one of us

It’s always the same funeral home. Maybe they specialize in supporting the families of addicts and alcoholics. Maybe one them is one of us and understands. Maybe, maybe not, but it’s the place we meet when one of us dies.

griefstatueOne of us.

Another one of us has died. We gather together again and stumble through all the things you say when there really is nothing that would make this anything other than horrible and tragic. Prayers, Healing Light, God, Heaven,  At Peace, Better Place, people say these things when they want to provide some comfort, where there is none to be had. There is nothing that is comforting at a time like this. Honestly the only thing that makes sense to say is that This Sucks, It Sucks A Lot, and I’m sorry. We hug each other, cry, hold hands. We laugh too, just a little, sometimes.

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This will be the first memorial I’ve been to since my brother’s.  He is at the front of my thoughts today. He is most days, but more so today. I miss him. She will miss her sister. Forty and dead. Somehow this seems worse than forty eight and dead.

Not that you should qualify the degree to which some thing is tragic, but we do just that. Did they have children? How old are the kids? Was it sudden or was it drawn out? How old were they? Were they in love? What were their gifts? Somehow the answers to these questions let us decide relatively how tragic someone’s death is. Then there is the shame or a stigma that can accompany a death from addiction, alcoholism, or mental illness. Sometimes this can let us believe that we can be immune to this kind of death. We cannot. No one is. We know this. It’s why we congregate and reassure each other that we are still okay, that our demons are still in check and that, just for today, we can look at them without needing to hide from or numb  our feelings.

As to the purpose of this pain and heartbreak, I can think of just one, and that is to make you better able to be of service to another person. Ultimately, that is all we can do, service is the thing that gets us out of our own ego centered lives and broadens our vision and our reach.  John’s death has been unspeakably painful, it has been to date the most difficult thing I have experienced. It brought me to my knees, physically and spiritually. It has made me at times, angry, heartbroken, depressed, cynical, and so many more things.  It has also opened me in a way I was not before. Today’s service was excruciating, awash in all the emotions from John’s service and the months following it, but I was also able to be there for a friend and be fully present with the pain she felt.

People die from alcoholism and addiction for many physical reasons, but emotionally a very self centered fear is what takes over their thinking and leads them to their death. Fear of not getting what we desperately want, that we are unlovable, fear that we are unworthy  is often what drives us, what holds us back, what causes us to lash out, to retreat and hide. When we live in fear we don’t really live. When we live in fear we can reach for anything to numb it, to take the unbearable feelings away. Living in fear is dark and scary place. The only way out of it is to do the thing that is the most terrifying, to lean into the fear, to feel it completely, to get really, really uncomfortable, to tell someone of your shame, your fears, to be fulling present as yourself, your flawed, imperfect, messy, shameful self. It is here you realize that you can survive being uncomfortable without constant distractions, that you are worthy of love, that you can be comfortable in your own skin.

TIMG_3274his is not the easy path. Anyone who has walked it wished for an easier, softer way. If there is one, I have not found it. If there was one there would be fewer services like today.

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ghost

IMG_5568

I love you

I got a call from a ghost today.

The call display said Montana, and  I almost didn’t answer, I don’t know anyone from Montana. The call was from a father that I didn’t know. A father that I will never meet. He told me his son was dead, and for a moment I had to think which dead son is this, which dead child is this about.

Then I understood.

This was Kevin’s father. Kevin who was dead. Kevin, the young man who made a small party my son’s first birthday in Arizona, far away from home. Kevin, who arranged for a decorated ice cream cake and twenty candles. Kevin who ordered pizzas with everything that Graham liked on them. Kevin who took pictures of Graham blowing out the candles and sent them to me because he knew how sad I was about not being there for his birthday. That Kevin who took care of my son when I could not. That Kevin who within six months of the party had relapsed, and shortly after had died.

I had sent his phone a text after he died. More of a prayer in text form. It read something like I’m so very sorry, and thank you. I was so sorry he had died, and still so grateful to him for taking care of my son. I sent it, and like a prayer, I never thought anyone would ever know about it.

I do understand that to his father when he finally got his dead son’s phone that my message would be a mystery. I imagine how many times he must of read it before he worked up the nerve to call me and ask just what I meant texting a dead person.

Today he called and we found out about each other, although we never even exchanged names. I told him that I was so sorry, that his son had been kind to mine, and kind to me, and how much that meant to me. I told him that my son was still alive and still clean and sober. I don’t know that was comforting or painful for him. I think it could be both. Maybe I should  have said in October my brother, John, and many years ago my father, Alan died of the same disease his son did. Maybe, but that’s not the same as a child. Nothing could be that.

He seemed content enough to have his mystery solved and we said goodbye, and then I sat there and cried for all of us, for those who have died, and for those of us who loved them. I cried, because there is nothing else I can do for Kevin, for John, for Alan, for any of the dead ones.

For the families and loved ones left behind, sorry is not ever going to be enough. Sorry can’t heal the kind of pain this is, but is all we can do. We say sorry and we then hold space for someone’s pain. We say sorry and we hold space in our words, in our actions, in our lives, and in our hearts for them. We let them feel their pain without judgement. We surround them in as much love as we can. This is what we do for the living,

because there is nothing more we can do for our dead.

275 days

wp-1468187743004.jpg275 days of saying goodbye. 275 days so far.

We’ve made it through the first month, first Christmas, first Easter, first birthday, the first 9 months.

275 days since they found you lying on your floor. 275 days of imagining you lying there alone.

It started with a phone call, an email and a long drive home to police tape and a stain on your carpet. Days of cleaning and loading parts of you I wanted into my trunk, an obituary and another long drive back. Later a eulogy, a service with your family, your daughters, my daughters, poems, songs, readings, prayers, food, friends family and a goodbye. Another drive.

20160130_122314-01.jpegThen a flight, a Sedona hike with your nephew, a candle and a prayer in The Chapel of the Holy Cross. Another hike, an offering with the same prayer, “I love you Johnny”. I left part of you in Arizona in one of the most sacred places I know. I left your ring, our father’s ring in The 20160130_143710-01.jpegAmitabha Stupa and Peace Park, a place full of love and peace. I left it there wearing your shirt, the sleeves rolled up in the heat.

And this week a drive, a sacred fire, prayers and songs, an offering to the creator in the tradition of the Lakȟóta people. And last night a bamboo leaf, the same prayer, and a candle floating away into the sunset.

 

 

 

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I love you Johnny

hey God,

IMG_7404Hey God,

How are you? I know you have a lot going on, and that in the greater scheme of things I have nothing to complain about, but here I am just the same.

Things are difficult right now. I’m a hot mess. Make that a mess, there is nothing hot about me. It’s been over five months, and I’m more messed up than ever.

I am carrying more than I can, and I’m tired. For the first time in nearly a decade, I wish I was allowed a little oblivion, just now and then. I’m not. I know this, and I’m not going to take that kind of break. I’m going to sit here with all the feelings and lean into them and go through them, just like I know I should, but really I’d rather not.

I’d also prefer that several people would behave differently, that they felt different about me. A complete waste of my time I realize, but here I am yet again. I would love to be loved, even just a little.

I would very much like someone I could lean on. I’m a little worn out taking care of other people. Just one person that I could be this mess in front of and they would be kind and make me tea or something, and not tell me what a disappointment I am, not tell me how I disgust them, that I have a mental disorder and will amount to nothing and end up alone in a little shithole apartment. I give them way too much time in my head, I hear their voices over everything else on days like today.

My girls are wonderful, but it isn’t their job to take care of me. It’s nobody’s job, I have to take of myself, and today I’m tired and just don’t feel much like it.

Anyhow, I’m going to try to put some of this down, or maybe you could take some of the load just for a little while?

thanks for listening.

too busy

20151019_152813-01screenshot_2016-03-06-22-58-25-01.jpegGoogle has been good enough to remind me that your birthday is coming up. There’s a bright red rectangle, with a little picture of birthday cake on my calendar on the top of Tuesday, an “All Day Event”, “John Day’s birthday”. Facebook too doesn’t want me to forget your 48th birthday is coming up this week.

I don’t know how to get rid of either notification. I can’t wait until about 10 am on Tuesday when my phone will send me the notice that I should wish you a Happy Birthday. There doesn’t seem a way to turn these things off.

Thanks, Google! Facebook, you’re awesome, the  absolute best, I mean I might have forgotten to call you and sing happy birthday with the kids like we always do. Except you won’t have a 48th birthday. You won’t have cake, terrible singing (that would be from me and my kids), me making fun of you, your daughters, you won’t have any of this again.

And what do I do? I sit here in wrapped up in your clothes punching the keyboard of my laptop in some vain attempt to find some meaning, some comfort, some anything in this. I’ve got nothing. Absolutely nothing. I want to write something profound and beautiful, but all I have is this huge empty place that is absolutely silent.

“Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” – Pablo Neurda

or as he orginally wrote it “Es tan corto al amor, y es tan largo el olvido”  translated “It is so short to love, and oblivion so long”

It is so short to love, and oblivion so long.

I wish I had loved you better. I wish we had had more time. There is nothing now, no more time. I rethink and replay entire years and the individual seconds that I had you as my brother and know I could have loved you better. I should have done something more to save you. I knew better than anyone what was happening to you. I can never say I didn’t fully understand what was happening. I understood. I felt many of the same things you felt.  We were the same in so many ways, I knew your demons, I shared so many of them, and I still did not save you. I stood still and watch you leave.

The truth is I was too busy saving my own life, too busy with my own demons, too busy trying to save my son. I knew you were leaving, and I watched you go. I should have done more, I should have done something. I just didn’t have anything left in me to save you too, and now it’s too late.

I’m so sorry Johnny.

the forgotten art of self love

10616274_10204420794615608_257153541342318674_nFor too many days I have not written about you. I tell your stories more quietly, to just myself. Wearing grief on the outside becomes less fashionable as time passes.

I never did unpack my car trunk completely from my last visit home, my last visit to your home, it’s not mine anymore, and so I still hear the shift of your tool bag and the occasional rattle of the metal picture frames in their basket when I turn corners. To unpack them, and store them has a finality to it I’m not quite ready for.

It’s been just over four months. One hundred and thirty eight days more precisely.

In one hundred and forty nine days it will be what should have been your 48th  birthday. I try not to think about that.

Just over four months since they found your cold dead body lying alone on your apartment floor, alone and cold. One hundred and thirty eight days of imaging you there. I hide the grief better now, but it hasn’t dulled. Its weight on my chest a nearly constant presence.

People are trying to be kind and well meaning when they say things like you’re in a better place, or that you’re happy now, or the absolute worst, these things happen for a reason. I know they mean well, but I also know that regardless, you’re not here, and we are.  That there is no good reason for any of this. The people you left behind, the ones who loved you, the ones who loved you despite your struggles, who loved you even when it was the most painful thing in the world to do. We loved you. We still love you. We are still here trying to make sense of a world without you. You’re not in pain anymore, and perhaps one day that will be comforting. It’s not right now. It’s selfish, but when you were alive and in so much pain, we could at least hope. We could hope that you would find your way back.

20151019_143920-01When you were just a little boy mom had to rush you to hospital in the middle of the night. You were very sick, and I remember being so jealous that you got presents, new pajamas, and all the attention. You recovered completely and the dramatic midnight hospital trip became a family antidote that we would pull out and laugh about.

Last night I ended up in hospital in tremendous pain. It was a different time, different place, but the same aliment. But mine was brought on by my own indifference to myself, that and some ambitious and opportunistic bacteria. I did not get presents or new pajamas, but I did finally see how poorly I’ve been taking care of myself. I’m like the character in the video below, a cartoon version of me.

20151019_144255-01Johnny, I think about you every single day, every hour of every day that I’m awake, and often in my sleep. My heart hurts every day. I wear some of your clothes, your art work hangs in my office, your tools rattle in my trunk every time I drive. You are with me every moment, so much so that I forgot that I needed to take care of myself. I have been so wrapped in grief and heartbreak, and keeping that pain inside that I made myself physically ill.

For the first time in a very long time, I cooked a meal just for myself. We were such foodies you and I, and I lost that. Tonight, after a quiet day of post hospital rest, I made myself a wonderful meal and ate it while I read. It was an act of self love that I’d almost forgotten about.

I miss you. I keep waiting for this to be a story I’ve made up, but it never ever is. You’re gone, and I’m still  here.

IMG_5568I love you Johnny,  that was the last thing I ever said to you, last summer, a couple of months before you died, standing in the pouring rain by the lake in Chicago from my cell phone. I had called you on whim, we had barely spoken since your time in ICU, the time we thoug
ht you were going to die, but you pulled through.  I didn’t realize I would never speak to you again.  I still want to say more to you. Maybe that’s why I write these letters to you. Maybe it’s me pretending that you can hear me still. Or maybe I just need to get the words out to keep myself sane.

I love you Johnny, and I miss you so terribly much.305888_1912109127175_7470649_n

 

 

year of the monkey

buddha-grief-quoteDear Johnny,

It’s funny the things that make me think of you, like today, on a Year of Monkey card someone gave me, your year.

This was suppose to be your year, and then again tonight, while I was bowling for the first time since we took our kids years ago, I thought of you and how we scored our game, the jokes we told, and how you won. I’m pretty sure you won, I’ve never been much good at bowling, and you could always pick up anything you put your mind to. That used to  make me crazy you know. I had to work hard to be good at anything, and all you had to do was incline your mind in whatever direction you wanted and then master whatever it was.

It was a staff party, tonight, with bowling, arcade games,  bocce ball and all sorts of great food. I even wore a dress, a short one, with my tall boots. I put a bit of effort into the whole outfit, hair and makeup thing, Lizz gave it a resounding ‘meh’ when asked what she thought, still, I thought I looked nice, maybe even slightly better than my average (which is no makeup, no boots, no dress, and yoga clothes).  And then I got stood up, dress, boots, makeup, hair and all. Stood up, without even an insincere “sorry, I’m not going to make it” text, an ‘all my messages completely ignored’ kind of stood up. Party full of people who have someone to share  their nachos with, someone to ask them what they wanted to drink, someone to sit with, but hey, I manage. I even put away my phone so I wouldn’t make a pathetic show of constantly checking it (not that there were any messages). I managed, put on my party face, and mingled. You were always better at that sort of thing than me, and you would have made fun of my little pity party tonight. You were the life of the party kind of guy. We would all bask in your wit, charm and banter and laugh and be thoroughly entertained. It’s been awhile since you made anyone laugh, and now I just have a recording of your voice.

I’ve been left enough, been left, or told I wasn’t wanted enough, that I think I should be better at it, but it still stings. Maybe this is good? I don’t know. I do maintain an intact game face throughout, one must keep up appearances after all. I don’t feel surprise, or anger, or much more than resignation anymore. It’s relief really, the other shoe finally falling kind of feeling. So, tonight, being stood up, not a surprise, no anger, just resignation.

Even so, I remain ill equipped to cope with your leaving. It took so long, and was so awful for so long before, you’d think I would have been better prepared, that all that pain for all those years would have counted as credit against the pain of finally completely losing you. Maybe it is, or was.

I don’t mean this to sound morose  Johnny, but I do miss you. I miss us. I miss what we once were, at our best, the times that we could have ruled the world. I miss those times.

I still wear your pj bottoms, and your blue vest when it’s cold. Graham wears your work boots every day. And I still talk to you most days, especially today.

And I miss you Johnny.

Goodnight.

leaving

“It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.” – John Green

The leaving, the letting go, that part is easy.

Approaching letting go, entertaining thoughts of leaving, that part is excruciating. When faced with loss, the loss of a person, of a lifestyle, a job, a preconceived idea of ourselves, when faced with letting go, we cling. Forget the platitude – I cling. Somewhere deep inside I know, I know that nothing is permanent. I know that I will age, that I will suffer illness, that people I love deeply will leave, may die before me, that material wealth can be lost, that my love may not be reciprocated. I know all of this,  and I cling even more.

“If she is to love life and freedom and be brave then she must learn to let go. To see beauty without clinging to it, to feel pain without holding it hostage, and to feel love without worry of losing it.”
― G.G. Renee Hill, The Beautiful Disruption

tumblr_n5i9nvFFkC1qbhueno2_r1_250-2Right. That part. It does make a lovely quote, but to quote Ron Weasley, Bloody hell!

The times in my life that have been the most painful, the times I thought I could not possibly survive, these were the times right before I left, before I finally let go. These were the rock bottom times, the times where I dug my fingernails in and clung desperately to the idea, the person, the thing that I thought was essential for me to survive. None of them have turned out to be essential for my survival, so far.

The Journey  by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I love this poem. It also make me a little angry. I want to say journeys like these don’t happen all at once. That you make this journey, that you make your own way in degrees. That, unlike the movies where the leap of faith gets made – generally to a profoundly moving musical score – and then life gets tied up in a neat bow, becomes perfect, and the credits roll as a glint of a tear forms in your eye and you wonder why can’t you just figure your shit out. Unlike that, in life you have to keep making the terrifying next step, you have to continue to make your journey. It gets easier, but it never gets easy. I have started on this journey many times, and to varying degrees, got pulled part way back by the cries of “mend my life!”, or turned back myself when the storm seem too much to endure.

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Trainwreck – Loved this movie – and look, everything is wonderful at the end, with great music and even cheerleaders. Bloody hell…

20151218_184853-01.jpegIt seems odd to be writing about this as I sit in front of our Christmas tree, surrounded in over 20 years worth of decorations, of traditions, of stories, of memories. The ornaments my friend Cathy and I made the last Christmas before she died more than 15years ago, the baby’s first Christmas ornaments for each of my children, beautiful things my mother made, the gifts from my favourite Aunt, the handmade gifts and ornaments from my children. All of these carry their own special weight, and this is the last year they will all be together in one place. This is the letting go, the leaving. This is the final Christmas in this house, in this town even. All our beautiful things will be divided, things I will keep, things that will go to each of my children, things that belong with their father, and things I can give away to add meaning to other family’s lives.

Twenty years ago, when my first daughter was 2 1/2 years old, my son, a 6 month old baby, and my youngest not yet born, we received a beautiful hand carved horse named Hilde. Tonight, after years of sitting quietly, Hilde went to live with another family with three young children who will love and play with her. Letting go of that stage of my life. I’ll keep the pictures, many of the books, but it is time to move on.

Burning-Man-2015

Alexander Milov’s sculpture “Love” from this year’s Burning Man

Milov’s  sculpture silhouettes rigid, back to back  wire adult figures, within their frames stand children reaching towards each other.  At night the contrast between illumination within the wire frames “…demonstrates a conflict between a man and a woman as well as the outer and inner expression of human nature … Their inner selves … in the form of transparent children,  holding out their hands through the grating … This shining is a symbol of purity and sincerity that brings people together and gives a chance of making up.” – Alexander Milov.

I don’t feel the optimism the artist does when I look at this piece. What I see is a stunning representation of how we separate ourselves, in spite of what our hearts, our most inner self loves. There is no turning of the wire frames, they will forever remain separate, despite the inner reaching.

“And the moon rose over an open field

Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America”

Simon and Garfunkel

Pete Fornatale said this lyric was a “metaphor to remind us all of the lost souls wandering . . .struggling to navigate the rapids of despair and hope, optimism and disillusionment.” Stephen Holden wrote it “simultaneously illuminates a drama of shared loneliness”. David Nichols called it “a splendid vignette of a road trip by young lovers; both intimate and epic in scale, it traces an inner journey from naive optimism to more mature understanding.”  I can’t explain as eloquently why the lines resonate deeply with me – “Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping, And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why” – but they do.

‘Man and Woman’ by Georgian sculptor Tamara Kvesitadze

The towering statues are two humans made out of metallic discs, who move toward each other, seem to kiss, to embrace, to combine together, and then to pass through each other, parting and end facing in opposite directions, much like Milov’s work. They represent a Muslim boy, Ali, and a Christian princess, Nino and their tragic love story, but again, to me it represents how we separate ourselves from love.

This last year has been a series of journey’s, many, but not all of them, painful.  This fall had some profoundly painful leavings. Letting go of my brother will not, and should not, come easily, if at all.  Letting him leave in small increments, or starting to let go of the idea of his place in my life is like pushing through metal. Finding out who I am separate from the things that I had been clinging to for various lengths of time, separate from being somebody’s mother, somebody’s daughter, sister, somebody’s love, finding who I am separately will be my journey.

 

not in never falling

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A repurposed necklace, the charm is mine, the cord was part of a gift from someone I loved (the original charm, it went the way of the love – gone)

I can’t find the right words to describe this. This feeling that comes when I least expect it. The feeling, as Rilke would say, of pushing through solid rock.

 

It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock
in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
I am such a long way in I see no way through,

and no space: everything is close to my face,
and everything close to my face is stone.

I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief
so this massive darkness makes me small.
You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in:
then your great transforming will happen to me,
and my great grief cry will happen to you.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke (Translated by Robert Bly)

 

“Our greatest glory is in rising every time we fall.” Rising. I’m working on that, because I fall a lot. I fall all the time. And I rise, I do, but it’s exhausting

There’s a hollowed out feeling when I think of you, there’s sadness and anger too, but mostly I’m  hollow.  I can usually distract myself, with sleep, with TV, with work, with art, with words, with movement, with anything handy. The thought of actually sitting still with myself still overwhelms me, so I move, or I sleep. When that doesn’t work, when you bubble up unbidden, on those days, I run the same circles in my head, the same tiga786edce21585b714a56abbaa981ffafht circles that loop back on themselves and spin faster and faster.  I tell myself I’ve been an idiot once again for loving people who leave, for banging my head and my heart against your rock wall, constructed to keep people like me out. I sometimes think a different version of me might have been enough, could have make it through your emotionally unavailable barracks, but that’s not true. Occasionally I feel like throwing a rock,  a brick, or smashing a plate, perhaps that would at least get your attention. I won’t, but the thought remains attractive, if only for the moments I pick it up and hold it, pass its weight back and forth between my hands.

 

You huddle in, becoming
the deathless younger self
who will survive your dreams
and vanish in surviving.
– Self and Dream Self excerpt, by Les Murray
 f22f050847ae3b3653adb59a4dd24cf3
It’s not just you, of course, it’s been a brutal fall. Somedays, all of its hurts lay on top of each other and weigh me down. I thought we were connected, but we weren’t, that was me telling me stories and you telling me your well practiced lies of convenience. That level of connection, of honesty, was the last thing you wanted.  At my core sits a small hard bit of certainty that if I love, you will leave. My head and my heart know somehow this is not correct, but my bones know that it is so.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything 
That is how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen
There isn’t a light coming in, at least right now. It’s cold and it’s dark and it’s empty. He  also said “The Heart beneath is teaching / To the broken Heart above”, maybe that’s what this is, healing.
 
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“Into the pit” – aptly named

I don’t think you’ve ever allowed yourself to be opened, to let someone break your heart, your shell is too hard, too thick, too well formed to allow that to happen. Or maybe you did, once, and then swore never again, and that is why you remain frozen, hard, hidden and clinging to that past trauma that you will never release. You turn your focus on yourself, withdrawing into your shell if anyone gets too close, only pretending to connect, to engage, to care. If that doesn’t work  you manipulate, gaslight, play controlling games, run tests, that will always set you up as the winner. You don’t know how to live openly, you don’t know what it is to fall, and to rise again, only to withdraw and hide. There is no glory for you, only more hiding, more controlling, more walls.

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall
– Confucius 
 89350a6e2969056d139d6c069318740c
I do know the feeling. I once had walls. They had a hollow sound behind them, but they were solid. With them in place I could play happy, charming, funny, but was just acting. Taking the walls down was excruciating, and also exhilarating; still, there are days I wish I still could hide behind my walls.
And so, I’ve fallen, and risen, and fallen again.  I’ve fallen into this mess that I have to push through (not go around, not go over, or go under). I will, push through this.
Ten Things I Hate (Love) About You / The Taming of The Shrew
10. The cold way you looked at me (the warm affection in your eyes).
9.   The way you’d protect yourself from me (the way your arm moved to protect me).
8.   Waiting hours for you (the way you greeted me).
7.   The way you made me cry (you made me laugh).
6.   Your lies of convenience (your lies of flattery).
5.   The part of you that understood me and then left  (the part of you that understood me and seemed to want to stay).
4.   The drive-in (sneaking into movies).
3.   The plans you never meant to do (the future plans we talked about).
2.   Waiting for your call (your goodnight texts).
1.    Blowing cigar smoke in my face.
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The truth is my struggles, my demons, all come from, and aim directly at the very things I am most insecure of, mainly not being lovable, being abandoned, and when they strike up the band and start to play my thoughts and emotions get sucked into that spinning wheel where no good ideas ever emerge. Don’t believe everything you think, don’t believe everything you think especially when you are tired, hurt, raw, emotional and generally broken up inside. Those are the times when throwing the rock, or smashing the plate seems like the best idea ever. Those are the times where you, as Pema Chödrön says, have to lean into the sharp points, the pain, and the discomfort, even when, especially when, this makes it hurt even more.

quote-lean-into-the-sharp-points-and-fully-experience-them-the-essence-of-bravery-is-being-pema-chodron-81-64-93

Which means this won’t last forever.  I will emerge.  I might even grow a little.  Maybe not today, today is pretty awful. Today I am pushing through solid rock. Maybe another day this won’t be so heavy. At some point you do free yourself, and take your power back – flaws and all. Someday.

solid rock

Alex Colville, 1954 Horse and Train

Alex Colville, Horse and Train,

Whatever I thought it would be like, it wasn’t this. And I did think about it, we all did. We thought about it a lot in our own ways. Of course there were, increasingly faint, bits of hope that we would cling to, even against all logic, we would hope. Just the same, we knew this day would come, and when it did it was all the things we feared it would be, but also nothing we expected.

“Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” – Pablo Neruda

It was a good service, as these things go, nice music, a moving slideshow of photos of you, appropriate and moving readings and memories, a traditional hymn, and a choir rendition of All You Need is Love, complete with kazoos. It was very John like, right down to the fabulous food we shared afterwards. Everyone seemed pleased. It was closure, it was a send off, it was people holding each other up, it was all you could hope for really.

scribble face 3It was all you could hope for, and yet, I still find myself walking through mud, through fog, through solid rock. I forget things. I lose hours doing nothing. I stare at nothing. I stare at your things that now are in my home, but are still your things. I sleep longer, and am still tired. I stay up too late.

It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock
in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
I am such a long way in I see no way through,

and no space: everything is close to my face,
and everything close to my face is stone.

I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief
so this massive darkness makes me small.
You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in:
then your great transforming will happen to me,
and my great grief cry will happen to you.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke (Translated by Robert Bly)

This is the grief work they talk about. Pushing through solid rock, an apt enough description. I dream about you sometimes, not the comforting dream where you tell me all is well with you now and you are in a better place, just confusing dreams. Someone said that to me, a couple of people did actually, said that you ‘were in a better place’. I so wanted to punch them in the throat, to wipe the smug, sympathetic, head tilted ever so slightly to the side expression on their faces. I think that would be the anger stage of Loss.

According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross the 5 Stages of Loss are:

  1. Denial and Isolation – buffering
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining – the ‘if onlys’, the ‘what ifs’
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

I honestly believe I did everything I could. Wait, that’s not true. What if I had shown up on your doorstep, dumped out all your alcohol and physically dragged you to the hospital? Would that have worked? I don’t think so, but I still take out these thoughts and hold them awhile, feel their weight in my hands, build a fantasy around them where, in the end, I save you. After a while I put them down, but I still feel their weight. More than anyone I should have been able to save you. It was everyone else’s first experience with this disease, I was a seasoned veteran. I had done this dance before, I knew all it’s steps. I saw you leaving well before anyone else.

buddha-grief-quoteI saw you leaving, and I let you go.

I let you go. I talked to you, wrote to you, I wrote about you. I wrote about our disease. The one that killed our father, has a hold of my son, the disease that I only get a daily reprieve from.

But I didn’t save you. I know, in my head, that I didn’t cause, couldn’t control or cure you. I know this in my head. Sometimes it helps, but not always. A year ago we almost lost you, but you came back. I thought you might stay. Maybe that was the time to save you that I missed. Maybe.

I still don’t know what to do with your clothes. I don’t know what to do with our stories, the ones only you and I understood. Where do I put the parts of myself that were yours too? I don’t know. I don’t know what to do with a lot of things, things I should be doing, raking the leaves, clearing out the house so it will sell, making appointments, the business of living.

So I sit, pen scratching across paper, drinking coffee, and staring at the still green willow leaves, who will only fall after all the other leaves have been dutifully raked. Mostly I sit staring and nothing. Four of my orchids are re-blooming, did I tell you? No, of course not, what was I thinking. They’ve spent a year deciding to bloom, a year of somewhat attractive foliage, but now, now they are spectacular.

There is a metaphor in that somewhere, but I can’t quite grasp it. Anyhow, you get my meaning.