It Just Is

How do you know when it’s time to unplug? What do you do to make it happen?

When I know I need to go off the grid, it’s for one of two things. The first is that I’m trying hard not to get my crazy spatter on anyone else. The second is that I have something important to write and I don’t want that flow to be interrupted. Therefore, I am connected by an umbilical cord to my desktop/Fire HD, but not the Internet. Local files are a thing, people. Look into it. 😉

To me, unplugging means refocusing my attention on myself. It’s not that I’m actively trying to be selfish. It’s just that who should have the time to give me what I need when I am already actively spending time with me? I mean, there’s no commute.

When I shut down, I shut down completely. I’m sure it irritates the living hell out of people, but when I get like that, I don’t have the bandwidth to take on what other people are thinking and feeling. I recede into myself as my brain tells me that no one needs me, anyway. It’s not the truth. It’s the lie depression uses to get me where it wants me. My work to do is to raise my self esteem so that I’m not so needy, because no one likes to think of themselves that way, even if they have cerebral palsy, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and anxiety. I’m not needy in that I’m an emotional vampire. I’m needy because I genuinely have a harder time navigating the world. Because I don’t look like I have CP or bipolar, people treat me as if I have none of those things because perception is reality. In order to receive the kind of patience I need, it’s imperative for people to understand why I need them. Alternatively, I will be just as attentive to people who confide those things in me. It is not about me always needing things. It’s about both people finding someone who has their back. I am more dedicated to my friends than most people because I realize that if I need them, I need to appreciate them more as well.

I just navigate those relationships slowly, because I’m a lot and I know it. Even Sam was never truly on the inside, and not because I couldn’t see a future with her. It was that even though we were connected, it hadn’t been very long. I always trusted my friends more than I trusted her, because it would take time for all that to come out and we only lasted three weeks. What Sam did was devastating to me, because I had to come up with all the answers as to why on my own. All the answers I would have given her had she asked questions before busting my fairy tale. The resolution I received is that she was too pragmatic to take dreaming in stride. She seemed threatened by thinking bigger rather than excited. I believe the relationship lasted as long as it should’ve, and I’m glad it was easy to move on. It would have just been another relationship in which I’d say too much to fill the silence.

I always think there’s a combination of words that will unlock people. They won’t open up if they’re threatened by dreaming into the future or dealing with conflict. One always leads to the other if they’re threatened by both. I want to live bigger than this, despite my actions to the contrary. I had good reasons for disappearing from everything, because I needed so much and wouldn’t tell anyone about it. I wrote everything down, self-soothing to the extent that I’m able. One of the tapes I have that needs destroying is “why do you think everyone else needs to save you?” One answer is that I don’t have shame about asking for help, because I know how far I’d go for the people I love when I’m at full strength. I have an extraordinarily long track record in terms of absolutely going out of my mind when my friends are in trouble. They have to talk me down from the ceiling and they do, unless I can tell that they’re in such bad shape that they’re unable to run on their own power. In that case, I just do things without asking. I will clean someone’s house even when they’re yelling at me to stop because I can see that depression has gotten the better of them and I can’t let them die from bacteria, despite the fact that depressed people often kill themselves slowly, because they have no ownership of their future. All they can see is a lifetime of too much emotional pain. Death is not a gunshot to the head, but seriously not caring about your health because of death’s relief.

It’s the monster on your back and the ghost in your head, your diseased brain trying to protect you by emotional torture so you’ll isolate in protection of yourself and others. They think you’re too needy, anyway. I don’t feel needy, I feel fair. You give me a hand up, and both of mine are yours.

I also internalize that when I ask for help, people think that it’s not mutual because obviously their issues are too much for me. If I am projecting that, it’s not you. It’s the weight of the world. It’s not your problem that’s weighing me down, but the mass I take on just walking through a mall. Therefore, it makes me write differently, because I write to illustrate an idea, and it makes it seem more dramatic than it really is because I’m trying to craft a page. Trying to make up for the lack of being able to see your eyes, so that you see how deeply I’m feeling whether you’re in front of me or not. I am not actively trying to be more dramatic, I’m trying to make sure you get it. The more granular with detail I can be, because you’re not seeing body language or tone of voice. Even the way I talked about a problem would be different in person than in writing, because I have trouble processing emotion in front of people and need the safety of a delete key, even though I’m a dumbass and don’t use it as frequently as I have needed.

I retreated into myself, having fewer and fewer conversations in person, because it was far too easy to reveal myself in my letters than a cup of coffee relaxing on the couch. That way, I could have more emotional bravery than I’d ever have sitting down together, because I am not processing your emotions at the same time I’m processing mine. I don’t have to handle watching you cry or yell, because it will rip me to pieces and I avoid that at all costs. When I am reading your words, I am imagining your world. Imagining you telling your story as I tell you mine. I think it makes meeting in person easier, because if you’ve already written out what’s driving you up the wall about the other, time together can be all laughs. Writing is how I get to the bottom of some deep, dark shit. That way, you already know how I feel when we meet, and if the issue is not resolved, it’s easier to respond with empathy because you’ve already digested how I feel, sort of like being prepared for a test. If we have a conflict, I’m not blindsiding you and expecting you to have all the answers, because you already know what I think the problem is and talking is for answers.

I have a habit of popping off without making it clear how angry I am about an action and how much I love the person with whom I’m fighting. Harry Windsor talks extensively about this in “Spare,” how he often went into a blind rage everyone called “Red Mist.” It’s something that many people with PTSD feel, and you can’t tell me he doesn’t have it. We both have been through the shit, except his trauma isn’t even on the same playing field. To be perfectly blunt, we both have PTSD, but I don’t have a kill count. This is not to say that I think Harry did anything wrong. He is a precious gift from God and I hope he recognizes that though he’s been treated like crap by his family, other people are ready and willing to take their place. I think that’s part of the queer in me. We know intimately what it’s like to live with chosen family and not because we want to…… although it’s funny, I have never seen funnier conversations between old queers and young, that we are irritated by straight people accepting us because now it means we do get invited to things. We do get pressured to have kids. We now have to put up with all kinds of bullshit that’s new to us- how to act like we belong when we haven’t the first clue as to how. That’s because deep down, we don’t know whether your homophobia is overt or uneducated. It’s not that there’s never homophobia, it’s that deep down, white people have been told that being white is better with a horrifying history of trying to prove it, and straight people have been told that homosexuality is a sin that deserves jail and death. Those messages don’t fade overnight. We know that because we feel the same way as everyone else. It’s one thing to work through believing that homosexuality is a sin. It’s another to work through people treating you as if you are one.

So, even allies with the best of intentions make mistakes on two levels. The first is due to the deeply ingrained message that homosexuality is wrong, and the second is not knowing how to communicate with a gay person, because they’re enmeshed in a system they don’t see and don’t wonder what it is we’re rebelling against. We’re not different, we’re threatening. Straight people who are fully accepting of their gay friends/relatives still work through their own biases, and gay people with straight friends/relatives work through those prejudices from the opposite vantage point. We aren’t responsible for your education, and yet we are because we don’t want to live in this society where our lives are threatened because of our sins in the Bible; they have no bearing on the law and people shouldn’t make them exclusive……. but somehow have.

Dealing with everyone’s homophobia, including the fear we have of ourselves, is everyone’s problem. It’s not dissimilar from eradicating racism, including the kind that’s internalized because of the messages we receive every day. Our lives depend on whether straight, white, and cis people are threatened by us to varying degrees. We are making progress in the US, sliding backward…. while people in other countries have no such luxury. Being gay in the US is a much smaller deal than being gay in Uganda.

We find more ways to separate than connect. Women are still dependent on the level of men’s misogyny. Children are still dependent on their parents and rightfully so, but experience a large range of situations from their parents’ ideas on whether they are a being or a possession.

Unplugging and protecting myself from feeling all of that is sometimes necessary, because I stop talking when I feel like if I ask for help it will count as a black mark against me. If I don’t have help, I need more space. I need to write longer. It’s what helps me rely on myself, but often leads to the pendulum swinging too far and not wanting to say anything about anything, ever.

If I have a problem with you and I take the time to lay it out, you’re important to me. That’s because it takes an enormous amount of emotional fortitude to say what I really feel and not fear a response. To not torture myself once a letter leaves my hands. To know that I will deal with what comes, instead of focusing on all the bad things that could happen if you know how I feel and don’t agree with it. If you don’t tell me how you feel, I will free up that time and energy to be able to give it to someone else.

When my mother died, I lost someone who would help me if she was able, so she’s the part of my life where I feel the most vulnerable. It freed up a lot of my time and bandwidth, just love with nowhere to go because I wasn’t trying to replace her. I was only trying to fill up the hole in the most practical ways I could, like turning my attention in the hours I used to spend with her on the phone. I can’t replace her personality, but I can reorient how I spend my time. I can purposefully make friends with moms both older and younger so I feel that energy without having it myself. It’s a huge mountain to climb when you realize you don’t have a mother anymore. I do not mean in a practical sense. I mean that you are not in the active process of being the child born to her, and grief kills those parts of you so that your personality doesn’t resemble who you were before. There are just dead spots, searching for something to fill them.

The one thing I didn’t do was zone out, seeking pleasures like being drunk or high to avoid processing. I can be very proud of the fact that those things didn’t lure me away from myself. Most people can’t imagine doing that whole thing straight edge, because I never put anything in my body that would make me feel disconnected from reality. Now that I’m several years out, I’ll have a beer once in a while. It’s a treat like a Snickers, not something I do all the time. What I found is that alcohol makes my depression worse, so I can’t treat it the same as soda. I didn’t quit drinking because I needed to stop, I only quit drinking most of the time because it made me feel better. It gave me more bandwidth to deal because I wasn’t putting off until tomorrow what could be grieved today. Nothing compounded because I wasn’t kicking the can down the road. I sat in agony daily, just waiting it out because there’s nothing you can do but let time work. You never get over it, but you do see that you’re allowed to have happiness again eventually.

This is because when my mother died, I was single. It caused so much pain that she’d never know how my life turned out. I could say I’m grateful for that because I’ve made so many mistakes, but I’m not. The idea that Sam was my girl made me so happy, and crushed that my mother would never meet her or her stepkids had we moved in that direction. My favorite and most heartbreaking moments were dreaming about my mother and Sam having so much in common, and being so different. I got the best of what I loved about my mother professionally without the things about her personality that I didn’t like. Therefore, Sam actually reminded me a lot of Texas musicians, and my mom was one. An amalgam of everything I loved about Texas without the baggage of being from there. It was difficult dealing with being in the best music program in the country (TMEA, not local schools), and the homophobia within. I went to a performing arts high school in the middle of gay Disneyland and I still got bullied by kids in church choir.

Thinking about my mother not meeting anyone else I might date is devastating, because I don’t have that “bringing someone home to meet my parents” feeling yet…. and when it happens, there will be a deep place of sorrow inside me. I think about my future wife being pregnant and I just crumble at the thought. I think of my sister getting pregnant as well in the same way, even though we’re both childless and like it. It’s not the thought of Lindsay being a mom that drives me, but the part of my mom that would live in the kid. Neither of us want to have kids, and yet it would have been interesting to have seen what those kids would have been like. When I was thinking about getting pregnant, I was excited about all the ways I’d see my family in them. Getting pregnant was only about genetics, because I didn’t think of that until after my mother died. Lindsay and I both thought the same thing, we just didn’t have passion or drive about the idea. It jut exists.

You can acknowledge that a story would have been great without writing it. However, in my case, I have no idea who I want to commit to, so my dreams are based on what my partner will bring to the table and not what I want. I am not looking for a person in a certain set of circumstances, just being open to the fact that I won’t know anything up front and just be open. Women are naturally driven to have kids, and sexual orientation doesn’t play into it. Some just have more maternal drives than others and I need to be ready for it. If the person I want feeds me intellectually, they could probably ask me to dive off the Empire State building while singing “The Star Spangled Banner” and I’d at least think about it.

I can hit the high B flat when I unplug.

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The Heart of a Chef

What quality do you value most in a friend?

Having a sous with excellent cooking skills and a criminal mind is one of God’s great gifts. -Anthony Bourdain

Everything I know about love, I’ve learned through cooking. That’s because my relationship with Dana was very much chef and sous, without the hierarchy. We cooked at home the same way we cooked at work. “You put ’em down, I’ll pick ’em up.” I relied on her technical expertise and soaked it up like a sponge. She learned that when I said I could fix something, she could take that check to the bank and cash it. Instead of just serving me things, she asked for my input. It meant the world to me, because who even am I in the kitchen? I’ve never been to culinary school. My absolute and total belief that she was the chef made communication in the kitchen so easy, because Dana didn’t have an ego and yet there was a line, like Leo being Jed’s best friend and his Chief of Staff. He wasn’t the president, and he knew it.

Our home life fed our work life and vice versa. I couldn’t wait to be in the kitchen with her every day, and that communication made us closer in that if we could communicate under that much pressure, we could talk through anything. It gave us emotional bravery because we were pushing ourselves so hard physically…. especially me, and I’m not in it for the pity vote. It’s just that *everything* in a restaurant is heavy and she could do most things faster and easier than I could. She had more muscle mass. I lifted a lot of things that were too heavy for me, and I will be in awe forever of the memory in which Dana carries a 50 pound bag of flour down a rickety set of steps. The hardest part was not hurting myself in the kitchen. It was watching her in pain. Therefore, my heart stopped for a second at the danger of what she was doing. Then I realized how strong she was.

And if she fell, she’d have a much better survival rate than I ever would have, because I’d have tripped over nothing in the first place. It’s a miracle I didn’t die, especially during a shift, I just couldn’t lift 50 pounds while I was afraid of the stairs that rode the line between step and ladder. Because I have no peripheral vision, the only thing that happened to me that made me afraid was backing down the stairs into a stock pot of cold oil- I couldn’t see it, so I stepped into it up to my shin.

I couldn’t believe what a patient teacher she was, and I’d like to believe I was a good student. I may have gotten a job on Dana’s word, but I kept it. I just couldn’t always be on my A game because my physical limitations show there more than everywhere else. Why wouldn’t they? Cooking combines balance, timing, depth perception (particularly in plating). I had to keep track of all that and sometimes my body rebelled.

I’m proud of what we accomplished together, because combined we had a well-rounded chef. One with both a great palate and technique.

Now that I’m not married to a chef anymore, I’m not saying I want to be with another one. I don’t know what my future partner will do for money. But what I know is that they’ll have the heart of a chef. They’ll either be great cooks or willing to learn how from me. That’s because closeness comes through activity, and life happens when you’re doing something else.

I need someone not afraid to try new things, who doesn’t have hangups about a particular ingredient before they try it. I need someone who is bold and brave in their choices as to how they do life. By this, I mean that they need to have enough confidence to admit when things are wrong and how they contributed to a problem. To be vulnerable with someone is the hardest thing on earth.

When you find that person, it makes you explode on the inside. Everything looks new, even if you’ve been in love a thousand times. When your brain comes down, you think about consequences and how much you’re willing to open up based on what’s happened before the relationship started. You use heuristics to say that what one person is going to do, they all are. That comes out both in very positive and negative ways.

As an INFJ, my inner landscape is huge. I let people in, and walk away from people that are frightened by it. My mind is a very busy place, and to be let in is a privilege. I don’t trust easily, and because I’ve been hurt before, I’m not as approachable as I’d like to be. I walk as if I’m in pain and don’t want to be bothered, and I can’t find a lie.

In terms of learning about love in other ways, my beautiful girl invested so much in me that I couldn’t help it. My brain flooded at all the dopamine, because I heard a message that I hadn’t heard in a long time. That what I bring to the world is valuable, and keep going. Looking inside yourself isn’t for sissies.

When my mind stopped turning a deep, platonic love into something the relationship would never sustain, I realized that even though I had been in love with her and it sucked ass carrying around all that emotion, there was no part of me that wanted to reject her. I often did when I was angry, but I was never alone in doing so. That’s because we’re a little too much alike. First children can be assholes to each other because they’re used to being the authority on everything.

She has the heart of a chef, but her passion is for different things that line up with the thousands I share. We do such different things that even if we lived a mile from each other, our lives would never cross over unless it was on purpose. We’re both introverted. Good luck. I think she’s less shy than I am, but we both have social batteries that drain vs. shyness in meeting anyone. We both think a group of people is called a “no, thanks.”

So, sufficed to say, I thought I’d found a lifemate, but not in terms of romance. My personality profile says that I only have one or two really close friends at a time because I’d rather be deeply intimate with them rather than having surface level friendships with a lot of people. It has been true my whole life. God forbid I be at a party, just having fun and not talking about anything of importance and enjoying the moment.

No, I am knee deep into all sorts of things, very few that were outside my beautiful girl’s wheelhouse. I wanted to soak up her knowledge for all time, because she cares about the same issues I do.

And yet, we fought like cats and dogs because she was everything my personality profile said I’d get, that I’d find someone willing to walk in my inner landscape with me. Why that side of me, the one that felt hurt and rejected won, I’ll never know. Why didn’t I just let it lie and stop responding? She gave me things to think about that will turn over forever in my brain. Why give that up?

It was easy when I realized that we’d never get back what we had, and I was too crushed by it. She didn’t deserve to know how I felt about her anymore, because clearly it didn’t mean as much to her as it meant to me. The reason it took eight years is that she did things that touched me deeply…. that even though there was no going back, we could move forward.

As long as we didn’t have to talk about what did happen, and it was making her reactions all the more muddled…. loving and also reinforcing the idea that I was intruding on her life rather than adding to it. Those words aren’t easily forgotten, and she said them. I just don’t know if she meant them. Was her response actually protective when it came across as angry? Why did I feel so defensive and afraid? Because I’d wronged her. She didn’t hang it over my head, but she didn’t solidify anything, either. That choice didn’t bother her, but it made me ruminate on what she actually wanted from me for far longer and with more intensity than I should have ever given it. I should have walked away sooner to protect both of us, but I didn’t because I wanted the question of how to move forward out of the way. How to navigate spiraling out because as much as we reject each other, it’s not really possible to disconnect now. We are both in each other’s minds and hearts but in different ways and for different reasons.

So, whether she shows up or not, I have to be there for myself. I have to offer myself the relief I was seeking, because relief is the only thing I wanted from her that I didn’t get. That’s why it was too painful to continue the relationship on a surface level. Not talking about the real thing led to superficial snarks, real and perceived.

So, there’s a lot in me that’s fighting right now with what is real and what isn’t. How much I should believe based on what I saw and not what I heard, because maybe I missed what she was trying to say in favor of thinking I was right. I also have defensive mechanisms and a stunning need to be correct. Thinking about it now makes me laugh, because none of our younger siblings would believe the lengths we’d go to in order to prove each other wrong because it’s good to be the king.

I feel deeply about every win and loss, because no matter the outcome, I screamed with empathy. It hurt more to watch her in pain than it did to be in pain myself, and 90% of the time I caused pain because I’d stepped on a land mine thought to be dormant. The other 10% was in reaction to feeling completely dressed down and unable to express my point in a way that had merit. I’m not the person that always has to be right in most cases. It depends on what I know about the subject, and I will defer to the smartest person in the room, always. But what do you do if your subject matter expert doesn’t think the same thing about you, or expresses that? What I mean by that is the people in your life not yielding to you at least part of the time. No one is ever wrong to the point there is no redeeming quality about them a hundred percent of the time. There is no relationship where one person knows everything and the other person is absolutely brainless and never has better sources and methods than you.

I will never in my lifetime have a conflict with someone in which I don’t have to own consequences, so I expect other people to feel the same way. I write to people privately the same way I write here- which is to say that I look at every possible combination of factors that could be going into someone’s behavior. I clearly express my 3D opinion, which is that I love you, but that doesn’t mean we don’t got shit to do.

When the response is rejection, trauma kicks in. It’s my job to stop. I can’t throw around words the way I have. I don’t judge people, I judge whether situations are fair. Just how long I’ve been feeling defensive because I spoke in a quiet voice and was ignored. How that builds up and my voice gets louder. I need to know why I’m doing it in order to change, and I can point fingers, but only for comprehension to understand the pain’s source. I cannot blame other people for my reactions, and I will not allow people to think that theirs are more important than mine. Different and equally valid.

Most of the time, I don’t understand the charge I’m leading because I don’t think the way a neurotypical person thinks. My filters are different, and the symptoms are akin to Asperger’s. I don’t process emotion like most people, so I don’t always know what to say in a way that doesn’t make them upset because I simply wasn’t thinking about it. My brain doesn’t say “you can’t say that.” Where my empath kicks in is seeing when I’ve caused a negative reaction, mostly because my calculations are foreign. I’m not running on the same operating system. There are no “things we don’t talk about.” That’s because every instinct in my body says that being vulnerable is the key to being strong. That it takes more courage to tell people how you feel when you are terrified of rejection. It takes courage to have an opinion, a right I’ve denied myself for far too long. That’s because when I began to have opinions, I rocked the boat to the point I thought I wouldn’t survive all the upheaval. That I had to fight this mental battle with my health so that I’d have enough energy to also self-soothe.

I didn’t want to continue a relationship where I thought I’d found Richard from Texas and she’d found Groceries. That’s because I made it where it didn’t feel that way and couldn’t get enough confidence in myself to give me any slack at all. I knew that my brain chemicals were beyond FUBAR and didn’t retreat the way I should have.

And exactly none of that turned down all the warmth I felt when I thought of her, not a fire in the belly but a day at the beach. I will feel that every time I think of her, which is how I know there’s no set of circumstances in which I’d refuse anything she wanted. It wasn’t a little deal to me that nothing felt solid, and the inconsistency drew me into myself. I was trapped in this cycle of believing that everything was fine and she hated me and yet still somehow tolerated my presence. Say that sentence all in one breath and you’ll get close to how I felt when you’re winded.

At the same time, I wasn’t always good about letting her know that I was thinking of her feelings because I talked about them, but she never talked about mine. Over time, I realized that my emotions didn’t cause much in her when I felt like Elvis had left the building, awakened out of a stupor caused by awe. When you love someone, aren’t both of those things true? That you can grieve what is lost and enjoy what you had simultaneously, because love and conflict live in the same house?

But if the only thing I can be counted on is saying we’re done and not done, I won’t waffle. That’s because I showed up for every holiday for nine years and wrote to her every day. For nine years. Pretty sure I can be counted on for more than a political point. When I said that it was over, we both had steam in our ears by then. I had no guidance in how much I should feel, so my attention never wavered from the first time we had a conversation. It should have been different. I should have known she was sharing my words with other people because she should have told me she was going to do it rather than telling me after it had been done. I don’t care about her sharing my blog entries, but my letters are another matter. Who knows what went on between her and the people who read them? I ruminated on that for years, because she’d said to keep things tight from everyone, and never said she wouldn’t.

I can’t do that. I can’t face a firing squad over what I’ve written, and neither can she. Neither one of us would want to walk into a room knowing that everyone there knew what we’d said, which meant that integrating our lives would have been difficult. I just would have had to sit through a lot more uncomfortable conversations because I haven’t said shit to anyone. She has a clean slate all day, every day. I do not.

He’s never known it, but I think about her husband all the time. Why wouldn’t I both love and fear him? How would I know how he felt in all of this? When can I stop shaming myself for it?

I am not pushing my memories with her away. I am letting them come and visit me in my dreams, her words pouring thoughts into my head that made me feel stronger and smaller than I ever had. But her words didn’t do it all. My reactions were often poor because my self image was so destroyed.

I do think that I’ve gotten a peace of mind that hasn’t been with me in a long time. I didn’t want to be selfish, and I waited until I was so defeated that I just slunk off into the night. That’s because she laid out everything on her plate and I couldn’t take it. I’d already spent years thinking of everything on her plate and knew there was no universe in which any one of my problems could compare. I didn’t get impatient until we’d been tearing at each other for almost a decade. I don’t know what created that push/pull…. that we could say it was over like that and sign up for more.

I think it can be chalked up to our different approaches to everything, but I never knew when she was going to see a change as positive or suspicious. When she felt attacked, she attacked me. Sometimes, I was stable enough to say “no, that’s not what I meant,” and sometimes her reaction was so fiery that it engaged my escalation mode. In fact, the last exchange we had started with “I don’t want to fight about this.” It ended with her feeling like she had to delay reading my e-mails because they brought on guilt and shame when none was meant. I am not responsible for that guilt and shame. I am only responsible for communicating my needs and hoping that they create a desired reaction because my happiness is just as important as theirs. When her response was to go find other friends, I did. I would like to believe that she popped off as much as I did, because she knows I know everything in that letter intimately. That no obligation of hers went unnoticed to me. I couldn’t believe she thought she needed to spell all that out as if I hadn’t noticed. I’d been drowning in it. I knew I was last priority, I knew why, and I couldn’t make anything better.

If I’d been the sort of person that compartmentalizes emotion, we would be in any of the situations we are now, because I could have just laid back and enjoyed having a friend that was smarter than me.

But I didn’t. I walked around hurt too much of the time, not because of how she felt about me; it was all about my emotions. The guilt and shame that was above me dripping down. I can’t speak for my beautiful girl, but it seemed like something was brewing on her end that read similar. My emotions were too big, and I knew it. I didn’t know how to tamp them down properly, and I never will. Someday a neurotypical can tell me what that’s like.

Right now, I’m just trying to turn my attention, living around this loss instead of kicking it out. Dealing with it while it’s happening so it doesn’t come up later. It’s important to me to have a verbal tapestry of our history, because even if I never get what I want again I still want to remember when I had it.

I want to cry out all the pain, and relive all those laughs. The fact that I look at this whole experience together makes me invincible, that I am not swayed into “it was always bad” or “it was always good.”

I didn’t handle it with power, grace, or style. But I felt it all, all the time. What kept me going was the heart of a chef, that the same give and take I had with food was there with all relationships…. that all of them were a balance of clutch and gas.

Life Before The Internet

Yesterday’s writing prompt was asking if I remembered life before the Internet, and I have to say “not really.” That’s because I’m the last generation born that didn’t have technology everywhere as a small child, but it started creeping in when I was older. Nothing felt like a leap, just solid movement forward. For instance, I had a computer in my room when I was eight. It didn’t connect to anything, and I was still obsessed with it. So, my memories of life before the Internet are limited to age 15 and under. As I age, those memories are slipping away no matter the subject.

I miss the simplicity of computers without networking, because I knew for sure my files were safe at all times. I didn’t have to worry about viruses because my computer was what we’d now call “air gapped.” That’s keeping a server offline on purpose so that no one can get into it that doesn’t have physical access to the machine. I air gap my desktop when I’m writing so that I can’t zone out. I put my tablets in airplane mode. I care about security, and have encrypted and password protected anything I’d hate for others to see, because no one is close enough to me to read them. In some cases, no one ever will be that close to me because I have to have that one space where I can say anything and come back and read it later. I teach myself about relationships by writing letters never meant to be read by them, because I’m through trying to solve our problems with their input. It’s what brings me closure faster than anything else. To reread my own words and be critically aware of the ways I’m participating, because I can’t do anything to control the outcome of another person’s reaction to something I’ve said. The only thing I can control is my own actions, and why at times the Internet is more of a threat than it’s worth.

I decided that if we were going to have this new form of communication, I was going to learn everything about it. I started using Linux because I thought of myself as a coder, but over time have realized that I just prefer the environment as a daily driver- just a menu and a terminal. HTML and CSS are not considered “programming,” per se… and I have a third grade education in SQL. I can read a program and tell what it is supposed to do easier than I can create one on my own. Speaking of SQL, databases have fundamentally changed the Internet, because all of the sudden script kiddies had access to information they never could have gotten without an inside job, like any rando with an A in hacking could try for the firewall at the NSA. There are dire consequences for it, but only if you get caught. A virus hidden in the RAM of a server is barely detectable, and affects computers all over the world simultaneously. That is why people were so reluctant to do online banking, and the only thing I miss about that is human interaction. No one has to be up close and personal with anyone they don’t know. There is an epidemic of loneliness in the US which we perpetuate in our relentless quest for personal freedom. The Internet has changed our DNA to fully believe that those small interactions don’t matter, and now half the country believes there’s such a thing as alternate facts, and that no truth is objective. There are no subject matter experts that rise above party, because we don’t have to know them. We live in echo chambers because we can….. at the cost of a loving society because if you don’t want to know a wide range of people representing all sorts of opinions, you won’t. You miss out on the pain of opening up and having your thoughts rejected, and the beauty of being changed by something the other person did.

I was born during the Carter administration, so my first real memories are of President Reagan. Therefore, I’d been born during the last time there was hope for bipartisanship that didn’t set out to emotionally destroy people, like the insurrectionists turning on Mike Pence and threatening his life…. People he had once thought of as his base pursued him relentlessly. When you escape with your life, you’ll never be the same. No one is taking responsibility for that, when they absolutely turned off their brains and stopped seeing real people, or real information.

It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times, because pre-Internet was pre-24 hour news cycle and the urge to keep up. There wasn’t the hunger for knowledge there is today, which has turned the Internet into America’s next civil war, emotionally speaking. The cult started with lies that spread while truth was putting on its shoes. It was too late to be objective because they’d been brainwashed to believe that everything in front of them was wrong except for one guy with no qualifications who made himself seem that important and for some reason other people believed it.

I don’t think that could have happened in the late 70’s/early ‘80s because interaction through face time and touch is key to not losing connection with them. It doesn’t create false courage, the ability to rip people a new one in public with no regard for real life consequences…. Even if it’s your mother.

In the entries where I’m taking my mom to the mat, it’s only now that I can reflect on her whole life without offending her. This is because she would focus on the negative instead of the positive. Would only see me as trying to hurt her rather than wrestle with real feelings on my own. She doesn’t need to know what I thought now, because I know we did our best and now there is no chance that anything will change. Something fundamental and precious was lost, but that doesn’t mean people don’t have problems that take time to resolve.

For instance, I can fully accept that not wanting me to be who I am because she thought I’d cause my father to lose his job was traumatic. I can also relate to her treating me that way because she didn’t want to make things harder for either one of us. She didn’t know the first thing about being gay, and relied on her own instincts. She didn’t know, and so it wasn’t malicious. That’s how we could be so close and so distant at the same time. We rejected each other over mutual fear, and resolved it toward the end of her life. I’m glad for that, but destroyed she didn’t live longer so I’d have more memories of complete peace and security. There were so many ups and downs that I own all of them, because when I became an adult, she was no longer responsible for my actions. I shrank back from her in some ways, because over time she hadn’t committed to learning anything about me and I didn’t want to press because she’s already shown me she wasn’t comfortable.

I think the Internet changed that, too, because she could see how mainstream being queer was becoming and didn’t feel like it was such a burden carrying what other people thought of me. Before the Internet, we talked through the Oprah Winfrey show. It’s the only thing we were both obsessed with at the time. I started watching when I was nine. I saw a gay person for the first time on her show. I saw a trans person for the first time. I saw a person with AIDS, and the families with their quilts.

So, by the time I actually came out to her, at least she’d welcomed gay people into her home through the magic of television even if she didn’t know she’d met a gay person before. That’s because it would be impossible to go your whole life and meet one. They just might not tell you.

Memories of my family reign before the Internet because we spent more time together. The thirst to connect virtually because it was easier became so vitally important. The Internet plays to my strengths, because I communicate better in writing. I just need to watch what I’m saying and how I say it…. Not so much with my blog, but with my letters. I’ll get all riled up about something and release too much fire. If they release more, I feel bullied and get angry. I pop off and say things before I’ve had time to think about it. I think the difference is that traditionally I haven’t been good at getting over the things I’ve said because they torture me…. This is because I can only do something about my own behavior, and I don’t see it until I’m outside the situation.

I feel like working on issues is key, because I don’t ever want our communication to come across as bullying again. I have often been close to people who think that working on issues is bad, and I have learned to walk away when I continue to feel bullied because I take responsibility for the times I pop off and get angry when other people don’t do the same thing. Their anger is completely justified, and mine is not. My words were hurtful, theirs were not. I’m just being a victim, they didn’t do anything. The fact that this is the pattern with which I am the most comfortable disturbs me, because I know I have a lot of work to do in the areas of being patient. Taking a step back.

The Internet changed me because I thought that being physically in the same room was equal to feeling emotions when I read. That’s because I tended to get frustrated when people were talkers and not writers. It’s not because I wasn’t willing to change mediums, it’s that their reaction was that their words weren’t good enough for me because they couldn’t write as easily as I could. Intimidated by me to an enormous degree, when I could care less how people communicate as long as they’re doing it. I don’t like when people tell me that my words are so intimidating that they don’t want to communicate at all. They don’t want to even try. Meanwhile, I am begging for them to show up. I don’t want to beg to people who use their lack of skill with writing to avoid talking about a situation at all. If you don’t want to write to me, I will try to keep from overwhelming you with reading… provided you’ll actually go for coffee or a cocktail. Tell me that working on something with me is important to you even though my medium of communication is the written word and yours is not.

Don’t let me be lonely even when we’re together. Otherwise, I count on interactions with people who don’t mean as much to me. I have to force myself to engage in small talk, otherwise, I won’t talk at all. I don’t have the safety and comfort of history with the tellers at the bank. It’s only sad when I want people to feel close to me and they don’t want me to feel close to them, and not because they don’t want it. They aren’t prepared to accept that my emotions are large on the page, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are in real life. It’s because when I’m trying to convey an idea, I might not know your history with what I’m about to say and tap into an image you think is one thing, but I meant it as another. Like saying I wouldn’t want to have something and it comes across as “I think you’re bad” when I mean my quota is full on that particular desire. That you’re giving me all I need already.

In person, I could say that with my eyes, and do.

But I did it so much more frequently in my life before The Internet.

I Don’t Know, So I Don’t Know

What does “having it all” mean to you? Is it attainable?

One of the things I’m pondering this week came from a Twitter thread on habits…. that neurodivergents don’t have them, and that’s what neurotypical people can’t understand. Neurotypical people can make things happen automatically by repetition, and for neurodivergents, every task takes the same amount of energy as it did the first time, because every routine you have is a conscious decision. I have no executive function, nothing that makes me form a habit in the same way someone who doesn’t have ADHD would.

If you have no ability to create habits, life is exhausting. You are spending so much energy remembering what it takes to get out the door and you’ve been doing it since childhood. When your brain is unmanaged attention-wise, other thoughts invade while you’re trying to make a memory. That’s why I, a Virgo, am classically great at creating systems of organization that don’t last very long. Every “Back to School” was so much hope.

I am deeply in discernment about what my definition of having it all means, because it has shifted in quite a few ways. It’s great because my sister and I are having some of the same epiphanies, and it’s great being able to share. I saw her for lunch the other day, and she looks great. I was going to go with her to a thing where she was speaking, and I backed out because I couldn’t find an outfit. It was impossible. I’d lost so much in the fire by having to evacuate my room and I haven’t had time or need to replace anything until now.

Part of having it all for me is nice clothes, which is why I have a black belt in Goodwill. I can take a thousand dollar outfit and have it for $40, because it probably cost $20 and needs hemming.

In terms of clothes, I dress like every tech nerd in America, I just have sensory perception issues and would rather have an old shirt that was made to last two generations than fast fashion because it feels better. It’s the difference between a Target button down and Brooks Brothers.

I already have it all in one area of my life- this web site. I’ve made friends from it all over the globe, and it’s tremendously validating that I got here just by being myself. I didn’t set out to teach anyone but me, and ended up connecting with everyone else. To be honest, I post an entry frequently because I’ve come to visit this web site and it is now boring. That blogger sucks. Then I remember it’s me and get back to work.

I’m sorry that in some ways, entries seem repetitive if you show up every day, but to me it feels like I’m workshopping an idea. Clarifying. That’s what I mean by teaching myself. Reading myself closely and seeing how I come across to the outside world informs what I do next, and that feels right, because none of my ideas are coming from external validation and I am not trying to please an audience. I can see structure over time where I am woodshedding, purposefully running selected measures over and over until the tempo is right…. when I feel my inner Aaron Sorkin kick in. A phrase rises from being able to hear it in your own cadence to being able to hear it in mine.

Having it all is knowing I create reactions in you when you read, and you’re not shy about letting me know how you feel. Even when you disagree, I know I’ve made you feel something, which is so much better than nothing. It’s been such a rewarding relationship over the years, the one between you and me. I strongly believe it’s the only one that will last the rest of my life because I’ll still be able to write even if everything else goes away. In fact, I need it more when things go sideways. That’s how I teach those things not to hurt. I don’t approach every relationship thinking it’s going to end, I just know that I’ll be all right if it does.

Having it all is being open to the possibility of having kids in my life, which is to say that Cora already is, but it would be different living with her or any of the kids I would come to love. I’m also at an age where many of the people I meet have grandkids, because either they had kids early or they’re a few years older than me. That’s exciting to think about as well. I wonder all the time how it would change me, because I’ve had to think about it before and it all made me smile. I’d even be up for pregnancy and childbirth as long as it wasn’t mine.

I would be the greatest dad ever. I am already an old grandpa on the Internet. I already make terrible jokes, and I’m not offended by dating someone younger if they’re aiming for kids or already have them, because in that case they’re already better at adulting than I am, so why worry? I am not aiming for a young trophy wife, I’m just saying that I can’t know what circumstances people are in until I talk to them. Who knows what my next love will bring to the table? Whether they’re older or younger, childless or have many, none of that matters. I want someone who has an exciting mind and doesn’t care that I’m a bit of a homebody who needs to sit alone for long periods of time if they can’t sit quietly. That’s how to be a writer. To have everyone understand that they know where to find you in an emergency, but please don’t interrupt. In exchange, when I am not writing, I am completely and totally available. This gets easier when the other person is really busy.

It would help if my next partner had as big a worldview as Zac, because it gets me out of my own head to talk about things that affect countries and not me personally. I often need to be dragged out of thinking about myself, because it informs where I’m going on this blog. It’s developing ideas on what to say so that I’m not threatened by a blank page. It’s having more to talk about than just me.

I also feel like I’m the authority on me, but I don’t want to presume I’m an expert on anything else. Some of my assumptions are flat out wrong, because I don’t have all the information. When I do, my opinion changes and I write about that, too. I process emotionally pretty fast, which leads people to believe I am up and down mentally. In reality, I just let go of what I think quickly because new shit has come to light.

My mind moves fast, and it’s hard to keep up. Sometimes I’m proud of that, because it gives me self confidence to an enormous degree. I am literally not carrying around anything, because I talk about it here and then I’m done. Everything else I do to prepare just feels like writing a letter into the void, hoping that someone a hundred years from now will find it interesting. Knowing for sure that people who have crossed my path will live forever because I think that highly of them. That our story goes up and down because life can’t do anything else. I embrace change now in a way that I haven’t before, because I have a repository that tells me how strong and resilient I’ve become. That I have a place to fall that makes good stories out of bad situations. Future generations will read it like a novel, or a collection of letters in great grandma’s trunk.

Lately, happiness has written white for me, the ink not dark enough to be memorable. Having it all has been adjusting my expectations so that they’re much smaller. Noticing how good a cup of coffee tastes, even the day after with ice. Having the world’s most comfortable bed, surrounded by friends I never would have made had I not moved here. When Mother’s Day manipulation is not raining down on me, more of my funny moments with my mom shine through, because there were so many. It’s just that when shit goes down, you’re not always thinking of the sunniest thoughts, and that’s okay. My dad said something in a sermon once that’s stuck with me to this day, which has to be almost 30 years by now. He said, “death is 50% anesthesia to the living.” That when people die, we tend to saint them and not talk about what they were really like.

My mother and I are both full characters. We laughed, loved, lost and found each other. None of that can be contained with mere words. I accept all her love and genuine homophobia (she was never a bigot, just uneducated and afraid). Those things are not mutually exclusive. They are both true, and always will be.

I hope that with all of my entries, you can see that I hold the same opinion of all people. I accept that people do things that make them come across like an asshole, and so do I. They also do things that make them come across like an angel, and so do I. Sometimes I’m so focused on trying to resolve my issues that I forget to acknowledge how blessed I truly am, the only words I also love and hate. I want to talk about Christianity, but with the same foul-mouthed academia you’ve come to know and love, not Christianese.

I like that when I’m angry, I can still count on Jesus to have had a similar experience in which things also sounded better in his head.

This is another way of having it all, and it comes from the blessing of one person in particular. Love me or hate me, I was this way before Nadia Bolz-Weber, and then I got worse. 😛 Finally, someone who preached in my style because she used to do stand-up. Her sermons could make you roll in the aisle with laughter, which came as a relief because you were sobbing a second ago. It opened me up to hear that being human was a viable option. She didn’t inspire me to follow in her footsteps, only that being a regular person with a full range of emotions didn’t make me a less serious academic when it came to research and the humor I attached to it. Seriously, it was like Moses whispered in my ear that he killed a guy. A blog didn’t render me less worthy to talk about God. But it was a much bigger sin, just to be clear.

Note taken.

This.

Do you have any collections?

Doctor Who is by far the biggest fandom in my life, so I have t-shirts, an adult coloring book (get your mind out of the gutter, it’s just difficult af), and many things I have loved and lost over the years. At Alert Logic I had a TARDIS USB hub that makes the sound when The Doctor has on the emergency brakes. Someone stole it off my desk and took pictures with it all over Houston, then brought it back and sent me the pictures as “Sexy’s Day Out” or something like it. It’s an IT company filled with employees who are all obsessed with sci-fi. Back then, I also identified as Hufflepuff. I figured that’s what most clerics would be, and the clerical description fits because it’s not my job, it’s my personality.

I was nurtured to be that, and not because anyone else wanted it for me. I took it in by osmosis, and am very, very good at pastoral care when I have no emotional connection to the person. The problem is that even one session of pastoral counseling would make me take that person’s pain on as my own. Working in a doctor’s office gave me more clinical separation, but not enough. As an INFJ and highly sensitive person, my emotions were too large even after learning to tamp them down. I would be a horrible pastor or doctor, and not because I wouldn’t be good at it.

I would be incapable of refilling my own cup with energy, because Mrs. Jones is having an affair and her husband doesn’t know it, Mr. Smith is a teenage basketball player who wrecked his knee and his NBA dream is gone, and several Karens want to decorate my house before I get there. It’s always the Karens, because the parsonage is generally the Dear Aunt Sally collection, because parishioners furnish the parsonage with whatever they have on hand. When people have money, they have furniture they want to discard. Let me say for the record that I’ve loved all of it. I’m talking about the negotiations that happen when several families want to get rid of their old bedroom set at the same time.

The best house for me was the parsonage in Sugar Land, because it was gorgeous and in a great neighborhood, plus the church offered to let me paint my room any color I wanted. I chose pale yellow, and decorated my room around Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers perfume bottle. I wish I’d thought to get a Van Gogh print………..

In the living room, we had long couches arranged in an L, which created the perfect solution…. Lindsay and I had equal space.

My desire to be a pastor didn’t really come from preaching, though that’s the easiest part of it. It came from going to weddings and funerals from a very young age, learning what it takes to execute them as a leader. I listened in on conversations as much as I could, trying to wrap my brain around the heuristics that run in one’s mind as they try to figure out what to say.

My dad leaving the church impacted me in different ways, but one of the positives was getting away from that environment and looking back on my experiences to see if pastoring was what I wanted to do or what I had done. I decided, in the end, after years of discernment, that I felt a calling but not any drive or passion about it once my mother died. Before she died, it was being full of confidence that I’d succeed and regret….. and not because of other people. Because of my reaction to them.

It was more than being overloaded by other people’s emotions. It was feeling like I couldn’t help them unless I turned mine off. I don’t like doing it because it makes me seem colder than I really am, because people don’t see you protecting your own energy. They see you as distant. And even recognizing when people are saving energy is hard, because when you do, it doesn’t make them want to open up to you… they see their problems as too much for you when it is literally your job. I didn’t want to be a leader and for people to see I was a mess. It’s not interesting when I’m a private citizen, but pastors are known on a much bigger level than that. I’d like to be only capable of handling my own situation poorly rather than inflicting my pain on everyone else. I had enough of that in Portland to last my whole life, and not because I did it. I watched someone else do it and decided that wouldn’t be me.

The final nail in the coffin for the dream of me being a pastor was having watched said pastor go through the loss of her mother and what it did to the people around her. It changed her whole personality and the way she interacted with parishioners. No one would deny this that was in the room, even her, because it wasn’t all negative. The reason it had such a big impact on me is that my mother died, and my personality completely changed as well. The way forward was to write about my God moments here, and let people decide if they wanted to hear them. I could also keep my clinical separation intact, because sitting alone and writing is so much different than being responsible for your emotions while you read.

It’s also grief knowing you’re not stable enough to be that kind of leader when you know you were born to do it and would have been fantastic in some respects. I can’t say I’d have a really good handle on all of it, because I suck at admin and finance. I now wish I’d become a psychiatrist, but I also don’t have a great relationship with math and science, even though reading about them is absolutely amazing. I just have no talent with them myself. How I would have been a GREAT psychiatrist is being able to integrate therapy, but only on a superficial level, and medical school would have been the perfect answer because it would have beat enough emotions out of me that I could have functioned better with patients than getting a license in counseling. I can spend fifteen minutes with you, because that’s not enough time to uncover your deepest trauma, and that’s not a psychiatrist’s job. Medication is just a safety net. Psychologists are the real heroes.

I was born to be that person that listens to you for an hour and helps you relieve your pain, and realistic about how much it would wreck me over time. I know within myself that if I’d become a licensed professional counselor that I would be very much like Doc Martin. He was a world famous surgeon, and just one day developed a blood phobia and stopped. I have a feeling that I’d be the same- counseling people until it was too much and one day just walking away- seemingly out of nowhere because it’s not one thing. It’s compound interest.

Therefore, when I think of collections, I think of this web site, the legacy I want to leave behind. It’s not perfect. There are entries that are angry beyond belief, and entries that show my inner angel as well. For me, the first step to resolving my issues was realizing that I have an entire spectrum of emotions, and I didn’t need to berate myself so hard for the negative ones if that wasn’t my focus. That if I used my mistakes to learn, they wouldn’t be in vain. Therefore, I am relentlessly driven to understand myself (like all INFJs), laying it all out here because other people might say, “I’m going through something similar.” I am preaching the Gospels by living them, not standing on a platform and punching down…… my problem with Evangelicals in its entirety.

Who among us has the power to tell anyone they’re going to hell for any reason? Our religion is based on forgiveness. The Bible is also like the Constitution. There are many, many lessons we can learn from both, and let’s not confuse that by making people who’d be freaked out at the sight of a dishwasher the system administrators of our lives.

I picked up a great line from the Archbishop of Canterbury last week, because it’s fundamental to understanding this web site. In the Bible, there is no argument over the existence of God, there are only people’s reactions to God. What that means to me is that my Gospel is as relevant as Mark’s on a superficial level. That’s because who is to say that Mark’s reaction is more important than mine? He was just a dude.

I also make arguments for the reaction to God, not the existence of them (singular they to indicate nonbinary). I have said over and over that my God is the space inside me that tells me what to do…. That God lives in me, not the traditional Grandfather in the Sky. God runs through every piece of nature, because it’s not about whether God is present, but whether we are.

Having a relationship with God doesn’t require them to show up. It only matters that you do. God also brings many names. I believe in all of them. Allah, Ganesh, and Ra are all the same “person.” That’s because again, spirituality is based on your reaction to the divine, not because it’s really there. Wiccans tap into magic and nature the same way Christians pray and Buddhists meditate.

In that way, spirituality and magic are inextricably related. Even the Episcopal Church calls it “the mystical body of Thy Son.” That’s because when we access that spiritual place within us, we don’t know exactly what happens….. God is not the Actor, God is the Responder. When you get what you want in life, it doesn’t mean that God is a line cook at Waffle House. You don’t just order smothered, covered, chunked, and topped. The decks are random, and you just have to play your hand. God is what helps me decide whether I’ve won, and not by serving up the right answer. God is the place where I am allowed to struggle.

God can give me all the attention in the world when no one else should have to take on what you’re thinking and feeling. In that way, it is like an imaginary friend. There is no better comfort than an objective listener like a therapist, and when you don’t have it, your brain creates it. So, whether you believe that God is a figment of your imagination or a living deity, it still helps to pray. My philosophy on God is very, very much like AA. God’s function is to get your ego out of the way, so make it whatever you want. Your kids. Pepsi. Whatever.

How God helps me in particular is wrestling with other people’s emotions without the inconvenience of their feedback, because it’s not time for it yet. It’s time for me to struggle on my own until I’m not feeling uncertain anymore. It is because my feeling is that God is big enough to be your punching bag, and your very real friends aren’t. The argument for prayer is exactly the same as watching a candle flicker until it is still, trying to control it with your mind. The flame is a visual representation of your thoughts. If there is a grandfather in the sky, the way that image helps me is praying to someone with a tremendous pedestal so that they can see everything and how it works. It doesn’t help to believe they own the chessboard, but it does help to think about how objective a view God has.

Where organized religion comes in is that Jesus didn’t come here to comfort the distressed, he came here to distress the comfortable. (He was the embodiment of power with, not power over, and people hated him for it. He bitch slapped them with words, so they killed him. Seems legit.) No man is an island, so people gather to spread that message. It’s great when your community is focused on being Jesus, and not taking his message and turn it into the same one reflected by the people he hated. If Jesus saw the degree to which his name was used to justify wars, he’d have people’s heads, theologically speaking. Jesus and I are the same person in that our battle plans only include a strongly worded letter. And even when he chased the tax collectors from the high temple, I think the Gospel would have mentioned him physically whipping them. His answer was not violence, and for me, his message is concrete. If you have to fight people, use intelligence and not violence.

And people wonder why I love CIA and Doctor Who the same amount. Please. There’s even crossover, because both CIA and MI6 have been in Doctor Who over the years. Men in Black is the perfect marriage of Doctor Who and MI6, because their hierarchy is based on British intelligence, for some reason. But I swear to God, if you look at the way CIA and MI6 started, it is a stunning portrayal of both.

It’s also funny to me to think of Jesus as an asset and God as a case officer. I’ve been trying to put together a sermon for years on the ex-fil op it took to get Jesus away from Herod, but I just don’t know enough jargon to make it as hilarious as it ought to be. It could be argued that God gives Jesus alien intelligence…. and that did make me laugh…. this is because there is a direct correlation between God and The Doctor, or who we think God should be. We want God to be the person that shows up and saves the world just before everything ends in disaster, and not that disasters happen and anger at God is some people’s first reaction…. or more acutely, that they think God is angry with them, when that is literally impossible.

When God is angry at you, it’s not God who’s telling you what you’re doing is wrong. It’s you. If you feel anger at God for your situation, you’re angry at the world and attributing it externally, mostly because people don’t like to believe they’re capable of negative reactions and own their actions as much as they should because it makes them feel like a bad person…… not that they’re trying to let go of their own guilt and shame because surely they didn’t cause something bad to happen. God did. In no way do I mean natural disasters. As far as I can tell, Hurricane Katrina was caused by air and water- not gay marriage.

No, I am talking about the damage we cause other people without thinking, because when you don’t pray (the function, I don’t care about semantics), you don’t see anything from a third person view. You don’t talk about what your actions might have done to someone else, and that’s the best reason to pray, because it is literally the forgiveness of sins through the practice of forgiving yourself and trying to do better in the future. It all comes from you, raising your self confidence because emotional resilience is key to survival. Alternatively, if you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you always got.

Praying is a way to change that dynamic. Most people repeat the same patterns over and over because to embrace one’s true self causes conflict. You’re not acting the way you always did, and it’s uncomfortable, especially when other people are used to being able to intrude on your space and now they aren’t. Most people don’t think of relationships as a privilege. That someone is giving you their time, so treat it as sacred. Notice when people aren’t doing the same for you. Don’t let resentment build. If people don’t want what you want, acknowledge it and walk away. If someone also values your time, they will make no mistake about letting you know it.

But you just can’t make those decisions based on never looking at what’s really going on and counting on external validation of your behaviors, because then you’re not in control of your emotions. You’ve put it in someone else’s hands. I am firmly on the side of internal validation, and deeply in control of how other people make me feel because I talk about it. Prayer flows from me without ceasing. Just like Jack Lewis in “Shadowlands,” I can’t help it. I look at what other people are doing to me and how I need to change every minute of every day, but I can only do that in isolation with a 50 foot view. I don’t base my relationships on what people think of me, but how much they value my contribution to their lives, because I have a concrete idea of how long I’ll feel like I’m a problem before the relationship is too fraught.

It took too many years with my beautiful girl because as I’ve said before, she did so many things that made me light up from the inside that I believed we were building something and tearing it down simultaneously, and over time, the idea that we were tearing it down won because it was so confusing. We both proved to the other that we’d step in front of a bus for each other, no questions asked. I thought I was part of her support system because she didn’t have a partner, but when I found out she did, he was immediately folded in. He could also call me at 0200 and say something’s up. I was embarrassed that I didn’t know, because I had this wrongheaded idea that gender and sexual orientation were relative on the internet because without context, neither of you are thinking about the other’s body. Intimacy comes from sharing pain, not visual cues. This is because it had happened to me before, so that heuristic was way off when it came to her. This is the most mortifying thing ever…. I thought she was the same way because she said that if she was religious, she’d be pagan. I’d also never met a pagan woman who wasn’t bi, and now that thought makes me laugh so hard I can’t even breathe. That is because my pagan friends bear no resemblance to Outlander. God, I’m an idiot, but that’s the funniest reaction I had to something serious…… but if there’s something serious about it, it’s that we love the same things. Outlander is based on Doctor Who.

Even Jamie Fraser is named for one of The Doctor’s companions. So, we don’t love the same books/shows, but we love the same concepts when we tap into our God moments. For her, they come from magic, for me, they come from spirituality and faith…. not in God/earth magic, but in us and our reactions to them.

You can find evidence of it in everything I write, my collection and legacy that I existed…….. and hoping mine is the story that sticks.

Strong and Comfortable

How do you feel about cold weather?

I feel the best in casual clothes because I can move better, and like Suze Orman on SNL, “it’s all about the jackets.” I have three American Giant jackets, and I’ll never need another one. They’re so well-made I think they’re my only heirloom. They also complete every outfit I own, because they’re gray, navy, and teal. One is rugby style, and the others are hoodies. The rugby jacket looks more dressed up. 😉

Additionally, I love taking photos, and there are few similar experiences walking around the monuments covered in snow.

But by far, my favorite story involving cold weather involves snow, a Jewish cemetery, and Pacific Northwest elevation.

Dana found out that her ancestors were buried at Beth Israel (Dana is not Jewish, but they were). So, we get this information and we head out there, because it was sprinkling snowflakes…. not even enough to raise a delay for anything. I told Dana that it would look so pretty in photos, the monuments covered in a “light dusting of snow.”

Enter southwest Portland, Oregon.

We cross the river and realize that the snow is falling faster, but we’re in a Jeep Grand Cherokee. We could go anywhere, especially with chains in the cargo area just in case. Besides, it wasn’t THAT much snow.

We arrive at the cemetery and now it’s really coming down. It’s also late afternoon, and the sun is just starting to set. Dana goes and knocks on the caretaker’s door to ask if he knew where her ancestors were, or if he had a map. He said he’d find where they were, and didn’t have a map she could read.

Dana stamps out to my Jeep and says, “the caretaker said he had a map, but not one that I could read.” She was very upset and indignant about it because she thought the caretaker was saying she was stupid. I said, “Dana………………. we’re at BETH ISRAEL. Don’t you think the map is in Hebrew?” I have never heard anything make her laugh harder than she did in that moment.

We find the ancestors and pay our respects, and by then the snow has stopped. I took some gorgeous pictures that day, because I was so right about the weather making the photos look better.

Getting home was another matter. “Hell is other people.” No one ran into us, but we did help keep a Prius on the road when it went sideways. It also took two and a half hours to get home, but I’m not sure we really noticed all that much. We can both talk to a signpost all day long, so being stuck in traffic was nothing.

I think we went home and played our favorite game, Drunk Trivial Pursuit, which was always fun but never in the way we thought. First of all, neither of us ever forgets anything, so being drunk never made us worse at the game, and we got better at it over time because we didn’t have to know as much. We just had to remember the right answer from the last time we got it wrong. The best part is that it was classic, the one in the blue box that everyone had when it was a full-on craze. Anyone our age and above has played. Some of the answers were funny in retrospect because they aged like milk, some because they brought up things we hadn’t talked about since they happened.

We both had that skill where we can pull answers to questions out of thin air because our combined interests covered everything on earth. If it wasn’t direct experience, it was reading a book in 1993….. or picking up things from other people. Seriously, how else would I know Jordan Spieth won The Masters in like, 2015? I’m not going to look it up, but I won free beer which I owe entirely to friends with a golf obsession (I’m a queer woman, you can aim that number HIGH).

We both knew Shakespeare (she was a technical theater major in college), and I’m a voracious reader), and yet my favorite 12 minutes of television is “Just Set Up The Chairs” from the cartoon “Regular Show.” I watched it every day for months, because it was just the right amount of time to eat lunch when I came home in the middle of the day (I lived 10 or 15 minutes from my office so I could do it easily). Doctor Who is brilliant, but has never made me laugh as hard as Muscle Man and Hi-Five Ghost…….. and say all the time that I found my Margaret in Dana and now need to find my Cloudy Jane). It’s just so inane and yet meaningful.

I have Mordecai gripper socks that are double weight. Perfect for cold weather.

Several

Have you ever broken a bone?

My nose got broken when I was a kid. I am sure I walked straight into something, because if it had been a fight, I would have remembered. What I do know is that my nose is still feels weird about its “new” configuration.

My foot got broken when Lindsay decided that I could learn to skateboard in the living room, and it didn’t go all that well. It was just a hairline fracture until I worked an entire shift at a restaurant waiting tables without realizing that the pain was because of a broken bone, ensuring that it went from a nuisance to a big damn deal.

I went to the ER when I got home, after a concerned girlfriend said I should probably get an X-ray and everyone else was asleep. I think she must have driven 45 minutes to an hour to make sure I went to the doctor instead of just telling her I would. Incredibly sweet on her part, because like as not it would still be broken and me scratching my head as to why had she not been persuasive.

I broke my wrist in front of a Starbucks, because I tripped on the sidewalk going towards the door. That’s the most painful and irritating thing I’ve ever been through. My cast was a hot mess. Luckily, everything healed correctly and no lingering pain. The funniest was not being able to make it to my appointment to get my cast off, so my girlfriend’s dad took it off with his Dremel.

Speaking of which, my girlfriend’s dad was a good time, because he was conservative as shit, but made me laugh on a regular basis…. This is because he was funny both when he knew it and when he didn’t. He also lived in Corpus Christi, which is why I was away from my doctor in he first place. Katharin and I had driven to Corpus for a visit. Corpus is one of my favorite places now, because I’ve spent enough time there to get to know it. The beaches are just amazing, and I didn’t think I could love a beach more than the ones where I lived on Galveston.

Since then, which was probably 2015, I haven’t broken anything. The worst thing that’s happened is falling downtown and hurting myself, which by now has happened too many times to count, not all of them memorable. The ones that are stick out. The ones that don’t leave bruises, so I know something happened, but not when and where. Having cerebral palsy makes you off balance all the time, and not having depth perception on top of it makes me a bit of a comedian to the outside world. I run into doorjambs the most, because I can’t calculate the distance of my shoulder from it, nor can I pay attention to both sides of the jamb at once. I overcorrect left and right, so my shoulders look like I box.

Maybe I should box. I could work out and go an entire sparring session without being able to hit anything. 😉 I can just picture trying to punch in the right direction and missing the target by half an inch…. And that would happen more than once, every instance funny in its own way.

Breaking my wrist was awful because it was my right. I can’t write for shit, especially with my left hand. I couldn’t really type one-handed, either, but I managed that easier than a pen. I remember long, rambling phone conversations with Dana in which I was trying not to let on that I was in pain while she chatted about the latest goings on in Portland and the entire plot of the M*A*S*H* episode she was currently watching.

There’s a story there, and it fits in well with the theme of Katharin being good for me and not. Katharin was funny and engaging in public, and behind closed doors was a very unhappy person. I couldn’t do anything about that. There were several red flags surrounding this one, but this one crushed me. I spent time and money running around getting her flowers and an enormous cake for her birthday, and I got no thank you for it. I got a treatise on how sad it made her that I didn’t get her a card. I didn’t do it intentionally, I was just excited about the cake because it was themed especially for her. She told me once that she loved white cake, because it reminded her of special occasions, like birthdays and weddings.

Not only did I get her a white cake because of it, I remember that quote so fondly that white is my favorite cake now, too. I love weddings and birthday parties, or the idea of them, anyway. It’s like the first few minutes of “Love Actually” when you see people greeting each other at Heathrow.

I wrote her what I thought was a beautiful essay about how much I was grateful she was born, and it still took her several days to get over a slight I hadn’t intended and thought she was making a mountain out of a molehill.

In fact, what drove me away was her treatment of Dana.

She didn’t have the right to be concerned when Dana was in Oregon and I was in Texas, because I wasn’t giving off those kind of vibes. In fact, it didn’t occur to me just how stupid I’d been until Dana saw how Katharin treated me and read me the riot act over it, that it was painful to watch. This is because Katharin knew that Dana lived in SE Portland and forbid me to see Dana at all, so she’d check my bank account and see if any of my charges were in SE. Just everything she could do to spy on me to make sure I was keeping up my part of the bargain….. one I did not make. She didn’t have the street credibility to ask something like that of me, because I’d never been in love with Dana and I didn’t see it happening until I realized how much it touched me for Dana to hurt for me. That she was the kind of person I needed to be with rather than the one who set to tear me down instead of build me up.

This is because I’d won an internship with the Human Rights Campaign to write Sunday School curriculum for churches all over the nation. I would have been amazing at it, but Katharin didn’t want me to go and my friends said that it was a big deal for her, because who manages the house for three months, etc? My opinion was that Katharin and I hadn’t been together long enough for me to worry about her on that level…. It had only been a few months, not a few years. And even then, what spouse actively throws a fit over their partner getting the job of their dreams?

I threw away an amazing opportunity with the reward of continuing to get beat up emotionally all the time. That’s when Meagan and Deah came to visit, and when they wanted to spend a night with me, I said “of course!” Then, the day before they got to my house, Katharin was so mad at me for letting an ex spend the night (with her wife and child in the guest room, hello…… we’ve been friends since high school……) that she punched a hole in the wall. Luckily, it was fixed and painted before company arrived.

Katharin also had very specific ideas about what would make me less of a flake, which she phrased in just that way. I couldn’t stop the behaviors that made me feel bad, and I had such hope for the future. We were going to move to Portland together, and she started flaking on whether she was coming or not. She must have told me she wasn’t coming twice before I broke up with her for good, but that didn’t stop her from going nuclear when I did, because she needed to believe that I left. Realizing that she’d put on a show of saying she was excited about moving, then going to Corpus for the summer and getting settled in was her own choice, because it made it harder to leave when she was so integrated back into her first family. By this time, I knew I wanted to be with Dana, but it wasn’t the only reason I broke up with Katharin. I would have broken up with Katharin because of Dana’s opinion regardless. If my best friend is saying “I don’t like how she treats you” and she has known me longer than you, guess what?

I didn’t need Dana to tell me what to do. I knew what to do. She just confirmed that it was as bad as I thought it was. These things weren’t normal, particularly going through my bank transactions to see if I was even in the same quadrant of Portland as her. You would just have to know how many of my friends live in SE to know how laughable this really is. I don’t think I have any friends anywhere else in the city because those neighborhoods are too normal for us.

The love affair with Dana started in earnest when she drove with me to move my stuff into my new apartment, but it was just a whisper. Nothing happened on that trip at all, it just opened my eyes to the fact that when Dana’s plane took off, my entire world was going to go with it. I let her go, because I didn’t have any plans to return to Portland and wanted to move on with my life. Then, Houston got in my way. I just wasn’t happy because I wasn’t the same person in that context and I liked Portland Leslie better.

So, being with Dana never would have happened had I not gone back. It wasn’t that I didn’t see it, it’s that I couldn’t indulge it.

I think Dana felt the same way, that it would have been a great story.

When I moved back to Portland, we realized that we were both settling for fine and wanted to reach out for fabulous. And we were, but we weren’t the same people Houston, either. It seemed like such an incredible opportunity, and it was wasted.

I don’t regret ending my relationship with Dana when it got bad, I regret not keeping it amazing. When it was time to be there, it was necessary. When it was clear that we were turning on each other instead of towards, the signs were clear that starting over was going to be easier than going straight through.

But I’ll never forget being in so much pain in the ER, my wrist limp beside me and the pain meds struggling to keep up. Katharin said, “who’s Mama’s brave little soldier” She was actually imitating her mother, I think, because it made me crack up.

And laughter is the best medicine.

Headaches

I do not have a very good relationship with headaches. They love me, and I don’t feel the same way. Yet, we don’t break up. Headaches just plague me constantly. I am certain that some of them are caused by emotional pain, but these are too severe for that to be the whole diagnosis. I can tell they are migraines, because both Sudafed and caffeine help stop the pulsing sensation that makes me close my eyes and the brilliant colors start dancing behind my lids. It is genetic. I spent parts of my childhood waiting for my mother to emerge from a dark room where she was sleeping off these monstrosities with narcotics because in those days, that was about the limit of what you could do after Tylenol, Sudafed, and a cup of coffee didn’t do anything.

The headaches aren’t NOT connected to my bipolar disorder, either, because when I feel bad physically, the pain compounds mentally. I feel worthless because I have even less to contribute to the conversation besides sitting in the room and unable to focus on other people because I can barely see five feet in front of my face.

As of right this moment, I feel like I have ants under my skull and I can’t scratch them out…. But not in a destructive way. Just in that way that it feels good to scratch my head like I’m washing my hair. I am not feeling crazy in a way that would have blood dripping down my neck and me saying, “did I get them?” That’s too dark even for me.

It’s just easy to pick up on dark humor when you feel this bad. It’s been all day, every day, since about Thursday. I have been going about my regular business while feeling absolute shit. It’s not my favorite set of emotions ever. I don’t like the guilt of feeling sick, that I am falling down on the job of taking care of other people and realistic about taking care of myself. I am sorry to all of the people who have sent me something and I haven’t replied. Being sick isn’t an excuse, but I hope it’s context. It is a sign that I am feeling marginally better that I was able to reach out a couple of times this morning even though my head is pounding, anyway. My need to isolate when I am sick is absolute when I am sick, because I do not want to be seen, heard, or touched. If I lived with a partner or I just happened to be with Zac during something like that, I might cave on the being touched part. I wouldn’t talk about it. That’s because there’s too much evidence it’s not psychosomatic, and too much evidence that it really, really is. I have a feeling I talked my way into this mess, so I don’t want to talk my way out.

That’s generally how I get into emotional messes. People think I’m too much. Full stop. I’ve been told I’m too much by too many people for it not to be universally true. So, I don’t talk about it and my brain sets up pain loops that eventually turn physical if I struggle mentally long enough. Depression and anxiety create stress responses that wear down your immunity and resistance to injury. In my case, that means something hurting far longer than it should when I fall. Depression makes me lose timing and balance, because they get worse when I’m tired. Depression is chronic fatigue, so I live for hypomania. Because I’m medicated, it doesn’t mean a whole lot except for my energy being high enough to handle more of other people’s emotions because I’m not concentrating on my own.

My closest allies talk about their problems and it helps me to focus more on them so that depression doesn’t dog me as bad. Changing my perspective is key. When I spiral out, my trauma reflexes kick in and the rage I’ve been holding in because I’ve been keeping so many secrets from an age where I should have been allowed to be young creeps in. Except I can’t get mad at her directly, it comes out in my writing style and people don’t realize that I’m hurting. They see it as being mean to them on purpose. I am working on changing that perception, but it’s hard when I’m struggling so hard to contain my emotions. I am combustible, and the first step is acknowledging it.

In the particular case of the Internet relationship, her life was bigger than mine, and she had a lot more to focus on than me. That was completely fine until my issues were never addressed and it was clear they were never going to be important enough for things to change. Then it was deciding whether I could live with that or not… that the level she was willing to pay attention wasn’t going to ever change and I needed to get with the program.

It wasn’t her fault, but our problems were too unique for me to process, and heavy enough that I needed to resolve them or move on with my life. That superficial interaction wasn’t enough for me because the feelings I’ve been carrying are too large for me to talk about on my own. And it’s not fair for that information to go to anyone else, anyway, because if I have something to say about her, it’s something she should know rather than me talking about her to other people. It’s what friends should do for each other no matter what the circumstance might be.

It caused no small amount of wanting to resolve everything and come to a peace about it so that dropping in on each other’s lives would have been possible. Not having that peace bothered me too much not to get closure on my own. That’s because her behavior came across as “you’re in pain and I don’t care” whether she meant it or not. Healing me meant giving me the peace of mind about what she was thinking and feeling, and because she didn’t give that, the relationship got more and more off kilter as I needed her to engage and she was stonewalling me every chance she got. She had every right to do so, but not with me. It was too much, but not too fast. It had been almost ten years. I was very supportive of everything she was going through, and frustration at not hearing that it was causing me more pain not to hear her anymore than I could reasonably be expected to carry. If she wanted me, I needed her to open up, because it was devastating that I was no longer hers, not that I never was.

Everything she did to stonewall me looked bigger than the occasional incredibly sweet things we did for each other, because it wasn’t my love language. She wouldn’t come my way no matter how I felt about it, which was to hurt deeply. It wasn’t fair for me to live with that level of pain and pretend it was okay anymore. That our relationship was nourishing me instead of draining me. In effect, we’d get frustrated that though we were both speaking clearly in her love language, she forgot how to use that skill and was extraordinarily frustrated that I cared so much more than she did because she wasn’t feeling the same pain as me. Working out problems didn’t make her feel more loved. Having a surface level friendship didn’t make me feel loved, either. It was a win-win situation in some ways, and devastating in others. I couldn’t afford that lack of self esteem anymore, because it was incongruent with being told that I was extraordinarily smart and impressive. In the beginning, I felt incredibly needed and extraordinarily honored, but because she stopped being vulnerable, I felt discarded. That’s not on her because she needed to distance herself. It was on me to decide a plan of action… what I needed to do to stop feeling unloved all the time because it was something that contributed to my physical health because I hadn’t learned to think about her. I’d imprinted on her and began to feel her.

Not resolving an issue completely presented physically, because she apologized for her behavior, but bringing it back up when I was processing what happened when something in my head referred to it was wrong. That I wasn’t bringing it back up to shame her, but defining a pattern. Recognizing a bad pattern and addressing it was the way to move forward and relieve the pain tape. Changing my pain to my empathy and focusing on what she was feeling was relief. I couldn’t get it from her, but I could get it from me.

Processing a thunderstorm takes a lot out of me, so that’s how I know it’s all in my head and also serious as a heart attack, because psychobiology tells me it’s true. But thinking about what she must have been going through brings me peace because it’s not offensive to think those things without her, when it hurt her to hear them and respond as if I was actively trying to hurt her instead of trying to change my own reactions to her. It was essential to resolving my feeling wanted and needed, because it made me emote in a way that made me feel equally hurt. Getting my needs addressed didn’t come across to me as actively trying to hurt her. It was solving the problem of being close in the future without knowing if there was a future or not. No matter what, we are part of each other’s brains because there’s nothing that will ever stop it. But there’s no building anything, either, when we constantly hurt each other because one wants to get closer and the other doesn’t set boundaries at all.

When she did, finally, it hurt too much to hear. It was never going to change. I could spill my guts any time I wanted, but if I hit a nerve, she was always going to keep it to herself unless it made her angry enough to explode. To have more negative reinforcement than positive was too much, because I then felt like I was intruding on her life rather than adding to it. It wasn’t that she didn’t want the relationship at all. It was that we didn’t want the same things. She was making clear what hadn’t been before, and it was devastating to an enormous degree because I’d put in so much work to rectify past mistakes so that she could trust me, and it felt like those letters were trying to prove my trustworthiness and being taken as attacks…. And that’s what made nothing move forward. I tried different ways to address a problem and none of them would work. I was lecturing her, not inviting her into my world. And it wasn’t that I couldn’t move on, either. It was that when a huge callback came up, she would take it as rejection and not trying to get closer, or not wanting it and not willing to be able to say it until now. It had to be one or the other, because in order to feel impressive, I needed to know why. Which changes have impressed you, because you only seem angry with me when you write? Why does a sitrep make you feel horrible instead of you lumping all my emails together as if they all say the same thing?

In my head, I thought she was a miracle, and she thought I was annoying. I am usually impressed by being the most annoying person people know, but she was my safe space, my lock box. It makes me feel so much light and love to feel needed in the same way, and my heart couldn’t take all the changes I’d made in negative ways, and it took a long time to understand that my illness had gotten out of hand and I needed to give myself a break because I’d done everything I possibly could to make sure I was consistent in my behavior so that our connection was as rock solid as ever, that scar tissue was stronger than new. She was safe from me. She’d have to know how long the stereotype of the aggressive lesbian has existed to know how deeply I’d shamed myself into believing I was a worthless piece of shit. How deeply it cut into me when she thought I was being overbearing when I was making light of something that had happened eons ago. The fact that she wasn’t there yet destroyed me. If she couldn’t laugh about it, she was holding onto pain and just not addressing it.

To give her an opening to do so was wrong and didn’t change anything. I just reinforced the idea that I wasn’t safe, when humor is how I move on. Therefore, when a clapback triggers something major, she can’t hear it with empathy, it’s a threat. Something I meant to be innocuous triggers abandonment feelings because I know that straight girls have been taught that homosexuality is wrong, or they just feel it. To tap into those feelings is not the same as a guy saying those things, because it makes them wonder what it is about them that gives off those vibes when there’s nothing in that thought process at all. When you love someone and start to feel those butterfly feelings, does it matter what their sexual orientation might be if yours is bisexual and theirs isn’t? There’s nothing about them that gives off a “vibe.” I’m not looking for feelers, because there are none. There is only direct communication and the deeply ingrained cultural acceptance of queer feelings being somehow wrong.

So, to be intrusive of that cultural norm is a bad thing, and I am separating out what happened before I got sick. Why do straight people automatically reject the fact that even if they can’t return those feelings and it’s okay, we’ll get over it, the thought is somehow offensive, as if we should have been able to tell you weren’t bisexual at first glance? That it is somehow in and of itself offensive?

I was never concerned about her reaction, because I knew it was a dead end, that these feelings were my responsibility to get rid of and they didn’t resolve until I absolutely spiraled out after isolating her because the pain of rejection was causing all kinds of hell, especially since I’d pushed buttons that were out of bounds in my haste to make her angry enough to reject me altogether, because I needed time. I would have gotten all the time in the world if I hadn’t picked myself up and apologized, but because nothing about our relationship was solid except for checking in once in a while, I floundered. No one loves you like someone who has wanted you and taken the time to get over it so that particular rejection doesn’t cause pain. Then, to have it resolved and to want to welcome someone into your life so badly and to have that deep love rejected is a unique torture, which you bring on yourself if you feel as deeply as I do about things.

Lesbians move on in this particular way easier than most, making an ex a part of their family because they trust people who have felt that deeply about them. Straight girls don’t, and I’m sure that’s because there’s a whole litany of tapes that run inside them when it happens. It irrevocably changes something, because it doesn’t feel like the natural order to them. It wigs them out, and why that is a thing is blatant.

What bothers me about this is that straight women have no problem telling each other that they love them to that degree, and say that they’d marry them. No, they won’t. Why? Are lesbians treated differently in this country or something? It’s fine to say it when it could never happen. Joking is fine, real is not.

Pushing is not fine, either, but that’s a separate issue and built on the fact that mental illness sucks. I have to believe that entitled behavior always comes from mental illness, because to make that level of a bad decision takes dedication.

To say that you’ll never do it again is empty, always…. Even if you take the appropriate steps psychiatrically and psychologically to prove it. She was very impressed and afraid at a fundamental level, and I couldn’t resolve that issue for her, I could only talk about it and see if it did any good.

I got exactly what I needed in every way but one, and that one overshadowed everything else, because it wasn’t being received as color commentary. It wasn’t received as letting her into my thought process. It was trying to inflict pain, and being seen like that wore me down over time. Feeling this deeply about someone when they couldn’t or wouldn’t speak in my love language when I realized I needed to make major changes in my life and keep them consistent in order to keep our relationship strong made me feel terrible. Believe me, I was fired for cause, but I couldn’t make things better for me, either. I could only make things better for her, which I was glad to do in any way that I could. But not hearing about her life made me feel unworthy, and it cost me a lot. Then, when she finally did open up, I thought we were set. It was just unfortunate that she hit a trigger. It was not her fault that she hit it. It was her response being irate and asking me not to put something on her, when I wasn’t. I explained what happened and she threatened not to communicate with me ever again, when she’d dismissed a basic need. I was trying to express my own fear, and it came across as irritating her for the fun of it. I’m sorry, what?

It was then that I thought we were done, because I thought it should have been enough to end us. But she and Daniel had so much in common that I really thought they needed to meet each other, because they would have been friends whether I was involved or not. They could have leaned on each other in a different way than they could have leaned on me. I bargained with myself that it was worth going through pain if I could make this connection, so I did.

Here was what I think was the fatal mistake. She told me that she would have to respond to my other e-mails at some point, so I asked her about it a month later, figuring that was enough time to get back to me and I was really interested in what she had to say. She didn’t know what I was talking about, and explaining it didn’t ring a bell. Knowing I was that low a priority was necessary. I needed to be on the bottom rung, being supportive and waiting for a response. But over time it wore me down because I felt unworthy of being a higher priority.

Therefore, it cannot be said that any of this is her fault. It’s my reaction, because she was right to do everything she did, and so was I.

But one recent moment that sticks with me is asking her to take a contact photo of herself for my phone… “it’s just to match a name to a face, don’t make it weird.” She legit just turned the camera around and hit the button, and it was one of the most gorgeous photographs I’ve ever seen in my life. This is because her eyes were focused on the lens, which made them come across as deeply intimate in a beautiful way, like she was staring into me, and it is just for me. She knew she was looking at me, and she saw me in return.

It’s a beauty that would undo anyone, and it’s not even close to what goes on behind those eyes. She is truly a world class brain, and here’s the biggest thing of all. She made me believe I have her smarts, too, when I actually use them. Her belief made me stronger, and made me love who I am. She continues to believe that, and I want it so much because it makes me like who I am when I’m with her. But feeling the pain underneath is a rough gig, because I couldn’t forgive myself. I’d be reminded of something bad, and chastised when I talked about it in hopes of letting it go. I let the joy multiply, it’s just that pain compounded faster. I was paying so much interest I couldn’t attack the principle.

That’s all on me, but what became clear is that resolving my own feelings had to come from me if we weren’t working on it together. I was in too much pain from feeling like I was a problem that needed to be solved. I couldn’t rectify not being able to build from a foundation that was once rock and had disintegrated at my own hand. As in, I wanted to move forward together, and didn’t want to do it alone until I had no choice.

Surely everyone is familiar with the pain of it all? That you’ve done something that can’t be truly forgiven because neither party is willing to communicate because one wants something more and one wants something less and both are afraid? The feeling of not wanting to rock the boat and hurting inside? Wanting to feed relationships so that they develop roots and brilliant flowers? The disappointment of knowing it can’t be done. Choosing whether the eventual buildup causes redemption or rejection, knowing that rejection will win when communication isn’t clear?

If we’d set up new boundaries where we were comfortable so that I didn’t build up a hope that should never have grown, I would have been fine. Asking for clarification took eight years. She danced around the subject because she knew I wanted more than she could give, and felt guilty about the pain it caused me because she didn’t want to tell me about hers and never would.

When she opened up about her family, I was thrilled. I don’t think I made it where it was clear that I was both overjoyed and felt left out at the same time. I was thrilled to hear that the relationship had been successful, loved the idea that she’d found a life mate, and announced it to all her friends except me. What does a lockbox friend want to hear except the things that make you love more? It meant I felt the pain of being excluded for so many years while also feeling the joy of being included now, wanting to build on it and not knowing if I should. If I tried and it failed, I’d be opening myself up to more rejection and pain. I did, and it did. Nothing went the way I wanted, and everything sounded better in my head, because her perceptions were so far off from my intentions. It caused a lot of anger that went unresolved, because what friend likes to hear on a consistent basis that someone feels like I need to attack them instead of “will you work on something with me?” Again, I think she is the most beautiful human known to God and man, and I am nowhere near alone in this opinion. The fact that she felt rejected by my words and they made her respond more than the accolades I gave her made my self esteem plummet. I was trying to speak for myself without speaking for her. She thought I was creating the narrative that I was a victim, when I didn’t think that at all. I was trying to get her to speak to what was bothering her by laying out my fears, hopes, and dreams first. Being strong by asking instead of telling.

To think that I was not thinking of her feelings is untrue. It wasn’t my job to write about her as if I already knew what she was thinking. It was telling her what her words did to me on an emotional level and needed to hear her reaction. When it began to always be pain, that I was goading and provoking her, I knew we were never going to see eye to eye on this, so we couldn’t give each other what they needed. There was something bigger than me at work. I was trying to build something strong and comfortable for the future, where the idea of having a conversation in person didn’t seem weird. When she said she’d think about it, I began to write in that way. I don’t know whether I wasn’t a priority because the prospect felt scary or because she literally didn’t want a future even when I talked about a time in our lives where she didn’t have as many commitments. It would have solidified in my mind that there was going to be change later on, even if there couldn’t be right now. She finally said enough to convince me that I was too much of a burden for her to spend any more time, and suggested she’d only been nice to me because I’m a writer.

There were a couple of other things that made her think that I was trying to hurt her, none of them true and scared the hell out of me. But none of that stopped the hope that we’d resolve our mutual issues with each other because she’d said she’d think about it and I couldn’t press. There was nothing to calm the fear we had in each other, even when I was vulnerable first. We both lead from the back, and I wanted to show her that I wasn’t willing to do anything for her that she didn’t do the way she’d saved me first. She just didn’t trust it. Didn’t mean I didn’t understand why and felt like a victim. I wanted our behavior patterns to change because this was costing me so much energy without being refilled because we were focused on different ways of being there for each other. My pain was all my bag, but hearing hers would have lifted it. I wasn’t trying to make her feel anything, I was curious as to how she felt and didn’t want to speak for her except in explaining how her behavior came across to me and wanting to know the reasoning behind it because it was so uncomfortable to be in the dark all the time.

I am sure the intensity of all my feelings came across as gigantic, and pushed her away to an enormous degree. Trying to prove that though they were large, they were all pointed in the right direction was futile, because she couldn’t just let me be me anymore. She was exhausted by it, and I was exhausted at her always thinking I was trying to attack her and trying to find different ways to resolve things so that she could hear just how much she meant to me without it seeming somehow manipulative or offensive when neither of those things were in any way true. I feel the same way about Bryn, and it makes us able to talk about anything and everything. She accepts all that gigantic love and returns it in a way that feels consistently loving to both of us, because neither of us feel like one is feeling deeper than the other.

We both feel deeply in every quadrant of emotion on the z axis, and don’t deny each other access, because being able to process is important to both of us. Neither of us see the other feeling something about a thing is an attack. It’s telling each other the story we’re telling ourselves and checking to make sure it’s true. Neither of us are a victim of anything because we’d never phrase anything in the form of “you made me” because we can’t. No one makes you do anything, you can only describe your own feelings and hope someone responds in a way that enlightens your assumptions rather than them feeling rejected. My uncertainty about the future led me to react quickly, because I never knew when something I said was offensive or not because she lumped everything together in one unit and said everything was negative.

I knew that wasn’t true, because she respected my opinion and would yield to it in the beginning. She’d talk about my perception and tell her story. To have something that vital and ephemeral was painful in a way that I’d never experienced. It was her right to withdraw, certainly, but also my decision on how long to be wrecked by it. How long to hope someday was real. To crave consistency and not be able to put it into language where it was heard in the manner it was meant to be received, which was not able to be changed because there was nothing to put us in the proper context, the only think able to break patterns. To meet might have made us repel each other for a while to let the cognitive dissonance set in, because the difference in writing voice and speaking would create sensory overload on both sides.

Maybe meeting in person would have been the end of us, anyway, because we both would have realized quickly that nothing could be fixed. But what I was aiming for was trying to make it comfortable enough to do that so it wouldn’t seem like a big deal because it wouldn’t seem out of left field.

Writing about it is helping me stop the rumination that comes with being so close and yet so far. I never could tell what I was saying that came across as an attack, just that there had been one. Therefore, I couldn’t stop “attacking her.” Being blind isn’t my fault. But I get to decide how long I’m willing to put up with not being received with positivity.

I felt like I had to ask her permission to go, because I needed to know whether I was valuable to her as an asset and not a liability…….. and deal with it on my own if I wasn’t because the not knowing was just as painful as letting all of that hope float and bursting it later, once it had grown. “We were just an empty dream too big for hope alone to fill.”

She did teach me a lot which I couldn’t have learned any other way. I am in no way mistaking the part for the whole. She made me glow from the inside at such a rapid pace. I can’t thank her enough, which makes my negative feelings all the more painful. I wish in a lot of ways that I could have relaxed and enjoyed not knowing, just going with the flow. But the problem was that I couldn’t, for a million different reasons.

Mostly that I didn’t like who I was when I was with her anymore, because receiving the impression that I was always trying to attack her made me feel terrible. I am not that person, and don’t want to be. I want both of us to work on the issue so that the other doesn’t feel like they’re being emotionally vampired. I want them to tell me when I have a good point and when my perception is off. I also want you to believe me when I tell you how your communication is making me feel. I pop off in anger because my trauma reflexes work fast when I should have thought more before I said something. This generally comes from being exhausted at being misunderstood for such a long time that first I’m talking about what I’m feeling and over time, my fuse at not being heard gets shorter….. it just takes a very, very long time….. or it used to. I’m trying to be better about communicating what I need, but if I’m not hearing your story because you refuse to tell it, I am not calculating my responses on it. I am telling you the feelings of rejection it has created for you to leave me out of your story.

I thought she needed me to be a part of her support system, which is why I worked too hard on trying to get this relationship to thrive and miserable when I couldn’t do it. I could feel around for her anger, and see how she responded to my feelings. Whether we were building something or tearing it down.

It all depends on your view. After ten years, it was causing headaches indirectly because rumination sets up physically when your energy turns toward it. It feels like weight you can’t get rid of, so you either have to fish or cut bait.

She made it clear that she was ready, and I made it clear that if she went, she couldn’t do things like thank me for something I’d written because it only jump started my heart in her direction, but in all the ways she would want when she was convinced that I was trying to hurt her. That’s why I was so firm on the fact that if she was going to show up next time, it had to be big. To acknowledge that I wasn’t a victim for opening up, that we were equally bruised by each other in different ways, and if our relationship were to get better, we needed to stop being so short with each other. Meeting physically wasn’t even on the table, only being vulnerable. I just became convinced over time that the only way to cure us from wrecking our friendship if she did drop in was to change all the perceptions we had of each other that weren’t true.

To think about how we would have been different and do it.

My work to do is to put down my trauma reflexes, because it makes me write differently than I would handle something in person and generally my impatient or fearful messages don’t come from anything but feeling uncertain. Knowing that communication is hard work, and I have to forgive myself when I fail and accept the consequences of my actions with everyone.

Being angry with people when I feel abandoned is valid, but the words I use to express it are too much, especially when I type faster than I think and rage is building with no way to control it because ADHD, anxiety, and depression.

To have no patience for it is the other person’s right and they shouldn’t be expected to stick around no matter what I say, because words have weight. I pay those taxes all day, every day. I also have the right to step back and post mortem a situation, because reading my thoughts here often fixes the problem of what to do next on both our parts. Sometimes, it lets people in closer. Sometimes, they feel rejected whether I wanted them to feel that or not, because people only understand others’ words and actions to the level they understand themselves.

I can only express my needs, and if it is too much to ask of someone, I am generally patient and loving until it’s been so long that my resentment is building. She thought I was trying to get her attention, and that part is true….. but never in the ways that she thought I was trying to get it. When I was being really thoughtful and vulnerable, I wanted her to think about what I said. That’s the kind of attention that I wanted, that she’d seen the full picture and wasn’t focusing on what she thought was negative, because my intention was never to hurt her. I couldn’t afford to lose her until I was very, very unhappy. Being known for all these negative things instead of all the things I said to build her up made me think of myself that way.

Those headaches were the worst.

Mother’s Day 2023

I just gave up.

I gave up on the idea that Mother’s Day isn’t hard now. It’s something that can’t be explained to someone who hasn’t lost their mother, because they don’t see all the manipulation that goes into marketing until after they don’t have to buy a gift.

Your mother’s death changes you in ways you won’t be able to understand until she’s been dead at least a few years. You can’t process that kind of loss overnight, nor really in your lifetime. You don’t release that kind childlike, animalistic grief. You learn to live around it. When your mother dies, you will see memories and feel emotions you haven’t felt since the events occurred. Sometimes, you will actually be seven at the time of her death. Sometimes, you’ll be an adult and feel seven and 13 and 45 all at the same time. This is because just like with machines, the computer in your brain is working on many cores and threads, and you’re experiencing the pain of several things at once from different areas of your life. You may not even realize that you’re doing it, but my example is blanking out.

When grief gets hard, my mind separates from my body. My thoughts are pictures, and I get lost quickly. When I come up for air, I have no idea how much time has passed. In the first three months, it could be a minute or five or ten, with no way of predicting how long the blank out would last. Just because my body has gone slack doesn’t mean my brain isn’t trying to protect me. Isn’t trying to see the path I was going down here and think, “well, we gotta shut this down.” When it’s not that bad, I see memories. When it is, the picture is akin to snow on TV. It depends on whether my brain’s mode of operation is through the problem or it’s too big an idea not to really hurt, so let’s just shut down that whole thing. I lag as easily as an old gaming rig with shitty wireless. Bringing the network back up takes time.

Where this is most acute is the time I didn’t get. My relationship with my mother went up and down like a roller coaster, based on the limitation of not growing up with queer people and then winning the home version. Her dreams for me were slashed, because she focused on all my limitations instead of my strengths in order to make sure I didn’t seem all that weird to parishioners and friends. I am not sure it ever really stopped bothering her that I was so different. She grieved for the tape in her head that was planning my wedding (think of the time). You don’t let go of that kind of fundamental loss, You learn to live around it.

The tape in my head that’s been running since I came out, so 31 years, is that my mother thinks I’m defective. I couldn’t help but believe she wanted a refund. My dad at least had gay students around him in grad school, so at least he’d met a gay person before I was born. If my mother had, she never said so.

Thus began the most unhealthy relationship of my life. I looked around for every queer person I could find. Either they were rumored to be queer or they looked like it based on pictures/videos I’d seen of their styles and mannerisms. I noticed butch women and effeminate men and wanted to run toward them, like a black kid raised by a white family and just as intense. I wish my mom had been like the white mom who looked around with their black child to ask them how to care for black hair.

My mother simply resigned herself to the fact that she had to look like the PFLAG type, but she didn’t have to be happy about it. She came to a gala where I was receiving an award for being part of the team at HATCH (Houston Area Teen Coalition of Homosexuals) that went out to local churches and spoke about our experiences. She was dating a Republican, and focused on Sheila Jackson Lee the whole time, because said Republican had told her there wasn’t a more dangerous place in Washington than between her and a TV camera.

I thought his joke was hilarious. The fact that my mother didn’t even seem to be proud of me? Not so much. I think that’s because one of my talks was at a church where she was employed. Again it was the message of “you will not do anything to embarrass this family.” Now it was her job, not my dad’s….. skipping over the fact that the church had invited HATCH in the first place, so why worry? I was a preacher’s kid. Like I don’t know how to work that particular crowd. Jesus had my back that day, and it made me happy that people were actually curious and not judgmental. One woman even asked me if it was true that gaydar was real. You could just tell. That was interesting because I knew what she was asking was if people could tell that about her. It wasn’t necessarily because she was queer (thought it could have been true). It could have been because she didn’t want people to think she was gay. Back then, that was not a good thing. We’re not talking about legislatively. We’re talking about violence on the street. It was perfectly acceptable to bash the unacceptable in the head.

Everyone focuses on the day that Harvey Milk was shot, when they should have been focused on “The Twinkie Defense.” There should have been some language of the unheard about that. Dan White, Harvey Milk’s executioner, told the jury that his homophobic behavior was created by his diet of junk food, and he was acquitted. He was Derek Chauvin before Derek Chauvin. No one also seemed to notice that Harvey Milk wasn’t the only one killed. So, that defense was used for a straight person as well, and would have been bullshit if the trial wasn’t for both of them. You cannot tell me that would have worked had the Mayor of San Francisco been the only one shot…. that he’d been driven to murder by junk food.

What would it have been like if my mother had gone with me through the problem rather than shutting down and asking me to pretend I wasn’t all that different from her? I could be gay as long as it never came up. The subject was off the table. Dana told me that my mother never looked her in the eye, and I don’t know whether that was hyperbole or not, because surely it couldn’t be true. I asked my mom about it, and she said she wasn’t aware of it and would make an effort. That was the beginning of redemption and resurrection.

It didn’t stop the jealousy of families that had two gay kids, because at least the siblings had each other. My sister is wonderfully and beautifully made and I am not saying that my life would have been better if she’d been born like me. No, I’m talking about in the randomization that happens before you are born. The story before you came into it. It hurt that there was no one hurting just like me. They were all hurting differently.

The mask I wore as a preacher’s kid was the mask I wore for the rest of my mother’s life…. most of the time. I let her in a little more when we were living in the same city, but mostly we chatted for hours on the phone about nothing. It was good because we’d stick to teaching, music, and diet soda. We had a ton of fun, but it wasn’t all rainbows.

Ironically.

The pain of superficial interaction vs. the fun my mother had together will be a recurring theme, because her different moods come at different times. She was a saint in my eyes, because of the way she took care of other people. What I cannot say is that I can rest in how she felt about me.

This is because her friends have told me how proud they are of me, how she never let anyone get away with homophobic comments, how she was so proud of me and loved me to bits. I am quite sure all of that is true. I wore the mask, so did she.

What she didn’t do was ask me about my life, because it would mean telling her about women who she also thought should get with the program. “Don’t embarrass” me was the whole show. She was horrified by Meagan, but she never would have said so. It wasn’t because she didn’t like her. It was because now me being gay was a thing she had to deal wth up close and personal. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Meagan’s mother was convinced that Meag had been perfectly straight until I came along. So, they should have talked to each other. I also never got to tell her that her daughter pursued me, not the other way around. There is no way I got a toaster on that one. If I’d been in any way bold enough to stand up for myself, I would have said “you’re going to have to look up ‘butch’ in the dictionary. Have a Coke and a smile and shut the fuck up.” I would have been grounded for months, but it wouldn’t have been untrue. Hanging out with a gay person doesn’t make you gay any more than hanging out with Indians makes you Indian.

It’s a concept my mother never really got, either. She thought my relationship with this older woman had set me on a bad path. She did, but not for the reasons she thought early on. She all at once read me the riot act for being gay and got tired of raising a lesbian daughter, so let someone else do it.

From my perspective, I came out to myself when I was about 10. It led to a massive depression that my mother attributed to me being lazy and telling me I couldn’t sleep all day. I was a ten year old, not a teenager. It wasn’t teenage angst. It wouldn’t have gone unnoticed today.

I didn’t meet the emotionally abusive adult until I was almost 13. That’s a lot of time to sit in my bedroom and wonder what in the hell was wrong with me, because no one else was going through it in my circle of friends. Still aren’t, as far as I know. As in, some have gay/trans relatives, but no one had struggled or is struggling with their own sexuality from my elementary and junior high school circle of friends.

I mentioned this to Daniel, and he thought I was picking on him for not standing up for me. I was not. I was telling him the reality of what happened, and how I might get along with his friends, or I might not…. and that was my concern, not his.

But, to get back to being almost 13, I wasn’t interesting as a love interest, but I was the picture of a mark. Rejected from everything I knew. Getting bullied for legit no reason except Baptists gonna Baptist. It was relentless, and for all the emotional turmoil that this relationship brought me, it was a haven as well. She could have gotten fired for people knowing at her school. Her trauma wasn’t over yet, either.

My trauma was that Houston was pretty accepting, but the further you went from it, the worse it got. That’s where I learned code switching. Being able to talk to a room of people who were horrified by me and saving my hurt for later.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking that something is wrong with me. Fundamentally wrong. Internalized homophobia is strong with this one. At the same time, there is actually something wrong with me and it’s frustrating to an enormous degree…. both mentally and physically. I often don’t have enough spoons to donate energy to other people, and that’s when I really isolate, because I feel like I have nothing to contribute to the conversation.

The fact that all of this started at ten years old is frightening.

I don’t want to be the person that spreads the message that Mother’s Day is bad. Just that it’s not easy for everyone, and those people deserve comfort, too.

Home

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want “home” to look like, because where I live now is literally it. I live in a huge house in a great neighborhood and I’ve been here long enough that I know all my neighbors and the family I rent from actually likes me (most of the time). Giving that up is a hell of a lot, and this room isn’t big enough to rent to a couple, nor do I want to add another person to this house at all.

I waffle between living in the middle of nowhere and over a bar in the city, but that’s not the important part. I need to think about how I function, because the common denominator in every relationship is me. Just because my beautiful girl paints the picture that I acted like a victim doesn’t mean it’s true. It means that she heard my story and I wanted her to write her own. In my story, I’m the protagonist. In your story, you are. I don’t get the story where you’re the protagonist unless you put it in my hands. That does not mean that I do not have speculations about my own behavior. I am harder on myself than I am on anyone else, so to actually hurt someone to the point it was painful to even talk about rebuilding was my worst nightmare. I mean, I talked plenty, but I never knew what she thought, felt, or wanted. Then I realized it was probably nothing. That she put up with me because she had to, in some sense. If that was wrong, it was her job to tell me I was wrong. She didn’t, so I don’t think I was.

Even the thoughts she had about me were none of my business, and that’s kind of where I draw the line.

I am not in the business of reading minds and trying to anticipate needs, because I have been a people pleaser my whole life. All of it built up so that I could not do it anymore. I would become a shell of a person if two of my friends needed different things and I could not do both at one time. This is because I am devoted to my friends, and disappointing anyone ruins my day to an absurd level. I now have two modes…. Going completely silent in a conversation so that I am making sure to take in everything you say…. And hiding from everyone because I do not want to tell you what my needs are and for them to be ignored. If I don’t have relationships, no one can be disappointed or hurt.

That’s just no way to live life, to stop interacting because you’re afraid. You cover up that fear in all sorts of ways, from isolating to covering it up with the mask you wear in public.

I don’t want to be moving mountains when you’re not even really sure you want to see me again.

I am really in a bad way because the relationship with my beautiful girl was so off it was crazy, and I went a very long time without even addressing it. When I did, I was putting out nastiness. Every flaw was mine because I wasn’t trying to shed light on something dark. I was trying to guilt her, hurt her, provoke her, whatever choice words she had for me that day. So problems would continue to fester and I’d suffer the weight of it because I’m the one who thought about it more.

It was just tiresome because I thought, “why do you think I’m trying to guilt you? I’m the one who hurt you. Even though we have problems, that doesn’t mean they’re all your fault and you’re a terrible person who can never do enough for me.” I just didn’t talk about her side of it because I wanted her to do it- to tell me her feelings so that both of us could write to each other without any of that crap. But the longer it went unresolved, the longer I was treated to “I’m not enough.” I had to break contact not because she actually wasn’t enough. Because she wouldn’t do the work to get through the dark part of the tunnel. She didn’t think that resolving anything was worth it, and that superficial was great. It just wasn’t what I signed up for, and would have been wonderful had we either always been that to each other or worked though enough that I was comfortable doing so…. Because the message I received so frequently was that I was just stirring up shit for no reason at all.

That’s because she didn’t have a problem. I did.

We told each other things that both changed and enriched our lives, and it would have been nice to have that be a lifelong gig. But our approach to conflict was completely different. I’d lay out thoughts and feelings, she’d respond with annoyance or anger. I’d respond in the same tone, and what I originally intended to be a heart to heart conversation where we both walked away feeling better turned into the biggest fights known to god and man. We’re both writers. We fucking play for keeps.

It was too much. I couldn’t handle the thought that I was hurting her, and I couldn’t find a way to write that wouldn’t. Instead of addressing our real issues, she’d pick me apart and push me away.

I got tired of this pattern always repeating instead of just having the damn conversation so we can move on. There was no moving on. There was constantly irritating each other because we weren’t really talking.

Things got dramatically better, then dramatically worse. When we hit the maybe, sixth time when I’d been accused of blowing up everything, I was done. Seriously, what does it even mean to blow up a relationship when it seems like only one of us is participating at all?

The biggest break to me was not telling me that the guy she was dating when we met that wasn’t serious was now her husband, because I felt like that was a very, very basic piece of information. It’s not a relationship when I don’t know the first thing about you anymore.

She quiet quit.

I was loud. I wouldn’t have been bent out of shape if she’d just told me she didn’t want that level of friendship anymore, that I’d been relegated. Then, I wouldn’t have put as much energy into writing to her at all. I’m not trying to communicate with anyone who doesn’t want to hear it. I lost all my remaining hope and confidence when she said that she wanted to throw all my e-mails away. Whether she meant it in the moment or it is still true, it felt like being put out with the trash.

What gift do I possibly have that would be worth anything but my words?

It just didn’t feel like home anymore.

I don’t want to fight against the tide. I don’t want to be foolish enough to think I can change anything. I don’t even want to emote. I’d rather get through grief on my own, because it’s a hell of a lot better than being told I’m just putting out nastiness. I don’t want to send you a letter telling you how I’m hurt, and for you to ignore it and say it’s all crap, it’s all designed to provoke you. It’s not provoking you, it’s getting my needs met, too.

I started realizing that nothing mattered. I’d never be able to regain lost trust capital, I’d never be able to relieve her guilt (still, about what?), I’d never be enough. I’d always be too much. It’s a lot, to be thought of as too much.

I wasn’t too much in the beginning, and no one told me what changed. I had to guess.

And what I guessed is that I was in too deep to ever be the kind where we just send a hello every once in a while. I wanted to be hers. Not in every way possible. Just that person you go to when you can’t go to anyone else. I knew that on some level, she’d never agree to that. I’d broken her trust in a major way.

I still hoped I was redeemable, though. I wasn’t. I was lost somewhere in the Dagoba system of my mind.

This is because for all the wonderful conversations we’ve had over the past few years, nothing has been more than orange juice glass deep. This is not because both of us don’t feel deeply. She felt how she felt without me. I feel lost now, and yet somehow found. I saw that something needed to change or I would continue to hide from everyone, thinking I was too much.

I didn’t want to read her mind. I wanted to read her words.

It felt like home.

No Stairway (to Kevin)

I am really bummed out. The National Zoo does not have giraffes anymore. Therefore, wherever Kevin the giraffe may be, it’s not DC. I didn’t stay very long- that’s the nice thing about Smithsonians. You don’t need to spend all day there to get your money’s worth. The cutest thing I saw was a sloth bear, because he was just trying so hard to make it up a staircase and the staircase just seemed angry. The snake was just funny…. slithering on the main trail like it was a lost tourist…. similar to the other crowd around me. This is the last Friday of school, and it seems like every kid in the nation bumped into me today.

I just love the neighborhood, though. It would be amazing to live on the main drag, Connecticut between Adams Morgan and Cleveland Park. Those houses are as small as condos and about four million dollars, and yet, it’s cool to think about living in the middle of the city…. until I’ve been there all day. I’m so glad I live in Silver Spring.

That sloth bear is actual footage of me walking around DC.

Observations

Zac’s office is just big enough for the two of us. He’s working at home after working at work. I’m sitting behind him on a futon with Oliver, the dog, at my feet. The plan is to go out for Korean fried chicken, because I’d seen it on YouTube and Zac remembers stuff. Dooce’s death is rattling in my head, and I needed to be with other people. It wasn’t planned this way. It just is. The randomness of needing Zac close and already having had something planned weeks in advance is the silver lining on this cloud. I don’t have to grieve by myself if I don’t want to, and I also don’t have to talk about it at all. He’s just here in all his redheaded brilliance for whatever it is that I need.

I love these simple moments, where we can be in companionable silence. All I hear is the rhythm of two people typing, and it’s better than a white noise album. It reminds me of other times I’ve been in grief. I didn’t need anyone to say anything. I just needed another presence in the room.

If I had to pick one thing that I miss about being married, it’s being able to have someone around all the time. I don’t care what we’re doing. Just having that person you can be quiet with is enough. I just get caught up on the idea of someone living with me again. I have to think long and hard about what I want my life to look like, because most of my friends are extroverts because I realize that someone needs to drag me out of the house.

I find that most of the time, I am my own best company because I’m internally driven to write. I am irritating as fuck to live with sometimes, because I’m a lot. A lot. I sometimes feel like I’m protecting people from me, because my relationships have gone two ways. If I’m with someone neurotypical, they don’t understand. Living with someone who doesn’t get it is bad.

Living with someone who does is worse. If you both have mental health issues, it’s a lot to be a partner. You have to work so much harder to keep yourselves strong so you don’t get your crazy spatter on each other. Living with someone who does have mental health issues but can’t be arsed to go to the doctor is the worst kind of punishment. The fights hurt so much more because there’s too little serotonin in the room. You descend into each other’s madness, but can rarely see outside the situation.

Deciding to be with someone who also deals with mental disorders and/or alcoholism vs. someone who’s never struggled with depression at all is a huge decision. I have had neurotypical people reject me because I’m too much within weeks. I have a cavernous inner landscape, and asking someone to share it with me is frightening. Neurotypical people resent the hell out of the neurodivergent because they have no frame of reference for our moods and behaviors…. and even then, they’re human. If we are irritated with our own illnesses, God help the person who tries to help us. Our brains are trying to tell us that we’re too much for everyone. That no one needs us because we’re too much. It’s depression’s main playbook, and it works too much of the time.

It’s hard not having that person who comes with me to doctor’s appointments so we can debrief what new meds might do, etc. Having my partner actually present to hear what the doctor says is important to me, because repetition is essential to retaining information. The other person also might remember something I missed. Being responsible or my own health is exhausting, I don’t need someone to fix me, I need someone to empathize with me, or sympathize as the case may be.

Giving someone that power is equally dubious in my mind. I trusted Daniel because he was the military equivalent of an NP. I didn’t want to put all my stuff on someone who couldn’t attribute behaviors to my personality when they were my disease, and be able to know the difference.

It is my job to keep myself strong, I just miss support in doing so…. the equivalent of getting a lollipop after a shot or a kiss on a bruised knee.

What I don’t want is for someone to jump into a relationship with me so fast that they don’t have time to take in the whole picture. This has been problematic because I am also trying to meet other people, and they seem to be so bent out of shape that I’m dating someone else, as if we should be married on the first date. It doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of monogamy or commitment. They just don’t know me well enough to have that discussion after one conversation. Zac is one of my best friends. Why would I tell him I didn’t want to date anymore because I’ve known someone new for five minutes and she already expects for there to be no one else? It just seems crazy to me on both sides. I can’t count on emotional support from people I don’t know well. I also don’t lie or play games. I will tell you the truth, whether you like it or not. You cannot imagine how long I was alone, blaming myself for anything and everything I possibly could. Denying myself a full spectrum of emotions because I’d caused emotional devastation in my wake when I was sick.

I also don’t give myself any slack when it comes to being sick. Just because I’m sick doesn’t mean your reactions don’t matter. What matters is whether we can adapt to each other’s quirks, or whether they are so incompatible that it creates more problems than it solves.

I had to give up caring that I’d find my forever person, because that would take so long to build. I wanted something manageable, to be able to date someone that wouldn’t put restrictions on what I could and couldn’t do because we aren’t building a future together and compromising all the time. I just get to sit here and watch him be cute.

But while I’m sitting here watching, I’m not thinking about defining anything but this moment. If there is a future being built here, it’s having a friend that accepts me for who I am, and wants to be in my life at whatever level works best for both of us.

Now Oliver is snoring and kicking his feet, and I am subconsciously competing with Zac to see who types faster. Every minute, someone else is winning. I love that, because the sound of someone playing a mechanical keyboard is one of the most beautiful sounds on earth when they’re good at it.


As soon as I finished that paragraph, Zac was finished working and we headed out to the park behind his house with Oliver. If I lived in the ‘burbs of Virginia, I think I would get isolated over time, but there is nothing like having hiking trails very near your backyard. Zac has also promised me a trip to Great Falls, because I was lamenting how much I missed driving out The Gorge. Some of my favorite memories are hiking alone and with friends. Hiking alone is a totally different pace, because I’m me and need to take pictures every 50 feet. With Zac and Oliver, I hang all right, but we move faster.

I’m actually writing this from the Woodley Park-Zoo area Starbucks because hiking last night reminded me that the zoo is the best place to work for me, because the animals are the perfect background noise. What I did not take into account is that it is really, really hot right now. So I stopped in for a second cup of coffee and the ability to write in the air conditioning.

I’m having a grande cafe misto (cafe au lait) with an extra shot and four Splenda. Sometimes that’s called a red eye or a wizard jump. It’s my favorite thing on earth because it’s not candy. There’s real coffee in there somewhere. In fact, it was funny. I got off the metro and looked around for the gayest twink I could find because if there was a good coffee shop around, he’d know where it was. I said, “do you live in this neighborhood?” When he said yes, I said, “is there a good coffee shop around here…. or a Starbucks?” He laughed and gave me directions.

Starbucks is okay. The coffee tastes better with steamed milk and sweetener because it’s sort of bitter. I just prefer trying local brands, and rely on Starbucks when I flat need a cup of coffee and it’s getting serious. They’re everywhere…. and because I live so far away from some of my family and friends, the ones who know I like coffee make it possible to come here a lot, because digital Starbucks money is stupid easy to send for Christmas.

I also like my coffee ratio better than Starbucks, so if I have a large enough gift card, I’ll buy the beans I like by the bag instead of using it for multiple outings. Komodo Dragon and Caffe Verona are my favorite, because I like a coffee that can stand up to fat. They are big, bold roasts. I wish they didn’t have a flavor graveyard, because I wish that Indivisible and Morning Joe were still available.

I just love coffee shops in general because of the ’90s vibe. Starbuck’s has modernized, but plenty of shops are still retro. If you walk in and there’s some sort of lesbian music playing, you’re in the right place.

I don’t even have to define “lesbian music.” There’s a reason I didn’t listen to Indigo Girls in public for the longest because I thought to myself, “I look gay enough.”

But that relaxed vibe of a bar with drinks I’d rather have? Priceless. Yes, cocktails are delicious. But there’s an intimacy to drinking coffee and tea together. It’s the tiniest sacred ritual that exists. What is it about coffee and tea that makes us just as vulnerable as drinking beer or cocktails? Maybe it’s different for extroverts, but to me, drinking coffee together at one of those places that has mismatched couches and tables in an invitation for conversation to go deeper. It’s the feeling of the mug in your hand, the lighting of the early morning or late at night…. the acidity of the coffee and the sweetness of the milk… a type of communion that honors each other rather than a higher power.

I even feel that connection with the people who are sitting next to me, and they just got here.

In a bit, I’ll be leaving. I need to go and visit Kevin (what I call my favorite giraffe. I can’t be arsed to actually ask its name). We haven’t talked since last year. There are tables and benches that are very comfortable, vending machines so that you can get stuff even when the zoo is closed, and the comfort of feeling like the park itself is your own habitat/enclosure. You look around and see so much green…. and it’s an actual, working park because it doesn’t really close. People jog through all the time.

I can be focused and calm while also enjoying the outdoors. Kevin doesn’t mind if I work while we’re talking. He is also doing his own thing. When I need interaction and companionable silence, both Zac and Kevin are excellent choices.

Especially if I’ve had coffee.

Heather

Trigger Warning: Suicide

I am sitting in shock at my computer, too numb to do or say anything. Too far down to emote, I just need the time stamp on this entry.

Heather “Dooce” Armstrong just died by suicide.

I wouldn’t be who I am now if she hadn’t been her…. And yet, I am still her. I have to monitor my mood and behavior like a hawk. She took her eye off the ball, and her disease managed her. On a different day, it could have been any one of us who suffer under the weight of the mental health alphabet.

So I’m going to sit here and think about it. How mental health manages you in so many ways you can’t see. How tiny interactions add up.

How devastated Pete and the kids (and their dad) must be.

In time, I’ll have more to say. All I want now is to go back and remember Dooce the way she was when I found her. I’ve been reading since before she got Dooced. I even know that Dooce is the typo she’d make when she originally started typing “dude.” I was there before Asian Database Administrator, before meeting Jon Armstrong…. “dry humping and Sprite” vs. mommy blogging.

I’m thinking about what I want to borrow from her to honor her memory…. And not in a way that people would know. I’d be able to look at my own work and say, “I borrowed style from Dooce here.”

I know that because I’ve said it to myself since 2003 when I started Clever Title. In fact, I don’t think I need to honor Dooce any more than I already have, because a tiny thread of her runs through every entry. I pour out everything here because she did it first.

There’s so much I would have liked to have told her, asked her, wish we could reminisce about- the good old days of blogging when it was me and Wil and Ernie and Mrs. Kennedy, with a smattering of Anil Dash and Jason Kottke for good taste.

She was the first one of us to make it. I don’t count Wil because he already had a huge platform from Star Trek. She started that blog from literally friends of friends and built an empire.

Though it was definitely the start of huge social media influence for moms with the introduction of “mommy blogging,” it wasn’t what made her site great.

What made her site great was being willing to talk about the fact that she had a disease that might kill her, and being honest about how hardcore that is. Your friends aren’t prepared to hear that’s a reality, and it makes them retreat. You just have to keep reminding yourself not to take it personally and to keep talking. Someone will listen. It just may not be the one you thought you needed. We can’t help each other when we’re in downward spirals, so we need to reach out before we start circling….. and in the end, it’s still just a numbers game. That’s not mental health. That’s medicine. You can run the numbers on any disease. We just treat diseases of the brain as foreign. Neurotypical people understand things like multiple sclerosis and diabetes to the extent that they understand that their friend needs help on a practical level.

Part of the reason being sick mentally vs. physically is so difficult is trying to translate why you look all right, but you are definitely, definitely not. You isolate because of the exhaustion of trying to explain something you’re not real clear on, either. I’m sure I’ll have more to say over the coming days, but right now I just need to sleep to save strength for tomorrow, where we will again face the blank page together.

If there is a heaven and St. Peter is indeed at the pearly gates, all I want him to say is “the former Congressman will see you now.”

What Do I Do Now?

One of the things that happened during the relationship with my beautiful girl was a very skewed sense of self. This is because she would say things that were completely counter to what the rest of my friends said about me. This was a very good thing in some ways, because I needed an outsider’s perspective. It was therapeutic to be able to talk about everyone in my life with no strings back to her, because we existed out of each other’s time and space. The dark side of it was believing a lot about myself that wasn’t true, because she wasn’t there. She was commenting on “there.” It took me a long time to take in that difference. It made me wonder what we’d have been like as a part of a larger group, because it would have made her commentary on my behavior so much different (I think).

The thing that reads universal to me is the difference between how you present in person vs. online. Seeing someone in their context matters. Isolating so that you’re only seeing each other is a blind spot. Tone of voice matters. How I see you treat other people matters. It is a different feeling of inclusion, physically and virtually. I will always be this person, the one that prefers virtual to physical, and the one that shouldn’t doubt its power. I get caught up in my writer personality, which leads me to ignore meeting in person until long after I’ve needed it- absolutely starving for a hug.

I wouldn’t even have suggested to said Internet friend that we should meet if I hadn’t discovered every single way my writing personality could fuck something up first. I wanted to meet up because I was tired of being misunderstood, but wouldn’t have cared about meeting in person if it wasn’t affecting us negatively. Text can only impart so much, and comprehension is due to context clues. It’s freewheeling to disconnect from anything that provides them. This is why I use the phrase “the emotional equivalent of freebasing cocaine.” Everything is coming at you straight, no chaser.

What would it have been like to know her as a girlfriend and mom- not because she told me she had a boyfriend and a kid. Because I was there and I saw them interact? Neither of us were keeping those things out, they’re just impossible to add as attachments (at least with Gmail). I would have loved to see her wipe the floor with her husband, because if she’s as brilliant with conversation as she is with writing, I could have popped popcorn. What I can do virtually is love him as an idea, a concept. What I can’t do is look at him while he’s looking at her to make sure he knows he’s the luckiest bastard on earth.

I also know that anyone she didn’t like wouldn’t last long…. Except maybe for my own amusement. Hearing her get bent out of shape over my dating life led to some of my favorite quotes ever…. All of them unprintable. I wonder what it would have been like for her to see me as a wife and a friend, and how fiercely devoted I am to both roles. I could tell her about it, but so different than her observing everything.

I’d want her to tell me when my girlfriend wasn’t looking at me the way I wanted her husband to look to look at her. She’s an excellent judge of character, and I could make a meal out of watching her feral nature when it comes to the people who are allowed to date me. I laugh when I think about how different it would have been had we experienced her physically meeting these people. I double over picturing asking her “what do you think?”

I grieve for that image as well. I feel like a bad writer when I cannot capture exactly what I mean, and I am sure a lot of what I’ve written has made wanting to meet me impossible. She thought I was a loose cannon as often as I thought she was, because physical interaction wasn’t slowing anything down. Anonymity helped at first and was hard over time, and not because of anything illicit or bad. It’s that only so much of each other comes through when you are not physically sharing the same space.

It’s a weird feeling knowing that there is so much I would have said with my body language that was cut out entirely. For me, it is similar to having a conversation with someone in Spanish. If they only spoke to me in Spanish, they’d think I was an idiot because I can’t even speak in more than one tense. I don’t know how to tell you what happened or what will. I can only tell you what is happening right now…. And even that is garbled. They will have missed what I can do with language when I have it. Choosing to be only virtual pals was the equivalent of being limited to Spanish when we were both natural English speakers.

It informs how I proceed. I make an effort to see Zac and not just Facebook Messenger him all the time. I make the effort to video call Bryn (though right now she’s on vacation). I try not to write so much down, because it’s not exhausting to write, but it is to read and it’s too much to ask of people who are too polite to say anything. Part of my love language is hearing the emotions that come up for you when you’re reading, and I know that if I send too much at one time, it’s overwhelming. When I have physically spent time with someone, it lessens my need to write to them because we just talked. Not having that guardrail is also problematic, because the last thing I want is for people to think that I am just rambling on for attention. From my perspective, I am including you in my life by describing it. It comes across to others as too much homework. Therefore, I am reticent to begin relationships over the Internet when I know there’s not a chance we’ll meet. You can only be so vulnerable with me in a vacuum, because I might know things other people don’t know… and yet I don’t know anything they do, either. Everything I know about that person has been distilled into black and white, where their pictures are all in color.

Color in a black and white relationship blossoms in commentary. Connection is so easy on one level, complicated on another. You can’t get to know a person’s natural rhythms, even in speech. The tendency on the internet is to pick out the angry things and comment on them first, without seeing what kind of day the other has had in any real sense… over time, it just becomes your perception of what their life is like. Perceptions attach certain moods and behaviors that compound in the other’s mind without ever being founded in reality.

I don’t know whether I am foolish for thinking it was better not to have this friendship than it was to live with the disconnects, because the perks were great. She’s my favorite humorist because there is literally no topic on earth she doesn’t know about, so no matter what ball I’m lobbing, she’s there with the world’s best pithy comment…. And the best ones are unprintable.

At the same time, I was carrying a lot of pain knowing that in some ways, I’d made meeting me feel scary. It made me afraid of myself. Not knowing where I stood gave me more reason to doubt our relationship would ever be more well-rounded, and that there would be an end to feeling like I was hurting her all the time. I knew innately that if I could emotionally injure her, I could emotionally injure other people. So I absolutely fixated on trying to make things right because if I could be redeemed from this mistake, I might be capable of a relationship where no one got hurt.

I had these perfect pictures in my head, changing as she and I did. Funny moments teaching her how to cook, joking with her husband because we know we’re the roadies on a pretty great tour. If the fates had aligned differently, I know I would have been Paul Child, not Julia…. And that’s why I needed her in a nutshell.

I don’t want to be the Julia. I want to be the Paul. I want to be the one cheering people on to do what they do and be who they are. Being supportive of her fills my purpose in life, too. But in this case, I am not limiting Julia to my beautiful girl. I just know I was born to help other people be great. Not having been that for the one I love the most is an exercise in torturing myself and leads nowhere good. Now, I absolutely know what I want in order to avoid the same mistakes. It is learning to negotiate those desires with others so that they also feel heard where the sharpest pain lives, because now I am overly protective of myself. I don’t let people in the way I should, because I’m thinking constantly about what I have done versus what I will do.

Telling me what you think while looking at me has become important again where it wasn’t for a very long time. I was afraid to come out of my shell for fear of rejection, so I just wouldn’t. Asking my beautiful girl if she wanted to hang after she’d already witnessed the worst things about me mattered. However, it was not a moment I knew I could take. It had to be given. So, when she said she wasn’t ready, I didn’t bring it up for years. It didn’t seem important in the grand scheme of things.

It became important because of all the things being lost in translation. Particularly, not knowing if saying that someday you might be ready is real or is something you say when you don’t know what to say. It is impossible to glean from mere words.

I made a meal out of someday without really looking at the amount of time that went by, engaging in the same behavior patterns over and over. It wouldn’t resolve without one of us doing something. I couldn’t stop feeling these large feelings, but I could do something to discourage them. I could turn my attention. I was tired of all of it. All the self recrimination. All the guilt. I have learned that I am not a bad person, and I should stop treating myself like it. I was holding myself to my worst mistake, reliving it in a way that she never would have endorsed. She would have protected me from me if I’d let her.

Dear God, how she tried.

Knowing she loved me that much, to try and understand something that wasn’t tangible or explainable, made me ferocious in trying to understand everything about me that repelled her. This is what I mean when I say that she’s always been the most honorable part of me even when I couldn’t be that for myself. She was rock solid in all the areas I was blind. She taught me to me in a way that will never be duplicated, because I had a yardstick to measure my success. Not in terms of material things, but in terms of emotional strengths she had where I was weak and needed time to grow.

But if the other person isn’t learning and growing with you, the imbalance shows quickly. There are too many chances for things to go wrong when 93% of you is somewhere else.

The Very Beginning

This blog is the beginning. I have to remember that it is not my end goal. It is building an audience, slowly but surely, for people who actually would like to see something out of me that’s not a complete mess. Plenty of people would buy it just to make sure it was finished.

The urge to blog is relentless because you and I are always talking. I say too much because I need it, not you…. And yet, you’re an amazingly kind and tolerant audience for something I thought would be maybe three people and a few cats.

It’s funny how I got the idea to blog. At first, it was writing letters to the woman who abused me, because I thought I had to think big thoughts to keep someone older interested in my little musings… When I started Clever Title, I thought of her as my blog before I could type……… but it was the same style. Just lay out all my crap, see what sticks. Her lines are housed in my head (though no longer enshrined) to this day, the few genuine moments I remember. Those words will stay between us, but they explain explicitly how a young writer could fall in love with another’s work. The way she writes is more flowery than she talks, but more direct because there’s no one in front of her. The words are smaller and carry more weight. Clearly there was something there besides us both being queer. We were both young musicians, exploring the world in secret…. And each other, but only to the extent that nothing was off the table in terms of what I could and couldn’t say. My letters ran the same gamut as five years’ worth of entries.

My second biggest influence was Doogie Howser, MD.

I wish I’d had the self-deprecating meme back then that I did with my beautiful girl…. “Sending you six unrelated texts in a row is my love language, and I’m so sorry….” She was my blog within a blog, because she read everything I can’t show you. She was the one who listened as I floundered around on every topic imaginable in order to discover how I felt to the point I could write about it. For people who garden as writers, we are discovering the plot as we go along. We don’t make an architecture. Therefore, this blog-within-a-blog was the very beginning of crafting an idea. Before I can write about it here, I have to let the raw emotions fall on the page.

What I am finding is that I was so shaken up by the experience that I thought because I’d wronged one woman, I didn’t deserve any of them until I could truly make amends with her. I wanted her to stop being sorry that she chose me to be her confidante, and I think she was trying to tell me that she was sorry for opening up to me for different reasons, but I only saw rejection and pain. So, whether I tornadoed this relationship or she did is up for grabs, because I couldn’t tell from one day to the next how she felt. It was always precarious, and I didn’t like that anxiety at all. I was given the choice- live with that anxiety or don’t. My grief is unlearning that pattern. I had gotten so used to uncertainty. I had gotten so used to not knowing because it was all my fault we were in this mess to begin with.

Not being able to move on was not about being so blindly in love with another’s letters that I was ignoring my own life… although I can see how someone would get there. It was that I was suffering under the weight of all my guilt because things would get better and worse at such a rapid pace. If my narrative was wrong, I wanted her to lay out all those feelings and let me respond to them. Let me hear what really went on in her mind so that I can take it in, bless it, and release it. So that I can clear up any misconceptions. I can explain where I absolutely was not trying to guilt her, telling her what she had nothing to feel guilty about. In fact, all I ever wanted her to do was to look at my letters as if they had more to say than she should feel guilty.

For almost ten years of my life, I got to be a part of someone’s life that I desperately needed to meet. I regret all of the bad and celebrate all of the good. Nothing in my life matters more than the gifts she gave me of self confidence and belief in my own intelligence. I have managed to fool her into believing that I am smart, and somehow she made me believe it, too. I also know that I am wrapped into her equally wild and crazy mind, but what was too painful not to know was whether she still felt the same way about me.

I don’t know why I didn’t just say “what exactly are you regretting here?”

Actually. Yes, I do.

I didn’t ask, because I was afraid of the answer.

I knew what it would be because I was focusing on what I’d done rather than what she said. However, it wasn’t all beating myself up. It was getting mixed signals that were probably caused by not normalizing having conversations on the phone or in person so that when I was reading, I heard her voice instead of the one I made up for her in my head. I also didn’t make enough effort to hear her when she did emote, because I didn’t lift myself out of the situation long enough to be able to tell her that she was focusing on the wrong thing and so was I.

Neither one of us were very good at saying when something made us feel loved and when something made us want to stab each other with a fork…. We’d both hold it in fearing the other’s reaction. I’d finally get tired of sidestepping something and then all hell broke loose. It seemed like the thing that attracted her to me was the thing that repelled me the most over time…. Being able to communicate on the Internet and yet….. not.

I think it’s because we had different ways of being in this relationship, not due to us actually wanting harm for the other. We both spoke to each other in our own love languages, disappointed when the other didn’t respond the way they’d hoped. It wasn’t manipulation on either of our parts; I think it was just plain frustration because when we thought we were winning, we were behind. I never got the message in terms of how our relationship needed to change, because I was all in and I didn’t know if she was or she wasn’t. She wouldn’t set new boundaries, new rules of engagement so all topics of conversation were so hit or miss I didn’t know where I stood. Perhaps I overfocused on the negative responses and there’s a lot I’ve missed…. But I’ll never know whether I did or not because I couldn’t sit there long enough to wonder anymore. What is real? What is in my head? What can I expect from you? What do you expect from me?

As I told her, “I am not trying to take a plate that’s been smashed into a million pieces and make it look like it never broke. I am trying to work with you to mold new glass.” The cord connecting us to each other was massive because there were no constraints and no context.

I got tired of wondering what I could do better because I’d already laid myself bare in as many ways as I could, and none of it was coming across in the way that I meant it. I spent so much energy trying to figure out what I could say and how that I lost sight of the big picture. I needed her forgiveness in a very solid and concrete way.

I needed to know that I was worth meeting, not because I am perfect and need to be gladhanded, but that forgiveness is real with no lingering aftereffects. For her, that forgiveness was given on the surface, and it was murky whether it was real or not because even though we were still interacting, the tape that I was worth nothing to her wouldn’t leave me alone.

I realized no relationship was worth that much in self esteem, because it was dependent on whether I thought I was good enough for her or not. Who cares whether I thought I was good enough for me? Hadn’t I already proved I wasn’t worth anything?

How I conflated not being worth her time with self worth is not new or interesting. I ended the longest relationship with anyone in my adult life because I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts. I’d constantly think of ways to explain something that only served to make her feel worse, when I was trying to solve a problem, not create one.

It was a weight I could no longer carry, because living on wishes was not nutritionally filling. Neither is grieving someone that I thought I knew well, and also never met. The realest thing in my life, and also the most precarious.

“Hope is a thing with feathers,” but no one talks about how extraordinarily difficult a thing it is to get off the ground. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into that hope. I wrestled it like Jacob, and my hip is permanently disfigured.

The belief in this message of hope is that I tried the best I could, and I’m sure she did, too. Being able to communicate is a rare and beautiful thing; in this case, we never relearned each other. I know I missed a lot and am personally responsible for the initial break. Feeling the weight of that pain and embarrassment consistently undid me.

I am having dreams about what I wish would have happened, because it moves the story along with a natural denouement instead of a lens cap. The thing that keeps reappearing is that moment. The one where the other becomes real…. A handshake to anchor us so that finally, we are facing each other.

And I’d get to say, after almost ten years, “Hi. I’m Leslie.”

Going back to the very beginning.