The Surest Way

It seems that the surest way to feel alone is to share my feelings with other people. I keep making the mistake of believing that other people are on my page, just because they say things in a way that I can understand and get behind. Typically, I”m the quiet one who lets everyone else do the talking, so it’s easy to feel like we’re vibing when I’m supporting their mental breakdowns and accepting their searching statements. But then it comes time for me to talk, and it turns out they’re not listening. Way to go, me. Always the bridesmaid, or something like that.

Anyway, I do have a couple of people in my life who are doing their best to listen when I talk (and vice versa), but it’s always disappointing to weed out the others. But what can you do besides remind yourself that the goal is to be your own mentally healthy sounding board one day?

Still, I can’t help but be disappointed. I just wanted someone to celebrate with, and it got turned around quicker than I could write a second sentence. Way to kill the buzz.

If Turnips Were Watches

When can I begin? When do I get to give myself a break?

There’s this song that I’ve identified with ever since it came out in 1997, called “Graduate.” Of course, back then I was a high schooler, and it seemed like forever until I’d graduate. The song meant what it said. But then I got older, and it started to ring true to me in other ways. Still does. Sometimes I wonder if I inadvertently programmed myself to it, but then I think that’s probably too optimistic. Maybe a lot of us feel this way, trapped in circumstances just outside of our sphere of control, watching as the world whirls around us, thinking that any minute now, we’ll figure shit out, right? But that’s never going to happen. You have to live now, and stop concentrating on things getting better tomorrow. There’s no tomorrow.

I don’t know when I get to do what I want. Why do I live in fear? Why am I shut off and shut down? Why can’t I be a success at being myself? And if I know the things that I want, why can’t I get them? Haven’t we reached a point where anything is possible? Is my problem that I don’t believe I can have what I want? (I know right away, as I write this, that’s not true.)

My problem is that I believe I’ll get exactly what I work for, and I still won’t like it. It will be broken, off-key, a demented lie. It will be what it always was. It’s just that my vision was skewed. I’m afraid that I see what I want through rose-colored glasses, and that I’ll surely suffer the consequences if I reach out to take it.

And so I’m shut down. Shut off. Stuck in 11th grade for-fucking-ever. I’m tired.

 

Day 21 (Part 2): Villarmentero de Campos to Calzadilla de la Cueza

In October and November of 2015, I walked the Camino Francés, one of the traditional pilgrimage routes to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. It was a deeply emotional journey, with far-reaching implications for my life, and I’m slowly but surely capturing the memories and musings here on my blog. Read the entire series at Anna’s Camino.

All beautiful moments must come to an end, and soon enough, it was time to pack up and leave the garden at Albergue Amanecer. Buoyed by our little break and the lovely surroundings, my moodiness from the morning disappeared as we hit the road again. The weather had cleared up over the course of the morning, and once again we had blue skies and puffy clouds.

As we walked, Jakob and I discussed who we were and why we had each decided to walk the Camino. Despite our easy friendship, our lives had been extremely different. I was an only child, raised in a rural area by a lower income family.  I moved a thousand miles away at 17 and never looked back. At nearly 34, I had three college degrees and dozens of seemingly random jobs under my belt. My dreams of singing and writing hadn’t even gotten off of the ground, and I’d bounced around from idea to idea all of my life. I was pretty good at most things that I tried, and job transitions weren’t too difficult, but I’d yet to find a job about which I could be passionate. I was introverted, introspective, and struggling with depression. I was walking to find answers to questions I didn’t know yet. Though I enjoyed the religious architecture along the route, my only connection to Catholicism was my slight obsession with St. Francis, and I found him more in nature than in the built environment.

By contrast, my new friend grew up in a close-knit family, in conditions that many would call comfortable (both of his parents are professionals, and his father is well-known in his field). His family had lived in the same area of Bavaria for many generations – longer than my family had been in America. At 30, Jakob had only recently finished his law degree after many years of school. His dream was to become a judge, and he was almost there. His Camino had long been planned to span the bridge between graduation and job placement, and as we walked, he was keeping track of his job application process as it rolled along back home. I was surprised to learn that in Germany, there is no requirement to practice as a lawyer before becoming a judge. We discussed what the job meant to him, and the nuances of job hunting for a judgeship near his home in Munich. He was driven, optimistic, and given his patience and open-mindedness, I couldn’t help but marvel that he’d be great at his chosen profession. He was also religious, and for him, the Camino was a way to connect with his name saint, James the Apostle (called Jakob in German tradition, from the Latin Iacobus).

I was surprised, given how much I liked my new friend, that he was also highly active in his college fraternity. It took me awhile to wrap my head around how different it was to be in a frat in Germany vs. the U.S. He showed me a photo of their old-fashioned uniforms (complete with funny hats and military braids). Involvement seemed strict, and academics and conduct were of the utmost importance. Connections lasted a lifetime, and older members made sure that the college-age brothers didn’t stray off the path and embarrass the organization. But like the American frats with which I had more experience, beer was also a key ingredient. How could it not be, in the beer capital of Germany?

Speaking of imbibing, we found great kinship in discussing the party reputations of our respective hometowns during their two biggest festivals – Oktoberfest for him, and Mardi Gras for me. We shared funny stories of various debauchery we’d witnessed, and popular misconceptions of what these giant, world-renowned parties were actually all about. We each issued unconditional invitations for a festival exchange program – one day I still plan to make it to Oktoberfest.

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Bocadillo, Aquarius, Coca Cola – who could ask for more?

In early afternoon, we reached Carrion de los Condes, and sat down to have lunch at a little cafe. I had no idea, but this was about to be one of those life changing moments. We posted up at our table, me with an absolutely giant sandwich. I pulled out my phone to peruse the WisePilgrim app, and he pulled out his yellow guidebook (then only published in German – the English version came out a few months later), looking up our options. We were about to hit the longest stretch of the Camino with no opportunities to stop, and if we chose to keep walking, we’d have to really commit. No bathrooms, no water, no cafe con leche, nowhere to rest our weary feet! It would be hours before we’d make it to a stopping point, and it was already afternoon. Was it crazy? Should we do it, or just stop here for the night? Once again, I got this feeling that the Universe had put us together as some sort of challenge, to keep each other encouraged.

As we ate and mulled over the choice, it was also in the back of my mind that we must be reaching the end of our time together soon. It seemed natural to me that we would walk in each other’s company for a few days or so, then split up. Easy. No pressure. I was on track to find Natalie again, and also practicing a kind of detachment. Despite how much fun I was having, at some level I was letting things wash over me without getting too involved. Perhaps I was guarding my heart? I don’t know what I was thinking.

But then, over that jamón y queso bocadillo muy grande, somehow the conversation turned to books and TV, and I mentioned that I really loved the miniseries “Band of Brothers.” Weirdly enough, the show was my introduction to the Peace Prayer of St. Francis, and it was a series that I rewatch yearly to remind myself of determination, grit, bravery, and goodness. Jakob immediately geeked out, and gushed that the show was one of his favorites, too. In fact, he’d watched it multiple times in German and English, to make sure not to miss any nuances in the dialogue. I told him that years before, when I was training to run the Chicago Marathon, I’d spurred myself on in difficult moments with Easy Company’s battle cry, “Currahee!” He said he’d often done the same. With that simple exchange, something shifted. No more conversation was necessary – we were all in. We could keep walking. We could do this. That was also the moment that I realized I’d been handed a new Camino family without even trying.

The next albergue was 18k away, in Calzadilla de la Cueza, which meant at least another 4 hours walking at our current pace. We’d be very lucky to arrive before dark, and there were storm clouds on the horizon, so we’d probably be walking through crappy weather. It was a stupid decision, made out of false bravado, and one which had terrible consequences. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

On our way out of town, we stopped to purchase two cheap ponchos. I had a raincoat and a pack cover, but had found that my pack was still getting wet inside when I walked too long in the rain. Luckily, I’d packed all of my clothing inside a big space saver Ziploc bag, so my clothes stayed dry, but I still didn’t like the moisture in the pack. Additionally, wearing the raincoat made me feel like I was in a walking sauna. I thought maybe the poncho would do the trick if we encountered heavy rain, and soon, I got a chance to test out the theory.

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Within about an hour after leaving Carion de los Condes, the sky went from somewhat cloudy to absolutely treacherous. The wind whipped up into a frenzy, and we were hit with heavy bursts of rain. I changed out of my trail runners as soon as the weather shifted, to attempt to keep them dry. Instead, I switched to my Teva Tirras, worn with socks. My feet were cold and damp, but didn’t chafe – and I knew I could count on dry shoes the next day. Underneath the socks was the typical layer of moleskin on all of my “danger zones” known for chafing, plus a thin coat of Unpetroleum Jelly (made by Alba). The rain was so relentless that in the end, I ended up wearing the raincoat and the poncho together.

Between the insane crackling of the poncho and the wind whistling across the open Meseta over the Camino, there was little conversation. We marched on, wet and miserable, all afternoon. From time to time, the rain would let up a bit, and one of us would point out something funny or weird to examine along the road, from old boots left behind, to road markers. From time to time, I’d begin to despair that we would see civilization again. The road stretched on forever in those moments. Inevitably, though, as my spirits sank, Jakob would draw my attention to some small wonder at the side of the road. For awhile, we both put in our headphones, and realized we could walk “together” but separately, singing along to our own tunes. Singing is always a spirit lifter for me, and this worked out perfectly. Towards sunset, we stood and admired the clouds racing along the horizon. There was power in the land, and prayer in the walking. We were discovering something important together. It was still an incredible relief to see the first rooftops of Calzadilla de la Cueza appear on the horizon.

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It was dusk when we walked into town. Luckily for two completely exhausted peregrinos, the Calzadilla de la Cueza Albergue Municipal was on the left, immediately as you walk into town. I don’t know if either of us could have walked another step. As it turned out, the facilities were cheap and pretty nice. The bathrooms seemed newly refurbished and very clean, and the beds were comfy. There were maybe 10 other pilgrims there that night, including Tom, the older American guy I’d met with British Mark a couple of weeks before. I said hi, and he not only acted like he didn’t remember me, but was also a little rude about it. I was too tired to care much, but Jakob later told me that he saw the interaction and was taken aback on my behalf. As we started to unpack our things, I heard Jakob start laughing, and looked over to see that he was peering at me through a giant rip in his poncho. I’d already decided I couldn’t stand the way mine crinkled as I walked, so I told him he was welcome to have mine as a replacement. My pack would just have to get wet now and then.


After a hot shower and putting on some dry, warm clothes, I felt slightly more human. However, my legs were killing me, and my face was chafed from the wind and sun. It was obvious that the day’s activity had taken its toll on my already tired body. I massaged my legs with Volaren, popped an Ibuprofen, and donned compression socks, but even with that, I could tell I’d done some serious damage to my legs and feet. We’d walked around 34K over the course of the day – over 21 miles, almost a marathon. Even with all of the walking I’d done up until now, it was a huge leap in distance, and I knew I’d pay a price. Leaving the albergue in search of food was out of the question, since I could barely walk. I ate a few random choices from the vending machine while checking my Facebook messages in the break room, and went to bed before the dorm lights were out.

The Taste of Love Is Sweet

A few weeks ago, I started writing about love. I mean, that’s obviously not true if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time. I’ve written a lot about love. And pain. And depression. And self-loathing. Weirdly enough, at some point, all of those things intertwine. If I had to guess, I’d say that in my very early childhood, I somehow learned that achievement was the key to being loved, and it sent me down the shit-strewn pathway that is perfectionism, inevitable failure, chronic procrastination, anxiety, depression, inability to effectively communicate my needs to others, and look, here we are! Woohoo! Awesome, gotta love psychology – here’s a primer on perfectionism and anxiety disorders, if you’re interested.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I was talking about love. Or specifically, the second of two lessons that I’ve gleaned in my 36 odd (and I do mean “odd”) years here on Planet Whatsitsname. If you want to see Lesson #1, it’s not here. Go to this other place.

Whew, now that we’re rid of that guy (cheeky bastard, trying to read ahead!), let’s get on with things…

Lesson #2: Autonomy

This one is otherwise known as “Am I my lover’s keeper?” The answer, in case you’re wondering, is a resounding NO.

My friend’s mom has this wonderful saying, and I know that I’ve probably recounted it here before, but I’m going to do it again (#sorrynotsorry). She says that your partner shouldn’t be the meat and potatoes of your life. Instead, they should be the strawberries and cream. In a relationship, it’s our job to make life sweet for our partners, while we learn to be our own “meat and potatoes” – to create a life that sustains and nurtures ourselves.

In other words, your lover can’t be your everything, and you shouldn’t be your lover’s everything. That’s an extremely unhealthy way of living. As good as it may feel to lean on each other, that’s not a sustainable, long term solution. If you’re not leaning equally on each other (which presents its own unique struggle), one of you is weighing the other down. In either of these situations, your structural integrity WILL fail in the end. It’s only a matter of time.

For those of us who love to nurture, who just want to be helpful and kind, it is natural to want to give everything we have to make our loved ones happy, healthy, and whole. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best for those around you. But people who give freely of themselves can lose track, and be taken advantage of by trusted loved ones. When we instinctively give, give, give, we attract people who instinctively accept, accept, accept (and in the most negative situation, those who take, take, take). It’s easy to feel fulfilled by the joy of being a kind person and doing good things for the people we love, but that won’t keep the emotional lights on forever. Codependency might not be malicious. It feels like love. It feels like symbiosis. But it’s not – it’s parasitism, and it makes both of you even weaker. The partner who never learned to take care of their own needs (be they physical, emotional, psychological, etc.) is never going to learn if there’s no impetus to change. Meanwhile, the partner who rejoices in offering too much care is most likely neglecting their own needs and deficiencies.

I know now that the only way forward is to create a language of reciprocal joy with my partner. Of course I want to share in the story of their life. I want to know when the day goes wrong, and when it goes right. I want to be there to lend a hand when I’m needed – that’s what partners do, after all. But I am not there to carry all that weight for the long haul. And it’s not their job to carry mine. It’s my job to be a grown up and learn how to shoulder my burdens when I can, when to graciously accept a little relief, and how to recognize when it’s my turn to take on some extra weight. Mostly, though, it’s about walking side-by-side, enjoying whatever the path brings our way. It’s about bringing sweetness to a difficult day when we can, but also not being daunted when we can’t. In the end, we are not our lovers’ keepers. Which leads me to an unexpected third lesson…

Lesson #3: Love isn’t an external process.

It’s an internal alchemy. It isn’t more valid because you have someone to share it with, will it towards, or spend it on. Love doesn’t require a physical object to exist, and I suspect that once love is sparked, no matter the catalyst, there will always be an ember held safe in your heart, willing itself back into full flame. We can easily be our own sweetness, if we just let ourselves remember how.

New Tactics – Horror Movies, Cuss Words, and a Bold Life

I spent Thanksgiving at a friend’s house. It was a good time; even though it was his first time hosting Thanksgiving, it was obvious that he has a flair for entertaining. The meal – every part cooked from scratch – was delicious. The company was eclectic and well-balanced. There were only seven of us in total (not counting Gracie, our canine guest), so we could all jump in and out of conversation. We drank champagne, devoured a huge meal, then talked in small groups for hours. It was nice. No political conversation, no arguments, no family in-fighting. Definitely an A+ Thanksgiving.

Though I had a fabulous time just chatting with everyone about all sorts of stuff, one of the host’s friends and I found common ground in our shared love of horror movies (especially supernatural horror). Once we discovered each other’s interest, the conversation got deliciously geeky. We talked for a long time, sharing movie suggestions and finally dragging the host into watching movie trailers with us (we were the last three standing, thanks to getting sucked into movie conversation).

It was so nice to meet a new friend, but more than that, it was a total rush to remember this thing that I’m passionate about. I’ve been feeling lost, like I can’t communicate myself to anyone, including me. I’m just starting to try to sort through the jumble of facts and fictions in which I’ve wrapped myself, to figure out what it is that I am, what I love, where I’m going to go with all of that information. So to get SUPER EXCITED about discussing horror movies was total joy. I know, I know, it’s small to you, maybe. But for me, it gives me hope.

I have a thing that I love (a few things, actually – I can now confidently say that I love hiking, the Camino, WWII history, medieval religious architecture, St. Francis, NC BBQ, and supernatural horror movies). And I know people who like each of these things. I have friends who love the outdoors, and Camino buddies, and even a friend from the Camino who is also a WWII history buff. So logically, I understand that my interests are not held within a bubble. My interests are not special, exactly. But you can love these things, and when you never talk about them, you forget that they touch your heart, they open your mind, they bring you a passionate connection to the world.

So in meeting a person who deeply appreciated something that I also deeply appreciate,  it’s been reiterated to me that my interests are valid. And even more special, my new friend likes this movie genre for the same specific reason, in the same way, that I do. You know, you meet people all the time who like horror movies because they love blood, or like monsters, or get some weird joy out of seeing bad things happen to people in a make-believe setting. But that’s not why I like horror films; in fact, most blood and guts type movies disgust me (unless the “bad guy” is a witch, in which case I normally root for her, no matter how gruesome it gets, understanding that the story is being told from a skewed P.O.V., and she has every right to protect herself from the bullshit religious right patriarchy, lol). But in general, I watch supernatural horror because I like thinking about the unseen, and how close we are to touching it, and how often we’re a part of it without knowing. It was really cool to meet someone who understands that, and geeks out about it in the same way. It gives me hope for my future.

All this being said, it’s time for me to focus my energy on that hope, on firing up my passion, becoming more confident in being myself, knowing who that “self” is, discontinuing my need to seek permission to be joyous and geeky and fired up over the simple things (and the complex ones). I’m going to take a step away from Compass & Quill for awhile, while I build my message over on my new blog.

NOTE TO MY RELATIVES: Before you click that link above, if you’re related to me and don’t like cuss (curse) words, just do yourself a favor and don’t bother. I will be cussing. You won’t like it. And honestly, I don’t intend on entertaining a conversation with you about watching my language at 36. I’m not going to, the end, get used to the fact that I’m a decent human being, you’ve done the best you can, and it’s time to move on and stop nitpicking. I’m having a difficult enough time with my life without having to deal with making you happy 100% of the time. It’s your job to make you happy, and when you let me make you unhappy over something miniscule and pointless, it’s not my fault, it’s yours for blowing things out of proportion.

The #1 problem in my life right now is that I’ve always shifted my life around to make everyone around me happy, and in the process, I lost the ability to see the difference between making you all happy and making ME happy. And EVERY SINGLE DECISION ends up being a source of inner conflict, as I worry about what every person I’ve ever known and loved might think of me when I make it. I mean, seriously, I get caught up and confused when buying dish soap, in case one of my friends might come over and be upset with me for using an unpleasant scent (and I don’t ever have houseguests). Let’s not even get into choosing throw pillows, or new shoes, or picking up a hobby, or trying to have a normal conversation at a coffee shop. This goes to say that I have a major problem with letting what I think you all want dictate the way I run my life, when you’re not even present. That’s entirely my fault, not yours, and I’m going to eliminate it this year. My first step is being painfully honest about the ways that I let people hurt me, and have power over me, without even knowing it. So let’s just cut the bullshit, and you can stop agonizing that my use of cuss words will make me white trash, while I stop agonizing that my use of cuss words will make you not love me anymore. Capice?

Things I Have Not Said

I’m still pretty angry, and for awhile now, that anger has been paired up with a heaping helping of shame. At first, I didn’t get it. Why shame? And for that matter, why anger, exactly? A calm, well-planned breakup with friendship intact shouldn’t elicit this level of “BURN IT DOWN!” that I’m constantly feeling. It’s been over a month. Shouldn’t I be getting on with my life?

But it’s started to hit me. I’ve known the entire time that I wasn’t angry AT anyone, exactly. I’m certainly not that angry at him, this last him. I love him deeply, and unconditionally. He’s irritated the shit out of me, yes. The thought of having to spend time in his presence in a non-girlfriend role makes me want to puke, yes. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m being forced to give up on him because he’s asking me to, yes. That last one is crazy, and I’m just rolling it around, rolling it around, rolling it around. Eventually it will wear down to a size where it fits in my head and starts to make some sort of sense, but right now it’s just going to sit here and be weird and pointless, the same as this breakup.

But back to the anger and shame. It’s hitting me that I’m angry for everything. My life. Everything that everyone has done to piss me off and I haven’t said a goddamn thing to any of them. Because I was raised to believe that any negative emotion felt as a result of the actions of other people is my burden to bear. You feel like it’s unfair? So what, life is unfair. Take a number. Turn the other cheek. Practice forgiveness. Don’t even bother complaining in the first place. Ignore the pain. Fight through the discomfort. Never, ever talk about the ways in which you’re failing at being a proper young lady with class and good breeding. Ladies don’t use curse words. Ladies don’t wear that kind of outfit (or that kind, or that kind, or that kind, either). Ladies don’t go out after dark or go anywhere alone or spend time with strange men (or familiar men – in fact, why is that man familiar, good heavens!).

You had a bad experience? It’s probably all your fault. You were wearing the wrong thing. You said the wrong thing. You didn’t put enough distance between the two of you. You should have been scoping your surroundings more efficiently. You shouldn’t have been there at all. Did you laugh, smile, speak, make eye contact, walk past him with a little too much sway? Are you showing any skin at all? Your makeup must have been too dark. Besides, he didn’t really mean to scare you with his scary/sleezy/downright rape-y behavior – that’s just how men are. And you’re just how women are. So shut up and move on. Stop trying to get attention.

And the non-rape-y stuff, the times they shut you down, make you explain yourself with smiley emojis, talk to you like you’re a toddler, shout at you because they want a discount on their invoice, repeatedly ignore you when it’s time for a promotion, deny your request for a raise and then give it to the guy who works half-days and spends his time building his fantasy football league… Well, they’ll listen to you one day when you’re older/smarter/prettier/have a different job title. If you start paying more attention to their sports discussions/TV shows/baby pictures they’ll think you’re a team player and you’ll get a promotion. If you’d just stop being so pushy. You probably whine too much. Or maybe you come across as bitchy when you ask for things. You could stand to wear more attractive things to the office. Dress for the job you want. But not too attractive, you know – don’t want to look like the office slut. Ugh……………….

All this goes to say that I’ve figured out that I’m not suddenly angry. I’m just suddenly experiencing all of the anger that I’ve tamped down over my lifetime. And I’m experiencing this shame for feeling angry, but I’m also angry about having been conditioned to feel the shame, so that’s a really interesting place to be.

So I think it might be helpful to say all of the things that I never got to. All of the things that I thought would be “nagging,” but really would have released some of my stress and probably helped to shape the lives of those men who have gone on to date other women (who are hopefully nagging them right now, as we speak).

  1. You wore too much cologne. Three direct sprays is TOO MUCH. I actually told you that it was too much one time, but then you sprayed another blast. To be funny? Really, you just looked like an asshole, and you STANK of cologne, and it wafted after you. People choked on that all day long in your office, I’m sure. I choked on it just getting near you. You sucked for not listening to me. You were so unbelievably rude, but you acted like you thought it was endearing or attractive. It wasn’t.
  2. Your hair products ruined my sheets. Sheets are really expensive, and that stuff isn’t coming out.
  3. You always left your trash behind. You told me that it was just because you’re absent minded, and I grew to believe that and find it endearing. But let’s be honest. You’re a grownup, and you knowingly made more work for me every time you brought some disposable item into my house. If you know that you’re prone to leave trash around, WORK ON IT. Same goes for washing your own damn dishes.
  4. You woke me up on Saturday morning – the day that I got to sleep in – and demanded that I get up and wash the dishes. You acted like my dad, except that my dad would NEVER make me get up early on a Saturday morning, because he loves me. Screw you. Seriously. I hope you marry a tyrant who pulls that kind of passive aggressive bullshit right back at ya.
  5. You vacuumed while I was sleeping, just because you had to stick to your schedule of self-perpetuating bullshit.
  6. You promised me that you’d always clean the bathtub, did it twice, then made me do it for the next 8 years.
  7. You had the body of a Roman god, had to do absolutely nothing to maintain it, and when you saw me working constantly to try to stay slim, you did nothing to help. That’s OK – it wasn’t your job to help. But it was your job to STOP BAKING SEVERAL CAKES PER WEEK that you wouldn’t eat. What kind of monster fills up a house with junk food when they know damn well that their girlfriend is a compulsive eater? The same kind who bathes in cologne, excels at all of their shared hobbies until she no longer finds joy in any of the things that used to amuse her, and lords his finances over her.
  8. Oh, yeah, that amazing little tidbit. When I was making 35k and loving my job, you told me that I didn’t make enough money and needed to quit. You tried to make it sound like you were concerned with me, but in actuality you were chiding me for my weakness, my inability to fit your definition of success. You harped on how little money I was making, and how there were plenty of jobs out there that paid more – I just needed to look harder. Yeah, I was struggling, but I was paying my half. You, meanwhile managed to put up 15k extra that you later tearfully told me was supposed to “go towards our wedding” as a surprise. Right.
  9. You bailed out of going to my best friend’s wedding. She’s a sister to me. I should have moved out that day, instead of wasting my time. I knew right then that you could never be the man for me, but instead I kept trying. Isn’t that the saddest shit ever? What kind of person loves herself so little that she’d choke on the disrespect rather than cutting ties and moving on? Ugh.
  10. I paid for your half of many joint activities our first years together, because I loved being with you and wanted to share experiences. It was a burden to me, and I resented it, but was mostly irritated with myself for not being gracious enough to just incur the debt. I loved you and wanted you to be with me, and if that meant paying for things when you couldn’t afford them, I told myself that I didn’t mind. But I did. And because I had taken the brunt of someone’s displeasure with me for not making enough money, I decided to never make it a big deal. I did my best to never even bring up the fact that my budget wasn’t meant for two. But then you found steady employment, and everything was looking up. And then you dumped me. It seems like more than a coincidence, but I’m sure I’m wrong. I’m sure the two had nothing to do with each other, other than the fact that our schedules no longer aligned in the least bit, so we grew apart. But it still stings. I’m still angry. I felt used at the beginning, and now at the end, I feel manipulated, which is worse. I wish you could have waited a little while. Taken care of me a little bit. Showed me that you treasured me in the way I treasured you. But you retreated once you had the chance to show yourself. It wasn’t even about money in the end, but it’s easiest to see this portion of the pattern. You knew you needed to pick up the slack, but you didn’t do it. You let everyone around you pay for you, take care of you, ensure that you aren’t too sad or uncomfortable. And at the time I thought that your hangdog air was all shame. And I’m sure that’s a part of it. But I know now that you enjoy feeling that shame. You get off on it. It’s a power play with yourself. It’s erotic, in its own weird way. So yeah, I’m angry at you for turning something as simple as going out to dinner into a lingering guilt trip, just to fulfill some strange need to constantly be wrong.
  11. You should have been honest with me from the beginning. You eventually told me that you’d “thought” you could be “normal.” You thought you could do this, be in an adult relationship, living by adult rules. But you knew what you were doing. You got me out of a bad place, and I will always be grateful to you for that, but you also lied to me. I gave you opportunities to come clean from the very start. I was honest with you, and expected honesty from you, but instead you wore a mask and then gradually fell apart on me. I had already loved you. I continued loving you. I will probably always love you. But you held out on me, and that hurt me. It hurt my life. You’re hurting my life right now.

That’s all I’ve got for the moment.

Midnight Drive

Granddaddy came to visit me the night before last, in a dream that felt like real life. I wish I could say with certainty that it was a visit from the man I so adored, rather than just wishful thinking and misfiring synapses, but I will always be a hopeful skeptic. It felt good, though, and gave me something to think on. So I’ll treat it as it felt – an important message, spoken by my long-dead grandfather, here on a soul-business trip.

We were driving to a wedding. I spent countless hours in the passenger seat of Granddaddy’s truck as a child, when he was alive, so we were back to places that suited us best. He was younger than I last remember him. He was in his late 60’s when he passed away. In the dream, he was around 50, his face still plump and a little shiny, his hair not quite thinned out, and still some black strands here and there. I was my present age. Neither of us remarked on the age differences, and I don’t think it even struck me as odd in the dream.

The wedding was being held at a church that was also a part-time warehouse and granary. Why I know this, I have no clue. We didn’t discuss it. But as the truck got closer to the building, I could clearly read the block letters on the side of the building, and the church was named “Gods Colors” (no apostrophe). I exclaimed, “Oh, I’ve been here before! I love this church!” He made a noncommittal grunt – a characteristic I’d forgotten – more on the positive side than negative, the kind of sound someone makes when they’re barely listening to you, but still want to appear polite.

Instead of stopping at the church, we rounded the corner and kept driving. On the right was a railroad depot, and ahead of us, the road changed from a country highway to a long, stately street, lined with straight, tall trees. The looked like birch trees, perhaps. As we drove towards this long line of tees, he looked over at me and said “You’ve always been so forgiving.” The subcontext was that I was forgiving to a fault, and he watched me being hurt as a result, and didn’t like it. But he wasn’t angry, or sad. He was studying me, and praising me, and it all came across in this simple sentence, and the way he looked at me, hands on the wheel, love in his eyes.

I don’t remember exactly how I responded. Something like, “I have to,” or “It’s my job.” We kept driving, and never reached the trees. Eventually I woke up.

Two things stand out to me from that dream: the church, and the message of forgiveness. Where was the apostrophe? Was the church to multiple gods? What are their colors? And was Granddaddy reminding me that I keep forgetting to forgive myself? I think so. I never see myself so clearly as when he shows up to look at me. In real life (and now sometimes in my dreams) he always looked at me with pure love. How to ever match that? But the truth is that it’s my job to do it. I’m the only one left to do that for myself. I deserve to see myself the way he saw me. I deserve to look upon myself with love and tenderness. I deserve to be forgiven.