Tanya said she saw him stumbling around the city last night. Could have sworn she saw him hanging out with a bunch of unhoused kids downtown last week. I haven’t heard from him since he was in the hospital. Not since Corey and I sat by his bed for days. Got him transferred to inpatient care. Made sure he was set up with resources when he got out. He hasn’t called since then.
I’m learning not to blame myself for it. Not to say I could have done more. Not to make up stories about all the different people I could have been. Ones that would make him want to get back on his feet, make him want to stay clean. Learning to tell myself I did all I could. That we did more than anyone else was willing to.
It’s a lot like forgiveness that way. The ability to realize I can’t blame myself for the things in my life that don’t work out. That it’s not my fault Derek seems to be falling back through the cracks. Not my fault my marriage ended in divorce. Not my fault I’m depressed. None of this is my fault. It’s all about what I can make myself do with it.
It’s a lot like acceptance that way. The ability to realize there is no great flaw in me that makes me incapable of saving these things. The ability to finally look around and see that all the people who really know me still love me completely. The ones who have crawled through the dirt with me. The ones who have watched me fall back down over and over. They never quit. They never give up on me. And those are the ones who matter. The ones who stay.
So I hold up my end of the bargain for them. I keep asking for help when I need it. I keep my appointments with psychiatrists and therapists and medical doctors. I find ways got get involved in my own life again. Ways that make me feel like I have something good to accomplish.
I stay on track. I stay. And I thank those who stay with me. Who help me every day. And to the ones who believed enough in my ability to keep going they were willing and able to help me out monetarily: Amara, Andrew, Julie, Julia, Tara, John, Alexis, Veronica, Feiya, Mason, Bobby, and Pat, I thank you. For showing me I’m a cause worth believing in. I will not disappoint. I will stay.
Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske.
She tells me to write one positive thing a day. A paragraph, a sentence, a page, a word. Tells me to try as hard as I can to flake away the aching and find something beautiful to focus on. Do not let yourself get overrun with hurt. Focus on the good.
Another tells me to let the emotions pass through me. To notice them, give them breath and life, but let them leave again. Do not hold on so tight they control you. Do not let them plant roots. Pain must wash in and out and leave room for good.
In a Twitter message another woman in my life tells me that she has been fragile lately. That she knows I’ve been hurting and she’s been hurting, too. Says she had to protect herself. Tells me about going to a bar and drinking water. Singing karaoke at the top of her lungs. Doing something good.
It’s simple in theory, but hard to remember. I have to lean on those around me to remind me to look for the shiny pieces of life. The ones that make me feel like continuing forward. The ones that makes this whole thing seem like fun. No, it will not cure us. It will not make as bulletproof. But there’s a certain kind of resilience that comes with making sure to notice the good.
So let’s go out. Let’s pretend we forgot how much this is hurting. Let’s wrap ourselves up in vests and raincoats and take to the woods. Let’s undress and lay down on massage tables and melt into the comfort of another set of hands. Let’s make dinner. Sit on the patio and talk at one in the morning. Sleep in. Wake up early and go for a run while it’s still dark out. Let’s find excuses to laugh more and think about all of this less. Got it? Good.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Pallian.
I smelled cedar when I heard you died. Immediately transported back to that summer my family was building bidarkas in your wood shop. How Marci and I would go down to the river and wade up to our thighs in glacial runoff. Try to catch tadpoles with our bare hands. When our feet froze through we’d climb back up that steep dirt trail and sneak back into the building. Over and under beams, around contraptions and tools we didn’t know the use for. You’d find us giggling between an old truck and a dresser, ask us what we were doing. “Oh, we just came in for hugs!” Our standard response. And you knew we were bullshitting you, but you wrapped us up in big bear arms regardless.
You made appearances at all important functions and every quiet night around a fire pit you could. Always in your trademark hat, you listened contently and laughed loud. Always one of the first people I wanted to introduce my new partners to. “You have to meet Mike and Pat.”
The day you died I talked with your daughter and she said, “Good dads are precious.” And I think about how lucky we all were to have you. How you helped raise all of us, just like your wife did. Does. Is doing. There aren’t words for that kind of loss. It is not a sadness that sweeps over us like waves crash. It is not a heart cracking like a branch in the wind. It a simple and sudden hollowing out. An emptiness in a space you didn’t even realize someone was occupying. A piece slid out of a Jenga game and we all just hope it doesn’t come crashing down now.
That is the thing with death, isn’t it? We always expect it to end us, too. As if experiencing the hurt of losing someone is not something we were built to do. But it doesn’t have to only ache, does it? We climb back into our memories and let you wrap us in your arms again. We remember that belly laugh, that wide grin. We mourn the loss, yes, but in turn we celebrate the living you did. And oh, how you did.
Photo courtesy of Regan House Photo.