I wrote this poem over eight years ago, about the night before my then boyfriend left for rehab. I never felt comfortable enough to share it until now, so consider it a golden oldie.
It has been three months today since my grandfather died, nearly to the minute as I am writing this – and that feels somehow both absolutely mind-blowing and impossible to believe, and also somehow … right. I guess. I honestly don’t know Forgive my inability to be eloquent, but time (and most everything) don’t make sense at all when someone leaves, and that is the one thing I have grown to know for certain in the months in his absence.
Grief. The big g word. What have these three months looked like, in my mourning? What has this GRIEF felt like? It feels like a million things, because it changes so often – I am powerless to it. Some moments, I think of him and smile at some silly memory of him being ridiculous and wonderful. Some times I hurt and tuck my tail between my legs in shame when I think about time wasted arguing about politics or other dumb time stealers that make me feel ashamed now, looking back. And other times, I find myself bent over and gasping for breath, waves of panic hitting me so hard, the world too small and the loss too big, only able to think about words like “finality” and “forever”.
I guess it really doesn’t feel like three months, now that I think more about it, and maybe that’s because I haven’t actively let time try to pass. Because I am so often in that room where he spent his final weeks, watching him sleep, trying to make conversation whenever he was able to rouse, and finally, telling him it was okay to let go. I spend so much time back there that I am not here, three months later, as much as I guess I should be. I really don’t know what I should be, or where – there’s no instructional booklet on how to survive a hole being blown right through your chest and consequently having to live around it.
Because that’s what it feels like. A hole that is still very much open, very much tender and sore, that I am trying my best to keep clean and dressed and live with. I am trying to live with this, and some days, I just can’t. Some days I lay in bed until it is late in the afternoon and I howl for him, some days I want to leave this world to be with him again, and some days all I want is just five more minutes, just five more minutes to make sure that he really heard everything I said in the end – and wanting and wishing and breaking down about it won’t change it. And isn’t that the frustration of it all? Nothing changes it.
My family has started to move on in a tangible sense, and we are doing it together. We’ve started to clean out closets, the spare bedroom – though his desk, his battle station, remain untouched – and he’s still a part of most every conversation we have. He’s here, as much as he can be. We talk about how we see parts of him in each other, and it feels good to be likened to him – even when it’s the bad stuff, like temper tantrums and mood swings (at least I got it honestly). We talk about his childhood, I try to commit every word to memory. And I think we love each other harder, make an effort to see each other more, bicker a little less. My grandmother is doing such an amazing job of commanding this ship that some days, I feel jealous of the way she navigates and wonder why I can’t do the same. But as Modest Mouse said, we all float on, and I guess we do. A quarter of a year has passed – my first birthday without him has passed. The first Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are to come. And more months will pass, inevitably, hastily, and with a hole in our chests that never quite heals.
As dumb as it sounds, this old Winnie the Pooh song “Wherever You Are” is what I used to describe today in my physical journal, so I’ll close out with some of the lyrics.
I wish I had your number cause I could use your particular brand of hurting right now.
See I’ve been doing so much searching and I need your down to earthing real bad.
I could tell you bout my problems and you’d tell me how to solve them and make me feel sorry for being sad.
Because no one ever had it worse than you and you make all my sad stuff just turn rose colored and rad.
Only I get so fucking mad at you, it’s like I didn’t earn my blue, and I have every right to suffer like I have.
But by the time I get mixed up with you I realize that you were the cue, the trigger, and the symptom I already had.
I wrote this last year, in the days that led up to the first anniversary of your death. It has remained in its embryonic stage, in a tangle of nonsensical pieces and parts, until today. I wasn’t ready then, but I’m ready now.
To F. – (as Pete Yorn would say, “cos it already is”).
Fourth of July
I can’t help but wonder
Whose warm hand
Is in yours
(Not mine, love. Not mine)
I didn’t necessarily mean to wait nearly six months to update this ole thing, but time slipped up on me – and I guess emotionally I wasn’t really in the mood to share all that much. Since graduating last August, life has been a slippery slope of highs and lows, and I feel like I’ve been running as fast as my legs would carry me the whole time. One might call this avoidance … and one would probably technically be right.
We are so close to the end of the year, and that always seems hard to believe, doesn’t it? I mean, the Counting Crows even wrote the annually relevant jam, “A Long December” about what this confused, sort of gray feeling of wistfulness and closing is like. (Note to self: find time to listen to “A Long December” before January rolls around). But just like the song says – “There’s reason to believe that maybe this year will be better than the last.” – and I get that. I think we all do.
With a new beginning (which we all logically know is really just watching the ball drop on TV from Times Square and taping up a new desk calendar at work when we get back from holiday break) comes what we all need so desperately to keep us moving forward – the smallest glimmer of hope. Because hell, maybe this year really will be better than the last. Maybe it takes moving forward to realize that the year we are leaving behind wasn’t really so bad after all – or, in some cases, maybe it truly was an awful one, and we need to prepare ourselves to move on so that we can get some space to start to heal. No matter where you are at in your personal journey, by the time the last dregs of December are clouding the bottom of the glass, I think we can all agree that we are ready to ring in the New Year, if only just to see what might happen next.
Time is so incredibly sentimental and bittersweet. We hold on to it so dearly, using it to mark our good and our bad and our in betweens. I think that’s why I’ve always upheld a particular romanticism in regards to fresh starts and new beginnings. While it sometimes feels scary to enter uncharted territory, even if it is purely symbolic – it also feels so exciting. And that’s because of possibility. Because possibility exists, and because we, even at our darkest hours, exude hope for a better tomorrow – somewhere out there in the ether, the two mix together and become chance. “You never know” – one of the most powerful phrases in the history of language.
With the examination of time come and gone comes the natural reflection of what we have experienced in the duration. I think this reflection is wise, because I believe that we all have the responsibility to try to become a better version of ourselves every year. And reflection is how we do that – how we look back at what we have just survived, as a learning tool, as a way to honor the time spent, as a way to grow positively. We cannot learn if we do not reflect – even if reflecting is difficult and sometimes painful to do.
So, in that vein – I reckon it’s time that I mark down a little something about what 2017 meant to me. Painful as it may have been, sometimes.
On December 6th, we were able to stop again on our way back to South Carolina to pay respects at Pulse in Orlando, the sight of the now second biggest massacre in American history. Since June 12th, 2016. We’ve already had something top it.
What a sickening thought.
I believe my first trip to Pulse was late last year or early this year, and it was just as painful to witness and behold. There is no preparation for what you will feel when you pull into that lot and imagine what happened there, the senseless carnage and the cruelty.
The surrounding community has most definitely not forgotten these beautiful souls – even the Wendy’s across the street, where we changed clothes before the long ride home, had encouraging signs stressing the need for acceptance and equality posted behind the counter, and a framed print listing the names of the lives lost that night. From the window of the Wendy’s, you could have a burger and stare at the memorial. The sad thought turns my stomach. The crosswalk in front of the club had been painted rainbow, and ONE ORLANDO signs hang boldly for all to see.
It makes me so profoundly happy to see that this place is being taken care of. A live Christmas tree is up now, with jugs of water placed nearby, encouraging those who stop by to tend to it. And they do. People protect this place.
A sign, attached to the official Pulse sign, which is new as of my last visit, states that it will eventually be a permanent memorial and museum. Not a single soul is unrepresented or forgotten. I am so grateful for the people who are tirelessly tending to this precious place, who are keeping hate away from it. Who plant flowers in multicolors and share smiles and urge us, the shocked and horrified passersby, to walk away from this painful place feeling inspired to be kind, understanding, and above all things, tolerant.
I’ve included photos below the cut, with a trigger warning because of the obvious reference to LGBTQ+ violence and slaughter. As I’ve said before – I do this not out of voyeurism. I want people who are not able to visit Pulse, whether for travel reasons or perhaps just an emotional unreadiness, to know that these people have not and will not ever be forgotten. I’ll never stop visiting them and praying for them.
I was not a Pulse attendee. Orlando is not my true home. But I identify as a pansexual woman who spent many nights at my own personal Pulse with my many LGBTQ+ friends, feeling safe and free to be ourselves in a designated “safe space”. In many ways, that innocence is lost – there is no such thing as a safe space anymore. But all we can do is promise to remember, and to do our absolute best to prevent it from happening again.
There will always be a Pulse, as long as we promise to never forget. And I never will.
I have a social media problem. Primarily instagram. I’m not afraid to admit it. What I AM afraid of, however, is the damage it is doing to me as a young woman and a human being. And while I am in this inbetween season of my life wherein I am trying to get a better and healthier grasp of my mental health, preparing for funeral board exams, and eventually finding a place in the funeral industry, I have promised to come clean and honest with every mental and emotional problem that I endure or suffer, in the event that me spilling my guts could possibly help someone else. There isn’t much that I can do right now, other than wait for life to open the next door. So here goes.
For the first three months of our relationship, I probably tried to break up with Tyler at least 400 times.
“We have different thoughts about politics, we should break up.”
“The sky is blue, we should break up.”
“The cat yawned, we should break up.”
Any excuse, any absolutely asinine reasoning that my mind fell to, I was ready to bail. And holy shit – after he told me that he LOVED me?! Instead of feeling joy, I felt panic. I felt fear. I felt an enormous sense of responsibility. I felt, more than anything, incapable. What had I done? I couldn’t do this. This was too much, I wasn’t ready, it would never work, I would just get hurt. I came home and went over and over us with my fine tooth “should we break up” comb and tried to beg a reason into existence. In those early days, I asked my mom, my brother, every friend I had, “do you think Tyler and I should break up?” and they all just stared at me like I had grown a second head and told me to calm myself down because he was an incredible person.