Eschrichtius Robustus

Dear Jim,

We danced together on the March equinox
Do you remember?
We were free of pretense, free of pain
Fearlessly optimistic – wild and unrestrained

In the beginning, you had me, and I had you
(I always knew)

Then the dog-days came with
Deadlines and obligations to heed
We spoke of bills & lists & plans & needs
Subverted our passions, embraced our greed
We had mountains to move and mouths to feed

But through it all, you had me, and I had you
(I always knew)

And now and now, like great gray whales
Migrating against an autumn’s blast
We are ancient, timeless, wise
Steadfast
True to one another; built to last

And through it all, I’ve had you, and you’ve had me
Sometimes what is, is what’s meant to be

Finally — in the winter of our life
When the cold winds blow, and the snow comes down
You’ll be the fire warming my soul and
I’ll be the gravity keeping your feet on the ground
Our bodies will be old; our love that much more profound

One day they’ll tell our story: of a Northern lad and girl born on a Bayou
They’ll raise a glass to everything (and I mean everything) we’ve been through
They’ll drink to the good, the bad — the old, the new
And they’ll marvel at how you always had me and I always had you
(but we always knew)

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Love Forever,
B.

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Sword of Damocles

Some days you feel as if you are Pandora’s Box itself. All the sorrows of the world reside within you. All the hate and fear and bile and shame – straining against your edges and scratching grooves into the smooth surface of your resolve. Control seems like an illusion: as gossamer-thin as a butterfly’s wing. Misery is a foregone conclusion, and you’re powerless against the onslaught of emotions.

Sound familiar? If so, know that you’re not alone. And if not, well, you’ve led a charmed life… mazeltov.

Today marks the end of national suicide prevention week. I’ve seen mentions of it across social media and in the news. I’ve thought of the many ways we kill ourselves – for my son, whether intentional or not, it was drugs. With my good friend Tracy from high school, it was a Wilkinson double-edged razor on a blustery February afternoon. For Vincent Van Gogh it was a revolver to the chest. Sylvia Plath, a head in the oven. For Virginia Woolf, a pocket of heavy stones and a rushing river, and Robin Williams – a belt for a noose as Sunday slowly faded into Monday.

So. Much. Loss.

All I’ll say, not only as a human being and person who’s shouldered my fair share of depression, but as a mother who couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t save her son – don’t do it. Please.

Choose life.

I know it’s both the easiest thing to ask and hardest to do. Try anyway. And should you ever need a sympathetic ear – I’m ready to listen.

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Lenny Bruce is Not Afraid

It’s the end of the world as we know it. And CNN, with its 24/7 disaster-porn news coverage, wants you to feel fine.

Now, there’s absolute truth to the science behind global climate change and the great shitstorm it brings forth. It’s something we should all be aware of, plan for, and work to make better — for our children and our children’s children. It’s why I recycle, resist watering my lawn*, and force myself to sit through An Inconvenient Truth whenever it’s on TV and I can’t find anything better on HBO.

But CNN… com’on already. No amount of Anderson Cooper in soggy Baby Gap tees or Chris Cuomo reflexively flexing into the wind (think Juandissimo Magnifico in a water-logged turbine farm) will negate the meteorological bloodlust I see in your eyes. The constant barrage of projected landfalls & whorling radars no doubt has many viewers ready to bend over and kiss their ass goodbye. But ha! — joke’s on you, CNN – I’m way too fat and immalleable to bend over and kiss anything. #merica

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Instead, I watch your broadcasts with the same sort of mild revulsion I usually reserve for people who say “bruh!” every five seconds or cite The Rock as their role model. This. Must. Stop. You’ve oversaturated (yes, I get the irony) not only the airwaves but the proletariat. What’s the old argument about the dangers of prolonged exposure to violence in the media – that it’s found to decrease empathy and have a desensitizing effect on the viewer? Yeah, I think we’re there.

And it’s an absolute shame. Because disaster survivors NEED our empathy and support right now. They need to know they’re not forgotten or brushed aside for the next big hurricane or earthquake or Russian prostitute/pissing scandal. Instead, like junkies chasing your next big high, you’re holed up in the Ritz-Carleton waiting to film another Irma-related live shot. It’s a little distasteful.

I’m not suggesting you lay off entirely, just maybe chill out a bit. Send Anderson Cooper back home, and drop Chris Cuomo off at the Planet Fitness of his choosing. Give us all a little breathing room. Oh, and maybe stop openly lusting for Armageddon (no matter how fantastic the ratings might be). And here’s my promise to you: allowed the time and space to process everything– like the butterfly you’ve loved and set free — we’ll no doubt come back to you. Unless we can find something better on HBO, that is.

 

* mostly I just resist because it cuts down on mowing
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Random Thought of the Day #2

When you speak in absolutes, you box yourself in. There’s no room for change or growth or evolution of thought.

That said… I absolutely hate Donald J. Trump.

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Benediction

One kiddo is currently having the time of her life sunning herself in beautiful, exotic Costa Rica. The other is the most together 16-year-old I know and is about to embark on her junior year of high school. Both are happy, healthy, independent, take-no-prisoners women who make me proud on a daily basis. When I lay awake late into the night with the litany of things I’ve done wrong (or simply not done at all) flickering behind my eyelids like some celluloid waking nightmare… It’s them who saves me.

I cannot be all bad if I’m loved by the caliber of people who do, indeed, love me.

I am blessed. I am content. I am grateful.

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Vampires

Dear Mother,

You were supposed to protect me. You didn’t.

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Dear Father,

There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

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49 to Fifty

Here I sit in the wake of my 48th year. It’s been a good one, but change is also good (and necessary), and I’ve felt myself straining against the chains that bind for some time now. I think it explains the blog; to tell my story in a deeper, fuller way as I learn and grow.

In an effort to develop — from a darkroom negative into a dazzling Kodachrome positive — I’ve identified 49 area of challenge/goodwill/improvement.

I’m ready to take on a lot. Not sure I’ll knock all 49 out of the park, but I’ve done my due diligence. I’ve set reminders on my phone, bought supplies, signed up for classes, etc. I’ve included in the list things I love, things I hate, and things I genuinely believe will lead me to be a better, happier person. And isn’t that always the goal?

I am Sir Edmund, and this list is my Everest:

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  1. Lose 30 pounds
  2. Book a trip to South America (to finally collect our 6th continent)
  3. Purchase an original piece of art
  4. Sharpen photography skills via classes and/or tutorials
  5. Do something kind for someone I don’t particularly like (character building!)
  6. Write a theoretical letter to someone monthly, post them here
  7. Update Flickr acct with all our travel photos (not done since 2014)
  8. Submit a piece of writing for publication consideration
  9. Book a trip for my 50th birthday – turn 50 somewhere exciting & new
  10. Each day look in the mirror and say, “I don’t give up on myself” – and mean it
  11. Volunteer for a cause I care about
  12. Force myself onto the treadmill at least 4x/week (unless ill or traveling)
  13. Write for 30 minutes at least 4x/week – set calendar reminder
  14. Random act of kindness for someone every month
  15. Get eyes examined/glasses for dreaded presbyopia
  16. Donate leather frocks (leather over 50, unless you’re Ann Richards, is just sad)
  17. Complete a mini master bath reno
  18. Redo the spare bedroom/office
  19. Switch from regular soda to diet (boo!)
  20. Monthly, write down the highlights (both good & bad) that occurred
  21. Declutter the basement
  22. Organize the garage
  23. Update our will
  24. Visit the Philadelphia museum of art
  25. Visit the museum of fine arts in Boston
  26. Greatly reduce my (over)use of the quotative “like”
  27. Work on letting go of old grudges #brian
  28. Attempt to ‘chunky knit’ a blanket
  29. Take a beginner’s course in drawing
  30. Work on learning a 2nd language – French
  31. Cultivate new friendships
  32. Stop rage-tweeting the president
  33. Take a MOOC
  34. Have a photo shoot of the dogs (they often get overlooked)
  35. Declutter the kitchen
  36. Give someone a random compliment – do this weekly
  37. Compile a bucket list for the decade of my fifties
  38. Finally read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho to see what the hype’s about
  39. Make a snowman next time it snows (I’ve never done it)
  40. Surprise family with a last minute trip
  41. Either sell or donate backlog of clothes taking up room in closets
  42. Spend a day being a tourist in Baltimore
  43. Get at least 11,000 steps at least 5 days per week (unless ill or traveling)
  44. Work on flexibility with stretches/yoga training three times a week
  45. Read more (it’s fallen by the wayside recently)
  46. Declutter house/inbox/brain
  47. Amp up retiremant savings/planning
  48. Do a relationship building activity w/Jim once a week
  49. Buy an art book monthly featuring a different master: read, learn, commit to memory

….may the odds be ever in my favor

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Summertime Blues

Dear Ryan,

I’m missing you a lot today. Well, that implies I don’t miss you every day, which I do. But today it’s hitting a little harder I suppose. Maybe it’s the time of year? I know how much you love summer, with its sandy beaches, ice-cream-sticky fingers, and long, lazy nights fading into unclouded & radiant mornings.

Maybe it’s the fact that both your sisters were home last night talking about relationships and school and where the future might take them. And as I sat and smiled and thought about how incredible they both are, I found myself buckling under the weight of missing you.

Grief is like that, you know? Some days it’s as light as a feather, others it feels like a two-ton elephant sitting right on your chest.  And I don’t say this to denounce, diminish or cast aside the sadness – because to feel is to remember, and I never want to forget you.

I just wish you’d been here last night.

In my mind’s eye, I see the three of you lounging around the living room, speaking over each other and (to great comic effect) competing for attention. I see good natured ribbing along with a healthy dose of genuine sibling advice and support being offered and accepted. I see three gentle spirits and bright shining stars rotating within my orbit, and I am temporarily happy and content. Then I remember you’re gone.

But you’re still a part of the big picture, I know. You’re my big picture and you always will be. I like to think of you as endless and transcendent now: a part of time, space, and matter. Your orbit is bigger; your star shines brighter, and your gentle spirit is finally at peace with everything around it.

Rest easy, sweet boy.

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Love Forever,

Mom

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Random Thought of the Day #1

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I don’t know what sort of Sapphic nightmare landscape vaginas you people have been looking at, but Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower paintings aren’t all that genitalia-ish to me.

Now Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du monde — that’s a vagina.

 

 

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Kwing-Kwuh-Juh-WTF?

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In a little over three weeks I’ll turn FORTY-NINE years old.

What. The. Fuck.

I remember in my teens thinking 35 was old. And by 50 you were soaking your teeth in a glass nightly and relieving yourself into Depends Undergarments more often than not. Then I turned twenty and thought “Okay… maybe 45 is old? Either way, I’ve got plenty of time.”

Then came my thirties, with divorce/remarriage/children in school/new baby on the way, and I didn’t have time to dwell on trivial things like when youth fades and old age sets in.

So far in my forties, it’s been a game of “I’m still in my early-late forties, surely I don’t need to worry about the dreaded 5-0(shit) just yet?” But somehow all the same, here we are — and there’s not a goddamn thing I can do about it.

Here are ten things I thought I’d have accomplished by now:

  1. Successfully meditating (I usually just fall asleep)
  2. Finding ways around ending sentences with prepositions (see above)
  3. Having my shit together juuust enough so I don’t feel inferior to perfect PTA mom types
  4. Curbing my enthusiasm for mocking perfect PTA mom types
  5. Finally giving up on convincing myself (and everyone else) that I like sushi
  6. Writing my first (last, only?) novel
  7. Learning to play the piano/wolf whistle/french braid hair/evenly apply winged eyeliner
  8. Finally believing I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me
  9. Learning to sip red wine without making a cringy-face (seriously– it’s nasty)
  10. Being smarter/better/kinder/tougher/less assy/more badassy/cautious/fearless/cautiously fearless

**as a bonus for Jim I’ll throw in ‘being more fiscally responsible’ (sorry, hunny)**

So here I sit on the razor’s edge of my 49th birthday, which technically means I’ll be starting my fiftieth year; officially a quinquagenarian. [kwing-kwuh-juhnair-ee-uh n] (⇐⇐ you’re welcome)

Where do I go from here? What meaning or comfort am I meant to find in the aging process? Because I feel like it *should* mean something – there has to be some sort of karmic take away, right? I keep thinking that, by fifty, I’m supposed to be an arbiter of wisdom and enlightenment. Instead, I feel inept and, what’s the opposite of enlightened… befuddled, maybe?

And old. Mostly I just feel old.

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Bali Is Never the Answer

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I have the attention span of a gnat. I don’t know if it’s ADHD, old age, a sensory processing disorder, or if I just plain don’t give a shit about half the things I should. Trying to pay a handful of bills becomes a three-hour process when you’re continually sidetracked by musings like “When’s the last time I vacuumed the dryer vent?” to “I really should order one of those emergency ladder thingies in case the dryer catches fire” to “if my house burns down and I have to go to the hospital, what are the odds I’ll be wearing non-saggy, rip-free underwear?”  … to 45 minutes spent on macys.com looking for the perfect bra & panty set (not too slutty, but still indicating I haven’t completely given up) to checking my bank account to see if $167.29 on Bali bras is prudent at this juncture (the answer is almost always “No.”), to “Oh, that’s right, goddammit, I have bills to pay!”

The hamster wheel in my mind no doubt overheats on a regular basis. Which gets me wondering … when’s the last time I vacuumed it out?

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Sisyphus

Have you ever heard the story of Sisyphus? It’s one of my favorite Greek tales. The cliff notes go something like this: for the crime of outsmarting death, Hades (god of the underworld) condemns Sisyphus to roll a giant boulder up a steep hill each day, only to watch it roll down again as he nears the top. He must repeat this action for eternity*.

“Gee, thanks for the Greek Mythology 101 lesson.” you’re probably thinking. (you’re welcome!)

But Sisyphus can represent so much for so many. For the addict or alcoholic, it’s the struggle to stay sober. For the adulterer, the balance to successfully juggle two (or more) lives. For the student/worker, the mundane day-to-day drudgery that threatens to overwhelm. For me, it’s my weight.

Each morning I wake to the realization that I must carefully map out my calories and activities – all in the futile hope of rolling that fucking boulder up the fucking hill.  Some days, with the wind at my back and luck on my side, I juuuust about make it. Other days I’m quitting before I’ve even begun. (I guess it’s the roly-poly version of sometimes you’re the windshield wiper/sometimes you’re the bug)

This is a picture of me taken two years ago:

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And this is me now**:

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If that’s not depressing, I don’t know what is.

I’d love to say it’s is a recent thing; to blame death and grief and sorrow for my newfound form. But that would be a lie. I will say that in the two years since Ryan’s death I’ve mostly stopped giving a shit. Sure, occasionally I’ll pay lip service to the idea of losing weight – I’ll catch a sideways glimpse in the mirror and muster up the appropriate level of bile & horror, but (like the smallest of victories Sisyphus must feel on any given day) it’s fleeting. I shake it off and carry on with my regularly scheduled program of overeating and under moving.

Still, there’s this very aware, though deeply buried, part of me that longs to… if not stand out… then blend in again. I don’t want to be the fat girl. I don’t need to be the skinny girl either, but I don’t like being noticeably obese. I dread the possibility of being charged for an extra seat on an airplane. Nor do I ever want to hear that I’m too fat to ride a ride or parasail or bungee jump or-or-or…

So why is it so hard to decide to change and stick to it? Even with knowing I’ve done it before, I can’t ever seem to get a diet off the ground, though I’m 100% capable. I won’t disclose my weight, but I will say that I’ve gained about 70 pounds between these two photos (make of that what you will).

Sometimes I think I wrap the extra pounds around me like a blanket; another layer between me and the world. The weight is my chrysalis (yep, STILL working that metaphor) — and *maybe* when I’m ready to emerge, I will.

*Greek gods are assholes.
**Disclaimer: while I’m busy fat-shaming myself, I do feel it’s important to note for my daughters (and myself) that I’m a cutie either way. #Feminism #LoveYourself #Jim’sDamnLucky
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The Chrysalis

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Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of my son’s death. It was in all ways that matter, the worst of worst days.  Although I will say that for me, as time goes by, his birthdays are sadder. Yesterday was about endings, whereas each passing birthday marks what could have been. He was only 25 when he died – so much life still ahead. I try not to dwell on these thoughts because being maudlin won’t change a thing… still, on days like yesterday, it’s hard not to.

Not too long ago (and completely by chance) I happened to be reading about the history and traditions of bereavement. In the late 1800s for instance, it was commonplace for a loved one to go into mourning for two years following a death in the family. They would wear black, retreat from society, and do everything they could think of to pick at the scab that was their grief. Thought being: pain, suffering and penance were tantamount to caring; to hurt was never to forget.

But then at the two-year mark, like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, they’d rejoin a life. Just like that: poof! I’m not sure what the thought process was — that it was time to forgive themselves for the temerity of survival? That it was finally okay to move on? That a half-life was tantamount to its own kind of death and therefore no way to honor the dead or the living?

I suppose I’d like to think it was a mix of all the above; the mourners emerged sadder and wiser, and also with a greater appreciation for what really matters. I can only imagine how the audacity of hope (thanks, Obama) after so long in the dark must have dizzied them. Survival is both the easiest and hardest thing you’ll ever do. And make no mistake – death marks us all eventually. If you haven’t walked in these shoes, you will one day, and for that I’m sorry.

Many times over the past 24 months I’ve picked at my scabs and turned myself inside out for the sake of suffering. I’ve had moments when it seemed I was better off dead because it just didn’t feel right to draw breath when he couldn’t. I’ve dwelled on all the ways I failed– failed my children, my spouse, my community — myself. I left no stone unturned and no thought unexplored when it came to my suffering. If pain and penance equaled caring, then by God I cared a shitload.

But to what end?

So here I sit at the 2-year mark of my mourning, straining against the confines of my chrysalis and wondering if I dare to rejoin life again? My child is gone. How is that something I’m ever to move on from? Do I even want to?

He was here one day – beautiful & flawed & perfect & suffering – and gone the next. Life is cruel that way. And for this, I am forever altered. But there IS a small part of me (a part I’m often ashamed of) that wants to occasionally laugh without guilt/smile without sadness/endure without torment.

I’m not sure I’m ready to be a butterfly yet, but maybe from time to time it’s okay to wish I one day will be?

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