Democracy’s funeral

I don’t subscribe to cable service. I haven’t had live TV since I lived in Sydney, Australia, and that was never really an option once we subscribed to Quickflix (Australian Netflix).

I have no live TV at home, therefore, I have no “other channel” to tune into on January 20. Big Brother can’t track my interest in the History Channel or National Geographic, instead of the inauguration. Shouldn’t have typed that keyword. Should not have typed that.

I read about how viewership worked and how there are nominated viewer families today, and how non-measured families don’t really matter because of how extrapolation to 7 million viewers occurs.

Patton Oswalt in his Facebook post last night tried to tell me how it really worked. He was throwing spaghetti to a wall and hoping it sticks. It didn’t for me; I still don’t get it. Long story short, I liken viewership to proxy voters. Math. Hard. Sad! “What have I become??? Writing like he tweets???” *maniacal laughter, tears*

Point. Right. Like Ellen DeGeneres, I do have one.

Love him or hate him, it’s time for everyone to grow up and work with Donald Trump. Or so I’m told.

We fought tooth and nail. We hit all 5 stages of grief like it was Coachella, and then got backstage passes. We signed petitions for the Electoral College to prove itself useful. We held the media accountable despite arrows from “he who must not be named”. Now we have to work with him??? You have got to be kidding me.

I thought about it for, like, a second, and I realized… I’ve worked with people like him before.

My advice? Take furious notes (detailed, dated, corroborated where possible), cc HR (the media?) and bring them to any meetings/interactions if possible, and Cover. Your. Ass. Like radioactive astronaut suit cover.

I wanted to wear black today, mourning the death of democracy. I didn’t. I wore instead my dad’s flannel shirt. I’m going through today by honoring and remembering my father, instead of tuning in to the American Circus Shitshow Extravaganza. He used to wear it when I was a kid. I’m channeling my inner optimist despite every inclination to spiral into a dark depression for the next 4-8 years.

My parents fucked with me. Once I’d exhausted my mom, she would tell me to go tell my dad he wanted me, basically getting rid of me. I didn’t get what she was telling me to say at the time. So I waddled up to my dad and said like she said, “Dad, Mom says to tell you you want me?” Don’t shoot the messenger. Then once it tumbled out my mouth, I realized my mom had pawned me off on him. He’d chuckle, audibly or with his eyes, and inevitably involve me in whatever he was doing at the time. He’d break it down to the point of unbearable minutia. Educational. Like PBS educational. Like, pay him money to shut up educational.

My father was a very private man. Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation reminds me so much of my father, it’s uncanny. From the gruffness to the mustache. He didn’t have an easy childhood. Despite his faults, he was a really good dad when he had his dad hat on. He wasn’t one for online banking platforms despite being a Silicon-Valley-in-the-80’s techie. He never wanted to hand people working Costco exits his receipt because he felt it violated his privacy, so he’d get into arguments with them on our way out. He didn’t believe in cloud computing or shared networks, or Facebook. He was a private, gruff man. I see his point.

This Inauguration Day, I think I need to throw out a shout-out to my Kung Fu Panda Popfarts. I think I’m going to honor my dad. I think he voted for Barack Obama. I think he loved me. I think he’d watch this inauguration like the Hobbit, or Star Wars, or Dune, or Rome. He’d be entertained. He’d go see it in the theater, only to fall asleep. He’d know that this was a total joke. That Donald was merely a reality TV star after ratings. But he’d see it as art, too. He’d smoke some weed and laugh. He’d hold his ground on voting staunchly liberal. He’d make it all better, for me.

I remember when I was 17, I bought my aunt’s 1988 Toyota pickup truck off of her when she wanted to buy a new car. I learned how to drive a stick in that car. I only had one “accident” in it that I couldn’t take care of myself. It wasn’t really an accident. It was stupid, really.

I was parked in our garage while both of them were at work to keep my un-air-conditioned little Yoda a bit cooler in the warm San Jose summers, and I was going to drive the kids next door I was either babysitting or hanging out with to 7-11 for a summertime slurpee, or to Baskin Robbins for some ice cream. It’s a bit fuzzy around the edges. 20 years does that to you.

Anyway, I opened the garage door, as we did not have an electric door, back then. I started my truck with one leg hanging out the driver’s side door. Summer heat. Summer vacation. Brain vacation. I threw the gearshift into reverse and began backing up… but I hadn’t shut my driver’s side door. Bent. Backwards. On the garage door frame. In front of the kiddos. Fuuuuuuuuck.

My dad, within 24 hours, had gone to a pick’n’pull, located a beige 1988 Toyota pickup with an in-tact driver’s side door, paid $200 (1/6th of the price I paid for the whole damn truck), and had it installed. Not all heroes wear capes.

Granted, some of the door’s ligaments didn’t exist. Some were literally rubberbands I put there to keep the door from swinging all the way 180 degrees open. Beige on white was absolutely intolerable as well, so within another 72 hours, I’d procured touch up paint in 3 shades of blue: slate/silver, turquoise, and royal, and had an ocean wave painted on that beige door. White touch up paint around the window to frame it out, because details.

I honestly don’t remember if I thanked my father for what he did and how quickly he did, and meant it. He fixed it. He didn’t get many opportunities, and he didn’t rise to every opportunity. But he did then.

My dad would watch beautiful women go by. I’d see his eyes having to look at them as they walked by. In those moments, I told myself that was not the kind of person I wanted to be, and I didn’t like that. But even in making mistakes themselves, our parents teach us things about the way we want to be. Perhaps the reason I am so plain myself is to dodge the gazes of men like that. But I digress.

He never once grabbed them by the genitals though, or bragged about what he could do to them. I would like to think, given the chance, he’d draw the line there, somehow pull off daddy of the year by insulting Donald Trump, putting him in his place, dishonoring him publicly, ruining every narcissistic thought in his head, and knocking some sense into him. I mean, I might be reaching for the stars, but maybe he’d try. He’d know Donald Trump was a terrible person.

So into today I go. In the immortal words of Boyz II Men, “I’ll take with me the memories to be my sunshine after the rain. It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.” I’ll have to take my memories of a scandal-free White House and classy first family to be my sunshine the next 4-8 years.

I’ll miss you, Obamas. Like Joe Biden in one last meme, I don’t wanna be Obamaself.

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The future appears bleak. I had little to no hope in general in life going into this. I was not prepared for this on November 8, and I’m not ready for this now. He is not my new normal.

I’m no stranger to having to accept that which I do not like. It can be nigh on impossible when what you must accept goes against everything in your mind, heart and soul. When it’s so against your grain, you feel no point in existing in the same universe as what you must accept. Swallowing bitter pills doesn’t get easier with experience, contrary to popular belief. If anything, it’s worse. We would like to think we’re too old for this. We deserve better. It’s not really happening. Alas. Here we are.

When I see you at democracy’s funeral (or when I don’t, since I won’t be viewing the inauguration live), don’t say hi. My sunglasses are my armor. My headphones play silence, worn only for appearance of preoccupation. Don’t make eye contact, or I’ll cry. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

There was so much time to do what we wanted. So many steps forward in 8 years. So much growth. We’re not perfect, but we tried. Only to be cut off. By this American Circus Shitshow Extravaganza. We’re all grieving, in our own ways.

Today, surround yourself with art, music, love, bohemia, everything cultural and original and real. Everything this “administration” is against. Protest in whatever way you feel comfortable. Make a memory. Hug your loved ones. Take solace in a shared grief.

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Right in the feelers

Every 4 years, the Olympics enchant me. I think for at least a few days, like I did when I was 16, that if I just stuck to a regimented gym program, started doing handstands on the daily, that I, too, could be an Olympic gymnast, or diver, or archer, if I wanted to be. The formula for Olympic television is: emotional backstory of how the athlete overcame adversity, injuries, the road to the Olympics, teary musical montage, and ultimately we watch as they walk away with some medal.

This year, I have no delusions of grandeur of ever being an Olympian. I’d get a medal if there was an event where you fall over things without spilling your beer, though. Gold. You bet your ass.

While I sympathize for the French gymnast with the horrific broken leg flopped to the side, and for the Dutch cyclist with a spine broken in 3 places, that is not front of mind this week. Instead, what has punched me right in the feels is empathy and compassion. A relatively quiet coworker, a man of virtually no words, unexpectedly lost his father this week. I gave him some words of encouragement via that always awkward email after management tells the staff what’s up. But a bouquet of clumsy words is better than silence, in my book.

Let’s get one thing very clear – perhaps on the outside, I looked okay when my dad passed away. On the inside, I was a fucking mess. I went through a shitty trifecta around the same time that included my dad passing away and going through a breakup, as well as some work stuff. I was living in another country and on antidepressants. I went to the gym, as that was my chosen escape from reality. I’d work out for at least an hour, every single day, and hard. I dropped 17kg, or 37.5lbs. I barely ate, and when I did, I couldn’t keep it in very long. That was one of the less pleasant side effects of Zoloft.

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Another coworker has organized a calendar for us to sign up for bringing in a dinner, drinks, or dessert for him to take home to his wife and their 3 kids. It brought tears to my eyes, that I work at a place with such thoughtful people who want to do something at times like this. My friends who had the unfortunate task of hanging out with me while I was going through the hardest time in my life probably could have used something like that. I could have used something like that. I didn’t take care of myself very well. My flatmate at the time told me one night, he half expected to come home at night and find me curled up in the fetal position on the floor because the gravity of what I was going through was so much.

Thankfully, I didn’t have a spouse, or even a girlfriend anymore, when I went through the worst of it. I didn’t have children to worry about. It made letting myself go very, very easy. Without those friends of mine in another country, I may very well have fallen into that dark abyss never to return. I don’t know what would have happened, and I don’t want to think about it.

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I will say, as someone who’s been through what he’s going through now, that losing someone you love feels like an incredible loss, sometimes too great to bear. Having people express care and interest in your well-being, when it’s not even at the forefront of your own mind, means more than anything. That emptiness left in the world by your loss gets filled up a little by love and compassion. The world’s not such a horrible place anymore. Someone you didn’t even know is thinking about you, and sending you well-wishes. In the great balance of the universe, it doesn’t bring your loved one back, nor do you magically feel 100% better. But there is a little more love in the world.

Now I’m not the best cook, but goddamnit, I’m gonna bring that man wine for the adults and something sweet for the kids to get they drank on (Sprites, g-rated, nothing illegal). I wouldn’t wish my cooking on anyone, so I’ll leave that to the Betty Crockers and Papa Johns out there.

I’ll make drinking jokes til the cows come home, but I actually stopped drinking, for the most part, during the hardest time in my life. I don’t recommend overdosing on a depressant when actively taking antidepressants, because it just makes the medication have to work harder. But sometimes, when you’re dealing with tough shit, it helps to blow off a little steam. Won’t fix anything, but it gives you something else to focus on besides how much it hurts. Then, in the morning, you’ll hurt on the outside how much it hurts on the inside.

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Be thoughtful and sympathetic (if you can’t be empathetic due to circumstances) to what others are going through. Think of someone besides yourself today. Do something nice for someone, unexpectedly. Put more of that love into the universe. I would ask that you carry that same thinking forward into your own life. Bring that someone some wine. Bitches love wine.

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The Orlando response

Ever since the events in Orlando unfolded this weekend, I’ve been processing, very much internally. I gauge the appropriateness of my own response, and responses of those who surround me. True, it’s very judgmental and I’m not usually so judgmental. That’s a whole other issue.

A friend on Facebook posted, “Are straight people just numb to mass shootings or do they just not care that it happened to us?” Comments further in the feed suggest us to look at our friends’ pages, and see how they’d rather mourn and stand in solidarity with France than us. More comments say no one puts a Syrian or a Lebanese flag on their profile picture when mass killings happen elsewhere every day. You have to be white, from a western country, and straight if you want people to mourn for you. I’m not saying I agree or disagree with these, but the viewpoints afforded got me thinking.

This posting resonated deeply with me. To be fair, there were vigils nearly everywhere throughout the US on Sunday night, attended by the LGBT community and allies alike. I didn’t go. So I didn’t see firsthand how people were coping. Vigils just aren’t my thing.

On Sunday, I personally went to the gym and vented all my rage and frustration via my muscles. I can barely walk and lift my arms today, 3 days later, but that is beside the point. I got teary but I didn’t let out a full cry. It’s still in there bottled up, and may present itself at the most inopportune of times, cause that’s how I roll.

The day it happened, a coworker texted me, “People have so much hate in their heart and it’s disgusting. Wanted to send a hug your way.” She just couldn’t eat all day, and she even offered to come over if I needed a friend. She looked into donating blood here. She went to say how sad and pathetic it is when the acts of a few extremists define an entire race and religion. We both agreed that at times like this, more love in the world is the cure. As an afterthought, she is an Indian Muslim, not that it matters. She, her husband, and their 3 kids were going to the vigil, and she checked a website for a local mosque, and many in the Muslim community planned to attend the vigil in Seattle.

But it also sort of does matter that she reached out first, and has been the only (from my place of employment) since. The only person to speak to me since it happened at my place of employment was a Muslim. She expressed more love than most.

I feel like the silence of the straight people around me is deafening. Part of it may be that they support us, but they don’t know how to react, or how to be an ally when something this pervasive and horrible happens. Part of it may be that Orlando is so far away from Seattle, literally diagonally across this great nation. It’s far away from home and perhaps they think there are no impacts around here. Part of it may be that they’ve never experienced fear of their family disowning them just for being who they really are, fear of holding hands with someone they love walking down the street, fear that someone seeing them kissing their partner could ignite a shooting rampage just like this one.

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Who has reacted, and in a typical disappointing fashion, are those who skew the events, or view them through narrow lenses, to forward their own agendas on, say, the radical Islamic movement, or gun control, or alcohol and drugs in the scene. That continues to disgust me to the point of filtering which news I read to weed that kind of response out.

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I looked for the positives, and the helpers. I chose to see those who queued up to donate blood. One of the greatest injustices in this whole fiasco are the antiquated blood donation restrictions on sexually active gay men. They had just seen 100 members of their community gunned down in cold blood, and they were rendered powerless to do anything to help. Blood is tested on site at the donation center, yet they were still turned away.

If it is a plague of numbness to shocking events, due to sheer volume of occurrences like this, that is horrifying in and of itself. While it can be hard to articulate a response, and any words one can come up with feel inadequate, I’d argue the LGBT community needs to hear them. We need to hear something. They may not be the right words, but let us know somehow they’re coming from a good place, and we’re safe with you. That you care. While we’ve come a long way, many members of the LGBT community are at different points in their journey. Some still walk through this world more afraid to be themselves than anything else.

I hope our straight allies are grieving too, and maybe they’re just at a loss for how to show it, like I am. Some people don’t or can’t react until it hits close to home for them – their family, their town, their demographic.

I have no idea if my own response is right or wrong, and some people may judge me just as harshly for not attending vigils or being more vocal. But that is also not my style. I find myself, as always, grieving in my own, very personal, way.

If any allies out there want a good read on how to support us, check this out: To my heterosexual friends

It’s ok to be speechless, but I do ask that each and every one of you just put more love into the world. Before you speak, before you act, think. Save your prayers. Save your political rhetoric. Be empathetic. Don’t assume someone feels a certain way. Ask. Talk to us. Reach out across the silence, even though it may be comfortable to stay silent. Let us know it registered on your radar. Don’t pretend it didn’t exist or happen at all. That’s worse.

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200

I published my last post, about my cousin with aggressive brain cancer, on April 2. He passed away on April 8. It’s been a hard couple of weeks, just wrapping my head around how quickly the cancer spread and took over. He hardly got a chance to fight the cancer… it was more like a bloody massacre. 3 days after having surgery to remove the two largest tumors, it had regrown to the same size.

I wanted to head east to be with family during this difficult time, but it ended up not coming to fruition that way, for many reasons. Not being with my family on the east coast during this difficult time does not mean I care any less. I just have to be resourceful and do my mourning on my own. I found a great way to say that in a photo meme recently, so here it is as I pass that wisdom on to you.

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It also happens to be my busiest time at work. Literally, all the things came at me this week, demanding attention before Friday. So I didn’t feel like I could take adequate time to mourn anyway. I took Monday off, but it wasn’t enough. People asked me why I was out Monday on Tuesday when I returned, and being the honest person I am, I told them, not mincing words.

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People I work with at my new place of employment are incredibly smart, funny, empathetic people. I really enjoy working with them and they provided the right mix of what I needed to help get past recent events. Distraction has been a great tactic for dealing with grief this time around, and when you have people around you who keep you laughing, it’s even better. Yesterday, I tackled everything that had piled up and shoved all that poop onto other people’s desks, effectively removing it from my own. It was fantastic.

My taxes were done a couple of weeks ago, and refunds have already been deposited. All the furniture I’ve needed in my new place is here, with the exception of a couple handmade Adirondack chairs I ordered back in March that take two months to custom make for each order. Those will undoubtedly be worth the wait. Life at home is coming together, though I do have a few small repairs I need to tackle. (Yes, “a few small repairs,” are lyrics from the Shawn Colvin song “Sunny Came Home,” and I did that on purpose.)

Overall, I’m taking it one day at a time, and trying to find joy and happiness everywhere I can. Moving to Seattle was absolutely the right move for me. I’ve made a couple good friends, and those can be hard to come by. There is a phenomenon called the “Seattle freeze,” I think I’ve experienced the tip of that iceberg (pun intended.) I don’t have quite as many friends here, or people I keep in touch with on a daily basis, so it can get a little lonely. People here don’t seem to want or need that kind of contact. Especially when mourning the loss of a loved one, I don’t need anyone to be my rock or take care of me, but a little extra care would be nice.

I’m actually proud of myself, as I think back to my many dances with grief. I’ve written past posts on the matter (see Grief and Recovery), and I’m probably the least graceful person at letting go. But I look at myself now, and I’m impressed that I’ve been able to grow each time I’ve encountered grief to be able to be on my own, on the other side of the country from my family, without much of a friend/support network, and be OK. I didn’t know it was happening, but I’ve been growing. I’m strong. It feels pretty good.

In other news, this is my 200th post to my blog. I started my blog in June of 2014, after moving back to San Francisco from Australia. I look back to my many posts and can’t believe I have something incredible to show as a diary of sorts over the last two years. I guess you could say I’m in a brief period of reflection, and I like what I see (said in my best Australian accent of Kath from Kath & Kim, the Australian TV series.)

So here’s to you, and here’s to me, and if we should ever disagree, fuck you, and here’s to me. Cheers, mates. Thanks for being on this journey with me, even if only as an extra, sipping coffee in the background.

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Thestrals

In two previous blog posts, I’ve mentioned the film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (The art of getting by and One sigma).

There is a particular quote from that film that, unfortunately, has made its way back across my path again tonight, and I’m not pleased to see it so soon. “We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.”

Tonight, I tried my best but managed to awkwardly comfort an old friend who had been on the phone with his father in South Africa, while he remained helpless in New York City. His father did not make it past that telephone call. Life has taken away again. No matter how prepared one might be for that call, one is never prepared for Life After It Happens.

Tonight, I was Luna Lovegood soothing Harry Potter upon seeing, for the very first time with disbelief in his eyes, the thestral he never knew was there. I tried my best to not say the wrong thing to my friend as he, too, was introduced to the thestral he didn’t know was there. Thestrals are fictional winged horses with skeletal bodies, with faces like reptiles, and are a bad omen according to the Ministry of Magic. These beasts were used mainly to pull the carriages that take experienced Hogwarts students from the train stop at Hogsmeade to the Hogwarts grounds/castle. More importantly, thestrals can only be seen by people who’ve witnessed death at least once. Harry had never seen them before that moment until he did, due to one thing or another upon arriving to Hogwarts.

I don’t want to be the one who sees the thestrals, too. Ignorance can be bliss. I’ve had the grave task of welcoming a friend to this horrible club no one tells you about when you hit your 30’s. True, people lose parents at all ages, but it begins happening with much more frequency in this stage of our lives, but with no less impact. I’m not the only one of my friends who has lost a parent in the last 3 years. I know friends who lost both parents before that, too. It’s not a competition. The hurt is massive. The emptiness, confronting. I don’t take comfort that my friends have lost parents, too. But it helps to know that others sort of know, in their own way, what it feels like. It’s not wished on anyone. But it’s somehow comforting when someone else has been through it, too.

Don’t panic. I see them, too. They won’t hurt you. It’s a little frightening, now that we know they exist. Yeah, this means we’ve seen some shit.

To my friend and newest member, may your heart ride with winged horses, above the deep, low valleys of sadness that exist between you now, and you years from now, when it hurts a little less. I love you.

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Memories of dad

My dad passed away on June 13, 2013. It’s been 2 years, 3 months, and 6 days. Time has proven an ally in reducing the pain, but there is still a dad-sized hole in my life nothing fills. And dad was a wide, short man. It’s not a small hole.

I went home for the funeral, and while I was there, my mother gave me some of his old shirts that I still have with me today. They hang in my closet, amongst my clothes, but they don’t get worn often, if at all. They’re not on display. They still smell like his closet. They’re just there.

Last night, I wore an old flannel of his to a professional mixer. It was big on me, but comfortable. It would suffice as a “Friday shirt” in a swanky environment. I swear, when I put it on, any social anxiety and awkwardness disappeared. I started conversations and navigated LGBT professionals who got too drunk too fast with ease. I made people laugh. I laughed, too – despite the inner turmoil I’ve been struggling through on a daily basis, especially of late.

I have a memory of him, in that particular flannel, one year when we went to chop down a Christmas tree. We drove along in his truck in silence, listening to a Pink Floyd cassette tape, watching the scenery go by.

I’ve missed him lately. In Sydney, I used to go up on our roof deck, play a Pink Floyd album on my iPhone, and have some champagne or a glass of red. There were 4 chairs in our outdoor furniture set, so I could easily imagine him with me on any one of those chairs. We’d listen to Pink Floyd together and enjoy the silence and the view.

My version of that back in my tiny apartment with no roof access in San Francisco is putting documentaries on Netflix, ones he’d like, being the big National Geographic and public television buff he was. America’s Secrets, Wildest Africa, Antarctica, whatever is available. There’s room on my couch next to me. So when I miss him, he comes here to visit.

I don’t have much to say, I guess it’s just the presence he had in my life. I always knew he was there. He never elbowed for room in my life. He was content to be in the shadows, much like the wind beneath my wings.

He and my mom would have celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary tomorrow, September 20. They married in upstate New York in 1975, and I came along almost 6 years later.

It’s something you don’t notice til it’s gone – the invisible love and trust your parents have in you (or in the case of my mother, the much too visible love evidenced by shrines to you all over her home.) When one of those foundational legs is kicked out from underneath you, when there is no more wind beneath your wings, your flight is cancelled. You cannot stand for long on one leg. You try to fill the parent-sized hole in your life, but nothing fits.

If you’re lucky, you have a new family of your own. The pain subsides, knowing you’ve carried on the family name or bloodline with a new generation of which your parent would have been proud.

I am not lucky enough to have that. That hole can make you feel so empty that sometimes you think nothing can ever fill you up again.

No one loves you like your parents. And no one ever will.

Recovery

Tomorrow, it will be a month since I left Iceland, and I’m still not recovered. I don’t know if I ever will be. How does one recover from love? How does one go back to the invisible chains of a daily routine and real-life job, when all one wants to do is wander free with an infinite supply of money?

After Iceland, perhaps all my senses were heightened. Everything I felt in my heart while there and even after, was felt 4 times more, perhaps. Rough estimate.

I felt alive. I did things that made me feel alive there. While I would have preferred to include a certain someone I love dearly as more than a friend on that trip, it was not to be. But having her there would have made it literally perfect. A place I love with a person I love.

At the beginning of my trip, I wrote a post about grieving lost love, and now I find myself in the same spiral. Grief doesn’t just magically end or go away with time. While time helps, it’s always there. Same love I mourned then, different love I mourn now… what’s the difference, anyway? What do you do when you found your love, but they were not meant for you? In a lasting, real way? A person, a place… How do you move on and assimilate whatever love and learning you can carry with you into your daily life that is meant for you?

The lyrics of a particular Eminem song float through my mind, as they often do, when I’m feeling a bit off. It would be perfect if this song was on his Recovery album, but alas, it’s from his Relapse album.

“Lately I’ve been hard to reach, I’ve been too long on my own
Everybody has a private world where they can be alone
Are you calling me? Are you trying to get through?
Are you reaching out for me, like I’m reaching out for you?

I’m just so fuckin’ depressed, I just can’t seem to get out this slump
If I could just get over this hump
But I need something to pull me out this dump,
I took my bruises, took my lumps
Fell down and I got right back up
But I need that spark to get psyched back up
In order for me to pick the mic back up
I don’t know how or why or when I ended up in this position I’m in
I’m starting to feel distant again
So I decided just to pick this pen
Up and try to make an attempt to vent
But I just can’t admit
Or come to grips with the fact that I may be done with rap
I need a new outlet”

I feel like I need to come to grips with a few things of late, including lost love of a person and a place, but also, like Eminem, that very thing that got him where he is today. Eminem made a name for himself in rap. He earned his fame and began a solid career in rap. Where is he now? He’s working on this and that, but he’s not quite in the limelight as he was during the peak of his career.

I, too, have been contemplating the next chapter of my life. After my sabbatical across Europe, I began looking into next steps for me, and possibly moving on from a company I’ve been working with for the last 11+ years. I know what you’re thinking about 11+ years doing anything – because I’m thinking it too:

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Making a new career move has been a long time coming. There was a time when I was passionate about achievement at work, getting promotions and raises, developing staff who worked for me, and getting involved in meaningful projects in diversity and inclusion with my company. That passion has dwindled to the blue shadow of a flame in the work arena.

With depression, a common symptom is loss of interest and pleasure in things that used to be enjoyable, once upon a time. One can withdraw from family and friends, and stop doing those things that used to bring happiness. I’ve lost any interest or pleasure in work, and do not attempt to form the meaningful connections that used to lead to friendships with co-workers outside of work.

On the down low, I’m putting some wheels in motion for more compensation, for ownership in an employer, more benefits, less responsibility, and hopefully, more passion. Trying to sell myself in job interviews has been interesting; I will say that. When asked what experience I have, especially from my 3 years living and working in Australia, I usually jump to this default answer:

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Then when they ask me what I’m looking for, this is always a great one. After all, honesty is the best policy:

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Finally, when they asked me this golden interview question, I had my answer already prepped:

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But I digress. 

I would like to quote a recent documentary on the Alaskan wilderness, when I think of the battlefield that is love and recovery, “It’s easy to die up here. Everything else is work.”

So to answer my own question, how does one move on from lost love (and Iceland)? It’s a process of recovery, that’s for sure.

One does the best she can. She looks at aspects of her life she has the power to change, and works to make those better.

She puts one foot in front of the other, and takes steps every day. Even if they’re baby steps, she takes them.

She humbles and embarrasses herself every day, and shows those very feelings she wants to keep hidden most. She both laughs at and kicks herself daily.

She tries not to fade like a flower, and tries to find one little thing every day that makes her happy, however fleeting it may be.

She reaches out to old friends who won’t judge but will support and love her as they always have, just the way she is.

She remembers often and hard, and tries not to lose the joy in the moments with that person or in that place that made her feel most like herself.

She tries to find new happiness, and make new memories, even though it’ll never be the same.

She lets the open wound of her heart heal, and grows strong where the scarred tissue is ugliest. She has patience and doesn’t rush into putting that heart on the chopping block again. She even possibly accepts that some love wasn’t meant for her in this lifetime. Perhaps she has other lessons to learn and shouldn’t be so focused on just that one. She faces the world with gratitude, accepts the lessons meant for her, and accepts those not meant for her as well.

She just keeps going. She gets her ass to the gym, even if it seems futile and hopeless. She finds whatever spark she can to pick the mic back up and not lose touch with reality and herself. When she finds herself alone, lost at sea like Pi, she faces the tigers that come for her at night. She finds a way to survive, and still find beauty in the world.

There is so much, after all, beauty, that is. I echo the thoughts of the deceased Lester Burnham in American Beauty:

“I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.”

Grief

I read somewhere recently that grief is the price one pays for love.

In a college Dying, Death and the Afterlife course, we read C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed, and this quote stuck out when I think of my experiences thus far with grief:

“For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it? How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, ‘I never realized my loss till this moment’? The same leg is cut off time after time.”

It’s true, I wake up every day having to relive the grief I’ve lived. Re-feel the loss of my father, re-feel the rejection of love I try to give. I’ve known my share of grief, though it is a recent pain I’m still learning to navigate with any kind of grace. This love shit should come with training wheels, a helmet, and heart pads for when someone takes it out and throws it on the floor, and stomps on it.

I experienced my first bout of grief in high school, when my lab partner Scott was killed in a car accident just before his 16th birthday. He was a guy that guys wanted to be like, and that girls swooned over. He just copied my papers in chemistry, since I had taken the advanced placement exam, and he was doing his best to learn and get by. I didn’t have a crush on him or anything, but it was a person within my closed circle of friends and he was the first to meet this fate that all of us one day will.

The most substantial grief I’ve met has been through the death of my father. A friend of mine recently (as in within the last two days) lost her mother to cancer, after a quick yet futile attempt at chemotherapy. When it hits stage 4, and it’s aggressively spreading, there’s unfortunately not much to be done.

The loss of my father occurred around the same time I went through two other substantial encounters with grief – going through a break up with a girlfriend I was still in love with, and a career grief that has since been mitigated. I was passed over for promotion despite being, in my opinion, demonstrating skills at that level for some time.

I am currently suffering another grief, one I have not mentioned to many. It weighs on me and I feel I can’t keep it in any longer. Writing helps you work through feelings and thoughts and for too long, this grief has been the elephant in the room.

Like an idiot, I fell in love in the past year. I do not know when it struck me, only that it remains despite my brain trying to tell my heart to get over it, repeatedly. It is an unrequited love. I offered more than friendship – the very best of my being, of what I have to offer, of doing anything just to make her smile.

This is the second time now when I’ve been in love, and been hurt for it. Both times, they told me in not so uncertain terms that the spark wasn’t there. I never thought of my love as having sparks. I know it comes heavy, like an 18-wheeler truck, and barrels through everything.

Grieving is said to happen in stages, including anger, depression, bargaining, and others. I find often I go to the bargaining stage and get stuck in it. I overanalyze what I could have done differently and if that would have changed the outcome. I would give anything to have it back. I get depressed at the futility of it all – how we only have so much time on this earth, and how the odds are against us from the start. But for my heart, that will make the win that much sweeter – when we are the underdogs and the odds are never in our favor, that’s when a true love will squash anything and everything.

I think of my most recent love often, and wonder if she’s happy. I wish above all that I could be part of what makes her happy. However, that is not to be.

It is this grief I need to come to terms with, and sooner rather than later would be most desirable. Part of my trip will be coming to terms with the second major love of my life and losing it. Some people say it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. I disagree. Both scenarios suck.

It’s better to have love, and have both participants understand what it is to them. Love is a tricky thing and can take many shapes and forms.

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I took a sabbatical from work to contemplate many things, including what I’m meant to be doing with my life, what I should do, and how I want the narrative of my life to change. I write the book. If I truly write the book, I would have a love that actually loved me back. Who didn’t expect love to be something that it isn’t.

I haven’t had the best examples of love in my parents. They’re good people, with their own individual flaws, and they made the best of things. I wonder if it was truly love they shared, though.

I haven’t had many people love me either, not in the romantic sense of the word, anyway. It makes one wonder if they are lovable, when all they encounter is rejection. I like to think I’m a good package. Still, I have some flaws, but in the end, I’m a good person, and deserving of love.

I know there is nothing I can do to get anyone to fall in love with me, or make people love me. Sometimes I wish I could. I’ve spent so much of my life unfulfilled, because no one has loved me, and may never will, as much as my parents loved me.

That brings both mommy and daddy issues into the arena. I see how my dad loved. Well, sort of. OK, not really. He was a gruff man, but he provided, he did things around the house my mother could not, and I see he showed what love he was capable of in certain ways. My mother was the over-doting, extra-protective parent who really thought I could do no wrong, and who still has ridiculous shrines to her only daughter all around her house in the form of framed pictures of me, old dolls that look like me, and a gusto with which she worries about me. Now, those symptoms are not wholly consistent with how my love has debuted itself, but the way the person is reacting to my love is like how I react to my mother’s love. Thanks, but no thanks.

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I find I see attributes of my mother’s love in the most recent unrequited love and the role I’m playing. Not that I have shrines, but with my love, despite seeing person’s flaws, I look past them and still would do anything for her. They’re not flaws to me. They’re part of what make her beautiful and unique. To my detriment, perhaps. That’s scary, because the last thing I want to be is like my mother (in that regard.) I know how I saw her love, and how I treated her. It’s no wonder I’m unhappy. I’ve had horrible role models in love, and I’m doing my best to overcome that.

I’d like to think when I’m working on the next chapters of my life, that I could maybe find a love that loved me back. That’s pretty important to me.

However, I also have to come to terms with an idea that perhaps my destiny is to be single, and I should stop trying altogether. I want to give up, because I’m sick of being disappointed. Maybe I’m just not meant to have that in this lifetime. Maybe this is the kick in the pants I needed to realize that I should stop wasting my time with such frivolous things as the affections of another. For someone who has so much love to give, this is an incredibly bitter pill to swallow.

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So on this trip this summer, I shall be coming to terms with grief as the price for the immense amount of love in all it’s shades of red and blue and explosions of purple that I have. Love is a horrible thing, I don’t recommend it. On the other side of that coin, love is a wonderful thing, and I can’t wait to be in it with someone that actually is in it with me.

For rent

I remember taking practice exams and ultimately the pre-SAT’s and the SAT’s, and reading a piece about a nautilus. For you foreigners who are not familiar with testing and American school systems, those are the tests required to gain entrance to any university. The piece of writing likened the chambers of the nautilus to memory – how you can box up things you no longer need and stuff them into the previous chamber, as this mollusk only lives in the largest and outermost chamber of its shell. Mathematically, the nautilus demonstrates perfectly the naturally occurring Fibonacci sequence of numbers in its growth and proportions.

The empty chambers sealed off at the center of the spiral serve to aid in buoyancy as it navigates the seas. The nautilus still maintains chambers that hold its history, as it inhabited every single one of the chambers inside its shell at one point or another, but it outgrew each of them. It grew bigger and moved onward and upward.

I compare myself to the nautilus. The person I was at 18 was a discreet distinct person, who only knew what she knew then. So much of the world was undiscovered for me. I still hadn’t travelled internationally, and had only just entered college. I branched out on my own due to my fierce independence, separating from my parents, my hometown, and all the friends I’d made up until that point. I threw myself in the metaphorical deep end, and I didn’t sink nor did I drown. I swam, after I found my rhythm, my stroke, and my contribution to give.

I have since put so much that happened in the past into the sealed chambers of my shell, or if you will, in the file cabinet of my life that some religious being may want to peruse one day to judge me. There will be good; there will be bad. There will be noble and honorable; there will be selfish and petty. I try not to pull open the drawers or attempt to access the sealed chambers. What’s done is done, and wasting time regretting would be of no use. I admit that’s not the best approach, as one could argue learning from the past means you’re not necessarily doomed to repeat it. The way I see it, I have a whole life to live, and a whole lot of mistakes to make. I’d rather focus on the future and what that may bring.

It’s weird to think at death, some religious being may perform a reconciliation of our “account”, to use accounting terms as a metaphor. My cursing sailor mouth and my donation to charity may be weighed against each other. That time I snorted milk up my nose and out my eye is going to potentially be compared to some horribly risqué nun joke I told while inebriated at a work function.

Death seems like a final tally, a T account with debits and credits (you know you love accounting references). You build up a balance of good (hopefully), but every once in a while, you need to deduct the bad. I used to naively think as a kid I wouldn’t do anything bad, then I could be the best person. That’s no way to live. As Katharine Hepburn famously said, “If you follow all the rules, you miss all the fun,” or something to that effect (didn’t bother to google this one to correct myself, but I think I already quoted it in one of my blog posts once.)

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It happens to everyone, and I think every person must do their own reconciliation. I don’t know if some religious spiritual being is going to care enough to record my final tally. I may simply be in the “miscellaneous” suspense account. Until my life’s purpose is sorted and lived, who knows?

I may have mentioned in a previous blog a Dying, Death, and the Afterlife course I took at Chico State. It was technically a religious studies course, and we had a ton of really interesting books on the syllabus to satiate our hungry minds on the topic. At the time I took the course, I’d only lost one person somewhat close to me – a chemistry lab partner who got into a car accident just after his 16th birthday. So it would be fair to say I’d never experienced real loss before that course. Not that kind that fucks you up and knocks you sideways, anyway. Digression – Sideways is a great song by Citizen Cope – check it out here if you like:

One of the key takeaways I had from that class included the fact that Puritanical settlements in the early days of US history were founded on quite morbid principles. Death was such a common player in everyday life that Puritanical townships were actually constructed around a graveyard. That is to say, every town had a graveyard first, and the city then grew up around that graveyard. Puritanical life saw a much shorter life span for these adventurers and new world explorers. Society needed an institution to handle grief, before it needed any kind of government building or commercial business. Some family plots even had their own gravesites right on the property, and that tradition continues on many private pieces of land even today.

On our booklist in that course, in case you’re interested, were C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed, Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being (one of my favorites to this very day), and When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner, to mention a few.

Grief itself is almost a science. This institution, creating socially acceptable means to handle grief, is extensive and is a billion dollar industry, between funeral homes, cremation costs, world travels you sign up for when you realize life is just too damn short, and the like.

One of my favorite poems discovered in my high school advanced placement literature class (taught by a wealthy eccentric whose doctor husband kept her in a lifestyle to which she’d become accustomed so she had time to read and form her own interpretation of many literary pieces), was John Donne’s A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.

The poem uses metaphors and comparisons, each describing a way of looking at two lovers’ separation that will help them to avoid the mourning the loss of the other. If you have a significant other or loved one from whom you’ve been separated for any length of time, you can relate to the hearkening your heart feels towards them: how the sound of their voice plays in your head, you see them when they’re not there, you miss their smell, and your body actually aches in the absence of their touch. True yearning for just a moment with them.

The speaker in the poem declares that, since the lovers’ two souls are one, the departure of one of the lovers will simply expand the area of their unified soul, rather than cause a rift between them. So if my loved one is across the world, we live in that much bigger of a world. My favorite metaphor is that of a compass, where the two lovers’ souls are “two” instead of “one”, and one is the foot of the compass, holding steady, while the other circumnavigates and travels a circle around them, yet they know they’ll return to being side by side once the compass is done being used.

Not on our syllabus, but something I watched later in life I added to my so-called Contemplation About Death soup recipe is the likes of movies like Donnie Darko especially, and honorable mentions to Minority Report, The Butterfly Effect and Memento. Consideration of questions and all things death is key; but the impact of memory and our own brain deficiencies/gifts makes them that much better.

From the opening of the movie Donnie Darko, I was captivated. Tears for Fears. Drew Barrymore. A young Maggie Gyllenhaal (with real-life brother Jake). Deeply contemplative issues (like “how exactly does one suck a fuck?”). Some old lady with a silver 80’s pseudo mullet who loved checking her mailbox. A load of crap cult trying to brainwash people on love and fear led by a child pornographer. Mental illness vs. sanity, and the need for pills vs. the desire to not be on them, so you could know what’s real and what’s not. Consideration of other dimensions and time travel. Contemplation of impacts of choice versus fate, ripples in time, and escaped fatalies. I loved the concept of time travel and the globular clear gel goo that preceded character’s movements at one point in the film, and likened them to be a vision of what destiny or powers of prediction might look like to new eyes.

There is great cliff notes synopsis of the movie here in case you really want to break down Donnie Darko.

My favorite quote of the movie, to pursue a slight tangent (but I digress):

Donnie: [taking a cigarette] What happens if you tell Mom and Dad about this, Sam?

Samantha Darko: You’ll put Ariel in the garbage disposal.

Donnie: Goddamn right I will.

Spoiler alert, but Donnie has to die to amend the impacts of the ripple seen at the beginning of the film when he initially misses his death from the jet engine of an unknown plane falling into his bedroom. The countdown, the end of the world, is the end of his world. Of course it’s an important date worth counting down. I could argue that a smart person wouldn’t want to know the day they’re going to die though. Ruins the fun, adventure, and possibly the whole ride. We want to love the ride.

Like the institution of marriage, humans have created an institution to come to terms with death. We put infirm elderly people in homes because they require special care, and sometimes we don’t have the time or resources ourselves to care for them anymore. In my finance courses in college, Long Term Care is actually something people universally plan for now, assuming their families can’t/won’t take care of them. There’s insurance for that. You betcha.

It’s so much harder to deal with an unexpected death than it is to come to terms with one you knew was coming. It’s harder to deal with the death of a life cut too soon, perhaps a child, than it is to deal with the death of senior citizens. It’s easier to lay someone to rest properly and begin healing if you have a wake, a funeral pyre, a memorial service, or some kind of public forum where loved ones can express their grief. Let it out, don’t keep it in. This is all a part of the Institution of Grief.

What we don’t realize is that we carry grief with us all the time. When we cry at a funeral, we’re not done dealing with the death of a loved one. Oh no – it’s far from over. We ache and miss them every time we remember them. We feel all kinds of emotions – relief, anger, fear, sadness, depression, disconnection, insular, bargaining, loss. While we can find socially acceptable means of releasing that emotion, we worry about those who don’t “get over it” within a “reasonable” amount of time. There is something wrong if they can’t move on.

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We don’t understand, if we believe in God, how He (or She) could let such a horrible thing happen to someone He (She) created and loved. We may lose faith, our loved ones may isolate themselves from us while we trudge through all this emotional mud. If we’re lucky, we come out the other side, just a little bit stronger despite the loss.

Death should be the celebration of a life well-lived. It is merely a stage, yet it’s so foundational in our core. It still intrigues me, to the point of not wanting to know much about it. I don’t want to be an EMT first on the scene of a motorcycle crash, nor do I think I’m capable of handling a grief for that stranger I may find. I don’t want to be a doctor, and have someone’s fate lie in my shaky hands, when I may not believe in myself or get woozy at the sight of mangled flesh. I’m a feeler, not a thinker. In the Meyers-Briggs test I last took, I was an INFP – Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perception. Yes, I am, in fact, an idealist at heart.

  • I – Introversion preferred to extraversion: INFPs tend to be quiet and reserved. They generally prefer interacting with a few close friends rather than a wide circle of acquaintances, and they expend energy in social situations (whereas extraverts gain energy).
  • N – Intuition preferred to sensing: INFPs tend to be more abstract than concrete. They focus their attention on the big picture rather than the details, and on future possibilities rather than immediate realities.
  • F – Feeling preferred to thinking: INFPs tend to value personal considerations above objective criteria. When making decisions, they often give more weight to social implications than to logic.
  • P – Perception preferred to judgment: INFPs tend to withhold judgment and delay important decisions, preferring to “keep their options open” should circumstances change.

When my own father passed away on June 3, 2013, we didn’t have a formal funeral. My mom held a memorial a year later in the hometown where they met and married, and his and her friends from way back attended. I was across the country, and didn’t have any kind of ceremony to attend.

I was still living in Australia at the time. My father always asked me when I came home to visit if I’d been to Ayers Rock (Uluru) yet. The trip before he passed, I still hadn’t, so I booked the trip with my girlfriend in December to go in July. I didn’t even tell him I’d booked it. I was gonna tell him about it after I went.

I didn’t get to. I took some of his ashes – little known fact – you can transport ashes internationally, but they need to be in checked baggage if the amount you have represents more than 10% of a person. I took approximately 9.5% of my dad’s “person” as carry-on back to Sydney, along with a death certificate to shut up any TSA agent who gave me a hard time about it. No one did. I took his ashes with me to Uluru and found a spot to scatter them. Forever, a piece of him will rest at a lookout spot overlooking Uluru. I took a photo of the view, had it made into a canvas, and now I keep that canvas in my apartment, so I can see what he sees there.

I had no socially acceptable outlet to release my grief, so I made my own. I played the following playlist on my iphone speakers, then did a reading from a book my dad introduced me to:

  • Father and Son – Cat Stevens
  • Simple Man – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
  • Landslide – Fleetwood Mac (live version Stevie dedicates to her daddy)

The book my father handed to me to learn about death as a child was Emir’s Education in the Proper Use of Magical Powers by Jane Roberts. The passages I read out loud to no one but my dad’s ashes, myself and my now ex-girlfriend that day was as follows:

“The spirits of people and creatures and plants don’t take up any room at all. But their bodies do. Bodies are like houses our spirits live in, only they’re far nicer, of course. There’s only room for so many bodies in the kingdom, whether they’re plant bodies or creature bodies or people bodies. After a while, we have to leave our body-houses to make room for new things.”

“When you leave your body, it just folds up and goes back into the ground or swamp or whatever, and it’s made into another one. Then somebody else moves into it. It comes out all brand-new. It has to be painted and remodeled.”

“Emir said: “This way everyone lives in a body of a kind for a while, and then leaves its body behind so that it can be remade for someone else. That’s a very simple explanation, but it will do for now. Then all new life has a chance to live, and lots of room. Then we each take turns, so we can come back on new bodies when there’s space available.”

So perhaps one day, my obituary may appear in the classified ads section of the newspaper, starting with, “For rent…” It was mine for a little while, but I learned how to share, and now, it’s your turn. Enjoy the ride.

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