Love and Mourning

What a difference a year makes. This time last year, I was slipping down the rabbit hole, consumed by grief again. I knew I would survive, I knew I’d be whole again, but I knew there was a lot of rocks on the road between then and now.

In the past year, I’ve gained a better perspective, I think, on what Dustin was and was not, what he was capable of giving, and what he was not. I was convinced he was my soulmate. I had just come from a devastatingly awful 3-year relationship, abusive in every sense of the word, and I was not removed from that experience enough to be able to objectively judge this new man who’d come into my life. But he was kind and sweet and caring and very protective of me, all of which were things I craved. I didn’t realize he was an addict at first, didn’t realize how troublesome his past was and how it would come back to haunt us, didn’t realize way too much until it was way too late.

I have a confession: I thought about leaving. All the time. I couldn’t abandon him–but I needed to. We were both drowning in his pain, and while I was sitting atop my fence, I went to bed one night with goals for a shared future, to get him the professional help he so desperately needed…and when I woke up the next morning, all those dreams and goals were ashes and dust. ‘Devastated’ doesn’t even come close to covering it. The guilt. Could I have tried harder? Did I give him enough? I rolled it around and finally let it slip through my fingers. What was done was done. Nothing would change that now.

So. Flash forward to August 2013 when the man who would teach me what it really meant to have and be a soulmate walked through the door of an anonymous barbecue joint. And from that moment on, it was pretty much all over.

And so. Now we’re planning a wedding. Yes, a wedding. Me, the woman who would never be a bride. Me, the erstwhile widow. Never saw that one coming.

The Newlydead Salt and Pepper shakes, and our future wedding cake toppers.

The Newlydead Salt and Pepper shakers, and our future wedding cake toppers.

I love this man with everything I’ve got, would do absolutely anything for him. He is also kind and sweet and caring and very protective, but he is also stable and mature and smart as hell. He is everything Dustin was and more, the happily-ever-after to the original Grimm’s fairy tale, the Disney instead of the Shakespeare.

It took meeting Adam to put my relationship with Dustin in proper perspective: a great, but ultimately flawed, love. It took meeting and loving someone like Dustin to make me fully open to loving Adam, because Dustin taught me how to love wholly: without fear, without reservation, and how to survive the consequences of loving that way. Dustin took my broken spirit and shattered it so thoroughly I had to rebuild from scratch, instead of patching holes and covering up cracks.

Now I’m in a bit of an odd position. I still love Dustin, of course. A part of me always will. Adam not only knows that, his own experiences with grief allowed him to anticipate and understand it. As he puts it, “How can you be jealous of a dead man?”

Adam was the man I was meant to be with, inasmuch as I believe in things like ‘meant to be,’ but I never would have been able to love or appreciate him the way I do if it hadn’t been for Dustin. So, in a way, I owe the success of this relationship to the spectacular loss of the previous one.

I told Adam early on that Dustin and I were a bit of a package deal. I could no longer separate who I am from that experience, because who I am now owes so much to it. In a way, it feels like I’m about to marry them both, which makes my head warp just a bit.

I don’t talk about this much…actually, not at all. I am expected to give up the old love in favor of the new. It doesn’t work that way. I have always believed that you carry a piece of everyone you ever loved with you, and they, a piece of you. In this case, more than a tiny piece.

Although I’ve accepted this as pretty much inevitable, I can’t help but feel ambivalent about it. Isn’t this a strange position to be in? I guess I’ll put it down to yet one more fucked up consequence of love and loss and grief, but I am really looking forward to not have this rolling around in my head and heart like a spilled bag full of broken marbles.

Alchemy

Enigma ~ “La Puerta Del Cielo”

I am unfolding, collapsing like a house of cards designed by M. C. Escher, endlessly falling. I stroke the pillow where his head used to lay, whispering. Through a fall of tears like a grey morning’s rain, my lips still shape his name. I listen to the whispers, brush of edge against edge, fingers against fabric, disappearing in a silence that stretches through the horizon, trying to find the we that was in the spaces left between.

Oh, love…oh, my very dear. Baby….

I hear the calls of the night birds, feel the tidal pull of gravity. I am going under, eyes closed, hands open and empty. There is no fight left in me now. I am not giving up, I am just giving in.

Come to me…

I am adrift here, aching but unaware, lost in the reaches of time and hope, traveling the endless spaces left between. My lips make a mantra of his name. I am waiting, calling, conjuring.

There is only you and here…

No end to this, to what we were, what we still are. No beginning. Arcing above and below, filling the night sky, infinite. All my stars fall and collide.

Fill me. Make me whole again…

From behind my eyes, he sees again. My lungs fill with his breath, my heart with his blood. Thrill and pulse, nerves stretching to feel once more. Bones shudder and twist.

Oh ache, oh beautiful…

Love, endless. Seamless. Whole.

Come, love, we were meant to fly.

Haunted When The Minutes Drag

Sadness Sees You, charcoal and pastel on paper, Fumbling For Light, 2013

Sadness Sees You, charcoal and pastel on paper, Fumbling For Light, 2013

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Ye gods, these nights just won’t quit. I keep clinging to the idea that this won’t last, but damn, I’m not sure what’s going to be left of me by the time I come out the other side.

I hold together fairly well during the day, although I seem to be on the verge of tears a lot of the time. But once the sun goes down, I start to unravel.

I stare wide-eyed into the dark. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I listen to the sound of my own breathing and the ghosts inside my own head.

I hate being alone at night. I’d give almost anything to have someone’s arms to curl up in at night: for comfort, for support, for the sense of safety and security.

But that wouldn’t be fair, so I sleep alone.

I dream of him, every night for the last week. Last night it was as if he’d never died, and we were back to trying to figure out how to make our lives work together. I woke up feeling like my chest had cratered in, my head aching. I am sleeping only five to six hours a night.

Every night I struggle for air, every morning I wake feeling hungover, exhausted and in pain, both literal and figurative. My joints are aching again, my ribs tender and sore. Grief slides within the muscle, twisting and binding. It wraps the bones, invading the joints. Every night, I am being unmade.

My friend Sarah urged me to get it out on paper:

let it spill
charcoal
grab it
make a mess
get it out

So I did. I picked up some charcoal, scribbled with some white pastels, and the drawing above is the result. It is only the second time I’ve ever created art from an emotional place, and the first time I think I nailed it perfectly. The eye is open just a hair too wide: startled, staring, haunted. Disbelief and pain.

I am a little startled at the result, actually. But I feel a little better, and I’m hoping against hope I won’t dream tonight.

I still have 22 nights to go.

Game Plan

It is a pretty good indicator of how fragmented my mind and attention are getting that I completely forgot that by this time next month, I will be a published poet. Who the hell forgets something like that?

Well, I do.

Decanto Poetry Magazine

Grief's Chaos, Eye Detail

Grief’s Chaos, Eye Detail

I can feel the regression speeding up, sliding further back into that dark place. I spent last night having nightmares that featured a lot of arguing with Dustin. I can’t remember what the arguments were about, or the things I accused him of. The things I blamed him for. For so many aching nights, for so many icy mornings, for so many tears.

In my dreams, I betrayed the strength he was always so proud of me for.

Then I came to in a bed that just gets bigger and colder every morning I wake up in it. My entire self is being pulled taut, the pressure building inside, the rage and the anger and the pain as present and as sharp as they ever were. I am condensing, can see hell rising in my eyes in the mirror.

Maybe there’s something wrong with me because I welcome the regression, welcome the chance to just give myself up to it so I can come out the other side sooner, and stronger.

And, frankly, because I miss him so much, and this is one of the few ways I can still feel close to him.

Everything I learned about surrender I learned from Dustin.

This weekend, I am going to make some good strong hot tea. I am going to curl up in bed with a cat. I am going to read “The Year Of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion and I am going to cry and cry and cry until I am exhausted and numb. I will stare sightless at the wall the way I did in the bad old days, but this time, I will sleep. All the time.

Yes.

The Art of Drowning

You’ll bury your sorrow
Deep in the sea,
But sea tides aren’t tamed
That easily–
There will come a tomorrow
When you weep for me

The breaking of waves on a long shore,
In the grey morning the slow fall of rain,
Oh love remember, remember me.
~”Rachel’s Song” by Guy Gavriel Kay, from “The Summer Tree”

If the last few months have taught me anything, it’s the futility of dodging memory.

I had hoped that I was finally beginning to heal, that the wounds were stitching shut. That I had become, in a sudden burst of optimism, possibly capable of finding a way through to something new, of being open to new blossoming in my life. That I still had the courage that Dustin had inspired in me. That I could move on.

What a load of bullshit. There are no shortcuts. There are no easy ways out, no early parole.

The first anniversary of Dustin’s death is bearing down on me, coming next month on May 26. Already I can feel the tides of grief pulling at me, winding tendrils cutting like wire as they wrap around bone. It’s a water torture exorcism as I’m wracked by the ghosts of the past, the could haves and should haves, our lost future as suffocating as dense fog.

I need you like I need air to breathe.

I can’t breathe around it. My lungs are full of sand-again-the burning pressure has returned.

I’ve had offers of help. Tell me what you need. I don’t know!

I have no idea how to make this hurt less. I have no idea how to ask for help, because I don’t know what will help. All I have are gritted teeth and burning lungs and so very far to go. I can’t outrun it, I don’t even want to try. All I know how to do is to just be in it, to give myself up to it. To drown in the short term so there might be a chance that I’ll be whole in the long.

This is a very solitary process, heartbreakingly so. I can talk about it until my limited air runs out, but in the end, I’m the one left alone in the dark, staring down the void. Asking someone to keep me company in the dark…I don’t know how to deal with that. I’m afraid it would be a distraction. I know it would be, because it requires a witnessing, a physical presence. All other forms of communication require words, and there are no words for this.

Grief cannot be rationalized. I can’t think my way through this, or around it. Grief is an experience both visceral and emotional; it is not a thought process. Which means, of course, the only way over it is to experience it. To sit in it like a stone in the river. To dissolve into it, to flow.

To be like water.

“Be Like Water” From “A Pefect Dream” by Sarah Fimm