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

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.