Wednesday, November 29, 2023

'Til our lives are burning gold

So many times, over the last 651 days, I have said or thought some version of:

"I wish I could go back to the way things were before".

The Before Times. 

Lord, there was so much I didn't know then. There is so much I wish I didn't know now.


I am not the same person I was before and I am honestly not supposed to be.






It didn't occur to me until recently, that I'm also grieving this person I was supposed to get to be. 

And there's so much y'all. It seems stupid and frivolous and navel gazing to say it, but there are just so many things that I was going to do.

Not just things I said I was going to do, because that's not who I am as a human. In the Before Times if I said I was going to do something I would do it or I would try to do it until blood came out of my eyeballs. 

Now? I can't even count the failures I have had in the last 651 days. Endless failing. So many times I cringe thinking about it. Small failures again and again, when I couldn't do things like eat dinner or lift my head off my pillow, and big failures that I am too ashamed to even write about. 

I don't like failing. No one does, I guess, but I especially don't like failing because I forgot how to function as a human being. I don't like to fail because grief is so deep and wide and cavernous sometimes that I forget entire days of my life, that I look up and realize suddenly I'm home and have no idea how I got here, that I have to sometimes just sit in the bathtub, motionless and empty because simply getting through the day is so exhausting I can't do anything else. 


I fail sometimes because I can't keep the tears from coming. I feel powerless. I feel lonely and lost and weak and it's all, sometimes, just so awful.




Sometimes I'm fine, and that's also extremely disconcerting, because I catch myself feeling okay and then immediately wonder how I can be? How can I be okay when I have a void this great? How can I be okay when you are not, when you never could be? How can I be okay when there is a constant, aching, unending hurt in my soul? How are you ever okay without the one person who talked you through, who was on your side, who was your one friend in the midst of all the chaos?


I don't know. 


I think sometimes about how we were supposed to get old. I am still getting old, but my brother is not and this year on my birthday when I was older than he ever lived to be, it nearly made my brain explode. It's not right for me to be older than my big brother and that makes me feel unsettled in ways I can't really explain. 

I think about his children growing older, and how grateful I am to have them in my life. I feel responsible for them, even though they are adults and don't need or ask me to be responsible. I don't know how our relationship will change and it scares me. There was so much after my brother died. So many things I wish I could do over. So many mistakes. I worry every day that I didn't do enough for them and I know I did things wrong. I would give anything to undo any hurt I did, and I would give even more anything to have never been in that position in the first place.


I think about the little, stupid things too. How I was going to do a Spartan race and now I still can't do an unassisted pull-up. How it was FINALLY going to be my year to win the big award at work, and I got "meets expectations" on my review. I wasn't going to let my dog run my life and my dog? She runs so much of my life. So, so much.


The book I was writing, the funny, silly, irreverent novel, has been replaced with a largely unfinished, plodding litany of pain and grief and loss that should likely never be consumed by anyone, anywhere.

My finances, my body, my marriage, my friendships...every nuance, every flaw, every imperfection was planned and organized and I was going to fix every bit of it. None of it, not one bit of it, is fixed.

I am not the same person I was before and I can't be ever again.

I do wonder, though. I wonder about and grieve who I could have been.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Like she made it to 48, still made your birthday cake.

Cancun, Mexico

October, 2023

La vida mas bella. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Forever trusting who we are

On Saturday, September 23rd,  I was sitting in the waiting area of Boston Logan International Airport, ready to be home and thinking. Mostly thinking.

Grief is deep work and I've been embroiled in it. Honestly, I've been embroiled in it pretty deeply since 2016. Sometimes I feel like this work I've been doing, this pain I've been grappling with, this deconstruction I've been plodding through, was somehow to prepare me for some of the deeper tests. 

Basically every day since 2/16/22.



It's more than that though.

You understood it was more than that.


My therapist is very good, as I've mentioned, and one thing she keeps asking me is to examine what it is I want.


It seems like a silly question. My brain thinks it's silly.


What do I want?

 I want my brother to not be dead. That is what I want.


And yes. Of course. That is what I want.

It's not silly though. The question is real and it's a lot deeper than that. A lot.


Sitting at a really crowded airport, getting ready to fly home and straight into a Tropical Storm seems like a weird time to ponder the meaning of life, but that's where I found myself. So I closed my eyes and cleared my mind as much as I could and focused, really focused, on what it is I want.


Safety is the only word that came to mind.


I want to feel safe.


The reality is, I haven't felt safe for a very long time.

The harder truth is, every time I start to feel safe, or happy, or even just okay? Something horrible happens. 

It seems easier to be unsafe. To be constantly on guard. To just be ready, hell, to expect that things will be wrong. That I will fail. That it will all be terrible. 

That's what is easier.

I've never been one for doing anything the easy way, but this? This is different. I feel like I've coasted the last year and a half. I've been in a daze. I've not progressed in anything and in some really important, meaningful ways I've regressed. 

It's scary. I don't like it.

It's more scary though, to be okay. It's more scary right now to feel safe.


The morning of February 16th, 2022 I woke up feeling fantastic. I was so, so happy that morning and I remember it so vividly because I haven't been that happy since then and also because I feel like...maybe I'm being punished for daring to be happy? Maybe it just can't be okay, not for me. 

 I had no idea that my brother was suicidal. I didn't see it. I couldn't see it. 

Looking back now, it seems almost obvious. I've read the last text he sent me over and over and over. I've memorized every word. 

I'm okay. 

In a lot of pain, but depressed to the point I don't even care anymore.

That was the first part of the last text. 

I'm okay.

He wasn't okay. He was so, so not okay.

I didn't see it then. He wasn't okay and I didn't see it and even if I had seen it? I don't know if I could have helped him. For that, and for a million other things, maybe I don't deserve to be okay anymore.

I don't know.

I don't blame myself for his death. I know he was really struggling and I know his struggles had very little, if anything, to do with me. A few months before he died he asked me to help with some things that I felt really uncomfortable with and I said I couldn't and explained why. He didn't respond to that, not for a few days, and when he did finally respond it was another topic entirely. I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking he moved on. I know now he hadn't moved on and now I'm wondering, again, if  I did the wrong thing.


"Are you okay?"


A man, sitting two seats over from me in the airport is asking me a question, and I honestly had not even realized he was there.  I had my eyes closed. I was utterly exhausted, on my way home from a charity walk for suicide awareness.   The walk was not physically hard, but emotionally it left me completely drained.

"Yes, I'm fine," I smiled at him so he would know I'm fine. I'm Southern, we do crap like that.

He stared at me, making me regret the smile.

"I'm sorry to bother you," he said. "You just look so much like my sister."

I will be 48 years old in 4 days. I will be older than my brother ever was, and my brain breaks every time I think about it. He's my older brother and he's always supposed to be older than me, and this simply cannot be. 

What do I want? Beyond world peace and beyond my family's health and well-being, and all of those other things we say and really mean when we are asked what we want. What do I really, deep in my soul, want?

I want this to not be real.

I want my brother to be here.

I want failure and disappointment to stop feeling normal.

I want to write about something other than how broken I am.


I want to stop being broken. I want what I do to matter. I want to be okay with what currently is and do better with what is to come.

I want to feel safe and, more importantly, I want safe to feel safe again.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Stuck in the middle with you.

 From 2016 to 2022, I exchanged hundreds of texts with my brother. Maybe thousands. Probably thousands.


Most were very normal. 

What time will you be here?

Are you feeling better?

I can meet you here.


Some were more scary. Rantings at 2am about things that I can't even begin to talk about. Hurt and fears and paranoia, spilling out into words, words, words. So much sometimes that I would look at my phone in the morning and feel a sick sense of dread, wondering how I could talk him down from this...whatever "this" was today.


What I wouldn't give to wake up tomorrow and have that sick sense of dread.


Sometimes the texts were more loving. I realized a very long time ago that things were not okay with my brother, and (some time later) I realized that I could not fix anything. You cannot love, wish, or pray away mental health issues. It's simply not possible. My decision, instead, was to just love my brother for exactly who he was. Some days I didn't know who he would be, but whatever he showed up as, I was choosing love.

 So some days my texts said, "You aren't the mistakes you've made" or "You are my favorite brother" or just "Love you".

Love you. 

Love you and love you and love you.

My therapist told me that year one after someone dies is hard and terrible and really tough, but year two was usually worse.

And okay. It's not that I didn't believe her. She's very trustworthy. It's just...year one was SO BAD. I felt SO BAD. The first day of year two was SO BAD. I was falling apart, completely. 

And then I was okay.

Kind of okay.

I mean, not really okay, but I was functioning. 

Okay, mostly I was functioning.

I have had moments of love and laughter and light in 2023 and I cherish those. So I was okay, right?

In fact, I was pretty sure I was really good at grief. Like, ADVANCED. 

(I am not proud of this. My competitiveness is embarrassing)

One day I realized it was exactly 1.5 years since my brother died and I absolutely fell apart. Weeping. Aching. My soul hurt. My actual soul.

He's not coming back.

I mean, I knew this. I have known since the day he died that I would not see him again as long as I was on this Earth. My brain comprehended this reality, but when I thought about all the years I have left to live and that he would not be a part of them, something just broke in me. Just absolutely crumbled. 

That was about a month ago.

I am surviving.

I have had a lot to do lately, as I always do. I have been, more than usual, exhausted and overwhelmed. I feel needy and like a burden. Life often feels like a slog.

Yesterday morning, like most mornings, I went to my Bootcamp. It was an insane workout, ridiculously challenging. There was a modification, but I'm stubborn and competitive and I didn't even consider the mod. I'll do 100 deadlifts and then I'll do 100 more and don't tell me I can't.

After the 100 deadlifts (not kidding about that) I started to falter a little bit. I took a breath, swung my arms around, and reached for my dumbells and suddenly, on the sound system:

Well, I took a walk around the world to ease my troubled mindI left my body lying somewhere in the sands of timeBut I watched the world float to the dark side of the moonI feel there's nothing I can do, yeah
I watched the world float to the dark side of the moonAfter all I knew, it had to be something to do with youI really don't mind what happens now and thenAs long as you'll be my friend at the end
If I go crazy, then will you still call me Superman?If I'm alive and well, will you be there and holding my hand?I'll keep you by my side with my superhuman mightKryptonite
You called me strong, you called me weakBut still your secrets, I will keepYou took for granted all the times, I never let you downYou stumbled in and bumped your headIf not for me then you'd be deadI picked you up and put you back on solid ground
If I go crazy, then will you still call me Superman?If I'm alive and well, will you be there and holding my hand?I'll keep you by my side with my superhuman mightKryptonite
He loved Superman. 
He loved me too.
I kept his secrets.
A lot of them I still keep.
I went for a long walk, and I cried.  Alone in the quiet woods, I just let the tears fall.
I looked down at the wet, muddy path, and a little leaf fell in front of me.
This leaf.


I had a lot of things to do last night and I came home later than I like. I was putting away all of my groceries and my sweet dog,  Macie, needed a lot of attention.

It's a dog thing, I know, but Macie needs me to watch her eat her dinner. She needs me to praise her and tell her how good she is while she eats, Her anxiety is a bit of an issue, but I overlook it mostly and give her love. Just love. Unconditional love. She's was so damaged when she got to me and I decided when she arrived that no matter what I wouldn't contribute to her pain. 

Love you and love you and love you.

I was holding my phone as I usually am, and I guess somehow I was holding down the microphone button. I said to my dog, "I'm very proud of you!" and my phone searched for that phrase.

I glanced down at my phone, and there was a text message. From my brother.

My heart stopped for just a moment. Honestly for about the first six months after he died I checked my phone constantly, certain he would text me any moment. That this was all a joke. He was just somewhere I couldn't see him, but he wasn't, and couldn't, and certainly would never be gone.

"Oh," I said out loud, and I guess I said it in a way that was very alarming because Megan rushed to me and grabbed my hand, extremely concerned.

"My brother," I said. "My brother was very proud of me."

He was.

I hope he still is.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

El amor es hermoso

Punta Cana

July, 2023

Life is beautiful.