Archives for category: grief

This morning, before I quite realized what I’d done, I’d gotten lost in my newsfeed within moments of sitting down to write. I didn’t write. Well, I did write – but I wasn’t writing in a rational, purposeful, helpful way that supports me as a human, or shares something of value. I was mad. I was… posting replies. Oh my.

Once I noticed I was putting myself at risk of an angry screed, I pushed my chair back, sat fully upright, and took a couple deep deep cleansing breaths, and let myself relax. I held on to the awareness of that moment, breaking free of the tantalizing sticky trap of opinion, pulling myself free of the outrage machinery. (There is so much to be outraged about this days, no lie, that’s real.) Differences of opinion so easily become anger. We each feel so certain we are “right“, and that if only we could share the nuances of our personal perspective, everyone else would get it, too! While that may be true, now and then, it mostly just isn’t, at all. We are each having our own experience. It’s not actually fully share-able.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not a “relativist“. While I do recognize that context, culture, and variations in human understanding and experience can change the truth of a proposition, I also understand the nature of reality to have unchanging elements (that I may or may not be fully able to recognize or understand, myself). I think how we define the terms we use matters a great deal, and definitely affects our ability to have meaning dialogue, generally, every bit as much as “the nature of reality”. I have an ethical framework, as an individual, that suggests to me that some actions and choices are “wrong” – meaning, not consistent with my ethics, as an individual. So far so good. Where things get messy, and I think this is true for a great many of us, is when my own sense of “wrongness” pressures me from within to make a point of calling it out when I see others taking those actions, or making those choices. Do I really get to decide right vs wrong for anyone but me?

Yes.

…Also, no.

So… “yes”, in the limited sense that I’m utterly free to express my opinion on the matter. However, in doing so, I’m a wiser happier human if I can also remain aware that my opinion on such things is not likely to a) change anyone else’s opinion (or actions) or b) have any great persuasive weight in the world, generally, and also… c) it’s not for me to decide what everyone else will think or do. I’m just saying. I mean that – I’m literally merely, simply, only, and “just” saying words. Someone may hear my words and change. Someone else may hear my words and double-down out of pure resentment and fury, because in their view I am clearly wrong. Still someone else will disregard my words without ever hearing me out,. We are each having our own experience. I don’t really get to decide what anyone else understands right or wrong to be – but I am not required to respect, value, share, or appreciate their perspective, beyond hearing them out, and accepting their agency.

I don’t personally take any of this to be an expression of futility, or as a reason to “stand down” or “keep my opinion to myself”, because humanity’s culture has formed around our opinions and understanding of the world. Our shared ethical commitments become our shared understanding of right vs wrong, and ultimately informs entire communities, and whole nations, allowing society to enact change. We do need to share our individual sense of right vs. wrong with each other to help steer this cultural ship through the waters of change and growth over time. It’s the anger and outrage of social media specifically (before coffee) that is problematic; too much noise, not enough signal. So, I give myself a break, sip my coffee, and bring my moment closer to home. I have plenty to do to make change happen right here. I have work to do to be the woman I most want to be. That’s a project I have real influence over – every day. My example, as an individual, has meaning without extending my reach “to the world” by replying to all manner of media detritus in a reactive moment. Hell, I don’t even respect the opinions of 100% of every human; some are worth far more than others (this is likely true for you as well), and we each “rate” the value of another person’s opinion on different criteria!! (Totally true, too.) So… another good moment to practice non-attachment. lol

I finish my coffee and begin again.

Tuesday it was Kate Spade. This morning, I read that Anthony Bourdain has also taken his own life. I pause for a moment to consider the engaging chef whose books and television shows entertained and educated me. I enjoyed his wit. The headline “Anthony Bourdain Has Died” didn’t prepare me for the further information regarding his suicide. There’s a certain different ache in my soul when I read of suicide…

…I know what despair feels like.

Well, shit. It’s a scary, seriously frightening and frustrating world these days. I get feeling overwhelmed by despair. Some days it is hard not to. We will see, for days to come, articles about suicide help lines, and some analyses of what drives people to take their own lives. There will be salacious gossip about the lives of the fallen. Someone will share a recent article about the high rate of senior or veteran suicides. Most of the people who read those will shake their heads, and turn away, unaware someone dear to them is on the brink of making that major “life” decision.

Connect with your loved ones, your friends, associates, and coworkers. Be sure to mention that they matter to you in an authentic way, and be real about it. It’s not about hyperbole and fake compliments, and it isn’t necessary to use superlatives. Easier to straight up give voice to that thing they do that you enjoy, or count on, or appreciate, or wish you did as well – or, fucking hell, just have lunch, or coffee – make time. Be present. Don’t rush those connected social moments; they are what matter most in our days. There’s no knowing when someone may choose to check out, and while you may not be able to change their mind about it, you can, at least, enjoy who they are while they are here.

On the other side of the equation, please consider sticking around awhile? If you’re considering a firm end to the chaos, and stress, and trauma, and struggle, and despair… please, just for a moment, consider that there may be other things you have yet to try. There may be practices that improve your experience, even if they don’t change the entire world, itself. Incremental change takes time – please give yourself some. Someone, I promise you, will miss you if you go.

I stayed. There are a lot of verbs involved, but it has been, very much, worth it to have stayed. I’ll go on with that, with staying around I mean, because things got better. Things continue to get better. I can’t promise that for you, but I can assure you that choosing change results in changes, so long as you do the verbs. 🙂 Your results may (will) vary, and the changes you choose in life may be somewhat askew from the changes you subsequently find unfolding around you, but change is. Despair isn’t particularly sustainable, it’s just annoyingly difficult to see through when we’re feeling it.

There’s one irksome thing about suicide that never fails to leave me feeling bereft and discontent; I don’t know why. No, I mean… I don’t know why. That’s what leaves me feeling so bereft and discontent. I’m not sure there’s any solid “why” to suicide. Surely, people have their reasons. Many leave a note behind, but often those are not public, and even when they are public, they leave so much left unexplained – as if I think there is, or should be, a reasonable explanation when despair overtakes someone. Despair is shitty enough to be its own reason.

One more time, I let the “why?” go, and pause for a moment to say good-bye to a fallen soul. I pause for regret. I pause to appreciate, to mourn, to find personal solace after a time. I pause to be aware I am, myself, okay right now… as though it could creep up on me, and take me by surprise, myself…

…Then I begin again.

My gear is packed. I’m rested. The work week is behind me. The weekend is ahead. My anxiety is through the fucking roof, in spite of there being “nothing wrong” in any literal sense; I am facing my inner demons, today, or at least one small cohort of the mocking hateful little bastards, and I am hoping to come through, if not “victorious”, then at least fairly cognizant just how okay I actually am. That’d actually be a pretty spectacularly big deal.

I survived family violence in my childhood home. I survived domestic violence. I survived the Army, and yes, I survived war. I have, actually, survived all of what life has thrown at me so far – even the good stuff. 🙂 What has lingered are the scars, emotional and physical. The learned limitations. The fears. The background stress of my injured brain insisting something is imminently going to go very very wrong. Scary dangerous wrong. Look out for that hazard right there!! Only… generally? No hazard. PTSD instead.

When things went sideways with my Traveling Partner’s other partner (in poly vernacular, my “metamour”), becoming a mental health crisis of epic proportions, affecting an entire fairly closely associated community, it was also a re-traumatizing event for me. The aftermath was even directly emotionally abusive, specifically targeted to be so, hurtfulness set on “stun”, although the weaponized words and emotions were being launched by a human being fairly obviously not in her right mind at the time, I am human, and I feel. All the feelings. I’ve got my own baggage to carry. Afterward, the easy solution for me has been to just “let all that shit go” and walk on. I do not need (or want) that kind of bullshit in my life, and I have learned to turn away from it.

Not all of life’s decisions are mine to make. Funny how that works. I get to make mine, and I have learned to respect, value, and insist upon my agency. It’s precious to me. On the other hand, I’m not strolling through life utterly alone, here; other people have their lives, too, and their own decisions to make, and they so do make them. I live with those decisions, as well as my own, because we’re all in this together. lol One such decision is to have a birthday party at the very location where “all the bad shit went down”, some weeks after the fact, and almost-but-not-quite as if nothing untoward or unpleasant had even been a thing. Weird. I have trouble wrapping my head around that. Inviting me into that environment seems a tad disrespectful, or even callous, although more likely it is merely ignorant of the potential impact to me, or even more likely still, I am highly regarded, desired good company – which may matter more to all of the non-me people involved. lol I got invited.  …And… I’m an adult, right? My friends are adults, too. We are each having our own experience. Mine says ‘do not walk, run, get as fucking far away from that shit, as far as possible, because you do not want to be there when that mad bitch burns her fucking house down’… but… really? Well. I don’t know, do I? Mental health challenges being what they are, and love being what it is, people do make a fairly wide range of choices when loved ones lose their shit in one flavor of mental health crisis or another. People don’t always turn entirely away. I still don’t get it, myself, at this point in life; I’ve stopped taking abuse. Protestations of love are not enough to keep me in an abusive relationship. That’s non-negotiable…but…

…What’s a “safe distance”? In this instance, specifically, when there is no clear certain threat to me personally of any notable sort, what then? So… I’m doing something occasionally suggested in therapy, and utterly resisted by me. Exposure. Facing my fears, in real life. Making the choice to visit friends, and have a good time, in a physical location that causes me a fuck ton of anxiety and stress… for no obvious reason in this moment (the stress I mean; hanging out with friends does not need reasons, and every moment is a good one for hanging out with friends). This could be a very healing thing for me. It’s fucking hard as hell, though, and I find myself dithering a bit as I prepare to leave for the weekend away. It’s just an overnight, down and back, and a chance to look over some real estate on the way back. This? This is an experience to have.

There are verbs involved. Self-soothing. Taking time out to regain perspective. Practices to practice. This? It’s a test. 🙂 I’m content if I get a “C”… I would like to pass it, though. lol I take a deep breath and relax. I’m aware of the physical pain I am in – and the potential that some measure of that pain is directly related to my emotional well-being in some way. Another breath. I let my shoulders slide back down where they belong. I am okay, right now. The road beyond the driveway is quiet. It’s a good time to get started on this journey.

I am my own cartographer. My choices are my own. I walk my own hard mile. My results may vary; and I have choices. I become what I practice. The woman in the mirror smiles back at me. We’re in this together.

It’s time to begin again.

I’m home for the day. The poor quality of my sleep continued to affect my experience much of the day. I arrived home feeling… sad. Drained. Sorrowful. Mortal. Contemplating such fun topics on the commute home as “do any of us really deserve to live?” and “would I spend my life this way if I knew I would be dead in 2 years?”. It was a grim and unsatisfying drive.

Now, home with my thoughts, armed with almost 5 years of better practices to fall back on, and still I pick at the open wound that is the recollection of last night’s nightmares. I continue to fuss quietly, seething, alone, and feeling disrupted. “It’s all in my head”, I remind myself. In this moment, right here, I am unconvinced, and my solitude is less than ideal. Words and phrases, lacking in context or purpose in the moment, bring me to the brink of tears, when they reach my consciousness. It’s foolishness of the first order, nonetheless it is difficult to dismiss it when I am tired, and feeling rather sad. It feeds itself. I even know this.

I stew in it awhile. The traffic beyond my windows aggravates me. I am sound sensitive, and easily irritated. I am sleepy – but also restless. My nightmares left me feeling averse, at this point, to falling asleep again; I don’t want to return to The Nightmare City. Not tonight. Not right now. Not when it is obvious that the current denizens of my darkest dreams really get what terrifies me most at this time in my life. I don’t want to be the grown up in the room… I want someone else to do that for me. I want to be held. Told “everything will be okay” – in spite of there being very little actually “wrong”, at all. I want someone to check for monsters under the bed, and in the closets, and care for me as though these concerns are “real”. I want someone to promise me things, and assure me that there is a happily ever after if only I am “a good girl” or “work hard enough”… or some other bullshit combination of magic words intended to soothe the savage bitch.

Being tired isn’t a good state of being for me, generally speaking. A wave of anger washes over me as I wonder how the hell I survived my 20s at all…? The anger is no more (or less) “real” than the other emotions that crash upon my cognitive shore, wave upon wave, disconnected from circumstances. There is more to come. I guess I’m fortunate, in general. This bullshit? It is bullshit.

This bullshit, though? It’s hard, yeah. This part, here? This doesn’t seem to get any easier over time. Mired in my own bullshit, for the moment, aware I could do more differently, could begin again, could move the fuck on from this… I know, I know. Choices. Verbs. Ennui overtakes good sense. Anhedonia steps in for will. There are, at least, these words. I can see them, as I write. I hear my voice – finally, I am heard, even in this dark moment. I’m here for me, at least that far. I’m not yet despairing… that’s something. I hold onto that. I breathe. I have a big glass of water, and marvel at how refreshing that can actually be. I take a couple Tylenol for this chronic headache (an exception, almost on the order of “a treat”), knowing that even a few hours of relief, in this state I’m in now, will make a difference – enough to be worth accepting the risks and contraindications. My temper flares up, and cools, again and again, disconnected from anything going on around me. “This too shall pass”, a calmer inner voice observes gently, kindly, full of love and understanding.

I breathe. I relax. I let go one notion, then another. Breathe. Exhale. Let the stray thoughts that plague me fall away like wisps of mist on a summer morning, before the heat of the day develops. Another breath, another moment. One by one. My seething fury begins to ease. I’m just tired. I put my ear plugs in, and add noise-canceling headphones. There is quiet now, except for my tinnitus. It’s enough. It’s enough to endure. It’s enough to survive. It’s enough to have choices and to attempt, in some small way, to choose. It’s enough to recognize agency, even if I fail to make use of it. Right now? “Enough” is plenty – I can hold on to that, perhaps long enough to get some rest.

Eventually, I will understand to begin again. Eventually, I can walk on from this moment. It’ll pass.