I Get To Write Something About Grief

Something massively imperfect, painfully sappy, and woefully inadequate.

Because I feel it.

sore in my chest
puffy in my eyes
crusted shut when I woke this morning
breathless and sweaty

from dreaming of him again.

Exhausted from the booby trap of popular music,
full of it’s
missing you’s
it’ll never be how it was’s

Stumbling around looking for something, some thing.
To do what? To help? To fix?
Fix what, death? That’s not real.
To help what, missing?

Missing you is what I get to do. My birthright. The program running in the background for the next 70 years, should I be so lucky.

If I’ve learned anything from the last 10 years it’s that not every day feels like this.

like my face is the gravel beneath my own feet.
like my body is rearranged with the heart where my ankles have always been and my hands live in my mouth now. Re-learning how to walk, read a map, order tea, make sense of my surroundings.

And feeling embarrassed and alone. At constant risk of melting into tears. A fully grown liability.

And trying to hold on to the one thing that brings my body back to earth.


I’m grateful you were here.
I’m grateful you made me.
I’m grateful you listened and cared and read and wrote and left me all the gifts I have in this life.

Breath in, breath out.

I’m grateful you were here.
I’m grateful you made me.
I’m grateful you stayed as long as you could.

Breath in, breath out.

I’m grateful you were here.
I’m grateful you made me.

Happy 10-years, Dad. I hope you’re outrageously comfortable, riding bikes, doing LSD at concerts, taking long dumps, and reading endless biographies.

I love you and I miss you. See you not-so-soon.


It’s Mourning In America

This week I voted without my dad.

And for the first time probably ever, I was glad he was dead. That he wasn’t here to see this.

I couldn’t have known how much of Dad would be in this election for me.

I mourned today.

He taught me how to do that.

I was struck all day today by the similarity between how I felt today and how I felt on that day.

A lot of people are comparing the tone in the city today with that of 9/11/01.

Mournful, solemn and communal.

I cried a lot on the subway this morning. Quietly but very openly. And while it’s no surprise that I was left alone, I was surprised by how not-alone I felt. No one seemed to be wondering why. Everyone seemed to be with me. With her.

It reminded me of a very particular moment crying on the subway after Dad died. I was on the Q train going over the bridge into Manhattan and there was a little girl in a tutu swinging on her dads arms. Each dad holding one of her hands and them lifting her together. I was so jealous in that moment, so overwhelmed. I cried the rest of the train ride and the first hour or so that I was at work.

One of the dads kept noticing me noticing him. I felt so alone in my grief that day. So determined to cry it out just to get it out of my own body.

And I remember after 9/11 the distinct lack of loneliness. I don’t remember crying much then. I didn’t completely get the specialness of what had happened yet. But the feeling was still there. The knowing eye contact, the stranger with their chin up, reminding you that there will again be sun.

Today was the combination of those two days. I felt grief and I took comfort in the community sharing it with me.

Dating, Grief

FemaleGazing’s Bona Fide Get-Over-Him Routine, Step 3

Do something you love, or that you’ve always wanted to do! Remind yourself that there are things in this world that you love and enjoy.

See a musical.

Eat a corn dog.

Have a new sexual experience.

Take ibuprofen when you get cramps.

Look at some pictures of Frida Kahlo.

Watch Peeno Noir a dozen times.

Steal a really nice pen from a bank.

Look at pictures of really neat embroidery.

Just treat yourself, ok?

Grief, Hope

Some Things About ALS And The Ice Buckets

The other day a friend of mine posted her ALS  ice bucket challenge and I noticed something about it.

“I was nominated to do the ASL ice bucket challenge by…”

This viral video craze has nothing to do with ALS, it has nothing at all to do with learning about ALS. I’m sure the person who came up with the idea was hoping that the bucket of cold water would act as a deterrent and encourage people to donate out of fear of cold wetness.

Because people have been co-opting the name of ALS to basically throw a world-wide wet t-shirt contest, I thought I’d provide some actual facts about ALS.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. [x]

I don’t know when I found out my dad had Parkinson’s disease. I don’t think it was a big conversation. It was just a fact from about as far back as I remember; my dad is sick, he has Parkinson’s. There were signs that it wasn’t going to be a very good thing. He started working from home, I caught my mom saying the sentence “Well he isn’t getting better, it’s a degenerative disease after all”. But it was always just sort of a fact; my dad has Parkinson’s, it’s a degenerative disease, he works from home now. Best not to ask too many questions about it. Who has questions?

What I do remember is high school, freshman year biology class.

“… dies of Parkinson’s,” said my crayola lipped science teacher. My hand shot up.

“How does someone die from Parkinson’s?”

“Well, Parkinson’s basically stops your muscles from listening to your brain, and eventually that’ll include the heart and lungs. And if your heart and lungs can’t follow your brains instructions then you die.”

And then the world kept turning. No one in the room knew that my dad had Parkinson’s and no one who knew my dad had Parkinson’s knew about the conversation in that room.

The ALS ice bucket challenge isn’t helping people learn how to detect ALS or giving researchers any new ideas about how to cure it. It’s just clogging up my newsfeed with a lot of people who are too hot.

Some things that would be more constructive than the Ice Bucket challenge:

  1. Challenging your friends to learn and then repeat back five facts about ALS (or the chronic illness of their choosing) and how to donate while standing on their heads, or holding a barbell in the air, or treading water.
  2. Challenging your friends to learn enough about the disease of their choosing to hit up their friends for donations. For every person they convince to donate you’ll give them a home baked cookie, a blowjob, or a hot wheels car. Your choice.

I don’t think the ice bucket challenge is the worst fad to hit America since Tab or plastic crucifix jewelry or anything. I just think it’s a missed opportunity to have a useful and potentially meaningful discussion.

And that makes me disappointed.

P.S. Mental health chronic illnesses count too.

Death, Feelings, Grief

Remember: You Are Not Your Emotion

I’ve led a pretty emotionally privileged life. I’ve never battled mental illness, anxiety disorders, the problems that a lot of my favorite humans have faced.

The only time I’ve ever had to use this kind of manual to my own emotions was in the year after I lost my dad. In the beginning every feeling I felt seemed so overwhelming. Guilt, sadness, anger. Whichever one was around took over my entire brain and body. I became the guilt, I was walking sadness, I was the embodiment of anger.

Recently a friend of mine lost her father and I called her to talk about it. She described her feelings of guilt and it was like having a phone call with my past self. I didn’t have it written down at the time but the way I finally learned to deal with my emotions was basically discovering this flow. Like it’s yoga.

Back bend, emotion in.

Forward fold, notice the emotion.

Half up, feel the emotion.

Forward fold, do you know why the emotion?

Plank, name the emotion.

Upward facing dog, accept the emotion.

Down dog, emotion out.

Like a wave. In and out.

Otherwise living in each emotion, letting them consume you, well; they’ll consume you.


Death, Grief

What Happens After You Die

Today I told my shrink that in the last year since Dad died I’m quicker to anger. It really just feels like all the emotions are just more within reach. I can tap into them all so much easier. When I want to and when I really don’t want to.

And she said that when something big happens and you have a lot of emotions about it, it can throw off your emotional balance. It can make you quicker to anger and sadness and exuberance and love. Every emotion is just a little closer to the surface.

So if you were wondering. Just in case you were curious if everything would be easier if you just weren’t here anymore. The answer is no.

This is what happens after you die. Everyone who loved you changes, some a little and some a lot. Everyone has to learn how to navigate their emotions all over again. Everyone is angry at you and everyone loves you. Everyone is having a lot more feelings than they ever did before, and for the rest of their lives and it isn’t any easier. Not at all.

Death, Feelings, Grief

Keeping My Emotions In Check

First I will say how happy I am to see another Vlogbrother video which features mostly just John Green in different locations talking to the camera and occasionally himself, other humans, and things. Those are my favorite kind.

Then I want to say that I am one of the people who is excited and nervous about the The Fault In Our Stars (go read it now) movie. And also express excitement that it’s being filmed in Pittsburgh which means it’s possible that some classmates of mine might be in it.

And now I will get to the reason for this post.

In the first 30 seconds of the video John says “I’ve been laughing and crying, I think they think I’m crazy because I can’t keep my emotions in check at all.” And that is how I feel all the time, especially this week.

Sunday was my dad’s unveiling and since then I have felt just about all the feelings all the time. And about those feelings I have other feelings. And so on and so forth. Add that to the bar fight (yes, you heard me right, I was part of a bar fight) and it just feels like all of me hurts every moment of the day.

I make plans with a friend only to then ditch them for being 8 minutes late so I can walk down to the river and cry on the phone to another friend.

I pick fights with the people who love me because they do the things we planned, just a little differently than we had planned.

I pick fights with anyone and I tear up at the drop of a hat. Literally. If you had a hat and it was beautiful and it fell to the floor I might cry.

I’ve gotten really good at “pretty crying.” The trick is to not notice that you’re crying, to be so OK with the fact that tears are rolling down your face that you stop trying to control it. That’s what takes the effort and makes you all red; restraint.

I had a cry at work today and said “I just feel so needy.” And my co-worker said “You’re not needy, you’re grieving.”

So I guess that’s the permission I’m gonna get.

Not like I was planning on getting any permission at all. But I’m feeling really needy. So I’ll take it where I can get it.