What If I’m A Mermaid In These Jeans?

Every Day

Every day’s story is different. Every day there are different thoughts and words and ideas I wish I’d recorded, observations that make sense to me one day but by the next week I no longer align with. My beliefs change, my opinions change, my emotions change, and my life changes. I’ve spent a lot of time writing down ideas for what to write here on my blog but never writing any of it, because the next day when I’m ready to write, I’m stuck with yesterday’s ideas, and I don’t want to talk about them anymore, I want to talk about what’s on my mind today.

And this led me to an understanding: I have to write when I’m feeling it, or it won’t be recorded. My thoughts and dreams are special to me, and I want to have them written down, I want to look back one day on what I’ve thought and felt, and see how much I’ve grown and how far I’ve come. But I can’t do that by storing up ideas and waiting, waiting, waiting to finally write them down. Sometimes an idea will come, and I’ll put it aside and think “That’s great, but I’m tired right now and I’ll write about that tomorrow.” But when tomorrow comes, either I don’t want to write about that idea anymore, or I have a new idea, or I’m not interested in my old idea, or a million other reasons why I’m unable to write about it.

I spend a lot of time thinking “I need to write about this in my blog, it will help me feel better to get it down.” But then I don’t. And that’s okay. I don’t HAVE to obsessively document my life (although if I did, I feel there might a great David Sedaris style journal/essay collection in there). So, when I have an idea, I’m going to try and write about it, and if I miss it, that’s okay. I would rather sit down and look at a blank page with no idea what to write on it, then to pull out a list from the past four months of things I meant to write about but never got to.

I’m taking so much to time to talk about this for a couple of reasons: one, because it’s how I feel, and two, because I tend to begin most new blog posts with an apology for not writing enough, or talking about how difficult it is for me to write. So I think I’ve figured out how I can deal with that. Tori Amos would probably call it “respecting the muses.” She says that the muses don’t operate on her schedule, and when they come, she has to open up and listen, or else they might not come anymore. I don’t know how much I agree with the idea of the muses, or being in fear of them, and I’m not saying that’s what she was saying, but I do understand the idea of letting creativity take over and going with it. And if you fight it, you never get to experience what that day’s creativity was.

Every day has new troubles and sorrows, but also new hopes and ideas. I want to try and live in the moment, even though I’ve always heard people talk about that and never much understood what they meant. So I’ve got a lot of ideas, and I don’t know how many I’ll still be on board with tomorrow, and I don’t know how much writing I’ll get done today, especially because I have to be at work in forty minutes.

And now, speaking of work.

Working

I’m going to be honest, I’ve always been pretty bad at working. Worst of all there HAVE been times when I’ve loved my job, but unfortunately because those jobs are in the past now, I spend all of my time comparing my current job to those. My first real job was at Pottery Barn. It was incredible. I managed to do a job that involved constantly being surrounded by crowds of people and working with the public, and all of this while I didn’t even have anxiety medication. Granted the anxiety did get much worse as time went on, and every day was a gamble because of the possibility of having panic attacks, but in general, it was a great job. My coworkers enjoyed being around me, the work wasn’t too hard, and I seemed to do pretty well, even though there were plenty of times when I had no idea what I was doing.

The second great job was at a book store called Books-A-Million. I started out in the cafe and to be honest, I had a lot of fun in the cafe. Making drinks and talking to people, organizing the books in my section and cleaning up, this all made time pass by pretty quickly, and I got tips too. After working in the cafe for a few months I did a shift over on the front end register and it turns out I was GREAT at selling memberships to customers. I was completely surprised by this. I was so good at it that I got mentioned on the company’s website as their employee spotlight, and I got a pin to wear on my apron and everything. I was consistently the highest seller in my store, and my manager’s all really appreciated it, and even though sometimes it was stressful, the job itself remained pretty simple. Most of all, I enjoyed going into work every day. There’s this wacky little Tori Amos song called Happy Worker that I actually don’t really like, but it has this silly refrain in it, “I love my job, he loves his job, it’s the perfect job…” And I used to find myself involuntarily singing that under my breath.

So with these two jobs as a barometer of what I enjoyed, it made it impossible to enjoy working at Polo Ralph Lauren, Waffle House, Barnes and Noble (I was surprised by that one too), an e-commerce company, Wal-Mart, and now Staples, where I currently work. I keep comparing my experiences at work to my happy times at past jobs that I really loved, and I just keep thinking about how I DON’T wake up in the morning excited to go to work. Honestly I feel a bit like crying right now, just getting ready to go into work at Staples, and I’m not entirely sure why. I have to take anxiety medicine to help me not be so scared. Sometimes it isn’t as bad as others, but I just have so few hours and make so little money, and enjoy what I’m doing so little, that I feel so defeated. And there are SO many jobs in the world, but I keep getting job after job that I hate and so I have to leave and find something else.

I want to enjoy working again. I want to wake up in the morning and smile the way I used to, because I was happy to go into work. I want to be good at my job. I want to laugh at my job. But.. it just keeps not happening. I keep feeling like I’m trapped in this dark spiral of depression and fear, and there’s no way out. Because of the lack of hours at my current job, I’m probably going to be taking my resume back up to the e-commerce company tomorrow to see if I can get a job there again. I left that job because working in a dark office with no windows (the office is more or less a dressed up warehouse), doing something that I didn’t entirely understand, and working full time, sitting in the dark for nine hours a day, was really draining all the life and hope out of me. I felt so defeated and on-edge and angry at everything.

When I got this new job I thought things would be different because I could work in the sun, and move around, and talk to people, but a lot of those things that I loved about it at first have become challenges to working there now. It turns out I’m not NEARLY as good at customer service as I used to be, I just don’t have the energy to put up with people’s rude and smartass remarks anymore, and I hate being abused by people just because they think they have the right to do. Walking around all day may be good exercise but I’m overweight, and even though I’m losing weight, I still have this incredibly uncomfortable and embarrassing problem of my thighs rubbing together and creating blisters that make it exruciating to walk around. I feel tired and anxious at work, and I try to sound cheery but I just feel dizzy and sleepy and afraid and weak. And I don’t know what I can do about this.

I’ve taken up praying again. Last year was sort of all about atheism, and I’m glad I took the time to really be a part of the atheist world and experience those books and shows and talks, and learn a lot. But I’ve learned that I just don’t know if I am an atheist. A part of me really wants to be Pagan again, or at least as Pagan as I was before when I was interested in it, but I don’t know if that makes sense to me either, and I’m certainly not Christian. It would be sad to me if somehow my whole rebellion against Christianity ended up with me sulking back to Christ’s feet, tired and beaten, and saying, “Fine, I give up. You must be God because I don’t think anything else is working. I tried my hardest to think for myself, to be independent, to experience some kind of wonderment and magic in the universe, and I failed.”

The Future

I’ve had some time since my move to Delaware to think about what I want my future to be. As always, there is this sinking feeling in my chest when I think about college. When I think about the fact that one of my friends who was still in high school when we first met is now on his way to have a PhD. In the very subject I wish I was learning. I avoided college so I could try and find a relationship, and I ended up becoming a person who has to depend on others to survive, who is weak and unable to fight for himself. Who fears working a measly eighteen-hour work week going out into the public because of anxiety. Who gained so much weight that I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes a month ago. I feel so broken now.

Even though I’m a safe place, surrounded by friends who care about me, and far far away from my mother and all the corrosive influences there, I realize that now that I’ve had a chance to stop fighting, I was able to let everything break. I was struggling to hold myself together so I could survive near my mother, but now that I don’t have to, I’m in pieces. And I don’t know where to begin or how to fix it. I feel so exposed and weak and afraid, and I don’t know how to go about growing into a strong person. I want to go to school, I want to enjoy experiencing life, I don’t want to be afraid of everything anymore. Antidepressants used to help with that but now I feel just as scared and anxious as ever before. I’m tired of feeling that way. I want to have hope. I’m trying so hard but I don’t know where to go. I need to get therapy. Maybe that will be a good place to start.

Most of all I want to be a writer, I want to be a musician, I want to be able to enjoy what I’m doing with my life and to make money so I can survive while doing it. I want to be the artist I’m trying to be. I want to write the books in my heart and compose the songs in my heart. I want to sing and to write and to feel like who I am as a unique person is what’s making life worth living.

But I just don’t know how to keep going, or where to go from here. I have support and love from my friends but I’m still scared. But today, I’m going to go to work, and I’m going to try to get through this day. And tomorrow when I have a day off, I’ll try to keep going. And I’ll just keep trying to continue on, and I’ll just have to see what happens, and if it doesn’t go the way I want it to, I’ll try to make it different.

I’m weak. I’m scared. I’m broken.

But I will keep moving. And I will make it to a life that I believe in, and to a life that makes me happy. I will make it to accomplishment and hope and the future.

I hope things will get better.

It’s very silly and doesn’t feel quite right to say “I’ll try,” but yeah, I guess that’s true. I’ll just try. And I’ll try and try and try. And one day, things will get better.

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A Farewell To My Mother

I’ve wanted for a long time to write about my relationship with my mother. I’ve wanted to try and explain the many ways in which she’s harmed me over the course of my life. Today, she sent me a message, asking me to come back and work for her again, and asking for respect. This message was my response to her. It contains most of what I have to say.

How can I respect you? You told me I would burn in hell. You don’t care about people making fun of me for my sexuality. You don’t accept and love for who I am, even though I’m different than you. You bring judgement and anger toward me every day. You hurt me on a very deep level with your words and actions. How could I ever respect that? All you bring to my life is pain and misery.

I’ve tried for so long to try and see past the things about that hurt me. I’ve tried to still love you and treat you like my mother and show you honor. But when I do, you return that favor with anger, bitterness and hatred toward who and what I am. You’ve always claimed to love me, but your actions are not that of a loving person.
I have friends who are mothers, who would never in a million years tell their child they’re going to hell. Who would never for any reason tell their child to try and change who he is and be miserable for the rest of his life instead of embracing himself and being who he is meant to be.

You think only about what your perception of Christ is. But Christ is not about judgement, or hell fire, or anything but love. Love, even for people who don’t believe. Christ showed love to the non-believers, not judgement, not threats of hell fire. If Christ spoke to me he wouldn’t say “Jesse, if you don’t change who you are, you will burn in hell.” He would say “Love one another as I have loved you.”

You are so caught up in your tiny perception of Christianity, fueled by television evangelists and money-grubbing schemes, that you’ve lost the point of the whole thing: one commanded I give to you, love another as I have loved you. You don’t seem to understand what that means. A loving mother does not say to her son, “Don’t come crying to my when you’re hungry,” or “You’re not my problem,” “or “You’re nothing but a thorn in my side,” or “If people were calling me a fag, I wouldn’t be a fag,” or “You’re going to hell,” or “You’re possessed by a demon!” Those are not things that a rational person with a rational mind would say or think.

So, respect you? How can I? How I would love to respect you, to have a relationship with you, but just like my father, you’ve turned your back on me. You’ve told me that I’m not good enough because of who I am. I can’t keep coming to your house and not mentioning the fact that I’m gay or that I’m not Christian, knowing that it will cause you to on a tirade and yell at me about fire and brimstone, telling me stories about Sodom and Gomorrah that you yourself don’t really understand. There are people in the world who aren’t Christian, and they live happy, successful lives. You live in a vacuum of denial, because you’re miserable with your life. You married someone for their money and not for love, and now you’re trapped in a loveless marriage and you’re trying to replace those feelings with things, like all these rings and jewelry you have Lee buy for you. You preach to people about Christ’s forgiveness, but you show none to other people. You yell at your daughter to be compassionate, yet you show her no compassion when she cries her little heart out. You say you’re proud of me, that I’m your favorite, that I’m talented, but then you call me names, you tell me I’ll burn in hell, you judge me and criticize me, both of which I would remind you are sins.

And more than anything, you chose to give love and support to the man who abused me as a child. On his death bed, you brought him home, you took him into your own house where both me and my sister were, and sat around talking to him, asked me to play piano for him, had Brianna call him “paw paw,” and then you even set up his funeral service, made a memorial to him, and read a eulogy for him. This was the man who hurt and abused me in the most heinous possible way as a child, and you chose to show him compassion and forgiveness and love, rather than putting him in prison where he belongs. It’s possible that I could forgive you for calling me names. It’s possible that I could forgive you for telling me I’d burn in hell. But I say this without any anger toward you, this is simply the truth, you betrayed and destroyed me when you brought your father down here from Georgia, sheltered him, cared for him, called him “Daddy” and looked at him as though he were a sweet old man, when in fact he was a monster who terrorized you, me, your mother, and everyone he ever met.

If I had been in your shoes, mom, and I were you, and I found out Jerrie were on his death bed… people would have had to hold me back to keep me from going up there and pulling the plug on his ass. Instead you chose to treat him as though he deserved your kindness. You blame what he did to me on a “demon,” or “the devil possessing him,” or “he was an alcoholic,” or “his mind wasn’t right.” Those are excuses. He made a choice to take me out into those woods and rape me. If you’ve forgotten, he raped your four-year old son. And you chose to stand by him in his final hours, you chose to officiate his funeral, you chose to bring him into your house and introduce him to my little sister, which you had NO business doing.

My father, crazy though he might be, at least had the decency to hate that man. You chose to love him. And you made your choice. You picked him over me. And when I told you this, years ago, you said “What does it matter? You don’t love me anyway!”

Think back. All of those tiny little hurtful things you’ve said over the years have remained in my mind. I remember when you came up behind me on the couch in our blue house and pulled my hair, I remember when you pushed me in my chest and knocked me down on my bed, I remember when you screamed and screamed, when you called me a freak, when you told me I was a thorn in your side, when you told me I was possessed by the devil. And I even watched those videos on your phone you said you didn’t want me to see until you were dead, where you go on and on about how I need to change who I am, how I’m allowing the spirit of the devil inside of me.

You’re just an empty person, mom. You’ve lost everything. You lost your first son, you lost your first husband to madness, your second husband to death, and you lost your mother. You got into a marriage you didn’t really care about and you try to fill this big void in your heart with material things, and with religion. You spend all your energy researching the bible, but you don’t even understand what the bible is about. It isn’t about “speaking in tongues,” or the judgement, or the end of the world, or even salvation. The message of the entire Bible is summarized in Christ’s words at the last supper: “Love one another, as I have loved you.” Love will never be a sin. You have been led to believe it, but it isn’t so.

But that’s all your problems, and I can’t handle them for you. Nothing I’ve said here has been out of anger or rage. I’m not mad right now. I’m not seething with anger or throwing things, I’m very calm, and I’m speaking to you from my heart. I am sorry for you. I wish that life had been better to you. I wish you hadn’t lost so many things you hold dear. I wish you didn’t suffer so much. I wish you didn’t feel so alone. I wish you didn’t have so much to worry about. I wish your health weren’t failing you. You may think I’m cold and heartless, but I’m a very open, loving, and caring person. But you have spent years upon years hardening my heart toward you, and no amount of small apologies will ever fix that. Only your actions can show that you love me, and your actions have been actions of hate. Mothers don’t kick their sons out of their homes. Mothers don’t threaten to call the cops on their sons. Hell, mother’s don’t actually DO it either. Mothers don’t tell their children they’ll burn in hell. Mothers don’t tell their children they’re possessed. You know a lot about how to be Cissy the person, but you’ve never known how to be Cissy the mother. You gave Brian up, and your reasons may have been justifiable, but when you had me, you were given another chance to be a mother. You claim you protected me, but it’s taken me a long time to come to a conclusion.

You knew what your father was like. You grew up around him. You’d heard the stories from your mother. You knew he couldn’t be trusted, yet you let me go out and be alone with him anyway. The truth is, I never blamed you for being molested or raped, whatever you want to call it, but now that I look back on it, now that I know that you knew at the time what a monster he was because of what he’d done to you and your family, because he even told your mother he’d had sex with you girls, you should have known better than to send me out into the woods with him. And when it did happen, you should have pursued him and made sure his ass got put in jail for the rest of his life, not just left it up in the air. You didn’t want to “put me through” being on trial? Why? I had to talk about it to a million therapists anyway, why not have me talk about it to a judge so that man could get justice?

You were weak, and selfish. You have always, essentially, been selfish. You’ve done for us, yes, but at your core you’ve been a selfish person, because you’re scared. I don’t know what of. Oh, you can tell me that I”m “Greg Williford” all over again, but I’m not diagnosing you with disorders you don’t have or making up a past for you that you didn’t have. I’ve seen you, all this time, I’ve seen your actions. You say you’re kind and giving, but you can be remarkably cruel, particularly to your own children. You say you want to get away from your family’s drama, but you relish in hearing all of their gossip. You say you want to lead a Christian life, but you do nothing but give money to TV preachers and go to Joyce Meyer seminars. That’s not what being a Christian is about. And even worse, you’re hurting my sister with the way you treat me. It breaks her heart to hear you tell me I’ll go to hell, or tell me I’m a fag. It breaks her heart to see you treat me the way you do, but you don’t care about that. You just have to be right.

Well I’m sorry, but I can’t be your punching bag anymore. As a child, you leaned on me. As a little kid, when there were troubles in your marriage, you came and talked to me, a child, about them, and held me and cried. You did it my whole life. I was too young for you to do that. Because of you, I’m afraid of the world. All the hatred, bitterness, rage and anger in the world that you’ve warned me about, I’ve seen it all in you. I’m too sensitive to be gay? No, I’m perfect, just the way I am, and that’s what a real mother would say. I have friends who are old enough to be my mother who tell me every day that I’m great, that I can accomplish anything, that I’m a wonderful person just the way I am. It hurts me that for some reason you can’t do the same.

Do I need your help? Yeah, I really do. I’ve got a mountain of debt at my bank, my tags are going to expire next month, I have a car payment and rent due, and I still haven’t found another job. Do I need money? Do I need a job with you? Hell yeah. But what cost would I have to pay? Even if you told me you genuinely loved and accepted me for who I am I wouldn’t believe it. In the short time I’ve been away from you, cutting you out of my life, I’ve felt strong, confident, and hopeful, for the first time in my whole life. Your anger, your rage, your sadness and your misery drag down those around you, and it’s turning your daughter away from you. She’s beginning to see what kind of person you are, and I don’t think she likes it. I can’t speak for her, but all I ask is that you try and treat her better than you did me. Stop calling her names. Stop putting her down. Stop telling her she isn’t enough. Build that child up. Tell her that she’s beautiful, that she’s capable of anything, that she’s great, just how she is! That’s what a mother does.

I guess there’s nothing else to say. In the end, I’m sorry for you. I’m sorry that your life has been so hard. But it’s your burden to bear, not mine, not Brianna’s, not Brian’s, not Lee’s, not Greg’s. It’s yours. And YOU must live with it, not me. I have to move forward with my life. And one day, when I’m a success, I’m sad that I won’t be able to look back and see you as someone who pushed me forward, who helped me to become great, I’ll see you a stumbling block set in my path to test me, and that’s a real shame. I’m sorry for you, but I can’t bear your burdens or your sorrows anymore. Keep your prayers, you don’t know how to pray. Keep your money, you dont’ know how to love. Keep your love, because it’s dysfunctional and it isn’t truly love, it’s need, need for another person, and I can’t be your crutch forever. I hope you find some fulfillment in your life. I hope you do well. But I have to go on without you. You have proven to me that you’ll never truly love me. I go forward in life thinking of you not as a loving mother, but as an unfortunate setback in my life. I wish I could love you, I wish I could forgive you, but I can’t. And I’m sorry for that.

May you find some peace within yourself someday, and may you realize the deep harm and sadness you’ve inflicted upon me. Goodbye.