There's a Mark Twain quote that goes The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. I've never liked this quote because the truth is that for some people, the day they find out why they are born can also feel like the day they are actually born. For some people, and by some people I mean me, there's only one important day, one real birth. Which is really just a convoluted way of saying I was born on this day in history, and today I turn four.
To commemorate it, I wrote a post about four things I'm thinking about.
Four Things Right Now.
1. Borderline Bitch.
I got in a fight with Laura last week, or, more aptly put, we had an intense discussion. She said the thing I hate the most to hear from anyone ever, which is that I'm a hard person to be friends with because she never knows which version of me she's going to get. The second she said it I felt the shame rise up in my throat, the resistance to that statement in every muscle of my body, and my mind started to calculate the argument to make it untrue.
But it's not untrue. I am unpredictable. I can be such a fucking bitch. Being close to me is hard.
If you've heard me talk about my story, you may have heard that my entry point into sobriety was through a self-(mis-)diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder - I scored 8 out of 9 on the online questionnaire. (Quick tip - do not take online questionnaires about whether or not you're mentally ill). I told my family about the "diagnosis" and my mom and sister bought books called Walking on Eggshells and Sometimes I Act Crazy and said things like This makes so much sense! The diagnosis was never confirmed by professionals. Turns out I was just a miserable, unpredictable, emotions-driven bitch with a drinking problem.
If there's one thing I've worked to get away from the most these past few years, it is this thing. Being told by those closest to me that they never know what they are going to get - as if I'm some sort of ticking time bomb of psychopathy - is a tough thing to swallow. So I've worked the hardest on it, and today I'm not so angry, or unpredictable. I'm no longer a slave to my emotions, I don't react to bad news in a way that makes people fear for their life, people don't call me psycho that much anymore. In fact, I'm in some very big ways the opposite of this - in some situations, I actually get calmer the more freaked out someone else gets. To explain the difference between where I was in 2012 to where I am today is like explaining the difference between Snuggles The Bear and Satan.
But fuck if I'm not still a bitch sometimes. Fuck if some days I don't still wake up and without warning, I'm just HATEFUL and MEAN.
Last week in therapy, I told this to Azita, who then asked me how it feels to be told that I'm unpredictable, hard to be friends with, prickly. I told her it felt shameful, like there was something wrong with me. I told her I hated this thing about me, and that I hate that I still have to wear it, even though I've done all this work. I told her it was just embarrassing at this point.
I fully expected her to agree, to say something like Here's how we're going to murder it. But she didn't say that. She said the opposite; that this thing is only shameful, embarrassing, and still ruling me because I want to murder it. Then she reminded me that it's a healthy, normal, feminine thing to be unpredictable and that cycling is a feminine thing - not a psycho thing. Which is, of course, so fucking obvious a statement. But in our (patriarchal) society the words psycho, emotional, and woman are interchangeable. We're shamed for what is our nature.
Own it, she said. Embrace it. Love it.
I've been told my whole life I need to change this thing, get rid of it, even it out, tame it. It's a liability, a weakness, a problem. And there she was, explaining to me that I was normal.
2. George W. Bush.
I don't know exactly what compelled me to go to Dubbya's Instagram page. I want to say it was a picture of him at the Trump inauguration being cute. Or maybe it was seeing that picture of him and Michelle Obama - the one where her face betrays a different story about a man I've spent nearly half my life hating. But one day there I was, scoping GDubb's social media. It had been some 8+ years since I'd even seen his face (on purpose), and because so much in the world has changed, I found myself wondering Are things so bad now that this looks good, or is this just good? A post from November 11th showed George painting portraits of wounded soldiers and the caption read I've painted the portraits of 98 wounded warriors I've gotten to know - remarkable men and women who were injured carrying out my orders. And then I, um, followed him.
In 2000 I was planning to declare a Political Science major. I read George magazine cover to cover each month and followed the campaigns of Elizabeth Dole, Al Gore, Bill Bradley, and G Dubb. I leaned far left at this time in my life, but I also had a thing for Elizabeth Dole (OG Pussy Power). Al Gore hadn't made that movie about the environment or grown out a beard yet, so he was kind of like a fart noise to me. In the end, I voted for Nader.
When George Bush was elected in 2000 I wasn't mad at it. Again, Al Gore hadn't made that movie yet! And this was the post-Clinton era, where we still gave more of a shit about who Bill fucked than our own safety, the words Homeland Security meant nothing to us, and you still might try and sneak a baggie of pot through airport security (I mean I never did that). In my mind, GW was like, this thing that would be there until we found another Dem worth voting for. But then 9/11 happened.
In the days that followed the attack on the Twin Towers, I was proud to have him as our President. I went through about a week-long nationalist phase, and I thought I might hang an American flag in my dorm room (at UC Santa Cruz !!). Most importantly, though, I was certain that the US would use this moment in history to do the right thing. I literally thought, There is no way we'll go to war over this. We'll show the world how it's done. I was so fucking stupid back then.
On March 20th, 2003, I woke up next to my boyfriend, a Republican!, as I watched in horror and disbelief as our country invaded Iraq under George Bush's orders. I played Outkast's Bombs Over Baghdad on my Panasonic ghettoblaster and screamed at Steve (who was pro-invasion) ARE YOU HAPPY YOU SICK REPUBLICAN FUCK? WE'RE KILLING CHILDREN TODAY.
And then I turned off the news for two years.
I resurfaced again in 2004, and sat in my (new Democrat) boyfriend's restaurant the night of the election, feeling so helpless I thought I might die, as GW was elected again. I couldn't stand his smug fucking face, his voice, his stupidity, his corruptness. I couldn't tolerate anything about him. And so again, I turned off the news. This time for four years.
There was something so confusing about seeing the man I'd been avoiding for 16 years on Instagram that day back in January. It was something like, how does a GW go from evil to puppy? And that picture of him painting?! Looking so damn human?? Using words like "Carrying out my orders"??? What??
The word that first came to mind when I saw it, along with the hundreds of other pictures of him doing charity work, was penance. I thought this man is atoning. But then that wasn't right, because what I was seeing didn't look a thing like punishment or amends. It looked bigger than that. It looked like humility, and service, and selflessness, and kindness, and love. It looked true. I might have fallen in love with him, as a human, in that moment. I might have forgiven him everything, in that moment.
Martin Luther King Jr. says It is possible to resist evil; this is your first responsibility; never adjust to evil, resist it. But if you can resist it without resorting to violence or hate, you can stand up against it and still love the individuals that carry on the evil system that you are resisting.
I have read these words, and many similar sentiments, from Dr. King over and again. They are ingrained in my psyche and my soul because I believe them, they are truth to me. But what do you do with that when someone like Trump gets elected? These concepts of Dr. King make sense on paper. But what about in real life? How do you resist the evil being carried out right in front of you, and still love the evil-doers? Certainly, we think, there are limits to this grace. Certainly, we think, there are gray areas in Dr. King's words. Except there aren't. It's black and white. We are to resist evil. We are to love humans and we are to love ALL of them. Even Trump.
It feels impossible, doesn't it?
I spent last weekend in Dallas with my mother, at the George W. Bush library, to view firsthand his art exhibit. Not because I am the hugest Dubbya fan, or because I had nothing better to do with my time and money; but because right now I need to believe that things we hate the most can sometimes show us where our deepest love, and capacity to forgive, is buried.
3. The Lights In Rome.
On Wednesday I got an email from a client. It was about Rome, did I know they were changing the lights? I had no idea what she was talking about, and the link she'd sent was broken, but I already knew without one further detail that something terrible had happened to Rome.
Part of me has always felt Rome will go away in my lifetime, that I'll see it collapse. I don't think this because I'm a catastrophist, I think it because I'm so attached it only seems obvious it will be taken away. I've seen Rome fall away in my dreams, the ground disintegrating beneath my feet, the cobblestones swallowed into the earth, the Colloseo and the Pantheon and the bridges falling around me. Just like that, in one fell swoop, gone. Last year when an earthquake woke me in the middle of the night, shaking my ratty old studio in Trastevere, I was ready for it to crumble around me. I told my sister the next day I'd been having dreams about this exact thing, an earthquake in Rome, and wasn't it funny that it happened? She said not really; it was obvious to her that I could feel Rome.
By the time I got the link, about the lights, I was already gone, consumed by some anticipatory shock. I read that the government was replacing all the lights - the soft yellow ones that make a night in Rome, well, a night in Rome - with blue LED lights, in effect turning my city, the Eternal City, from one of the most beautiful, captivating, enchanting places on this earth into what will now resemble more of an outdoor WalMart, or rather a crime scene. A forty million dollar project.
I couldn't really process it. That it was real, happening. Not even after seeing the photos.
In yoga later that night, in the middle of a hip stretch, it caught up to me and I started sobbing. Not because some cheap asinine incompetent corrupt government made the most thoughtless decision, not because of lights. But because the thing that I've feared losing the most, the thing I love the most, will forever be gone. The lights are already replaced in the neighborhoods I stay in, Trastevere and the Jewish Ghetto and parts of the Centro Storico. By the time I'll be back next month, night time in Rome will be entirely unrecognizable to me. Which means the place where I came back to life, the streets I walked with their perfect soft yellow glow, many times from dusk until dawn, as I was breaking and coming back to life…they are gone. And to lose something before you even had a chance to say goodbye…something that you felt was put in this world just for you…it's beyond devastating.
After yoga I called Megan, sobbing. I know this is so ridiculous. I know there are such bigger problems. I know it's just lighting. I know that this is just another lesson in the impermanence of everything. I KNOW. But my heart is breaking so badly I can't breathe.
4. Calling In The One.
Years ago, at the behest of my coach Zoe, I read a book called Calling In The One. Basically, it's like Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, except instead of becoming more artistic after forty days of lessons you're supposed to lock down a man. I thought it was total bullshit, but also I was lonely.
One of the exercises required me to create space in my home for this man I was Calling In. Like, make sure and have TWO nightstands (and keep his empty), make space in your closet, make space in your drawers. I looked around my 400 square foot apartment - at my bed pushed against the wall with no room for a single nightstand let alone a second!, at my walk in double-rowed closet overflowing with clothes; at the Rubbermaid container I used in lieu of an actual dresser. I decided that there was no way a man would fit. I stopped reading the book and I kept fucking/dating unavailable idiots.
I was serious about having someone back then, but that was 2014 and from here I can see that I wasn't. I was still bleeding out, still such a mess. From here I can also see that my work needed all of me, that it wouldn't be what it is today had I Called In a partner some 3 years ago. But now it's 2017, and I am finally (FINALLY) a woman who has space to Call In* a man. (*I'm sorry I keep saying Call In but I can't help it).
I told my therapist last week, jokingly, that I had cleared out the other side of my bed and added a second nightstand. I laughed and told her I was making space for my man but she didn't laugh, she pressed. Did you really clear the second nightstand, or is your shit all over it? What about the dresser, have you made space there? And the closet, is there room for at least some of his clothes? She was serious. I rolled my eyes/didn't believe her/remembered I'm too tired of Tinder not to believe her/went home and immediately implemented her suggestions.
I still don't have my person. And what I mean by that is that my person is alive and exists and he's looking for me, just like I'm looking for him, but he's still doing his life things and I'm still doing mine and so we haven't met yet. But when we do meet, 1/4 of my closet is cleared for him, and on our ninth or maybe tenth date, I'm hauling his ass to Ikea so he can help me buy a freaking dresser.