Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Karla And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year... A love letter to my urban family

I have been sitting at this computer forever trying to figure out what I need to do to sum up what this year was for me. How many things changed, how I changed. Do I start with the events? Do I tick off the highlights? The lowlights? How very "Seasons of Love" right.

Its amazing what one year can bring, how much your heart can both hurt and be filled. I can in all honesty say, my heart was broken quite a few times this year. I was talking to Jed last night and enumerating for him what a craptastic year it was for me. I was a little frustrated at first because he kept trying to make me look at the bright side. There are moments when looking at the rainbow through the rain doesn't make you feel any less drenched.

However, I digress. What I mean to say is Jed did have a point. I am still standing! Hallelujah for that. I mean its a comfort to know that after a year where I watched my group of friends fall apart and put itself together, walked away from a friend I loved, saw a spiritual mentor kicked out of the church for abuses of power, saw another two friends come out of the closet, saw a coworker fired for harassing me, my cousin was murdered and I was sexually assaulted... I can still stand up, put one foot in front of the other, and smile.

My heart has some resilience boy. There is a security in knowing that I will always be able to get back up again.

I've been trying to process, the lessons that I am supposed to learn. And rather then stress myself out about it, I'm gonna give it a big honkin rest. I don't think that all the lessons can possibly come before the New Year. The only thing I need to know right now is that I am blessed.

I was out with my friends at this spoken word poetry event and as cheesy as it sounds I had a moment when I was totally struck by how much I loved them. Now I really am a total cheese head so these moments aren't exactly rare. Even so, I was looking at their faces while they laughed at the end of the night. Stood their watching all of us hug. Encouraging the one of us with a date the next night, lol. Taking in just how much these people have meant to me. Even when it was tough I never ceased to believe that they loved me.

I remember how in the middle of the assault, when my brain was abandoning me for numbness, the words I heard were Jed's. He had instructed me long ago as to how to defend myself, and in the clutch moment of my life, those words came to me like armor and I got away. I called one team member that night, one member of the Elite 8. By the next morning, my entire facilitation family had mobilized to provide whatever support they could, they didn't believe distance to be a block and wanted to be there for me any way they could. Isacc was at a workshop, with so many worries besides me and through my tears was able to be the first to pull out of me what had occurred that night. I can remember the day after the assault the girls forced me into a car to see a therapist and get the help they knew I needed yet I was too embarrassed to seek out. As I tottered out of the car, literally scared of the world around me, they held my hand and I knew I was safe. I remember that very night as I slept, Rey slept next to me, hugging me whenever I awoke crying with memories that made me feel like the world was closing in on me and I would never be right again. I remember sitting with Bola, having her hold me as I fell apart while filing a police report, knowing that life couldn't possibly get this rough or painful again. I remember sitting at restaurants with Sam, drinking a beer and having the feeling of being understood in ways no one really ever got before she came into my life. In one such instance hearing her plea to stop believing the person I was had somehow vanished, listening to her assurance that I wasn't lost, and the accompanying embrace that had so much love in it, I longed to believe her. Having my first real argument with Bola and even in the middle of it finding comfort that we would never yell at each other, never make each other feel less than, knowing that in her I found my life-long sister and no one thing would ever be great enough to take that away. Laughing with Rey on various carpool rides at times when laughter seemed like a foreign concept to me. Yet there he was, constant, supportive and my goofball. Writing an email to shut out the very people who helped me make myself capable of surviving, knowing I was hurting them, yet knowing that this time my pain had to be a private endeavor, I had to know how to go forward on my own.

I pushed all of them away in 100 different ways. Lack of communication, shutting down, depression. I wouldn't tell them how I was feeling and then I sat bewildered at why I felt so alone. Even now, I know that if I apologize for it, I'll get several reiterations of "Well it’s what you had to do at the time for you, you don't need to feel sorry for it."

I want you all to know, I realize not only how painful this year was for me, but how painful it must have been for you to watch me go through it. I want you to know that I love you all. I love you for being the people you are and for keeping my heart alive. I love you for accepting me for who I am and encouraging me to do the same. I love you because not a one of us isn't a strong ass survivor. I am proud of you and your personal struggles. I see the beauty in your choices. I admire your character and am astounded by the immensity of your strength. Let it be known, this year SUCKED, and at the end, we got through it together.

With that said PEACE OUT 2005! See ya, wouldn't want to go through you again, thank you for the lessons you taught, but get the hells up outta here. We got some joy coming to us in a big way and you can't stand in the way of that. Though I know you to be more a metaphorical than physical difference, I think we earned throwing that baby out with that particular bath water.

Happy New Years guys! I said it a billion times, I'll say it again, with all my heart, I love you.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Appreciating My Eric

I would like to be clear, I know I am a fruit fly(1). I have long been like bees to honey with gay men. I have had a few gay men (both closeted and non-closeted) that have been my best most intimate friends. I have shared with these people and given them pieces of me very few people have gotten. I like the role of confidant, emotional intellectual, emotional support and fun time friend. However, I am starting to notice the effect the role has had on my social life. I mean if you hang out with mostly gay men, you really won't to have the space to meet the straight ones. Up until now, I think that's been okay with me.

I've been working on my issues for a hot second. I'm a pretty self-aware girl and I've actively sought ways to heal. There has been enough work for me to acknowledge the daddy, self-esteem, trust, safety and sexual issues attached with my inability to actively seek a healthy long (or short) term relationship. I have been scared and running since about the teen years from the possibility of men who would want me back.

It isn't enough anymore you know? I didn't contextualize this until very recently. I was walking through the Mission on the phone with my Eric. Feeling how good it felt to love him the way I do now rather than the way I used to. It was my first time out walking in the Mission since the assault. Eric didn't know this, he didn't know that in summoning all the courage I could find to step out of the car that day. He was the refuge I sought to keep me strong to make life normal again. It was just a casual conversation but something about having him on the phone provided me the safety I needed to regain my ability to have command of my surroundings. Being reflected to myself trough Eric's eyes has always rocked the house.

Eric was my first love you see, at 15, I just knew he should be mine. He was the first guy to (and he still does from time to time) look at me like the sun rises and sets in my eyes. He was the first guy I ever found I could talk to till all hours of the night. We pondered the universe, the Spice Girls and our friends. We laughed a lot and I often got caught on the phone long after curfew. I knew we had the chemistry every couple should have. He was my first kiss. Sitting next to him made my stomach flip-flop AND I still could confide in him like no other. To be quite honest, I haven't known love like that since.

My love for him lasted for many years. At varying levels really, not one consistent stream of in love, but most definitely notable. While I was in Spain for 6 months we called each other every couple of weeks. Emailed all the time. When I returned I think I felt a certain certainty that he would realize how horrible having been away from me for six months was, and we would become the couple we were always meant to be. I can still remember my first night home, sitting with him and my friends in my childhood bedroom, my head on his lap, his stroking my hair.

I remember the feeling of him having his head lying on my stomach the night that he told me he was gay. "Karla, I think I like boys." I have never processed so many emotions at once. The bottom had dropped out from under me, but I still wanted him to feel supported and loved through what I know was going to be a difficult process. I shut off a piece of myself that night to be there for him. I spent the night asking him all sorts of questions. "Have you kissed a boy yet?" "How did it make you feel?" "Are you happy?" Assuring him all the while, we would get through this together.

I left his house in the morning, got in the car and started to drive away. It was about two blocks later I fell apart. I was sobbing, tears and snot coming down my face. I was crying so hard I had to pull over the car on the side of the road. I mourned the relationship that I had wanted to bad and that I knew would never be. He had even left a door open for me, he thought he could be bisexual, he might just be experimenting, but he knew he was attracted to men. But knowing him as I did, loving him as I did, I knew it was only going to take some time before he got comfortable with himself. I knew then he would be happy in ways I would never have been able to provide. I knew that day, it was over.

I got home, called a friend, devastated, I told him Eric had come out. Then got off the phone because my tears were blocking my ability to communicate anything rationally. I cried for days. It was good crying too. The kind you go into the shower to hide.

When people ask me whether or not I knew, I don't quite know how to give a response they'll understand. I did. I mean how can you love someone that much and NOT know. I knew in the same way parents know. The "No, that can't be true." way. The "But he loves me, I just know it. We can be happy if he just tried." kind of way.

I appreciate so much what Eric gave me. He allowed me to realize that people don't have to just "give love a chance", they deserve to be overwhelmed by it in ways they can't help but express. Embarrassedly enough, I have to say, for a few months after he came out, I still hoped he would kiss me. Tell me I was enough. It took quite some time before I let go of the safety of that fantasy. When I did, it changed many things for me. I was 20.

Four, almost five years later, I found myself in a similar, but different situation with another person I deeply cared for. Except this time I found myself feeling relief that they had found themself. Relief that I would see this person truly satisfied and in love one day. I knew the moment they said something that my years of friendship had been spent hoping for this person to find love, not find my love.

Walking through the Mission with Eric on the phone, with the easy banter of years of intimacy, I felt free. Free because, at last, I get to enjoy him for who he is and not what he can or cannot provide for me. I no longer need him, I just want him around. Because I am a complete person for having loved him and having survived it. And for the first time in years I am starting to want things for myself and not the people around me.

This all bring me back to my original realization. I have spent a lot of time on the happiness of other people. I love them and I tend to do this with people I love. It allows me a safe distance from the kinds of leaps that I would have to make for myself. In part I think I wanted (and still struggle wanting) people to love me and figure doing things for them will help them care. Its not a conscious thing, but I know now that I'm not just the nice deeds I do. I am wonderful for a slew of reasons that I could enumerate for you but I won't. Its enough that I know.

I'm not going to front, I'm still working on all this. But I'm ready to find a man who can love me the way I deserve to be loved. Who will look at me and realize how fantastic I am. Who wants to rip off my clothes to feel as close to me as he can, not as a way of denying who he is. I want to parachute into it and feel fear yo. I'm ready, and that's a nice place to be for the new year. Thank you Eric, for playing such a large role in getting me there.

(1) Fruit Fly - term used for women who have lots of gay friends. Also known as Fag Hag. However, I have never been and will never be a hag of anything.