Sunday, January 6, 2019

The trouble is

This has literally been my expression for the past three months. #pain

The trouble is you think you have time. ~ Jack Kornfield, Buddha's Little Instruction Book

If there's one thing 2018 taught me, it's to buy my alcohol in BULK.

Kidding and not kidding.

The past year taught me that there's never enough time, and there never will be. For one, time as we know and measure it doesn't actually *exist.* The concept of years and months and hours and seconds and days and lifetimes is just a way to keep our overactive brains from flying off into crazy land.

For two, no matter how great things are, the universe is always winding up for another gut punch.


For three, you're an imperfect and flawed human being, and as such, you're never going to be able to "do it all," no matter how much time you have.

I have to ask myself as we start the steep upward descent into another unknown roller coaster of a year ... what am I doing with all my "time"? Why the hell would I pour it into fake relationships, appeasing judgmental assholes, or caring what Random McRandomface thinks?

I mean, we're all LITERALLY, RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND, hurtling toward death at an unknown rate of speed.

So what do we do?

Judging by the number of Facebook fights with Great Uncle Belzathar going on 'round here, I'm fairly certain we all just try to forget about it.

Of course, we can't be focused on our respective impending dooms every second of every day. We'd go nuts. I'm all for pushing the whole concept to the deep dark recesses of my brain, but here's the trouble - when we forget about our own mortality we often forget to live, really live.

It's that whole cliche -- if you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do right now?

Because the thing is, you don't know. (I REALLLLLLLY HATE IT WHEN CLICHES ARE ACCURATE.)

Of course, there's a ditch the other direction, too. If nothing matters, why care at all? Why shower and shave your legs and do your dishes and clean up after your kids and eat healthy food and exercise and put on eyeliner and take out your trash and try to be a decent fucking human being?

Honestly? I have no clue.

All I know is that those are the things that are keeping me sane right now, while my brain grapples with the idea that someone, even the most vibrant person you know, can be there one second and gone the next. I need the mundane and the routine and the normal. I need to remember that I'm here, in this mess, at this time, and that there's nothing I can do about what has happened before or what's going to happen after, but I can be here.

Right here, right now, listening to the printer spit out a "completion" letter to my brother as one of the final steps in a grief recovery class.

I don't know how the fuck I got here, but dammit, here I am. #swearybuddha


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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Honesty is the best ...

... way to freak people the fuck out.

There are absolutely times when you don't *need* to be brutally honest about something, especially true in cases involving your OPINION.

But guess what? Grieving the death of a loved one is not one of those times.

It's funny that the people who are disgusted by the slimy grimy ooey gooey work of knitting a smashed-up heart back together are almost ALWAYS the people who think the definition of "honesty" means sharing their opinion like it's God's truth.

"You really shouldn't share that, you know. It's alarming."
"There are some things you should keep between yourself and the good Lord."
"Good heavens, don't say that! What will people think?"

(All excellent examples of OPINIONS)

What the fuck is up with this, anyway? I experienced it when living through and talking openly about my battles with postpartum depression a la "I can't believe you would share that online," sorts of comments. <<< Oh look, ANOTHER OPINION.

Since I've ridden this merry-go-round before, I'm just gonna say it: you get to say what you need to say, feel what you need to feel, and do what you need to do to get through whatever shit sandwich life is currently shoving down your throat.

Just know that if you're willing to get into the nitty gritty difficult difficult lemon difficult work of facing your issues instead of sweeping them under the rug like a good little robot, you will make a lot of folks uncomfortable. Most people are terrified of the truth. They want the polish, they want the spin, they want the bite-size manageable pieces ... and heaven forbid you forget your Instagram filter on that, dear.

"People" are not who I'm doing this for, though. I'm doing it for me, first and foremost, because I recognize and acknowledge you can't heal a broken bone if you pretend it doesn't exist. Secondly, if there's even a smidgen of hope my experience will help someone else in a similarly fucked up situation, it's worth it. Way back when I published my pieces on PPD, I said if it helped even one person, it would be worth it. And guess what? It was.

Everyone experiences loss in, and I'm sick and tired of society's ass backwards beliefs about the grieving process. I will not duct tape my shattered heart back together and prance around like everything is lahhhhvvvvelllyy, dahling just because society tells me I should. 

Nopey nope nope.

I'll leave you with one of my very favorite passages from The Velveteen Rabbit ...

“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'

'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit. 

'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.' 

'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?' 

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” 


― Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit


Let's get real.
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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Now what (part one of a lifetime)

What do you do when somebody dies? Wallow, wail, wait, wonder? Puke? Scream? Throw things?

Where is the handbook for this shit?

He was my brother, a son, a friend, an uncle, an adventurer, truly one-of-a-kind.

So now what the fuck do we do?

Now.

What.

***

The second-to-last time I saw E, he was across the street, messing with his truck in the middle of the night (because of course he was.) I had this intense urge to holler, "I love you!"

What if you never get a chance to say it again? You never know, I thought.

Foreshadowing is great in fiction and bullshit in real life.

I yelled it, and he yelled it back, and damn, I'm glad I did.

***

It's been three weeks and two days, just long enough for the shock to wear off, according to the books. I see him everywhere. The long street that was our childhood route home from elementary school. Standing in my doorway with his arms crossed, surveying the insanity of my life. Sitting on the couch with all my munchkins clustered around him as they eagerly wait for a spider to crawl out of his dreadlocks.

And there's the memories, a lifetime. They swirl in a painful eddy when I'm trying to sleep, eat, drive, walk, live. He's always there, sometimes in the background, sometimes taking center stage, but present.

Except, now he's not. I feel like I've fallen into some sort of hideous parallel universe. Surely this can't be happening to my brother, my family.

But it can, and it did. I think I'm going to be trying to swallow that bitter pill for the rest of my life.

***

Once, E and I decided to hike to a lake upriver. It was my idea, but afraid to venture forth into the forest because #bears, I asked my savvy survivalist brother to come along. It's a long, steep and difficult hike, and we left later than we should have. We had made it about halfway when afternoon storms started to roll in, so instead of continuing on, we decided to eat lunch and turn around. We found a cliff overlooking the White River Valley, and comfortable in trash bag ponchos, we ate uncooked Ramen noodles and talked about philosophy. The only other thing I remember is the brilliant rainbow that appeared as we started to head back down the mountain.

We never made it to our intended destination, but the experience was perfect anyway.

I feel somewhat the same way now. I never expected to be instantly bereft of the comfortable knowledge that somewhere, my brother was living and breathing and adventuring.

"This is not the intended destination!" I want to scream.

I have to find meaning in it, though, if I want to survive.

I'm waiting for a rainbow.

***

Sibling loss is classified as a "disenfranchised loss" because society expects you to expect it. It doesn't go against the laws of nature nearly so much as losing a child. It's not supposed to break you, and you should move on relatively quickly.

Of course, you're not "supposed to" lose a sibling when you're in your 20s, but still.

What even is this concept of supposed to, though? I'm supposed to be able to tell people I have three brothers without a stab in the gut. I'm supposed to have an excuse to make nine pies at Thanksgiving because they're E's favorite. I'm supposed to have a lot more years of yelling "I love you!" across the street in the middle of the night. I'm supposed to be able to enjoy my childhood memories without collapsing.

I'm NOT supposed to be giving a goddamn mother-fucking eulogy for my little brother.

Supposed to is bullshit.

Of course, Ethan knew that already. He had the art of giving no fucks down to a science. Supposed to was the opposite of everything he did.

Maybe my rainbow is learning how to give less fucks. Maybe it's learning how to live more like he did.

***

I Googled how to write a decent eulogy because being Type A is fun. My favorite piece of advice was, "if you can't think of anything interesting about the person, try to at least remember a funny story."

If you can't think of anything interesting ... well, that's not going to be a problem, oh dreadlocked, pierced, tattooed, sword-swallowing, fire-breathing, adventure-addicted brother of mine.

The premise of my speech ends up going back to the idea of living more like he did, of keeping his spirit alive even after he's gone. WWED: What Would Ethan Do?

(Also, I called him an asshole. Because he is one.)

***

I only remember bits and pieces of the rest of the memorial service. The heat of the sun on my back. My shaking hands. Trying not to fall over my black velvet cape (cue The Incredible's Edna: NO CAPES!) A kid asking for water every thirty seconds.

Hugs, so many hugs.

It's supposed to bring closure, but I mostly just feel trapped in a bubble of numbness.

"Not BubbleYum, BubbleNumb!" I sob to my husband while taking pulls straight from a bottle of whiskey after the service.

My husband is kind of a saint.

***

Now what?

I still don't know, other than that I need to ignore society's stupid ideas about death and grieving.

What does that mean? Well, talking about it. Writing about it. Going to work and the grocery store and the playground even if it means I'll be crying ugly tears in public. Honoring the process. Feeling it, the "BubbleNumb," the uncontrollable urge to scream and punch things, the suffocating squeeze of grief, the jagged edges of my childhood memories.

And if all that makes people uncomfortable? Good.

We should all be forced to face the ridiculous fragility of our existence. We should all give less fucks (and redistribute the remainder towards things that actually matter.)

Because what else can you do in the face of death, really, but live?

(to be continued)
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