U-Hauls and Happiness
So. Apparently there’s a joke in the gay community that a lesbian shows up on the second date with a U-Haul.
There’s a joke in my own head that lesbians made the up rules to being a lesbian, and that all the rules are designed so everyone always loses.
Turns out being a lesbian isn’t for the weak, man.
I’ve been called a U-Haul lesbian about half a dozen times now, by about half a dozen people, and I’m genuinely confused.
Ok fine. When I’m interested in someone, I let them know. Sometimes I let them know by looking them in the face and saying, “Hey dummy, I think you’re great.” Sometimes I ask for a second date.
Apparently, according to the rules, no one is allowed to acknowledge interest ever, or it means you’re ready to get married.
Ok FINE. I’ve been known to have little to no chill, as the kids say. But you know what? Life is short and I’ve got better things to do than sit around wondering whether someone will call.
Better things like sitting around watching Netflix and metaphorically chain smoke waiting for someone to call.
I just want to know what to shave and when, and the anxiety of wondering is too much for my delicate nervous system to handle.
I’ve gotten called out on my U-Haulness a few times recently, and I am hotly defensive of the matter. I am not ready to drop everything and get married. God, I’m not ready to drop everything and actually date someone, for that matter. Jesus, I’m barely ready to drop everything and go to work, and at least I get paid to show up to that. When I commit, I really commit...but give a girl a chance to acclimate to the way someone chews their food first.
Because I’m just sort of getting my little rainbow clad feet wet, as it were, and this is all such a big shift for me, of course I don’t want to pack a U-Haul. I don’t want my life to change at all, actually. So when I’m told by friends and family alike that I’m the U-Hauling type, and knowing that it’s the kiss of death in my new world, I feel genuinely sad. Sad like I’m wearing a scarlet letter, and I’m tainted goods.
I’ve been doing a lot of looking at friends, usually with tears attractively and irresistibly dampening the impossibly long midnight-black lashes that surround my glistening, almost too-blue eyes <let me have this, ok? Jesus.>, and asking things like, “What’s wrong with me? When will I be happy?” with a quiet desperation that leaves the askee lost for a reply.
There’s nothing to say when someone says something so dramatic.
PS, I don’t mean “What’s wrong with me?” like “Why won’t anyone pick me?”
Girl please. I’m a freaking catch. I know that. Duh. Come on, seriously? With these eyes? And this wit? And how I can be slapstick silly one minute, and hold your hand and let you cry on my shoulder the next? And that I have a passion for empowering everyone in my life? And that I love dogs? And my love of music? And that I can cook up a storm? And my unparalleled ability to sweep into a room and make a party happen? And that I have a job and most of a car?
Get outta here. Oh my God, I’d date myself if I could.
I know my strengths so well that it’s a weakness.
When I ask “What’s wrong with me?” I mean is there literally something amiss? I’m asking myself whether I had a stroke a few years ago and no one had the heart to tell me. I check my face symmetry and my arm heights every morning after I scream affirmations at the mirror.
I was having coffee with my bestie the other day, and I did the whole pity party crap that we all do when you can be real as hell with someone. Seriously, who would put up with that nonsense but a best friend? So there we were (on a night just like this), and she looked me square in the face, put her hands on mine and said, “Erica, you’re not a U-Haul lesbian, you’re a U-Haul life person. We all know that.”
I think I had one of those slow bewildered blinks (#belinda), and burst into laughter.
See, if you’ve known me for any length of time (and lezbe honest, if you’re reading this, you must know me, unless you’re the one guy in Nicaragua that read that one blog that one time), you know that I’m sort of known for...well, for lack of a better way to say it...being there.
Like, I’m just sort of there, aren’t I?
Need to throw up all the way down The Northway after a night out? I’ll drive and hold your hair whilst you yack out of my car.
Need to figure out if your marriage is worth saving and need to make your husband jealous? Invite me over.
Need to power cry about how you sort of hate your new baby and everything in and on your body hurts? I’ll make you tea and we can laugh about it.
Did I hear you vaguely say in passing that you’re tired because you were on your feet all day? I’ll shovel your whole driveway and bring you dinner.
I’ll watch your cats for a month. I’ll go to every one of your performances/concerts/recitals/one man shows. I’ll offer to pick you up from the airport at 1am before you ask.
I’m the reigning queen of the care package. I’m going to remember that thing you told me you liked that one time six months ago, and I’m probably going to get it for your birthday. I’m going to let you know that you’re thought of and valued as often as I remember. I’m going to take all the pictures I can of the things we do because I want to remember the way you looked when we were having a moment. And I want you to feel so f-ing loved that you could slap your grandma.
And it can be a bit much. I know. I mean, I still do it, but I know.
I know I can write when I feel like it, and I know I can name a song in the first three notes, and I know I can tell you all about both the Lincoln and JFK assassinations, but other than that I’m not super good at much, but really freaking good at “being there.” It makes me a damn good doula. It’s a weird side effect of those of us that have a propensity for depression and anxiety. We’re empathetic and thoughtful AF.
It’s truly an odd phenomenon. Phenomena? Both?
Anyway, it’s just my thing, what can I say?
Those of us that feel other people’s moods a little more clearly than we can feel other things do this kind of stuff. But sometimes we do it with a motive. Maybe we were taught when we were young that we were the keeper of someone else’s emotions: we can’t be ok until they are. Maybe we do U-Hauly things with a self-serving agenda: when we’re the martyr, we get more attention...and negative attention is still attention.
In my tiny world, I think of other people and their wants to keep from thinking about myself. I battle my own selfishness every minute of every day...it’s my natural habitat. To keep myself out of the woods of my own mind, I try to stay out of it all together sometimes. I don’t want to suffer.
As weird as it sounds, I’m sort of ok with that now that I see my own behavior. I used to go about all of this the wrong way. I’m not proud of it, but looking back, I think I always had a motive for the things I did. Gross.
Thank God for panic attacks, small miracles, deep breathing, DeFazio’s pizza with friends, and the dawning realization that unless I use my selfishness to take care of myself, I’ll never truly love another person for the rest of my life.
That last one was far and away the biggest awakening of my life. After panic attacks, I took the time to reorganize my values, and here I am. Fabulous and all that crap.
I have zero problem in dedicating my time and energies to the people for whom I care about in my life. I know very quickly who is worth the effort, and I will happily put in the work.
But - and this is where things take a sharp turn in the U-Haul - what happens when the “being there” wire crosses with the “I’m a normal selfish human being and want to figure out if I have feelings for someone” wire?
That’s where it gets interesting.
And by interesting, I mean that I have no idea which end is up half the time and I’m sort of insufferable right now.
And I’ve eaten Chinese food three times this week.
Well, twice. The third time was leftovers, and we all know damn well that leftovers don’t count.
I didn’t give myself permission to turn on the part of my brain that gets to be interested in people I actually wanted to be interested in (#HeyLadies) until recently, and I think my little frontal lobe may not know what to do with all the freedom at the moment. This poor brain. It doesn’t know what’s normal connection Erica crap, and what’s just creepy.
The old girl is tired. Confused, and frustrated, and apologetic, and tired.
Did I mention that I’m tired?
I’m pooped man.
It’s not like I woke up one day, stretched, and said, “I think I’ll be gay starting today.” I had to really hit the end of the spectrum (no pun intended) of where I was willing to feel uncomfortable in my own skin, and take a hard look at who I wanted to be. It took a while to figure things out. Or at least I thought I had figured things out.
I was driving home today, groaning in despair and wondering why I continuously insist on blowing every single thing in my life out of proportion, and somewhere between getting an iced coffee and standing in line behind a woman who used checks to buy things at the dollar store, I had something of an epiphany.
See, I think I’ve been asking the wrong questions. I’ve been assuming that the rules of all this U-Haul crap made me The Other yet again in my life. Maybe instead of asking “What’s wrong with me?” or “When will I be happy?” I should be asking “Is this game real, and is it something I value enough to play?” and “What pain am I willing to go through to meet my little goals?”
Stay with me.
We all want to be happy, duh. I want to be in love and have a family just like everyone else. I want a life that I can be proud of, where my passions and integrity will shine through. I want the people in my life, especially the person who will be my Person, to have the same principles and values that I do. I want to laugh. I want silliness and I want intimacy.
Of course I do. We all do.
That’s not the problem. I think I need to shift how I’m checking in with myself.
Am I a U-Haul lesbian because I’m desperately looking for my own ok-ness in someone else? Or am I trying to be a kind and generous person who gets excited about connection on any level?
What kind of pain am I willing to have if I want to build a great and sustainable relationship? Am I willing to tone things down and live with the silence without questioning my worth?
In my lucid and sane moments, as few and far between as they seem these days, I remember that joy, hope, and happiness are grown from struggles. They are a product of struggle. The more joy I feel, the more proud I am knowing that I’ve done some real work.
Not all struggles are equal, obviously. We all make decisions that make ourselves cringe and it’s a long struggle-bus ride home in the morning. That’s not what I mean. I mean the struggle with yourself in the quiet moments.
I’ve spent so much time in my life avoiding pain, or being afraid of what I thought would hurt instead of wondering what kind of pain was worth it. I was afraid it would hurt too much to miss a shot in basketball or to come in last yet again in the 200 butterfly...to let my team down, or my parents, sister or friends down, so I quit things. I’d rather quit before I prove that I’m a disappointment when I try. I didn’t want to suffer through the pain of failure.
Still don’t, man. And it’s no different in the dating world, is it? We simply don’t want to be on the losing end of something, so we make all kinds of interesting choices to avoid the pain.
I’ll give myself some credit on exactly one thing: of the work I’ve done over the past few years, I am most proud of the tenacity with which I have stuck through very important relationships. It may seem like a little thing, but it’s true.
I say I’m proud of the relationships I have my life because I truly believe at the end of my life, that’s what will matter.
I probably won’t invent something. I probably won’t cure a disease. I probably won’t convince everyone that systemic racism still exists. At the end of my life I may not have building named after me or a monument in my honor, but what I will have are the people who will tell stories about who I was and what I did. Like the time I ripped my pants on the church roof. Or the time I accidentally inspected a claim at a brothel. Or the time my life stopped and I found a way to pick myself back up by the bra straps and start fresh. And always, how I’d show up, U-Haul in tow, and did the things I do.
These relationships are the thing that I spend the most of my time cultivating. Like an herb garden. I plant and plant season after season. I weed, I water, sometimes I even smell them.
The people, not the plants. Clearly.
So no, I’m not a U-Haul lesbian, I’m a U-Haul life person. And sometimes it really sucks.
I want to be invested into as strongly and fervently as I invest in other people. Obviously it’s a bummer when you feel a connection, and the other person moves on. But you know what? I think it’s easy to forget how ridiculously and awe inspiringly I’m being invested in by the people that matter.
I genuinely feel that I have chosen people to be in my life that are putting in as much as they possibly can. People who value me in all the ways that I would want and need. And I am thankful. To stay thankful, I will choose to remind myself of that as often as the thoughts of scarcity enter my brain too.
Those intrusive thoughts of never having enough are the reason I binge eat, or drink too much, or get on Tinder, or spend my entire tax return on Amazon. We can suffer from intrusive thoughts just as much as we can suffer from any physical pain. Trust me, I’m like the mayor of Intrusive Thought-ville.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I know it’s what I do with my pain that makes all the difference. Where am I going to focus my energy to make this suffering worth it?
For tonight, I’m going to let go of the labels that I don’t like. I’m going to try to remember three things that made my day. I’m going to try to think of something nice to do for someone tomorrow, and I’m going to try to leave my U-Haul home.
I don’t need it.
One last thing. If you’ve been someone who has sat across from me over crappy coffee, or cold soup, or at a bar after I’ve had 1,000 drinks, and had to suffer through my various neuroses - especially in the last few months - I want to thank you. Not all heroes wear capes, and thank you for your service.
Thank you for your love with boundaries, and without conditions.
Thank you for being patient.
Thank you for picking up the phone and calling. Thank you for making me a part of your routine.
You make me want to be better, and I will be.