Dramatic Ramblings from the Swamp of Sadness

Sheep in Rain

My mother once told me that sheep were the dumbest animals, because they never had the sense to come out of the rain, and could actually drown if they held their heads up.

I don’t know if that is actually true, but for the past couple of days I’ve been dancing this slow dance of muddled sadness, that both feels sort of painfully good – like stretching out a painful Charlie horse; and at the same time it feels like I’m slowly drowning in a very light rain. Like the aforementioned sheep, I wander in confusion and consider just accepting the drowning.

I am precariously balanced between light and dark emotions. Gratitude. Anger. Overwhelming Sadness. Guilt. Love. Shame.

I worry that I am secretly a masochist for the dark depths of any emotional pain because I’m not doing anything but existing in this feeling, but at the same time know I can flip a switch and turn this off and feel nothing. Just go blank, where the only existence of this pain is this dull throb in the pit of my stomach.

Fellini Clown

Neither is right, but the latter is closer to what I do, because one must get up in the morning and exist. So I surround myself with people, and put my clown face on. But in some Fellini-esque poetic way, I see this clown mask looking back up at me, while silent tears glide down my cheek. Dramatic in thought, but the reality is I greet you with my same soft shoe dance, loopy painted on grin, that ultimately ends with a squirt of seltzer in your face. Everyone claps and the clown moves on.

Kurt’s ashes were spread recently. I can’t go into any more detail than that, or I will lose it. I can’t talk to anyone outside of my youngest about this, and even that is a bit censored. She’s my champion in this, but one can only take so much.  I think the truth is, I’ve lost my ability to be vulnerable with people regarding this. No one gets it, no one will, so shut up about it already.

It fucking sucks.

As usual, this situation makes me angry at the world. Anger is my go-to for sadness once the tears dry up. Actually I don’t even need the tears to dry up, because sometimes those really hot angry tears are cleansing too.

I battle this logical side that tells me everything I am going through is normal and natural. I hate the logical side that tells me I can’t claim being excluded if I left this party decades ago.  Have you ever been so damn angry at someone for being right? Imagine that anger pointing inward.

Then as always, at every emotional party Guilt comes dragging in last; looming large like some over-sized Henson Muppet, bumbling around, bumping into everything while constantly apologizing. Sometimes I feel if I had a nickel for every apology I issued, I’d be drowning in coins.

I want to soothe the emotional side of me that carries on like a toddler, screeching at the world. Aiming my misdirected anger at anyone ignorant enough to get in my way. I am at this crossroads and I don’t want to talk about it, but moreso I don’t know how to talk about it. So I write a jumbled mess of descriptive emotional words learned in therapy years ago, when it seemed like Angry, and Scared and Happy were the only ones I knew.

I understand that there might be people out there who can help carry this burden but I’m angry at all of them. I’m angry at the entire fucking world today, but when you see me I will smile. My chest will constrict and I will look upward, the oldest trick in the book on having your eyes re-swallow tears, but I will smile.

Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I need to figure out a way to take a 15 hour car ride to this beautiful lake in the Rocky Mountains and finish my good byes. I don’t want to do it alone, and I don’t want to do it with anyone. I relish the idea of the drive alone, and I dread and fear it.

Maybe this is why the sheep die in the rain. They aren’t stupid, they are just vastly confused.

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Cancun; Hello’s, Goodbye’s and Everything In Between

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I returned from a week long trip from the wonderful city of Cancun late last night. I usually like to wait a few days for the vacation buzz to subside before I write, but I’m feeling quite content today, and figured I’d try a new perspective of writing when the feelings were fresh and raw.

This was my first for a few things; traveling internationally alone, meeting up with friends I didn’t know really well, having a huge hotel room to myself, just to name a few. Traveling alone was pretty easy, minus the conversation waiting in lines and such. Mexican Customs makes me nervous, especially Cancun. You’re greeted in a cattle call of people waiting in line to get your passport and paperwork checked in a room that has minimal at best of air conditioning. That was fine. I put on my headphones and silently bopped to my own music, never really paying attention to the slowness of the moving lines. After that it got a bit more confusing, but eventually thru following others and finding a few officials who spoke enough English to figure out I had to pick up my checked in luggage to go thru another check point. This is where things get weird.

As honest as I am, when I’m in a store and being watched by store personnel, I always worry about them thinking I’m stealing something when all I’m doing is browsing. I think I was born with the guilt of a thief and liar. Maybe in another life I was a really bad thief, I don’t know. I get to the luggage line and am told I made an error on how much money I was bringing in the country. (You only declare if you’re bringing in more than 10k USD — in my defense the forms were in Spanish and I haven’t had to read the language beyond a menu here and there since high school freshman year). I’m hot, I’m sweaty, it took a few minutes to clarify what he wanted me to do, but I get it done and head back. All is well, and then you meet with the man with the button.

Cancun Customs operates their random searches with a large red button that only you, the traveler, are permitted to touch. He asks the same questions; any booze, cigars, cigarettes. I reply yes to cigarettes and he asks me how many. I hesitate, because I didn’t know how many packs.  “Six I say”, wondering if maybe I brought seven. He said as long as it was less than two cartons, I’m okay. But the way he asks, was a bit intimidating. He hesitates, looks me over and then says “Señora, I need you to push this red button.” He takes a step to the side, and motions for me to press. I press, and a red light goes off. He narrows his eyes and tells me “Señora, this button detects some insincerity in your answer, and I need you to step over here” of course my first thought was maybe I did bring more than six packs,but how is a button to know this? They x-ray my luggage, and then say we still need to search it. All I can think, is who the hell smuggles INTO Mexico? By now, the heat, and the previously mentioned guilt has me sweating like I had 16 kilos of hash packed away. I’m trying to get the lock off my bag, and having a woman search my panties and zillion bathing suits, before I’m given the all clear sign. By now I see the button randomly just picks people, and I just happened to be one of the ones chosen. Great way to run a system. By now, who cares — I’m officially on vacation.

A friend graciously agreed to pick me up in a rental he had procured earlier, so I am easily able to duck and weave thru the timeshare reps who are looking for those lost looking first timers in Cancun. After a couple of texts, we are able to locate one another and soon I’m in an oh-so-appreciated air conditioned mini van, soaking in the cold blasting air. We arrive at the hotel in about ten minutes.

The staff that met us — well me, because he had already checked in, were charming and wonderful. They take me to VIP area where after about 45 minutes I am able to confirm that the ocean front room with a deck and plunge pool have been procured. By sheer luck, because it’s apparent about 50% of the people who have booked the same were being given the run around and placed in lesser quality rooms. In fact, there is a good chance that I had been given my friends room, as he initially ended up with a no patio, ocean facing room instead. Did I feel bad? Yeah, but kinda no. I REALLY wanted this room.

The room was spectacular. Huge, honestly too large for my needs. King size canopied bed, sitting area,fully stocked fridge, and of course the said plunge pool on a deck on the beach. Yeah the deck was old, and bowed in a few areas, and pool had seen better days. The fence separating me and the 20 foot drop to the sands below had seen better days, but I was on a corner with no neighbor to my left, the sounds of crashing waves, and the view of beautiful turquoise Caribbean waters. Life was good.

By now my luggage arrived by the nicest bellboy (man) who toured me around my room, explained where everything in the hotel could be found and I finally settled in. Cold cerveza, feet up on a lounge and the aforementioned view. My friend arrived soon after and he explained his debacle with not getting his room. We waited for our third friend to call and let us know her arrival, but later found her phone plan was not working in Mexico. She finally reached us when she got checked in as well. (Side note: she too didn’t get the room she ordered either, but both eventually were upgraded within days).

Now most of the people we knew on this trip had booked with a travel agency we all use on a regular basis. There were only a minute number of us who didn’t, yours truly being one of them. I procured a better rate, including airfare for a longer period of time so I went with that. This meant that evening cocktail parties, and group dinners were off limits to us. I was okay with that, because it was already all inclusive and I didn’t see the benefit of spending that extra money for those few amenities.

We cleaned up, and headed to the main bar in the lobby, where we saw this group. I knew a small handful of them from previous vacations and they were all friendly and happy to see us. Until I was introduced to a woman who seemed very angry that I chose not to book with them.

Now generally speaking I do everything possible to avoid drama and conflict. I keep my business private unless I know you quite well. I don’t cause waves. I’m friendly. But something about me from time to time sets other women on edge. I apparently in booking my trip in the manner I did, seemed to set this woman off. I politely tried to explain why, but she sort of seemed not to care why, just that I had. So I politely walked away and joined the few people I already knew. I thought it was a done deal, until later I heard atypical gossip that I had “pulled dirty looks, and blah blah blah blah” — Whatever. Except that now, the one gal who hates it, had been dragged into the circle of drama that I do everything to avoid. In her defense she did come up to me the next day to make amends, and I made it clear it was all good, but for the remainder of the trip, I did not get the warm and fuzzies about or from her. It didn’t ruin anything, but it did make me feel like that perpetual 7-year old girl on the playground who got picked on for reasons she didn’t understand. It’s my need to please all, I guess.

The resort as I mentioned was an all inclusive, which means all the booze you want, albeit lower end for the most part. This is like placing a fat kid in a bakery and telling the, while they can have all the cake they want, they should probably only have a few cupcakes. Yeah, wouldn’t work with the fat kid, and definitely didn’t work with me. I found that Vodka in Spanish means “Something clear that is a hybrid of tequila and dishwater” even if you pay for Grey Goose. Some had it smart and went into town and picked up the booze they wanted. I just learned to readjust what I wanted. Beer works. Tequila works. And slushy sweet drinks with names like Rum Runner, and Bahama Mama works. What works and probably shouldn’t is handing your bartender for the day a twenty and telling him to keep them coming.

We did exactly that the first day at the swim up bar, and proceeded to get smashed. Expected. Sunburned with 30 block. Expected when you never leave the waters edge. The morning of Day Two had my limbs barely working until a finally got more rum into my bloodstream. Which I think was more of an alcohol stream, with some blood running thru it than anything. I think that was the first night I called it a day with room service and in bed by 7PM.

The people you meet on these trips for me personally, almost seem to be the package under the pretty paper. The resort was the pretty paper, the people were the prize. Some are leaving a day after you meet so there is only a happy drunken momentary connection. Like the cop from Brooklyn who was such a knockout in her white one piece that you’d almost want to commit a crime, just for the sheer purpose of having her arrest you– ok so my bondage fantasies came out with that one. *wink*. Then there were others that were going to be there a bit longer, like the couple from–North Carolina? South Carolina? Not 100% certain! but suffice to say after a day of drinking her hubby has a booby pic of us with his wife. There goes my political career.

Which reminds me, this was an adults only resort, and topless was an option I’ll touch back on later.

Sometimes some of the friendships take a bit more to get off the ground. It’s very easy to get small talk going, because it’s always, where you all from, what do you do do in your normal life, plus booze makes most happy, and chatty. When there wasn’t a friend nearby, you made new ones. We ended making great friends with a couple of women from Texas, and before the end of the trip, really felt connected with them enough to hopefully make other vacation plans with. Things remained pretty good for the next few days. We did find that someone in the travel group we (the me we did not pay to be with) made it very clear that under no circumstances were we to be allowed to crash their cocktail parties. I felt worse for the host who had to sheepishly and embarrassingly had to tell us the last night he was there, when we joked about crashing their cocktail party. We thought he was joking at first, and made him repeat it because it seemed so ridiculous, but again– not one to cause waves, we had at one point just wanted to continue the party with the friends who were part of things. Fair enough.

About three days before we left we met three adorable women from Georgia. The first we had seen topless the entire week. These women were — well words sort of escape me at the moment — confident, heroic, beautiful, outrageous, funny — doesn’t really seem to convey the point I’d like to make, but it will have to suffice. Two were breast cancer survivors and they were put there with their scars, and their reconstruction, and beautiful bodies, just baring it all. The had more confidence than 40 of the most gorgeous 20 year olds pulled together. Their confidence was just really the beginning, because their personalities just mirrored the people they were. One had recently lost her husband and they were there to scatter his ashes on the beach. About half way thru the day of the afternoon we were really getting to know them I had a chance to have a semi-private conversation with her. I was in awe over the way she carried herself despite these circumstances life had been dealing her. I asked her about her husband, and as she explained to me how me she loved him, I found myself tearing up. I thought it was the sadness, maybe the empathy of her situation, and I briefly explained losing Kurt. And then it happened. I lost it.

The tears were pouring faster than I could casually catch them under my sunglasses. I felt foolish, and like I had jumped on her train of mourning. The worst things I wanted to do was elicit sympathy when someone else was going thru something so traumatic. But I couldn’t stop. I excused myself from the group, and tried to gain composure, but no sooner would I come back and there they would be. The water works. Now I know two huge factors contributing to this were alcohol and someone else’s loss. But I also knew these were also bottled up emotions that I firmly (or not so firmly) capped weeks after Kurt’s death.

I also knew the entire trip, something was off about me. I was me, but I wasn’t. I was much more subdued. The flirt in me was shelved, and solitude I was feeling, both self-imposed and otherwise felt right and yet wrong. Quite often I would find myself just wanting to be alone. I do need my downtime, but this was just — different. The parties we WERE allowed to attend with the group — I didn’t really want to be there. The friend I travelled to meet? I found myself getting rude with her at times because of the constant chatter. Often I just wandered to a section of the pool to soak in the atmosphere and beauty, but I wanted to do it alone. My senses, the emotional ones were heightened.

Finally the last day we were there we attended a full blown foam pool party at the VIP pool area. I had really looked forward to this, but as soon as it really got going, I felt claustrophobic and almost disoriented. THAT wasn’t the booze. I ran into friends from the group who were on the sidelines and tried to sit with them. One, a closer friend than the rest made a joking comment about how no, I couldn’t sit with them and that was it. The 7-year old in me that I mentioned above? I lost it. I told her I didn’t know why so many of these women had to be so fucking mean, and burst into tears. Was I really upset about that? No. Again, those emotions were at the surface, raw and ready for someone to set them afire. She immediately was there for me, and said said she understood what was really going on. I apologized (again) for crying, and blamed it on the tequila (again) and she told me no. No need to apologize, no it wasn’t the booze, no it wasn’t the few women who weren’t overly friendly it was a death, that might take me years to get over. That it was okay to cry (which I continued apologizing for, fearing bringing people down). She invited me to dinner with them (I think I needed that change of pace) and for reasons I’m not sure of, the rest of the night felt — calmer. I think I finally embraced that I didn’t have to be that Gina. The flirty fun one. That overly chatty one. The life of the party one. After dinner I headed back to my room soon after. I texted my daughter and told her I was homesick, which for as much fun as I had been having, I really was.

Then I went back to my room, upgraded both legs of my flight to first class and enjoyed the almost full moon alone on that not-so-perfect deck, alone.

Did I enjoy and learn anything on the vacation? Absolutely. I made friends with a woman in the group who I had from afar found intimidating (she was an absolute sweetheart). I made friends with women; Texas and Georgia that I sincerely hope to vacation with again. I learned I need to pack sunscreen for my lips and remove about four outfits from the luggage because I probably won’t wear them. I took my first baby steps in traveling alone (which is honestly on my bucket list one day). I realized I want to go there with my Besties, even my girls if time permits.

But the biggest lesson? Grief doesn’t end just because you go back to real life of work, and socializing. It sometimes peeks its head out, ugly or otherwise when you are sharing empathy, or soaking in beauty. Or maybe even drinking mass quantities of funny sounding rum.

The Flowers

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The advantages to being home when dealing with a personal crisis, is that the people surrounding you are aware of your circumstances. For moments, some lasting longer than others, you can forget that your world has been turned inside out. The pain can be turned down to a trickle instead of a steady gushing stream. There are no questions. There is limited pity. Strength seems to overcome sympathy as the needed shoulder to lean on.

Eventually though, people need to move on with their day to day lives. Head back to work. Head back home. You find yourself left alone and your options start to narrow down to silence. I love silence, but in this situation, with silence come the thoughts. That’s the worst part for me. Not just getting into my head, but remaining there. It’s like my brain wants to squeeze every memory out, and look over it like a beautifully polished stone. Admiring the flaws and the beauty of the memories. But when it’s time to come back to reality, I don’t want to. So my head? It’s not a healthy place to remain.

I decided to come to the office. Some think it’s too soon, but I can only do so much laundry, or clean my house so many times. I suspect staying at home was beginning  to feed into the sadness, which for me can quite easily become depression if I am not careful. I could almost feel myself getting a tad agoraphobic at the idea of venturing out for anything.

So this morning I put on my best face, refused to adorn myself in all black like an old grieving Greek woman, and drove to the office. The worst about the drive, is that I sort of don’t even recall how I got here. Just auto-pilot. Which in Southern California can be a blessing. I figured – I hoped at worst I could work half day, and maybe immerse myself into a few reports, therefore stepping out of that dark cave of mourning.

I came in to find a beautiful arrangement of flowers from my department. I knew about it ahead of time, because a close friend and co-worker asked if I would mind. I said no, that I enjoyed flowers, and would appreciate the gesture. Our department can be very cold in times of sadness. This meant something to me. They were simple and sweet; Daisies, mums, carnations, and roses, tied up in a beautiful vase with a white bow. Nothing about the flowers screamed sympathies, bereavement, or death. They almost looked like they could have been birthday flowers, or maybe even a sent from a guy.

But with flowers came what my co-worker feared; Comments from others not in my department. Not in the know. I’m weird about what work people know, versus the rest of my world. I like work to stay separate from everything else. So, for as much as I post about life publically here, this situation was something I didn’t want my entire office knowing about.

Or so I thought.

“Birthday?” … “No!” I snapped, never intending to sound rude. I just wanted the person to stop. To go away. I immediately felt remorse, but she was gone. Moments later another comment of “Oooooo … who’s the admirer?” and all I could manage was “I don’t want to talk about it.” And before they could utter another word, I repeated myself, “I DO NOT want to talk about it.” And they too scampered away, probably wondering what bug crawled up my ass. When the third person came up and sweetly asked, I simply grabbed the vase and said something about how these had to go, leaving the girl with a stunned look on her face as I raced out the door, tears in my eyes, running down the stairs to place the flowers in my car.

In retrospect it felt dramatic. Like I drew more attention to myself with that temporary exit, then the flowers just sitting there did. I feel guilty that the flowers will wilt in the warm car before I get home, and that the money invested by co-workers was a waste. I feel bad that they tried to do something nice, and it back-fired.

Most of all? I hate to be rude to co-workers. You spend more time with them then you do your family. I’m already misperceived as not the warmest, fuzziest person in the entire world, this confusion just cements things. So I asked a close co-worker to please extend my apologies, and to go ahead and explain my circumstances. Just let people know I don’t want condolences or sympathies. I know it’s in our nature to feel like we must extend some sort of warm wish or thought, but truly, sometimes it’s best to just let the flowers be flowers, and the thoughts be thoughts.

Damn I just want this all to go away.

 

grief

 

grief

This is my first attempt at writing about Kurt, and it won’t be the blog I eventually write. I guess I want to write about me more so. It’s been so long since I have written about grief this deep, that I have forgotten how it works. Losing Steve was a slow process, so as hard it was, I could do it in baby steps.

I come from a long line of women who are too strong for their own good, and those haunting of words of pulling it together run thru my head. Logic battles emotion so strong within me.

I’m tired of saying “Thank you”. I feel like an autobot.

“Thank you for your kind words” comes second nature to me the past four days. I mean it, but it feels — false. So I try not say anything. I’ve insisted in going back to work. Being home has no place for me. I just wander, and I think.

Drinking hasn’t helped. Well it did. The second night. I drank a bottle of wine on an empty stomach, and then opened another, wondering the entire time why I wasn’t getting drunk. But the pain was diminishing. It was dulling. I felt sober, because of the adrenaline I imagine. I even noted to a friend that they should take my blood because *I* had finally figured the cure for non-stop drinking without getting drunk. Shows how sober I thought I was.

Friday I had Steve’s memorial service. More of a like a gathering of good friends. I drank like a fish that night and got very drunk. Aware drunk, not like the night before. I am sure to some I looked callous. “Hey look — that woman’s son just died and she’s partying it up like it’s New Years with her gigantic glass of champagne!” Word had embarrassingly come up about my own loss and I was mortified at the mentioning of Kurt. Like I was trying to steal Steve’s thunder. I cried when they spoke of Steve’s life. For Steve? For Kurt? Both I imagine. Then I drank more. My two friends kept forkfuls of food in my mouth like an errant three year old that wouldn’t sit still to eat her dinner. First food outside of two bites of popcorn in 48 hours.

When my mother died, I needed people around me all the time. The alone time was this sharp knife that kept slicing me like a thousand paper cuts. I couldn’t take the silence.

With Kurt’s death I neither want to be alone, or with people. I had to cancel plans with my best friend last night. I was exhausted. In every sense of the word I was exhausted. Probably a bit hungover, but just typing words out to people tired me. Banal conversation would have been fragmented at best, and talking about him — I couldn’t do it anymore.

When I was in Mexico a few months back I obtained a prescription for Xanax. I already had one from my own doctor for panic attacks, but I figured if I ran out of those, I’d have these without going back to my doctor. I always hate asking him for those, even if a sixty day supply lasts me a year. I usually only use them on Sunday nights to help me sleep. Even then I can only take half because drugs stay in my system so long, I wake up groggy. The Mexico ones are strong. Even a .5 feels three times stronger than what I have. I took a half of one of those yesterday because I felt a full blown panic attack coming on and I was alone. When they hit I feel like I cant breathe. I have to logically and slowly remind myself of what is happening but it wasn’t working, which is fuel to a panic attack. So I took another half and sleep hit. I slept the entire night on the couch — the jewelry channel on TV, and all the lights on. I woke up thinking it had to be about midnight and was shocked it was six AM. I crawled back into bed, and when I finally forced myself up, about twenty minutes ago I felt that tightness in my chest that only meant more tears were coming.

Instead I decided to write. Cry my words out here. Writing is my drug. It silences. It heals.

Work will be hard. My director thought it was best that everyone know, but I hate being treated with kid gloves which is how it will come. I don’t want to talk about it, I texted a friend. Please spread the word. She asked if flowers were okay and I said yes. Except now people who don’t know will wonder why there are flowers. I want to put a sign on them that simply says “Don’t Ask”.

I know there are phases of death; Grief, denial, anger. Others I think. Five? Doesn’t matter. I feel like I’m in none and all at the same time. Like some weird mud ball has encapsulated me. I want people to live their lives without worrying about me and at the same time I hate that the world has gone on like nothing has happened. I DO recall THAT with my mothers death. Being mad at the world that everyone wasn’t stopped — motionless in grief.

Anyway, the coffee, the writing has helped a bit. I have to get his story out. Our story. It’s the nail driving this for me. Maybe later today. I also need to stop for a moment here and there and remind myself strength isn’t the be all and end all. That numbness is natural too. That sometimes life WILL feel normal, and its okay to fall into natural rhythms and then fall back out for a moment.