the closest I can get

So we buried my Dad yesterday.

He died in late January, but the ground had to thaw, and so we buried him yesterday.

We buried him next to my mom, despite the fact that, while they had been married for more than 35 years, they had separated and then divorced in the ’90s, and my Dad’s partner of the last 12-15 years was there. That was a little weird. She didn’t seem to mind, but she always kind of deferred to the “family,” even when I thought she shouldn’t.

At the cemetery, I introduced myself to the “new” wife of one of my uncles I found myself standing next to — I had seen her once or twice before, but had never met her in person. She tried to offer comfort by telling me about how her parents had both, in a bizarre coincidence, died on the same day when they were each in their 60s. She then told me that I could be comforted by the fact that my dad had died in his sleep. Which would be fine, except her way of putting it was “At least he wasn’t murdered or something, because then you’d be angry, too.”

My brushing up against Enlightenment in this situation is that I didn’t punch her in the face.

(Don’t yell at me. I know she meant well. I know people say stupid things when they don’t know what to say. But “at least he wasn’t murdered?” Really? That’s the best she could do? Why can’t people just say “I’m so sorry”?)

Instead (of punching her in the face) I walked over and helped my Dad’s partner dip Dad’s dog’s paw in the dirt and put his pawprint on the lid of the coffin.

I spent a lot of time yesterday thinking about my family, and all the joys and hurts of growing up, and remembering all of the goofy memories of our childhood while looking at these people who are all now deep into middle age. My two younger brothers lying together in my youngest brother’s crib; my oldest brother running out of the house all concerned about the paint on his car when I fell off my bike in its vicinity as I was learning to ride a two-wheeler; one of my sisters helping me out of the ditch after my pants leg got caught in my bike chain and walking my bike home for me; my next older sister and I getting into trouble in bed after bedtime for either fighting or giggling.

Now we have children who have children, or are old enough to. We’re all gaining weight around our middles and discussing our strategies for dealing (or not) with our grey hair.

It’s difficult to lose a parent, it’s really difficult to lose both. Many talk about this awareness of being the “oldest” generation, but I don’t really feel that, I guess because I have so many older siblings. (My own personal buffer zone.)

I would like to be able to let go of past pain. I would like to cure myself from The-Grass-is-Always-Greener syndrome. I would like to always FEEL the joy I know is there.

***

One song, from the car yesterday, which I should not have listened to (I started crying while singing along with the refrain, and didn’t really stop for about 20 minutes):

Won’t it be dull, when we rid ourselves of all the demons haunting us, that keep us company;
won’t it be dumb, to be happy like we always thought we’re supposed to feel, but never seem to be.

(War on Drugs, Barenaked Ladies)

And then today, playing through a tiny little speaker in the kitchen while I made dinner:

. . .there’ll be icicles, and birthday clothes, and sometimes
there’ll be sorrow . . .

(Little Green, Joni Mitchell)

say it again

. . .life doesn’t start when the sun rises or the credits roll but when you decide it’s time to go after what you deserve, and you deserve everything because we are alive both only once and a million times every day and every minute is something new to learn and someone new to love. . .it is not yet the end, it is not yet the end, it is not yet the end.

get out of bed

I’m “stealing” this from Sarah at Redamancy Lit, who may or may not have “stolen” it from somewhere else, but it seems to be, sometimes, all we really need to remember.

Just get out of bed, and it’s never the end.

Get out of bed, make a hot drink and go outside. You owe yourself that much. Maybe you still cry in far too many public bathrooms, but I swear, you stay a few seconds less every time. Smile at strangers if it’s all you can do, know that life doesn’t start when the sun rises or the credits roll but when you decide it’s time to go after what you deserve, and you deserve everything because we are alive both only once and a million times every day and every minute is something new to learn and someone new to love, and if it all crashes and burns as it so often does cling on to hope through it all and don’t ever ever ever let it go. Start your life again whenever you need to. Repeat after me: it is not yet the end. It is not yet the end. It is not yet the end.

 

or maybe it’s this. . .

I often feel as if much of what I spend my time doing isn’t what I really want to be doing.

Much of the rest of my time I spend trying to quiet my mind and the space around me so that the words can grow that will tell me what to do next, that will tell me how I (am supposed to) feel.

When I manage to quiet my mind and the space enough, I find that all I really want is silence.

This is ironic, because I am a woman of many words.

Maybe I’ve used them all up. But I doubt it.

probably what we’re all really looking for

And it can’t be found on facebook, or instagram, or twitter, or even in a post by your favorite blogger. (Well, maybe sometimes there. But not as often as I’d like.)

Because community—the rich kind, the transforming kind, the valuable and difficult kind—doesn’t happen in partial truths and well-edited photo collections on Instagram. Community happens when we hear each other’s actual voices, when we enter one another’s actual homes, with actual messes, around actual tables telling stories that ramble on beyond 140 pithy characters.

Listen.

Holding on

Reading a lot of Ann Carson lately. Hope you don’t mind.

I overlooked one thing.
That the beautiful when I encountered it would turn out to be
prior–inside my own heart,
already eaten.
Not out there with the purposiveness, with temples, with God.
Inside. He was already me.
Condition of me.
As if Kutuzov had found himself charging across the battlefield at Borodino
toward–

not the emperor Napoleon but a certain old king Midas
whose weapons
touched half the Russian army into bitter boys of gold.

Words, wheat, conditions, gold, more than thirty years of it fizzing around in me–
there
I lay it to rest.
You smile, I think
you are going to mention again
those illuminated manuscripts from medieval times where the scribe
has made an error in copying
so the illuminator encloses the error
in a circlet of roses and flames

which a saucy little devil is trying to tug off the side of the page.
After all the heart is not a small stone
to be rolled this way and that.
The mind is not a box
to be shut fast.

And yet it is!
It is!

Well life has some risks. Love is one. Terrible risks.
Ray would have said
Fate’s my bait and bait’s my fate.
On a June evening.
Here’s my advice,
hold.

Hold beauty.

from The Beauty of the Husband

I’m holding it.

I’m trying.

Sometimes I forget, and it slips from my fingers.

But it’s still there, see? I just have to lean over, and pick it up again.

 

I can’t run, but can I hide?

There’s a scene in a Mad Men Season 5 episode (I’m trying to catch up) — Sally (age 10? 11?) has snuck a newspaper out of the garbage bin to read about the strangulation of the Chicago nurses. Her step-grandmother is babysitting, and a bit of a nut. When Sally can’t sleep out of fear from what she has read, grandma gives her half of a Seconal, and falls asleep on the couch with a butcher knife on the table next to her. Sally’s mother and stepfather arrive home in the morning, perplexed by the sight of grandma sleeping on the couch with a butcher knife at hand, and unable to locate Sally, who is lying, stiff with fear, under the couch.

That’s where I am today.

Maybe not very guru-like, but it seems like a relatively safe place to be.

I’ll let you know when I come out.