Touching the neurons

I write a word.  You see it and it lights up meanings and memories of your own.  Another word, more lights go on.  Soon comes a story, and feelings and thoughts come from your memories and mine.  Memories are the middle part of the trinity from the first chapter, the backbone between the spiral of time and the internal voices.  Jung says our world view can come from time and memories.

Anyway, when I tell you about being a child in summer, a burst of neurons in your brain catches fire in your brain based on your own memories.  My family used to go on educational camping trips, from Colorado to Nova Scotia over a few years.  I have a pile of snapshots in my brain of camp rangers in funny green hats, all of us standing on the lichen at the top of a mountains, and a frozen bath in the river. We learned geology, zoology, anthropology, biology, all of it.

One of the best things was working together as clockwork.  When we struck camp, we’d silently get up at dawn so as not to wake anyone.  We’d fold up the camper, pack up the food, and leave for parts unknown.  We’d find another campsite 200 miles down the road; during the drive I’d stare out the window, play endless games of dots, and read my books.  When we’d get to our new campsite, I got buckets of water, helped set up the camper, and went exploring on the trails and woodpiles.  Of course there were fires every night and singing and laughing about what we’d seen that day.

Life was good on those summer trips.  Good voices came into my head.  I was strong: I could climb a mountain.  I loved to learn the world.  I was happy. And I was loved.



The stoic musician

Solemnly, I walked to the front of the stage, the grand piano.  I was wearing my best dress.  The bench was too high.  My hands poised above the keys like spiders, and they fell into a web of twists and turns.  The fingers did what they were supposed to do automatically, as they had a thousand times before.  I was pretty good at fast, but bereft of feeling.

When I saw my uncle, he insisted I play for him. Halfway through he’d start a conversation with my parents or tell a joke.  Why did he always put me through this just to go off in the middle?  I was a dull pianist, that’s why.

I hated piano and begged to quit.  I hated the ticking timer set for a half hour, then a whole hour, every day.  Because there was no emotion in our house, there was no emotion in my piano.  But I refused to show emotion in front of my family as I practiced no matter how many times my teacher wrote with feeling in the margin. So I played faster, and the dull pieces just got longer, and my uncle started in telling about his latest trip to the Mediterranean earlier in my forced recital.

The whispers in the Fibonacci spiral became louder with several voices together chanting, “I’m a horrible piano player.  I hate playing piano.  I hate playing basketball.  I hate going to school.  I hate my life.”  Look up at the timer.  43 more minutes.  27 more minutes.  12 more minutes.  Ding.

Tim and not-Tim

Tim was wounded, kind, respected me as a person, smart as a whip, innocent or vulnerable or something like that.  We planned our lives together, and if there were one cis-male human who could have made me happy, it was probably him.  I trusted him.

Sweet hippy-looking girl with pig tails and Levis sings Cat Stevens and American Pie.  Conversation with boys consisted of really?, wow, and then what did you do?  I hated these boys who could be so manipulated by my blank-personality facade and hip-hugger jeans.  They somehow reminded me of my molesters.  I still sometimes confuse the two.  Here was my manifesto:

  • Men don’t feel things as deeply as women do.
  • Women are more empathetic.
  • Men use force of will to make institutions like the LCMS or the government to legitimate their power over moral considerations.
  • When men use logic or empathy, it is usually only from a male perspective: e.g. missionaries. zoos.
  • Men are more linear; women are more holistic.
  • Men underestimate women.  They never expect me to think for myself until it’s too late for them.


So I decided I would never raise a boy.  I still am puzzled that so many heterosexual relationships work:  I feel I would rebel against unfair distributions of work and wealth and other things.  But I haven’t been in the cis-het world for decades, so maybe that has changed.  I try not to judge so much, but I am so triggered when I see men exerting their power because they can.  I feel unsafe and want to fight.  I know I can beat them.

I think that Tim would have been different.


Lisa 2, Mack

The first week of my sophomore year of college, a cute blonde sat near me at lunch, and mentioned being adopted.
–Well.  I was adopted, too.
–Really? I’m Lisa and I’m new here.
That’s how it all started.  Lisa 2 had seen me in a play the previous spring, found out information about me from my friends, and arranged the accidental meeting.  It was love at first sight.

Lisa 2 and I spent weekends at her (wealthy) parents’, tried hard to get drunk one night, watched Fame and Cabaret a thousand times.  Her roommate moved out, and I moved in.  I watched the way her eye lashes almost closed as she studied intently.  I had protective feelings I’d never had before:  I would go to law school, I decided, to be able to support her in the way she was accustomed.

loveWe never touched touched.  We had every meal together for a year, and never held hands.  We had bunk beds, and she would climb up to me in the top bunk and burrow her head into my neck holding each other until I drifted off to sleep.  Then she’d move down to her bunk. I couldn’t imagine my life without her, having had such beauty, humor, those eyes looking at me with love and acceptance.  She was heaven.

Summer came and went, and we drifted apart.  I don’t know why.  I went to the university, and came back to see Lisa at the Lutheran college.  I told her I loved her in that way, and she was shocked and appalled that I would sully our friendship in such a disgusting fashion.  Thirty years later, she’s a lesbian, as were most of my friends from that little Lutheran college.  Lisa and I reconnected, and recently met for coffee.  I remembered all the reasons I loved and wanted to protect her.

At the university, I soon decided to seduce my English professor, Mack.  This time, I was the pursuer, and I analyzed his desires.  Hippy.  Intellectual.  Deep.  Naïve.  I gave him my poetry, but not my phone number and my trap was set:  He would be thinking of me all weekend before we met the following week, with no way to contact me.  I came to class late, with my guitar.  I stayed after class, and he asked me out.

I became overwhelmed by the pursuit, by being something, someone desirable and worldly.  I was more naïve even than I pretended to be.  Making love in a real bed in a real house affected me deeply.  I felt some necessity of loving Mack if I were to sleep with him.  I soon had hallucinations that blew apart my mind; scenes of molestations from years before played back in my mind in psychotic colors and sounds.  Mack would touch me, and, as if in an echo, I could feel Seth and all the others touching me.  At first, I tried to cover this up, pretending I was shy.  But before long, I was hugging my knees, teeth chattering, stuck in a horror of repetition.

Mack found this all very moving.  I watched his face, a mass of cross-hatched wrinkles, and felt I loved him.  I was shattered when he finally left me.  But that crash was just the delayed reaction of losing Lisa 2, I think.  An appropriate time for that grief to finally be released.  Maybe that’s too complex an analysis.  I don’t know.