bloodteethandflame

A life in threes

Category: emotional wreck

The Other Side of Judgment and Fear

Another re-blog…but it is good and necessary food for thought today.

I highly recommend reading if you are prone to negative self-talk and worrying, (ie, ‘brain-weasels’)

Element

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Hello everyone, welcome ❤

I was trying to get caught up reading and commenting to posts the other day and I came to a one that dray0308 from Dream Big Dream Often reblogged. The title of the post was “Worrying About Nothing” This post was about questioning yourself, your choices and decisions rather than just living and enjoying your life.

It’s sad how often we judge ourselves. We suffer under the crushing fear that we can’t live the life we want because we aren’t doing enough, we aren’t good enough, we aren’t smart enough, we aren’t pretty or handsome enough. We just aren’t, right enough.

I’ve been to that dark place. I spent 10 years struggling with little to no self esteem and believing everything bad in my life was my fault, that there was nothing I could do right. I spared no judgment against myself. I saw my son, how we…

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Month for Loki, Day 21: A Drunken Heathen rants.

So here we are, over halfway through the month of July for Loki, and I still haven’t done the thing that I should have done a long time ago.

Not so much for Him, for  mind you, it’s more for me.  It pertains to something that I have been struggling with and thinking about for the past six months or so.

It is a thing that He’d likely approve of – being a God who values, above all, being true to oneself– but I have hemmed and hawed and struggled with these things for a long time.

And if Loki is anything, He is a patient God.  But He knows that this isn’t so much for Him as it is for my sanity.

~~~

Tonight I read a post that a kink community acquaintance of mine wrote back in 2013, and I left a comment to that post.

I commented about how finding the post again seemed like a very happy accident, and how I was glad to read it again.

And then, I clicked on a related post.

I do not know why I thought to click on that particular ‘related’ post.

It wasn’t until I was in the middle of reading that related post, that I realized that I needed to hear the message again – and maybe that part of it was not an accident.

There were many details of the post that I’d read before – and I remembered those details – but there was a lot of information (in the form of musings) in the post that I don’t remember being there before.   But that didn’t strike me as strange as much as it struck me that it is very possible that I didn’t notice certain aspects of its message before now.  We often see what we want to see, and it is quite obvious to me now that I wasn’t ready for the message that was so obviously within that post back then.

alice rabbit

(reads: I could tell you my adventures beginning from this morning, but it’s no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then – Lewis Carroll)

And so here we are.

I have learned some difficult lessons in the past three years, and I must admit that I was reluctant – stubbornly aggressively reluctant – to even acknowledge how deep that rabbit hole is.

These past six months have been the real lesson, however.

And I am by no means done learning, either.

What did I learn?

I learned by the most difficult means possible that what I thought were good, sane relationships – were not.

I realized that I valued the wrong things, and I valued the wrong people, and I’ll tell you what – while the Universe was not kind, it was persistent.

Someone – no several people – tried to tell me that I had been looking in the wrong direction – but who listens to those people?  Not I.  I am famous for that.

I had to learn to listen to myself in regards to solutions, especially concerning issues of discernment.  Not just that, I had to learn how to do, well – a lot of things.

I had to stop looking so hard for the messages outside of me rather than what was within me.  It’s not as if the Universe wasn’t trying to hit me over the head with a clue by four over and over, but I was reluctant to listen.

Instead I got involved with and foolishly trusted some people that I should not have trusted, because I wanted so badly to be loved, to be seen, to be understood.  Those people that I trusted took advantage of my weakness, and I let them.  I LET THEM.  Why? Because I was weak and I wanted it out of my hands.

I traded one dependence for another in so many fucking ways.

I tied a lot of knots.

Usually I am really proficient at untying knots – well, I created a doozy that I’m still trying to untie.

At first, I thought that knot had to do with my upbringing, and then I thought that it concerned my marriage, and lastly, I thought it involved my love life, but it concerned none of that.  It was me.  I was the knot.  My name is within the knot.  My name was all over that shit.  I’ve got no one to blame but myself.

And I want to say:

No one knows better than I what it is that I need.

I learned that loving myself, trusting myself and trusting my own intuition are the answers and the source of all of my tools.

I learned that it is imperative that I own my own shit.

I learned to speak up for myself, and as much as I was afraid of the fallout, I had to SPEAK UP.  No one else was ever going to do it for me, no matter how much I devoutly wished that someone else would have spoken up for me.

Nope, I sat on my hands and watched the process happen over and over concerning others, and I never thought that it involved me, or what I could have been doing.

I thought those people were my friends, and when I lost some of those friends, I didn’t know what to think.

And I learned that some people in the Heathen community were not my friends.  They manipulated me, and they will manipulate others too.  But I feared that I wouldn’t have a community if I spoke up, or if I walked away from those folks, those citizens of the Omelas …and for that reason, I preserved the status quo in many ways, without even realizing that I was becoming the sort of person that disturbed me.

I even fell for some verbal masturbation in another group dynamic of the highest order and *that* spread across several other communities (including non-Pagan communities).

And I fell for it, because I wanted so badly to believe, to be accepted.

My father used to say, Question every damned thing…but I have no excuse but to say that my blind belief in the infallibility of my own discernment, let alone others’ discernment – led me to believe what I wanted to believe.  And that was my downfall.

I learned that lesson hard, and I am still dealing with the fallout of my mistakes.

There are manipulators out there who will try to convince you that they have your best interests.  They might  tell you that they speak for the community, or that they speak for the Gods (in regards to Pagan communities).  If I learned anything in the past six months, I learned that it is best to let others speak only for themselves, and in the case of Gods, that is best left to one’s own discernment rather than someone else’s.

Watch out for the human agendas.

Pay close attention to the behavior of the members of your community.  How does the community deal with dissenting/unpopular opinions?   Issues in most large groups always have the potential to devolve into human political drama, but when what started small goes unchecked…communities can quickly become polarized, and things can get ugly before you know it.

Sometimes, often, people are fallible and don’t understand as much or as well as they hoped that they could.

I don’t even know how to put it into words, but you must trust yourself.  You must trust yourself first.

Please don’t let anyone else tell you that they are saying something to you for ‘your own good.’

And please, in the regards to possessory work in the Pagan community, question those whose messages begin with

‘[This God] told me that I must tell you…’

Question that message especially hard if that message comes out of the blue, especially if it comes unsolicited.

Look for patterns in your own life.

Do they jibe with what feels right to you?  Trust your instincts.

In the case of Gods, does what you’re being told jibe with the impression that you get from Them on other occasions?  (Because if a horse/spiritworker has an agenda, that agenda will become apparent… eventually.)

And so I must thank that person who warned me a full year and a half in advance about some of those people that I allowed myself to fall in with.  The person didn’t exactly name names, but I ignored the warning because I wasn’t ready to see what was being said, just like always.

But nearly everything that that helpful person had warned me about has come to pass, but I ignored zir words.  I ignored the pattern.

As well, regarding my spiritual relationship,  I had a spiritworker tell me, don’t feel as if you must have the devotional relationship that you think that you should have.  Let Him tell you what He wants.  And He did…oh He DID, but I, being me, being human, wanted what I wanted.  In the end, He still got what He wanted…but I learned some terribly difficult lessons in that interim of three years ago to now.  Am I angry with Him?  No, because all He ever asked of me was that I should trust Him, and I didn’t.  Sometimes I still don’t, because my dad taught me to question damned near everything.

One would think that I would know better, but I didn’t.

So with that in mind, the good mentor welcomes being challenged, being questioned.  You are learning, and the purpose of the mentor is simply to assist you toward your inevitable path.  But it is a path that only you must walk, that only you can walk.  The mentor doesn’t necessarily walk with you, since we all must must walk our own paths.  So don’t be afraid to question your mentors.

And on that note, you don’t have to listen to me, either.  You can discredit this post entirely if you’d like.

Hel, if you choose, you don’t have to listen to your friends, or your mentors, or even listen to Them….no matter how many clue by fours that They –and the Universe – throw at you.

Believe you me, you’ll get the message if you’re supposed to hear it.  Eventually.

And if you don’t get the message, then the message becomes a lesson.

If you don’t learn your lesson, then the lesson becomes an issue. 

And if you don’t recognize the issue, then the issue becomes the problem. 

And if you don’t fix the problem, then the problem becomes a full-blown crisis.

And me being me, I’ll admit that I chose to ignore the messages until I had moved the story all the way to full blown crisis mode.

I’ve gotten the gist of the fact that often the melodramatic is what I notice best at times….and so such things being what they are, that’s always been my work.

Shit wasn’t just about to get real, shit got real, moved in with a squatters rights mentality, and lived rent-free in my head for quite a while there.

So I’d like to point out that you can trust yourself, you can trust Them if that helps you, but you don’t have to trust me.

I’m learning just like you.

~~~

I was angry.  I was sad.  I was afraid.

I may have even been a bit too into my cups there, but I am more than sober now…and I don’t care.

Let them come.

Let the community – kink, Heathen, Pagan, Lokean – let them come and say (and do!) what they will.

Loki’s my God, and if He’s your God too, you know what to do.

Speak your mind.  And stand up for what you say.

And don’t you dare stop speaking the truth …even if it gets you kicked out of the goddamned party.

Spending time in the cheapest rooms.

The past few days have been so incredibly stressful/awful/what-have you.

This past Sunday being Mother’s Day did not help.  (For some context on that, you can read some here.)

And again, I am aware that some of it is my own damned fault…and yet some of it is not.

But I am reminded that only I can change myself, and only I can change my attitude about what’s been happening.

I cannot change anyone else, nor can I change their attitude.

 

But nonetheless, whenever I have the sort of time that I have been having – a time which seems damned near insurmountable some days – I get this song as a reminder:

 

And following that, I usually get the Universal poke to the head from Him, thusly:

Hafizcheaproom

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fear of drowning.

I had a strange dream last night.

Upon awakening, I realized that my brain is definitely trying to work something out.

 

In the dream, I was walking through my old neighborhood, on my way to visit a dear childhood friend of mine, Katherine.  It had been raining all day, and it was dusk by the time that I had started out for her home.  Oddly enough, I wasn’t afraid of the dark (as I usually am, since the night *is* dark and full of terrors in New England this time of year), and I was quite confident that I would reach her home before long.

Another prevalent detail was that I was wearing a pair of brand-new white sneakers, but for some reason, I didn’t want them to get dirty.  (This is another odd thing, because I am usually much more worried about reaching my destination than I am about worrying over whether or not my shoes are going to still be ‘clean’ by the time I get there.)  But, such as it was, the street was full of puddles, and try as I might to avoid stepping in the puddles, the persistent rain throughout the day had flooded the street, and the roadside was saturated with mud.   So I walked, with my head down, my feet sloshing into each unavoidable puddle, watching the dark muddy water turn my sneakers grey, and I realized that I was surprisingly becoming irritable with that sodden sponginess of my wet socks and shoes.

But I reminded myself that while I couldn’t avoid walking, and I couldn’t avoid getting wet, I very much wanted to visit my friend, so I convinced myself that this temporary discomfort was at least worth that joy in some way.

Then I noticed that what was once mere puddles on the sidewalk and the street had turned into wide, low ruts, swollen with water.  I now felt water sloshing against my ankles, and even my calves, soaking through my jeans as I walked.  These shoes are definitely ruined, I thought grouchily, and I might need a change of clothes when I get there. 

Then, while I was moving through a particularly wide rut in the middle of an empty street, I felt the ground turn spongy and completely give way.  I felt myself sliding downward, and I realized that I must have fallen into a sinkhole in the street.   I felt the shock of the icy, fetid water soaking into my clothes.

As I slid further down, I began immediately to panic:  I realized that I couldn’t feel the bottom of the hole, and I was treading water.

Soon, I will be gulping water, my panicked brain screamed, and I felt the water go over my head.

Suddenly, the view of the street-lamps above me were a blur of hazy brown-grey light about 12″ above me, and I tried desperately not to inhale water.

I pushed myself upward,  and I gasped for help.

My voice sounded small and choked to my own ears, and the water churned as I thrashed about.

In the brief moments that I could break the surface, I saw that I was right outside Katherine’s house.

I howled for help as loudly as I could, but I kept sinking back beneath the water.

I have a desperate fear of drowning, by the way, and I was beginning to despair that I would not be heard.

The force of my anger at my failure at being heard and my fear of drowning seemed to be driving me however, to keep trying.  I was so angry that it seemed to give me the energy to keep treading water, and my fear of drowning, of dying, kept me working to get myself above the surface of the water, however briefly, to call for help.

I saw the brief hazy light of Katherine’s porch-light for a split second moment during each of my attempts to surface, and that sight made me resent my predicament.    Oh, how I felt such an odd hatred for the serene glow of that porch light, the welcoming glimmer that bled around the window-shades!

How could she not hear me?

And then I realized that I had been treading water in just one spot.

In my panic, I hadn’t thought to try to find the edges of the sink-hole.  I hadn’t thought to open my arms or search for anything in the water at all.

I had been just… flailing in place.

So I resolved to stop struggling, and I relaxed, and breathed.

I let myself float/roll a few feet to the left.

And there was the edge.   And there was a handhold.

And I was suddenly able to climb out… quite easily.

 

EASILY.

 

Oh, I felt grateful.

But I felt more ashamed and embarrassed.

And it wasn’t just because I was wet, dirty, and soaked with the sweat of my effort and fear.

 

It suddenly occurred to me that the solution to my situation was not only available to me, but ridiculously close, and yet I had allowed myself to panic.

Did I trust myself to find the solution?

No.

I hadn’t even tried.

I immediately began calling for help.

I had believed that I was in danger…but I was not.   Not really.

 

If that was not a lesson, I don’t know what is.

~~~~

Upon awakening, while I lay there in bed, feeling my pulse slacken, several things occurred to me.

Though I had felt stupid, this was not a stupid dream.

I mean, really.

 

How often have I called out to Him, and He has been silent?

How often have I felt Him just out of reach

            always with that calm and infinitely patient look on His face….

                              …and I have resented Him for His silence, for His inaction?

 

Is He hearing me?   

Why isn’t He helping me?

 

But it  is just as it is with this dream, once I have calmed myself, and looked around, I’ve realized that I’ve the tools, the means, and sometimes, the answer to my own questions.

Sometimes, the solution has been within my grasp all along; sometimes I’m already in possession of everything required to solve the problem…and He is just waiting for me to realize it.

Sometimes the situation isn’t exactly dire…but it becomes exacerbated in my mind, and things suddenly seem insurmountable due to my impatience, my fear, my anger, or my rush to negativity.

(Oh, how I have cursed the light…)

I confess that I’ve got several emotional blind spots..and I’ve developed a pessimism, or perhaps, a learned helplessless about some of them.

Despite that, He’s got a word for each of those blind spots:

Stop.

Relax.

Open.

Think.

 

And I remember:

Whenever I have truly been in danger

(… could have been killed)

He has been there

(…the house could have burned down…)

He has heard

(…had been trying to hurt me…)

…and He has offered me guidance, and He has offered me help.

 

(Even though I have been known to stubbornly refuse to listen to and/or accept it.)

 

~~~~~

But one thing is certain:  I do have a fear of drowning.

 

Sometimes, I think that I am drowning…

 

But then it turns out that I’m just struggling

I’m just flailing in place

…and I am making a lot of noise about it.

~~~

Maybe this is why the rune Laguz keeps coming up.

Bittersweet, odd, and a little sad.

There are several entries bouncing around within my brain right now.

My head is full of too many thoughts on some wildly divergent topics, and I had been meaning to write about some of them in an effort to empty my head of them.  Or something.

Anyway.

~~~

Late yesterday morning, I had an ‘interview’ with the Department of  Children and Families.

As you might imagine, I was dismayed by the fact that anyone from DCF wanted to speak with me, much less so, that they wanted to stop by.

I had to keep reminding myself that the purpose of DCF as a government agency is to assist and to help those in need of their services; their mission statement is ideally one of being of service to the community…and yet much like the FBI or the CIA, I don’t think that anyone really prefers to have to deal with them in any capacity.

But honestly, I couldn’t keep avoiding them either, since they’d been calling, and we had been playing a tense game of phone tag for a little over a week as of yesterday.

So,  I spent yesterday morning feeling more than a little uneasy, and as one does, I was bustling about trying to tidy things up a bit to try to distract myself from my snowballing thoughts of doom.

But the appointed time came, and I was outside dead-heading my roses (how apt that seems — for spiritual reasons — I realize now) when the social worker pulled up.

I don’t know what she had expected of me, but the social worker was pleasant and engaging.   She seemed positively apologetic for asking me so many questions, and for the sheer amount of paperwork that she was requesting that I fill out.

I got through the interview without too much trouble, even though my anxiety level felt pretty high.

(And even more so today.  Yesterday, she informed me that a urinalysis was standard procedure.  She asked if I would mind giving her a test sample since she just happened to have a test in her car    So I did, but today I am concerned that I didn’t ‘pass’  it, much to my dismay, since she was sparse and non-committal in when I phoned her for details surrounding the result this morning.  Um… yeah.  *worries*)

~~~

I have to remind myself that this social worker is representing an agency that would be trying to help me rather than judge me.

~~~

Though what strikes me the most about yesterday, in retrospect, is how we had talked about mental health issues and how humor can serve as a mask and a coping mechanism for those with clinical depression.   I was telling her about my depression and my various diagnoses since 1997, and we specifically talked about Robin Williams at length.

I consider him as an example of  the manner in which I often find myself trying to cope.   I try to see the humor…or the absurdity in things whenever I can.   I don’t always succeed in doing so, but I do try.

I am often inspired in my darkest moments by how closely related my fears are to my joys, and how I prefer to make jokes rather than cry whenever I focus on coping with my anxiety or my depression.

She responded to this with surprise, and admitted that she never made that sort of connection.  Her reaction was something close to delight, and she expressed that she found my way of thinking rather enlightening, considering what I’d been through.

To that, I had to smile, since I was inwardly amazed with the situation: how had I managed to be so entertaining for over two hours when I felt like such a wreck inside?

Who knows?

But I’d bet Robin Williams would know.

 

And that’s why it strikes me as so odd and almost spooky to discover several hours later that Robin Williams committed suicide.

 

There but for the grace of my Gods go I.

 

~~~

Oh.  And here’s another thing.

A strange thing happened while I was having my DCF  interview in the dining room.

About an hour into things, my kid comes rushing into the room, suddenly asking me to hold back our dog, and to please keep him out of the patio for a few minutes.   Meanwhile, the dog is barking and throwing himself excitedly against the sliding doors.

It turns out that a baby bat had flown into the patio… and it seemed to be dying.

But by the time that I corralled the dog, excused myself and got out there to see what was up, the bat seems to have died… because it wasn’t breathing.

Poor thing.

My kid had wanted to bury it in the yard, but I nixed that idea.   (We have three cats, and a dog who all  love to dig, and I feared that it was more than likely if we buried it anywhere on our property, one of them would work tirelessly until it could be gotten to, unfortunately. )

*sigh*

~~~

And then, this morning, while I was out walking to find a place off of our property to bring the dead bat…

Suddenly  I saw something out of the corner of my eye come out of the bushes, buzzing loudly.

I thought that it was some sort of insect — perhaps a dragonfly, or really big wasp is what I thought it was at first —

 

And it flew right up into my face briefly.

Without thinking, I waved it away, which must have disoriented it

Because then it flew downward

and inward

towards me

and hit me in the middle of my chest.

Ow.

 

When I looked down on the ground, I realized that it was a  bright little red and green hummingbird  much like this one:

 

hummingbird

Amazing.

It seemed stunned, and when I bent down to get a better look, it suddenly flew up and away, albeit a bit haphazardly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanna get better

 

I do.

And I will.

 

At least, that is what I have been telling myself.

Some days, I need poetry.

Even if these are someone else’s words, I need them.

Sometimes, I need words so desperately, and often it takes someone else to write them, or say them before I can rest, before my busy, angsty meat-brain will be quiet.

~~~~

An open love letter to your inner child.

To the child who couldn’t understand

why nobody could understand.

To the one whose hand was never taken,

whose eyes were never gazed into by

an adult who said,

“I love you.

You are a miracle.

You are holy,

right now and

forever.”

 

To the one who grew up in the realm of “can’t.”

To you who lived “never enough.”

To the one who came home to no one there, and

there but not home.

 

To the one who could never understand why

she was being hit

by hands, words, ignorance.

 

 

To the one whose innocence was unceremoniously stolen.

To the one who fought back.

To the one who shattered.

To the never not broken one.

To the child who survived.

 

 

To the one who was told she was

sinful, bad, ugly.

 

 

To the one who didn’t fit.

To she who bucked authority

and challenged the status quo.

 

 

To the one who called out

the big people for

lying, hiding and cruelty.

 

To the one who never stopped loving anyway.

 

 

To the child that was forbidden to need.

 

 

To the ones whose dreams were crushed

by adults whose dreams were crushed.

 

To the one whose only friend

was the bursting, budding forest.

To the ones who prayed to the moon,

who sang to the stars

in the secrecy of the night

to keep the darkness at bay.

 

To the child who saw God

in the bursting sunshine of

dandelion heads

and the whispering

clover leaf.

 

To the child of light who cannot die,

even when she’s choking

in seven seas of darkness.

 

To the one love

I am and you are.

 

You are holy.

I love you.

You are a miracle.

Your life,

your feelings,

your hopes and dreams–

they matter.

 

Somebody failed you but you will not fail.

Somebody looked in your eyes and saw the sun — blazing — and got scared.

Somebody broke your heart but your love remains perfect.

Somebody lost their dreams and thought you should too,

but you mustn’t.

 

Somebody told you

that you weren’t

enough

or too much,

but you are

without question

the most perfect

and holy creation of 

God’s

own

hands.

    — by Alison Nappi, as seen on the Rebelle Society here

~~~~

Yesterday was that sort of day.

It was all on me, and no one could do a thing.

(It was the sort of day that I tend to wonder if I really should make t-shirts advertising Mr. L’s masonry business*, as it is very much still in business and obviously thriving, and that is likely due to me and my stubborn avoidance maneuvers.)

It’s my own damned fault – well, most of it — and a lot of that hit me when my therapist derailed my carefully constructed fortress of ‘everything’s fine! look at me, I’m meeting expectations’ when she said:

“Here’s a thought: Could it be that (your carefully constructed fortress of ‘everything’s fine! look at you, you’re avoiding again’) is just another reason that you could be — I dunno — hiding behind to keep yourself from having to make a decision?”

And I won’t lie.

I burst into tears.

She told me that it was OK, that it’s quite possible that I’ve never made a decision in my life without such an agonizing mental struggle, and that that is what we were here to be working on, and…

Then, she excused herself, and left in the room suddenly.

And I composed myself to the slow steady tick of the clock.

I am not OK.

It is not OK for me to hide behind this or that ‘reason’ — it’s just another form of lying….to myself.

It is not OK for me to avoid — that’s just another dodge of the inevitable

 

I should just shut my excuse-hole, and practice saying the truth, which is:

“I have not made a decision.”

 

And when I am asked why, I should say:

“I haven’t any excuse for my behavior.”

 

~~~~

*sneaky tons of bricks everywhere

 

 

 

 

Death’s season. (trigger warning)

*****Warning/Caution:  Possible triggers…descriptions of death/dying, death of a child, and grief, from a personal perspective****

(From November 13th 2013)

Last night, I spoke with my older sister who lives in Hawaii.

Over the weekend – while K and I were at FPG – my sister’s boyfriend died.

I know that he had been ill and in the hospital a week or so before, but the last time that I’d spoken to her, he’d been getting better, she had said.  Looking back on it, his illness seemed a weird respite from the appallingly stressful situation that their life together had become.

She had only begun to tell me the story.

She had been thinking of leaving him.

But now, she was telling me a different story.

She told me how he had left her on Thursday night, courtesy of several seemingly sudden multiple organ failures.

He was just 34 years old.

I don’t know, and there is a quality to that that seems surreal.

To think that two, perhaps three weeks ago, she was hiding in the bathroom of their apartment, sounding desperate, whispering hurriedly into the phone about how controlling he’d become, how abusive he was, his incredibly heartless and selfish he had been, and how hopeless her life had become.

She whispered and paused at intervals, because she feared talking about him as he was just on the other side of the wall, and she feared that he’d overhear her plans to leave him come January.

~~~

I noticed now, as she spoke of her grief at his death, that there wasn’t a catch in her voice.  One would have thought that, when she begun to tell me the details of how he had died on Thursday night, that she was simply relating the plot of a suspenseful film.  She was immersed in all of the smallest, most mundane details: what he had eaten on Wednesday, what he’d watched on TV, what he’d said just before he lay down less than 12 hours before his death.

Again, it was if she was reciting the details of an interesting television drama, but there was strange denial to her grief, I suppose, in the fact that she still spoke of him in the present tense, He does this….He says that…He is…

But then, then again, there is a catch in her voice there, there it is — when she tells me how she had been praying in that selfsame bathroom, whispered desperate prayers, asking God to help her get through this illness, this latest difficulty with him:  What can I do? Help me, Oh Lord, please help me…Help me help him to get better…

And her voice cracks and finally breaks when she tells me how she had lain next to him on their couch at 9 PM on Thursday night, and woke up to realize that oddly enough, he had fallen asleep holding her hand, with his fingers interlaced with hers.  Her hand, she explained, had been numb with pins and needles — and funny,  how it had frustrated her – but hadn’t struck her as too unusual at the time — that it had taken her several minutes to pry her fingers from his grip.

She began to cry then, explaining how strange it was that his body had been warm, but she couldn’t awaken him.

And then, she broke down in uncontrollable sobs as she described, haltingly, when she realized that she had mistaken the relentless thudding of her own heartbeat for his, and that’s why she called 911:

I looked and looked for his pulse and I listened for his heart, but then I got scared I couldn’t hear it because mine was so loud….I couldn’t hear it!

I devoutly wished that I could’ve comforted her somehow, listening to her sobs over the roar of blood in my own ears, trying to quiet my own heart as it hammered in my chest, as my brain chattered you cannot fathom, you cannot fathom that grief, and hating myself for that, for being so useless to her as she sobbed….

And then, almost as suddenly as she had begun to cry, she abruptly turned the discussion over to other topics, and she began a disjointed rapid-fire chatter about her memories of our father, complaints about our mother….

Then, she asked after the details of my camping weekend.

It was so surreal to find ourselves laughing, twenty minutes away from Death Who had just been standing so close to us.

My sister admits to feeling guilty, feeling scattered, desperate to fill up the spaces in the conversation.

She asks about my failing marriage.

We talk about it as if it is a difficult math problem that we could easily solve together if we follow some sort of prescribed set of steps, and she returns to discussing her boyfriend in the present tense: Oh he does that, too, she commiserates.  That sounds like something he says.

I don’t correct her.  I can’t bring myself to, but my heart breaks a little listening to her ragged, uneven breathing, and her voice cracking in odd places.

We are drowning, she drawls, suddenly suppressing a laugh, Our lives have both gone to hell.

So we talk of our kids.

She tells me about her plans for Thanksgiving, but things quickly devolve into reminiscence again — this week, last year, some Thanksgiving from years ago…and then, some particular difficulties of our shared childhood.

Again, Death returns, and clears Her throat, and my older sister and I are suddenly talking about the inexplicable death of our baby sister, when she was five, and I was three, on a horribly confusing day in August 1974.

We compare our strange, sharp memories of the weight of silence punctuated by sirens, or the useless distraction of the popsicles that we didn’t want to eat that melted down our shirts, and how no one thought to wipe our faces at all that day, because…because Death was sitting at our front porch, surrounded by flashing lights…and our mother was making a strangling keening wail unlike anything that we’d ever heard back then or since….

We agree on the fact that such grief as that can surely drive anyone insane

That is the sort of grief that certainly drove our mother insane, and maybe, she’d never recovered in some way.

Remember how it was, for the longest time after that, when she seemed out of touch with anything going on around her, but how she would shudder and stare off into fixed point just beyond our faces if we spoke to her?

These are the sorts of things we are talking about, the smallest details of that particular Thanksgiving, that haunted Christmas.

I miss him, but thank God it’s nowhere near a grief like that, my sister blurts out suddenly.

Nothing is unimportant, and yet everything seems profound as we talk, before the conversation wheels about again, turning to the mundane, the easy, the surface details of the present day:

Today is a school day, I say.  It is 4 AM here.

I look up and realize that we have been on the telephone for 9 hours.

This is how we get through.

Relevant

One Art

By Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

 

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

 

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

 

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

 

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

 

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident

the art of losing’s not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

 

 

I’m in a weird place. In my head.

People are calling me, people are texting me.

People are concerned for me.

They are sweet, kind, understanding.  They ask me how I feel; how I am doing.

I don’t know.

I called V this morning, and it felt weird, and he dodged a lot.

I don’t know what to think.

It makes me sad, it makes me worried.

Things are still the same in the situation – we both talk calmly, but there’s an underlying tension.

He and I talked for close to an hour, but  it seemed to go nowhere, no matter how long we talked, no matter what was said.

I feel calm, and feel OK…but then I get overwhelmed with emotion.

It feels like a mindfuck.

And not in a good way.