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?

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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Take Your Own Arrows

cremains

I went to my first therapy intake in years the other day. All the hours of my life cried out to be seen and heard and accounted for. I’m never in therapy at my darkest moments so I come with some unintentional armor guarding my heart and my entrails. It takes so little to dent the anger-tempered metal.

It feels important to tell every psychologist that my dad once told me to vacuum the lawn and that though it filled me with doubt about the order of the universe I did it because I was too scared not to. The words always dry up in my throat because it’s ridiculous to tell anyone that I have, in true fact, vacuumed a lawn.

I know I could use a silent ear regarding Zeke’s death. I’m not sure what I can say when a thousand things are always trying to speak at once through me in a giant coagulating mess of noise. I miss him. I think the hardest thing is that I expected to die before him and yet, here I am. I would have taken every pain in his stead, but that’s not how life works. I have to take my own arrows, collect my own offal in pails arranged carefully under a thousand leaks in my body.

I believe our personal power and our greatest weaknesses always stem from the same source. The things that make us vulnerable also makes us strong. Perhaps I think of it in too simplified terms for some, but for me it comes down to the idea that light can’t exist without dark, that cold is meaningless without heat, and good has no context without bad. I even named my company after this concept; sugar and pith – the sweet and the bitter. I don’t believe in fairy tales because they’re obsessed with vanquishing the dark so that light can prevail, but morning is nothing without dusk. Fairy tales are incomplete stories, bastards of the truth which is ultimately more rewarding as well as devastating than fantasy.

I need a therapist to help me swim to the bubbling sunlit surface of water from a thousand feet deep in the alien darkness full of changelings and dancing muscles. Can therapists do that?

The greatest gift in my life has been the long slow discovery that I’m not alone in this dark.

It’s peopled with a thousand spirits kin to me. When I stop struggling to swim and let the waves tow me under I can hear all of them speaking with buoyancy at the same time; with joy and love and the fear stripped from them like it was nothing more than thin streams flooding porous tidal stones.

Can there be reconciliation for as many selves as I have been?

 

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.

Blood is the Dual Source of Life and Strife

the fight night

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.

bramble legs

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.

what's left at night

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.

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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