The Regenerati

Sarah feels every mile in the moving truck from D.C to Ohio. While she knows she’s headed in the right direction, she can’t get the calamity out of her head. She tries to form sentences out of all the noise, but comes up with nothing. In her home town, her mother anxiously awaits the arrival of her only child, and her friends daydream of future nights at their local.

2000 miles south east of her trip, Jen sits in the living room of her apartment drinking her iced coffee and watching Sex and the City reruns. Her boyfriend of several years is at work. In a state marked by manicured landscapes and neon everything, she has never felt so middle gray. She feels less like a marathon and more like a treadmill, scrolling through Facebook on her phone looking at pictures of her in her early twenties, marked by impromptu shows at Lupo’s and adjusting her cat eye at a red light in her rearview.

A month or so later, I’m hearing a similar story from another friend, the obvious theme breaking down walls inside my head.

“Maybe we were right about ourselves all along.”

I think back to myself at 16 in my dad’s old house, editing my clothing with my my step mom’s sewing kit, my sister curiously inquiring why I never wear color. Jen picks me up in her old Chevy, and we form some lie about plans for the evening. In two or so hours, she is in the front row with our friend Tina, and I’m drinking a ginger ale in the back with the bartender talking about this Mit Romney asshole. In those days, I ended up in love far more frequently than I found myself in any back seat. As a teenager, my creativity recharged overnight and I didn’t even have to sleep.

Six years later, I had a long term boyfriend and a college degree, but not much in terms of inspiration or finances. I went against my own grain. I followed the man and the dollar. I took the back seat but was far from making love there.

We’ve all had that moment when we stop trusting ourselves; the moment when we let the road dictate our destinations, totally forgetting that we’re behind the wheel.

I frequently refer back to something my mom often said when I told her of personal desires that were the exact opposite of who I am as a person,

“Everything eventually goes back to the way its supposed to be. Life finds a way to bring it there.”

In a old apartment in Chicago, my clean laundry is sprawled all across my living room floor, and I have Jen on the line while I’m folding. I can’t help but notice my style is eerily similar to the way it was when I was a kid, except older. I find myself saying to my friend, that despite what she wanted, she never stopped being herself, and she never will either. As I say that, I think of Sarah making her life go in Ohio, and Abby who will always be a teacher of sorts regardless of what she’s teaching. I think of Andrew, who at 15 worked in a deli and drew pictures in his sketch book, and is now a butcher and selling his paintings and illustrations. I think of my colleague who in mid conversation with me smiles and tells me that I will always be a bleeding heart poet, no matter what I do.

We are the regenerati-the ones who understand that going back to basics doesn’t mean regression. We’ve stripped away the pretense of what the years were expected to turn us into and realized that being adult doesn’t mean sacrificing seventeen. Wearing blazers and being on a first name basis with your dry cleaner doesn’t mean you also have to take to the suburbs and only socialize with people who are faking it in the exact same way you are.

We know that sometimes, you outgrow an old personal epiphany-and that’s okay.

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Like an Apology

It’s the day after Christmas and I called my dad on my lunch break to give him something to smile about. I told him about dinner, and me figuring out a challenging work problem. He told me about my brother. For the first time in a year, my dad reached out to talk to him. He wanted to wish his son merry Christmas.

All my brother could say back is that he hated him, and wanted to kill him. On Christmas, all my brother could do was spit in the face of what would have been a miracle.

Despite his recent suicide attempt, for a moment I truly hated my brother, in this profound way that I tried my best not to all these years. I allowed myself to this time, because while I believe James is sick, I also think he’s a repugnant human being and often times I’m not sure where one begins and the other ends. Is there fine line like with property borders, or is it mixed in like marble cake, and you’re not sure which flavor you’re going to get until you really bite in?

I don’t know. I don’t if there is any type of penance that my father and I could give him that would be enough, especially considering when in the reality he exists in is completely his own. In his reality, he was dying of cancer but refused to tell us who was treating him, only for us to find out when we finally got ahold of the doctor that it the cancer did not exist. In my brother’s reality, it is completely justifiable to call your sister a cunt when she won’t give you money for cigarettes while you are visiting your mom in hospice who is dying of lung cancer.

In my brother’s reality, you should spend $2000 on Armani suits and beg your relatives for rent because Mark Cuban wants to hire you to run one of his startups without any consistent experience or a college degree.

My brother’s truth is emotionally colorblind. It is painted with endless stories where the characters change from hero’s to villains, and anyone with lungs will drown in it’s landscape.

And so, when we are told, time after time after time when we air our grievances to friends and health professionals, that James is sick, it is challenging for us not to scream back while this is true, there are at least two people that are very very tired, and neither of us are confident that even the finest mental tools available would help the situation, especially considering when the person in question refuses to help himself on a more than basic level.

The quiet between my father and I goes stale. Neither of us know what to do about my brother’s mental illness. We cannot reason with someone who never seems to run out of anger, and who is not satisfied with what we have the capacity to give. We  cannot level with someone who know’s he’s sick, but is in denial about what way. My father and I end up saying that we love each other, but it feels less like a declaration of parent-child affection and more like an apology.

On Slowly Coming Out as Bisexual

When I look back on the journey to figuring out that I was bisexual, I see lots of women, but not really in the good way. I see wanting to talk openly about my experimentation only to be told I was doing it for attention, or being lead to believe that I could never truly enjoy sex with women because performing oral on one still frightens me.

For the record, I hate performing it on men as well, but that’s not the point.

The point is, I blindly believed what gays and straights alike told me about my own sexuality because clearly they knew more than I did. I was just synapses and moments in the dark. I was quietly the girl that found herself more turned on by breasts than washboard abs. I was the woman sitting in my dad’s truck trying to explain to my him why the government agency he works for had to be borderline ostentatious about showing it’s support for for LGBT rights. I had to sit there with my thoughts while he told me it was gross and unnecessary, all the while not being sure why i took it as a personal insult.

I loved men, I dated men, and I enjoyed sex with men. As far as I was concerned, I was straight enough to call myself straight. I knew that wasn’t right though. With sexuality being so fluid in many cases though, where was the line? Where does masturbating to lesbian porn become bisexuality? When did the idea that there could be ONE woman out there for me, turn into the notion that maybe there are just as many right women out there for me as men, maybe even more.

When I met one of those women.

I wrestled with it for weeks. I won’t let you know who she is, or the likelihood of us ever happening is. If I had to take a guess. I still hope she doesn’t know.

I do know that on one such evening, we split a bottle of wine at our favorite haunt, and I texted my best friend to tell her I was in love with a girl. I told her I wanted to get gay married with a virtual stranger, and buy vacation property in Maine.

When asked if she was beautiful, I said that of course she was, but that didn’t matter. I wanted to kiss her more than I wanted to fuck her. Above all else, I wanted to hold her hand, out in public, with all my homophobic uncles and the conservative politicians they voted into office watching.

When I finally found a woman that I could love with the same strength as I have with a man, I realized I really was bisexual. The notion still scares me, but I feel honest. I feel less of a stranger to myself.

Most importantly, I feel okay.

So I’m a bisexual woman. If I date a man, I will always be attracted to women as well, and vice versa. I recognize that in certain situations, it’s all about the parts, and in others, it’s less to do with the parts and more about the person. I know that I have the capacity to love in all the ways I am supposed to.

It’s a feeling that out does the fear.

Chronic Conditions

I was on the 66 headed westward home, when I found out about my brother’s suicide attempt. He had closed his eyes, spread his arms out wide like an angel, and walked briskly into traffic on a busy street in our home town. A police officer who was near by reached out and grabbed him, cars honking trying to dodge any participation in an already alarming scene.

He spent the following week in the mental ward at a local hospital when he called me. I know he’d been having issues. He’d been having issues most of our lives. We had been having issues most of our lives- a byproduct of growing up in a broken home. While we always went to school with clean clothes and food in our bellies, we never slept well and expected the roof over our heads to fall at any moment. I’ll spare you the details, as I could talk about it endlessly, but I’ll say that sometimes I feel like the fact that we were unable to off ourselves sooner is a sign that someone upstairs is looking out for us.

Our roads diverged though. I’d like to think that much of it had to deal with my natural resilience, but as his words get sharper and he hits every spot in my psyche that still hurts, I wonder if my hands had any part in this. Even if i didn’t do anything, did my lack of presence make it worse?

Truth is we never asked to be here, and the man and woman who brought us here didn’t protect us in even the slightest of ways. We entered adulthood starved for loved lacking understanding. We live like ghosts and speak like calloused hands. Our smiles sometimes feel sewed onto our faces. The only difference between he and I is that I was neglected a little less, and held with arms that were slightly more authentic. I chose to ignore his pain because I couldn’t handle his life and mine at the same time, and I wanted so badly to make it out-not through, just out.

When I make it back to my place I call him. His therapist told him that he should no longer talk to my father and and I. As I listen to his heartache, his voice cracking with the hopelessness of a little boy and not of a grown man, with a bottle of red wine cradled in my hands and the purple stain on my lips, I wonder if this is the sting before we both finally start healing, or if it will always feel like this. We will always be bursting at the seems with the problem never quite getting solved, and the world telling us we should be doing much better than this.