three years ago, i made a new friend named helen by way of the internets. and what began as a 21st century penpal friendship has become the most meaningful relationship of my life. crazy how that happens, isn't it?
there are many reasons why i never shared that first year of our story realtime on the blog (but you can find it between the lines.) ours began as a relationship between just the two of us. (and jude and marlei, of course.) privacy was necessary, as i told my family and friends, one by one, that i'd met my match. and in that first year, my helen became my best friend through such monumental moments as:
[read in the voice of a devry commercial offering degrees in a/c repair, hotel management, butchering baking or candlestick making]
the long out-coming in nashville;
the ensuing dark night of the soul, as i asked questions like:
1. does God still love me?that time i had to go to the hospital;
2. am i an abomination?
3. can a loving God look down on us and ever say "it is good"?
making the decision of moving to austin.
and she stayed with me!
in the short while we've lived together, we have overcome obstacles like plagues. death and illness and accidents and bankruptcy (mine, btw). hurricanes and humidity, fighting dogs, and weight gain. all this while living in texass.
but do you know what? when i think of us, all i know is love and gratefulness, relief and joy. we are a team. we are a family. (we are a beginning.) helen is my heart and home. and when you see us together, you know it: we're blessed.
[whoever thought i'd understand the love of God so much by being an abomination? joke's on me.]
so, schmelen: here we are. three years and a bazillion more to come. i love you.
tell me how to tell the story of eleventh hour breaths, the counted rise and fall of a dying chest. tell me how to describe hospice, and sitting in the room in which you know your friend will soon die. help me find the words. because i don't know how to honor this gift of handholding through the ultimate transition. and in the moment i admitted i have lost my faith, he asked me to pray.
estrangement. the word on my lips as i fell asleep last night, after tossing and tossing like i usually do most nights, until my exhausted and tense body gives up to sleep. my days in austin are filled with inclusion, community: glorious love and dogs and laughter by the swimming pool. we can't sit on our porch for five minutes without a neighbor stopping by for conversation and a beverage. coffee in the morning, beer or wine at night.
estrangement. the weight of it tugs at the nearly sleeping parts of me every night, when i am quiet and the world is asleep. i'm quite estranged from my words anymore, as you can tell from the blank pages on the blog. part of it is inconvenience; i've got a broken ibook, and it's so damned difficult for me to write anything of consequence on a company computer (as i'm doing now), or even helen's computer. it feels foreign, and a little like intimacy with a stranger. awkward. and the words just stay where they are, rumbling in my belly.
even the camera is stymied with my lack of computer right now. i'm so dependent. it's salt in the wound to work for the company that makes my computing needs possible, and yet my little ibook sits at home, gathering dust, as i figure out how to make her power on again. [for the techies: a new logic board is most likely in order, which is about as economical as just starting over with a new lappy.]
anyway, the word is undeniably "estrangement", and i'm typing it here because it spoke itself so clearly last night. helen and i booked a flight to nashville for memorial day weekend (we'll be there saturday-tuesday), and there is a part of me that is afraid to go, because of the broken pieces there. God bless friends like kevin, who continue to call and call and write me here, even when the phonecalls and emails go unanswered for weeks. sometimes i forget what it's like to be myself--to reconcile the parts of myself i willingly left behind in nashville with the me i'm growing into here in austin--and i feel very awkward in conversation with the closest of friends. do you know that i haven't spoken to my dear marlei on the phone for months? MONTHS! the same can be said for nearly everyone i love dearly in nashville.
oh, and it's not just nashville, either: i haven't spoken to my sisters on the phone in ages, and my mother has to send me "are you alive???" emails, after numerous voicemails, just to get me to respond.
i don't know what to say.
it's not just the "hey i'm gay" thing. God knows everyone in my life has had over three years to deal with that fact now, one way or another. it's an old story. it's a given that nearly every bananie anecdote will include helen. (and our pets.) maybe it's because everything is in such flux right now: helen has now quit her job (sing hallelujah everyone!) and is beginning her teaching certification (and hopefully masters, fingers still crossed) this summer.
in the span of four months, i have gone from having NO healthcare to bringing helen onto my fabulous insurance plan. i have a 401k plan. i keep changing my hair color. we have gone from trying to adopt to deciding to wait on adoption to thoughts of IVF, starring bananie as babymama. we're serious about this. i'm serious about this. and we want to have a wedding ceremony. something small, but real. legitimate in the eyes of family and friends.
i think that's my biggest fear, the biggest thing that keeps me from writing, from talking: i'm afraid of not being taken seriously. that a schmelen/bananie wedding--or to be less threatening to the sacred institution: "commitment ceremony"--will become a political/religious quandary for the people i love. how much hope for the capital I important stuff do i get to hold out when it comes to the "estranged"? i wonder if i give my mother, my sisters, my friends enough benefit of the doubt? will they eventually be happy and feel like a "normal" family if my belly grows round with a baby? will i?
and so i've estranged myself because of fear. fear, once again. and as i fell asleep last night with that fearsome word on the tip of my tongue, music filled my ears. sarah's music. a song entitled "psalm 139" officially, but one she named "love can overcome estrangement".
her words are my words to nashville, as i fly my way back next month. they are my words to my beloved family:
do not leave me defenseless
despise me for my weakness
oh i'm gonna be found out
it's all gonna be released
and what we cannot see of love
is coming near.