Archives for category: grief

I’m drinking water and counting myself grateful to have indoor plumbing, hot and cold running potable water from a tap in the house, and additional filtration that ensures the water is clean, and free of weird tastes or sediment. It’s nice. I’m drinking water because I’ve already had my coffee and frankly I do need to be drinking more water. Recent longevity-associated articles reporting on the value of being well-hydrated did not go unnoticed. I started paying attention to the differences on days when I am not well-hydrated vs days when I am – and nights. Yes, drinking more water definitely results in getting up to pee more often during the night, but that doesn’t seem to have anything at all to do with whether I sleep well and deeply, or how easily I return to sleep, so… small price to pay? Well, I guess I hadn’t previously thought so, until I noticed that being well-hydrated seemed to also reduce my snoring (noticeably), as well as improving my ability to lubricate naturally (still a pretty big deal for me, personally, in spite of being post-menopause I really enjoy sex), like, a lot. So I’m pretty committed to drinking more water.

Keep practicing.

…I learned quite recently, and yes “the hard way”, that one bad spell with my mental health can wreck that progress in mere hours. Friday evening I went through some shit and had a nasty flare up of my PTSD on this whole other difficult to describe level. It was bad. I put my Traveling Partner through some bullshit over it (always regrettable and complicated). It got bad enough that I actually had a flashback, and those have gotten to be very rare. The ridiculous level of hysteria I ultimately reached (calling it a “panic attack” doesn’t do the chaos justice at all) caused me to cry a quantity of tears that finally resulted in a loss of moisture that definitely resulted in me more than a little dehydrated by dawn. I woke Saturday morning with a stuffy head, swollen eyes, and feeling like “everything had come crashing down”. It passed, but… it wasn’t good. The low point was the painful awareness that even medicated, I am at risk. I am grateful to have the partner I do. The chaos and damage don’t reliably “take no for an answer” once shit skitters sideways. The self-directed shame and disappointment immediately add an additional gut-punch that makes bouncing back hard. On top of all of that? Damn few people actually “get” what flashbacks are actually like, and they aren’t portrayed in the movies or in media very skillfully (how could they be?).

It’s important to take care of myself. Regardless of the chaos and damage, regardless of my personal starting point on life’s journey, or where I am standing when I begin again. Problematically, this is true for everyone; self-care matters. I don’t “get a head-start” when I practice good self-care – I don’t even get to start at the same starting point as “everyone else”. I’ve started this journey where my starting point happened to be. Self-care is a thing that it is very helpful to do – for everyone. I’m still me. Still have the issues I have. Still have to work on those issues. Still have to trust that incremental change over time will improve things. Still have to recognize that my results are going to vary. My demons got the better of me on Friday night in a big way. I’m fortunate to have a loving partner willing to support my long-term wellness and growth. I’m grateful that I can understand that there is no implicit promise that having a loving partner will actually make this shit any “easier”. I’ve still got to walk my own hard mile. I’ve still got to do the work. I’m still going to fall down now and then, and have to pick myself up and start over. Begin again.

Some practices are more critical than others. Some practices are more emotionally nourishing than others. Some are more or less effective for me as an individual. I did not imagine the simple act of drinking enough water would be one of those very simple very big deals among all my practices, but here we are.

Selecting good practices is a bit like building a healthy diet… fruit is delicious. Sooo tasty. Filled with nutrients we need. Yum. The thing is, though, it’s also full of sugar. Like a lot of sugar. For many of us, building our diet around tasty fruits is not notably healthier than building it around any other tasty sweets. [Note: I am not a nutritionist or dietician, nothing I say in this blog should be construed as medical or dietary advice. I am using “diet” and nutrition metaphorically here.] Veggies may not be as sweetly delicious and tempting in the way luscious ripe fruits can be, but they do make a far better foundation for my diet. So… it matters to choose with care. Whether we’re talking about a healthy diet, the practices we choose for our emotional wellness, the partnership in which we spend our days (and nights)… or the practices we choose for our physical wellness. Turns out some of the most basic practices for my self-care support both my emotional wellness and my physical wellness (looking your way drinking water and eating more veggies!!). It’s worth thinking about for more than a moment. Abandon any one of those cornerstones of a good life, and the foundation isn’t solid enough to rest upon.

Get right down to it, and there’s just no magic bullet, or pill, or single solution to “all of the shit we go through”. No partnership can bear the weight of all of our bullshit. We’ve got to do all the things we can – everything we know to do, as reliably as we’re able to learn to practice. Through practice. Sounds like a huge thing to commit to, but taken a practice at a time, doesn’t it just amount to living life? I think about it a while, let the songs play. Watch the tiny bar of sunlight creep across my desk.

My partner comes in and rubs my shoulders and neck for a moment. “You writin’ a book?” he asks with a laugh. I laugh back; there are no shortcuts.

It’s time to begin again.

What an absolutely shit-tastic fucking morning. Maybe I get it back on track, maybe I don’t. Maybe I sort myself out and feel some amount of joy or enthusiasm for living, maybe I don’t. I’m not depressed, I’m just… an emotional trainwreck, this morning. Medicated? Yep – and there are reasons for that, and this morning the medication isn’t enough to overcome my bullshit and baggage. My results absolutely fucking vary. Sometimes I don’t “get it right” and I have to deal with whatever hurt or lack of courtesy I’ve delivered to some (probably) unsuspecting other human being (who may even matter to me)(probably) – and also deal with supporting myself, soothing myself, and managing my self-care. It blows.

…Then I deal with the pile-on bullshit of the aftermath, the feelings of inadequacy, guilt, shame, frustration, self-directed disappointment, the feeling of futility, the sense of “making no progress” and the potential descent into despair, because… “this?? again??” Also major suckage.

Here’s the thing, though, and I’m trying to hold on to it ferociously right now; I do deal with it. I do get past the moment. I do manage – again and again – to soothe myself, sort it out, and move on. It’s just not “easy”, and I’m “having a moment”… about having had a moment. So fucking annoying.

This too will pass. Emotional weather means occasional storms and showers of tears. That’s just real – and very human.

I tried to go to work before I was quite ready, in spite of “where I was at”. I had to park the car and just let the tears fall. I couldn’t really drive. I for sure could not have worked. In an office. Around other people. (I’m 100% done with crying at my fucking desk during work hours. lol) So, I got that over with parked on a dark side street. Then I went on to the co-work space I’m presently working from (working from home is a bit too distracting right now, and sometimes very noisy with the new CNC machine) and got my day more or less started.

…Now I’ve got to begin again, properly. Be the woman I most want to be. Deal with people. Process tasks. Handle communications. Be present and engaged. It’s hard. It sounds like too much to ask. The morning started incredibly poorly and I’d honestly rather just “run away from home” and be literally anywhere else but trapped in my own experience of life and love and self. I’d rather be hiking a muddy forest trail, or a cold oceanside beach. I’d rather be sitting at a sidewalk café with an espresso drink and book. I’d rather be watching a high desert sunrise, or playing with a kitten. Hell, I’d rather be home alone doing the fucking dishes. Anything but being the woman I am, in this moment, living this life, feeling these feelings. Fuuuuuuuuuuck. I’m not a g’damned machine. Just a human being.

…I think about my assorted medications. Is there a pill to take for feeling miserable and emotional and filled with shards of chaos and damage? (No, no there is not. Bitch, pull yourself together. Fucking hell – it could be, and has been in the past, so much worse.)

I sigh out loud, drain my untouched cold cup of coffee impatiently. It’s time to begin again. Again.

I was once a compulsive diarist. I wrote page after page of prose, poetry, commentary, peculiar emotional screeds, and quite a bit of inappropriate this-n-that. I began writing sometime in the 4th grade.

My first journal was in a blank book like this, that I nicked from my Dad’s workbench in the basement.

I wrote compulsively. I wrote most days – for years. When I left for the Army, I left my journals (those that I had, which were of my high school years) in a box, hoping they would be held for me, or sent along once I was at my duty station. Those are now lost volumes. The handful of volumes I wrote during the years between 4th grade (I’d have been… 9) and the start of high school (when I was 14) are also “lost volumes”. I’d dearly like to have those once again; they would span the “before and after” period of significant head trauma. (Who was I before that injury??)

My violent first marriage doesn’t have much writing in it, and what writing I did do, lived in volumes “safely” stored in safety deposit boxes I didn’t keep (in some cases forgot about, in others did not or could not maintain) – or hidden (and subsequently lost somewhere in my shitty memory). Those are also lost. (Well, except for one very peculiar volume that I’ve strangely held onto – that’s a story for another time.)

What remains are the volumes I wrote from the very afternoon I left my violent first marriage (finally), in 1995, until I realized my writing was undermining my emotional wellness (years later, after I returned to therapy to save my life), in 2013 (ish?). There are 916 weeks in the timeframe I know I was writing (and I have these volumes). 75 volumes, I counted. More than 15,000 pages of intimate uncensored (sometimes deceitful, sometimes incoherent) personal writing detailing my subjective experience of the events of my life in those years (and what I observed of the lives of many close to me, too). My 30s. My 40s. A lifetime spanning 3 very different career fields , many different jobs, 5 different addresses, 8 cats, 3 significant relationships, quite a few lovers, and numerous tales told – and I’m no longer at all certain this clutter of words needs to live on in durable media. I’m fairly certain it does not. I’m attached to the idea of the volumes, the legacy of so many words, but… I don’t read them. I don’t want to. I don’t hold on to them with purpose. They just sit in a bin, gathering dust and being “clutter”. I have occasionally used them to look up some specific event to clarify a recollection. That’s been a rare thing.

I had an idea about how best to deal with all these journals, that doesn’t amount to “put them in a bin in the attic crawlspace”, because honestly, why am I storing their physical forms now? SO. I’ve decided to sort them out, photograph the assorted volumes, and maybe take some shots of especially good or interesting writing, or the details of some important moment that lingers in my memory (or doesn’t). I’d like to preserve the poetry that may have been written somewhere in these volumes. I’d like to save original sketches that may be lurking there. There’s no reason to keep the totality of this body of work though, and there are quite a few reasons to let it go. Once I’ve gotten a few pictures – so that I have the lasting memory that these did exist, and what they looked like, and their very vastness of thought – I’ll destroy them. Shred the pages. Dispose of the covers (or give them away to be repurposed, perhaps).

Today, on this last day of 2022, I’m getting started on it…

Something like 20 years of living… in so many words.

It’s been a peculiar day, flipping through these volumes, year by year. Spotting some… moment… and reflecting on it, briefly, then moving on in time. Strange patterns emerge. Details that did not seem significant in my lived recollection become oddly prominent from this new perspective. A lot of it – most of it – is ferociously hormone and lust fueled reverie (and recollected misadventure)(or wishful thinking) that is neither especially novel (human primates being what we are), neither is it good writing (I’m no Anaïs Nin or Henry Miller). I found that most of that simply amused me ever-so-slightly. It has been easy to let that go. Harder were the forgotten traumas, the despair, the hedonism… and the friendships that have been lost to time, geography, and poor memory. Embarrassingly, some of those friends were lovers. “Ghosts” now, I guess – memories, half-recalled for an instant before being lost again. Those poignant “oh, remember… I wonder how they’re doing these days…” moments. I cried kind of a lot in the morning, before it sort of sunk in; this is all 100% in the past. Part of how I got where I am, and little more.

…It’s been nice to find so many “lost” sketches and beautiful poetry…

Anyway. It’s the last day of 2022. New Year’s Eve. It’s a good time to put down baggage. A good mark on the calendar for letting things go. It’s so choice for making changes that we have a funny culture that embraces “new year’s resolutions”, then also the inevitable self-mockery because it’s equally commonplace to fail to follow through. That doesn’t have to be your way, though. What is your way? My way, as I sit here thinking of the woman I most want to be, the woman I want to see looking back at me in the mirror each morning, is to embrace change, practice the practices that will get me where I want to be, understanding that we become what we practice. My way? My way is to cultivate calm and contentment, to develop wise perspective (and humility), to be kind, and to follow my path without aggression. My way is to assume positive intent, and let small shit stay small. I mean… my results vary. This is the path I seek to follow. Doing my best. Still quite human.

…I mean… there’s no plan in mind to be anything but human, I’d just like to get quite good at doing that well. lol My idea of “living my best life” isn’t about vast wealth or accolades or fancy titles. I would like to be a good person. Kind. Not a raging bitch. Wise (if I can get there), and humble (because I won’t have gotten very far alone). Chill. Merry. Fun to be around. I won’t say I want to “be happy” – it’s a trap. I’d like, instead, to feel joy more often than sorrow, and a genial contentment just generally. I’d like to live a strong sense of sufficiency. I think all of this is within reach… I think I can practice a lot of it.

So here it is the eve of a new year. Time to turn the page and begin again.

I woke with a wicked headache this morning. I’m in an absolutely shit mood, too. I woke irritable and cross with the world – on Thanksgiving. For fucks sake. What a… headache. I snarled a warning at my partner, and took my coffee into my studio and closed the door on the world. I put on a video of rain – maybe the sound will sooth me somehow? Fuck this headache. Fuck having a headache on a holiday.

…Omg… so much cooking to do… fuck.

I went to bed looking forward to today, and yeah even looking forward to the cooking. Right now? Right now I am not “looking forward” at all. I’m sitting here in my moment, with this fucking headache.

The sounds of rain are usually so soothing… this morning this video just isn’t getting me there. Headache is that bad. What I find myself listening to is the sound of my computer’s fans spinning up to deal with the high resolution video. I pause it and leave the picture up on the screen. I have no fucks to give. I leave my padded noise-canceling headphones on. They don’t do that much to cancel the very nearby sound of the computer fans, or my fingers on the keys of my mechanical keyboard, but they provide a muffled perspective on everything else. Quieter. My tinnitus is very loud.

I try listening to music. All the songs I usually enjoy are just annoying me right now. So I turn that off, too. I alternate sips of coffee with sips of water. I make a specific point of not looking at the news at all; there’s no chance that will be actually helpful, and some chance it could make things worse (by way of anxiety).

It is Thanksgiving. I’ve got a lot to be grateful for in spite of this headache. I focus on that, bringing my thoughts back to things I am grateful for each time they wander back to this fucking headache. (It can’t last forever…so I’ll just keep at it.) What am I grateful for, sitting here right now, headache and all? I think it over and drink my coffee, which is quite good in spite of my crappy mood.

…I’m grateful for this cup of excellent coffee made from good quality Ethiopian coffee beans. I don’t really know how long coffee will continue to exist, so I enjoy it while it is available and make a point of buying from roasters that are at least trying to source their beans sustainably and also paying the farmers a fair price.

I’m grateful to have a secure roof over my head, a home to call my own, and amenities like indoor plumbing, potable drinking water, and heat. I know there are families that don’t, not only in far away places but also right here in my country, my state, my county, and my community. (Pretty appalling, frankly – use your vote wisely.)

I’m grateful to be so fortunate as to have the luxury of beefing about a fucking headache on Thanksgiving; I know I can head to the kitchen any time and start preparing an ample holiday meal of wholesome good quality ingredients. I have numerous excellent cookbooks for inspiration, and highspeed internet to catch the latest cooking videos from favorite content creators. I am fortunate indeed. Even with the headache.

I’m grateful to have electricity. Like… seriously grateful. I sip my coffee for a minute thinking about how different life would have to be without electricity… and how many of our luxuries (that we mostly take for granted) are entirely dependent on having electricity in the first place.

My sleep has been filled with nightmares for a couple weeks now. I’m not sure why. I’m grateful af though that I am at least getting enough sleep (and rest) to start each day fresh in spite of the content of my dreams. That’s not a small thing. Getting enough actual rest means that I can generally expect that my dreams will not linger in my consciousness for long, once I wake. That’s actually a pretty big deal.

I’m grateful to have so many friends. Sure, most of them are quite distant, geographically, and we often go years without seeing each other. Doesn’t stop us from caring and connecting in between times. I could be a better friend, though… I pause this writing and send some emails to friends, wishing them a festive holiday meal. I miss them – particularly on Thanksgiving. When we were younger and living closer together, we’d often get together for a holiday meal. I do miss that. I’m grateful to have enjoyed it whenever we could. Good memories.

I’m grateful to have a partner who – after waking up irritable himself over not being able to sleep – can drop everything to be comforting and to try to be helpful, when I alert him of my vicious headache and shitty mood, in spite of where he’s at himself. Not one word of doubt that we’ll have a pleasant holiday, either; he knows that we’ll both get our shit together as the morning wears on, and go ahead and do the needful. Good partnership. We’re both entirely made of human, and god damn do we love each other. (I feel tears start falling, streaming down my face… I don’t know why, and I just let them fall. We’re mortal creatures, and sometimes that is reason enough for tears.)

I’m grateful even for the tears; I can feel. That’s kind of a big deal, too.

Rough morning. Still Thanksgiving and I’ve got a lot to be thankful for – this headache does not change that truth. I put on a playlist of love songs and begin again.

Damn. Still struggling with my bullshit today. There’s no obvious driver. For some folks, the weather would be enough; it is gray and chilly and the rain falls pretty steadily. A wet autumn day, with a twilight quality in early afternoon. I’m fortunate that I’m generally not affected by S.A.D. Doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally feel blue on a gray day, but it’s usually not the season… it’s something else. Right now? It’s a lot of small things piling up and becoming “a thing” – my anxiety, my struggle with it, and my stress about the state of the world. It looms large in my awareness, and lurks in my very dreams, most of which, right now, are nightmares.

I’m just feeling a bit low is all. It happens. It’ll pass. Feels even a bit “hormonal”, although I cling to the thinking that menopause should have put an end to that mess. Maybe it doesn’t entirely? Considering the state of medical science regarding women’s bodies and health, I can’t be surprised that we don’t know more even in 2022.

…So, this is where I am today. I feel bleak, a bit blue, not quite overcome by anhedonia. I feel beat down. Silenced. I’m not actually any of those things in any practical or real way. These are just feelings. Perceptions. They have only whatever life I give them, myself. So I keep fighting it. Self-care steps of various sorts – you’re looking at one of those right now. 🙂

I get an irritating email from the VA just as the sun breaks through the clouds for a minute. My aggravation brushes aside the blues and the stabbing pain of a flash of sunshine through an uncovered window straight into my eye are at least enough to distract me from my shitty mood momentarily. So. Here I am. Beginning again. Again.