some day

I promise you sis one day I will be okay. I know how much you loved your life, and I don’t want to be ungrateful. We have had many blessings, so much love. But you’re gone. Mom’s gone. I sit with that loss and emptiness frequently.

Grief says your loss is as great as your love. If that’s the case, sis, maybe I’ll never be okay. I’ve had my ups and downs in the last three years. The highs of football games, and honors classes, Spanish classes, all the things that were important to you for your kids, they are doing. Going to college, engaging in life. I hope you’re proud of them. I know I am. I’m not an instigator sis, so I’m afraid in this way I’ve let you down. Okay, Covid-19 made us hunker down for more than a year as a family, so that’s not on me. But I am just not there yet, where I can get so excited about a thing that I want to drag the family out to do it. Sure we’ve gone to the Dells for a week of fun in the sun. That really was a nice time. Lots of laughter, snacks, bad eating, water parks, staying up late. But you would have made it better. I just don’t measure up to you. I never will. I still feel sadness. I still can’t believe it. I am still outraged. And I know you always wanted us sisters to be closer. Well, you know our family. Dysfunctional was a word created for us. Don’t get your hopes up. Where is this going sis? The anniversary of your death is tomorrow. I can’t stop thinking about you. I can’t stop the rage. I’m devastated by all our losses. Perhaps on this earth we will never be whole. My broken heart feels utterly worthless. I carry on, but I am crushed by the weight of losing you.

This is the week my sister was killed. It has been on my mind on and off. It is filtering into morning coffee making. As I water my plants in the morning’s first light it pushes through my brain fog. It has a loudmouthed agenda as I drive to work. My sister is dead, dead, and dead with the rhythm of my tires on the road. I play music even louder and open the windows to out scream that chant.

But my mind wants to remember three years ago and so I carry that like an albatross through my days this week. It is heavy, its claws bite into my skin, and it weakens my legs with the weight of it, my stomach lurches in remembrance of that life shattering pain.

“Paul killed Holly” the phone said. It felt like Déjà vu or I was still asleep, as if it couldn’t be true. The words floated around me but I was incapable of acknowledging that statement. Then, “Can you talk to the kids?” As one can imagine those next minutes are a blur in my mind, the most important piece being “I’m coming. It’s Auntie Melody and I’m coming.” There were tears mostly on the other end, tiny voices, and shattered souls, blown clear from their quiet safe lives. It was a strange moment of intense pain unlike any other in my life. All I could think is they are alone. I have to get there.

A lot of things broke when my sister was killed. Inside me most of all, I cannot speak for others, but also other relationships that I thought were something, became nothing. Did we really think we could survive that much pain? Grief is selfish in a way, in our anger we say horrible things; things that somehow can’t be undone, can’t be unwound, the ferocious language of rage and the bitterness of murder.

I am to blame but we couldn’t survive it. We are crushed, disabled, ruined.

Aging

Aging is so fucked. No one tells you how to age well. Especially not your physician. Take these pills, a band aid. What if I lose the weight? What if you don’t? Seriously, life skills for aging, is that too much?

The way we white Americans devalue the elderly, it’s no wonder. Where do you gain the wisdom they surely have when they are shut away in a nursing home gradually losing their mobility, their memories, their knowledge, their wisdom?

There are so many lessons. At 54 I’m just at the beginning of this decline. But here’s a few thoughts.

1. Even if you’re tired from a day of work, or kids, walk some every day. The body loses strength if you dont move, even in your 30s, 40s and 50s.

2. Wear sunscreen on your hands and face every day. The sun though beautiful ages you! Less wrinkles on your face at my age is the positive result for that choice.

3. Don’t let your weight creep. You gain 5 lbs for every sedentary year just eating the same and the older you get the harder it fights to stay. After or in menopause ladies, you’re done for, because you cannot work out as hard if you’ve gained the weight. It just hurts. I’ve got tendonitis in my foot and I’m trying to start exercising again. Right now it hurts so badly I’m suffering. It’s the combination of sedentary years, weight gain, and an injury.

Aging doesn’t have to be so terrible. But you must be proactive friends. I wish you well

Grief

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Grief has no kind of timeline.

It follows strange pathways through my body. I’m tired of feeling it.

I had the thought two days ago, I want to forget her. I will gather all the things in my home that remind me of her. I will box them up and make them disappear from sight. Memories only lead to grief when your someone is murdered.

My phone rings from a good friend of thirty years.

We never talk talk. Just catch up via social media.

It triggered the same panic that I get every time the phone rings, someone is dead. I answered it. Of course no one is dead. We had a lovely conversation filled with laughter and her voice just exactly the way I remember.

I still fear answering my phone. I get a jolt of adrenaline and panic.

I’m tired of my grief. I am choosing life, I promise you. But grief just comes ambling in and you are stricken by lightening. You choose to regroup, get on with whatever it is you were doing, or curl into a singed ball.

I hear a certain performer and remember she loved going to concerts with her kids. I see a certain flower and remember her love of tulips. I smell a food and think of her cooking. I cook and the kitchen is messy, I think of how messy she was. I unlock my car and think of how she broke my lock and how furious I felt. I drive her son to football and know that she would have been a great sports Mom.

Forty something years of memories that cannot be boxed up and made to go away. Though I am tired of my grief I carry on.

heartache

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Heartache.

What an inadequate expression of pain. Generational heartache is heavy, and physical, a sagging weight on your chest. That is what my heart felt like yesterday. Holidays hurt and I am left trying to figure out why.

Yes, I miss my mom and sister, but more so I miss the traditions that my father relentlessly enforced. It is complicated. Growing up I felt controlled by his insistence that we all share all holiday meals together. Those traditions were important to him. I never asked him why just resisted being controlled. But he had no mercy, not for other plans or other people in our lives. Bring them along he always insisted. And now I long for them like an abused child longs for the love of their abusive parent.

On Easter we gathered and living in Texas we got new outfits for church, we ate lamb with mint sauce.

He made us gather.

And now, the lack of tradition creates a crater inside me. I am so averse to being controlling, that we don’t do it at all. I don’t want to insist and I don’t want the hurt of family choosing to be elsewhere. And to labor over a giant meal like my mother always did, only to have family eat and disperse as quickly as possible seems like too risky. Why do I protect my heart at all costs? Or perhaps I’m simply too lazy and I do not want to do the work.

And it is work. It was easy for my father to insist when he wasn’t the one spending all day or days in the kitchen.

I don’t want to become my father a dictator of tradition. I don’t want to become my mother a slave to tradition.

I am left with a hole so cavernous I can hear the wind blowing, whirling, and lashing. I was physically ill for days thinking about it all, so complicated, so twisted, and so hard to understand.

I am broken by my upbringing and unable for whatever reason to create our own traditions. It is too painful to be rejected and that is why I think my father just made us. As crazy as that sounds, perhaps I get it now.

I know I do not want to be that person. Fifty-four and both parents dead and I am still trying to figure myself out.

hello my friends

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Back at therapy. Been doing this since my twenties. Does anyone else get therapy fatigue? Back with my Psychiatrist.

I’ve lost myself. I always blame the medication. Because I just really want to cry. I have tears inside. I am drowning inside me.

With the antidepressants, I struggle to feel. So we’re trying to figure out what’s next.

Being more empathic than your typical person is exhausting. Even without the ability right now to feel my own, and at my current level of medication I should not care about anyone around me. But I do. My heart is breaking everywhere and all the time. But I have no internal emotional life. I am hard and soft at the same time.

This is not profound. But it is difficult.

But, I took a leave from work in November. Doctors are telling me that I have all the signs of severe physical exhaustion, stress, my brain is wounded and tired. I have had memory loss, frequent tension headaches, and fatigue. I thought three months should help me find myself again.

This was naïve.

What I discovered is that I am doing for others everywhere and myself nowhere.

There are needs everywhere in my life. And that is perfectly alright. As we’ve been given a lot to handle; my own depression, anxiety and sobriety, one child’s mental illnesses, my mother’s dementia and kidney failure, buying our business which we brought back to thriving, my best friend and sister Holly’s murder, my mother’s death five months later, and the stress surrounding the murder and taking care of Holly’s children.

I lost myself. Eventually the body, brain and heart called it quits. Sputters to a stop. Demands a time out. Shuts down.

I am happy to not be depressed. Not right now, thankfully. But I do not control my depression. I only know how to keep it at bay. It doesn’t always work. I have no magic tricks.

I am praying for some kind of relief. That one day life will ease up and I will find my passions again. For life, the writing and photography. More than today.

Today it is good enough to go to work, organize our family of seven’s appointments, show up on time for football practice pick up, keep my head down and avoid most people.

It is not that I don’t (double negative sorry) love people. I do.

I am simply not myself.

Violence and Mental Illness

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As many of you know, we have mental illness in our family lineage. The details don’t matter in this case, I think. But it is important for people who know nothing about it to know that mental illness can be in any family and violence is not directly correlated with it. Despair and lack of hope, maybe. Many things come together, mental health being just one of them, to create a situation where a person does a violent act.

My brother in law was a mostly gentle person in my experience. Of course I wasn’t married to him and my sister is gone, but from our lived experiences I believe she would agree. Verbal abuse is something that did occur which was painful to be a child in their household. But my sister struggled with verbal anger too, a legacy from my father.

We were verbally abused most of our lives into adulthood up until his death.

When we asked Holly if she was comfortable with Paul having a gun in their home, she said she was because he kept it in a safe. I am sure she was thinking a child wouldn’t stumble on it, don’t we all think that about guns at home? Keep them away from the kids. She was offered a restraining order during the divorce which she declined. She did not believe he was violent in that way.

But he murdered her. He took his gun, did some target practice (we didn’t know this until afterward from the police), tricked his way into Holly’s home, laid in wait upstairs and then killed her.

I have many sleepless nights thinking about that. Of course, we could have said something. We just listened, when more than a year before her murder when she told us about the gun. Paul was not a violent person. It was shocking to us that he thought he needed a gun in a suburban neighborhood of Seattle. But we just listened. At that point I didn’t know my brother in law very well. He was depressed for many years through out their seventeen years of marriage. A few times I tried to help.

“There’s no shame in seeking help. Antidepressants do change you. They don’t feel good. I am struggling with that myself, for much of my adult life. I don’t like how they make me unable to feel much. But they also help me out of the passive suicidality of major depression.”

Our situation is unique. But aren’t they all and I suppose that’s my point. The people that are out there killing, who have mental illness of some sort in their history, are unique humans. Their upbringing, their financial situation, their lack of healthy relationships, their solitude, their access to mental health support, joblessness, access to medicine, therapy, doctors all create a moment of time where anything is possible. And being poor, to get help almost impossible to resolve.

It is more difficult to get mental health support in this country than to buy a gun.

Psychology Today

Mental health support needs to be continuous, it is very dependant on the person’s access to help as well as all the things I listed above.

For many years we fought the system to get our daughter help and when we in our most despondent, when all we could think of was to take her to the ER, we were told she has to be a direct threat to herself (actively suicidal) or to others. Do you know how hard that is to prove? Much less wanting to declare that about your loved one.

Mental health and violence to yourself or others is an impenetrable labyrinth.

Hey, How are You? My Sister is Dead.

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My sister’s murder shut me down, I have had to close off the pain. It is the only way to keep going. And go we must. It is not like I don’t want to go on. Life holds plenty of goodness. But living in a world where a husband can kill a wife with a gun, well, that is unimaginable to me. I have spend many, many hours thinking about how to go on.

We must not only imagine it, we must live it.

With all the killings this week, I have to admit, I’m shook up. There are so many hard memories that I have put away in a safe box and the news takes that box and shakes it hard. Pain comes flying out at the most unexpected and inconvenient moments.

And then things that shouldn’t be hard, become hard. “I chose the number 73 on my football jersey because it is the year mom was born.”

“What a wonderful way to remember her,” I say with my heart crackling like it is on fire and my head spinning.

We are coming up on three years, in June. Three years later it is still a hard lump in my throat and I find myself avoiding conversation with everyone today because I don’t want to answer “How are you?” People just mean “hey” or “how was your night?” and I want to say “My face is burning hot right now, to be honest, because I just remembered my sister is dead and I don’t want to talk to you right now.”

But I won’t be rude. “Hey back,” I’ll reply, “Great Bucks game last night.”

A Creative Soul.

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My first words are lethargic, yet I know it is time. They have slowly birthed themselves, then are bursting out of me like an explosion.

Life is so loud that I can see the thickness and mass of the noise that surrounds me. I feel the sensation of the words. My soul is tired. An atrophied muscle. Sensation and muse have been absent. My ten fingers, slowly tapping out original thoughts are creaky and rusty like a derelict bicycle dragged out in the spring after several winters of inattention and lack of use. Distraction stretches and unfurls squeezing out my imagination.

We should teach children to prepare for an adulthood jammed full of clamoring urgency. Middle age will have paraphernalia that collects in the basement, garage, closets and corners of our consciousness until there are no decent ideas or inspiration, only excuses. Interruptions and noise.

When I was young I would not have believed that I would need to learn to be disciplined in order to challenge the “to-do” of family, work, and possessions. That I would need to carefully clear a room for quiet. As I do I am hopeful that the sparks of creativity will ignite.

Right now I cannot find

spare words.

Clatter invades even with my eyes closed. When I open them again life shrieks to be cleaned up, cared for, carefully ordered from disorder.

This noise competes for our creative soul. Clarity is somewhere the echoes of a silent room.

The empty pages have waited for me to trust myself with words again.

First words spill like heart ache.

I stare hard; curious and hungry, finally ignoring the noise. And for a moment I am filled with wonder.

I squeeze my eyes shut, salty with the sadness that has been pushing and pulsing to come bursting. Fury swells. I remember that I AM MADE FOR THIS! The anger comes because I have walked on for what seems an age. Walked without words.

At some point I left the path of imagination and curiosity which lost my interest. It is a path that requires trust and a willingness to face down the noise.

The energy of rage and the sadness is important in order to walk with words.

As if jumping on the dilapidated bicycle, I press my feet down on the two pedals slowly, beleaguered in the beginning, then faster and faster as the blood in my legs begins to pulse and flow. In my mind’s eye I feel the wind, my salty stinging tears flowing down the worn grooves of my face.

And I soar.

April 8, 2017

What Is a Good Life?

For months the words have toiled and churned inside me.
The black letters absent from the page.
A heavy, nagging problem. A writer’s liability.
Rather than anguishing over this loss I have lived.

Then with an intimate slow unfurling
I deliberate on these first scarce stanzas.
I feel their drumming.
Echoes in the chambers of my heart.

Still I have a constant awareness.

Sufferings, anxieties and troubles have come to be our life.
Both waking and sleeping.
Still delight and joy are wondrously present.
Each day’s lesson cracks me open bringing a Spirit-filled reliance.

To live, to love, to be, to give, to fear, to hold, to weep, to laugh,
to wait, to hope, to doubt, to accept.
The silence teaches.
Life is lived in the moments in between.
And all together this is a Good Life.

{Ten Thousand Tears}

Ten Thousand Tears.
….When I was a child I pinched my eyes closed to reject my weakness, my torment as I was hollered at by a daddy that didn’t know better. I closed down my heart; it hurt too much to feel bad all the time. So I told my tears, you aren’t welcome here. And my heart and soul slowly turned hard as stone.”

I know there are fellow sufferers of depression, others who have family or friends who descend into this murky, sinkhole of depression’s hell and you cannot imagine how to help. I hope that whatever is redemptive in my story will one day help others find help themselves.

Excerpted from a post on LogicandImangination.com.

Logic & Imagination

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My tears are welcome.

I see them splattered, dried on my glasses as I peer out the window into the wintry, cold, gray, foggy morning;

tiny specks on the panes of my eyeglasses.

I wipe hard at these dried salty witnesses.

They are a record of my sodden heart.

Ten thousand tears come raining down.

The soil of my soul is softened.
Broken apart by tears, which took forever to reappear.  Though I fear

that I cannot stop them, deep down I know that they are what keeps my heart growing.

Soil ready for love, open

to the community of believers,
to grace,
to healing, forgiveness and new life,
to hope.

My tears, such an old and forgotten notion

for me.

When I was a child I pinched my eyes closed to reject my weakness, my torment as I was hollered at by a daddy that

didn’t know

better.

I closed down my heart;

it…

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still< I want more

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I am spoiled. Wasted. Ruined.
Continuously wondering what is the purpose of this one life of mine?
To love God above all.And love your neighbor. As You Love Yourself.
I worry, I’m tainted, and I am lost.  How do I love?
I don’t choose it, but my mind cannot let it go.
The thought is present as I wake. Even now I am defeated and lost.

Depression sucks the marrow of my bones, unhurriedly.
I’ve wanted nothing more than to be useful.
Or have I lied to myself, even now.
Have I wanted importance? Recognition.  Esteem. Significance.
Dare I admit motherhood was never enough?

And as I struggled with deep-rooted interior, from childhood grief, in ruins.
My soul further decays.

So I pray. And Prayer becomes a mantra, habitual and constant.
Bursting with the ache, the existential whys.

The catastrophe is long over, decades ago.
He’s been dead
another decade as well.
Still, the Destruction stands on top of me. Crushing daily energy,

Still, I want more.
Where is the freedom that comes from all this mindfulness?
I fell like I am captive to my past, my psyche ruined.

Or is it only in my mind?