"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

sea of love

i've sometimes wondered how i would handle something like a life-shattering, emotionally devastating break-up if i had to (obviously, i didn't think about it often enough, or i might've been better prepared. alas, some things you can just never anticipate).

in the past when i've grieved the loss of loved ones, i've shut myself down, unable to find the motivation to move forward in productive ways. i always beat myself up over things, whether it was the time i got fired from a job, or the time my first boyfriend cheated on me, i've always put myself at the center of that blame ("you weren't smart enough," "you didn't work hard enough to make things work," "you're not pretty or interesting, why would anyone ever want to be with you?") or found ways to blame others if i was feeling generous to myself that day ("the management at that organization was a mess, those people were jerks!", "the lady my dude was cheating with is ugly, why would he want to be with her?") neither one of these approaches is healthy. but we do strange things when we grieve.

when my uncle passed away, i blamed myself, somehow, for it happening. i beat myself up over not visiting him in San Francisco just months prior, thought maybe if i had, the entire course of time would have been changed and he would still be alive. when i got the call that he was in the hospital, i was teaching a class full of irate special ed students in South Central LA and i put the phone back in my pocket, in casual disbelief, and somehow didn't let things sink in enough to phase me (he died that night, when i was in grad classes. when i got the call, it suddenly sunk in so much that i felt myself sinking... tears leapt to my eyes, i couldn't breathe, i ran out of the classroom and got in my car, drove thru the night sky wailing and begging for everything to go back. i called cousins and cried while they told me they loved me. i just stuttered in my stupid grief. i couldn't tell them that more than anything else, i felt guilt, i felt i had caused this to happen... i had believed so much in my world continuing uninterrupted that the universe had to send me a dramatic sign to WAKE THE FUCK UP).

when my grandma passed away, i did the same thing. i thought about the call i had with her just a few days ago, how i was happy to talk to her but also eager to get off the phone so i could go back to whatever stupid selfish thing i was doing at the time (probably studying or writing a paper, or more likely pretending to do that while i wasted time on the internet). i called her every week and this week she was more talkative than usual, and took the time to tell me she loved me, how much i meant to her, and how proud she was of me. i took those words in, but didn't let them resonate the way they should. when she passed away i thought about that conversation, and still do quite frequently, as my grandmother knowing her time was coming and needing to say everything she needed to say to me. how selfish and self-absorbed i had been at the time to not appreciate and be there with her in that moment... it is still a guilt and a pain i hold tight to my heart to this day. i did so many little things to show her i loved her, but when it counted i wasn't there for her in the way i should have. if i could have that moment back, if i could have a handful of moments back, would everything be changed? could my love for her and for my uncle have saved them if i only let them feel it a little more? i had the belief that my love was magical enough to protect all those around me.

i carry so much guilt and sadness with me every single day. all the ways i've wronged my loved ones and all the times i've been the recipient of love and taken it for granted. when i stop too long to think about it i get sick and angry at myself, and in the strange way of grief, wish i could bargain my life, my youth, my health for the chance to bring any of those people back.

i spend a lot of energy thinking about this. in the last few weeks, as i've had to adjust to losing my job and losing the love of my life in the space of a month of each other, i've wondered every day if this is all somehow my fault. if i deserved this. if somehow the universe designed this as a punishment for something terrible i did.

every morning is a battle between two forces inside my head. one that wants to punish myself, to see myself fail, to never be happy again, to never rise out of bed, to shrivel and die and be forgotten and disappear. the other wants to fight, to prosper, to create and reach out and risk it all because there isn't a lot left to lose. i am never sure each morning which one it's gonna be. and throughout the day those competing forces still rage on inside me. there are moments when something reminds me how bad everything feels right now and i shrink into a ball, just break down inside myself and if i don't cry, i stare into the distance and see nothing.

but i am still here because of a few small things that mean everything. at my lowest, darkest point, when i could feel myself suffocating under sadness and grasping for a way out, i had a friend who was able to help me. i'll never forget this moment because he saved me. he gave me what i needed before i even realized i needed it. he told me it's ok to grieve, to be upset, to feel torn down. but never, ever, should i blame myself for any of it. people do cruel things to one another but we cannot be cruel to ourselves. even if i forget that, he reminded me that there are people who love me. and even though there are so many people who hurt us, who take us for granted, who make us feel small and invisible and insignificant, there are more who love us, for whom we are the world, who would be devastated if we disappeared.

in the last few weeks i'd beaten myself up so much i stopped eating, stopped sleeping, and stopped feeling anything besides sadness. i got good at smiling in public, but mostly so i wouldn't make people around me uncomfortable. my family has had the worst of it -- i haven't told them about my job or relationship problems because i don't want them to worry about me. for my burdens to be their burdens. but they can tell. my dad told me on the phone as he waited for his flight to London that he worries about me because i haven't sounded happy in a long time. we're having a family reunion in a week and i'm worried about bringing all this sadness with me. he told me he loved me, so emphatically, that i would have cried if i had any tears left in the tank.

my cousin said it best: "remember that there are people who love you. put one foot in front of the other until you get yourself out of this."

remembering in this helps me to lift my head and get out of bed every day. if not for myself right now, then for the people who love me, who believe i can do great things.

since things started falling apart, i've been slowly finding my feet again and managing to put them one step at a time towards the future: i started playing guitar and ukulele again (as evidenced by my videos), i've started reading and writing again (as seen on this blog + got a public library card!), i've found new communities and causes to dedicate my small efforts to (joined a community bike repair group that fixes bikes for low income youth, did a 50 mile bike ride in support of programs for homeless individuals in Syracuse, will be joining weekly rides with the same homeless advocacy group, trying to find opportunities to work with inner city youth on violence prevention, thinking about starting a cycling group for women and victims of assault and abuse). and even though it once felt impossible to love again, to open my heart to another person and risk being hurt again, it hasn't stopped me from loving my friends and family... if there is anyone in the world deserving of it, it's the people who have been there for me when i needed them most and asked nothing in return, who have seen my sadness and met it not with revulsion or annoyance (as my former partner did), but with patient, steady, everlasting love.

this is not a break-up song, but a thank you song. a song of thanks for showing me the sea of love i am immersed in.

No comments: