do you have a date?” I said, “no, but I might want one.” Seems legit. Dress for success, baby. Dress. For. Success.

Then I asked Samantha, “will you take me to a store? Like, right now?” We took off for Giant (grocery store) because I needed three things. The first was an industrial size can of CoffeeMate, because it tastes much better in black tea than it does in coffee (go figure). Running low because of the sheer amount of tea I drink every day would scare most physicians. The second thing was Zyrtec, and the third thing was a Diet Coke so I could take it in the store, immediately, Do Not Pass Go. OMG the allergies. Hayat and Mike love plants, all kinds, and I am *dying.* I cannot go for more than a couple of minutes without having a sneezing attack, and my eyes itch like a mofo. It was on sale- a month’s worth for $10, so I got two. It will take me almost that long to rebuild it in my system. Zyrtec is not like pseudoephedrine, you don’t take it as a spot treatment. In order to really stop the sneezing, itching, etc. you have to take it for about six weeks. Just sayin,’ because a lot of people don’t know that. It will work, sort of, but “histamine blockers” take a while to get up and running. They aren’t built in a day. I only put “histamine blockers” in quotes because my dad and I both thought it was hilarious when that ad campaign came out… not sure if it was Claritin or Benadryl, but we both convulsed in laughter. “You mean, ANTIHISTAMINES?” Ah, buzz words.

Then, once Samantha and I had some time alone, she told me how her doctor’s appointment went yesterday, and it’s not good. She’s not going to die or anything, but she will have to go through treatment and it is weighing on me, tender heart bear that I am. The best piece of advice she’s gotten so far, and I love it, is “you just do your everyday stuff and let other people worry for you. They’re going to do it anyway, so just let them.” I wish I’d gotten the same advice when I was going through all my mental hell. It might have kept me from isolating quite so much.

Actually, it was my old, old friend Jonathan who got me through the worst of my hospitalization, with one simple Facebook comment. I was so overwhelmed with all the love notes that poured in that I said something to the effect of “thank you so much- I will absolutely jump in for you when the time comes.” He said, “right now, just jump in for yourself.” Those words literally carried me for days. Jonathan, if you’re reading this, I need you to know that and take it in. Your words helped me focus on myself rather than all of the other patients who seemed “so much worse than me.” My dad has this saying that rang true with Jonathan’s words: “definition of major surgery? Yours.” I wasn’t recovering from surgery, but it seemed like it, in a way. I didn’t get better overnight. I went to the hospital, but it was several weeks before I truly felt better. I felt so much guilt over spending time at the hospital at all, especially when Dana said, “it must be nice to be able to just check out like that.” Well, it was better than staying with her and continuing to beat myself up, that’s for damn sure. I dismissed her take as ignorance, but I’m still furious about it. The best thing about getting a divorce is not having to listen to her bitch and moan about my mental health while she continues not to take care of hers.

I just got to this place of survival mode, like I said earlier. Jonathan said “jump,” and I fucking did. Once I got out of “I am going to die if I don’t take care of this” mode, of course I wanted to work it out with Dana. However, I couldn’t get her to see that I needed to be strong before I could be a partner to her, because by then she’d taken it all as selfishness. It was way too late for us to rebuild, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t think about it constantly for a while.

In our last conversation, she also beat me up emotionally for not helping her more with the move to Portland. That I just sat on the driveway close to Diane’s house and mourned. The problem with that is she didn’t do jack or shit while I was sitting there. We BOTH left everything until the last minute. It was not my fault or hers. It just was. So to blame me for both of our ADHD attitudes is just putting more on me than is rightfully mine. I needed that time to mourn. That relationship predated her by almost 15 years. My parents were married for less time than I was “friends” with her. One of my real friends likened it to “battered women’s syndrome” because of all the emotional weight I’d carried for so many years in silence. To say that I would let go easily was an understatement. Besides, I had an eternal hope that Diane would jump in for herself, that she would agree with me that it was time to pack it up and go the fuck home.

She didn’t, but that’s neither here nor there. All of it was wasted energy. On that, I agree with Dana. I just couldn’t bring myself to that place on my own. I had to have help, lots of it, mostly from her. I have called her my Rock and my Redeemer, and at that time, she was. I’ll never forget it, regardless of whether we reconnect or not. She took care of me better than anyone else, because she knew me inside out, upside down, and backwards. She was the Jordy Nelson to my Aaron Rogers, using a football metaphor because it will please her.

I wish I could bring all that back, so that I could be the Jordy as we continue to stumble through life, like everyone does. I couldn’t at that time in my life, so I’m prepared to be that for someone else if they ever ask me. I can’t go backward, but I can pay it forward. I have so many regrets in the way I’ve behaved over the last two years, but at the same time, I don’t think there’s anything that shouldn’t have happened. I am a better person for it, having had to sit in that much pain.

Because as is my continual anthem, after the flood comes the rainbow. Apt, because I am a Houstonian at heart. I will never move back there unless there are extenuating circumstances, but you can’t erase where you’re from. It just don’t happen. 😛 DC is my lifeblood because of my writing. Nothing will ever change that. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t need a Drank once in a while. That doesn’t mean that just because I live here, Mike Jones is any less burned into my brain. Also doesn’t mean that my heart doesn’t beat for Annise Parker, whom I’ve admired since I was a kid. I am so proud of her that I could burst with pride.

I know I’m a bit all over the place today, but I just want this entry to feel like we’re sitting on the front porch, having a conversation………. because that’s exactly what we’re doing.