Burying the Dead

Just not this year

I didn’t think it would happen this year. Not that I thought I wouldn’t think about it, I just hoped it would come and go before I realized it.

But then the lights went up, and the ghosts came down.

And there I was- standing in the middle of the store, trapped between boxes of stuffing and cans of cranberry sauce that towered over displays of pumpkin pie- sinking to my knees, watching them die…one by one by one.

But we weren’t going to do this again, remember? That was the deal. I just had to make it through one more Thanksgiving and one more Christmas, and then next year would be happy. This year would be happy.

But it was too late. The countdown had begun, your ghosts were released, and all of us were going to hell.

Back to the accident, November 20, 2016.

But this year, it’s more than just the memory of it all. It’s now morphed into this fucked up source of shame. I mean, honestly, it’s been three years (or is it four?) And they’re dead, and you’re not. And it’s time to move on.

And then it turns to guilt. Because what kind of person could just dismiss it and move on? And then the rage comes because I keep ending up in this horrible place. And I refuse to live stuck in the past, but here I am. And I don’t want to write about it anymore.

But every night, they find their way in, under the covers and into my head, taking every thought prisoner, and stealing my sleep. And this is the only way they’ll relent – with an offering of peace.

And the hope, maybe next year, they’ll let me bury the dead.

It’s always the same scene that haunts me. But, it’s not of the accident. It’s a memory I’ve never had, in a place I’ve never seen.

I have no idea what his house looked like or how big his family was, or if he even celebrated Thanksgiving. But that’s where I go, to his living room- his family seated around a long table, lined with white porcelain plates with matching bowls and platters, all strategically placed around an elegant flower arrangement, candles on either side.

A younger version of him, maybe his little brother, strains to grab the bowl of stuffing his mom is passing to him, both reaching across the empty space between them, the one she always sets, where he no longer sits.

Dalí came to mind,
As I studied you from the side.
The way your head tilted back,
Pouring down your spine.

On my knees, shivering
Staring at my phone,
Pulling up blades of grass,
One by one by one.

The silence mocked me-
Staring at my phone-
It wasn’t going to ring,
No one was going to come.

Could you taste it, the smell:
Charred rubber and gas?
Could you feel it, the injustice…

I was holding my breath, while you were taking your last.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The same place she always sits, that’s always set,- scene isn’t any less tragic. have been all the trees piling up ont or  feeling in my sto

Texas

I truly believe that people come into our lives for a reason, at just the right time, to enrich us in some way- to steer us in the right direction, help us realize our potential, and remind us to live and love fully.

But sometimes, these lessons are as painful, as the reasons are unfathomable. And their messengers, more menacing than we thought humanly possible.

I might never understand why he came into my life and what lessons I was supposed to learn, but I do know this:

These messengers can try to strip us of our dignity, shatter our hearts, and reduce us to ashes.

But know this: we are the fire- the embers, and the ashes, and out of the ashes, we will rise, hellbent, with grace and grit.

And We Will Burn. 

TEXAS

Texas.Final.png

 

 

Courage

That moment of truth. Your truth.
When you stop running. Because you have to.

Because your soul implores you.

That moment you discover, what you feared most
was, in fact, what you’ve been searching for all along.

girl-buffalo.ionut

Images by Ionut Caras

The Girl who Bullied me Gave me my Greatest Gift (Elephant Journal)

Perspective is generous at its core… always offering us gifts when we’re ready to receive them.

The Girl who Bullied me Gave me my Greatest Gift

me.grumpy

* This is from a writing prompt for a course I’m taking at Elephant Academy (awesome 3-month, online course, definitely check it out).

Will you be able to Handle my Darkness? (Thought Catalog)

Not as light-hearted as the last one, clearly, but I guess there has to be dark in order for there to be light…. 🙂

Tell Me, Will You Be Able To Handle My Darkness?

 

 

 

Eternal Sunshine

“How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each prayer accepted, and each wish resigned.”        – Alexander Pope
I have been staring at this blank page for what seems like hours. I can’t stop thinking about a movie I saw over a decade ago. For those of you who have seen Eternal Sunshine, that should set the tone here.

Yesterday, I caught myself laughing, like really laughing. It felt strange but vaguely familiar. A glimpse of color.

And then today happened. Today there is no color. Grey doesn’t count as a color.

I can recognize that a bad day is not cause for panic. Progress has been made. I think. But the severity of it, of this, when it starts to forge its way to the front. Nothing else can be seen or thought or felt.

In my defense, there are moments that are beyond serendipitous. A song I haven’t heard for a decade is now suddenly everywhere. No, it’s not a coincidence. On the favorite playlist of my local coffee shop. Okay, fair. But the hardware store. Really? Three people in three weeks have introduced themselves with the same name. 480 Facebook friends, a tribe I have been building for almost 40 years. Not one of them has his name. Not one.

Depending on the day, I find these coincidences either comical, or I find the rabbit hole. The dissent is quick, and anything but painless.

Now no place is safe. A friend suggests my favorite tapas bar. Oh shit, no, sorry. Okay, how about that place we love on Broadway? Fuck, right. Seventeenth street work? Wash Park? We went to a movie instead.

It’s not always like this. Until it is again. Someone next to me has cinnamon on their latte. The grocery store. Utter disaster. Thrift store. Nope. A fucking bubble gum wrapper. Fallout.

Yes, I have developed some effective coping mechanisms- some healthy, some not so much. But the prospect, the hope, of arriving at the other side intact, unscathed, seems almost laughable if not impossible right now.

Maybe the initial shock has worn off and now I am just acclimating to the resignation. Well, this feels worse. The flashes of color and feelings that would normally presuppose happiness, or at least some sense of peace, are now juxtaposed against the prolonged darkness that looms over the relinquishing of hope for something that will never be and never was.

Never was. I close my eyes sometimes and try to imagine it. Eternal sunshine.

Would I do it? Would I erase the past 9 months if I could? The first 3 would go too. Even better, there would be no reason to waste the 6 months that followed trying to replicate them. All the time spent creating ‘us’, memorizing each other’s every thought, expression, scar, and curve would no longer be the justification for spending twice as long trying to fight for it and even longer trying to forget it. If I could get almost a year of my life back without ‘us’ ever happening. Would I?

I know, this is absurd and pointless. There is no ‘erasing company’ to speed up this forgetting process. And yes, I would consider it. And yes, that goes against everything I have been encouraging myself, and you, to do.  Find the gift. Take the lessons learned. Be grateful for the strength, insight, courage… all of the amazing attributes you gained because you went through fucking hell and survived.

All still apply. Just not today.

My dear friend sent me this quote this week. It physically hurt to read because it is absolutely true.

“The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd – The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.”
 Fernando Pessoa

The same day, another dear friend forwarded me this article. I was only able to skim it, precisely because it was so not what I wanted to hear…because it is absolutely true.

“Love is rarely mutual, which is why when it is, magic explodes in the brilliance of stardust…For when a man falls in love with a woman [or a woman with a man], nothing can stand in the way. Not life, obstacles or even one’s ideas of readiness or worthiness. Nothing. Because as much as we’d like to think otherwise, there is no real reason that he’s not be beside you this evening, other than the fact that he’d rather be somewhere else.”  – Kate Rose

Stings doesn’t it? To the point that you start to cycle right back to the denial phase. It can’t be that he/she would rather be somewhere else, with someone else. It’s the circumstances, the timing, the whatever other possible reason you can come up with that will justify why he/she isn’t here.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am not at the denial stage any longer. I am very clear that he does not want to be by my side. I’m not interested in denying it anymore. But I’m not ready to accept it either. I’m clinging to the absurd.

I want the sun to shine again. And that’s all I want to remember. Just the sun. Not the grey.

I guess this is what we do for a while, a morbid dance of sorts. We can’t erase the memories, so we have to manipulate them a bit, maybe leave out the parts that still can’t be felt or insert a lens that will shift the focus, change the interpretation to something more manageable.

Eventually, though, the reality of what really occurred will be very clear and we finally won’t want to manipulate anything. That is the hope, anyway. We will remember how we really felt when they were beside us. The feelings that we are still allowing to dominate our memories- joy, happiness, comfort- were so few and so fleeting.  They were almost always tainted with insecurity and an underlying fear of what we knew was to come. That is what we will remember. And that is why we will be with someone with whom we will experience what is truly love, in the moment, not in a memory.

So for the sake of progress, I’ll leave you with this.

If we had not endured the very worst, we would have settled for something other than the very best. He/she was not the one we have been summoning. A master at disguise, no question, but absurd, impossible, and absolutely necessary to pave the way for what is to come. And it won’t be painful, and it won’t be fleeting, and it most certainly will not be grey.

Read Kate Rose’s entire article here: If He Wanted to Be with You Then He Would Be: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/02/if-he-wanted-to-be-with-you-then-he-would-be

Modus Operandi

Our story.

This has been a reoccurring theme this week, which usually means it needs to be addressed. I think it started when I was listening to Brene Brown. It came up again the next day listening to Tony Robbins, then yesterday during a conversation with an old friend, and again this morning hearing a heartfelt conversation between to older men. It revealed itself from two different angles: our tendency to neglect the story of ‘the other’ and the way in which we interpret our own.

Concerning the other, it is almost unavoidable to react to and judge others when they don’t act in accordance with what we deem normal, kind, and rational. I personally, take pretty much everything ‘personally’. Someone is short with me, I said something to annoy him. Someone is in a bad mood, I pissed her off. You didn’t respond to my text in a timely fashion…like in less than 3 minutes without an explanation, I will spend at least two of them wondering what I might have said to upset you.  And this could be with anyone- the woman behind the register or a text exchange with my neighbor. I’m exaggerating a little bit, but not much.

The more probable and far less self-absorbed scenario is that someone’s mood, tone, word selection, and number of cigarettes smoked most likely has nothing to do with me. I can usually read people pretty well and am clearly sensitive to a fault. So it is the rare exception that I have pissed someone off or hurt someone without knowing it. Yes, it happens, but most often their actions or reactions have nothing to do with me.

They are simply playing out their story, their individual story that has been unfolding even before they were born. Stories that have layer upon layer of heartbreak, filled in with deep pockets of empty promises, and lined with scars of false truths and imposed inadequacies so entrenched they can no longer be seen. But they are felt, daily, until we numb them, intensify them, or expose them.

The latter is the only way to heal them. And the latter is what we seldom do.

Our story is also laced with all things beautiful, with moments of sheer bliss, of laughter and innocence, dreams and fearlessness, bold leaps and soft landings. Our first win, first true friend, first kiss, first love. These, too, define us. They steer our tendency to trust, our willingness to take risks, and our capacity to love.

But it seems to me that the amount of exposure we had to either end of the spectrum dictates in what direction we will go. For those of us who spent more time in the dark spaces, it is mostly our attempts to circumvent that darkness that determines our course. Operating from a place of fear, mistrust, and shame becomes our modus operandi.

We let our story define us instead of defining our story.

Owning the darkness of our story is terrifying. It means owning our crazy, our ugly, and our pain. No one wants to do this and few people do. Owning these necessitates exposing them…and this is not for the faint of heart. It means admitting we are weak, vulnerable, and yes, damaged.

But damaged, to me, is beautiful. It is truth. It is part of what makes us unique and cultivates our defining characteristics. It is courage manifest because it did not break us. It is inspiring because it transformed us… if we have the courage to transform it.

I can think of so many examples of the ways in which my friends and family, heroes and adversaries, have interpreted their stories. If I take the time to step out of my own interpretation and try to imagine why they are standing where they stand, it amazes me or it breaks my heart.

So herein lies the lesson or message or whatever you want to take away from this.

Our story is what shapes us, not what defines us. We instead, define our story.  

Every milestone and every scar will always be there, but it is how we interpret them, how we use them, that empowers or enslaves. It’s the ‘I am’, right? If you interpret ‘damaged’ as fucked up, as your cross to bear, then you will most likely claim this as your worth. And this is what will command every aspect of your life.

If ‘damaged’ is your gift, you phoenix, then you transcend, and you rise.

I am slowly learning that my story is who I am, but more importantly, it is how I choose to live. I might not have been able to control how the first few chapters unfolded, but it is now mine to write. I can fixate on my scars and use them as a scapegoat. Or I can honor them as a testament to my courage and strength, and to that of others. I am the protagonist, after all. I have my dragon, but I also have my weapons, some wisdom, and my happy ending. Or not… my choice.