The link below is to a GoFundMe page set up for my aunt and my grandmother, who lost literally everything but their lives in the fire that decimated Paradise, CA. I wouldn’t normally drag my family’s identity into my blog, but a few of you asked me after “Lava” what you could do for me, personally.
This. You can do this. If you can’t donate (and I understand that so few can), boost the signal in your own shere of influence. Nobody in my family has money, and none of us can step in and rescue them. I’m over 1500 miles away, and literally gave the last $35 in my bank account until payday.
Be safe, oh ye vast and unknowable internet. Be kind, dark void into which I pour all my most personal thoughts. Be human.
I’m not processing this very well right now, so I apologize in advance for sounding scattered.
This is my face from 20 minutes ago when I read that the government is asking the military to house immigrant detainees. This is my reckoning. 20 years from now when our grandchildren ask (accuse) us when our moment of realization was, I’ll show them this. For me, it’s right now. Right now is the moment I’ll never come back from. For me, right now is when I realized the promise of our nation is irrevocably broken.
I’m not even sure why. I keep seeing my memories of the memorial at Dachau, the bone deep cold I felt there, and the shame. Oh Christ, the shame.
This is our shame, yours and mine. Not in the abstract – not Democrats or Republicans or religious or secular – it’s our personal, individual shame. I have to live with it now. So do you.
I don’t know what to tell you about your moment. I can barely sit here in mine. The slow horror build up of the last several weeks – months – did nothing to prepare me. I’m shaking. I’m crying. I’m dying in my soul. We let this happen. We cried and we raved and we fucking posted on facebook and WE LET THIS HAPPEN. The kindest thing history will say about me was that I cried. I’m so disgusted I will throw up and it won’t come close to what I deserve. You, too.
When I can open my mouth without screaming, I’ll call my representatives. I’ll call and I’ll call and I’ll add it to the useless emails and the useless shame and I’ll die some more and it will all pile up on the trash heap that is the state of our government and clearly, our citizens.
This is my reckoning, my owning of the shame. Where’s yours?
Jesus fucking christ when is this going to be over. For a year I’ve been waiting for the right time to move on. Trying to do what is best for everyone, trying to hold on to the things that matter. My marriage has been dead for a long while now, and we’re just now starting the process of burying it. Life, man. It was full of complications. Helpless things I made promises to, plans that look right in any equation.
They are right, you know. Let the child finish school, pick the program that has the likeliest outcome of success, move and file and do all the things according to the right schedule. I checked all the boxes. I made the right decisions.
And now, here I am, in the midst of plans that were made a long time ago, and my body refuses to move forward. I can’t breathe. I weight two tons. There is an ocean of pressure in my ears and every cell struggles through its function. Fuuuuuuck me. It’s not even the loss of the husband. That blew away in ashes months and months ago. It’s all this STUFF. Papers, boxes, printers, dishes – all this stuff has to be packed and organized and sold and I am just. So. Very. Fucking. Tired.
Tomorrow I have to get the oil changed in my car and take a test in anatomy and I want to cry. The idea of maintaining an upright, hominid position makes me want to sob, except that would take energy I just don’t have. My ears are constantly ringing, my chest is constantly tight, my legs feel like articulated lead bricks.
This was supposed to be MY time. Finally, my time for moving forward, for cleansing, for changing and reclaiming. And all I want to do is crawl in a hole until its over. How the hell did I do this when I was in my 20s and chasing better ideas over state lines and jobs and all of that nonsense?? Where is THAT person? I need her to go through my filing cabinet. I need her to google how to start a fire in a burn barrel. I need her to do the dishes. And pack them. And take the dogs for a walk. And cry, because I’m too tired for any of that. I can’t breathe. I literally can’t take those deep, calming breaths everyone is always saying work the best. My lungs are full of cement.
Did that 20 something whine this much? Or is that a “fun” thing about my 40s, too? How early is too early to go to bed?
There are many ways to measure milestones in personal growth. My favorite is the one where you stop caring about other people’s expectations. It’s then that you truly find yourself, that you truly realize what it is you care about.
It’s hard to do that when you don’t feel safe. That’s why it’s so important to cultivate your family if you’re not lucky enough to be born into one that fits just right. I’ve cultivated my herd – we’re a mismatched lot, with baggage and foibles and handicaps and little glimpses of greatness. But we know how to build support. We know how to dump outside the circle. We know how to be honest. And we know how to love. Some of us took the circuitous route to get here, but being in this place with these people… it’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. For the first time in my life I feel safe. Safe.
Letting go of old expectations was hard, but ultimately the most beautiful gift I’ve ever given myself. I am responsible only to me. I carry no one’s weight but my own. It only took me half my life to reach this particular milestone, but I am determined to hang onto it with all the stubbornness I’ve developed, too.
I can’t go back and re-feel what’s come before. It’s just not a habit I’m acquainted with. I can’t feel the shock and numbness, damn it, or the fresh loneliness, or the bitter betrayal. What’s settled in, though, is the flinching wariness, the suspicion, and the constant, entrenched anger. Occasionally, the sadness creeps through. Desperate, engulfing sadness that my husband is gone. Irretrievably, unconditionally gone.
I need to tell you something, oh vast and empty Internet. I need to tell you how I loved him. From the time I was four years old, I only wanted him. I cherished every second with his family. Summers spent at baseball games and in the pool. Kindnesses shown me in the simplest of actions – like showing me his record collection when the “grown-ups” got to talking about boring stuff. Getting my triple-A baseball program signed by players he knew by first name. Passing by his neighborhood, knowing he wasn’t there and looking for him all the same. The time we made out as teenagers on a New Year’s Eve. Or the long, heartfelt conversations over miles and hours apart. The way his marvelously huge hands would cover my naked body and the taste of him after midnight. The way I could lean into his side on the couch and count on his arm coming around me. The way he loved my daughter.
All that is gone. In its place are creeping in all the times I overlooked a mis-remembered anecdote, or a story that wasn’t quite right. A lie that I chose to move past without really resolving. A nagging doubt that I couldn’t quite face. Omissions, excuses, niggling little bad habits… they were there all along, and they’re creeping forward like pestilence, poised to overtake my immunity to fault.
I hoped, Internet. I hoped, because I wanted to believe that hope was worthwhile. I wanted to believe that trust was valid. I believe my exact words were, “You have to decide to trust someone, before they can earn it.” If they ever invent a time machine, I’m going back to slap myself, hard, right in the face. It would hurt less than this.
I loved someone for my whole life who never deserved it. Who definitely never loved me back in the same way. I don’t know how to live with that. I don’t know what to do with the betrayal that I perpetrated on myself. On my daughter. The reckoning is approaching, and I am woefully unprepared to face it. I wasted over 30 years of passionate, devoted love on someone who threw it away. How does anyone make peace with that?
I keep thinking that he can’t hurt me anymore, and I’m probably right. But the wounds I’m finding now were inflicted by me, by my own heart. I did this to myself because I wanted.
The love of my life is gone. But the want remains. And I have to just live with it.
A glance. It’s a small thing in real time. A moment – or a second. A split second sometimes.
We almost don’t notice it until after it’s done.
Why, then, does it have to be like an iceberg on the surface of our emotions? Just a small look, a small second – but beneath the look is everything.
When you love someone enough, a glance is all it takes to set the world right side up. To make your heart expand, to put wings on your soul. A glance, and they are the most beautiful creature you’ve ever set eyes on.
When that love is gone – what becomes of the glance? Of the wings? Of the soul?
I don’t know if I’m more afraid that no one will ever look at me like that again…
…or that I won’t look at anyone else that way again.
Such a small thing to lose. You almost don’t notice it until after it’s gone.
I got the news that David Bowie died on my phone while sitting on the toilet. It was undignified, ignominious, and wholly modern. As were my tears. I cried fresh, new, culturally relevant tears because I – and many others – lost an icon.
Bowie was (and GOD, how I hate to use the past tense) a hero of the margins – unrepentantly, aggressively authentic. His art was entirely his, without apologies. Many marginalized communities, especially the LGBTQ+, celebrate his weirdness as a beacon in a small, dark world and since many of my friends belong to that community I celebrate his weirdness with them.
So, that first bout of weeping was for them, and the artists and dreamers and weirdos whose light went out on the vast, cruel sea.
For me, though, the little girl who never had trouble assimilating, who embodied the term “wall-flower”, it wasn’t his weirdness that was my beacon. It wasn’t what he did that entranced me, it was what he didn’t do. He didn’t apologize. He didn’t conform. His opposition to Normal could have taken many forms, and I would have been in love with any of them. It was the act of defiance that made me watch him, his very breath a giant “Fuck You” to the establishment’s control and THAT enthralled me. Whether he was strutting across the stage in glitter, hypnotizing a young woman with crystal balls (unsurprisingly, that is both a literal interpretation AND a euphemism), baring his soul in simple, unaccompanied song, or orchestrating his final farewell, Bowie never seemed to do anything that wasn’t entirely honest and true to his artistic vision. For me, it was about his authenticity.
The little girl who assimilated retreated by degrees, replaced with a painfully self-aware woman. Right now, replaced with a woman who is self-aware, and in pain. The authenticity of my life is ugly, and raw, and set with jagged edges that rip the fabric of my psyche to shreds. My authenticity is not about sparkly jumpsuits and flipping off the establishment. It’s about emotional tar pits, and vicious anger, and snarling, black despair. My honesty is found in days when I simply can’t do anything but stare blankly and drink at socially inappropriate times. My non-conformity comes from screaming my pain instead of just bearing it, like the good little wall-flower expected to. My authenticity is not fit for consumption; it is not art. But it is real, and I am no less heroic for confronting it, head-on.
My first tears were for the freaks and dreamers, artists and weirdos and friends. But the tears that came later, that sent me running for the bathroom stall in the middle of my workday to sob into handfuls of cheap, single-ply toilet paper that dissolved under the onslaught – those were for me. And for Bowie, who surely knew that lonely darkness, and came out swinging a light of his own. I cried because my truth is ugly, it’s mean and bitter and exhausting. But it’s mine. I am living an authentic life, no matter if I can’t turn it into art or a beacon for three generations to rally around. It’s mine, and it’s true. And for now, it is enough. I am a hero, if just for one day.