Stages I go through in a breakup* (*not in any order whatsoever. *reserve the right to revisit bulletpoints) Singing loudly with Annie Lennox, Aretha Franklin, Pink and Carrie Underwood while drivi…
I got a call from a ghost today.
The call display said Montana, and I almost didn’t answer, I don’t know anyone from Montana. The call was from a father that I didn’t know. A father that I will never meet. He told me his son was dead, and for a moment I had to think which dead son is this, which dead child is this about.
Then I understood.
This was Kevin’s father. Kevin who was dead. Kevin, the young man who made a small party my son’s first birthday in Arizona, far away from home. Kevin, who arranged for a decorated ice cream cake and twenty candles. Kevin who ordered pizzas with everything that Graham liked on them. Kevin who took pictures of Graham blowing out the candles and sent them to me because he knew how sad I was about not being there for his birthday. That Kevin who took care of my son when I could not. That Kevin who within six months of the party had relapsed, and shortly after had died.
I had sent his phone a text after he died. More of a prayer in text form. It read something like I’m so very sorry, and thank you. I was so sorry he had died, and still so grateful to him for taking care of my son. I sent it, and like a prayer, I never thought anyone would ever know about it.
I do understand that to his father when he finally got his dead son’s phone that my message would be a mystery. I imagine how many times he must of read it before he worked up the nerve to call me and ask just what I meant texting a dead person.
Today he called and we found out about each other, although we never even exchanged names. I told him that I was so sorry, that his son had been kind to mine, and kind to me, and how much that meant to me. I told him that my son was still alive and still clean and sober. I don’t know that was comforting or painful for him. I think it could be both. Maybe I should have said in October my brother, John, and many years ago my father, Alan died of the same disease his son did. Maybe, but that’s not the same as a child. Nothing could be that.
He seemed content enough to have his mystery solved and we said goodbye, and then I sat there and cried for all of us, for those who have died, and for those of us who loved them. I cried, because there is nothing else I can do for Kevin, for John, for Alan, for any of the dead ones.
For the families and loved ones left behind, sorry is not ever going to be enough. Sorry can’t heal the kind of pain this is, but is all we can do. We say sorry and we then hold space for someone’s pain. We say sorry and we hold space in our words, in our actions, in our lives, and in our hearts for them. We let them feel their pain without judgement. We surround them in as much love as we can. This is what we do for the living,
because there is nothing more we can do for our dead.
275 days of saying goodbye. 275 days so far.
We’ve made it through the first month, first Christmas, first Easter, first birthday, the first 9 months.
275 days since they found you lying on your floor. 275 days of imagining you lying there alone.
It started with a phone call, an email and a long drive home to police tape and a stain on your carpet. Days of cleaning and loading parts of you I wanted into my trunk, an obituary and another long drive back. Later a eulogy, a service with your family, your daughters, my daughters, poems, songs, readings, prayers, food, friends family and a goodbye. Another drive.
Then a flight, a Sedona hike with your nephew, a candle and a prayer in The Chapel of the Holy Cross. Another hike, an offering with the same prayer, “I love you Johnny”. I left part of you in Arizona in one of the most sacred places I know. I left your ring, our father’s ring in The Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park, a place full of love and peace. I left it there wearing your shirt, the sleeves rolled up in the heat.
And this week a drive, a sacred fire, prayers and songs, an offering to the creator in the tradition of the Lakȟóta people. And last night a bamboo leaf, the same prayer, and a candle floating away into the sunset.
I love you Johnny
Until I can have an exceptionally hot Latino man behind me continually squeezing and lifting my ass I’m going to have to settle for my “uplifting” yoga pants and blue jeans. Statement. By me. Today. For the record, I was wearing just regular, not “firmly cupping my ass and lifting it six inches from my […]
And you do. Settle that is. I am freakin’ fabulous at settling, I could write a book on settling, those commercials about the ‘settlers’? I was the inspiration for them (I may or may not have a slightly elevated opinion of my own influence, but you get the idea), because you know what’s scary? Change […]
Yesterday a friend said to me she would come back to yoga, but couldn’t because she had gained some weight.
Thank gawd for people with some self insight!
Because that’s how we yogis roll. The other day a woman tried to pass as a size 2 so she could take one of my classes. She was very clearly a size 4, and had less than a 1inch thigh gap. The nerve of some people. I sent her on her way and reminded her, quietly firmly, that yoga is ONLY for willowy tall women with long flowing hair, big boobs (that do not need any form of support other than a skin tight Lululemon top), rock hard abs, and tasteful Ohm tattoos on their perfectly pedicured feet. Also, if you show up in an outfit that cost less than $400 you’ll either have to leave, or buy a new (size 00/xs…
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Me and Shrek (who needs hair when you can have green?), we’ve got layers, and no I’m not a cake or a parfait, I’m a fecking onion with lots of layers, and sometimes if you peel them back your eyes leak a little, but basically we all want the same thing, to be loved, not to suffer, to feel happy – and to get good and grumpy from time to time.
Shrek: For your information, there’s a lot more to ogres than people think.
Shrek: Example… uh… ogres are like onions!
[holds up an onion, which Donkey sniffs]
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes… No!
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry?
Donkey: Oh, you leave ’em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs…
Shrek: [peels an onion] NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers… You get it? We both have layers.
Donkey: Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions. CAKE! Everybody loves cake! Cakes have layers!
Shrek: I don’t care what everyone likes! Ogres are not like cakes.
Donkey: You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, “Let’s get some parfait,” they say, “Hell no, I don’t like no parfait.”? Parfaits are delicious!
Shrek: NO! You dense, irritating, miniature beast of burden! Ogres are like onions! End of story! Bye-bye! See ya later.
Donkey: Parfait’s gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!
Also I want something safe, and strong and solid, probably not an ogre, but I’m not saying absolutely not. I want a shoulder that I can put my head on when my life feels out of control (generally life is just fine, it’s me who gets lost) I don’t want to be rescued, not really. I do want something that feels safe.
I feel like a Matryoshka Doll. Layer after layer of a hard wooden, brightly painted shell each covering another inside it with a firm, smooth and solid layer. The biggest with a smile permanently painted on. Life gets difficult? Snap! On goes another smooth, hard, smiling outer layer. People are unkind? Pop, pop on goes a couple of smiling layers. When I’m alone I think about taking off a layer or two, looking at the small doll at the center.
“Beauty comes in many forms–and there is no form more beautiful than you. Just exactly as you are, this minute, right now, without changing a thing…you are beautiful. Beautiful enough to take God’s breath away. You do believe this, don’t you? Oh, you must. You must. How can I believe in my beauty if you don’t believe in yours?” ~ Neale Donald Walsch
Isn’t that great? I need to have it tattooed on my forearm.
I grew up learning to gauge other’s emotions and adjust my behaviour accordingly. I hid my own feelings and learned to ignore them. I was told, and believed, that no matter what I did, whatever path I would follow I would never be quite good enough. I could twist, conform and mold myself to make others like me, but really, it would never work. I wore masks, layer after layer of hard, resilient masks, all nesting over another. What I wanted, who I was, what I was passionate about disappeared under the layers.
“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.” ~ Jim Morrison
Inside. Way inside there is that little doll, but the light is dimmed from all the other layers and it’s difficult to see, to feel what she really wants. It’s easier to retreat inside, to not do the work needed to live without the safe, nesting layers. It’s never convenient to do this, there are always more reasons to stay where you are, to stay within the boundaries and roles that have been assigned to you.
Despite this. Despite the layers we all wear, and the roles we all are assigned, despite all of this, we are only meant to be ourselves, that’s all. We, in theory, have the ability to release the pain, to remove the masks and to look into the darker parts of ourselves.
Those who will not slip beneath the surface of the well of grief,
turning downward through its dark waters
to a place we cannot breathe.
Will never know the secret water
from which we drink, cold and clear,
nor find in the darkness, glimmering–
the small, round coins
thrown away by those who wished for something else
– David Whyte
We have been raised to ignore the dark parts of ourselves, the parts about us we don’t like, the parts that we would like to pretend don’t exist. We want the world to see only what is good in us, only the bright shiny outer layer. Except that’s only part of us. The dark and hidden parts, the shattered and broken parts, the really ugly and shameful parts are as important as the bright, shiny and happy parts. Perhaps more important. If you’ve never suffered, you can’t know empathy. A broken heart is more open, feels more, is better able to love.
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
So what do I want? The same as everyone else, I suppose. I want to be happy, to be free from suffering. How likely is this? That depends I suppose on how attached I get to certain desires, and how open I am to accept and appreciate what I already have. So in the end, I’m okay if Viggo doesn’t show up on horseback, and the firemen don’t show up shirtless looking to rescue me. Well.. mostly okay. I think actually I’m okay with where I am right now. I may even like myself a little more, and maybe I’ll take off a couple of those Matryoshka Doll layers and get to know better the not so shiny and slightly cracked and broken parts of myself, because that is where the light gets in.
Poems are much smaller than blogs and much more difficult to write.
I used to write quite a lot of them. I’m lazy now, too much instant gratification on Facebook, or perhaps I have simply lost the part of me that could write with precision and grace.
Tonight is March’s full moon. Tonight I am almost through a dark month, a month where I have questioned everything, where my thoughts went to other places even as the earth was waking from a long dark winter. “…sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness ..” Sometimes we forget this completely.
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;”
– GALWAY KINNELL
I used to write about the moon, and my friend Marco wrote this for me (and you wonder why I keep coming back to Latino men, and Irishmen – see below). I read it when I want to remember things about myself I easily forget.
Laguna de Luna Llena
Suspiros soplan sobre la Luna
Hablemos esta noche
De los secretos
Escritos en tu cara;
Las manchas del ayer
Unduladamente son reflectadas
En estas aguas
Cuántos golpes sufriste mi amor
Que todavia sigues luminando
Sobre tierra y nubes
Cuántos amores olbidos
Te han penetrado
Que todavia esperas otro.
Eres terreno sagrado
Donde se sacrifica lagrimas
Y sangre por probar
La vida concentrada;
La angustia deliciosa.
Tu me inspiras…
Tu me inspiras
A cruzar las aguas de la vida;
De la luna llena laguna,
Por amor sincero.
Faith is complicated for me. Part of my proud, stubborn arrogant heritage perhaps, but I reflexively reject things I’m told I must believe. I reject black and white, good and evil as the only options. My world is many shades of grey. Still, I do have faith, somewhere, and it is as complicated and nuanced as the rest of me.
I want to write about faith,
about the way the moon rises
over cold snow, night after night,
faithful even as it fades from fullness,
slowly becoming that last curving and impossible
sliver of light before the final darkness.
But I have no faith myself
I refuse it even the smallest entry.
Let this then, my small poem,
like a new moon, slender and barely open,
be the first prayer that opens me to faith.
— David Whyte
I wrote this ten years ago, much has changed, but during dark times I get smaller, I sleep more or want to sleep more, and as always I cry in verse.
alive for one week
I am small
hear my pulse
see broken glass
want only sleep
I am alive
worry in dreams
I cry in verse
I dream in reds
I am alive.
How are you? I know you have a lot going on, and that in the greater scheme of things I have nothing to complain about, but here I am just the same.
Things are difficult right now. I’m a hot mess. Make that a mess, there is nothing hot about me. It’s been over five months, and I’m more messed up than ever.
I am carrying more than I can, and I’m tired. For the first time in nearly a decade, I wish I was allowed a little oblivion, just now and then. I’m not. I know this, and I’m not going to take that kind of break. I’m going to sit here with all the feelings and lean into them and go through them, just like I know I should, but really I’d rather not.
I’d also prefer that several people would behave differently, that they felt different about me. A complete waste of my time I realize, but here I am yet again. I would love to be loved, even just a little.
I would very much like someone I could lean on. I’m a little worn out taking care of other people. Just one person that I could be this mess in front of and they would be kind and make me tea or something, and not tell me what a disappointment I am, not tell me how I disgust them, that I have a mental disorder and will amount to nothing and end up alone in a little shithole apartment. I give them way too much time in my head, I hear their voices over everything else on days like today.
My girls are wonderful, but it isn’t their job to take care of me. It’s nobody’s job, I have to take of myself, and today I’m tired and just don’t feel much like it.
Anyhow, I’m going to try to put some of this down, or maybe you could take some of the load just for a little while?
thanks for listening.
Google has been good enough to remind me that your birthday is coming up. There’s a bright red rectangle, with a little picture of birthday cake on my calendar on the top of Tuesday, an “All Day Event”, “John Day’s birthday”. Facebook too doesn’t want me to forget your 48th birthday is coming up this week.
I don’t know how to get rid of either notification. I can’t wait until about 10 am on Tuesday when my phone will send me the notice that I should wish you a Happy Birthday. There doesn’t seem a way to turn these things off.
Thanks, Google! Facebook, you’re awesome, the absolute best, I mean I might have forgotten to call you and sing happy birthday with the kids like we always do. Except you won’t have a 48th birthday. You won’t have cake, terrible singing (that would be from me and my kids), me making fun of you, your daughters, you won’t have any of this again.
And what do I do? I sit here in wrapped up in your clothes punching the keyboard of my laptop in some vain attempt to find some meaning, some comfort, some anything in this. I’ve got nothing. Absolutely nothing. I want to write something profound and beautiful, but all I have is this huge empty place that is absolutely silent.
“Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” – Pablo Neurda
or as he orginally wrote it “Es tan corto al amor, y es tan largo el olvido” translated “It is so short to love, and oblivion so long”
It is so short to love, and oblivion so long.
I wish I had loved you better. I wish we had had more time. There is nothing now, no more time. I rethink and replay entire years and the individual seconds that I had you as my brother and know I could have loved you better. I should have done something more to save you. I knew better than anyone what was happening to you. I can never say I didn’t fully understand what was happening. I understood. I felt many of the same things you felt. We were the same in so many ways, I knew your demons, I shared so many of them, and I still did not save you. I stood still and watch you leave.
The truth is I was too busy saving my own life, too busy with my own demons, too busy trying to save my son. I knew you were leaving, and I watched you go. I should have done more, I should have done something. I just didn’t have anything left in me to save you too, and now it’s too late.
I’m so sorry Johnny.