…continuing the conversation (two years later)

1:41pm 31 october, 2022

(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.

And then?

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.

four years/forty years

Last year I turned off Facebook memories for 2017-2018-2019 for this week beginning today. Today is the beginning of the end. Today is the beginning of the last week that Gary was alive.

So much in my life has changed in the last four years. I am not the same person who I was four years ago. I am not the same person I was forty years ago.

Forty years ago is when my bipolar disorder began to truly manifest in ways that other people could see. When my behavior became outwardly observable. Things that only I could see and feel and experience from age five were finally coming to the surface. The person that I grew into, the person that I became was by necessity, a damaged, broken, angry, fearful thing. I was shaped by my experience, by the storms inside my brain that no one could understand, but the results of which everyone could see.

The person that Gary met, she was a powerhouse. She had divorced her first and second husbands. She was taking care of her cats. She was running her own shop, she had an employee, she was working a lot. She was working out a lot. She was taking care of everything around her. She was not taking healthy self care.

She was, however, manic 24/7 and hella cute and driven.
And on fire.

She is still here, in my brain, part of The Committee. She listens mostly. Doesn’t have much to say anymore, more an observer. She sits back and nods knowingly, joint in hand, smoke curling from her lips. She is Rosie Revisited, captured in a portrait, hanging on my wall. There are times when she does speak, a forceful, if gentle “STOP IT.” I have evidence.

your author. 📷 Gary Hoffman 2002

Four years ago I was forced to stop. I became incapable of movement in any appreciable direction. The formerly driven, push-through-ahead-no-matter-how-miserable-it-makes-you person could not go any further. The “attack wife” had no fight left. I had no accountability to any other human. There was no one there for better or for worse. My life spun completely and totally out of control. I lost things, am losing things I can never get back. And yet…

I have found a new self, a calmer, more even self. I am finding the capacity for euthymia, for a happy evenness above my emotional equator. A firm-yet-squishy pleasantness that exists beyond the edges of what I smoke and carries me through the day and into my involvements with others.

I am no longer miserable.

In voicing this thought, however, there is such exquisite pain for the reality that Gary could have been helped. That perhaps he too could have finally found some measure of relief, as I have. That we just hadn’t gotten here yet in researching. That given enough time, we would have.

We didn’t have enough time. But I do.

I miss you so much.
I wish you could see me now.
I wish you could hear me now.
I wish I could talk to you.
The only thing you can do is listen.

And all I really want is to hear what you have to say.

i do not know if I can take being loved this way.

Yesterday was my birthday.
I turned 53 years old.
I spent the entire weekend with people and missing people who clearly love me and who I love so much.
I spent the weekend

I spent the weekend doing familiar birthday things,
Going to the Lyndhurst craft fair as I have done for decades
(maybe half the artists this time, different layout, timed ticketing, all due to covid restrictions)
stressing out from all of the unknowns
(known and unknown, thank you D. Rumsfeld)
wanting so much for normalcy
(but what is “normal”, anyway? I certainly don’t have a fucking clue)
feeling so much that I have to explain even though I know I don’t
It seems like all I have been doing for the past three and a half years is explaining and explaining and explaining because honestly I
don’t understand any of it.
Just when I think I do I get caught off guard and none of it makes sense again.

I suppose I’m not explaining to others so much as to myself.

I miss all of the things that we talked about, all of those things that we never did.
All of the ways we responded to each other, all of the good, all of the terrible.
The contrast, I think,
the contrast is what’s killing me now.
i do not know if I can take being loved this way.

I can say things out loud and
I can say things out loud and not worry about feeling stupid for saying them.
Being made to feel stupid for saying them.
I can say things out loud and not worry about
I can say things out loud and not worry about being instantly and immediately criticized.
I can say things out loud and not worry about who might be on my side.

I know
I know for sure
I know now that you loved me but I didn’t then. I never knew for sure. I never knew from one minute to the next.
You would rescind and retract your love like the outgoing tide.
Snatch it away from me,
away from my

craven, grasping, grubby little paws

I want to forgive you for saying these things to me.
I want to forgive you for this so much.

How can I miss you so much and still be so angry at the things you did to me?
That we did to each other.

I told your sister once that I never really had an accurate sense of your feeling for me, not that I felt I could believe anyway. That I always thought you thought I was stupid and not enough and too much all at once.
That now I can look at the last things you wrote, and know.
I can look at all the small lovelinesses you left behind.
I can look at those things and know that they are real, they are proof.
Not soon enough to be able to enjoy with you, no.

The very desperate need to hold onto them

((craven, grasping, grubby little paws)screaming to the sky to talk to you
for you to hear me

I am trying so hard to do everything I can to be well.
I am still so
I am still so unwell but I don’t feel crushed by having to hold up every other damn thing anymore if only because I have given up on everything it seems)

I can look at the small lovelinesses that you left and see them for the huge gestures that they were. Everything is relative.

I can see the unexplored and forever unknown possibility of us becoming better to each other, to ourselves.
Knowing how difficult it was even in the very best of us
knowing I would not be this person if you were still alive
proving my progress to the memory of a dead man
wanting so much to escape your critical eye, your devastating words
and yet wanting to show you that I am okay
I am not okay.

Yesterday was my birthday.
I felt loved, and cherished, and adored, and so sad for what we never had.
If you could see how people treat me now.
If you could see how people love me now and aren’t afraid to say, to show.
I know you would, too.

the time traveling doctor. 7a 20th november, 2020

Every time I have seen JJ since my husband’s death it’s all I can be reminded of. How long it’s been. I know I mention it every time I see him and I have found myself unable to stop doing so. I realize (every single time) that this is not conducive to doing more business, or good for his comfort, or for mine, in fact. His profession means that he’s going to have to deal with surviving spouses, possibly more than he thought. I don’t want to keep doing this. I don’t want to keep focusing on only that anytime I see him and I fear that I may have risked ever seeing him again because I can’t stop talking about it.

Listening to The New York Times Daily podcast this morning and an interview with a woman who was a medical examiner in rural Wisconsin, who explains that she understands that as a last responder, her presence is triggering for some people forever.

Do I think that I can rewrite my own code for this relationship? Do I think that I can rewire my brain to be thankful that one of my husband’s cardiologists is such a lovely, sweet, kind person instead of having the first and only reaction to him being one of the last attendants to my husband?

Yes. Yes of course I do.
My brain is nothing but elasticity and electricity and muscle and if the past 1,164 days have shown me nothing else it is this.

Most recently, I have been learning how love can help to reframe old photographs, to view memories through a different lens. To not make excuses for, but to understand motivation. To take this current love into the past and care for the people who were hurt. To let that healing wend its way forward into the future, to meet up with the realization I have now.

I wish you could see me now. I wish you could know me, now.

ancient artifacts

black clay medallion, going into the salt

I look at this
it looks like a cookie
i wanna eat it
I look at this and I think you might have liked it.
Like really liked it.
It has that stone boulder-type look that you loved
you made your file folders and icons all have it
It has that riveted, homemade robot-type look to it
that wonky, wabi-sabi ancient technology look.
something you could have unearthed on a dig
or found in our backyard, sticking half-up out of the dirt.
You can see my fingerprints in it, for now.
You can see the literal hand of the artist.
The linen cloth I use to protect both surfaces
above and beneath.

I had to come forward this far.
this far.
Three years.
I had to come forward this far
to make something I truly think you would like.

I think so much that you would like it.

but why am I trying so desperately to please my dead husband?

114a 21st september, 2020

i don’t think love ever dies, not by itself, no.
I think you can kill it.
rather, I think it can die, but it has to go down violently.
Sometimes it can be so sudden,
like a switch,
an “oh!”
and it’s gone, vanished.
Other times it lingers,
hangs on longer than is healthy.
making its presence known
unpleasantly.
Taunting, but there is no smile, no joke, no closure.
Only unease.
Only anguish.
Not regret, no.
That’s the confusing part.
As angry as I am, still
As angry as I am I know that it was good
Not enough to stay.
Not enough to keep ignoring my own self.
Not enough for who I am now.
Not enough for who I have Become.

916am. 20th august, 2020

sweet man.
you dearest, sweetest man.
sweet and seeing my sweetness
nothing hidden, not even in the beginning
because friends don’t lie
Friends don’t hide things from each other.
I don’t want ours to be the kind of relationship where we hide things from each other.
no matter what they are.
there is nothing you can tell me that I will not hear.
you only have to tell me.
it’s all I ever ask for.

there is so much to talk about, always.
so much to share, to discuss.

it is this part that I miss the most, the talking
the hashing over
the intricate and meandering conversation.

I love listening to the sound of your voice,
your passion obvious and enchanting
as we talk about everything, and nothing

although nothing is nothing, is it.

To Be Without You (with apologies to Ryan Adams) 17 january, 2020

It’s so hard to be without you (yes it is)
Lying in the bed, you are so much to be without (dear gods more than any one, still)
Rattles in my head that empty drum filled with doubt (not so much doubt, anymore. No.)
Everything you lose, the wisdom will find its way out (this. this. this.)
Every night is lonesome and is longer than before (Not every night. And no.)
Nothing really matters anymore (There are things that really, really do.)

It’s so hard to be without you
Used to feel so angry and now only I feel humble (yes but the timing. not angry anymore. free.)
Stinging from the storm inside my ribs where it thunders (and inside my skull)
Nothing left to say or really even wonder (so much left to say! so much left to wonder, to discover.)
We are like a book and every page is so torn (some can be mended. Some discarded. Some set ablaze.)
Nothing really matters anymore (not in that desperate, urgent way. no.)

It’s so hard not to call you (I listen to your voicemails to me. Mine to you. You saved them.)
Thunder’s in my bones out in the streets where I first saw you (the wind’s been blowing like mad)
When everything was new and colorful, it’s gotten darker (richer, bolder, deeper)
Every day’s a lesson, things were brighter before (every day’s a lesson, things are clearer now)
Nothing really matters anymore (the things that do are still here)

It’s so hard to be without you (it will never be easy)
Everyday I find another little thread of silver (all the better to color purple)
Waiting for me when I wake some place on the pillow
And then I see the empty space beside me and remember
I feel empty, I feel tired, I feel worn (I feel good. I feel alive. I feel ready.)
Nothing really matters anymore (Everything matters.)

(I advise getting a little out of your head, listen to the music, and read along. that’s how I wrote it.)

13 January, 2020. Two years, four months gone.

Two years, four months.
It hasn’t gotten any less than this. Has not eased up.
no.
Has intensified,
solidified.
And that, I believe, is a good thing. Yes.

I’m fairly astonished that I had this much clarity only four months out.
In fact,
I am damn sure that this was my brain in ultra survival mode.

It is exactly the entirety of my body
my psyche
my soul.
It is exactly what I have been settling into for the past
eight hundred fifty-two days

no longer so foreign so
alien.

I am learning how to meet people where they are
and also to recognize that no matter how much love I have for someone
how much hope
sometimes it just isn’t enough to be sustainable.
not without harm.
I don’t want to be in pain over love anymore.
I can’t.
I won’t.