Earthquake and other things.

My heart is with the United States of Mexico today. Especially the state of Chiapas, with it’s jungle hills that echoed gunshots all through the night. The kind, round faces of ex-pat German family that took us in. We played Boggle in Spanish and my aunt frowned at the lyrics to a favorite pop song. I had never heard it that way and she was right. The Amber everywhere, rub it on a soft cloth to see if it’s real. The sarcophagus of the ancient beetle, perfectly preserved. The hippie vendors at the artisan market, creations spread across colorful cloth, chicken English to my pigeon Spanish, we just smiled at each other and I wanted to stay with them, here, in the dusty heat. I widened my eyes in admiration so they knew it.  The mayan women’s cooperative: A woman begins to wrap my aunt in the traditional waist sash and mutters,”oh! muy gorda. muy, muy gorda” My aunt chuckles and speaks and they laugh knowingly together, these two señoras, these old friends. She sees my horror and embarrassment and tells me “No, no, mi hija. It’s not like that here.”

The United States of Mexico where I saw my mother everywhere. Where I understood her in a new way just but being saturated in the air and the earth and the people and the food and the smells and  the languages and the ghosts. The layers and layers, decades and centuries and millennia of ghosts. All there. The dullest, grayest, dirtiest areas lit up by the brightest reds and blues and yellows and greens and whites all woven tightly together in geometric patterns and draped and wrapped and tucked.

We would drove through the mountains, no guardrails, no signs explaining “peligro!” because it was obvious, your imminent death just feet away, down the precipice, into the canyon as the mountians rise above you. No “cuidado”, one lane used as two, lights off at night so they can better see a car coming towards them. We drove only during the day. . Our little Honda, laden with bodies and suitcases and worn out shocks, we would come to “topes” or giant speed bumps at the border of each small village. All but the driver would haul out of the car so it make it over the hump. We’d load back in and rumble down the road until we came to the other end of town and perform our ritual again. Once, a boy came running up a hill toward the road yelling “Mida, Papi, mida! Gringos! Gringos!” We laughed and waved at the spectacle of us. We drove through those mountains, our eyes searching for and finding the right angles and clear lines of yet to be excavated ruins at their peaks and edges. Yet to be excavated ruins. Mexico quaked and crumbled and fell yesterday. People are lost and trapped and shocked and scared. And this heart of mine, that is with them, it knows how they especially will come together. with next to nothing and with everything. Fuerte.

In Mexico City, pronounced “day effay”, D.F. Districto Federal , the federal district, we walked only during the day, especially my young cousin, La Rubia. We ate chilaquiles, last night’s tortillas drenched in salsa verde and queso fresco and crema and scrambled egg and I found heaven in this little diner in the middle of this huge city. That golden angel, towering in the middle of the main road other perch (I saw it swaying n a video yesterday as the earth quaked) with cars speeding to fast around and underneath her. She watches over. They drive fast and make their way any way they can. Once we were stopped on a wide highway in rows of traffic for construction. Soon, the cars were flying past us on the shoulder, in the median, in the (mostly) empty opposite lanes. All to get to the work being done and create a wider traffic jam, with nowhere to go. And yet, we all got to where we were going. In the chaos, in the rule breaking, in the disorder. Along we went.

I thought I might die form the humidity along the gulf coast. Dripping and drenched anon air conditioning in the sand colored Civic. We listened to cassettes and Marko, a musician of many talents, told me he didn’t like Sean Colvin’s voice and I didn’t even know that was a possibility. I pushed in the black fast forward button. On to the next.

Pan dulce. Paletta. Penafiel. Helado. Hielo. Tortas. Corn on the cob on the side of the road: grilled in the husk. Open it up and squeeze the lime, grind the pepper, crumble the cheese. More heaven. And the woman selling it in the middle of nowhere smiles so kind and proud. I want to take her with us.

Mary, Mother, La Virgen, Maria, Madre. In huge city Basillicas and tiny village churches, we prayed to her. None of us believers, except there, because it was infectious. Because we believe in motherhood and women and sacrifice and loss and persistence. We bought candles and rosaries and oval shaped charms bearing her image. She was everywhere, always with us. Years later, she would visit me in a hallway, sharing my grief, she and I, the bereaved mothers. She and I would later come to understand each other. The Great Mother. In the Mexica style, I tattooed her image in the crook of my elbow, where my baby’s head was when he died. This is sacred space. She stood at her son’s feet and bolsters an entire country. Generations of the living and the dead. La Madre, te agradecemos, we thank you. One of the three: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I think somehow you got lost in the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But we’ve got the first two covered, so that just leaves you, there you are: The Great Mother. The Holy Spirit. La Señora, oiga nuestra oracion, hear our prayers.

All of Mexico calls to you tonight (Even the Mayans. They call you by a different name.). Chiapas, Oaxaca, Tabasco. It’s good thing my heart is broken, so that it can be scattered around this North America: on fire, under water, blown apart, shook down bricks and rubble.

These United States. My heart is with you.


At home.

I nestle my metal bowls into her metal bowls. The ones she brought and the ones I brought, layered together. Her glass containers are round and my glass containers are rectangular and they are tucked neatly into a drawer together. I sort laundry, now, by darks and lights, like my mom taught me to do 28 years ago. I learn her ways of doing things, most better than my own: orderly, efficient, thoughtful.

It was when Vesta was born or maybe when we moved back to Portland or maybe finding a home for my work at Ethereal or maybe announcing Harvey’s pregnancy, the last time I truly felt so blessed and happy and grateful as I do now. When I smiled so widely because I had paid my dues and everything was coming up roses for me. So many lifetimes ago. So many versions of myself ago. It isn’t just that I didn’t think I would ever feel like this again, it was that I thought I lost my ability to. I thought I was no longer capable. I was sure of it.

But my life has begun again last week and a year a half ago and during a million moments in between. I am happy and I am grateful and I am blessed. And I no longer expect it or feel entitled to it, so it is sweeter, deeper, and fuller. Better than I imagined before it all fell apart.

We layer and tuck and sort our lives into one another. And I am home. Fully and finally, I am at the home I have been yearning for my whole life. Knowing this could also disappear, implode, explode also makes it sweeter, deeper, fuller because I have it now. I suffered through excruciating moments and now I languish in these full of love and bliss, ease and joy. At home, fully and finally. For now.

May the fifth 

I feel like driving fast. so does Vesta. We are sitting in traffic on the way to school and every time there is room I speed up and she says “oh yeah!”.

I feel like I need to find some order in this chaos. Make lists, that I lose or stop seeing after awhile if they are on my white board. Jenn says that while yes, my mind is crazy and mixed up so are my days, my schedule, my commitments, so write that shit down. And quit doing so much. My bank account agrees.

I ate my lunch at 10am and spilled it down the front of the white shirt I almost never wear anymore.
I spilled cottage cheese in a bag my ex left, all over my client files and computer and an avocado. I emptied it, started to clean it out and then threw the whole damn thing away. Even though it’s the perfect size for my files and computer.

I spilled the whole Britta onto the counter.

I decided I’d break the dishes I don’t want on the cement behind my house. I have three people coming over tomorrow to help pack. All three could use a good smashing of something besides their hearts. All four of us, really.

Tuesday night, I learned my ex lost his job. I still need his money. Terrible shit keeps happening to us. And we’re not even us anymore.

I had spent an hour packing between therapy and work and was angry at him the whole time. Because I’m not supposed to be doing this alone. Packing up all this shit and moving it by myself. I swear there was something in our vows about loading and unloading the car. Wasn’t there? There is some continued violation in me having to carry shit on my own, not even metaphorically.

Also, I miss Jenn. We’d be drinking midday, I’d put on Gloria Gaynor like I did when we cleaned her house in Colorado when we were 17, we’d fill boxes with my shit and she’d go on and on about new chapters and good timing. Which would be annoying but fine. And true. And she never put a silver lining on my dead kid so she can do it on this move. But she isn’t, because she moved away and we both feel like an important piece is missing. Not a limb or a kidney per se but a gall bladder or appendix. Something not essential but everything worked better when it was there.

I buried my kid three years ago today, I keep thinking that and then stop myself. I didn’t bury anyone. My kid is in tiny plastic bag in an ugly tin box on the top shelf of my coat closet. Someday, he’s going to be a diamond I wear around my neck. I’m going to send the handful of ashes to a service who will press him into a diamond. And Vesta can bury me with it around her neck or keep it with her. She misses him, too.

My parents stood up in front of the room and cried. My dad joined my mom and put his arm around his once-wife. I don’t know what they said but my mom held a doll from another child our extended family lost.

My husband stood in front of the room and cried and read the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read. He handed it to me that afternoon after I’d gotten home from the hospital and the morphine had worn off and I said “You’re going to read this?” And he said yes and then he did. And he cried in front of everyone. I had never loved him more than in those moments.

My body ached. It had been torn open. My uterus and my perinium and I stood for hours in pain, greeting everyone and talking, accepting their condolences and sad eyes. The pitying eyes that were so glad it was me and not them. Danny’s friends from high school came in after I was seated in the front. They lit their candles and one by one came to hug me and said “don’t get up” so I sat there and let them bend over me. I was glad they came.

Almost weekly, I think to myself, “who would have imagined that at X many years, Y would be happening”. Yes. Who would have imagined that three years from the day I buried my son (there it is again. Where did it come from?) that I’d be barren and broken up and packing our shit to move because I don’t have enough money to stay. It’s awe-inspiring to survive something you were sure you wouldn’t. It’s hard to wrap your mind around it. Who would have imagined?

The poet Naomi Shihab Nye came to the school my sister-in-law works at. She told her about Harvey. So, Naomi Shihab Nye said she will hold him in her heart. So, Naomi Shihab Nye, who I have loved for 20 years and also forgotten about, is holding my son in her heart. My sister-in-law grieves damn near the same as I do. Nearly silently, nearly the same. She hugged me on this very day three years ago and I could feel her grief, how somehow she understood me in a way most others couldn’t.

I double booked massages today so I have to scramble.

All of the essential oils I am using on my clients have labels of shades of blue and orange. No significance. I just noticed.

I buried my kid three years ago today and all of these other things happened, too. Someday, the ashes that were his body will be a diamond around my neck. Someday, I will hold his stardust, diamond body in my hand and think, “who could have imagined…”


My life partner, in the literal sense of the phrase, left today on the newest iteration of her adventure. I drove her and her family to the airport and left them on the curb to carry their 6 suitcases of worldly possessions inside. 

We hugged twice. No one gives a better hug then my Jenn. Not nobody. She hugs you because she means it. She puts her arms around me and holds me tight. She always has. I am safe with her. One of those few places in this world where I know everything’s going to be okay is in her arms. Because she’s got me. If nothing else, Jenn’s got me.

We grew up in the same town, but she moved to Germany for much of elementary school. We went to rival high schools, but she moved to Colorado before we graduated. We almost lived in Portland together but she moved to Boston and I to San Francsico. We missed each other by a year or so.

 We have gone years sometimes without talking but we’re the kind of friends in which time and space and distance are irrelevant. Even catching up on major life events feels like we spoke yesterday.

Once, when me heart was breaking, she got on her bike and rode from her small town to my small town to put her arms around me.
One summer, we spent everyday eating pizza, drinking coke and playing cards in my tv room.
Several times, she put up with my shitty relationship choices and nursed my heart back to whole each time it broke.
She has always been taller than me. More formidable. More ready for this life. 
She looked up to me as a kid and I have looked up to her my whole adult life. Admiring her joy and zest. Her free spirit and honesty. Most recently, her incredible parenting.

She’s my advisor and confidant. I can tell her anything, disapprove of her decisions, and be my true self without any fear of loss. She is a warm quilt I wrap myself around when I’m freezing. She’s the cool ocean breeze on my tear stained face. She’s the tonic to my gin. Shit, she’s my tonic.

Our family life brought us together in Portland, 3000 miles away from where we grew up, and living just three blocks away. The playground we took out kids to a million times the only distance between us. The honor and privilege and unprecedented serendipity that let us raise our young girls together as we were raised together seems like a dream and nothing short of a miracle.

She arrived in Portland with her three month old the day my son was conceived. We spent my pregnancy in the last hours of our innocence, before we knew that we could be touched so acutely by babies who die and infertility, in both of our cases. We canned tomatoes, took our kids swimming, made dinners for each other, celebrated our birthdays and our daughters birthdays, rode ponies at the pumpkin farm, and drank endless cups of coffee while the girls played. We spent nearly every day together. We prepared for the baby: she handed me down toys and clothes, planned my shower, tried to figure out how we’d cart three kids around in cars that only fit two.

She kept my daughter on the days and night I labored for my son. She kept my daughter on the days and nights he was dying and dead. She came to the NICU and touched his soft head and sang to him. She rooted for him to survive longer than there was hope. She told me that they walked through the park on the day he was born chanting “you can do it, baby brother!”. At the time, her unbridled enthusiasm, that optimism I can always count on, pissed me off. I had to come to terms with the bare fact that my son was going to die and she was giving his sister false hope and herself the same. I remember feeling like I had to smack her over the head with the reality and she burst into tears when she realized there was no fight left to be fought. That the worst was true. Now, I think back on the image of her and our daughters parading through the park, cheering Harvey on, and I smile and my heart warms. There she was, being Jenn, spreading her hope and love and positivity to our girls, to my son across town dying in my arms, and to her own auntie self. Now, I wish I could have mustered some of that myself. But she did it for me, as she’s done so many times before and since and, I’m positive, she always will. Hope against hope. That’s my Jenn. Making lemonade, and adding a jigger of gin, to the shitty lemons life hands us.

In the aftermath of our loss, she watched me all but die. The friend she knew and loved ultimately changed before her eyes. She let me be the shell I had become. She was my friend and support, for years, when I could be neither back to her. She tolerated my grief brain that made me anxious and demanding and too quiet and very forgetful. She watched her passionate friend sink into meaninglessness. So very many things fundamentally changed about me and, at least to me, she was unphased. Further to her credit, if she was phased, she talked to her other friends about it and just let be where I was, placing no demand or expectations upon me to be anything but a shell. Simultaneously following my lead and guiding me through the devastating grief, the debilitating surgeries, the brutal details of the end of my marriage. She listened to me repeat the same stories, the same questions, the same bewilderment of how to proceed over and over and over again. She told me it was okay that I had started smoking because she knew I would quit again. She thought I should go on meds and then when I went off, she thought I should go back on. She was right on all counts.

 She held me as I cried on countless occasions. Somehow, she knew what to say. She knew what to do. She arranged my son’s funeral with my brother-in-law. She took over being my daughter’s mother when all I could do was yell, crumple into tears, or sit catatonicly.

She took care of my kid while I had surgery. She yelled at my husband and posed questions I was unable to and took the anger I couldn’t yet feel on for both of us. She supported me when I decided to stay and work it out with him. She watched our kid every time we went to therapy and wasted our breath. After he moved out, she walked into my house and told me it felt lighter, better, easier. That it wasn’t Harvey weighing us down but the secrets and lies and betrayals that were very much alive inside my marriage. She didn’t let me kill myself. She believed what happened with the shamans. She marveled as I got better after that. She recognized my return. She got me there. She saved my life and filled my daughter’s life with joy when her mother had none to give. She baked both of my kid’s birthday cakes for two years. She came to the six month and first birthday ceremonies I created for my son. She revisited her own grief time and time again. She held her own grief in until she walked the three blocks home to her husband, so that I could have mine purely. She shared her grief with me, too. She told me time and again that she thinks of him every day, just like I do. She tells me when she sees ladybugs and hawks. She talks to him when she needs some guidance. She sees his hand in our lives and she feels his absence almost as acutely as I do. She knows that we are all missing out, especially our girls, because he is gone.

My darling son called her in. Brought her here on the day he came in. She stayed until I was back on my feet. When it was time to leave, when she saw I could make it without her, she let herself go. Back on her own path, back to her own dreams and intentions, back to her own life, knowing that nothing but proximity will change. 

In the months leading up to her departure, I was consumed. Single parenting and still trying to get on my feet financially so I worked all the time and couldn’t go out much in the evenings anymore. Vesta started kindergarten and spent weekends at her dads, so they saw each other less and less. I funneled my grief into my art and performance project and spent times working on that when I would have been with her. I fell in love and my scope narrowed, wanting to spend as much time as I could with my new love, again interrupting our usual routine. I stopped prioritizing us. I stopped needing her to survive again., I started taking her for granted, knowing that I had precious time left with her and spending it elsewhere anyway, because we are so solid and so forever. We spent a lot of time together the week before she left and I realized one morning after crying on her bed about many woes and overwhelm that I hadn’t been not prioritizing her as much as I had been avoiding her. I feel abandoned. I have a belief that everyone leaves me: my son, my husband, my previous loves, grandparents and aunts and even teenaged friends. As we talked that morning like we hadn’t in weeks maybe months, I consciously realized how incredibly hard this move was going to be on me. That I had come face to face with yet another chapter ending. And yet, this time, I could see another chapter beginning, just like she’s been saying for over a year that I would see it. A new chapter for both of us. Same book, same story, different page. There it is again: hope, optimism and zest. All the things I admire and aspire to and receive as gifts from my best friend. 

I believe that I made contracts with people before I came to this life. That every one is in my life because we agreed in it. Ours is very likely the most important one. The one that said there will be someone in your life who loves you unconditionally, by choice, not by blood or obligation but because we continually have chosen each other. For 36 years, I have chosen her and she has chosen me and it is in the choosing, the living, the loving, the laughter, the sharing that I find the most profound gratitude of my life. For my Jenn. Who will never leave me, even when she does.


I am the one who will never die young

I am the martyr and I cannot hide

But I’m not a winner, I’m just brilliantly bitter

I am sealed by my skin but broken inside.

– Lori McKenna

I swam.

Freestyle, butterfly, back and breast. The whole nine. After being a swimmer for all of my life I realized that in back stroke you can breathe the whole time. In breast stroke, you breathe every stroke. But in my two strokes, free and butterfly, you only breathe very 3,5 or even 7. I chose the strokes, the two that appealed the most, were those that are mostly underwater. The ones that require holding and gasping and enduring.

On my last lap, I floated, just at the water’s surface. I floated underneath the blue and white flags, hung at each end of the pool, so you can count your back strokes and know when to turn. The curled in on themselves at their tips and my body sunk, my heals to the bottom, just my face above water. I closed my eyes to listen to the silence that I love so much about water. How everything is muffled and quiet.

My body, at this particular angle, remembered. Rememebered the birthing tubs. Twice I lay like this, attempting to use the warm water to soften the pain of contractions. Closing my eyes in the quiet, breathing, concentrating, hypnotizing myself against the writhing in my body, the gripping, rhythmic muscles, working to get my babies out.

I didn’t remember. My body did. I wrapped my arm around the blue and white plastic  rings of the lane marker. A buoy for a moment. I can’t believe that’s over. That time in my life when it was time to have my babies. That one never made it out in that tub or the house but on the operating table. That another died inside and was birthed by medicine into the toilet and flushed. That the last, labored for in the tub, birthed on the toilet, died in my arms the next day. How much hope has been lost. How much innocence and joy. How much time.

Later, in the car, I would hear a song called “Never Die Young” about a girl left after her friend from Catholic school has passed away. Yes, that, too. How now I know so acutely the pain Theresa’s mom was in, and likely still is 21 years later, after her daughter died just before turning 17. How now I wish I could find her mom and tell her that I still think about her daughter, I still miss her. That I haven’t forgotten her long thin fingers, her face when she laughed, her huge, generous heart.   I know that would be salve to her heart.

As I turn the corner in the car, as I float there in the water, the finality of death strikes me as so odd, as it still often does despite my close acquaintance with it. How is it that it’s just over? How is it that they are gone? That they won’t ever come back? Why does that still feel so strange, so surreal?

If I could find her, I’d ask Mrs Rigo that. Does it still strike her as odd? And are the days it feels like that still the good days?

I turned the corner and cried. I let go of the line and sunk below the water, holding my breath, floating, weightless in the muffled aloneness, just for a few more moments.

What no one tells you about grief.

You know what they don’t tell you about grief?

It’s fucking rich.

Don’t get me wrong. When it first comes and then when it keeps on coming,  even years and decades later like it’s that very first day, it’s not rich. It’s dense and it’s dark and it’s overwhelming and it feels so real, like the whole world is actually ending. It feels so thick that you can touch it. It feels like you’re drowning in it. It courses through your veins like acid and sits upon your chest like an anvil. Sit with someone who’s in the early throes and they will tell you that it’s only deep. They will tell you that there’s no way out. That there is no through, that there is no other side. It takes over everything.

You have to get used to the acid. You have to feel the anvil breaking each of your ribs. And then you have to take a breath. And then you have to take another one. Even though each breath presses against what’s broken, presses back against the pressure.

I’ve done it but I can’t tell you how. Somehow, I’ve gotten to this place where I can feel this beautiful richness. How my grief has brought me closer to myself, revealed myself to me. I can feel the ragged edges of myself with the way it’s shaped me. I can see now, everyday, that I am someone new, someone I like better, someone I never would have become without all of my grief and loss. 

I went to a storytelling evening called Grief Rites. Each person stood up there and told us about themselves. Told us about the new shape they are in because they lost their mom or dad or son or sister. Each one shared about how profoundly and fundamentally changed they are. How they don’t know how to live in this world without their love and at the same time, telling us exactly how they are doing it. Through tears and laughter and gut wrenching fear and deep, down, dirty joy. With gratitude. Because they were here with us. Because their presence changed us and shaped us and re-formed us as much as their absence has, sometimes more.

It’s fucking rich. I sat there listening, laughing, crying, nodding my head because I understood, feel horrified and overjoyed. I sat there feeling grateful. For the first time. Listening to others tell me what I’ve told myself a million times but in their unique way, from their own experience. Watching these people as they grapple and struggle with this inevitable human experience, I thanked God for my grief. Not the loss, not that my son is not here with me but for the richness I have been given. How much more human I am. How more intricate and intense my fear is, how much less afraid I am. How much more acutely and accurately I feel joy and pleasure in my life for knowing so many long hours of their absence, for fearing neither would ever return to me. I thanked God for my grief. For how it’s asked me to explore myself, spelunk the deepest, darkest places of myself. How it asked me to be bitter and angry and spiteful and hateful and so inhumanly unhappy. And how I did that, and sometimes still do. And how now my grief askes so much grace of me. So much forgiveness, so much compassion, so much empathy. How it’s asked me again and again to find words of comfort, words of connection, words of understanding to share with others. How it sits me squarely and completely in awe at other’s abilities to sit with their own excruciating  pain and to tell me about it. To share, with tears and swear words and shaking hands, how they think they will die from it and then don’t.

How do we do it? I have no fucking idea and I’ve done it. I’ve sat there myself, bawling and swearing and shaking and needing to get out of this skin that’s burning with acid just under the surface. I’ve known that the world has ended and that I’ll never be the same again and so what is the point of going on? I’ve watched the secondary and tertiary losses in my life fall away: from fertility to relationships to my inability to take care of myself to my career path veering off into another unknown to my inability to give a shit about things that were once so intensely important to me.

 I don’t know how we do it except in the sharing of it. Except in those moments when we give each other the gift of our story. In watching each other navigate these waves that keep pulling us under, smashing us against the rocks before lulling us to sleep or incapacity or a moment’s respite. In sitting together and crying and nodding because we understand so well. How these moments turn into scar tissue on our hearts. Little by very, very little how we heal each other up. Never forgetting, never not being changed, never not grieving. We can heal while simultaneously grieving. In fact, there’s no other way. That’s something else they don’t tell you. 

It’s in the telling. It’s in the relating. That is where the richness reveals itself to us. If we’ll only keep on talking and listening and feeling it. Only then, slowly and unsteadily, wil we find ourselves again.

If you are in the Portland, Oregon area, please consider attending a reading at Grief Rites. The first Monday of every month at Post 134 on NE Alberta. I’ll be reading on March 7th.

I love you grievers.

for Ann.

I love you grievers

you who reveal to near strangers your deepest wailing. at first, because you have to. because it cannot be contained. because it is the truest expression of you. you who have never been more you while feeling so completely foreign and unknown to yourself

you who continue to reveal your deepest wailing after it is no longer inevitable. after you have come to find the sliver of self-control that can keep it under wraps. but you don’t anymore.

I love you grievers who keep revealing yourself anyway

I love you grievers

you who are angry. who look to the heavens and condemn the god you don’t believe in. who are willing to look the Father in the eye and say Fuck You! Fuck You for leaving me here with this. for taking my beloved. the one I cannot live without and then watch me as I flounder and flail and nearly die from it myself. Fuck you.

you who are angry at other people for no other reason except that all of their beloveds are still alive. angry because other people get to keep their babies and husbands and mothers and brothers and you have to do this shit alone know. more than just alone. without.

you who walk through your days scorned and bitter and angry and resentful and fucking terrified.

I love you grievers who talk about it, who tell me, even though we shoudl not feel such things, let alone say them out loud. even though we all do.

I love you grievers.

you who laugh. who laugh at the absurdity. the unfairness. this ridiculousness. you who hear what you are saying, who see for a second what you have been feeling as it moves outside of yourself and throw your head back and laugh. you who have been crying for hours and days and weeks and months and then find the smallest upturn on the sides of your mouth, the contraction of the laughing diaphram, the sparkle in your eye for a even just a moment and who let it come. you who find and feel the slightest moment of joy, even though  it is completely unrecognizable to you anymore.

I love you grievers who laugh.

I love you grievers.

you who are terrified. who don’t know how to make it in this world anymore. who once had sureity and now fear ever corner, ever turn, every step.

I love you grievers who round each corner, make every turn, tack each step anyway.

I love you grievers.

you who feel absolutely, 100%, undeniably alone. misunderstood. isolated. hurt by well intentioned words. loved ones who make it worse. who say “at least” and “but” and try to silver lining this shit away. you who are alone in your grief even when surrounded by people who understand. you who are alone in your grief even when surrounded by people who you’d never imagined would every be lonely with. you who can no longer find your place here.

I love you grievers who have never felt so alone.

I love you grievers.

you who are ashamed. ashamed for all of this. that you couldn’t save your baby. that you didn’t pick up the phone the last time your brother called you. that you see know how you took your husband for granted. that only if you had been kinder to your mother.

you who are ashamed for all of this. for your wailing because we are not to wail and certainly not in front of each other. for your anger because it is unwarranted and we should be grateful and relieved for the lack of suffering in others. for your laughter and the guilt that quickly follows, the fear that it is taking you farther away from your beloved who is gone. for your loneliness, for the changing nature of your relationships, for the inevitability of more and more loss and how it is routinely overlooked and then feels wrong.

I love you grievers who are ashamed.

I love you grievers.

you who hate people telling you are “strong” and “brave”. you who want to punch other people in the face. you who seethe at mere existence. you who no longer recognize yourself for these and a million other reasons.

you who can make no fucking sense of anything and any more. who cannot celebrate birthdays or new years or the gift of another day. you who want to puke at such cliche. you who’s darkness will not be honored. you surrounded by a world that is not mourning. except that it’s worse: it is mourning but just not showing up to it. not like you are.

not like you are

not like you who are learning these lessons that are bullshit. who are getting stronger even though you were strong enough. not like you who begin to see some gifts in this fucking mire. not like you who slowly allow joy to creep in again. who begin to feel grateful. who find the new version of yourself that you never wanted but that you possibly might like even more. you who just keep on going until the blood starts flowing again, until the tinlge of being alive returns to just beneath your skin. until you find your tribe. and feel less alone. and laugh more even though it’s often bitter. and find beauty in places you never would have even noticed.

I love you grievers. not like you are. exactly as you are.

New Year

The wind screams and it jolts me awake because I’m sure it was a person calling out. It whips around my house, over the roof, and I imagine a tree falling on the house. Then I picture the outside of the house and there are no trees right nearby and I don’t worry anymore.

But I lay there awake. Listening to my kid’s raspy breathing from a chest cold. Listening to our cat purring. So happy we are home.

I haven’t slept enough as the years changed but I can’t go back so I get up. I get up and go into the wind, like I once went into the rain. It’s morning but it’s still night and I see the stars and I hear the quiet and I feel the cold, cold air kissing my cheeks and hands. Making me feel alive again. Sometimes we need the elements to wake us up. To remind us. “Here I am” in this cold, in this rain, in this discomfort, exposed.

It’s the new year. I feel better. But I hear from the newly bereaved. And, shit, even the seasoned bereaved. And they are hurting. And I want so much more than “Happy New Year”, more than “May all your dreams come true this year”, more than toasts to the best year yet. I want more than hope, more than possibility, more than the first page of a 365 page book where we’re inscented to write out story just the way we want it to be.

I want every hurting heart to be matched. I want those for which 2015 was nothing but a living nightmare to know that it’s entirely possible that 2016 is also going to suck because they are in the rubble. I want to acknowledge the rubble. I want to say “it’s the new year. Best of luck this time around the sun.” I want texts sent like the one I just got from my step mother: “now onto a new year of experiences.”

I want to acknowledge that things fall apart. That babies die and houses foreclose and hearts are broken and jobs are lost and disease strikes. Just as sure as new love is found, kindness is received, joy is reveled in and lived are transformed for the better.

It’s a detriment, always trying to be happy or get to happy. It makes the hard times harder because we’re supposed to be happy and grateful and find the silver lining.

I want to learn to accept it all. To push on with appreciation that the wind is blowing and the rains come and the clouds cover. To step out into a day with the sun shining and the birds chirping and the flowers blooming. To let the days that are foggy and gray and not too cold just be what they are. There is so little that we can change, so little that we control. It’s fine to believe that we can change things, control things, make things happen, write a new 365 page book, even create our own realities. It’s fine. Until your world crashes down on you, as worlds are wont to do. I was hospitalized as a young teen for depression and repressed suicide attempts. On the day of my release, one of the nurses sat with me in my room and asked me to look him in the eyes, something that was exceedingly hard to do when your trying so hard to hide away. He said “Monica, it sounds like you are expecting the worst but hoping for the best and that’s no way to live.” I thought that was a good plan and I’ve mulled that over for two decades now. I still don’t understand why it’s not a good plan. Terrible shit happens, it happened to me, but I hope for the best anyway. I don’t rose colored glasses, I want clear lenses to see through. I want to see the reality that some of the beauty of life is exactly that we don’t have control, that our reality just happens and what we can create from it is meaning. I can choose the meaning I that I live in a cold cruel universe in which babies just die for no known reason, and if we know the reason it doesn’t make a stitch of difference to the parents. And it’s fucking true. This is a fact. I can choose the meaning that just because this is true it doesn’t mean that I have to die from my loss or live the rest of days bitter and angry and broken and sad. I can choose the meaning that somehow, despite the uncaring natural order of things, I can live fully, search for joy until I find it again, feel the undeterred human spirit that pushes on no matter what. I choose to make meaning. I choose to let the meaning I’ve created about the same story, the same circumstance, change over time. I want to let my life unfold, out of control and also choosing.

I want this year, for all of us to be more “fuck yeah” than “fuck this” and if it’s not, I want someone to sit next to me and say “this fucking sucks” and I’ll cry or scream or feel defeated and say “it sure does.” And then, for now, that will be story, that will be the meaning, and that is enough. Silverliningless, just shitty, and sucky and not what I planned or chose or created. Just wind blowing and rain falling and clouds covering. No need for sunshine and rainbows just yet. There will be a time for all of that, too.

So, here’s to New year full of new experiences. May it be awesome and when it’s not, may someone sit by your side and let it rain.