Christmakah, 2016/2019

a photo of my bald, beautiful, dead husband with bows stuck to his head. a lit christmas tree is in the background.

Gary’s last Christmas, at my brother’s house in Connecticut.

We had finally become, after fourteen years together, aware, cognizant, and appreciative of most of each other’s most pressing and (otherwise seemingly) frivolous/unnecessary needs. It’s incredible to me now; just how much time we spent getting to the beginning of clarity. We had it, in the beginning, I think every cerebrally-minded couple does, but then life and mental illness and physical illness and unemployment and underemployment and medication side effects and more flavors of mental illness all dump themselves unceremoniously into the (already) deliciously complex stew that was our relationship.

Both of us stubborn, at times obstinate. Both of us eternal students, intellectuals, always needing to know more, and why. And to then debate both. Ad nauseam. Never satisfied with “author unknown” or “because I said so”. Dear gods no.

I miss watching TV with him. Needing to allow time for discussion and unpacking. Missing so much the back and forth. Not, however, missing the bad bits, and there were some really, really bad bits. Bits where I felt scared for my safety. Where I don’t doubt he was scared for his. I can be pretty fucking scary. Scared because I knew that the nastier it got, the less able I was to back away. Until he’d finally scream full-volume at me, in my face, stomp upstairs (watch that first step, it’s a doozy), and slam the door to his office. Further screaming and literal hysterical crying ensued. On both sides of the door.

I didn’t see how much danger we were in. I didn’t see (and neither did he) just how badly we were hurting each other. We couldn’t understand each other, couldn’t even speak civilly to each other. I know the truly horrific shit I thought about him (and never, ever said, no, not to him) and can never un-experience the truly horrific shit he said to me (no fucking filter on that boy no SIR). So many terrible things. So many red flags. And yet…

We never gave up. Came close a few times.

Lessons of the first 18,032 days of my life. Supernovaed the very next day. Big Bang. Everything coalescing into the shitstorm of the past 833 days and has led me to today, Christmas Day, 2019. More patient and less tolerant. More willing to give people enough rope to hang themselves with, and to then to pull the lever when I’ve had enough. No hard feelings on my end, just no thank you anymore. Unsubscribe and DELETE. No more time for negativity; my brain manufactures enough TYVM.

On living alone as a klutz.

“So, ah, I was walking through my front hallway to go sit on the couch where I’m sitting now, and uh, caught my toe in the bottom of my, um, pajama bottoms and tripped and if I had fallen I would have definitely hit my head on the flagstone and um, yeah that could have been the end I could have tripped and died and then I sang myself a little song and said ‘I could have died and no one would have found me because I live alone.’ Whoa, wow. Okay.”

1056a 3 december, 2019. Antarctica.

listening to talk of “bucket lists”
places they want to visit

long ago we shared our bucket list adventures
going anywhere, no.
but talking about them.
seemed rational, if not feasible.
I’d sent away for this catalogue
this Antarctic adventures catalogue.
came once a year and lived in the downstairs bathroom.
I mean.
we were living in our stay put forever house.
why not think about forever plans?

I haven’t really thought about Antarctica in a long time.
sometimes it creeps in
I push it away.

far away as it seems.

8:42a, 30 november, 2019

…oh what a world, i don’t want to leave,
there’s all kinds of magic
it’s hard to believe…

all of this, new
all these things, these

I thought you weren’t here to see
I thought I couldn’t share them with you
and now I see how wonderfully wrong I was

…’cause you’re here right now
and I know what I feel…

you are here for every new thing.
all of them.
the you in me sees it all.

*Oh What a World by Kacey Musgraves

12:45p, Thanksgiving Day, 2019

So I never liked my last name growing up.
One syllable, one vowel, lots of consonants.
My sister and I were the only ones with it in grade school.
Come middle school and a whole bunch of new kids.
Lots of Schwartzes, none of us related.
I never liked introducing myself, either.
Didn’t like the sound of my own name in my own mouth.
The sound of it on the lips of others
still odd to me, strange.
Always feeling accusatory at first, second

I’d changed it to take my first husband’s name, Block.
Which wasn’t even his, really.
Got rid of him and his fool name.
Back to Schwartz by default.
The second one, Aubert.
(don’t marry a rebound, people. It doesn’t end well.)
Best thing in my life right now,” I told him on the phone as I was leaving the DMV,
“is getting my own name back on my license.”
Accurate, but certainly not kind.
Unnecessary to say. I’m sorry now that I did then.

The third one, though, the third one stayed up.
What if I hyphenated it?
Schwartz-Hoffman jfc no thank you that’s a mouthful.
We discussed combining our surnames,
this wonderfully wonky man of mine.
Schwartzman. Or…

I mean.

In the end I decided that I wanted to be Mrs. Hoffman.
And since I decided (upon resolving my second mistake)
that my signature would be a mononym forevermore
signing it like
Cher or
somehow it got easier to say my own name.
Like lovely.
Lysa with a Y.
(watch the furrowed brow as they try to put that together
where? where does the Y go?)

On facebook I dropped my middle name in favor
of putting my maiden name there
(maiden name! ooo how archaic!)
yet it annoys me beyond reason when people use that entire name.
Lysa Schwartz Hoffman
because that is not who I am.
I am
Lysa Hoffman.

When I berate myself it’s usually to say
“c’mon Schwartz, hustle up”
liking that name now, perhaps only as an afterthought,
but feeling comfortable in it.

so today, feeling a measure of all the things you’re supposed to feel at thanksgiving
and more content and pleased with my comfort in my evolution
I changed my name again, relegating (Schwartz)
and elevating myself to who I decided to be when I married Gary.

I finally got there, here.
Train’s not staying, though,
she’s moving forward.
taking my name with me into the night.
Because what other comfort is there
than knowing my true name?

cannabis diaries, 913p 25 november, 2019

So I think this might be the best, most visual way to explain this.

My illness, ultradian or ultra ultra rapid cycling bipolar disorder type 1, is something I was most likely born with. One flavor or another of bipolar can be traced in at least one of my parents’ genetics, if not actual, confirmed diagnoses. It is the main reason I chose to remain childfree. My illness is a living, vibrant thing.

I look at it as a plant, aged and strong, rooted deep, entwined. Resilient. It consumes resources, sometimes more than I have available, leaving me in deficit, leaving me empty.

There is no brain; it is not sentient. There is no arguing with it, no reasoning. It lives, and breathes, and consumes.

Imagine you had such a plant, a green, growing thing. You were told it needed water every day.
So you water it, every day.
Your plant drinks the water, consumes it. Grows.
But one day, the soil is dry, even though you watered your plant that morning.
You add more water, hoping to not drown the poor thing.
It perks up, her leaves shiny. You relax.
The next day, your plant has collapsed, as if dead.
(she was fine the night before)
You water her, and watch, and wait.
Your plant seems to not be dead after all.
More water, but the soil is dry again. More water.
Your plant rallies, for a minute; an hour. More water.
(d r y)
More water.
You are exhausted from keeping watch over this wee thing
(how can she be so thirsty?)
and yet watch over her you must if she is to live(if
you are to live)
how is it that she consumes everything you are giving her? all your aid,
all your care.
All the tools you have seem useless (and yet you know they are working)
You understand that the only way to save her is to drown her
overwhelm her
keep drenching her with water until she is overfloating
and then floating,
f i n a l l y
water as medicine, filling her veins, finally darkening the soil
as cannabis smoke fills my lungs, my bloodstream, finally lightening my mood.

Some days there isn’t enough water to slake her thirst.
Her soil dries, her leaves wilt; she droops.
she sleeps.

Cannabis sativa is the only medicine I have ever taken
where I am comfortable controlling my dosage.
Where I know that no matter how much I need, that I will be safe.
That I don’t have to wait out some interminable half-life
to take another dose.
That self-medicating is no longer a dirty word.

10:21a 28 october, 2019 (10:53p 14 november, 2019)

intellectually i think i can wrap my head around it but my heart
my heart feels left.
i know he’s not leaving me
i know he’ll be back
but i do not know this protocol
can i not even communicate?
(not anywhere near, no)
i don’t know that i can do this
(yet i am,)
communication is so much a part of us
of who we are
and how can i just shut that off?
(i can’t. it appears he can.)
i know that my illness is tempering this.
amplifying this.
(yet without communication,
without the comfort that i had not yet reached in our relationship,
there is no solid ground on which my shaky legs can stand)

(i cannot ask)(yet i have asked and asked my friends and they don’t know either.
there is no way to know)
(and i see that i used “us”
i see that i used “we”.
i don’t feel that comfort now, those words are lies.)

my brain lies to me.
hates me, often.
less so lately, but still.
breathe in, and out.
get some sunshine on my face.
(harder still, now)
fix my makeup.
go to work.
(go to work)

9:16a, 14 november, 2019.

okay so you know when i wrote to you and said,

“now that I’m on the other side of your being away,
I mean, you’ve been gone longer than what’s left,
it’s feeling easier.
I’m excited for your return, but not in a desperate way any more.
It doesn’t feel so empty.
Or at least, not right now. Hope is a good thing💜💜”

and then the next day
and the day after, now


and now it feels desperate again.

I have none of the answers, I’m just guessing at them
i don’t even know what the questions are anymore.

It is the silence that I cannot bear.