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.
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.
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?
“If I didn’t see it happen in front of me, I wouldn’t believe it. Goddamn.”
That is what my witness said to me after it happened. I have proof. Finally I have a witness I have proof.
The place where I work was packed, busy even for a Saturday. My boss asked me to do something as I was sitting at the computer doing other things so I added it to the list of my tasks. One by one I got through most of them when my boss asked me if I had gotten to her thing. I replied “nope! Not yet! Haven’t had a chance I’ll do it right now.” And got right to it.
This woman. This fucking woman.
This fucking woman appears in front of me with her two children akimbo. I had helped the older one once upon a time, been very patient with her as she overcame a very difficult thing. Gently and successfully, much to her sullen, preteen resistance I might add.
This fucking woman.
This fucking woman says to me.
“Watch your mouth around my children.”
My head shoots up, eyes wide. “Excuse me?” Having zero understanding of what she’s talking about since I have said absolutely nothing since responding to my boss.
This woman. This fucking woman.
This fucking woman says “You were about to say Jesus fucking Christ in front of my kids.”
And I looked at her. And my witness looked at her. She said it in front of her kids.
“I absolutely did not say that.”
This fucking woman said Jesus fucking Christ in front of her kids.
This fucking woman. This fucking woman says:
“I am the queen of cursing and you were about to say it I know what you were going to say.”
I KNOW WHAT YOU WERE GOING TO SAY.
“I absolutely did not say that.” My witness, shaking their head, shocked. My jaw just about hitting the floor.
The queen of cursing, you say.
This fucking woman thinks that I would respond out loud to a question posed by my boss with the answer Jesus fucking christ. This fucking woman thinks that I would respond in front of children Jesus fucking Christ. In front of her children. Jesus fucking Christ.
You want to know what was in my head? You think that banal bullshit was what I was thinking at the moment?
You have the audacity to think you could imagine what it’s like inside my head?
The things that I think, the things that exist inside my head would terrify you to a point where you would never, ever, ever say another thing again.
You really think you’re the queen of cursing. You want to go head to head with me? I guarantee you will not survive. I will make you rethink your entire existence. I will make you question your reason for living; I will make you question whether or not you deserve to breathe on this Earth. I will tell you things about yourself that you know to be true deep down in the deepest fucking recesses of your soul. I will share with you the reasons your daughter hates you so much (it’s because she looks like you), you narrow-eyed cunt. Every time she looks in the mirror she sees your face even though her cheeks are full and they’re going to be full for the rest of her life and you are going to shame her for her fat face. Every time she sees you look at her she sees your disgust, feels your disappointment. If you aren’t already saving for her therapy, you should do so immediately. You ought to just give up on your son because he is going to be in codependent relationships for the rest of his life. He is completely neglected and wishes for a second that he would get some of the attention you give your daughter even though it’s all negative. Honestly it would be better for all involved if you let him go live with relatives. Literally anyone else would take better care of him. You simply don’t give a shit. You take your anger out on me because you couldn’t help your child. You know that you absolutely do not have the patience to help your own child where I did. Your daughter hates you so much because you’ve made your husband miserable and he doesn’t fuck you and is most likely fucking your friends. A quick look on dating apps would find him in a second.
You think you’re the queen of cursing? Come at me bitch. I’ve got you I’ve got your fucking number. I haven’t even gotten started with you.
Jesus fucking christ. You think I was thinking Jesus fucking christ? No I wasn’t. My only thought at that moment was how to get to the end of the day without killing myself.
There are conversations that need to happen. There are people that need to be confronted. There are people who need to know exactly how I feel about them, about the things that they’ve done. There are people who need to stand in front of me while I fume and scream and rage in their motherfucking faces. There are people who need to stand in front of me and look me in the motherfucking eyes while I scream at them. There are people who need to listen to the things I have to say.
What I would really like actually, is to punch these people. To hit them, to punch them in their stupid fucking faces. To rip them limb from limb to tear them fucking apart. I want to make these people bleed people I want them to bleed and suffer and scream in pain I want them to know exactly what they’ve done. I would like to take these people’s skulls and smash them into the ground I would like to watch their brains spill all over the sidewalks. I would like their blood and guts and gore to run into the gutters. DO YOU GET IT YET DO YOU?
do you get it?
No I am not okay. No. I will never be okay you keep fucking with me I will never be okay.
it’s pure fear in my brain in my skull full of open-mouthed terror and no No no no no no (mouth opens wide as if to scream but no sound comes out) it is as if my brain knows not to attach worry to the unchangeable my brain is so quick to send out the orders but my body, my body says otherwise there is nothing and everything specific the overwhelming state of my life
I smoke and smoke and smoke and cough so hard I puke there is still no lift, no elevation.
breezy, uncertain i woke to grey light, dim the temporary buoyancy of yesterday, the day before gone. sometime in the night it left, stole away, slunk away embarrassed to have lifted only to leave “i’m sorry,” whispers on the breeze “i’m sorry, that wasn’t for you.”
i’m sorry that wasn’t for you.
my shoulders all wound together knit together, snicked tightly, bound. the hand that holds my pipe tensed and clawed the tips of my fingers white from the pressure
unclench your hand, look at your fingers. sit up, you don’t have to get up. sit up straight, you can stretch. you remember most of it. take in deep breaths of this shaded air look up aggressively blue sky hidden (thankfully) mostly by the canopy there are a lot of silvery clouds breaking up the blue
today feels very uncertain, I feel the mania pulling my shoulders together i will do everything that I can but there is only so much available.
I have all of this proof Physical proof of how good I am, how talented, how good, how kind. I have emotional proof. People say lovely things, in front of other people. About me they say these things. Lovely things in front of other people. It can be an entire day of people saying lovely wonderful things about me, showing how much they appreciate what I have to offer.
And all it takes is one motherfucker to bring it down.
I was already in trouble when I woke up yesterday morning. My only goal was to get home to Mojo. To keep that in my head to get home to him, to make sure that he was eating, that he was feeling okay. My only goal, my far point was Mojo. I talked to myself all through my shower to make sure that I brushed my teeth. I brushed my teeth.
I was still not okay when I got out of the shower. I was not okay when I got dressed. The entire drive. Not okay. Knowing my far point.
Got where I was going. Shared that I was not okay. Shared enough fast enough to be as clear as possible. Eyes bright and wide. On. I know that when I am like this (you know how you get) I know that when I am like this I have to protect myself at all costs because to not do so would be dangerous for everyone.
The day went. Carefully. Shared my work to delight, to lesser delight. To what seemed cursory, perfunctory, obligatory. Unreal. Inauthentic. I want people who love, truly. I don’t want someone uncaring, not in any part of my life.
Other skills, gushed over. Lauded. Delighted in. Shared. shared out loud.
All day all day I had teetered on the edge, this rollercoaster poised and threatening at the very top. LOUD VOICES CLOSE CLOSELY loud and close and disharmonious and unyielding eyes slitted, accusing Voices louder.
No. I can’t be, there. I excuse myself away, not far enough but out of sight but not out of tension’s grasp. The only thing I have left to help is disassociation because I cannot physically get far enough away. So I go away. Eyes burning into the computer screen totally focused on the pen in my hand and the rage behind it summoning internal music to fill my skull loudly drown out the screeching noises outside and in. I share. Bits of what’s happening. To exorcise it. Flush it out.
My face is a mask, deadened expression, eyes down. I comply when needed.
The only thing I can remember now is this: “I know you get anxious when it’s loud and there’s a lot going on and and and but you can’t let that SHOW. They said you’re always angry.”
darkness — thick, oppressive congealing as if blood around an open breathing wound i am this the wound ed panic steers this two-ton beast not i racing racing heart racing through mazed streets dimly lit by infrequent lights sudden dip plunge headlong into wooded thick et cricket thicket surroundsound i turn up the radio to shut out the nature nature of this two-ton beast of steel racing heart racing.
I wrote this 33 years ago on the way home from somewhere/something stressful. My engagement party? I was less than a month away from turning 21.
I would have stopped to pull the car over to write this; wherever my first Filofax disappeared to, deep within its pockets lies a piece of looseleaf covered in my handwriting, tense and manic and completely out of control from the feel of it. This was about 6 months before I married my first ex-husband, The Sociopath. I hadn’t yet gotten anywhere close to the diagnosis I finally have, I mean I had finally gotten away from the schizophrenia misdiagnosis and was hovering somewhere in limbo, hinting around manic depression and clinical depression, but no one understood suicidality and ADHD back then, much less accounted for the PTSD I already had and would continue to have. I’m pretty sure by this point I had been put on Prozac which only helped to launch me fully into extreme mania.
The terror that I know that I was feeling that night, it is a familiar one. The time of year, well into the beginning of spring, added to the mania I know I was experiencing. Without understanding that this is how my body acts in spring, without any tools to help mitigate what would always be outside of my control, I can feel (finally, I think) really aware of just how much I have survived, and continue to survive.
I kept going when I had no proof of better times to come. I have that proof now.
I am that proof. My proof lives in me.
It always changes; it always shifts. It gets better and it gets worse and it gets better again. Gam zeh ya’avor / gam zu l’tovah. This too shall pass and it is all for the good. גם זה יעבור זה גם לטובה
It is currently 29°F outside, actual feel of 22°F. I am outside for my morning medication: today is cannabis and coffee. I’ve already taken my fish oil, but there’s no one to say anything about that if I take that in my kitchen. So I come outside after having dressed for the weather. This includes: underwear, thick socks, two pairs of flannel pajama bottoms, a long sleeved shirt over a short sleeved shirt, a fleece hoodie, my purple fuzzy robe with white stars, a knitted neck warmer, a knitted hat. I have spiked my coffee with hot cocoa mix and butter to make the warmth seem thicker and more long-lasting.
I have a medical marijuana card. Up until *very* recently, whole flower was not allowed to be sold in medical dispensaries. Smoking whole flower is the method of delivery that works best for me. If vaping worked for me, I could probably get away with vaping inside my apartment, although I really wouldn’t want to try. But it doesn’t. Smoking whole flower is what works. I no longer engage in practices that are meant to be good for me but in actuality, aren’t. Imagine if instead of taking your anti-anxiety meds by pill, you had to have them by suppository and you had to do that outside because that’s what the law dictated. Just because.
When it is colder than this, or when the weather is shit, or after dark (I feel like a D!sney princess out here sometimes, skunks ((Flower!)), raccoons, possums, cats, ALL the squirrels), I sit in the car. Even with the engine off, this is illegal to do. When I have zoom therapy and I am home I do it in my car or outside so that I can smoke. So that I can medicate. When I have zoom therapy and I’m at a friend’s house, I can be inside and warm and still medicate.
No other medication is subjected to restrictions and procedures like this. This is inhumane. Could you imagine if I told you you had to go outside for your heart medication if you weren’t well off enough to own your own home with private property? If I told you you had to take your cholesterol meds every morning but go outside somewhere on the street, what would happen?
And if I told you that unless you had the wherewithal, you couldn’t have a get-together with friends and have a smoke sesh. Have all the wine and cheese parties you want, every book club has its Bordeaux, every rehearsal dinner its Riesling, but no ma’am, you’re not allowed to enjoy this totally legal thing where you live, where you love, where you entertain. What would you do? What would you say?
People are going to consume where they are able to consume. Where they are forced to consume. This has always, and will continue to be what happens. By welcoming dispensaries and consumption lounges into Peekskill, by allowing smoking in specific areas of our many public parks, we are making our residents and visitors feel more comfortable and welcomed.