In case you don’t want to reread that piece and would rather get right to this one, which is also going to be about that book, the long and short of it is…while I’ve sold more copies of my first books released (duh…they’ve been out longer), THIS book has by far garnered the most response from readers. They aren’t necessarily leaving reviews on Amazon, but they ARE contacting ME about it, here and on other forms of social media where I previously marketed. I’ve had several folks who have read multiple works from me, a couple who have even read *everything* I’ve published, tell me, in this exact phrasing, ‘The Transition Piece is my favorite book of yours!’ If you want more details about where this book came from, writing-wise, or what readers had to say to me about it, read that linked post.
But today, I’m going to write about some personal ways my life with J informed this story, and then share love songs at the end, because that’s this month’s blog modus operandi.
I keep a lot of myself inside a box, usually. Not many people really ‘know’ me. I hold back happiness; I hold back tears; I hold back anger. Which is kind of weird, because I was raised in a family full of people who just let ALL of that shit go. Loudly. All the time. They bicker. They argue. They complain. They yell out Jeopardy answers and at athletes and their coaches watching sports on television. They talk over each other to do all of this. It’s actually pretty deafening.
The first time I took J to an extended family gathering (there are a LOT of extended family gatherings with my family…like…it’s not just Thanksgiving and Christmas and weddings and funerals…it’s all that plus like Bowling Tuesday and Chain Sports Bar Basketball Saturday and school plays and knothole games and just…all kinds of shit…I could spend time with my extended family twice a week or more if I went to every open invitation to stuff…seriously), his responses upon leaving (among others) were:
“YOU’RE the quiet one. ?!?!?!?!?!” (In our relationship? I am not the quiet one. Haha! More on that to come…)
And “How did you grow UP in this? It’s SO loud.”
(He still frequently says that when we’ve spent time with my family.)
Even when we only spend time with a handful of family members…my parents and brother and maybe one other player off the bench…they are constantly at odds with each other over the smallest annoyances in life. Like…
‘I don’t want to go to this restaurant…it’s always too crowded. I don’t want to wait for a table.’
‘Well, I don’t want to go to that other place because we JUST had Mexican food.’
‘Well, I’m not going <here> because they don’t have <one drink that’s not water that this person drinks and they refuse to drink water????>’
And to that crap, J usually says, ‘Everything’s a fight. Everything’s a big deal…’ in this exasperated tone. Which I get. It wears me down too, and always has. But weirdly, I never felt safe joining in to share the things that I got happy and excited about, or even the things that annoyed me or irked me or pissed me off or that I didn’t like in this big loud group of people who were all doing it all the time. I always felt lost. Like I was just adding to the noise. No one would really listen to me or care. It’s why I write. That’s how I express myself freely. (It’s why Deanna paints. And I was wary for years to let people read the things I write…just like Deanna hides paintings in the garage.)
And especially with expressing things I don’t like? Sad things? Things that make me angry, frustrated, annoyed, anxious? I felt like I almost wasn’t allowed to say them out loud (even though everyone else was). Because if I do or say anything that could potentially upset another person, then I’ll be instantly alone (even though I never abandoned someone else for doing that). And honestly? I have some evidence behind that anxiety. A lot of people DID just pack up and get outta dodge when I expressed anything that wasn’t unquestioningly positive…wait…not even positive…when I expressed anything that wasn’t basically flavorless and empty, even. Any sign of passion from me, regardless of what it was about (but especially if it indicated, ‘I don’t like <this>…’), earned me lost connections. So I REALLY bottle that shit up. Including happiness (the passionate kind anyway…even promoting what I love with passion seems to offend or at least annoy people). Except not with J. Which is also odd, because J can’t stand listening to ALL the constant, incessant, never-ending ranting when he’s around my family (just like it grates on me). He rarely complains about anything, but he will occasionally complain about the complaining (ha!). He lets ME complain, though. And I know that sounds like a weird expression of love, but to me, that’s a way J shows me love…letting me complain. Giving me a safe place to let all the shit that’s bothering me OUT. It’s something I’ve always needed, and no one else ever seemed to give me that but J. Well, J and writing my imaginary friends. But J supports that too.
So there’s a traditional country/folk love song that’s pretty straight forward about being the person your person can lean on in times of pain, written by the late, great Towns Van Zandt, called If I Needed You. This is the lovely Emmylou Harris/Don Williams duet version which I chose because it’s lovely and it contains the lyrics for you, but my first introduction to this song was Lyle Lovett’s recording. Which is my awesome transition (sarcasm…I know this is a lame, obvious transition lacking all subtlety) to telling you about a specific Lyle Lovett moment in the early chapters of The Transition Piece. Deanna is just going off to her husband about how her neighbors get on her nerves. And people get on her nerves. And life gets on her nerves. And she doesn’t like this and she doesn’t like that. And she doesn’t like anything. And he listens and jokes with her about the things frustrating her, but never silences her or tells her she’s wrong or that she doesn’t really feel that way. And then she says she can’t figure out why he sticks around, and his answer is a line from a Lyle Lovett song. Again…probably not a conventional love song. The lyrics are…kinda weird. (I probably like Lyle Lovett so much because he’s weird). The title is definitely unorthodox for something I consider a love song (and that will crop up again in future posts…not everything I think is a love song sounds like one upon reading the title…or even sounds like one based on the musical style). It’s a line from Fat Babies (I know…told ya…weird…trust me though). I won’t share the entire set of lyrics here, just my favorite lines…the first one was Deanna’s husband’s answer…they’re the most important lines for me:
“I like you, ’cause you like me, and you don’t like much…
*And that’s okay.*”
Maybe to everybody else, that doesn’t sound like a reassuring statement of love, but it does to me. It’s, ‘I know all the shit you don’t like, and it’s a lot of stuff, because you tell me all of it, but you do like ME. You’re hard to please, but you like ME. I feel pretty great about myself…actually…almost arrogant because you don’t like so many, many things, but it’s obvious that you like ME. And that’s why I stick around.’
J gives me a safe place to let all the negative thoughts and feelings I have out and he promises not to run. I don’t have to keep them all in a box with J. He always listens. And honestly? J’s a pretty exacting man himself. He’s not a complainer, but he’s pretty hard to please too. He’s specific in his tastes. He gives excellence and he expects to get it back, and it bugs him more than a little when he doesn’t. But he likes me. He likes ME.
It’s liberating, and this form of granted grace to be able to be picky and finicky and maybe even mean about things with another person and have them accept that and love you anyway. Maybe they even love you BECAUSE you’re so persnickety, but they know that underneath that or overlaying that or overriding that is your love for THEM. That they like you ’cause you like them and you don’t like much. *And that’s okay.* That’s important too. It’s *okay* to let the negative stuff out. It’s okay with them.
That exchange between Deanna and her husband? That early chapter in The Transition Piece? This is where it came from. It came from J and me. It came from need, and orneriness, and a couple Lyle Lovett songs.