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.

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.

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.

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Interlude #9

Dustin~

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