year of the monkey

buddha-grief-quoteDear Johnny,

It’s funny the things that make me think of you, like today, on a Year of Monkey card someone gave me, your year.

This was suppose to be your year, and then again tonight, while I was bowling for the first time since we took our kids years ago, I thought of you and how we scored our game, the jokes we told, and how you won. I’m pretty sure you won, I’ve never been much good at bowling, and you could always pick up anything you put your mind to. That used to  make me crazy you know. I had to work hard to be good at anything, and all you had to do was incline your mind in whatever direction you wanted and then master whatever it was.

It was a staff party, tonight, with bowling, arcade games,  bocce ball and all sorts of great food. I even wore a dress, a short one, with my tall boots. I put a bit of effort into the whole outfit, hair and makeup thing, Lizz gave it a resounding ‘meh’ when asked what she thought, still, I thought I looked nice, maybe even slightly better than my average (which is no makeup, no boots, no dress, and yoga clothes).  And then I got stood up, dress, boots, makeup, hair and all. Stood up, without even an insincere “sorry, I’m not going to make it” text, an ‘all my messages completely ignored’ kind of stood up. Party full of people who have someone to share  their nachos with, someone to ask them what they wanted to drink, someone to sit with, but hey, I manage. I even put away my phone so I wouldn’t make a pathetic show of constantly checking it (not that there were any messages). I managed, put on my party face, and mingled. You were always better at that sort of thing than me, and you would have made fun of my little pity party tonight. You were the life of the party kind of guy. We would all bask in your wit, charm and banter and laugh and be thoroughly entertained. It’s been awhile since you made anyone laugh, and now I just have a recording of your voice.

I’ve been left enough, been left, or told I wasn’t wanted enough, that I think I should be better at it, but it still stings. Maybe this is good? I don’t know. I do maintain an intact game face throughout, one must keep up appearances after all. I don’t feel surprise, or anger, or much more than resignation anymore. It’s relief really, the other shoe finally falling kind of feeling. So, tonight, being stood up, not a surprise, no anger, just resignation.

Even so, I remain ill equipped to cope with your leaving. It took so long, and was so awful for so long before, you’d think I would have been better prepared, that all that pain for all those years would have counted as credit against the pain of finally completely losing you. Maybe it is, or was.

I don’t mean this to sound morose  Johnny, but I do miss you. I miss us. I miss what we once were, at our best, the times that we could have ruled the world. I miss those times.

I still wear your pj bottoms, and your blue vest when it’s cold. Graham wears your work boots every day. And I still talk to you most days, especially today.

And I miss you Johnny.

Goodnight.

las brisas

11215053_10207206328013482_6570683600541414150_non the last day
I spent in tu cielo,
the last day
in your sky,
I want to tell you how
the gauzy clouds failed to
shade its heavy blueness.
how on that day
el sol drew the beads of sweat
down my skin, and
how las brisas
held me aloof. I want to tell you
of their distain, spent
within cigar puffs.

I would tell you how
each sun pulled bead
rolled between my breasts,
paused inside my navel, and
lazily saturated the fabric of my shirt;
how beads trailed between my shoulders
to the curve of my back
and then continued slowly down.
how on that day my skin
would taste of salt,
had las brisas touched it
with mouths
or words.
instead they pulled deeply in
the taste of cigar,
formed their lips around its shape
their tongue and teeth
caressing its textured surface.

on that last day
I spent in tu cielo,
I want to tell you
I already knew.
I knew I had
no place, that the
air had always,
and would ever be
yours,
to bend around the spoon.

leaving

“It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.” – John Green

The leaving, the letting go, that part is easy.

Approaching letting go, entertaining thoughts of leaving, that part is excruciating. When faced with loss, the loss of a person, of a lifestyle, a job, a preconceived idea of ourselves, when faced with letting go, we cling. Forget the platitude – I cling. Somewhere deep inside I know, I know that nothing is permanent. I know that I will age, that I will suffer illness, that people I love deeply will leave, may die before me, that material wealth can be lost, that my love may not be reciprocated. I know all of this,  and I cling even more.

“If she is to love life and freedom and be brave then she must learn to let go. To see beauty without clinging to it, to feel pain without holding it hostage, and to feel love without worry of losing it.”
― G.G. Renee Hill, The Beautiful Disruption

tumblr_n5i9nvFFkC1qbhueno2_r1_250-2Right. That part. It does make a lovely quote, but to quote Ron Weasley, Bloody hell!

The times in my life that have been the most painful, the times I thought I could not possibly survive, these were the times right before I left, before I finally let go. These were the rock bottom times, the times where I dug my fingernails in and clung desperately to the idea, the person, the thing that I thought was essential for me to survive. None of them have turned out to be essential for my survival, so far.

The Journey  by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I love this poem. It also make me a little angry. I want to say journeys like these don’t happen all at once. That you make this journey, that you make your own way in degrees. That, unlike the movies where the leap of faith gets made – generally to a profoundly moving musical score – and then life gets tied up in a neat bow, becomes perfect, and the credits roll as a glint of a tear forms in your eye and you wonder why can’t you just figure your shit out. Unlike that, in life you have to keep making the terrifying next step, you have to continue to make your journey. It gets easier, but it never gets easy. I have started on this journey many times, and to varying degrees, got pulled part way back by the cries of “mend my life!”, or turned back myself when the storm seem too much to endure.

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Trainwreck – Loved this movie – and look, everything is wonderful at the end, with great music and even cheerleaders. Bloody hell…

20151218_184853-01.jpegIt seems odd to be writing about this as I sit in front of our Christmas tree, surrounded in over 20 years worth of decorations, of traditions, of stories, of memories. The ornaments my friend Cathy and I made the last Christmas before she died more than 15years ago, the baby’s first Christmas ornaments for each of my children, beautiful things my mother made, the gifts from my favourite Aunt, the handmade gifts and ornaments from my children. All of these carry their own special weight, and this is the last year they will all be together in one place. This is the letting go, the leaving. This is the final Christmas in this house, in this town even. All our beautiful things will be divided, things I will keep, things that will go to each of my children, things that belong with their father, and things I can give away to add meaning to other family’s lives.

Twenty years ago, when my first daughter was 2 1/2 years old, my son, a 6 month old baby, and my youngest not yet born, we received a beautiful hand carved horse named Hilde. Tonight, after years of sitting quietly, Hilde went to live with another family with three young children who will love and play with her. Letting go of that stage of my life. I’ll keep the pictures, many of the books, but it is time to move on.

Burning-Man-2015

Alexander Milov’s sculpture “Love” from this year’s Burning Man

Milov’s  sculpture silhouettes rigid, back to back  wire adult figures, within their frames stand children reaching towards each other.  At night the contrast between illumination within the wire frames “…demonstrates a conflict between a man and a woman as well as the outer and inner expression of human nature … Their inner selves … in the form of transparent children,  holding out their hands through the grating … This shining is a symbol of purity and sincerity that brings people together and gives a chance of making up.” – Alexander Milov.

I don’t feel the optimism the artist does when I look at this piece. What I see is a stunning representation of how we separate ourselves, in spite of what our hearts, our most inner self loves. There is no turning of the wire frames, they will forever remain separate, despite the inner reaching.

“And the moon rose over an open field

Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America”

Simon and Garfunkel

Pete Fornatale said this lyric was a “metaphor to remind us all of the lost souls wandering . . .struggling to navigate the rapids of despair and hope, optimism and disillusionment.” Stephen Holden wrote it “simultaneously illuminates a drama of shared loneliness”. David Nichols called it “a splendid vignette of a road trip by young lovers; both intimate and epic in scale, it traces an inner journey from naive optimism to more mature understanding.”  I can’t explain as eloquently why the lines resonate deeply with me – “Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping, And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why” – but they do.

‘Man and Woman’ by Georgian sculptor Tamara Kvesitadze

The towering statues are two humans made out of metallic discs, who move toward each other, seem to kiss, to embrace, to combine together, and then to pass through each other, parting and end facing in opposite directions, much like Milov’s work. They represent a Muslim boy, Ali, and a Christian princess, Nino and their tragic love story, but again, to me it represents how we separate ourselves from love.

This last year has been a series of journey’s, many, but not all of them, painful.  This fall had some profoundly painful leavings. Letting go of my brother will not, and should not, come easily, if at all.  Letting him leave in small increments, or starting to let go of the idea of his place in my life is like pushing through metal. Finding out who I am separate from the things that I had been clinging to for various lengths of time, separate from being somebody’s mother, somebody’s daughter, sister, somebody’s love, finding who I am separately will be my journey.

 

solid rock

Alex Colville, 1954 Horse and Train

Alex Colville, Horse and Train,

Whatever I thought it would be like, it wasn’t this. And I did think about it, we all did. We thought about it a lot in our own ways. Of course there were, increasingly faint, bits of hope that we would cling to, even against all logic, we would hope. Just the same, we knew this day would come, and when it did it was all the things we feared it would be, but also nothing we expected.

“Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” – Pablo Neruda

It was a good service, as these things go, nice music, a moving slideshow of photos of you, appropriate and moving readings and memories, a traditional hymn, and a choir rendition of All You Need is Love, complete with kazoos. It was very John like, right down to the fabulous food we shared afterwards. Everyone seemed pleased. It was closure, it was a send off, it was people holding each other up, it was all you could hope for really.

scribble face 3It was all you could hope for, and yet, I still find myself walking through mud, through fog, through solid rock. I forget things. I lose hours doing nothing. I stare at nothing. I stare at your things that now are in my home, but are still your things. I sleep longer, and am still tired. I stay up too late.

It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock
in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone;
I am such a long way in I see no way through,

and no space: everything is close to my face,
and everything close to my face is stone.

I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief
so this massive darkness makes me small.
You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in:
then your great transforming will happen to me,
and my great grief cry will happen to you.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke (Translated by Robert Bly)

This is the grief work they talk about. Pushing through solid rock, an apt enough description. I dream about you sometimes, not the comforting dream where you tell me all is well with you now and you are in a better place, just confusing dreams. Someone said that to me, a couple of people did actually, said that you ‘were in a better place’. I so wanted to punch them in the throat, to wipe the smug, sympathetic, head tilted ever so slightly to the side expression on their faces. I think that would be the anger stage of Loss.

According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross the 5 Stages of Loss are:

  1. Denial and Isolation – buffering
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining – the ‘if onlys’, the ‘what ifs’
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

I honestly believe I did everything I could. Wait, that’s not true. What if I had shown up on your doorstep, dumped out all your alcohol and physically dragged you to the hospital? Would that have worked? I don’t think so, but I still take out these thoughts and hold them awhile, feel their weight in my hands, build a fantasy around them where, in the end, I save you. After a while I put them down, but I still feel their weight. More than anyone I should have been able to save you. It was everyone else’s first experience with this disease, I was a seasoned veteran. I had done this dance before, I knew all it’s steps. I saw you leaving well before anyone else.

buddha-grief-quoteI saw you leaving, and I let you go.

I let you go. I talked to you, wrote to you, I wrote about you. I wrote about our disease. The one that killed our father, has a hold of my son, the disease that I only get a daily reprieve from.

But I didn’t save you. I know, in my head, that I didn’t cause, couldn’t control or cure you. I know this in my head. Sometimes it helps, but not always. A year ago we almost lost you, but you came back. I thought you might stay. Maybe that was the time to save you that I missed. Maybe.

I still don’t know what to do with your clothes. I don’t know what to do with our stories, the ones only you and I understood. Where do I put the parts of myself that were yours too? I don’t know. I don’t know what to do with a lot of things, things I should be doing, raking the leaves, clearing out the house so it will sell, making appointments, the business of living.

So I sit, pen scratching across paper, drinking coffee, and staring at the still green willow leaves, who will only fall after all the other leaves have been dutifully raked. Mostly I sit staring and nothing. Four of my orchids are re-blooming, did I tell you? No, of course not, what was I thinking. They’ve spent a year deciding to bloom, a year of somewhat attractive foliage, but now, now they are spectacular.

There is a metaphor in that somewhere, but I can’t quite grasp it. Anyhow, you get my meaning.

 

 

this is what the living do

DSCF0082
Johnny,

I have become a person who people send sympathy cards to, someone people want to nurture with food, chocolate, flowers and kind messages. People hug me when they see me, and ask how I am. Most of the time I have no idea.

I’m wearing your pj bottoms as I write, and drinking tea from one of your cups. The pile of your newly washed, and neatly folded clothes sits on my bed and asks me what are you going to do with us now? I don’t know, that’s why I tried on the pj bottoms. I had to roll the waist because you were taller than I am. Were, I have to get used to speaking of you in the past tense.

We’ve been speaking of you in the past tense for two weeks, two weeks tomorrow, Saturday at 4pm. I’m still getting used to that.

I also wear your wedding ring, the one that dad left you after he died. It’s on my thumb. I play with it constantly, twisting it, rubbing it. I think about you and dad, and how I ended up older than either of you, and wonder if wearing this ring is a good idea or not.

I think you would like your service, it’s in two weeks, and I have spent a lot of time working on it. It has readings, poems, and we’re playing Leonard Cohen and The Beatles, actually the choir, the one you used to sing with, will be performing Hallelujah and All You Need is Love. They said they would be honoured to sing for you. Honoured, I wonder what you would think about that. We’re doing two of my favourite prayers. To be honest I don’t know what you would think of the whole thing. I finished the first draft of your eulogy, I’ve never written one of those, but I’d never written an obituary either, and I think your’s turned out alright.

When I went through your clothes that first week, the week we went through and cleaned and organized your apartment, I mainly thought of ones for Graham, so he could have something of yours. I thought about taking a box of your books for him too, but then didn’t. You two had so much in common, but he walked out of his treatment centre 3 days ago and we don’t know where he is now, so I’m back to looking at the pile of clothes, and I’m still don’t know what I will do with them.

I sit here, healthy, safe and warm, and you’re gone, you’re not even a body anymore, you’re ashes siting in a container somewhere, I don’t even know where. They gave mom your glasses and your watch. That’s what she has, your glasses and your watch. I can’t begin to know how that feels. Did they put them in a special box with gold lettering? A velvet bag? Or did they just shove them in a brown envelope? Does that help? I don’t think it would. I think it would equally excruciating to receive the items from your child’s body no matter how they were presented to you.

You broke my heart, Johnny, you broke all of our hearts, and I let you die. I let you die alone. I let my son become homeless, and I sit in my house and feel sorry. I feel sorry, and sad, and tired, really, really tired. Somehow that seems wholly inadequate. It seems there should be larger consequence for not saving you, or Graham, or even dad.

There is more, obviously. You can’t tell by looking at me, or by talking to me, most of the time anyhow. On the outside I look and sound pretty much the same. I’m not. I’m unmoored, I am no longer somebody’s sister, I no longer have a brother, and you were it, my only sibling. It’s just me now, and that feels unnatural. All our private jokes, our code words, things that only we talked about and knew, all those things are gone, and what’s left is just space.

This was not how all of this was suppose to turn out. We were going to be great. We had grand plans. Happy lives mapped out. Lives with spouses, and happy children, successful careers, and somehow bits of that got lost.

I have to stop now. I have to find a place to put your clothes, and I have to go back to the actions that make up my life now.

I found this poem for you. I think maybe you would have made fun of it, but you don’t get to speak for yourself anymore, so here it is.

What the Living Do
Marie Howe

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.

And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

Goodnight Johnny. I love you.

“I just sit by and let you fight your secret war”

flawed, but indisputable

wpid-20150829_110911-01.jpega man

He tries to feel
for promises
he wants to,
but knows he’ll never keep

He goes alone
in clever words
and tells himself this
is enough,
even as his own words’ hollow ringings
must be drowned inside
his own false laughter.

His beating heart for frozen smiles,
long since traded in;
and if he’s fast enough,
he will not notice
the odd old beat
from within
his hidden chest.

His mirthful eyes, intelligent
and sadly beautiful to watch
see all that need compassion,
but who in turn
will show him none,
and will forsake those who would show him any.

and sometimes
very briefly,
in those eyes
there is the boy
who never did grow up
who, when he looks at you
the frozen mirth is gone,
and standing there
is just the man,
flawed,
but indisputable.

For less lofty poems click here or here or here. I also have a woman poem, but that’s for another day.

my life in bullet points and pictures

All images by Allie Brosh from Hyperbole and a Half, because she gets me, ya know? http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

So many things. So many feels. ALL of the feels. That would be my life right now.

Menopause + Mercury Retrograde

 The Highlights, The Lowlights, The ‘No Lights at the End of the Tunnel’ Lights

DEPRESSIONTWO65althyperbole-and-a-half-thank-you-happy-yes-frenchyincali

Mood Swings: MORE moods, MORE often, ALL the moods in ONE day, ALL the moods in ONE moment, Ten moods for the price of One!, BUY ONE and get 3 Bazillion FREE moods, ‘Happy Roller coaster moods’, ‘Sad Roller coaster moods’, ‘Happy/Sad/Mad Roller coaster moods’, ‘Roller coaster without a seatbelt moods’, ‘Roller coaster without a seatbelt and a broken rail moods’, ‘Completely overworked roller coaster metaphor because you couldn’t come up with anything else, so just sod off will ya’ kind of mood.

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Tears: Sad tears, Happy tears, Mad tears,  ‘Happy/Sad/Mad at the same time’ tears WITH boogers, ‘Stupid love song comes on the radio’ tears, ‘Drive by that restaurant you had that date in’ tears, ‘Friends being nice to you’ tears, ‘Nobody will ever love me’ tears, ‘Rejection’ tears, ‘Why I am watching this stupid fecking movie’ tears, ‘somebody ate the last slice of pesto pizza’ tears, ‘why didn’t I buy the stupid waterproof mascara’ tears, ‘we were suppose to do that together’ tears, ‘we were suppose to ride the roller coasters together, dammit’ tears.

allieirl
Communication:
Stupid texts, ‘Happy/Sad/Mad’ texts, ‘completely overworked roller coaster mood metaphor’ texts, ‘Foot-In-Mouth’ texts and emails and words coming out of my mouth (around my toes), cell phone glitches, computer glitches, music glitches, ‘omg, ALL the fecking spreadsheets’ glitches.

images-8images-10Appearance: Hair: Lord. In all the wrong places, in “honey, you should really get that waxed’ places, in the ‘feck it, I’m just going going to grow the hair on my legs and wear long pants because no one will ever looks at my legs again’ places. And Very poorly behaved hair in the proper places. Skin: ‘buying ALL the kinds of cream in the Beauty aisle’ skin, skin doing all the wrong things on all the wrong places.

imagesimages-4

Indignities: People having ‘banal conversations below your waist whilst your (unwaxed) legs dangling in the stirrups’ indignities, ‘little cough now dear’ indignities, ‘this will only hurt for a moment dear’ indignities (also not true), ‘the whole fecking reason for all the indignities evaporating in one phone conversation about too much drama’ indignity.

images-9 images-2 ecf34cd99c872d993abbcdc6c8636db5Food: Doughnuts for breakfast, cereal for dinner, ice cream for dinner, pizza every damn meal because I just feel like it, okay?! Cake, because Cake. Chocolate, dark chocolate, dark chocolate truffles with fancy expensive tastes added stuffed in my mouth three at time, dark chocolate with pizza and ice cream by the fist full while watching television that makes me cry, chocolate on the fecking tissues because apparently I can’t stuff chocolate in my mouth and cry at the same time without making a mess and wasting chocolate.

Allie’s images are brilliant, she manages to convey a wide range of emotions with a few lines and still manages a sense of humour. I’m working on the sense of humour part.

scribble face 3

this one’s mine, computer generated

scribble heart

So yeah. It’s been a ride. An overused roller coster metaphoric kind of ride. It will pass. Retrograde will end, I’ll figure out the menopause thing. All of this will pass.

dear me

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Dear me,

Get up.
Place your feet on the floor,
one after the other.
Breath.
Stand. Walk. Wash your face.
Get up.
Rise and Shine.

Get up.
This is not over.
You are not over,
you are only just beginning.
There are no fat ladies singing,
the credits have not rolled
your movie has only just started.
You have words to write.
There are breezes lifting kites, blowing leaves
that need to be noticed;
there are songs
that need to be heard.

Get up.
Drag your pen across paper.
Write (dammit). Write despite of your broken hand,
in spite of the lifeless fingers.
Write (dammit)
with your teeth if you have to.
Get the words out.
Write about fire, stars, water,
Just write (dammit).

Stand.
Defy gravity.
Do not give them your power.
Do not give
One. More. Moment to those
who called your hopes and fears drama that they didn’t have time for.
Do not.
Do not make yourself small for other’s comfort.
Stand. Defy gravity, even as it pulls you to the earth.
Stand. Inhale. Exhale. Shine.
Be yourself,
your messy, dramatic, beautifully flawed, your lovable self.
Just be.

Stand.
You are who you love,
You are not who loves you.
Define yourself.
On a cool night walk to the beach and make a fire
burn the letters. Take
the card you have clung to and
burn it.
Give them to the fire.
Burn them all
Get up. Look up. Walk away.
Look at the stars, borrow as much light as you need.
Listen to the waves.
Walk into the arms of your friends.
Let go. Let go.
Let the rest go.

Shine.
Walk into your garden and
plant a new seed.
Stand. Shine. Watch it grow,
watch it defy gravity.
Pull the weeds.
Burn them. Burn every last weed
(like the card, like the words, let go, let go, let go)
every weed
that would choke your seed, steal its light,
hinder its growth.
The world will tell you to stop,
to dim your light.
Do not.
There are people that need more light.
Make extra.

Shine.
Feast
on chocolate, on love, on every moment of your life.
Breath.
Deeper than you’ve ever dared.
Stand.
Place your feet on the floor,
one after the other.
Walk.
Walk into darkness, into nothing and
trust each step you take.
Save your own life. One breath,
one step, one word, one seed
at a time.

Dear me,
There is no other moment.
There is only right now.
Live.
Right now.
Get up. Stand. Walk. Shine.
Be that which is you, and only you.
You are enough.
You are what you love.
You are.
Start there.
Breath.

Unconditional Fulfillment, by Missi Rasmussen

original found here

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Equipment you will need:
A peeler that fits into your hand snugly
so you have complete control
as you enter the time-consuming task
of peeling away all the outer layers
of the fruit he left behind. Nevermind
it’s been sitting there among the gnat traps.
It will be perfect without the bruises.
Preferably a dedicated saucepot. You
cannot work well with a coating that sticks
or something you cannot handle
well. It must have a good,
strong handle. As must you.
A strainer that fits your vessel.
Nothing is more frustrating
than trying to fit two pieces
together and making a mess
because they never went together
in the first place. Tea is watery
and runs quickly in all directions.
No one likes cleaning it up, and there’s
almost always some of it left behind.
You don’t want to be soaking
on your hands and knees due to
an incompatible strainer/cup relationship.
Ingredients:
3 tablespoons fresh ginger.
Preferably chopped up and mashed
yourself. You can use that stone statue he gave you
that’s always stayed intact no matter how many
times you’ve “accidentally” dropped it on another
surface just as hard.
2 cloves.
Depends on their freshness. Also
depends on the time you are willing to put into
raising them. The children,
not the cloves.

1 cinnamon stick.
Very important, but it depends
on the size. Use the largest stick
you can find. There’s no such thing as too much
cinnamon, and it will help you
stay warm with all that spice.
1-2 peppercorns.
Some people like adding these for an extra bite.
But if you’ve been through enough pain
already, feel free to omit.
2 cups milk.
You could have made this yourself five
years ago if he hadn’t been so jealous.
What a waste! You may find you need more of this later,
so save a reserve. You may need it to ease
the strength or lower the temperature,
as you were expecting lukewarm.
2 cups water.
Perfect ingredient, and you can find it anywhere. Cooling
and cleansing; it’s just what you need.
But do not use bath water; residue
always remains.
Sweetner:
Don’t be crazy! This is the best part. Honey
works well, but I always hated it when he called me sweetie.
Honey takes time. Sugar is my favorite, but it’s unhealthy.
Never accept anything artificial. Your own wits will do.
Method:
You must boil first to remove impurities.
Think of it as a ritual. And as the steam rises,
breathe in the moment of one thing changing
into another.
Add a few other things, but keep boiling. You
have everything you need, so the order doesn’t
matter anymore. Just make sure
you never turn up the heat. You certainly
want to avoid open flames and the irreparable
damage they can cause.
Stew.
Just long enough for things to saturate.

With your compatible cup and strainer, separate the tea
from the shit that’s accumulated at the bottom.
It looks good, and it smells wonderful,
but don’t be fooled. It can
only be used once.
Finally, serve it up the way it deserves.
With lots of froth in an artistic ceramic mug,
Nothing with your college logo or anything with a chip in it.
Avoid anything you acquired while on vacation.
Avoid anything given to you by someone whose
identity is starting to fade away.
The tea deserves a better vessel in which
to reside before it is sure to
be enjoyed by your unconditional fulfillment.

there goes my hero

Graham 2

“There goes my hero, … Foo Fighters

“The mind of an addict is cunning enough to convince the body that it is not dying” – Michael Lee

The mind of the addict.

Sometimes I miss him so much it is physically painful. It comes when I am thinking of other things, and then it hits, and I can’t imagine how I could ever not be thinking about him. Like tonight when I was shopping at Walgreen’s and I remember the time I took him shopping for basics while he was living at the homeless shelter. I wrote about that here.

He is on Step 4. Three and a half years into this hell, and he made it to Step 4. I talked to him last week and I actually heard my son, not the addict, not the mental illness, but my son, my beautiful, funny, loving boy, I talked to him. He is working so hard, so very hard. He is clean and he is sober (four months now), but the psychosis is hanging on with a tenacity that has not let up, not even for a moment. Until now he could not cope with it without drugs.Without finding someway to escape the voices in his head, voices caused by biochemical imbalances in his brain. He is coping with the chemical imbalances in his brain chemistry clean and sober, that alone is heroic. But it is not enough yet.

If the biochemical imbalances manifested themselves as cancer, or organ malfunction in his body this would be an entirely different story I’d be writing. People would see the battles he’s faced. As heartbreaking as Robin William’s death was, it put a real face to how deadly mental illness can be, and he (Robin Williams) did everything he was suppose to, he was clean and sober, he took his medication, he saw a psychiatrist, and it still killed him. People don’t want to believe that mental illness is as debilitating as physical illness. It’s so much easier to stigmatize someone with a mental illness, so much safer, so you can find reasons why it could never happen to you, or people you love.  In a Mental Health First Aid class I recently took I learned that severe depression is as debilitating as quadriplegia – as quadriplegia. No one told Christopher Reeves to suck it up, and just get over being paralysed. He was seen as a hero for coping with such an overwhelming disability with grace and courage.  Robin Williams was no less a hero. People who overcome addictions and other mental illnesses are as deserving of the praise, love and support we give to cancer survivors. People in recovery need as much love and support as those undergoing major medical treatments. All are heros.

When we talked I told him how proud I was of him, and encouraged him to keep moving forward. He still has so much to overcome, so much work to do, and there are no guarantees that he will ever be well.

A friend of mine sent me this article. I am that quiet mom who doesn’t say much when people brag about the accomplishments of their teenage and young adult children. My son is never going to Princeton, he will not go to graduate school, he is likely not going to do most of the things I hear other parents bragging about, he may never be able to live independently. But he IS clean, and he IS sober, and he is working as hard as any honour roll student, as hard has any top athlete, and I am just as proud as other parents whose kids are in Princeton, on Varsity teams, whose kids are doing wonderful, exciting and accomplished things. I just don’t talk to many people about it.

He is using the support network he has to deal with the terrifying psychotic episodes directly. He is taking his meds. He is doing everything he is suppose to do. He is trying so hard, and it still holds him by the throat. He is on his umptenth medication combination to help his mind become more balanced, and stable enough so he can continue to recover. It may not be enough. He had to leave the wonderful place he had been staying in for the last 2 months and  in to go back into a “higher level of care” to get his medications and episodes stabilized.  I haven’t heard from him, or anyone since the transfer last week.

I look at the sky, and try to decide if this is colour it turns in the moments before it falls. (modified from Shane Koyczan’s To This Day Poem).

I don’t know how this turns out. I don’t know if he will get well. I don’t know if I will ever see my beautiful boy again, or if this disease will take him from me completely.

So sometimes when I am doing other things all this comes rushing back to me. The last few years that when I look back on them, I cannot imagine how we lived through them.

Michael Lee is a performance poet and a recovering addict and alcoholic. I listen to this poem a lot.

I miss my son. I pray that this is not the colour the sky turns in the moments before it falls.