Category: Writer’s Desk

all about writing, words, fiction, writing projects

Who’s Your Gatekeeper: Writer’s Edition

Sometimes I swan around with a pen in my mouth not unlike a writer might.

Today I saw a quote attributed to a writer, shared by a different writer, and then commented on by a bunch of writers.  Here’s the magical gem itself:

Writer’s block? I’ve heard of this. This is when a writer cannot write, yes? Then that person isn’t a writer anymore. I’m sorry, but the job is getting up in the fucking morning and writing for a living.

I’m not actually going to say the person’s name to whom this quote is attributed.  I will only refer to him as “him” or possibly “that crusty old knob”. This quote definitely got a reaction out of almost everyone who read it.  I found this quote (by an author I’ve never heard of) revolting on so many levels I felt compelled to dust off Ye Olde Bloggenfort to unpack the misery of the above statement.

Let’s open this fucker up with the first nugget of shit it’s composed of:  the dismissal of writer’s block as simply the choice to write or not write, evidence of laziness basically. No writer chooses to have writer’s block, to sit down to their desk again and again to find that the conduit between their thoughts and the page has been broken, damaged, or become blocked up. Typically, when a writer experiences this enough times in a row they become so frustrated with the shit that’s coming out that they take a break to clear their head. Then they come back again and hope they’ve shaken off the dust and unclogged the pipeline of clear thinking to workable words on a page. Sometimes it’s just a blip. You shake it off and get back to the work.

But sometimes this continues on for such extended periods that a writer begins to doubt themselves, starts listening to all kinds of suggestions for getting their word skills back that they were sure they used to have. Sometimes it’s the story they’re trying to tell that’s the problem and maybe if they work on something else for a while and come back to the stuck story later they’ll be able to sort it out. Sometimes it’s the life all around them that’s blocking up the brain-pipes. Writers write, but they also have lives outside the words and also bodies that can become injured, ill, or exhausted caring for other injured or ill bodies that fall within the realms of their responsibility. Other things that can clog the conduit of brain-to-page flow is emotional or mental issues.

That Old Crusty Knob of a writer is saying that you must sit down to the page every day and fuck you and your troubles. Real writers power through no matter what and suck it if you become deathly ill – didn’t write this morning? I’M SORRY BUT YOU MUST HAND IN YOUR WRITER CARD AT ONCE BECAUSE YOU ARE NO LONGER PRIVILEGED TO CALL YOURSELF A WRITER. What a cuntish thing to suggest. The only part that old crusty knob gets right, in my opinion, is that if you want to make a living out of writing you can’t simply wait to be in the mood or hope for inspiration to move words out of your head and onto the page when and if they do. It’s true that you need to write on a regular and consistent basis because you can’t sell what you haven’t written. However, that’s a very simplistic way of looking at this writing life.

I wrote nearly every day from the time I was 10 years old until I gave birth to my son when I was 30. I filled a hundred notebooks with poems and essays and attempts at fiction. I submitted many poems to periodicals. I published my own crappy little zine of poems. I did not get published through those efforts. I did not get paid a penny. I had only flashes of brilliance mixed in with a whole lotta slosh. But I sat down every fucking day and I wrote and I got better at it every day. For twenty years. TWENTY YEARS. I was 23 years old when I decided to tell people I was a writer. That’s when I realized that it didn’t matter if I got published, or paid, or known. I might die an unsuccessful writer but at 23 years old I stopped letting anyone be my writing gatekeeper. I write. I am writer.

But like I said, after my son was born I tried to keep writing and found myself dried up inside. I had plenty going on inside my head that I was desperate to get onto a page but every time I sat down to get them out they evaporated like meager drops of sweat hitting the hot rocks in Death Valley. What came out was a pale reflection of my previous ability to put what was in my head onto the page. I still sat down to write and tried day after day until it became so frustrating and demoralizing that I just gave up for months. That was my first bout of writer’s block and it was awful. Losing that conduit from the mess of my loud brain to the clarity and satisfaction of the page made me feel like I’d lost a vital function of myself. But I was still a writer. I was a writer who suddenly couldn’t write a decent sentence. I played that game where you just get words on the page and worry about making them good later in edit stage. You can’t edit what you haven’t written, after all. But I couldn’t even get editable shit on the page.

Here’s what I realized much later as I eased my way back to language: the brain is a fertile field that can be worn down hard by too many crops that deplete it to the point where nothing grows in it any more. Some writers are good at frequently replenishing their brain fertility by reading books, watching movies, walking in nature, traveling, doing other creative things, or taking classes. But sometimes, even if you do this, you may find you need to let the writing fields go fallow. Maybe for a few days. A month. A year. There’s no right or wrong to it. There’s no good or bad to it. You don’t lose your writer’s card because there is no card that anyone can give or take away from you.

I’m going to also suggest that women experience a much harder time replenishing themselves while writing because, believe it or not, they are still the main caretakers of their children and partners and often ALSO have to work for income. We still don’t live in an equal world and I notice men find it much easier to shut their family responsibilities out so they can get their writing in and they have a greater expectation that their families will and should give them the space and time to do this. Even when women have really supportive spouses it’s difficult for them to shut out their family responsibilities to write. I did it to write my one finished novel and there’s no way in hell I would ever have finished writing my book (and then re-writing it over and over) if I hadn’t relegated much of the daily expectations my family had of me to my partner who did his best to give me the space I needed. It was hard on them and I’m not sorry I took the time and space I needed to finish my novel but I have ONE child and a supportive spouse, many women have multiple children and less than supportive spouses. Many women can’t do this without a great deal of guilt and push-back from everyone around them. So fuck anyone who doesn’t take into account that we do not all have equal situations, lives, experiences, spaces, monies, or time to write in.

Let’s unpack the other big hideous assumption the above quote makes: the assumption that every writer’s job is writing. Until you’ve broken through and already started making money with your writing you are most likely writing between other jobs that take up a lot of your time. For most people working towards a goal of writing for a living it’s a really tough balancing act that stretches resources and (as mentioned above) the needs of those in your life to the limits. The Crusty Knob who said that “the job” is sitting down to fucking write every morning is one who’s actually making money on his writing, so yeah, that’s now his actual job which is awesome. I don’t doubt for a single second that he worked his ass off getting to where he is. That is NOT in question. And most writers who make it commercially at some point put in a lot of writing time between other jobs and responsibilities and I am in no way saying you can achieve success as a writer without writing as often and as prolifically as your able to.

What I’m saying is that most writers aren’t making any money writing so writing is the dream job they’re working towards and not the actual job paying the bills and feeding the babies or dogs or self. We don’t all work at the same pace either. Even if every writer had all the time in the world and not a bill to pay, some writers can pump out books like a machine while others take a decade to finish a single book. Or a lifetime. I happened to take years to write a single book. I’ve finished exactly one book and it’s looking like I’ll have another one done possibly before I die. Maybe two if I live to be very very old. I’m envious of those friends of mine who finish a book a year or two books a year. Definitely jealous of them. But some people are jealous of my rapid pace of one book every decade or two.

We all have our own paces, our own processes, our own goals, and our own ideas about what success means to us. There is no right or wrong way to write and as long as you have put in a lot of time writing and working on your skills – taking your growth as a writer seriously – you’re a writer even when crossing a vast desert devoid of words. Once you’re a writer, you’re a writer. It isn’t just a “job”, it’s a passion and a driving force. If it wasn’t, writer’s block wouldn’t feel so much like a betrayal.

So let’s ditch The Old Crusty Knob’s entire quote now. Let’s toss it in the trash heap where it belongs and the next time you or I encounter another asinine opinion on writing like that, let it follow this one straight into the trash. Here’s what I want to put in its place: no one is the gate keeper to your writing life, your identity as writer, or your success as a writer except yourself.

There are enough challenges ahead of all of us who want to make a living being a writer without other writers breaking us down and telling us who we are or aren’t. I love listening to other writers talk about their processes, their struggles, their successes but I never want to be that voice that shuts another person’s dreams down.

I wrote reams and reams of poetry, short stories, and hideous attempts at novels and I became a writer doing it. Then I wrote blogs for years and even had an audience. Then I wrote and self published a novel that has gone exactly nowhere. I haven’t finished a single writing project for the last four or five years since I published my own novel because I seem to have been drained out in some way. I keep coming back to the page because I don’t know who I’d be if I didn’t still try to get words out. I might never finish writing another novel but I will be a writer til I die. Once you’ve become a writer inside yourself, once you know yourself to BE a writer, it ceases to be “the job” or even “the dream”, it becomes part of your identity as a human. I may die an unknown and unpaid author but I will die a writer.

I AM WRITER.

Spring is Nature Screaming

This is the oldening. The lightening. The darkening. The leveling and the simultaneous rupturing. Everything is at once in harmony while vibrating with disruptive discordance.

Spring is nature screaming hoarsely into a mosh-pit of fallen stars and unexpected moonbeams.

The landscape explodes with blooms and the warming trend expands the stench of decay that flies just underneath the radar of our fear, surprising us in our sleep with images we can’t erase and that are exquisitely gorgeous and equally terrifying in the way that sex and death smell the same when we’re being honest with ourselves in stark moments of truth.

The thick sick-sweet smell of life haunts me

The Elusive Feels

Right up front I’m going to say that every writer hopes to write stories, poems, novels, scripts, or non-fiction that emotionally engages their readers. It would be ridiculously disingenuous to suggest otherwise. I personally hope that whatever I write resonates with at least someone out there and hits some shared chord of truth.

If you’re a writer, you’re a reader first. As a reader the quickest way to eject me out of your work and abandon it is to make me aware that you’re trying to manipulate my emotions. To make me conscious of your words purposely attempting to steer my feelings and thoughts.

When I was ten years old I watched “Somewhere in Time” and was so moved I wrote a bunch of superiorly inferior tortured emotional poems inspired by the way that movie made me feel. I had the feels so bad I could have led a flotilla with my imaginary tears. I worked that lofty emotion to the bone with bad poems. That was the moment I first realized that writing could engage you so deeply that it could make you feel things for imaginary characters you’d never even felt in real life. Which, come on, is serious black magic!

Let’s take a moment to thank me for not subjecting any of you to my lofty early attempts to make people’s hearts heave with the sweeping love that only fiction knows. Because I still have that diary, my friends, I could accost you with ten year old endless love. But I’m kinder than that.

That sense of power that makes a person want to write is natural to feel in the early stages of writing. You want to make people bleed inside – scream – sigh – become better – believe that love is worth dying for – devolve into spiritless pools of darkness when the candy’s gone. Reading powerful poems, novels, stories, and non-fiction can change your perspective, your direction, your life.

But this is just the larval stage of writing. You realize the power of writing and are drunk with the possibilities. At some point you have to evolve into the next instar stage which is forgetting all about the potential readers in order to serve the narrative for the narrative’s sake. You have to dedicate yourself to developing the skill to tell a story with nuance, in layers. You have to be willing to shove ice-picks into the marrow of truth to see what emerges under the microscope of human experience.

In a totally unrelated analogy, readers are witnesses to a story and whether you’re the prosecuter or defender of the story – resist the temptation to lead the witness. Just tell the story.

A writer’s best asset is to be in touch with the magic of a life of reading. To remember all the ways my favorite books have made me think, grow, dream, escape, and sometimes make me exquisitely uncomfortable.  The best books didn’t bludgeon me with words that indicated I should be sad or mad or angry or happy. The stories unfolded and I was free to experience them organically, not always as others (and authors) might have expected.

Readers can tell when you’re trying too hard or when you haven’t tried hard enough. They can tell when you didn’t bother researching things and when you’ve become pedantic about details to a smackable degree. They know when you’re trying to lead them and know when you’re too lost to lead the narrative down a wide open street.

Mind your words. Mine your words.

You’ll never make me cry for trying, but if you care more about what your characters are experiencing than what I’m experiencing as a reader – I just might forget you’re there at all. That’s your truest mission (and mine) as a writer.

Whether you’re writing literature, fantasy, fiction, humor, non-fiction, horror, romance, or mystery – make your work truthful and authentic. Everything else will follow.

 

Angelina’s Key Tips for Women Desirous of Avoiding Being Murdered

Angelina’s Key Tips for Women Desirous of Avoiding Being Murdered:

Don’t be in parking lots after dark. If you have to be in a parking lot after dark, carry a menacing  hatchet and wave it about in an unpredictable manner.

Don’t trust any men you don’t know well who offer you rides anywhere, whose idea of fine dining is a dry potato and a Pepsi, who have inexplicable stains on their clothes, or who profess with great urgency that you can trust them.

Avoid marrying people who have a secret family in New Jersey.

Never leave a drink unattended in public.

Don’t trust old-timey mustaches.

When someone knocks on your car window at a deserted gas station pretend you didn’t notice and peel out of there on rubber fumes and never look back.

If the person you’re dating or are married to punches you or hits you once, the chances you’ll end up as a case on Forensic Files increases by about 100%. Get the fuck out and scream that motherfucker’s name as you do.

Don’t date a mulleted individual.

Don’t live in remote areas of Florida. Or anywhere in Florida, probably.

Ignore men who initiate conversations you’re not interested in because you owe no man fealty. You seriously have zero obligation to engage in uncomfortable conversations with anyone.

Take Kung Fu and take it seriously.

Never leave a club by yourself at 2 am.

Make sure you always keep abreast of the financial situation in your family. Get involved and never sleep on the job. Especially if your spouse has serial killer glasses.

This concludes Angelina’s key tips for women desirous of avoiding being murdered.

Creature of Dry Bone

I’m a creature of music in the minor notes. I’m a creature of shadow and dry bone. I clatter through the streets telling every leaf and every stone about the delicate moon rising, about the crickets hiding, about the sap collecting thickly at the base of all of our dreams. It’s here in the clavicle of darkness that we remake ourselves in the image of truth.

So let it be the face you recognize your soul in, let it be the person you hail on the darkest nights to answer your plea for refuge, for light. Let your truth be evident in your actions, your word, your everything.

I’m a creature of shorthand grief and operatic gestures thrown into the silent vacuum of space. I’m a creature of sudden snow and dirty slush. I cover the streets in metallic quiet but leave a residue of violins in my wake. You hear them but can’t remember their voice the second they stop. You go to sleep to the ghost of strings.

So let it be the music of the dreams guiding you forward through the turbid waters of disbelief into the quiet lake of your origin. This is where you know your own voice in the abyss, where there’s always a table set for you with your butchering knives and your sweat-damp napkins.

I’m a creature of desperate hours winding down into forgotten time. I’m a creature of my own imagination, perfect for this jagged screenplay cutting into every eddy and open wave with it’s devastating wit. I want out of the tide pool I’ve been driven into but I’m grounded here like the rock of Gibraltar, deep into the ocean floor where hell leaks up from the sand in poison gasses and we all pretend it’s air.

Long Shadows

The shadows are always long on this street of shame, surviving long past the age of consent and the age of forgiveness. The shadows here are wider and darker than the moon but thinner than your skin. Blue like veins and longing, perspiring the iris odor of death and regret. You can come home to this but you’ll never sleep to it.

I’ve measured the floor-space in my head and found it short three corners. I can thrash and punch out the borders here but I will always find myself leaning hard against limitations I live by but didn’t set. I will always find myself setting my watch to ghost revisions.

I can see everything that’s come to pass all at once like a collage of bad decisions, young hopes with only the surface left of them, and love that has no limits, no boundaries, no definitions, no rules to hem it in or discourage the natural mold of life attachments. It doesn’t make me sad. It doesn’t cause me regret. It was right just as it was, just as imperfect and messy as it was.

Those who’ve died, those who’ve hung on, we all have our place in this story. In this street of long shadows. We’ve all got our sarcophagus of doubt that we’re waiting for someone else to open to the light and fresh air. And we’ll wait a hundred years until we finally see that the someone else is ourselves grown a little wiser and little stronger than we used to be.

There’s a pocket universe for all of our unfinished works, our brilliance just about to break through our skin before we die. There’s a pocket universe where everything we could have become is recorded and notarized. Where every breakthrough we didn’t have time to express or experience is shared with sleeping souls, with dreamers and artists. With writers and wiseacres.

I have no yardstick with which to measure the time I’ve got left to write the things I need to write or to record the things I’ve observed. I have no yardstick with which to measure how much I’ve accomplished or how close I’ve come to being my best self. That self isn’t today. That best self might have already passed me by or it might yet become – but it isn’t now. It isn’t now.

My best self is never now.

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The Weight of Everyone

My brother’s fake glasses and me; a memoir.

I’ve built castles on crumbling foundations. I’ve written stories with leaking pens obscuring half the words I’ve choked onto paper. I’ve typed correct lists of awkward Nordic and Nerd names for soap opera characters on pages stapled together and stuffed into important desk files without labels. I’ve built ideals on the principle of not getting killed by serial killers. I’ve lived an ethos unconnected with the granite weight of real life. I’ve built paper houses on anthills full of fire. I’m not going to say any of it was easy, I never took an easy step in my life. I’m not going to say I ever reached for perfection, I never did a perfect thing my whole life.

I’m asking for more time for the first time in my life. I’m a fucking mess and I’m not quite ready to fix myself. Feels like I’ve got things to do first, ghosts to counsel, wrongs to consider, and I need my scaffolding left alone long enough to get there without breaking every bone in my body first. I never wanted more time before like I want it now. It occurs to me that this might be how every person about to die has felt throughout the history of humankind. Nothing special here, nothing new in this spyglass of mine looking across my imaginary kingdom of possibilities. I’ve never been less healthy in my life and never wanted more desperately to stay alive. You’d think this was where I rise up with my tracksuit and sweat and take back my heart, lungs, and liver. You’d think this was the moment in the movie of my life where I shoot my vascular system full of oxygen and glory.

It’s not. I’ve never been here before and I’m not okay. I’m writing a new script for my hopes and in it I get to live long enough to live longer because I haven’t finished my business here. There are people who need me to help hold the floods back, to help chain the devil to the cracking walls long enough for them to run to where not even God can find them. I’m the witness protection program for fallen angels, defunct carrier pigeons, and people like me.

I’ve built relationships on wooden prayer beads from homeless men collected at the corner of Seventh and Market Street when I was sixteen years old. I’ve built my philosophy on the shirtless backs of beetles that excavate living skeletons for rotted marrow. It’s how I see into human hearts through to the valves that pump even when the muscles cramp with sorrow. I see your sorrow and raise you an ache. I can extend you the promise that you’re going to live through this until you don’t. I am oracle. I am diminished hope. I am your everything at three in the morning. I’m what’s left of you after the floods.

I don’t want to die until I’m better than I am today. No one can help me. Can’t always get off the knees of this grief. Not when new souls lean onto them with the weight of love and sorrow before the old ones have taken flight. If they ever do. (They never do.) These knees crush under the weight of everyone’s story needing remembrance. I can’t hold everyone in here, can’t hold everyone so fucking high every day when my scaffolding is so crowded someone is always falling. I’m always falling off my own towers of faith.

 

 

Thinking about Ezekiel and Sonya tonight. Please, don’t anyone else I love die for a while, okay?

But Not Like This

A hundred times I’ve laid down in the middle of a dream and waited for it to finish lying to me and I hold my hand out to someone I don’t know who’s waiting for their dream to stop lying too. We always find each other. It’s like the worst prom in the world where everyone is chewing through the walls with chainsaws and knives and eventually the slow song ends and everyone waits in silence for the dust to settle before running to the exits in panic. I want to exit too, but not like this.

We is me and you and her and him and they and the everyone hanging out in the unknown dark waiting to emerge clean and new-baptized in their own skin to the truth that shines through them into the light where we all end up. But not like this, not like this.

Water rises over bridges, mountains fall down across plains. Spirits rise above bones, ashes fall down across memories like butterflies smothering tissue-thin blossoms. We reflect everything around us and everything reflects us back. I have clothed myself in black and chains, moving through your life recklessly like the thing you try to lock away but can’t keep hidden. You hate me because you hate yourself. I have clothed myself in wreaths of blossoms with my hair falling to my waist. You love me because I remind you of your young heart. I see it crushed, we all get crushed. But not like this, not like this.

I will give myself over to the light when it releases me from the shadows where I’ve grown taller than my fears. When it becomes more than what I’ve found in the dark. I’ll give myself over to the light when there aren’t any hard questions left, when I’ve run out of coins for this parking meter of lost souls. I will give myself over to the light when there’s a surfeit of love for the broken down queens of solace. When the richest see themselves reflected in the faces of the poor. I will give myself over to the light when it lays down for me first. But not like this, please, not like this.

 

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All Your Unasked Questions About Grieving Answered

(This picture is relevant because of concrete, or because of rain being something weird people associate with sadness. Whatever, I just like this picture and I bet no one wants to see more pics of my brother’s ‘human remains’ box.)

Angelina Answers ALL your Unasked Questions About Mourning Etiquette

Q: What is the right way to mourn?

There’s no such thing as a right or wrong way to grieve. There certainly are healthier versus more destructive ways to mourn and if you choose to drink yourself to oblivion I refuse to judge you but you can expect the people who love you to worry and maybe try to temper your choice. But that’s because they love you. If you were to ask my advice I would say to do your best to choose the healthiest ways of grieving that you can, but it’s okay to fall apart and it’s okay not to fall apart.

Q: My cousin is freaked out that he hasn’t seen me cry over my mother’s death, am I a creepy fuck?

To cry or not to cry… a tough dilemma for no one but idiots. Some people don’t cry when they lose someone close to them, it isn’t the more common reaction and will freak some people out. Feel free to ignore those bossy fuckers. Some people will cry constantly, some moderately, some will only cry on Tuesdays, and some just don’t cry. Sometimes you can’t actually see their hearts on their sleeves or in their throats. Sometimes they’re calm because their beliefs allow them to be and some people look calm but are being shredded with sorrow inside where it’s safe and private.

Q: Everyone thinks I’m a rubbernecker and insensitive because I want to know all the details about how ______ died, should I retire from society and live in a cave?

I’ve been fantasizing about living in a remote cave for over two decades, but not because the first thing I always want to know when I find out someone has died is HOW? It’s absolutely natural and normal. In fact, a lot of people want to know the details but a lot of people are taught that this is ghoulish and insensitive. It’s not. It’s an incontrovertible fact that we’re all going to die so it isn’t surprising that when other humans around us die we feel connected to it almost on an animal level. How’d they go? Was it painful? Could that happen to me? What does it LOOK like? In fact, it would be weird as shit if most humans had no curiosity about how the people around them are dying. However, sometimes the people closest to the death don’t want to share those details and that’s also normal. Don’t be offended if they choose not to satiate your curiosity, they may be feeling protective of their loved one in a way that you wouldn’t.

Q: I want to drape my house in black sashes, accept lots of lasagnas from neighbors, and wear nothing but lavender for two years but my neighbors won’t bake me lasagna because they’re scared of me now that my windows are covered in black and my mom won’t bring me lasagna cause she says I’m being melodramatic. What to do?

Sigh. I love lasagna. There’s nothing you can do about how others react to how you’re expressing your sorrow. The Victorians were obsessed with lavender as a mourning color and draping everything in black so I suggest you set up a fancy chair in your yard and wearing your very best lavender ensemble and visibly read something depressing like The Mill on the Floss or Madame Bovary (which I HATED). You might even consider enhancing your ensemble with a veil. If your neighbors think your show of grief is inappropriate, bizarre, or really bad theatre they can fuck right off. Your grief isn’t a show they get to direct.

Q: I just found out _____ died and I didn’t know them as well (or at all) as others do but I’m still having trouble dealing with it and I’m super sad. Am I allowed to be as sad as people who knew ____ better than me?

When David Bowie died I cried and then stayed up until 3am trying to process my sadness and then asked to stay home from work the next day so I could be sad without judgement or expectation. I didn’t know him personally at all but he made my life such a better place so I was deeply affected by his death. Being sad and having trouble accepting or processing a person’s death isn’t reserved just for the people who knew them super well. Your sorrow is real and you never have to apologize for it to anyone. Your sadness isn’t less important than anyone else’s.

Q: When my wife died I only felt better when I wore her underwear but then my kids found out and want to know if I’m a lot creepier than they used to think I was.

See the first Q, there is no wrong way to express grief or make yourself feel better. Is it hurting anyone? Is it hurting you? No? Carry on! I’m actually more worried that they seemed to have already thought you were creepy. Maybe you want to have a good talk with them, but in the end, if wearing your wife’s underwear is what helps you deal with her loss then you DO IT. For my own sake I’m going to assume they’re all freshly laundered. We all wore my brother’s hats when he died. I still wear one sometimes when I miss him.

Q: My mom wanted to throw out all of my dad’s things when he died. Is she some kind of sociopath? How could she not care about his things?

I don’t know if she’s a sociopath or not but I know that some people feel no attachment to a person’s effects when they die. For some people, when you’re dead your gone and your things aren’t going to bring you back or make them feel better. Some people feel a strong connection to the things that belonged to a loved one who’s died. It’s normal both ways. If you really want to know if she’s a sociopath I suggest searching through HER things to see if there’s any evidence of bed-wetting, dead pet carcasses in boxes, or secret fires. I hear those are the things to be worried about if you find evidence of all three.

Q: When my partner died all I wanted to do was fold myself up into a tiny little envelope of pain and roll down the river styx. Why can’t I do that? Why won’t anyone let me do that?!

Because people are selfish bitches and they don’t want you to fade away from them. Isn’t love stupid? But look, wanting to float away and ignore everyone around you is natural and okay. It really is. You aren’t actually obligated to think of other people’s feelings in your grief. But if you could bring yourself to check in with the people who love you enough so that they can give you the space you need without worrying so hard, you might find they try harder to understand and respect that the way you’re dealing with loss is the best way you know how.

 

If you find I haven’t answered ALL your unasked questions as promised, I’m afraid you’ll have to submit questions in order for me to answer them. Go ahead, give it a try!

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Can’t Fold the Day Away Like This

I can’t fold each day away as neatly as I need to, like starched sheets in a haunted hospital. I can’t turn the lights out on unfinished thoughts and unshed tears. I can’t brush this ache away that’s stretching itself out in my chest and filling my head with thin cobwebs of spent affection I have to lay on gravestones now. I can’t go to sleep with the trees bent double over your heart shedding leaves like tiny weightless bones. I can’t be done with today when it means I have to leave you where you cannot follow.

We collected souls like broken seashells we hoped to glue back together and send back into the big soup to swim to fresh shores where open coconuts and cool shade protect new life. We collected each other the same way and I see now what I couldn’t see before – that this was a contest of wills versus the great weight of sorrow filling every pore. I thought all I needed to do was give you a map of every person who loves you and you’d find your way back from the deep waves trying to swallow you whole.

You called last drinks while I was down. It wasn’t fair, but I can’t put up walls between us when we’ve been imprisoned in the same dark rooms. I don’t have it me to be angry at reflections of the darkest parts of my own spirit I’ve seen in you. I don’t have it in me to blame you for letting go of this godforsaken place. But your going means I have to fight harder, hold on tighter to the sinking ship this planet is because when one mother leaves the others must hug tighter the vulnerable, the lost, and the broken.

And what are you doing now? Watching us weep? Weeping with us? I don’t know where you are or what fire you’re breathing but you better be dancing, running, and catching assholes in your douche-net. I was going to say I expect more of you now than before. But this isn’t true, and we both know it. You’re free now of all expectations and service.

In ways I can never explain to the living we’re closer than ever before because now you’re everywhere I am, you’re everywhere I go, you’re everywhere I want to be. You’re there in my uncomfortable dreams and in the arch of my shoes. There’s nowhere you aren’t now. That’s the beauty that’s hard to hold onto when the heart is full of pain and loss. But just beyond it, you’re everywhere and we carry you through to the places your body has never been.

 

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