Wild Mint Pollination

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I’d like to think that blackberry jam makes all the heartbreak, the abuse, the horrible eviscerating misery of life worthwhile. I’d like to think that at the gate between life and death there’s always a piece of buttered toast slathered richly with blackberry jam full of the possessive spice of yellow-jacket sting, wild mint pollination reaching the palate as nothing more than a half expressed wish, all the perfume of papery blossoms crumpling under a hot sun, and that feral berry flavor that continually eludes cultivation.

I’ve hit the ultimate awkward and yet privileged age: the smack dab middle of life expectancy.

I can’t talk openly of the things that truly depress me because of the living, I can’t talk openly of the things that terrify me, because of the dead.

I like it when people don’t pretend they’re immortal. I like it when people recognize how their lives can go from scripted to river-sunk in a matter of minutes.

River-sunk is my spirit animal.

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When Self Care is the Hardest is When We Need it Most

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Cultivated purslane going to seed. I saved a bag of the seed. Hopefully it’ll grow true to the plant – not sure it will – this is what often stops me from saving seeds in my small garden, worries that the seed will not grow true. I don’t often plant hybrids, I do plant all OP (except for my beloved Sungold tomatoes, those are hybrids and might not even be OP) but I have a small garden space and often grow multiple varieties of a vegetable a year. Cross pollination in a small garden is a real issue. But I’ve decided to save a few seeds anyway. Purslane, red Orache, and summer squash this year.

I have not been taking good care of myself. For ten days we didn’t drink too much. Then we went right back to drinking lots of beer. I don’t exercise because of how much it always hurts my feet or something else. It’s always something. I have been eating way too much cheese. The only thing I do right any more is to drink lots of water. I also still eat a lot of produce, but this is largely cancelled out by all the cheese. I don’t sleep well (though I never do, so is that even worth reporting?) I’m depressed and anxious all the time without any breaks in it to come up for air. I wasn’t taking my meds regularly for a little while but at least I’ve really cracked down on that and for the last couple of weeks have been very consistent with taking them every day.

So little writing for all of 2016. This is the worst thing of all. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to the desk and be disciplined about writing no matter what. That’s why I’m here this morning. Earlier in the year I was working hard on my survey and by the summer time, when I started to actually sit down to write, all the energy I had was sucked up by work, which I quit, and then sucked up by trying to re-boot my business because Philip got laid off and I couldn’t find a job. No writing. Then I tried writing but it was all about my brother and grieving. Anyway, I got on a single track before he died and couldn’t get off it. Every time I sat down to write I would end up on the same track, saying the same things every single time. No matter where I started off, I’d end up in the same place. So I just stopped writing at all.

Yesterday I woke up really late and felt like garbage  because I stayed up ridiculously late and drank an insane amount of beer while watching Leonard Cohen videos on youtube. I was angry with myself and then I had a very rich, way too rich even for me breakfast that made me feel even shittier. So I got out into the garden. For over an hour. I pulled up all my tomato plants, the dying zinnias, the summer squash plants, and the woody rosemary that never recovered its last trim. I planted a baby rosemary in its place. I picked the first few ripe radishes which my mom said were almost too hot to eat. They aren’t a hot variety so it must have been the growing conditions. I also harvested a bunch of our everlasting spinach. I planted my boxwood plant in the side yard bed finally (I will be topiarying it), got our cape gooseberry planted too. I got completely covered with soil and for the first time in a long time I felt a little better.

Why is it so hard to get myself to do things I know are important to my mental health? Once out of the habit it’s so tough getting back into it. Yet when I do – I feel so much better. It’s creating the daily habit that has to happen. Once you do, it creates a momentum.

My body is really craving greens and vegetables. More than I’ve been eating. The other night I roasted some cauliflower, potatoes, and carrots with some rosemary salt. I ate a big bowl of them with ketchup but no cheese. It was so good! Another dish I made is one I’ve been wanting to make for a while – I made pulau rice. My friend Rohini gave me some of her favorite packaged spice mix and told me two methods of making the rice and it turned out so well! I didn’t have any frozen peas which I really wished I’d had but it still turned out great with carrots, onions, and potatoes diced small. Then I made a palak paneer to go with the leftovers. I have made paneer before but didn’t feel like doing that and I don’t know where to buy paneer in my city (probably could get it at one of the Asian markets but I haven’t checked yet) so I ended up using this cubed feta I had in the fridge. I hadn’t used much of the feta before because it was really dry and kind of chewy. Good flavor, but not what I wanted for my salad or couscous. So I used it in the palak and it was so good! It was tangier than paneer, but texturally very similar. I used a garam masala blend I made from scratch last year but never used. So it was a little old but it was really tasty!

That’s the kind of cooking I’m craving. I can’t be attempting totally authentic Indian food or Greek food, necessarily, but doing my take on them is where it’s at. At least my spice blends were authentic. (The one I made was from my vegetarian Indian cookbook by Monisha Bharadwaj) I especially love spinach dishes. Palak paneer, spanikopita, and spinach quiche are a few favorites.

I can’t be on facebook as much as usual. I have way too many people I love on there to stop checking in and hanging out a little, but I’m skimming past political and ranting posts. I’m bypassing as many angry posts as possible. If I soak up any more of that I risk letting more passive suicidal thoughts to take root in my spirit and heart. I can’t afford it. If anyone thinks I’m a cop-out or don’t care about all the people hurting right now, all the scared people out there right now, all the abused and threatened people – then you don’t know me AT ALL. If there is anything in me to contribute to the world to make it a better place, to help people become safer – then I have to shut everything out for a while. Dead people can’t help make living people safer or heard or lift them up. That’s a fact.

Unless you’re religious, then I suppose you always turn to dead people to lift you up. But never the less, not even Jesus can vote or march or step in to literally give you a hand when you need one.

For mentally ill people to be of service to others, they have to take care of themselves and that often means shutting out the noise. That often means disengaging for long periods to recharge. Our batteries do not hold charges for very long.

I feel guilty so much of the time not being able to do more, needing to be in retreat mode so often. Honestly, when I’ve gotten myself to a better place, I don’t know that tackling political things is where I’m needed most anyway. I need to get back to my Suicide for Beginners book because those of us with serious depression and anxiety need intersectional support more than most people. We have a lot to offer others in empathy and action and support, but not when we don’t have enough of it ourselves. Depression and anxiety don’t give a shit about your gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation, they hit people across all lines, across all borders both literal and figurative.

I have to keep acknowledging the guilt that I’m not stronger than I am and keep letting it go. I’m strong in ways that aren’t necessarily evident. But if I don’t take care of myself, that strength is inaccessible to everyone, including myself.

So, if you’re like me and struggle with serious depression and anxiety, please let me entreat you to do a little check – are you practicing good self care? Or have you been neglecting it like I have? What is the self care you need to practice? (Feel free to literally tell me in the comments) If you’re not practicing much self care at all, or worse, like I have been doing – you are being self destructive (even if mildly), how about doing one thing for yourself today that you know will help you feel better and stronger that you’ve been neglecting to do? Don’t worry about ALL THE THINGS you should be doing, how about just do ONE thing today that you haven’t been doing?

Today I got up, grabbed my cup of coffee, and headed upstairs to my computer to write a post. A post that isn’t about death, or politics, or the hatred that’s consuming the world. I wrote about the thing I did yesterday that made me feel so much better for a little while. And in doing so, I have (today) done something else that I’ve neglected for so long I don’t even recognize myself anymore – I wrote a post before doing anything else. No matter what else I do today (or don’t do), I will have done something today that I need to do every day.

About the writing – I believe that all writers (and I believe this is true of all artists) sometimes must go through fallow periods. Periods of time when they aren’t writing but are just experiencing life. You have to recharge your writing brain. It used to be that I would write at least a blog post or a journal entry every single day even if I wasn’t writing poetry, non-fiction, or fiction. It was a discipline that kept my writing muscles flexed. But regardless of whether or not you continue to write little journal entries, there are periods of time where you must let ideas germinate, or invite new ones in by going out and doing things and getting out of your head. Just as fields must lie fallow to rest in order to regenerate and be able to support more demanding plants in a later season or year.

But I have lain fallow long enough. It is now unhealthy for me to continue to eschew the writing. I have to find my way back. But I can only think about today or I’ll crumble. Today I wrote.

Brace Yourself For Impact

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I present to you a windblown blurry selfie – my favorite affectation. I took this on the way to my brother’s memorial, already 12 25 days ago. Time is the weird mean bitch who used to bully you until you swore vengeance upon her and then forgot to actively visit vengeance upon her, but who you eventually scared the fuck out of (unintentionally) by cross-dressing and not caring about her opinion at all.

I wanted to write about the memorial but then I got desperately sad and wrote a desperately sad post instead. I realize that all this desperate sadness is part of the process of grieving. I’m listening to Madonna right now, that’s part of it all too. God help us all if I crank up Journey, though, nothing could make my brother turn in his “grave” faster than a big-ass Zeke tribute set to “Forever Yours”. He’ll forgive me for Madonna because she’s not Journey.

This is not a tribute post. This is not a sad post. This is not a desperate post. This is not a lot of things.

I used to read that Capricorns are late bloomers to most things in life. I think we can confirm this statement for at least one Capricorn. I have a small declaration to make since I have (so far) not killed myself or been killed by: a serial killer, influenza, arsenic poisoning, Ebola, the awesome power of crystals, typhoid, smallpox, recluse spider bite, fright, agent orange, the common cold, dismemberment, fungal infection, the government, septicemia, star-crossed love, math, microorganisms, KALE, undecided voters, solar heat, syphilis, bad poetry, the flagrant vagaries of soup, or by the dreadful weight of sleep.

(The declaration is coming and doesn’t deserve such a big build-up)

I know there will be times when I’ll still want to kill myself (or at least to die suddenly), because that’s part and parcel of my mental illness and I accept that this is not something I get to shake off like it never was. This is a completely irrational fact of my life and I accept that this urge will come and go.

But I would like to make a declaration of intent, (if I may be so bold), and it doesn’t matter what fate or god or randomness (whatever you believe) has in store for me:

I want to get reasonably old. Just know that in spite of this wild encroaching darkness I’m constantly having to push back I want to grow old because I’ve been a late bloomer for everything in life and I believe, I truly believe, that I will make the most kick-ass old woman and I want the opportunity to prove this. So, when you hear me get sucked down into the darkness and I start talking like I want to go to sleep and wake up when it’s time to die, know that this is not my true fierce spirit talking but my mental illness rearing its difficult head. Let’s not call it ugly, this part of me, this part of so many people I love and respect. Let’s just acknowledge that sometimes our core being, or core self is superseded by our physiognomy against our will. Let’s just accept that our bodies and minds sometimes come ill-equipped for this particular earthly existence.

I was born old and have been getting progressively younger and more hopeful as I age*. I want to get old enough to surprise everyone in a way I wasn’t equipped to do when I was young and fresh-faced.

But listen, if I don’t get to age like I hope, don’t be sad for me. Don’t be so sad for me, at least, that cheese can’t reach you in that sorrow. I’m telling you my hopes, not my certainties.

I always thought my brother would die first between us three siblings. I wasn’t wrong. But I didn’t imagine he’d die of a heart attack. I thought he’d die in some crazy scrape he’d got into. The only real shock is that I’d started to think I was wrong. I’ll tell you what, you can’t take anything for granted. I didn’t need my brother to die to learn this. I always knew this.

(Shhhhhhh – I totally put “I’m Forever Yours” on!)

OH MY GOD, NOW YOU ALL KNOW I SOMETIMES LISTEN TO JOURNEY ROCK BALLADS.

(Pfft! You. Did. Not. Know. This. Fucker.)

(I promise I disrespect Steve Perry’s mustache attempts as well as all those mom-jeans and sleeveless shirts they wore – while simultaneously appreciating that dude’s voice and the rock ballad tradition that – SHUT THE FUCK UP, YOU MAY ALL GO FUCK YOURSELVES RIGHT NOW YOU BLOWHARDS)

Edwardian paper dolls, lemon and lime essential oils, David Bowie and Bonnie Tyler 45’s, sharply cut crystals, gold lame sports coats, Earl Grey tea, cigarettes, bleach, reaching deep into the icy Lithia waters to pull out drowned cignets, talking to the park benches… I mean talking ON the park be- fuck it – talking to the park benches and the pinchy tight moon from the merry-go-round that never stops. These are the memories rising to the surface tonight.

This is windblown me. My best self. The only self I want you to notice. I am invisible outside the wind machine, in the darkness of the stairs lifting people so far above the park of my remembrance that the only thing left of the time is the lingering slatternly scent of Paris perfume splashed against the leather Mercedes car seats striped with the the spare rigid lights of I-5.

Brace yourselves for impact.

 

*You mention Brad Pitt and I’m going to clock you, bastard!

 

When I was a ghost I was very small.

When I was very small I never told anyone’s secrets.

Except to the shrew in the rock-wall holding the roots of the bay tree together.

Got a lotta ghosts clinging hard to my bones in hopes of finding new digs.

I’m an empty house with no ladder for anyone to climb up into the light.

I remember the taste of wild berries in the cold wet smoky woods eaten under a rain saturated nylon tent through which the moon was distorted and diffused beyond recognition.

Don’t mind the blood here, I was born with my insides out.

I wish we could go back to Lithia Creek without the bruises.

My Advice To You, Old Thing

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My advice to you, old thing, is to never stop digging for Roman coins and arrowheads in the fallow fields. Never stop chasing butterflies or running from bees under the hot gold light of late afternoon. Never stop calling the Jerusalem crickets up from the center of the earth or we all might get too comfortable and cease to peddle the earth round in its necessary orbit. Never stop mapping the stars with your amateur telescope or we might all fall from the sky like deflated polyester clowns.

My advice to you, old thing, is to float your goddamn boat among the crowded crocodile waters without flinching or waving, like you’ve always done, hiding in the obvious infested waters until the cavalcade of teeth has gnashed itself so thin you can swim in your smooth fragile skin without a scratch to the island with the best coconuts. To the island of drums and gongs with no repercussions. To the island where your pale skin never burns and the sands always catch your bones in soft protective squalls.

My advice to you, old thing, is to play the whole song out to the bitter end. This is the place where golf balls disappear into the ether, the place we want to look but can’t even reach with flesh and bone because it’s two inches past the living. This is the place where Barbie dolls are abandoned for sick crowns of dense brush pocked with burrs that will bite into our skulls so hard we’d trade our souls to escape the pain. But those who hold fast, who play out the whole song to the bitter end, they’re the ones who reap the truth, the ones who will get to sleep the good sleep.

My advice to you, old thing, is to let your shackles crumble down around your spirit, let go, let it all fucking go now and don’t carry anything with you to your new life. You’ve watched attics burst into flame, you’ve felt citadels of trust crush down into layers of pain so bad you couldn’t speak of it again but in dissected parts. You invested in the silence like you invested in other people’s hopes and dreams. The truth kept coming, kept coloring your walls, your film, your canvas, your wheels. Let it all go now, let it all drift off like rain evaporating in the hot dry valley of death.

My advice to you, old thing, is to know the worth of your bones to those who are still living. The weight of them in our arms is heavier than the whole of the earth without you in it.

Blood is the Dual Source of Life and Strife

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I’m not sure what the statute of limitations is on realizing fresh that someone you loved will never walk through your door again and being abjectly sad about it. I’m tired of it already. But every time my life starts to feel almost normal again I realize it’s because for a second I forgot my brother is dead.

Then my brain chants “my brother is dead my brother is dead my brother is dead my brother is dead” and I want to shout this at everyone around me and I want all this to be over with. How people deal with loss like this over and over and over again is a huge dark mystery to me. One I know will visit itself upon me if I don’t die before everyone else at this point.

I’ve known many people who’ve died, folks, but I’ve never felt this way about it before. No anger, no feelings of unfairness or anything like that. This shit happens every day, and yet, this time it’s my brother and a part of me is also dead because of it.

This is the story of life, right? Everything about it is normal, rational, ordinary, and necessary. We all gotta do this thing where we let go of our skin and bones and become something new. Air, maybe, dust probably. We feed the fishes or the flowers or we pollute them with all the chemicals we’re pumped full of if we’ve been embalmed in the modern way. This is not an ad for ecologically sound burial practices, but it could be. My brother was cremated without being filled with toxins first.

I don’t want to cry any more. I know I’m going to cry some more. I know this is normal for most people. This is the story of loss. Our feelings erupt out of us at inopportune moments, we jockey for privacy and concealment in grief because it’s uncomfortable for everyone.

Zeke’s memorial is this Saturday and I’m terrified of it. I’m so tired of grief and realizing at weird moments that he’s dead, as though I hadn’t totally realized it before and my brain chants “my brother is dead my brother is dead my brother is dead my brother is dead my brother is dead” until I want to give myself an Appalachian lobotomy*.

It’s only been a month and a few days. Pretty fucking fresh still.

I love that my brother and I shared a taste for taking candid and distressing pictures of ourselves bleeding.

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I have so many pictures like this I’m too tired to search for. Me bleeding. Anything bleeding. The Scenes my kid has left me to find where I’m looking for bodies stuffed in closets because of the giant pools of blood spatter he leaves me courtesy of his epic bloody noses. We both loved to take pictures of the underbelly of life. Around us, but also using ourselves as absurd disturbing subjects.

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There’s a great photograph of Zeke sitting on a toilet outside with his pants down and smoking a cigarette. I love it. I don’t have a copy of it, but I cherish it because it captures his enjoyment of the natural theatrics and humor of life without an impeding vanity.

I admit that I will take a hundred selfies to get one that’s flattering. That’s vanity. But I also have taken and shared a million unflattering pictures of myself for the humor of it. Life’s a stage, so have fun with it and with yourself. Take yourself too seriously and you miss so many opportunities to let go and laugh, to discover and rediscover and then dig graves for our ability to revel in the ridiculous.

I’m not crying right now, for anyone who’s curious. I’m listening to Bob Dylan while I write this and am simply enjoying counting the things I had in common with my brother.

I have other brothers I will never know the same way.

I don’t have room to be sad about that right now. If any of them were to seek me out and want to know me I would throw my arms open to them, my world of little brothers, but I am separated from them by an expanse larger than mere oceans.

I truly thought I would be able to handle this mourning better than I actually am.

I’ll tell you what, though, it’s constant balm to me to know how deeply loved my little brother was by so many people.

I have to believe that he always knew, his whole life, how much I loved him because I never lost an opportunity to tell him and show him. Except between 1987 and 1989. I have to believe that he knew there was never a moment I didn’t value him and love him and wish I was cool enough to spend time with him outside the family paradigm. I wasn’t. He never chose to spend time with me outside the family paradigm.

It’s okay, it’s alright.

Goodnight.

 

*A quarter of my ancestors were uneducated Irish Appalachians so fuck you if you feel all offended. My mountain people were ignorant and seriously unhappy people who enjoyed visiting their misery on others almost for sport. So fuck them too.

Flowers and Coffee are Good Things

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It’s so easy at times like this to feel like everything in my life is shit, that the universe hates me, that I’m doomed and that diseases are settling into my body and will kill me soon but only if I don’t get murdered first.

It’s time to count the good things in my life:

The mourning doves in my neighborhood. Especially the one that just sat on the wire I can see from my office window who kept looking at me and I really think he was conveying a message of peace because I felt calmer looking at him and talking to him. I love the sound of doves cooing.

The butterflies and humming birds that have visited the garden this week. This year’s garden is the best year yet for attracting beneficials and growing beautiful flowers of all kinds. The health of a garden can be measured by how much life is thriving in it.

My immediate family. They’re my favorite people even when they drive me nuts.

Max (SO FAR) seems to be navigating teen-hood at an even steady healthy pace. His teen years up to this point have been much easier and mellower than his toddler and kid years. By a lot. I’m so thankful how well he’s taking it that we don’t go out much and can’t buy much extra stuff. And he’s finally getting out of the house to hang out with friends in real life after school and on some weekends. While it feels scary to me, it’s incredibly healthy.

Coffee. Fair trade coffee.

Kittens. Thank god for kittens. I mean, such cuteness is healing.

I’d list some more good things but it’s getting hot already and I need some food. Anyway, what good things are in your life right now?

 

Self Loathing is a Sneaky Bastard

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Last night I saw a milk commercial where a woman eats a bowl of super spicy meat chili and the idiot voice-over says “GOT MILK?”. This is going to haunt me forever. MILK AND MEAT CHILI IS A LEVEL OF DISGUSTING I NEVER IMAGINED FROM AMD’S* AND NOW WILL NEVER FORGET.

What if cows had domesticated humans instead of the other way around? I’m picturing a  bull sitting down in a bucolic field to eat a big bowl of spicy human baby stew and suddenly realizing what he really needs is to also have a big-ass glass of the human milk that fed the baby he’s eating…

Last night I made a really amazing eggplant Parmesan that really wasn’t eggplant Parmesan at all because I didn’t fry or bread the eggplant, there was no mozzarella, and no Parmesan (except for what I sprinkled on top, and believe me when I tell you that I used mad restraint which isn’t normal for me). I broiled eggplant rounds that I brushed with mustard vinaigrette dressing until they were tender. Then I sandwiched soft ricotta cheese between slices of eggplant, covered with a homemade simple marinara sauce, and cooked until bubbling hot.  It was so good. So simple, not especially fattening, and so delicious. Tomato season is coming to a close and I have canned and frozen no tomatoes and that sauce was the only batch of homemade sauce I’ve made all summer. I also made no pickles.

Yesterday was the first official day of fall. The morning was wonderful and perfect – sunny but with a crisp cool fall breeze. It made me feel buoyant! But then it got hot like summer in the afternoon and it’s going to be in the 90’s all weekend. Typical California September weather. In spite of the weather, I’m so happy to live here. The question of whether or not Philip is willing to relocate for work came up and the answer was a resounding NO.

I have plantar fasciitis. It’s horrible. Just another stupid foot problem.

It hasn’t even been a month since Zeke died and it still feels alien to say that. If his ashes and bone bits weren’t in a box in my mom’s unit I might think it was all just another one of my dreadful nightmares. But they ARE there. I held what’s left of my brother’s earthly body in a box that came to us in the mail (which I had to sign for, a detail that only bothers me because you sign for parcels, not bodies) and it was heavier than I expected. I was overwhelmed by a more terrible sadness than I had already been feeling.

I understand so much more about grieving now than before. It takes time for your brain to adjust to the facts. You know what’s real, you know death is natural and happens every day, you don’t deny that it’s happened to someone you love. But you still have to adjust your world view to include the new fact that a person you love is no longer IN the world with you. It comes in waves and sometimes it catches you unpleasantly by surprise.

Another weird thing is the envy I’ve been feeling about all the people who got to spend more time with Zeke than me. As I read people’s stories about him in memorial messages I have felt envious and I didn’t expect that. I was not a person Zeke chose to spend much time with. I was a familial obligation. I know he loved me, but so many people got to have him in their daily lives and were closer to him than I got to be. Even Tara spent so much more time with him as an adult than I did. There’s nothing to regret in this. It’s just a fact. We lived very different lives and I was just his big sister. And not a particularly fun one.

Goddamn. I don’t know why I’m suddenly filling with self loathing. While a totally familiar feeling, it’s out of place right now. But then, everything is, isn’t it?

Now is a time to focus on little things. Like potting up a new rosemary plant. Like making good nourishing fresh food. Like continuing to take one step at a time towards building a successful business and not giving up. Like spreading wildflower seeds in the garden, different ones than last year. Self care is doing little positive things for yourself every day. They add up. They really do. So keep doing them, everyone.

*Adult Milk Drinkers

Vampire Facelift

vampire facelift

The amazing thing is that this makes sense to someone in a professional medical capacity. Only in Los Angeles!

I’m trying to get back into the usual flow of life but I’m not sure I had a particularly good flow of life going on in the first place. I got derailed in my efforts on Friday to regain any sense of normalcy when the postman delivered my brother in a box. Holding that heavy box and knowing it’s the weight of all that’s left of my brother’s body was awful. It’s a totally matter-of-fact thing that I didn’t think I’d have such a hard time with. Intellectually I don’t, but holding it made me break down. My mom and Philip also broke down. Then we made an altar around the box of remains and felt a little better.

On Saturday I spent most of my day developing an aromatherapy blend for grieving to put in the diffuser my mom brought home from Zeke’s bedroom, a new addition to Zeke’s life given to him by his best friend Jen Jo. Against nearly all recommendations for grieving blends, we decided we liked jasmine better than rose damask for the floral middle note. Rose is the one single essential oil that is in nearly every single blend recommended for grieving. I love rose damask but my mom and I found the jasmine more uplifting and over-all more effective for our own feelings of grief and loss. So I now have an essential oil blend for grieving which, once I have labels, I will package and put in my shop for sale for others who may need the same support we do.

Yesterday I knew I needed to get moving on my Sugar and Pith work. I have a mailing list to put together, products to make, lotions to perfect, and farmer’s market applications and samples to package up. So. I sat on the couch for a really long time because it was a thousand degrees out and that’s stupid. I was angry with the weather but lacking the energy to do anything about it.

Finally I cleaned the kitchen, cooked some tomatoes down for sauce, and got to work on my lotion trials. Mostly because I really need lotion and it’s ridiculous to buy some more when I have all the ingredients to make my own and a fair amount of skill by this time. Skill is what I wanted to perfect, though. I made three new batches. The first one was just as weird texturally as all my previous batches. I mean, the stuff goes into the skin wonderfully well and is awesome but it looks weird like overwhipped cream. Which, I believe is exactly what the problem was. So I spent my late afternoon and evening developing my lotion-making skills. I’m almost there.

Then I ate an entire medium sized pizza. Fucking gluttony.

Here we are at Monday and I feel as low energy as ever. Still no jobs in this house (I have resumed looking for work, though I scarcely see how I will find anything decent that I can do with my bum foot and lack of uber-specific super-powers every employer demands and seems to think they’ll find) and Philip is working his ass off looking for a good job. Lots of recruiter action, no interviews. Well, there’s a phone interview today but for a job he probably won’t get hired for and can’t actually commute to.

I continue to watch episodes of Poirot all day long. I think I’ll rewatch some Miss Marple today. But first, I think I better go water the front yard. It threatens to be another scorcher today. Boooooo. I better go shower and water the yard before I sink too deeply into this physical and mental malaise brought on by extreme monetary stress and horrible sadness.

At least I’ve got kittens!

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How’s That Grief Coming Along?

Mom Zeke and Tara in Portland

While I was in Los Angeles with my mom, sister, and Ezekiel’s roommate and best friend, his being dead was surreal and visceral. I knew it was real because we were going through his things and everyone around me kept crying (myself included a few times) and we had to arrange for his cremation. After four days of intense shock and grief I was ready to come home and not think about my brother’s death every waking moment of the day. So I watched every youtube episode of the Great British Bake Off I could find (WHY THE FUCK CAN’T I FIND EPISODE 4 OF SEASON 4?!) and re-watched nearly every episode of Poirot ever made (EXCEPT THE LAST ONE WHICH SUCKS). My sister went home. Life kind of returned to sort-of normal-ish.

I started feeling like maybe it was all a dreadful nightmare and my brother might drop by at any time toting some chardonnay or cheap beer since we can’t be trusted to have such things on hand. I didn’t see him that often anyway, so it’s not unusual that he’s gone. So how can it be much different than him being gone now?

To keep things more real my brain launched itself into an obsessive thought mode. It sounds like this in my head:

Remember when my brother wasn’t dead? My brother’s dead. My brother’s dead. My brother’s dead. My brother’s dead. I liked it better when my brother wasn’t dead. My brother’s dead. I will never see my brother again. My brother’s dead. (On seeing someone pass by my house I resist the urge to shout “Hey, my brother’s dead!”) Zeke’s dead. (Philip walks into the room and I say “remember when Zeke wasn’t dead?” He remembers.) My brother’s dead. My brother’s dead. My brother’s dead. (Resists urge to post this all over social media because everyone already knows my brother is dead and it’s a bummer to be reminded again and again of someone’s recent loss and also – it makes you look like you might not be handling it well) I’ll never see Zeke again. My brother’s dead. My brother’s dead. My brother will still be dead tomorrow. My brother’s dead. My brother’s dead. Etc…

So it dawns on me that maybe part of me doesn’t totally accept that he’s dead and my brain is there to make sure I remember it and swallow it and deal with it every waking minute of the day.

Self-inflicted lobotomies aren’t recommended.

I can’t seem to stop my brain from saying obvious stupid shit like “All of my life up until now, Zeke wasn’t dead”

The problem with saying something a million times is that at first you may be pounding a truth home into your psyche, but eventually words repeated too many times in succession lose meaning. (Say baboon really fast 20 times in a row and tell me if it doesn’t start to sound extra weird and meaningless)

At least we didn’t find any porn among his things or on his computer.

But really, death is something that happens to millions of people every single day. It’s the only thing more inevitable than birth. You might not be born, but if you’re born, you WILL die. The blessing for me is that I’m not tortured by the concept of heaven or hell or reincarnation or the belief that there’s a reason we’re born and a reason we die and that somehow our death is connected to the quality of our virtue. I don’t have to sit around worrying about the state of Ezekiel’s soul. The state of his soul was never anyone’s business but his own.

The fact that millions of people die every day means that millions of people are grieving every single day, same as I am right now. That’s kind of awe-inspiring. This grieving experience is something most of us who are living will share in common at some point.

Being born into this world comes with a tremendous amount of baggage. And once you’re in it, there’s only one way off the planet, death.

I find these thoughts soothing to some degree. Death is what it is. So if it starts feeling normal that my brother’s dead and I will never see him again, it’s just because it IS normal. It doesn’t mean he’ll ever be forgotten or that his time here wasn’t remarkable (because it was). It will just mean that I’ve accepted what is incontrovertible and have decided to mentally and emotionally move forward through the grieving process.

How To Grieve For Me When I Die

Union Station

Here’s a handy guide on how to confidently grieve for me when I die:

What stories are you allowed to tell or not tell?

Tell the stories you remember of me as honestly as you remember them. Share any bits and pieces of my life in photographs that you want to, that intrigue you or inspired you, or even that weirded you out. I do not care. I will be dead and will have no opinion on such matters. Don’t lie about my faults or pretend I was a better friend or sister or mother than I was. If you do I will definitely have opinions about it and stick around to haunt you miserably. Only the truth will set my spirit free.

No, but really, even share the stories that make me look pathetic?

Some people will remember terrible things about me. That’s okay, I have never pretended there aren’t terrible things about me to say. I peed on a bus once. At one time in my life that was a shameful secret that only my friend Carrie knew. There were circumstances, but it’s still a horrible memory. One day I started telling that story out loud to people and I’m not ashamed any more. It happened. Life is ugly. Life is complicated. Life is a big shit-pile of problems with a tiny soupcon of happiness to make you think it’s all worthwhile. A lot of life is funny if you have a dark sense of humor.

Don’t let anyone censor the way you grieve for me, and if you’re not grieving but are really happy I’m dead then what the fuck are you doing reading this anyway you asshole? I probably hated you too, so fuck off.

To sum it up:

When I die I don’t want to ever be talked about untruthfully to preserve some sense of dignity I never had while I was living. If you would have said something about me when I was a alive, then it’s probably okay to say it when I’m dead. Even if you would have said it to someone else rather than to my face, when I’m dead I won’t have a face so, samesies.

What about all my earthly possessions?

The idea of my family going through all my clothes piece by piece kind of creeps me out. I know they’ll need to do it. But it still creeps me out. So no one need wonder how I would feel about it if I were still alive. Philip and Max are my heirs and all decisions about my things are theirs and only theirs to make and though I know Philip is an incredibly generous person and will most likely let you have things of mine as mementos (and I’m fine with this, up to a point) if he decides to burn all my shit on the top of a mountain, everyone else will just have to deal with it. Hopefully he’ll remember he needs a permit for that. But I won’t have to worry about it because I’ll be dead.

Also – I will dislike it if people get too attached to my possessions or attach too much importance to them as a proxy for memories of me. I’m gone, hopefully not coming back, my things are not me. My things are just things. Okay? You can hold on to some of my things, but don’t attach too much importance to them is all I’m saying.

Corporeal disposal is such a nuisance!

I want to be cremated the cheapest way possible OR I want to be buried naturally with no chemicals in one of those nature preserves where it’s legal to do so but only IF we (haha) can afford it.

I do NOT want my family viewing me unless it’s necessary for identification purposes like if I was murdered or befell something terrible making this necessary. I will be dead and looking worse than my worst hair and skin day while I was alive. That’s the only vanity I claim in being dead.

If any part of my dead body is healthy enough to donate – DONATE MY HEALTHY PARTS before burning the rest. But, you know, good luck with that.

How about a big-ass funeral parade with a giant portrait of myself done up in bright carnations set up in the back seat of a Cadillac all holding up traffic!?

No thanks for a big funeral procession. When I was younger I did fancy something really cinematic because it was more fun to imagine than a simple cremation and a shabby gathering in a rec center afterwards to eat pre-made grocery store cheese plates.

I don’t care about a memorial. I will not feel uncherished if there is no memorial. But if you feel you have to have a memorial and you make it the least bit fancy, then I insist that there be kittens present. Also, if there is a memorial, please come fully clothed. And NO camel toes. Seriously. I’m also very clear about this:

ABSOLUTELY NO MOOSE NUTS

(The blessing of dead people is that they have no opinions and it’s best not to imagine what they would think or feel because if they actually could tell you, you might find it annoying or even burdensome)

What to do with my writing and photographic legacy (such as it is):

Do not publish anything of mine that was unfinished or in a first draft state or in a notebook. You can take and share pictures of anything I’ve scribbled but do not formally publish anything like that.

(As I’m writing this I have the full intention of burning all my early notebooks and diaries because they depress the shit out of me, so if for some reason I still haven’t done that, bear in mind that it’s Philip’s fault they still exist and if you really want to do me a favor, burn them without looking at them. However, if you don’t do this, just don’t fucking publish anything from them officially. Such tedious and depressing crap! And those poems about Jesus will really shock most people who knew me.)

What I leave unfinished must be left unfinished. You can reprint anything I’ve printed or that was finished and is awesome. My family may make money off of me posthumously with my full blessing, but, you know, good luck with that.

You can make really inappropriate jokes about me, my death, any services going on in honor of my death, or literally anything. It will undoubtedly be way more interesting than anything else being said. But nothing of a sexual nature or I will definitely stick around long enough to learn how to fling a lamp at you from beyond the grave.

Don’t anyone say I’m going to heaven or any of that bullshit when you know for a fact I don’t believe that shit exists and if I’m wrong and it does exist? I AM NOT HEAVEN MATERIAL AND YOU KNOW IT. But seriously, life on earth is pretty hellish so I figure I’ve already done my time and am ready to fully not exist on any plane. If I have to get reincarnated though? I want to come back as a chunk of mineral buried deep in the earth’s crust.

Lastly, how to best honor my memory when I’m gone:

Shed light into the dark every chance you get. Be as honest with yourself and with others as you can. Cultivate kindness and empathy. Be as generous a person as you can. Except with your avocados, obviously, hoard those motherfuckers with razor-wire. Cultivate forgiveness for others*. And forgive yourself for being human because that’s something you can’t change in this lifetime. Those are the things I care most about, that I’m working on all the time.

I feel confident now that you all have perfect clarity about how to deal with my death when it happens and can avoid any awkward discussions about what I would or would not want. You may reference this at any time unless Philip lets this domain name lapse. I highly suggest you all come up with your own guidelines on how you want people to grieve for you.

*I’m working on this AT THIS VERY MOMENT. Forgiveness doesn’t require you to allow a person to stay in your life who’s hurt you or done wrong by you, it’s about recognizing fallibility and not letting past bad deeds done to you eat away at your heart and your spirit. It’s about letting go. It’s hard and it’s very important. Sometimes it takes a lot of time.

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