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.


Interlude #9


Seven months today. The seconds and minutes and hours keep piling up and up, until a vast gulf of time and space separates me from where we were us.

I described myself as a galaxy last night. Beautiful and shining and full of stars and light and life…all of it held together by a supermassive black hole in the center. The place you and I were, until you died in a supernova that took me apart and scattered me far and wide, collapsing in on yourself until not even light could escape. Here, deep in the core of me.

I want to dive headlong into it, and see if I can survive to come out the other side, into the alternate ending: the Disney instead of the Shakespeare, the place where you and I made it and got our happily ever after.

But no. 

I am sitting here, gazing at my half-finished project, my newest piece of art: a large piece of embossed copper. I am slowly going blind from the dazzle of it. Every once in a while, when I sit back to ease my eyes or my aching hand and arm, I look up for you, for your smile of encouragement, your pride, your interest.  

Seven months gone, and I’m still looking for you.

You never really got to see me create. This was the gift you gave to me, sent to me as a lifeline to survive without you, and with it, you have saved me. I hope somewhere you can see, that you know what I have done, what I continue to do, in your name.

I don’t know that I would have come back to it otherwise. You and I both know our most of our energies were likely to be bound up in keeping you whole and sane and functioning. I don’t know that I would have had the time, with you and part-time school and full-time work. 

I know your hand was in this. I can feel it when I pick up a brush without fear, trace a line in charcoal with confidence and grace. I can feel you when I burnish the copper, I can hear you tell me you love me every time I own my new title of artist. There is so much of you in me now, and all around me. 

I think you may have pulled an Obi-Wan on me, babe, and become much more powerful dead than alive, and you had one hell of a zing when alive.

There is so much more to me now, because I am two made one, two souls bound. It may be my talent they see, but it’s your soul that produced it. 

Two made one, forever.

Embossed copper, detail

Embossed copper, detail

The Soul Knows Its Way Home

“We have art in order not to die of the truth.”
~Fridrich Nietzsche

And it’s true.

Somewhere inside the howling hell that was my broken mind and shattered heart, my battered soul sent up a distress call. As my soul sang my pain and my love and my grief to a listening Universe, something came to answer the cry, to offer solace and comfort and healing. Something came to help fill the empty spaces, the places he left behind.

White Birds, Detail

White Birds, Detail

Art. Art came to my rescue.

I was always a haphazard practitioner before. I’d have a crisis of confidence, or get utterly wrapped up in my love life, using almost any excuse to avoid the stuttering anxiety of perfection’s pursuit. I never felt like I was quite good enough, because I couldn’t do whatever I wanted on demand.

I never stopped to think what I could do, easily or not, was still more than the average person. If it was easy for me, if the piece didn’t take much time or didn’t require a lot of agonizing, I dismissed it as amateurish, unworthy. And if I couldn’t do what I wanted to do – whether I’d taken the time to master the technique – I would be convinced I was just a dilettante, messing about while the real artists looked down their noses.

I was, in other words, a blithering idiot.

Dustin’s death scoured away not only illusions, but fear. After all, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to the next day, so what care did I give about whether or not I was perfect anymore? I had something to say – verbally, visually – and I needed to say it. I had to say it.

And now I am saying it, in every media I can sort out. Words and poetry, paint and pastel, whatever I can bend to my purpose, this calling. Anything and everything, to soothe the bottomless ache where he used to be, where he is still.

I never considered myself an artist before. I never needed to, never felt like I’d earned it. That isn’t true anymore.

I am an artist, because now my life and my sanity depend on it. I am an artist, because I have no other choice. I am an artist, because either my soul creates, or my spirit dies.

I create to live.