What the fuck were you thinking. What the fuck indeed. For those of you who don’t have the unmitigated joy of living with imposter syndrome, what the fuck were you thinking is a constant refrain. Those of you who have impulse issues for one reason or another, you will be familiar with what the fuck were you thinking.
And as I look at the progress I have made in the past two days on top of the past fifty-five years and then I look at this piece in the morning sunlight and I know the answer.
This is real. This is beauty. This is power. This is knowledge.
I read the things that I wrote when I know I was desperate
When The Desperate was upon me
when it was the only thing near me, surrounding me
perched on my shoulders like a raptor
(waiting for me to succumb just the tiniest bit)
my already hard as stone flesh under the digging sharpness, not giving way
I am stronger than you in my pain
I am more than you even in my terror.
That pain, that terror, it lives in my body.
Just as I know that too many crunches or coughs or orgasms can make my body feel anxious even though it is simply muscle memory.
My body contracts when I am terrified; it attempts to make itself smaller
as if I could instantly transform a 228-pound half-ton-lifting body into something smaller
What if instead of contracting I e x p a n d e d
Took up more room.
Reached out for more explanation.
I know that
(you know how you get)
I know that I only used to have rage as a solution.
I know that instant inner and outer screaming was the only possibility.
I don’t feel that way anymore
(you know how you get)
I haven’t felt that way for some time
(you know how you get)
I feel so much more able to unroll the things in front of me
(you know how you get)
Keep the center fast
(you know how you get)
It is so much to shut out.
Take smaller bites, then.
Stop reading when you begin to go elsewhere.
Enforce your boundaries.
(you know how you get)
Yes, I do. It’s too much to be and still stay standing.
Let go of the things that hurt and don’t serve.
739a 26 may 2023
I read the things that I wrote when I know I was desperate When the desperate was upon me when it was the only thing near me, surrounding me perched on my shoulders like a raptor (waiting for me to succumb just the tiniest bit) my already hard as stone flesh under the digging sharpness, not giving way I am stronger than you in my pain I am more than you even in my terror.
That pain, that terror, it lives in my body. Just as I know that too many crunches or coughs or orgasms can make my body feel anxious even though it is simply muscle memory.
My body contracts when I am terrified; it attempts to make itself smaller as if I could instantly transform a 228-pound half-ton-lifting body into something smaller
What if What if instead of contracting I
e x p a n d e d instead? Took up more room. Reached out for more explanation. I know that (you know how you get) I know that I only used to have rage as a solution. I know that instant inner and outer screaming was the only possibility. I don’t feel that way anymore (you know how you get) I haven’t felt that way for some time (you know how you get) I feel so much more able to unroll the things in front of me (you know how you get) Keep the center fast (you know how you get)
It is so much to shut out. Take smaller bites, then. Stop reading when you begin to go elsewhere. Pull back. Enforce your boundaries.
(you know how you get)
Yes, I do. It’s too much to be and still stay standing.
Maybe an odd statement coming from someone who sells their work, from a person who is trying to make a living, selling her work.
It has never been about the selling of the work. Not ever.
It has always been about the making of the work. I have found as perfect an outlet as I can for the noise the absolute noise and froth that fills me completely. My art, my writing. This is where it goes.
I don’t have a choice as to the making of the things. I have to. I have to work I have to work on my work. It is only by doing so that there becomes enough open space inside for me to breathe.
All of the processing, all of the talking, all of the telling of my story, all of the spiraling and twisting and understanding the eventual understanding the light bulb the eureka the oh!
I pour myself into my work have been pouring myself into my work my entire life. It is such a generous thing. It allows me creation. It takes on all of the energy all of that focused energy Transforms, transformative, that focused energy. It allows me to assess and reassess my progress in a purely physical way Allows me to follow my mind on what has been Becoming a more steady way, a surer way A more intentional way. I see the evolution in my work as I see the evolution in my self.
That is how I defend my work. That is how I know it is good. It has taken everything I have and has survived.
The things that I would say The things that I would say to you if I had your ear again
I mean of course how much I love you and fucking Christ I miss you but also How much I miss massaging your hands the way you like That yes please write my Etsy descriptions for me so that I don’t have to and I am so sorry that I said no when you offered. What was I thinking?? I wasn’t.
If you thought I was scattered before It’s like pistachio shells on the pavement now. The ravens are noisy overhead, more so than usual as I sit outside in the grey.
If I were someone who saw signs in things I would definitely feel that you are close.
But I don’t, so what do I do?
Push past, through. Know the next immediate steps for today. Focus on coming home.
you asked me more than once yesterday if i was okay what gave it away it is clear that you are unable to listen or unwilling it doesn’t matter which you are unable to read my face until it is well past too late yes, I know that you are going through some shit. yes I know that there are some things that seem beyond your control. I have learned that it is safer for me to not engage with people who are acting like this until they stop, but that is the crux. I am uncomfortable in my own brain in my own body in my own self so to be around and be barraged by cutting commentary is not something I can sustain. every least sneer is an accusation, is a judgement.
I am trying to remain whole, one. Here. There is too much turbulence and I cannot keep fast to my core. I cannot weather the storm any more.
Stay here. Stay here stay here stay here (repeating ad infinitum into the dark, into the open windows of my car out to the night ) stay here please so much more for you so much more please stay.
I look out into the night, look into my mind to remember the things that are waiting for me. please stay. I know you feel unwelcome but please stay. I know that you feel that there is no room for you and that you need to be by yourself but please stay.
I smoke and I smoke and I smoke and I smoke I smoke until finally I find something that makes me laugh, I comment, “thank you, that finally made me laugh.” knowing that it will only last until it doesn’t.
2023 Each year that I read this (and it is now five) I am struck by how close to the initial feeling I still have, how it is now my core, how those first four months of aftermath set the tone for my moving forward.
The sentiment is the same. I wish you could see.
I couldn’t be this person if you had survived, I wouldn’t be. I wouldn’t have to be.
I wonder if you knew the electricity and wonderment and sheer delight others know to be my truth; I have to believe we had that, too, once upon a time.
How good was my best back then? How close to this could you possibly have seen back then? I guess it must have been something because we met and fell in love and you told me so eleven days later.
I wish I could talk to that girl that I was that person who was running on full-blown mania 100% of the time. I have so much to tell her.
2018 Gary, my love.
Four months ago today you left this Earth.
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss you, that I don’t think about you, that I don’t have something to share with you.
I’ve grown stronger, and softer, and wiser. I’ve grown in ways you would expect, be proud of. Become even more resilient, because I’ve had to. You always had my back even when neither of us knew it. Even when it was too difficult to say so, to share so.
I’ve met people who you would like, who you would love, and I’ve told them so. I’ve made changes; some small, some not-so. Evolved, mostly. Become, more. The way The Velveteen Rabbit Became.
Anyone I let into This Widow’s Life has to measure up to your memory, is judged against your bar, and a very high bar it is indeed. I can reach it on tiptoe, in bare feet. You remain the smartest man I’ve ever met. The most difficult partner I’ve ever had. The most worth-it partner. You had to be, we had to be, for me to not give up, for us to not give up. And we never did.
I tolerate less, and more. Funny, that. I’m not afraid to speak my mind, stand firm, hold my ground. I give no quarter; this far and no further.
Those I have let in, those few, I think they know, I think they realize what a gift it is. You did. Even though it wasn’t until the very very end. So bittersweet; but I am not bitter.
Waste time fucking money energy resources on everything just to be disappointed again and again and again and again and again why none of this ever fucking works none of it why do I expect anything better why fucking why why
I am going to sit in my car and smoke until I can’t see straight and smoke until the windows are so cloudy with resin that nothing will clean them ever fucking again ever ever fucking again I’m sick to fucking death of just being disappointed over and over and over and over and over I hate all this I hate it I fucking hate it I hate that I have to come out to my car to scream
(screaming) wouldn’t it have been amazing if I had died on the way to fucking get it wouldn’t have been amazing if I had not been able to keep my eyes focused on the road because I was so fucking tired because I can’t fucking sleep because my fucking fucking fucking fucking fucking fucking fucking brain is so fucking demented for it to not work to get it home and for it to not work
It is taking every ounce of energy and the baseball bat that I do not have to keep from smashing this thing into a hundred million bits of fucking plastic
Grateful that I am only out 350 that I barely had instead of 500 that I don’t have
Grateful that I have a car in which I can smoke and that this was not my only possibility grateful that I can come out to my car and smoke and smoke and smoke and smoke and smoke and continue to keep smoking in my car because that is all there fucking is why did I think this fucking thing would work
There isn’t a single fucking thing I can do, either I am completely impotent I am completely without recourse there’s nothing I can do zero fucking nothing there’s fucking fucking nothing there’s absolutely nothing there’s nothing nothing all I can do is sit here and smoke and smoke and smoke and continue to just destroy everything
I feel like if I had all the answers then things would make sense. if I knew all the things, if I could puzzle everything parse everything. if I could see where every single little thing fit in the world where all of the things had their place then perhaps I would know where my place was Because I do not. I see all the things and I don’t know how they fit I don’t know how I fit I don’t know where I fit. . big things huge things loom out of the dark like I didn’t know they were coming like I just fucking forgot (no, you didn’t forget you just forgot where you put that part of your memory ) does anyone else see the difference?
(in searching for something I can’t remember now, I found this. I never published it. I remember the pain as clearly as if it just happened.)
However, I am no longer this person. Not exactly.
8:18a 17th june, 2020
enduring days of abject depression, sending me into disintegration out of the clear blue. With summer comes dysphoria and rage and fury. Depression so deep that it wakes me up at night, gasping for breath at the depth of pain; the length of the blade through my chest.
I know that I have been coasting fairly easily (really? are you really going to say it’s been fairly easy?) on a swell of euphoric mania, tempered by cannabis and isolation. this depression though, this abyssal plunge into despair, this parsing of whether I feel suicidality or suicidal: do I just want to not be? Or to do something about it? (it’s suicidality, it nearly almost always is.)
The days since I found the “Gary 🖤’s Lysa” CD in the attic have been upending for me. My entire, well, my entire everything is upended. My disallowing of fantastical and supernatural beliefs has been integral to my sanity. Being able to depend on science and logic and reason has been super fucking important. And I’m supposed to just, what. Forget all that? I’m reminded of a joke that I’m mostly forgetting but it comes down to the idea of believing that there are signs when they’re shoved in your face. How on Earth do I do this? As someone who is as interested in codes and ciphers and symbols and yes, signs, as I am, as Gary was. But as a communication tool used by the living, the sentient, because what else could it possibly be?
What else could it possibly be?
Four days ago but not last night I started taking edibles before bed so that I could sleep through the night and not be woken up by my own sadness. It worked, I got about six hours each night. I was still a depressed wreck the next day everyday. I couldn’t be counted on to not completely break down. Yesterday was so hard, so painful. I knew that on top of everything that is already happening, it is now the beginning of summer and while springtime is for suicidal thoughts, summertime is for the homicidal ones. (I don’t make the rules, I just follow them.)
I used every tool in my toolbox yesterday morning, to try and feel better. Nothing worked. There was nothing wrong with my tools, it’s just that my brain needed more power, more help than these tools were capable of fixing. it was getting close to getting to be too late to go to the pottery, and I had to decide whether I could trust myself to get there safely, and get home safely. Whether I could count on myself to make the hour’s drive safely. I had to weigh the pros and cons of getting in a car and driving for an hour in order to get to my happy place. I decided that I needed to go more than I could stand not going, and so I would pour all my concentration, my focus into getting there safely.
The first flashes of dysphoric mania broke through my depression in a terrifying way. I realized how outsized my reaction was, and while I didn’t do anything to encourage it, I also didn’t do anything to stop it. I let it just sort of die down, looked at it, and realized that I needed to stop it. I was consumed with rage. While driving. This did not bode well for arriving safely.
I concentrated on relaxing my shoulders, taking my tongue from where it was stuck to the roof of my mouth and relaxing that, trying so hard to remember Kellen’s voice in my ears, giving me permission to be nowhere else but listening to her voice.
To my credit, I did not yell at myself for trying to do these things. I did not make fun of myself for trying to do these things. I did not give voice to any doubt that I would be able to do these things. I tried as best I could to just relax and drive and space out as much as I thought safe to. keeping the reward of a safe place in mind as I drove the familiar route.
I got there, smiling wanly at the familiar markers, seeing the two hand-painted rainbow signs way up in Trump country, always heartening. Anxious that I would once again get to the pottery and see cars belonging to people I didn’t want to see, knowing that this was a possibility, steeling myself for it. Managing my expectations. I turned up the drive.
No one here but us chickens.
10:42a 18th June, 2020
I couldn’t do it all in one day, get it all written. I am grateful that I had enough time to write what I did, but then I had to get ready for work and go to work and deal with work. Too many hours, too many people. Too much of everything. Back to the story.
The relief I felt at not seeing BT’s car, well, to say that I could finally lower my fear would be an understatement. All of the anticipation of having to possibly deal with her and avoid her and her narcissistic bullshit, because every single time that I had come up here needing solace, needing peace, she was here. In my way. She wasn’t there.
I had planned on going up there to work, to make new work. With no plan to sell anything or any kind of brain power to work on that but it isn’t ever about the selling. It’s about the making.
(I am regretting not working on this last night when it was still somewhat fresh. I am foggy on the details of the day now. Perhaps that isn’t important.)
I know that Lynn and I had raised voices, and that I was in distress, and I couldn’t understand why she couldn’t see how much I was struggling. I know how much she loves me, I know how much she wants for me to be as sane and as happy as I can be. I also knew that nothing would be solved by not telling her how much I was hurting. So I did. I said that I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. And she said okay. and if we could have hugged we would have hugged. But we couldn’t hug, so we sat six feet apart and smiled through the sadness.
We talked more about things we both agree on, talked about upcoming firings, talked about new friendships we were making and how grateful we were for each other. We made plans for the next time we would see each other, Sunday. I left, with nothing made but progress.
I put my Phoenix playlist on shuffle, one that I started making when I first started coming into my badassery for real.
The opening notes, soft, haunting voices. The Night We Met.
I am not the only traveler Who has not repaid his debt I’ve been searching for a trail to follow, again Take me back to the night we met And then I can tell myself What the hell I’m supposed to do And then I can tell myself Not to ride along with you I had all and then most of you Some and now none of you Take me back to the night we met I don’t know what I’m supposed to do Haunted by the ghost of you Oh, take me back to the night we met…
The night we met in person for the first time, the night we spent together eating, talking, walking, falling in love. Walking past the Salvation Army building with its new sign, lit but covered, ghostly and creepy.
He took photos.
This suggested one person to me Jan.
As I was listening, I began to nod. Yes.
Driving guitar. Insistent drums. Hurricane Jane.
Go ahead call me a hurricane Got no regrets I accept that name Sound the alarm big storm comin’ run for cover get gone My screams make the wind My tears become the rain My body rolls like the waves And my heart is the eye of the storm Kali, Goddess of Destruction got nothin’ on me I’m Queen Calamity
I pulled the car over. Off the road, blinkers on. Okay, I get it.
I pull over so I can text Jan. To tell her that I need her help, her counsel. Not right that second, I didn’t want to needlessly worry her, but that right that second was when I figured it out so I’m telling her. She got back to me somewhere on my way home, made plans to meet and chill. This afternoon.
Seeking the counsel of a retired priest.
I wish I could say that I am eased, now, having made plans. I’m not. If anything, I’m more amped up and tightly wound than I was. I am hyper aware of exactly how rigid my shoulders are, how every terrible thought is barging its way into my head. How a photo of the partner I haven’t seen in months is breaking my heart with how the look on his face echoes my own. How all I want to do is tell him it will all be better.
But I don’t know that it will. What I do know is that it can always get worse, and often does.