Archives for category: grief

This particular blog post is about several things that are more than a little interconnected, but probably also entirely coincidental, and more likely still? I may not actually ever get around to mentioning any of those details in any specific way, because I’ve got this headache “peering over my shoulder” and distracting me. I sip ginger ale in a dark room. My tinnitus is louder than my computer, and I double-check to “see that it’s on” and laugh, immediately realizing how fucking dumb that actually is; I’m at the keyboard, writing. God damn this headache makes me fucking stupid. 0_o How annoying.

I’ve been very introspective these past few days. June 25th has some gravitas these days – the anniversary of my Mother’s death. It’s also got some serious joy – the anniversary of buying our home (we did not select the date). “Mixed emotions” doesn’t even come close to explaining where this put my head these last few days, as we approach the 1st anniversary of the date we actually moved into our home. So many boxes! Last year, all of the days between those dates were midst the COVID-19 pandemic, in the early months of “the lockdown”… strange to discuss it in months, but here we all are. I write a few more grim sentences, then remember I honestly don’t know enough to legitimately have an opinion of some of these things. I delete them, and let my mind wander.

It was hot this week. Like…intensely bold-red-text-heat-warning hot. No kidding. It was… Phoenix hot. Fresno hot. Death Valley hot.

I’m not even exaggerating.

Fortunately, it cooled off quite a bit day by day. It was so hot I couldn’t think. Writing would have put more heat into my studio, so I kept it to the minimum needed to work, and then shut everything down. My Traveling Partner and I mostly sat around bitching about the heat, keeping the things as cool as we could, in darkened rooms, drinking water. Is it weird that my recollection of those hot days is pretty pleasant? I enjoyed my partner’s company when I wasn’t working, and I’ve no memory of discord or fussing at each other. We were a team fighting a common “enemy” – the heat. We were armed with ice cream and humor. LOL Much fun was had by all. I mean… that’s how I remember it.

Memory is weird. I’d link a particular song that comes to mind…but I can’t remember the title… and then, when I do, I can’t find a link to it… I’m no longer sure I’m remembering it correctly, at all.

…On the other hand…I clearly remember exactly what a summer night in Maryland smells like, how it sounds, how the humid air clings relentlessly to sweat…

Memory is weird.

…I had forgotten how much I like ginger ale…

I sit quietly awhile, just listening to my tinnitus and sipping ginger ale. I could do without the headache that persists in hanging out with me. I rub my neck and remind myself it won’t last indefinitely – what ever does?

…Wow. That went downhill fast. LOL

Roses in my garden

It’s summer, I guess, for real. Hotter summers now, that seems clear. The summers definitely were not this hot 10 years ago (and more recently than that, Portlanders could be heard making jokes about “June-uary”, because summer didn’t really arrive until July). My garden didn’t die this year, when the heat came; my Traveling Partner set up a simple drip irrigation system for me. My tomatoes did not seem to suffer with the heat at all, quite the contrary; I think we’re going to have “too many tomatoes”. LOL Win. 🙂

This headache, though…

Time to begin again.

I’m sipping my coffee and frowning past my monitor, looking beyond the “view” outside the window. Nothing impressive, just the fence, the pear trees that rise above it, and the wall of the neighbor’s house beyond – I’m not really seeing it, right now, I am in my own head. I am ruminating over the bitch of an inconvenience that is the very real truth that however much someone loves us, however much someone cares, no matter the level of consideration, empathy, or understanding – we are each walking our own mile, having our own experience, and there will inevitably be some detail that is simply not visible, or not recognized for what it is, or not understood with any clarity, or seems wholly miscommunicated to the detriment of a pleasant moment. Have a brain injury? Ratchet that up a notch. Grieving? This one too; it’s progressively more invisible over time, and people eventually reach their “you’re not over this yet?” point – sooner than you will, yourself. It’s just real. We feel our own pain most intensely. We understand our own circumstances more than we can understand someone else’s, generally. We filter every interaction through who we are ourselves, and how we personally understand the world, with little regard for the demonstrable reality that it legitimately is not the same for someone else. Sometimes I feel completely fucked over by that whole entire messy business.

I’m not pissing and moaning about this while mired in self-pity. I’m actually more… a tad angry about it. I earnestly want to do better by my friends, family, and loved ones than that, myself. I still struggle with it, too. Maybe it just feels easier to bitch about what someone else is doing than it is to attend to what is within my personal control? I could stop doing that, and redirect that time and effort into personal growth and change… that sounds pretty positive.

I take a breath, and a sip of my coffee. When I got out of the shower, my Traveling Partner had already made his coffee. I generally make coffee for the both of us. It’s one way I say “I love you” and start the morning off pleasantly. I enjoy the routine. This morning, he did not wait on that, he took ownership of needs and made his coffee. I can’t fault him for that. Good self-care. He did not make my coffee. (I could take that personally – it could even be possible that it was intended to silently signal his irritation with me, more likely he just wasn’t sure I’d be out of the shower before it got cold.) I don’t give it much thought beyond observation, and let go of any concern about “sending me a message”, because, frankly, he uses his words. He’s not the sort who goes around being under-handed or passive-aggressive with communicating his needs or feelings; it’s a pretty unhealthy approach. I try to avoid that sort of thing, myself; it’s very imprecise, and not reliably clear. I’m not even certain I’d “get the message” – I tend (more often than not) to be very “face value” about those sorts of things, in my interactions, and it’s likely that that kind of thing would “go over my head” anyway. 🙂

I’m working on taking better care of myself, generally, which I also generally suck at. It’s a lot of work. I enjoy spending time with my partner to the point that I overlook taking time with myself. It doesn’t take long before my background stress is evident, and becoming unmanageable. So… I reset, begin again, and work on building better habits, and practicing the practices that I know support my emotional wellness, best. It is, however, still an ongoing, challenging, messy, aggravating, frustrating, endlessly fiddly bit of bullshit and effort that will no doubt plague me to the end of my days.

…It could be worse…

I sip my coffee. I’m writing on a pleasant summer morning. I’ve got a partner who loves me and does his best, reliably, to love me well. I could say “that’s enough”, but I’m aware how much more than “enough” that really is; I haven’t always had it like this. My good circumstances just don’t happen to alleviate me of my burdens in life. (Why did I expect that they might?) The work day peaks at me from the clock… it’s time to begin again.

Don’t forget to enjoy what’s good about living life. Simply that. Please. Yes, reflect. For sure, honor those who were lost. Just… also live in this moment, and embrace what’s good, what’s working… enjoy and celebrate and make merry. Every day. Love with your whole heart. Forgive what can be forgiven (and that’s mostly all the things) – and make sure that you forgive yourself, too. Breathe. Relax. Hug someone you love. Tell a silly joke. Be okay, because even that becomes a practice. Let go of what you can let go of. Set down the baggage that’s grown too heavy to bear – if you can. Speak kindly. Speak gently. Lift others up instead of knocking them down.

Yesterday afternoon went sideways pretty abruptly. I guess I’m not surprised looking back on it. I triggered him, and he triggered me… or maybe the other way around? I don’t know. I just know I didn’t manage to pull out of that tail spin, and the the whole mess lingered in my consciousness through the night. I am unwilling to catastrophize it now… relevant to things that could go wrong, it was a small thing. Harsh words. Tears. I definitely wanted to do better than I did. I need more practice. I certainly wasn’t my best self.

My morning coffee is ordinary. The day ahead stretches beyond this moment without any agenda beyond being a better lover and a better friend. There’s a lot to contemplate about getting those things right.

I sip my coffee and queue up a video my Traveling Partner shared with me during the night, and raise my mug in a silent moment of remembrance to fallen brothers and sisters at arms. Memorial Day. The dead have no chance to live their lives well, or to become the person they most wanted to be. I do.

It’s time to begin again.

I am sipping the cold remains of my second morning coffee, abandoned earlier, on my way into the garden. It’s less than ideally satisfying, as cold coffees go, neither properly cold, nor at all warm. I don’t much care; relative to other concerns it is a meaningless detail. Today, I’m feeling the weight of Memorial Day; it’s been a very long time since Memorial Day was any sort of celebration, for me. It is a day to remember the fallen: lives lost to war, lives lost to violence, a moment to contemplate the wasted human potential sacrificed to the causes of various governments… some of those lacking in moral high ground of any kind. I don’t find it something to celebrate. Instead, I honor those I’ve lost, and the lives lost that matter to others that I will never know. It’s simply my way.

I spent yesterday afternoon in my studio, painting. I’ve commented in other places that I am less likely to paint when I am content, fulfilled, happy, or satisfied. It’s an emotional experience that requires emotional impetus, and emotional momentum, and, for me, a way to communicate what I lack the words for. Make of that what you will. Honestly? I dislike “watching the world burn” in these problematic, chaotic times… but in my studio, and so many elsewhere, these are conditions that have a lot of potential to create great art. (Fingers crossed that anyone is around to appreciate any of it… later on.)

I am feeling a bit glum, and a bit angry. How is it 2021 and sexism is still a thing? Or the chronic condescension of patriarchy? How are so many people unwilling or unable to see the strong connection between sexism & misogyny – and literally all of the other evils of our society? (How many racists do you know who are not also sexist? How many people filled with hatred toward immigrants are not also sexist? How many elected idiots are not also sexist?) Sexism isn’t even limited to men, for fuck’s sake; there are ever so many women willing to carry that apologist torch to maintain this system that burns us all. This is where my head is at today; perplexed and sorrowful about all the human relationships tainted by the ugliness of implicit sexism. I’m not feeling open to excuses, explanations, denials, or “othering”, today. I’m not interested in justification, or placating platitudes. Hell, it’s not even connected to Memorial Day sadness – not even a little bit. It’s just where my head is at. I’m in a place in my own life where I no longer feel any obligation whatsoever to placate various men in my life, although out of general consideration, and a lack of interest in their opinion on an experience of sexism they can not share (and largely seem unable to recognize, as a result), I mostly just don’t discuss it, at all. Complicating all this is that is sometimes feels like a conversation with my father. He’s dead, though… hard to “feel heard”. So the anger comes and goes, not unlike the sorrow of any one Memorial Day; it has a place in my experience, a moment taken to care for it tenderly, to consider and soothe it, and then I move the fuck on to other things. There’s no solution that I reasonably expect to see in my lifetime, and I’ve got things to do.

I put on music to write to, suited to this peculiar headspace, while I sip this cold coffee and practice self-soothing a lifetime of seething rage until I am “okay” once more… For most values of “okay”. It is what it is, I guess. Life is, generally, pretty good. I find it worrisome to see so many people take their anger out into the world, along with a gun… and then end someone else’s life. That seems pretty unfair and entirely inappropriate. I don’t like seeing it become more and more prevalent… but of course, it’s hard to be certain that it has; likes, clicks, views, and the eager drive to capture consumer attention dictates what is in our news feeds every day. The undermining of “truth” – real, factual, documentable truth – has progressed to the point that I’ve even removed satirical and comedic content that uses current events for the foundational content from my feeds. I don’t care to risk my understanding of what is real and true, if I can avoid doing so. I try to stick with content that is fact-checked reliably. It gets harder all the time.

What do we do with all this anger? I feel it, too. I’m trying to find healthy ways to process it, to deal with it, to care for my own tender injured heart without doing damage to someone else’s. Painting is one way. Funny thing; yesterday I was not “painting anger”, although it was among the mixed emotions that pushed me into my studio. I was painting love, and painting hope, and painting joy, and the comfort of emotional safety. I was painting what I want to see in the world and in my own life. I surprised myself with that. Maybe it’s a good practice? I guess I’ll be needing to practice to see what comes of it, over time.

Today, though, is a day for housekeeping, and mindful service to hearth and home. This, too, is “my way”. I’m not sure why Sunday. I could say “the habit of a lifetime” – but it isn’t. Growing up, I most commonly saw housework being done more or less in all the waking hours of our family life – and all of it done by my Mother, or Grandmother, or some other woman, in some other home. I’m fortunate. I get a lot of help from my Traveling Partner. We generally both handle routine basics during the week. I do a few hours of focused housekeeping on the weekend, to get ready for a new week; I like the results, all week long. My partner tackles a lot of the maintenance and upkeep of the house and the technology we live with. It mostly seems a pretty fair division of labor. My resentment, when it occasionally builds up over time, tends to be more about my own shortcomings self-care-wise, and lack of skillful boundary-setting or time management, and discomfort with asking for help when I need it. Recognizing that’s “on me” to resolve, I try to be aware of my bullshit before it spills over elsewhere. No doubt I could improve in this area. lol

I look at my list of chores for today. It’s honestly not “all that”, and definitely doesn’t amount to enough work for any hint of annoyance or resentment or fuss. It’s just a routine Sunday on a long weekend. 🙂 Hell, I may even paint more later – I’m feeling very inspired lately. I don’t suggestion that that is a good thing… it’s just fuel for the artistic fire within.

I glance at the time, and into the bottom of my now-empty coffee mug; it’s time to begin again.

I remind myself that “we don’t grow from comfortable situations”, but it feels hollow. Tears well up, and I grit my teeth and stifle them, frustrated, angry. With myself, mostly. With the circumstances, definitely. There’s too much good fortune in my experience right now for this bullshit, I tell myself, echoing something my partner said to me moments ago, from his own pissed off, frustrated perspective. The feeling of futility I am presently mired in is a painful challenge to overcome. It’s all too human. It’s also baggage, and bullshit, and probably almost entirely self-imposed, if I could get to a clear-headed place to examine it with less visceral emotional involvement.

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

My writing stalls. My coffee just sits. There’s no eagerness to embrace the moment. No acceptance from with which to step forward, walk on, and begin again. I exist, presently, as a moment of pain. A living, breathing, emotional wound… but I’m not quite sure what this hurt is truly about, and so don’t know how to comfort myself or heal me. I think about my partner, doing his own best in another room. Cross words exchanged before we could even enjoy our coffee. I’m disappointed with myself for losing control; I know how much damage emotional volatility can do in a single moment. That delicate balance that is feeling the feelings while also holding oneself to a standard of appropriate behavior suitable for all circumstances, that lives my values moment to moment, in spite of whatever emotional storm is blowing in… is hard. It’s a feat that requires steady practice, and it has to matter… and, and this is the hardest bit, the win nearly always comes in spite of someone else’s volatility, turmoil, or provocation. It’s not enough to be steady, calm, and to listen deeply alone in a silent room. It’s about a practice that makes that possible in the face of someone else’s storm of emotion. My results definitely vary. This morning I failed utterly. I’d barely woken up. I honestly don’t even understand how or why everything went sideways so suddenly… nor do I think there is much value in troubleshooting that. It would be a distraction.

…From…? I don’t even know, right now. This headache is complicating my ability to think clearly and reason well.

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

I’m annoyed with myself. That’s not helping. I said some ridiculous (and vile) things, and it’s not okay, and at some point, how much does an apology really help? I take a deep breath. The breath “timer” pulses on my desktop out of the corner of my eye. I don’t know how much it really helps. I’m so frustrated with some of the challenges I face each day… I keep expecting at some point any part of this will feel properly routine and effortless, but any amount of study makes it immediately clear that my results may “always” vary – for any practical definition of “always” – and some damage is lasting. Frustrating. (Incremental change over time is a real thing…but some increments are too small to see individually.)

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

I’m struggling to be positive. I look back on my own words – recent, and less so – and there is so much positivity reflected there. So much will. This morning, right now, I just feel… bleak and defeated. I struggle to find meaning. I find myself reliably “missing the point”. The promising morning ahead that I was facing so eagerly has morphed into something less enticing. I’m eager to see darkness return, to go back to bed, to start over tomorrow… on a work day. That saddens me, further, and I feel my hopefulness sort of just trickling away.

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

It’s all very dramatic, is it not? Fucking hell. My head aches (partly from crying). “You’re creating this experience,” I remind myself. “Let it go,” I suggest, more helpfully than not (I hope). I feel a bit like a mechanic facing an easily repairable problem… without tools or parts to work with, and too stupid to look behind me to see that the tools are neatly laid out on my bench, with the parts ready to go. I suspect my partner feels a bit more like a parent in a grocery store trying to discreetly deal with a toddler having a screaming tantrum over something they can’t have; their love for their child is undiminished, but fucking hell – right now? Seriously? What a shitty experience all around. I could choose differently… couldn’t I?

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

Damn, I fucking failed hard this morning. My brain reaches for The Four Agreements, because… yeah… this could have gone a lot better, even if the only thing I’d done differently was these four things. For real. Not fancy.

Where this really started, back in 2010, and a moment of gratitude for the love of the man who shared it with me, then, and remains with me, still.

11 years is a long time to work on something without seeing lasting permanent verifiable results that have positive impact. If that were legitimately where I were standing this morning, feeling this despair become futility would make a lot of sense. That’s some real shit. BUT, and this is important (for me to observe and acknowledge, for myself), that’s not where I am standing this morning, at all. I take another deep breath and let it out as a loud sigh. Life is very different now than it was 11 years ago, this morning’s drama doesn’t even show on the same scale. Yes, I’ve still got challenges. Yes, the brain damage creates some headaches (literal and metaphorical) that continue to trouble me (and complicate my relationships). Yes, the PTSD complicates things rather a lot, and I utterly rely on every good health and emotional wellness practice I can master to maintain my balance day-to-day – and my results do still vary. I’m just saying, if you are mired in despair right now, feeling a profound sense of futility and hopelessness… I hope you take away from this reading the following things:

1. You are creating a large part of that experience, yourself, and you can choose to change it.

2. It won’t feel easy or comfortable to make changes, possibly ever.

3. What you practice you do become.

4. When you fail, however horribly, you can begin again.

Yeah, okay, I’ll be honest on that last one – there are no guarantees regarding the outcomes of new beginnings. I can begin again a million times, and likely will – it does not provide me any assurance that my relationships will be unaffected by my chaos and damage, or that every traveler on my path will choose to continue to travel with me. I’ve lost friends. Some I chose to let go, others turned away from me. Relationships come and go. People are human and it’s not fair or reasonable to expect they will endure our bullshit indefinitely, ever. So… the value in practicing the practices that allow me to become the woman I most want to be is in becoming the woman I most want to be. Period. End of goal-setting. Be a better human being, generally. Would I like to live that experience in the company of my current partner? Definitely. Do I have any guarantees? Nope. Not ever. Gotta just let that one go, too. There is a ton of work involved in lasting sustained love, and no guarantee of success. Definitely makes sense to treat each other well along the journey.

I take another breath. I sip my cold coffee. I think about The Four Agreements. When I am “impeccable with my word” I refrain from saying vile upsetting shit when I’m angry, because I’m committed to truth and working to keep my raw emotions separate from the words I say about my experience. That would have been an improvement this morning. When I avoid taking things personally, I am less likely to escalate emotionally when my partner is frustrated with me, or when I am frustrated with him. That would have been super useful this morning. I could certainly use more practice there. When I avoid making assumptions, it opens to door to listening more deeply, and requires me to ask clarifying questions, and leaves room in my awareness to appreciate my partner’s affection for me, in spite of his emotional experience in the moment. It would have been very helpful this morning to have refrained from making assumptions about my partner’s thinking, and to have given him a chance to share it in words. I suppose all these things are true for both of us, really. Good practices often work that way. I’d love to insist I was doing my best, this morning…that is, after all, the fourth agreement referenced in The Four Agreements… but… was I really? Pre-coffee? Less than an hour after waking? I give that a “maybe”, and a very frank admission that it’s quite likely I could have done better by being more willful, more present, and by taking my own bullshit less fucking personally, myself. So… Yeah. I could have done nothing more/better/differently than to have practiced the 4 simple practices outlined in The Four Agreements, and the morning would likely have gone very very differently. Maybe it wouldn’t have… but… did I really give it a chance? I see room for improvement.

…Breathe… Exhale… Relax…

I’m not in this relationship alone. That’s true. We’re in this together – and we’re each also having our own experience. We’ve each got our own personal demons. Our own chaos and damage. Our own trauma to heal. Our own baggage to lug around. Our own intolerable bullshit that we’re both each working individually to resolve or to master. It’s very human. It’s not about fault or blame, though, and it’s not about who is guilty or wrong, or who said what to whom… there’s little value in that. I can’t really work on anyone’s issues but my own, though, so I sit down and reflect on what I can do, what I can change, and how I can be the best version of this particular human being that I happen to be. Love asks us to unpack our own baggage.

…Breathe…Exhale…Relax…

…Begin again.