This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Bildüngsroman

Hi Shana: I'm trying to close out 2008 time-off records, and noticed that I am missing one timecard for you for last year - 5/12 thru 5/25. Do you, by chance, have a copy of the timecard submitted? If not, could you please re-do this card.
I received this email about a half hour ago. What timing. What grace. (As my hero Bugs used to say.) Soon after I began investigating this oversight I noticed why there had probably been no time card turned in. The week of 5/12 I crashed my bicycle and landed in an Illinois Masonic Hospital bed for 2.5 days. The week of 5/25 I had just come back from Toronto and was coming down with weird and fever-y symptoms that turned out to be herpes. It's interesting to me that I'd planned on writing a piece soon about how I haven't talked about "the H" in a long time.

A few nights ago my copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves flopped open to a testimony from a woman who'd gotten herpes from "a real sweet guy" (I'm not using the quotes sarcastically, I'm actually quoting). The woman talks about what was helpful for her at the end of her testimonial. One of the best things she did was tell her dad, who was a physician in her home town. He told her it was "No big deal" and that "It's one of the least serious medical problems you'll have in life." Man, reading those words healed so much of me so quickly. It was like my own dad had said them.

What actually happened when I did (or did not) tell my parents why Devyn and I hit the skids was was much less rational and not at all warm and fuzzy. I was furious for a long time after Devyn knocked me on the head with the reality of my symptoms. I'm not a person who can sustain anger, but he triggered a very deep wellspring of mistrust in men that erupted out of my being and made me sick for months. Naturally, any time I told any one about my diagnosis it was colored the sickly, putrid colors of anger and pain mixed. Those close to me (and even those just congenial with me) echoed my pain and anger back at me and we all grabbed our psychic pitchforks to ready the hunt for Devyn.

I told my mom early. I see her more frequently, open up to her more easily and I'm terrible at keeping my emotions subterranean. She told me, "You have to tell your father." I don't understand that reaction even today. Unfortunately, I didn't ask her to explain, haven't asked... To me it felt like a requirement, a punishment for something horrible. It felt like she was embarrassed or ashamed. I doubt that's what it was. Perhaps it's time I ask. I never did tell my father.

My mom said the same thing to me, "You have to tell your father" when I came out to her a few years ago. Again, I didn't (don't) understand the place that statement comes from, and again, still haven't asked. I didn't tell my dad, but I assumed (though now I'm questioning) that my mom did. So, I assumed she was going to tell him this news too. Well, she didn't.

Devyn and I began the reconciliation process as my anger waned and I sought healing. My toxic emotions were keeping me inflamed physically too, so I really had to let it go to feel better, in a lot of ways. I felt totally rejected and broken and wanted him to heal it, since I felt he was the one who broke "it." Plus, I missed him. I kept my communication with him secret for a long time because I knew I'd find no approval. Eventually I grew tired of the secrecy and thought, damn anyone who tries to tell me how to live and love. I knew my friends and family knew me well enough to keep mum if they didn't like it; they are, perhaps, more aware at times of my fierce stubbornness than I am. We got back together, I was on cloud nine again, but edged quickly back to the day-to-day realities of a long distance relationship begun via the internet. The truth is that our relationship scared the shit out of me, falling so quickly in love with someone I'd never met, who lived 9 hours away, in a different country. It just seemed impossible. Too much of me wasn't ready to up and go to him. But I tried, I wanted to be different and freer and he encouraged (encourages) my wild spirit implicitly.

In November I was feeling strained, but Devyn's world was crashing down around him. He became orphaned after his mom had a long fight with illness in the hospital and he nearly became impoverished from missing all the time at work while he coped and settled affairs in Brooklyn. I couldn't let him spend the week of Thanksgiving alone in Toronto; a week he'd planned to spend with his mom. I asked my family members if they would be ok with him coming to our warm and hearty dinner. It was terrifying for me.

Asking my family if Devyn could join us for Thanksgiving was hard, but my dad's reaction was most surprising. He seemed to not understand my request. "Sure," he said, "I thought you two weren't really together anymore, but if that's what you want, it's fine by me." I was unbelievably relieved. I did not understand the pained looks my mother gave me.

It was November fourth and Barack Obama was being elected president. I was at the rally where he acknowledged and accepted his new job. That day was a saving grace in as many ways as there are people who prayed for it. As I was leaving for the rally my cell phone rang, it was my dad. He told me that my mom had just told him why Devyn and I had broken up over the summer. He told me he was really pissed and that any one who behaved like Devyn had deserved to be alone on Thanksgiving. If it hadn't been for Barack Obama (and all the amazing hope, peace, love energy in my city and the world) I would probably have spent the whole night in mental agony. My dad is the most important man in the world to me. Where my mom's disapproval often proves to be a catalyst, my dad's is unbearable.

Devyn came anyway. I kept much of the vitriol from him, played damage control with my family. My mother, father and grandmother all knew the story. They gracefully accepted him at dinner. Shifty eyes were our only confrontation. My grandmother had some choice words later which I had no problem hearing, dismissing and then prohibiting. Thanksgiving week was unfortunate and sullen; laborious; any other synonym for "heavy" I can think of.

All of this is back story. It brings me back to the e-mail from HR and where my mind has been ranging today. I've been freaked out again recently by love and its ins and outs. I have all sorts of painfully poignant, and maybe beautiful, phrases that float in and out of my dreamy head regarding my ability, or lack thereof, to be "good" in a Relationship. It's not that I'm a liar, or adulterer, or abuser. I'm not clingy, I try my best to communicate clearly and without my temper lighting the way. I'm actually really good at being judicious when the going gets tough. I make a great best friend.

The problem is, I have spent my whole life telling myself just that: I make a great best friend. It's like an out. The coping mechanisms I used in high school, to make me feel better for feeling so damn unsexy and awful in my body turned into habitual thought patterns. When I got over feeling so terribly unsexy, I tended toward out and out sluttery, to prove myself worthy after so many years of not feeling so. One of the lessons my 20s are teaching me is that this is how I learn, like a pendulum swings. I go from one extreme back to its opposite. I run this track back and forth, back and forth, a little less extreme each time until finally I find the center, my center, balance. It's so exhausting. Maybe, when I'm in my 30s, 40s, or 50s I will be smart enough to skip that process and will slowly edge my way to center from at whatever extreme I started.

Actually, maybe I'm learning the process now. Those painfully poetic phrases that slip into my mind on whims still entice me. I want to hold them and turn them over, see what gruesome details they contain, like the roadkill I go out of my way to examine when there's time. I am definitely one for the grotesque. Hugging the moribund to my chest does me absolutely no good though, in a world where I actually want to relate to people intimately. I don't want to sabotage relationships or think that love can be let go as easy as any passing whim. So I remind myself that I have the wisdom to do otherwise. I know internally now that attitude is everything. Change your attitude and the world seems to change with it: it's one of those awful, trite things to say that, never the less, I want to heed. Maybe that's part of being an adult, you accept the trite stuff that seemed like ridiculous bullshit when you were younger. You start wanting to make something right, rather than spending a lifetime all full of angst and waiting for the perfect human to come along and fit right in without any work. You really realize, no body is perfect (in their angst, or in their happiness), we're all just human.


pulley-whipped said...

i like this. you narrate well.

ShanaRose said...

Thanks Pulls

lola said...

"I run this track back and forth, back and forth, a little less extreme each time until finally I find the center, my center, balance. It's so exhausting. Maybe, when I'm in my 30s, 40s, or 50s I will be smart enough to skip that process and will slowly edge my way to center from at whatever extreme I started."

Life is a learning process. Some things become easier over time from learning the same lessons and noticing their warning signals. If you can't heed their announcements, then it's quite possibly your karma to address them in this lifetime. For me, patience is spark that sends me running back and forth -- or rather, impatience. I'm still learning how to be patient: let things unfold in their own time, become more patient with myself and my forgivable flaws, give others room to breathe, and, while working towards getting what I need, letting them also find their way to me.

You do narrate well. And you're not alone in any of this.

Hadj said...

May the arc of your pendulum swing be low and slow, that is after all the tempo.