Organized insanity

I’m really not as bad as I used to be.

In 2011, I read a few TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) books and occasionally watched (with a smile on my face) the crazy people on Doomsday Preppers.  I was also going through a bit of a nesting period in my relationship; it was on the rocks (to say the least), and planning for the future there (even if it was apocalyptic) let me delude myself into believing there was a future.   Continue reading “Organized insanity”

Escape from the Land of Fog

Once upon a time (not so long ago), I lived in a beautiful — and frequently foggy — state. Many times, I woke in the morning to fog laying on the ground like a 40-foot tall endless wall of clouds; it obscured all but the closest branches of the lovely, lightning-split water oak at the center of our circle drive.  Fog also led to my belief that I lived in a state full of idiots; I watched nearly everyone on my morning commute pass on two-lane roads with zero visibility.  They didn’t care about what they couldn’t see.  I always did, and I patted myself on the back for having enough sense to be afraid.  But regardless of the fear, I considered myself an expert on the subject of fog.  I saw it so frequently that I could predict within fifteen minutes the time until it would burn off.    I was proud of this.  It — along with other things — was proof of my Southern-ness, proof that I had begun to fit in.  Actually, it was hubris.  It was silliness.  It was me lying to myself about something little that meant nothing, and transposing that lie onto the whole of my life.

During the 13 years that I was “expertly” navigating the actual fog, I was unfortunately ignoring the figurative fog that had enveloped me.  I was trying to survive in a place where I had no family of my own and no friends to speak of, and in order to do that, I had turned a blind eye to both the day-to-day and long-term truths about my life and the people in it.  I had learned to “stuff” anything that I couldn’t deal with.  I ignored slights and insults and outright meanness.  I pretended not to notice my partner’s unwillingness to defend either me or herself.

In the South, you can get by with damned near anything as long as you don’t advertise. You can be a drug addict or a drunk or a psychopath.  Hell, you can even be a lesbian…as long as you’re willing to never (ever, as long as you live) pat your partner’s ass in front of company or refer to your relationship as anything other than a friendship.  Initially, this was hard for me to accept, but soon enough I let all of it go.  I couldn’t fix it or control it or face it, so it lived somewhere outside of my consciousness and awareness.  I let it stay there (biding its time for a future explosion) while I dealt only with the immediate: the people and situations that were right in front of my face at any given time.

For a while, that behavior — that coping mechanism — enabled me to survive pretty much unscathed.  I formed what I thought were good relationships with a few decent family members.  I loved on my partner’s nieces and nephews as though they were my own (which, of course, they weren’t).  I made a few “mistakes” over the years, but I avoided any major issues until I realized one day that I’d taken altogether too much shit from one particular family member, and it was high time I gave a little back.

But it turns out that — at least in the small-town parts of the South — I really wasn’t supposed to speak the truth on any subject.  For example, even after she tried to turn the entire family against me, I was not supposed to call my (pretty much) sister-in-law a manipulative, hateful, lying, pretend-Christian bitch.  I mean, seriously…who knew?  Also unacceptable: suggesting (very nicely and entirely on the down-low) that maybe the other sister-in-law could take her sexually inappropriate, high, and drunk ass out of the public areas of the beach house we were all sharing while there were pre-teens around.  I know it seems counter-intuitive to the rest of the thinking world, but rather than address any one of those issues, the rest of the Southerners in the house (including my partner) patted the addict on the back while she fake cried, and for days afterward, looked at me like I killed Jesus.  (For the record, neither I nor my people were to blame.)  And of course, they weren’t done making me pay for my transgressive use of the truth.

The point of all this is, I thank the universe and whatever higher power there may be every single day for putting me into an environment that forced me to address all those things head on.  In the course of trying to include and protect my mom, my sister, and my niece and nephew as they mixed with my partner’s family, I saw a lot of things that I’d been willing myself to ignore for years.  The way I had allowed myself to be treated (and used and looked down upon) all that time was unbelievable to me, and I saw it all in a flash — instantly — as my family and I carried our belongings to the car three days before the planned end of our trip.

[All of us had to step over the addict sister-in-law every time we went out the front door.  She wasn’t sleeping or passed out.  She was just laying there because she was a bitch and she wanted to demonstrate that she’d won.  I’ll be painfully honest:  at the time, I really felt like she had.  But I only felt that way because neither my mother nor I (during any of our multiple trips down the steps) used her head as a football.  Moreover, we didn’t say a word, which is totally out of character for both of us.  In retrospect, we should’ve said whatever we had to say.  We’re both good on the fly, and I have no doubt that either of us could’ve made the bitch cry.  Unfortunately, even if we had, we still would’ve been 1-3 on the day.]

It was September when we returned to the land of fog.  I was in the middle of my last semester of grad school, so I couldn’t go back home to Illinois with my mom, no matter how much I wanted to.  I had to stay in that beautiful, foggy, mountain-y, backwoods, hillbilly, awful, repressive place for an additional two months with a partner who — every day — I was breaking up with.  But I’ll tell you what:  it was the easiest end to any relationship I’ve ever experienced in terms of its emotional impact on me.  I couldn’t — I wouldn’t — go back to living in the fog.  I had finally seen what was true and real, and I knew for certain that I’d never choose to turn a blind eye to my own best interests (or my family’s) ever again.

2174089494_859a2a2dcc_bWhen my cat and I drove away from that place (and that warped ass family) two months later, there was no fog at all.  It was days before Christmas — clear as could be with a light dusting of frost on the ground.  I was singing carols with the radio as I turned out of the driveway for the last time.  Mama was behind me driving an SUV full of my stuff, her small, feisty, and brilliant dog on the seat next to her, settled in for a long ride.

My former partner was standing on the porch, but I didn’t look back; I knew there was nothing left there for me.  I think I also knew what was coming, sort of. I knew that ahead of me was Joy and better days, and I couldn’t wait to get there.

*Inspired by The Daily Post prompt Foggy

To B or not to B, that is the question.

I was re-watching the first season of The L Word this afternoon, only half paying attention while I worked the 250th row of my 53rd afghan and drank my afternoon cup of hot green tea.  At some point–somehow–I became a 43-year-old, heterosexual married woman with a couple of step-kids, but in the twenty-some years immediately prior to that, I was pretty serious about being a lesbian.  And the truth is, I still consider myself part of that world.  The feeling becomes all the more acute when I’m in the company of lesbians or when I watch this show:  I still can’t help smiling when Shane comes on screen; I still innately understand and commiserate with Bette and Tina, and I still think Alice and I were meant to be.

This afternoon on the screen,  Shane is talking about sexual fluidity, trying to convince Dana that things aren’t so cut and dried as she believes.  There was a time in my own life when that particular idea would’ve been difficult for me to swallow as well, but it’s certainly several years in the rearview now.  In my late 30s I had this therapist, see.  And while she was all coupled up and happy (as was I at the time), she indicated that should I ever find myself with a few free hours, I really should check out this book, Sexual Fluidity.  I’m not sure why she suggested it.  Probably it had to do with my areas of research and interest–which often tended to run into the vicinity of gender studies–but it could be that my very enlightened and educated therapist also had hella-great gaydar, and I was throwing out mixed signals.  In any case, I read the book.  At least…I read the book in that way graduate students read books when they only want the gist and not the technobabble.  I like to think I got the point, though admittedly I’m not so sure if it’s conclusions were much different from those reached by Alfred Kinsey back in 1948.  Kinsey posited sexuality on a spectrum; Sexual Fluidity seemed to have the same idea, but also claimed that the spectrum wasn’t fixed and might slide in either or both directions over the course of a lifetime or an afternoon.

The thing is, I don’t think the fluidity part actually fits me at all.  I don’t feel like I’ve suddenly skated over to the boy side any more than I used to feel that I had moved over to the girl side.  I do not at any time think: “I like women” or “I like men.”  Instead, it seems to me that I have always loved with specific people in mind, regardless of their biological sex. I love/am attracted to John or Jill, not I love/am attracted to a generic chunk of hims or hers simply because they’re blessed with the right genitalia.

Pretty kitty on afghan who doesn’t give a crap about bisexuality.

At this point, my LGBT friends and family would likely insist that I take ownership of my true label or shut the hell up, and honestly, I would if it didn’t make me, my husband, my ex, my mother, and probably everyone else I know cringe.  Is it just me, or do bisexuals get a freakin’ awful rap even among ourselves?  It’s like…for all our liberal claiming that sexuality doesn’t matter, that rights to marriage, etc. ought to be the same for all couples, we really really REALLY don’t like the idea (or the conception, or the intimation) that sexuality is ever a choice, and bisexuality pretty much proves that notion.  Gay and lesbian Christians like to take their argument to their straight brothers and sisters’ doorstep by appealing to commonly held values:  “I was born this way–God doesn’t make mistakes.” But bisexuals and their partners are often manifest physical proof that this claim isn’t true, or that, at the very least, “born this way” has become a lot harder to pin down.  Were bisexuals born preferring one sex, mandated to switch when they turned 20, and then destined to switch back again a few years later?  Did God really preordain all of that?  This is the kind of intellectual leap that our black or white society doesn’t like to make (despite the fact that they assume God performs much more complicated feats than this every minute of every day all over the world).

As for me, my problem isn’t God-related.  I’m not sure what I think of God, but I know I don’t much care to have anyone else’s conception pushed at me as the only possible Truth.  Whatever God-idea I eventually arrive at will be one that I know I can live with (and I think the world would be a better place if more people considered God on a personal–instead of a political or societal–level).  Anyway, my problem isn’t God, it’s people.  It’s straight people.  It’s LGBT people.  It’s my own fucking SELF, for the love of God.  Why does it matter to you (or to me) that I’ve been with both men and women in my life?  I’ve gone where I thought I was supposed to be and I’ve stayed as long as I could.  Along the way–the whole way–I’ve been honest about who I was and what I wanted.  My suspicion is that, in doing this, I’ve been quite a bit more decent than most of the other people in the world.

And yet, when I married my sweet husband last year (after knowing him and his entire family for 25 years and knowing without a doubt that it was freakin’ FATE), I felt like I was suddenly and unequivocally ousted from the group I’d been a very vocal member of for the entirety of that 25 years.  The truth is, I don’t feel any different.  I didn’t wake up the morning after my courthouse wedding and think “I’m not a lesbian anymore.”  I still feel the struggle with every fiber of my being.  I still take it all SO PERSONALLY…at least until I remember that it isn’t so personal anymore.  Now that I’m married to a man, I’m in quite the little pickle:  I still feel like a lesbian and I still consider them “my people.”  And yet they would not be at all pleased to count me among their number, nor would they appreciate at all that I occasionally remain silent and don’t volunteer the information that I no longer belong.  For as much as we all like to act like we’re on the same page and “it’s all good if it’s love,” I just can’t shake this feeling (which I freely acknowledge has no basis in actual facts):  I’m on the outside now, whether or not I choose to own the B in LGBT.