Shedding

Detail from "Shedding Vapor"

Detail from “Shedding Vapor”

And then you cry fresh tears, because you do not miss him as much as you once did,
and giving up your grief is another kind of death.”
~Laurell K. Hamilton

This endless undoing has left me raw. I am honestly not sure what is worse: that I still miss him so, or knowing that the pain and loss I feel now, as wracking as it is, is a dim shadow of what I experienced last summer. Knowing that when this bottleneck is done, a large part of the grieving process is done, or at least as done as it ever will be. I am losing him all over again.

Last week and the early part of this week were as rough a period as I’ve had in a long time. In my dreams, he came back and we picked where we left off, planning a future together. In my nightmares, I screamed at him for all the things that hurt then and still do now. Either way, I woke gasping for breath in an airless room and an empty bed.

The anxiety came back, thrumming along the nerves. I felt hunted and trapped. I know what’s coming. I know it’s going to hurt.

All I can do is wait. This already hurts so much, how much worse can it get? Sleep has already once again become something that happens to other people.

I finished school for the semester yesterday, earning A’s in both the classes I took. I am proud of myself, and relieved it’s over, at least until summer semester starts in four weeks. I need the time to pursue art. I need the freedom to stop compressing myself into a stable box in order to function well enough to meet my obligations. I need the time and the space to let this roll out of me until I’m wrung out and empty.

So many layers to peel back. So much emotion to open myself to, to allow to run through me, to leave me clean and empty and ready for what happens next.

To help, I scheduled a spa package on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, the day before the first anniversary of his death. I’m getting the works: full-body massage, facial, manicure and pedicure.  The luxuriousness and the decadence of it is something he would have loved. He had very expensive taste, did my beautiful boy.

My spa day is also probably the only way for me to receive caring physical touch at a time when I will rather desperately need it. Sometimes that’s the way it goes, so I found another way to deal with it. Yes, I know it’s a sad commentary on my life, but I am trying very hard not to dwell on it. I start wallowing in self pity and I will really start disliking myself.

He is a part of me, always, indelible. This process, one that began the moment we laid eyes on each other, is the internal rearrangement necessary to finish making room for him in my heart, soul and mind. His physical self is gone from me, but not his heart and spirit, but the integration with mine is incomplete. I have a feeling by the time this anniversary period is over, we will have gotten there. I will be able to move on, carrying him and our love with me seamlessly.

Always.

Ascendant

Full MoonWomanRisingFromTheOcean

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.
~Lao Tzu

After months of grueling mourning, after months of anger and pain and sadness, after months of struggle and heartbreak and endless loneliness…I cobbled myself together, went back to school, picked up a paintbrush.

After weeks of sleep deprivation and juggling of school and work and assignments and artwork, of nary a moment to myself to just breathe, I slid sideways into Spring Break and inhaled deeply.

And in the midst of all of this, all this fuss and bother and rushing here and there, when I finally came to a moment to breathe, I found a new woman waiting there for me. A bolder, stronger version; broken but whole, the cracks welded together with gold and silver. Still hurting, but my star is rising; I have become ascendant. I am finally rising above Dustin’s loss.

I still miss him, his warmth in the dark. I miss his insights and his sense of humor, his kindness.

I don’t miss his love, because I never lost it. And the strength and courage born of the love we shared has given me everything I needed to not only survive, but relearn how to thrive.

I have opened two online stores recently to sell my artwork, I am doing well in both my classes, I am eating better and losing weight. I found myself taken by surprise when someone asked me for a coffee date. A just-getting-to-know-you, pressure-free thing. And when I didn’t immediately shoot the idea down, I realized that somewhere in all my busyness, I had come a very long way indeed. So I accepted, all bewildered at myself.

I am not to the point where I can deal with things like expectations or hope for more. I am going and I will be open-minded, and those two things are so monumental that they’re more than enough.

This life is enough.

 

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.

Tap Dancing

Well, I’ve officially been a part-time student and a full-time employee for three weeks now, and I’m starting to fray.

Mondays and Wednesdays I’m up and out of the house by 8:30 a.m. I head to classes until 1:40 p.m., and then head directly to work afterwards. After my shift at the hospital, I’m out the door and if I’m lucky, home by 11:30 p.m. Fridays I only have one class, so it’s a bit of a break, but those first two days are killer. In addition, I work every other Saturday morning (I have the previous Friday off work but still have class). Out of class, I’m studying most of the time, or trying to keep up with chores, and create art somewhere in there. I am exhausted much of the time. This week, with the addition of getting up at 5 a.m. Saturday morning for work, I pushed the boundaries of what I could manage. Last night I finally got the first full night’s sleep I’d had in a week. Only fourteen more weeks to go!

I’m not only burning the candle at both ends, but I’m warming up the middle while I’m at it.

I can’t help but wonder what time I would have had for Dustin in the midst of this craziness. I can’t help but wonder how he would have coped, how I would have. It could very well have turned out to be more than even I could handle. On the other hand, his encouragement would have been a huge boost and having his arms to fall into at night when I am cold and exhausted would have been a huge comfort. I know he’s proud of me, I know he’s rooting for me, but sometimes what a girl really needs is a hug.

I’m starting to get a little overwhelmed, but I’m doing a decent job of keeping a lid on it and trying to focus on what I have to get done right now instead of trying to encompass the whole. I’m on track so far, my grades are high, and I have high hopes for my first exams beginning Feb. 18. I decided to request a day off that day–not because I need it for the exam, but because I could use the mental health break. We’ll see if my request is granted or not.

Otherwise, there’s a small spring break coming up in March, if I can hang in that long. Considering how much money I’d owe the hospital if I burn out, I think I’ll grit my teeth and bear it whether I think I can or not.

I know many people handle this workload, and many handle more, and I have nothing but respect for that. I knew it would be hard as an older student, but I didn’t expect exhaustion would be my biggest issue. I’m hoping as we roll on and I start to adjust and the weather warms, I’ll cope better. I don’t really have any other choice. And on that note, I have a chapter to finish, and laundry to fold. And so it goes.

Winter of Discontent

What in the hell is this stuff?

What in the hell is this stuff?

“Winter lies too long in country towns; hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen.”
~Willa Cather

I have come down with a nasty case of what I like to call the ‘awfuckits.’

I’m tired. I have a long list of things to do, and I’m bored, and a little overwhelmed. I just can’t be bothered to do the routine things, like take my makeup off at night and take my contacts out to soak overnight in the cleaning solution. I am eating poorly, even though I know even the small amounts sugar I ingest will kick off a vicious cycle of cravings and hypoglycemic sugar crashes that really make me feel terrible.

I just don’t care.

Not good. We all know where this leads; one day, I don’t wash off my makeup, then I stop taking care of myself as I should, and the next, I can’t get out of bed.

I have to get out of bed.

Jan. 14 I start going to school part time. The hospital system I work for is putting me through school, paying for my tuition and books, to become a radiology technician. It’s an amazing opportunity; it will come close to tripling my current pay and vastly improve my life situation. I can’t afford to screw that up because I’ve got the blahs. But if I don’t have the energy for my life now, how will I cope when I’m out of the house from 8:30 in the morning to 11:30 at night three days out of five?

I know a large part of the problem – outside of Dustin’s loss, which of course rules them all – is the sharply cold weather and the snow. I can’t stand the cold and never could; at least one of my ex-boyfriends referred to me as a human popsicle because my skin is cold to the touch more often than it’s not. So now that it’s cold and grey and icy and wet outside, everything seems like an awful lot of work. I dread going outside, I dread crawling into an icy cold car at the end of the night, I dread trying to shower in a cold bathroom. The cold reaches in deep, curls around the bone, makes my fingers and toes ache, and triggers violent shivers that aggravate a chronic back injury.

It doesn’t help that shortly after my birthday, my car died of a cracked engine block. So now I have the added stress of trying to save for a car (I can’t afford a car note right now, not even close) while relying on the eroding patience of my parents and brother to get back and forth to work via a 104-mile round trip commute.

I just need something to be easy for once, or at least not so excruciatingly painful, but somewhere along the line, that seems to have become an awful lot to ask for.