Make Me A Stone

"Christie Black and White" by Tracy Kahn

“Christie Black and White” by Tracy Kahn

And oh poor Atlas
Was a beast of a burden
You’ve been holding on a long time
And all this longing
And the ships are left to rust
That’s what the water gave us

So lay me down
Let the only sound
Be the overflow
Pockets full of stones

~ “What The Water Gave Me” by
Florence + The Machine, from “Ceremonials”

I don’t even know how to begin to describe what this weekend has been like for me, but if I had to sum it up in one word it would be “numb.”

Somewhere along the line, a switch was flipped, something hit redline, and my emotional systems just shut down. For most of Memorial Day weekend, I didn’t try to be with him and his memory, I just existed.

Sunday was the anniversary of Dustin’s death. For weeks I’ve been haunted by that day on my calendar, and when it came, I couldn’t feel a thing. Not love or happiness, just a dull aching and a blank stare.

And this after I felt I had finally turned a corner with my last post, felt something profound settle into place. After months of gut spilling across the internet, “Alchemy” was the only thing I’d written that gave me a sense of peace.

On the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if I was deliberately avoiding the issue that day, if I’d found a way to run from the pain and the loss and the longing, if I shut down in self-defense. I’m so tired of the hurting, of the tears. Now I am worried that on all the days I should have been brave enough to sit with the pain, I became a coward.

Given the whopper of a nightmare I had that night, I may be onto something there. Something dark is moving in deep places.

I need to find an outlet, a way to get through this. I am blocked creatively, couldn’t even write for days. My internal landscape is stagnant and still. When I look into my future, it’s through a dark glass.

Dustin gave me something I’d given him, unconditionally: he accepted me, just as I am and was, and he loved me for it.

I know I am not for everyone. My life isn’t where I want it to be, I’m carrying extra weight and have other physical issues I’m not pleased with, I have zero tolerance for bullshit, I can be a challenging partner, I can be logical to the point of insensitivity, and I can divorce emotion from a situation a little too well. I am intelligent-which should seem like a plus–but I’ve discovered the hard way that most men who say they want a smart woman generally mean only as long as she’s not more intelligent than he is.

And now here I am, having lost the one damn person who reveled in all the things that most other people think make me strange, who didn’t want to make me into someone else, who wanted to spend every morning of the rest of his life waking up next to me, who wanted to be by my side in the trenches as I tried to move my life–our lives–to a better place.

I would really, really love to throw something at the wall right now.

I had hope, for a while, that maybe something new was waiting to come into my life when the time was right, but no. I should have known better. Hope and I have always had a fraught relationship, so I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s let me down yet again. I am surprised by how much it hurt. Especially when I look at what I have to offer right now, and feel like a fool because I should have seen that coming.

And there it is. This is the reason I shut down, the one thing too many. That subtle rejection magnified the scope of my loss, drove home how lucky I had been, once upon a time. This, combined with the anniversary, ripped the bandages off the wounds, amplified the longing for what I’d had. I went back into survival mode.

And now I am going to pay for that.

Cosmic Rewiring

A falling star fell from your heart and landed in my eyes
I screamed aloud as it tore through them, and now it’s left me blind

The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out
You left me in the dark
No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight
In the shadow of your heart

And in the dark, I can hear your heartbeat
I tried to find the sound
But then it stopped, and I was in the darkness,
So darkness I became
~ “Cosmic Love” by Florence + The Machine, from “Lungs”

Darkness, like light, like love, has no end.

Grief is an infinite experience; I think I’ve mentioned this before. I was just coming to terms with how much I loved Dustin, just getting a grip on what a soul-expanding experience being in love with him was, and still is. Then, over the course of a night and a detox gone wrong, I lost him and discovered that grief is every bit as soul expanding, and not nearly as nice about it.

The varied facets of pain and anger and all the other weltering emotions are limitless, and the initial planet-busting impact of loss and grief took my spirit and blasted it apart. The spirit that had barely begun to stretch enough to hold that love was forced, too fast, to expand enough to encompass the grief that was the flip side of that love, its cost. My conscious self began to unravel, too much for the mind to take. In a very profound way, I died that morning, too.

The sun came up each morning and poured down fire. It didn’t matter. It burned up the trees and the crops and the grass, too, and it didn’t matter. It dried up the lakes and the rivers, and it didn’t matter. My light had gone out, no sun rising in my eyes, no moon to light the nights in wonder and in joy. I had come undone.

Like any great explosion, each new rupture was preceded by an intense compression. Arms wrapped around the midsection, curled up small or on my knees on the floor, struggling to breathe, I’d struggle to keep my insides from quite literally tearing themselves apart. Muscles moving and locking into place, heart ramming into my ribs, lungs seizing, back spasming, fists knotted, nails digging into palms.

Breathe, dammit. Breathe!

Since the expression of the grief had no other outlet than tears, all that force was driven inward, the bulk of the damage done to consciousness and spirit.

On the surface, of course, I looked like a wounded animal in pain. Inside, I looked like a galaxy torn asunder. Pinpoints of light, love and trust and happiness and hope, scattered thin across a dark and airless sky. But the center had held, that deep mass of love and loss where we had been us.

And it hurt every bit as much as it sounds like it would. It still does.

But for all that, grief is still a valuable lesson and powerful tool for growth. How many of us spend our lives locked up inside our own minds and bodies, never knowing a world beyond our own noses? How many of us live small, and love small, because we’re afraid? Afraid of shame, of being seen as we truly are? Afraid of being left, being alone, of being lied to, of being hurt? How many of us spend our lives scuttling under the useless umbrella of self-protection?

How many of us never learn we are infinite, with endless capacity for love and trust? How many of us never learn how to be brave enough to open ourselves to it, to encompass it?

I am not talking about God and religion. Regular church-goers have been some of the smallest people I’ve ever known, in every sense of the word. Religion has been particularly insidious at instilling a deep sense of shame and fear, and humans have a lamentable tendency to cling to anything that makes them feel superior to someone else. I don’t particularly care how anyone chooses to walk their particular spiritual path, but no one has got it figured out, and no one can claim dominion.

It comes down to surrender, as most acts of great bravery tend to do. To see that endless expanse and to enter it willingly requires sacrifice of both the ego and control, and a distillation of self into something else, something both more concentrated and yet diffuse. It requires seeing yourself as you truly are: not only the good and noble parts, but the ugly parts, the anger and the fear and the pettiness. It requires seeing it, forgiving it, accepting it.

It requires letting yourself off your own hook.

Grief is a particularly violent way to make that transition, but in the stripping away of self and illusions to the bare bones of who I am and was, I found an elasticity of soul that I might not have had otherwise. Our love was and is something extraordinary, but the day-to-day struggles with his addictions and mental illness could very easily have clogged the gears and eroded that capacity for the infinite.

Love and bravery aren’t vows you make one day and that’s it. You have to make them again and again, at every crossroads, at every temptation, at every opportunity to give up.

We were facing a lot of very hard crossroads, but we loved each other and we were willing to work and to try. Until one night he tipped the balance a little too far. He lost his life but gained his rest, and I was left with a staggering emotional price to pay, and pay, and pay.

I guess one way or another I had signed onto a lifetime sentence: love paid for by struggle with mental illness and addiction; or love paid for by astronomical loss. It seems like a pretty raw deal when I put it that way, but I will say this and mean it with every fiber of a being that has stretched to fold stars within:

He was worth it.

nebuleuse-de-la-carene astronoo com

Fire in the Blood

In the swirling, curling storm of desire, unuttered words hold fast
With reptile tongue, the lightning lashes towers built to last
Darkness creeps in like a thief and offers no relief
Why are you shaking like a leaf?
Come on, come talk to me
~”Come Talk To Me” by Peter Gabriel

In the beginning, there was the fire of rage, the burning of loss, the pain and the pressure. Later, there was unrelenting grey and the slivering cuts of icy loneliness and silence.

Now there is a new storm racing in the blood, new fire, and it has nothing to do with rage and everything to do with desire.

I responded to him like I’d responded to no one ever before. Together, our chemistry was incendiary. His touch trailed fire, his mouth burned. I made him shake and tremble. Together, we dove deep, drowning in the oceans of love and lust and intimacy.

After: drifting, unaware, we’d come back from so far, so slowly, eyes alight with wonderment and joy, turning to each other like plants to the sun, tangled in our growth.

And now that burning desire is back, as sharp and as electric as it ever was, limning each nerve, setting skin afire. It curls and twists through my stomach, knotting my fists and gritting my teeth.

There is no adequate outlet. There is only one cure, impossible to hold.

I could find company for the night, but I don’t want to. I don’t want something easy and disposable. I want back what I had, a molecular connection, two souls made one. I need the impossible, and I can’t have it.

Just when I thought I’d discovered the nastiest potholes of grief, the last of the twists and turns, I wake burning alive, breath caught in my throat.

What the hell am I supposed to do now?

woman fire man water

The Sins of the Father

Dustin stood in the middle of my bedroom, shaking. Sure, there had been an unpleasant incident with my father a minute ago, but that had been directed at me, not him, and I was confused as to why he was upset. I was not only used to it by now, but I gave as good as I got.
“You told me once your dad was kind of a prick, but I didn’t really get it until now. No one should speak to you that way.”
He was angry – angry that someone would be disrespectful to me, and he resolved then and there that he was going to get me out of that situation, no matter what the cost.

It cost us everything, as it turned out.

I should have written this post last night, when the anger and the disappointment were still fresh, but I didn’t, and had nightmares all night instead. Okay, lesson learned.

I was laid off from my job in 2009, while I was still involved with Neal. As I struggled to find work, Neal continually ran me down until I could hardly function. My savings dwindled, then ran out as Congress played chicken with my unemployment benefits. Eventually, the twin realities of being unemployed and trying to unload an abusive boyfriend who would not leave me alone drove me to give up my apartment and leave the city I loved so much. I went back to my parents’, to try to rebuild my life.

I finally got a job a few months later, and although I have a great employer, my job doesn’t pay a living wage. Subtract the money I give my parents to help them make ends meet and the money I spend on the bills left over from being unemployed for nearly two full years, I don’t have much left over, and it tends to go into my gas tank. Then my car blew up, and life is life, and I’m still here. Unhappily.

Of course I’m not happy with it. I’m too old for this, but I am working to make a better life for myself, to make a living wage. And that’s partly where the rub comes in. My mom works full-time, but my dad is essentially unemployed. He does odd jobs and restoration projects, but it isn’t steady or reliable. Between work and school, I am out of the house more than both my parents combined.

My life is difficult. I am perpetually sleep-deprived and studying constantly, trying to find a moment here and there to create the art that helps keep me going in the first place. I don’t have the time or the money to even hang out with friends back in the city I left. I am a good student and I am doing well so far, but I’m still stressed, and all of this is encompassed by the loss of the one person who would have understood.

Dustin was always loving and supportive. A champion cheerleader, he would always tell me how proud he was of me. So when I come home tired and cold and wrung out, I look for the arms that would have made everything better, reminded me that this is all worth it. I look for the chest to rest my aching head upon, I listen for the words of encouragement, the offers of help and support. I look, I listen, but there’s nothing to see, nothing to hear.

I have cheerleaders among my friends and Inspire Art who are beautifully and enthusiastically supportive. I get notes and messages of encouragement, and they help keep me going. But here…there is very little of that.

My mom is supportive as she can be, considering. She is not emotionally expressive and never was, but she asks how my classes are going, how my grades look. She doesn’t ask me how I’m holding up, however. And Dad…well. Dad just does not care. It doesn’t benefit him in any way, so he got off the Give-A-Shit Bus.

I missed my first class Monday morning due to an alarm clock mishap. I was still going to be able to make my second class and my lab, but that first class wasn’t going to happen. My dad’s response? He called me a ‘fuck-up.’ Pot and kettle, Dad, pot and kettle.

These last few days have been constant grousing about the things around the house I haven’t been able to keep up with thanks to my crazy schedule. I don’t feel bad or guilty about it-I don’t waste time feeling guilty for things I don’t deserve to feel guilty for. What I do feel is angry that he’s being so selfish and insensitive.

I don’t know why it still comes as a surprise. He’s always been this way. Always. He isn’t suddenly going to wake up one day and realize he’s been a jackass for well over 30 years and change his ways. He isn’t going to suddenly understand why it takes me so long to find a Father’s Day card that doesn’t praise him for being the good father he never was. In fact, his selfishness and anger drove me to move to Michigan in 2000, which frankly was not the wisest choice I’d ever made. He had come home drunk, and came over to where I was doing the dishes and poked me rudely in the arm.

“Everyone in this house hates me, and it’s all your fault,” he said.

I moved two months later.

I don’t seek his approval anymore; I really don’t value his opinion. It’s probably much too late for him to become a good father or to ever really repair this relationship. What I really want from him now is to at least get out of the way, because I don’t need any more obstacles. What I really want is Dustin back, to hold me and tell me it’s going to be okay.

As for Dad, he can wash his own damn dishes.

Walking Wounded

Ghost-like Nebula Revealed by Hubble

Here we are
You’ve moved on
In my heart I know you’re not gone
Gotta find ways to shed this old skin

Where were you, were you in that room?
Were you watching as I wept for you?
Curled up next to your body so still

Wanna let go, don’t wanna lose
Wanna let go, don’t wanna lose
Wanna let go, but I don’t wanna lose
Anymore

~”Let Go” by Hank Dogs

I fake it so well, most of the time. So well, in fact, I occasionally fool myself.

Today was one of the days I didn’t do so well. I was fine while laughing and chatting with others, but a poem written by a friend sent me on a full-body flashback, and I was living it again:

The way your breath stirred the dark…hands stroking, voice holding me up, tethering me to the earth, losing even that last tenuous connection as the world exploded in my head, in my heart, in my soul…

And that was the end of any illusion of calm, any semblance of peace. Need and longing and searing pain traced the length of every nerve as his voice filled my mind…

“We’re going to be old people together, I promise…”

“I don’t know how anyone could mistreat you, Angie, I really don’t…”

“Oh, I love you, I do, never like this, never anyone like you…”

“I didn’t know, oh, didn’t know I could feel this way without being high…”

Oh, gods. In the back of my mind, thudding up from the base of my skull, come the pounding strains of Placebo’s cover of “Running Up That Hill,” burning with all the frozen horror of an empty future; vacant-hearted, hollow-eyed, bargaining with gods who aren’t listening:

Tell me we both matter, don’t we?
You, you and me
You and me won’t be unhappy

And if I only could, I’d make deal with God
And get him to swap our places…

This pain is bottomless.

I pulled myself together for a while. Laughed, chatted, talked. For a while. Then one by one the voices stilled until the only one left was the one in my head. Echoing.

I made dinner. Ate it, standing at the counter. Didn’t taste it.

I could pick up the phone. I could call someone. Save me from myself, from my memories…

But I won’t. Sometimes I just have to be sad. The only way over it is through it, after all. Which is damn cold comfort when I’m looking at a long day tomorrow and a cold bed tonight.

Gold and silver line my heart
But burned into my brain are these stolen images
Stolen images, baby, stolen images
Can you picture it, babe, the life we could have lived?

~”Without You” by Lana Del Rey

I can. All the time. I just can’t picture the life that doesn’t include him. So I go from day to day. I don’t really plan ahead. I’ve made some long range plans for my future as far as education and career goes, but that’s almost it. I start to picture the new cozy apartment, the furniture just so, this color, that fabric. And then, my heart turns to the one who should be there to share it and he vanishes like smoke, sad crooked smile hanging in the air.

Are you proud of me? Are you watching me weep for you? Can you see how I struggle, see what I create in your name, in your honor? Are you finally at peace? Are you waiting for me? Tell me! Something, anything, dammit! Let me know you’re still with me, that you haven’t left me so alone…

It roils and bursts; it’s viscous and thick, this grief. It clings to the soul, coating the bones, freezing the heart into place, leaving it to thump and twist in its new prison of darkness and cooling stone.

:it’snotfairit’snotfairit’snotfairit’snotfair:

And it isn’t. So what? What does that change? A temper tantrum over the unfairness of it all doesn’t bring him back to me. Nothing will bring him back to me. I am serving a life sentence, after all; I knew how this was going to go the moment I knew he was gone. When something blows a hole through a life, it tends to stay open.

I miss talking to him. Miss the sound of his voice, his insights, his warped sense of humor, his open and unabashed expression of feeling, of desire and hope and love. I miss his companionship, the way we fit together.

I’m afraid. Afraid no one will see me the way he did. That no one else will love me the way he did, feel so lucky to even have known me. That no one else will feel that thrill of want and desire that he did for me. The same things I felt for him.

I’m afraid I won’t be able to feel those things for someone else. I just turned 36 and have no desire to date. Sometimes I feel as if my best years have already gotten away from me, that by the time I get my life together and I have the financial security to be equal in a relationship, I’ll be into my 40s and most of my life will be behind me. Sometimes I feel like he was my last shot at lifelong love and true connection.

I know that’s mostly bullshit, but that doesn’t change the way I feel about it.

Seems like some days, not much of anything changes the way I feel. Some days, it seems like this is just the way it’s going to be.

Maybe tomorrow won’t be one of those days.

Wish

This one requires a bit of explanation. Many moons ago…oh, 12 years ago now, I was involved in a long-distance relationship that wasn’t going as I would have hoped, and I was stuck in a low-paying job with no prospects of improving my position. I was tired and angsty, and my new eyeglasses prescription had given me a raging migraine that had lasted for days. So I was bitchy, to put it mildly. It also reveals a tendency of mine that probably led to my initial involvement with Dustin, instead of heading for the hills at the first sign of trouble.

These days, the poem perfectly captures the angst and frustration I sometimes feel over Dustin’s loss. I am not currently in such a state, but I stumbled across this in an old box of papers, and I thought I’d share, after a bit of tweaking.

Wish

I’m bored and I’m lonely but after all
it’s all my fault
the days slip past and I don’t even care but
I’m one day closer to you
that should matter, I suppose
I don’t want to go to out, I want
to stay here and whine but
sometimes I annoy myself and I
throw myself to the wolves
so I can say I did something new

There’s a glitter in my eyes lately
The doc says it’s all right but
there’s an empty spot in the lives of my days and I
wish Prince Charming hadn’t been such a prick but
sometimes I don’t want what I wish for
(I’m such a bad girl, you know)

wish…
what a word
all the hopes and dreams rolled into a
dirty
little
four-letter word

I’m sick of insight
my head has hurt for the last three days and
I’m tired of searching my soul and today
I just want to sleep the time away
I’m sick of pretending that
nothing ever hurts and I
wish I could hear you say
just once
that you still love me, that you still need me
right now it’s just an intellectual exercise and I
I’m tired, just too damn tired

Copyright Miss M Photography

Copyright Miss M Photography

Rant

screaming demon

“You have an extreme intolerance for a lot of things, the chief of which being bullshit.”
~Dustin to me, April 2012

The hardest action to take is sometimes no action at all.

Tonight is one of the difficult nights. I am tired and sad and frustrated; recent life events piled atop this grief have sapped my emotional resilience. Above all, I am angry.

Angry that I am sitting here alone when I should be curled against his side.

Angry that he died in fear and in despair.

Angry that I am struggling, and have always been struggling, on some level, in some way.

Angry that he and I were cheated out of our happily-ever-after, or at least a halfway decent shot at it.

Angry that I’ve regained all the weight I’ve lost.

Angry that among all the people I see in my daily life, there isn’t a single person I feel I can turn to.

Angryangryangry

I don’t feel attractive, sexy, or lovable. I know I can be a difficult person, and that I am an acquired taste, as it were. I am blunt and brutally honest and that’s often mistaken for cruelty; as he put it, I never sugarcoat anything. He knew all of this, and loved me for it, not in spite of it.

So tonight, when I want to send all the plates in the house spinning towards the walls, I am sitting here, trying to feel the anger and allow it to flow through me and around me, without acting on it. Observing it, letting it pass. Breathing.

But I still want to call bullshit on the Universe.

What did I ever do to deserve this? What did he? Why, when the two of us finally managed to find something beautiful and pure and noble and true, did it get ripped away?

Loving him was as easy as breathing. In his arms, moving together, was the most profound sense of belonging and joy and divinity I’ve ever known. And now my bed is stone cold, and what’s left of my heart has gone up in flames.

Stupid

Unfair

Cruel

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.
~Maya Angelou

I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t want to be dark and twisted. So I will be angry, and I will burn, and in the end, I will be clean. Maybe not whole, maybe not better, but clean.

Clean, but still bereft, and still alone. Bullshit, Universe. Bullshit.