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Posts Tagged ‘ashes’

Friendship

I’ve never been as depressed as I’ve been these past few weeks. But I told myself that at the end of this week, that would be over, that I’d get up and get on with my life. And lo and behold, I woke up Thursday morning not happy, per se, but not depressed anymore. The big hole of emptiness was gone.

Of course, life is never that easy…I woke up Friday morning with a horrible cold, so getting back to live (exercise, etc.) will have to wait a little longer. Blah.

We (me, dad, and mom’s brother) woke up in time for the sunrise on Wednesday, October 17th. Mom’s brother said a prayer of thanksgiving for mom’s life, and then we all went out onto the deck to scatter mom’s ashes. Dad wanted to keep some in the urn, and I still have some in a small metal heart here at home, so we didn’t scatter them all, but most are there off the side of the deck. It was a gorgeous sunrise. It’s a good place for mom’s ashes to be. It’s a good place for us to remember her being, even if she isn’t really there anymore.

And I took some pictures of the site before I left. Turns out there are some green beans growing there. Who knew? 🙂

It was so funny, when mom’s brother got into town and met us for dinner, he came into the bar where dad and I were waiting and sat down, then started talking…and then he looked at me and said, “And here I am, talking, when I’m just lookin’ at you and thinkin’ about how much you look like your mother.”

“Funny,” I said, “because that’s exactly what I was thinking about you.”

I’m sad that when my mom’s brother is gone, my mom’s stories are gone, too. No one will ever know her like he did. No one will ever know her like I did, either, sure, but he knew her as she was growing up. No one can replace that.

I have an old friend from writing class who has recently begun writing me letters. I always looked up to him as a sort of mentor. I mentioned in one of my responses that I’d been having trouble writing about mom, that it was still too soon for me. He said his mother passed away five years ago, and it was still too soon for him, too. That made me feel a little better. I wish I could write about everything that’s happened. So many of us have experienced loss, and I know that the only thing that can make any of us feel better is the understanding that we’re not alone. If I could write everything down, maybe I could help someone else like my friends have helped me.

And speaking of friends, and the title of this post, I have to say that my ex has been instrumental in getting me through the past few weeks. He was there for me in ways I never expected. If I ever had any doubts about whether or not he cared for me, or about how much he cared for me, they’ve all been erased. He let me take all of my sorrow, grief, and anger out on him, and he was nothing but supportive. I’m both amazed and grateful.

I switched therapists (not sure if I’ve said)…my most recent therapist always made me feel like I was just there as a paying client, like she didn’t really care about me, and that just wouldn’t do. I switched to an RPCV whom I met at a pot luck about a month ago. She’s an older lady, and she’s extremely kind. She’s also the first person who didn’t immediately say that my ex is a selfish asshole and that I should cease all contact with him. She actually helped me see that our relationship wasn’t as one-sided as both of us had thought, but that we gave in different ways: me, more of my material goods, and him, more of his quality time and attention. Neither is worth more. If anything, really, time and attention means more, right? But I’m glad there was finally a different perspective.

Life is a funny place. I think that I’m in a good position to move on and figure out new ways to make a difference in the world. Once this cold is gone, anyway. I’m lucky that my depression didn’t last any longer than it did. I know that not everyone is as lucky. I feel for those people, I honestly do. Real depression is no joke. But no one can save you from it but yourself.

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Confession

Okay.

I’ll admit it.

I’m depressed.

I thought I was depressed once when I was a teenager. I had this blinding moment of clarity wherein I realized that all of my “friends” were fake and that no one really knew who I was. I then immediately lost my faith (I happened to be at a church camp at the time) and did nothing but say I was depressed and cry for a couple of months.

I don’t think I was depressed then, though. This is different.

The best way I’ve been able to explain how I feel now is to say that it’s like there’s this inner core of me that is dead. It has no feelings, no motivation, no purpose, no esteem. It’s just dead weight. It’s like The Nothing in The Neverending Story. And then there’s this outer bit of me that knows I have to go on with life: get outside, exercise, go to work, see people, eat. I just don’t want to.

For the past three weeks, it’s been extremely difficult to get out of bed. I like my bed. It’s comfortable. I don’t have to smile at my bed. I don’t have to answer my bed’s questions. I don’t have to pretend to my bed that I’m a functioning human being. I can just curl up with my body pillow, huddle for warmth under my blanket, and stay safe and unmolested by the world outside my front door.

I’ve been working from home a lot. I’m super lucky to have such a flexible job. I have been making myself go to the gym, where I get a hug from my trainer before she kicks my ass. And I’m being very open about it and telling all of my friends that I’m depressed. I’m not keeping it a secret.

I don’t need to be comforted. I don’t need anyone to tell me it’s going to be okay or that it will pass. I just need to be allowed to be. And I’d prefer to do that being in my wonderful, marvelous bed.

I mentioned some of this to dad tonight, and he told me we didn’t have to go through with our plans for next week (to take mom’s ashes to the beach). I think he missed the point. I need to go to the beach and be with my mother. I need to go through with the ritual of letting her go, which means nothing to her at this point, but a lot to me. I know that after next week, things will pick up again and I’ll get back to some kind of normal routine.

The most unexpected side-effect of this depression is that I understand my ex-boyfriend in a way that I never have before. He deals with this type of feeling all the time. He has his whole life. I am lucky in that I understand what’s going on and that these feelings are temporary. People have been telling him that “it will pass” and “everything will be okay” his entire life, but it hasn’t and they aren’t. I understand things better now…for example, I’ve gotten upset with him before when I’ve reached out for reassurance or comfort and he wasn’t able to provide it. But now I get it: you can’t provide comfort to someone when you aren’t comforted yourself. I tried to explain this to him, and here’s how he paraphrased it:

you used to get upset because I couldn’t or didn’t know what to say to make you feel better when shit was shitty, but since now you’re feeling shitty you know that it’s hard to make others not feel shitty when they’re feeling shitty

And that’s pretty much it. But there’s a bit more…like sometimes the best thing you can do to help someone is to let them know that they are understood and that they are not alone. And I think that’s what he always tried to do. I interpreted that as him not caring and not trying, but empathy might just be the best way he can care for someone else, the most that he can do for someone.

Misery loves company, eh?

So here it is: I’m depressed. That’s not a bad thing or a good thing, it’s just a thing. I know why I feel this way. I also know it will end at some point. And I think I have enough strength left in me to pretend that I’m okay until I am actually okay again, though I’d really rather just stay in bed.

I have a very nice bed.

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Insanity

Einstein said that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again while expecting different results.

So…I might be insane.

I’ve been reading through my Peace Corps journals recently. I’m almost through one of five. I wrote everything down every single day. I wanted to remember everything: smells, sounds, people, conversations. I did a remarkable job. Reading through, I’ll hit a sentence that brings back an entire day’s worth of memories. Oh yeah, I remember that training session! And what that food tasted like! And how mad I was at the bitches smoking by the doors of our compound so we all had to smell their exhaust! And how it felt when that scorpion stung me!

My first reaction in reading through was pride in the person I was then, then sadness that I lost much of my confidence and center. When I went into the Peace Corps, I’d just finishing my stint in Boone with Johnny, my best friend. We were extremely close. He taught me more than perhaps anyone else I’ve ever met in my life, and I was in a very strong, Zen, centered place. I lost that while I was in the Peace Corps. Not that Johnny didn’t try to help me keep it: he wrote letters, which meant a lot as he hates to write, and he called me every week. If it hadn’t been for him and my parents, I don’t know if I would have made it through all two years.

Anyway, the main reason I wanted to go through this exercise was to find out why I ever even liked my ex-husband in the first place. At this point, I don’t remember at all. I remember how I felt around him when we were in Lesotho, but I don’t know why. I hope I wrote that down.

First, though, I have to make it through Katiso, subject of one of my published short stories. It’s been an interesting experience. I have this memory of Katiso and our relationship, and it has absolutely no correlation to what I wrote down in my journal. Even when I was writing down what was actually happening, I was totally making up things in my mind. There are a lot of “if only” statements: if only things were slightly different, they’d be perfect; if only he did this one thing differently, it’d be amazing; we’ll be perfect once these things are ironed out. It’s like I imagined our relationship even while we were together. And if that wasn’t scary enough, I could replace Katiso’s name with my most recent ex’s and the story would stay almost exactly the same.

No joke.

Almost exactly.

That frightens me.

So I called Johnny.

Full disclosure: not only is he my best friend, but he can see my future. He’s always had this ability, and sometimes I’ll purposefully go months without talking to him because I just don’t want to know. Everyone thinks it’d be great to be able to know your future, but it’s more annoying than anything else. Trust me. Because knowing your future does not give you the ability to change it.

I told him what I was thinking, and he said, well, I was just waiting for you to figure that out. (See why I sometimes avoid talking to him?)

I just don’t know what to do from here. Okay, I keep falling into these same types of relationships (and Katiso wasn’t the first–the first was a boy I met in high school who kept me under his thumb for an entire decade), so how do I stop? What is the lesson that I need to learn to be able to break the cycle? Johnny had some suggestions, but he can’t give me all the answers. Well, he could, but what would be the fun in that?

What I’d really like is to find someone who loves me for who I am and not what I can give to or do for him. I want someone who makes me feel special, who thinks of me often, who encourages me to grow into the best version of myself I can be. The only time I’ve ever had that in my life was with Johnny, and we were never romantically together. He managed to do all of that while just being my friend. And that’s why I have such a high standard of friendship. We bought each other flowers. We left each other cards. We cooked meals together, pretty much every single day. I moved down the street from him. We watched movies and cuddled together on the couch. We talked about deep, important things. We went on trips together. We knew everything about each other. It was like the perfect relationship, except it was just missing that final piece.

So I guess I’d like to find my Johnny. I suppose that’s my answer. I should stop settling for anything less.

 

Now, on an entirely different note, mom’s one-year anniversary is coming up October 17th. I’m sad and depressed, as could be expected. We’re going down to the beach to scatter her ashes, as she wanted. It’s going to be heart-wrenching.

I got a new tattoo on Tuesday. I wanted a filigree design on the inside of my left wrist that matches my modified wedding ring. I told my artist that I wanted to incorporate mom’s initials, SSS, into the design, but they didn’t have to be front and center. He came up with this design that has SSS in the middle of a filigree heart. It’s amazing. Every day, I love it more and it means more. It has a power that I didn’t imagine. I feel like it’s turning me into a different person. I’m sure it’s not the way mom would have chosen for me to remember her, but it’s exactly what I needed.

I’ve learned that the feeling of loss never gets easier to bear: you just learn to live with it. Compartmentalize it, someone told me last week. I had hoped it would become less acute, but I guess that’s not the way these things work. So I’ve compartmentalized it. It’s now on my wrist. I stare at it all day, every day.

Pain into beauty. Such is life. Or so we hope.

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16 Days

Only 16 more days until I turn 32. Even though that must seem young to some of you, it’s hard for me to believe I’ve gotten so old. I remember a time when I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it to 18.

I’m still very worried about my birthday. I hope it’s not as sad as I’m expecting it to be. I don’t have any plans except to see a dance performance (seriously, you should all come…Ronnie West is the best dancer I’ve ever seen in person, and I know this show is going to be AMAZING…plus, you can wish me a happy birthday!), and then dad’s taking the boy and I out to dinner. It’ll be a very late dinner, which dad wasn’t really up for, but I really wanted to see Ronnie’s show. I’m glad we were able to work it out.

Things have been relatively stable for me. I haven’t lived so close to my best friend since I lived on Johnny’s street in Vilas. I’d forgotten how nice is it. I’m spending the majority of my evenings hanging out at the boy’s house. While my cats are a little sad about it, I’m glad to have the company. It also makes me feel more secure knowing that there’s someone who cares about me living so near, just in case I ever need any help or anything.

I’ve been doing a lot better with food. I actually haven’t binged on food in…it seems like it’s been a month or more? And I’ve corrected my diet over these past two weeks so that I’m getting back into a comfortable routine. I’ve also been much better about exercise. I’m trying to remember that it’s not about how I look, but how I feel. I feel so horribly out of shape. I’ve felt unmotivated and heavy, like it’s just too much effort to move. I do struggle to do the things I used to do, and I can’t do the things I used to do at the same level. People keep saying that it comes back quickly, but I don’t know about that. I just have to keep chugging away at whatever level I can. I’ve been trying to find more fun things to do so that I look forward to it. I got a deal on Shaun T’s dance video series…it’s hilarious having the dude who runs the Insanity program teach me how to disco. I also got a voucher for three private Pilates equipment sessions. I used to do that once a week…did that for years. I had my first session this week, and I felt equal parts blissed out and destroyed. I wish I could afford to continue with it. If I don’t end up going back to HEAT, I might be able to figure out a way to do it. I guess we’ll see.

I still miss mom. Sometimes conversations about death come up, and it’s hard for me to explain what it was like to be present to witness it. I think some people have an idealized version of what it might be like. It’s not pretty. And it leaves holes and scars.

It will be one year in October. Dad rearranged the beach schedule so that we’ll have the beach that week. We’re going to take her ashes.

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Homesick

I went to yoga tonight because my favorite trainer, Yvonne, was having a “Freaky Flow” class for Halloween. I thought it was going to be an hour and a half, but it was just an hour (glad I checked before I got there 30 minutes too early!).

Yvonne warned me that some things might come up in the class that touched a little too close to home, but that it would be okay. I told her that’s why I was there.

I already knew that Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve) is the day that spirits are supposed to be closest to the living. How do some people put it…that the veil between life and death becomes more thin than usual? Yvonne talked a little about this during the class and about how it was the Celtic new year, so there was a sense of looking back to honor what came before while also looking forward to look to what’s to come. She also had a fire bowl where we burned a piece of paper that represented something we wanted to ask the universe to enhance. I don’t know if it’s like birthday wishes, which you aren’t supposed to share lest they not come true, but I’ll tell you anyway: I asked the universe to enhance my sense of loving-kindness-compassion for myself. Yvonne mentioned that since we were asking the universe to enhance something, that meant we all had these things within us already. That was nice to hear.

I don’t know how many of you do yoga, but at the end of every practice, there’s a period of time where you lie in savasana, or “corpse pose” (flat on your back, legs extended, arms usually to the side). Since it’s at the end of the practice, the body is usually humming with blood flow and energy, and, just like at the end of every workout for me, it’s the time when I’m most emotionally open and vulnerable. These days, I usually cry when I stretch (no thanks to Mighty Mike, who keeps insisting on playing sappy break-up songs during the cool-down).

Something very strange hit me, though. I was fully open to the pain that I’m feeling surrounding my mother’s loss, and I just let it sit there instead of trying to get rid of it or let it out or let it overcome me. And I realized I’d felt that exact pain before. I felt that exact pain on many occasions during training for the Peace Corps. It’s homesickness. It’s knowing that you’re too far away from the people who love you the most. It’s understanding that they’re still out there, somewhere, but you have no way to get in contact with them to speak to them.

It made me remember the day I left for staging. My dad said goodbye at the curb. We couldn’t really say anything to each other because we were both crying, and I can’t stand to see my dad cry. Mom helped me carry my bags in. She helped me check in, and then she helped me sit on top of one of my bags as we tried to re-close it after stuffing in my body pillow (allowed on international flights, but not domestic, the bastards). I remember I had to take something out for her to take home; she said she’d send it in her first care package. Then she walked with me to the escalators that led to the security checkpoint. It’s so crazy how extremely emotional moments imprint themselves on you: I can see this happening like I’m watching a movie. She gave me a hug and told me goodbye, probably said that she’d be counting the hours until she could see me again a year from that Christmas. And then that was it. I was going down the escalators and leaving my mom behind with a certainty that we would see each other again, someday, but it was going to be a long, long time.

And now it’s the same, only she’s the one with the overstuffed bags heading down the escalator, and I’m the one who has to go home to wait until I can see her again.

To be honest, I thought I’d be able to feel her. I thought I’d know she was out there, that she was still a part of me. But I don’t. I don’t feel anything but tremendous loss and overwhelming homesickness. The only comfort I can find in that is that her spirit was ready to go home and isn’t wasting any time hovering around us silly people anymore.

Today, I read “A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs,” a eulogy written by novelist Mona Simpson. It was touching to me because the last third of it could have almost been written about my mother. I’d written before about how I thought she was somehow gone before her labored breathing began, and it sounds like that’s what happened to Steve, though he was more expressive about it. It was also nice to hear that not everyone in these kinds of situations just goes to sleep: I still feel awkward about the “passed away peacefully” note in mom’s obituary.

Dad went to get the urns from the funeral home yesterday, so he has them back at home. I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to get my little heart…probably not until the weekend. I still don’t know how I feel about it. We’re going to scatter the ashes from the large urn, but the ashes in the small heart are mine. I used to think that spirits didn’t dissipate until the body had fully returned to the earth. This made me feel bad about hanging onto ashes, like I was somehow holding someone back. But I don’t know if I feel that way anymore. I don’t feel mom hanging around. I really doubt she’s waiting for us to scatter her ashes. I suppose it’s true, that whatever happens now is not for her, but for us, and what makes us feel better. Maybe I’ll keep the ashes in the heart. I guess we’ll see.

 

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