Mementos

I never knew my capacity

for love until it overflowed

onto your feet and drowned you long after you hurt me.

Nothing is black and white

nothing –

nothing.

I underestimated my capacity for understanding

when you looked into my eyes and I saw beyond

the pain you made me feel

because you hurt yourself more.

Beyond my comprehension of why or how –

And then I knew for you unconditional love.

I Hope you Find Peace

I spent over a year in a world of unimaginable love, where I looked into your eyes and saw beauty and a deeper, brooding darkness that lured me in like a well. We had an undeniable connection and our love grew gradually. Nothing we did was conventional, but none of it mattered, because you weren’t conventional and neither am I.

All of the family loss, grief, and heartache I encountered – as well as your own – was met with support and understanding. We were our own people, living independently beside each other. I thought you got me; I thought you understood who I was and accepted me as I am. When the time came to tell you I loved you, you said it back without skipping a beat and I waited until I got into my car to cry because I was so overcome with joy, because I felt the realness of your words and felt warmth in the way you looked at me. It was the day before my mother’s anniversary of her death, and the day before your cousin’s funeral in Boston. You played the guitar for me the week before and sang. You maneuvered the frets and let me strum and we made a song together that was beautiful and slow and I knew I loved you the week before I said it. You and I were so sad that month, but I couldn’t help but smile when I looked at you.

You can imagine, then, how surprised and shocked I was when you arrived at my house that warm February afternoon, looking sicker than anything I’d ever seen, to tell me that you’d been cheating on me for the last three months. You told me the whole week before that you felt ill and I urged you to go to the doctor, I brought you tea, I brought you breakfast at home – unaware that she and I were living in each other’s shadow for three months. Your housemates knew, your mother knew, and no one said anything, no one warned me of your manipulation – they all trusted in you to come clean. The Friday before, you introduced me as your girlfriend, only for me to discover you asked her that same evening to be yours. It was pure luck that she found out about me, because you calculated every movement, every interaction, to ensure we would never cross paths. I gave you the emotional intimacy, and she gave you sexual. You had to separate us like a true sociopath.

And when you told me you’d been cheating on me, when you sobbed and heaved and writhed in my arms, saying you loved me, saying you were sorry, I couldn’t help but feel bad for you. I knew I had done nothing wrong over this past year besides challenge you to communicate more, to open up, to express your feelings. You are the one who has to live knowing you lied about my grandfather’s death to her, and you are the one who has to live knowing he died believing you wouldn’t hurt me. I will have to live knowing I was wrong about you, but at least I will live with a clean conscience.

As I talked to your other girl, and as the conversation went on hour after hour, I became more and more dismayed learning of the lengths you went to in order to deny my existence. I am unable to comprehend on any level how you could tell me – to my face – over and over that you loved me. I can’t understand how you could lay with her and then only hours later crawl up beside me and kiss me, tell me how proud of me you were, tell me how pretty I looked, and fall asleep holding me tighter than I ever knew I wanted.

Yet through all of this, my love, I only want you to find peace. I cannot hate you, because I feel you have the deepest loathing of yourself. I believe you hurt everyone around you who challenges you to face a part of yourself that you have denied for years, because you fear the truth. And I agree, the truth is scary – dying is scary – the unknown is scary. You are facing your own unknown, and that could be the death of a part of you that you aren’t ready to release from. But honestly, you need to kill the demon by facing it, and by admitting you need to help yourself. I know that everything I felt for you was real, the love I still and will always have for you is real; I believe – or want to believe – that you do love me, that you did love me at some point, but I also know that we as people are incapable of loving another beyond the capacity which we are able to love ourselves. I can still love you because I grew to love myself – I killed my demons. I hope you find peace. I truly do.

If you are Grieving

I wanted to write something about grief, because I am grieving now. Because it’s hard. Because I’ve been through this too many times in the past ten years.

• everyone grieves in their own way so try not to take a change in their behavior personally. Also, try to be conscious of what is *your* grief and your own expression.

• you will be achy, cranky, oddly calm, have an anxious mind, and feel like your brain is a rocky ocean because all the dust is settling from a whirlwind of change. Don’t fight it, just batten down.

• don’t be afraid to take an extra nap. Don’t fear being a little impulsive. If you feel impulsive, try a productive impulse like hanging a picture, cleaning something, planting a house plant, cooking, buying a $5 book (or two, or three like I did), cleaning out your closet for donation… things that won’t cause any self damage.

• if you feel the need to damage, go to the gym. Or eat a bag of chips, just remember they’re grief chips so the calories don’t count, but also that they – like your feelings – are temporary and should not be a permanent daily helping of grief chips. May I recommend Doritos?

• don’t be afraid to tell someone you don’t have the emotional/mental energy to help them with something that may seem overwhelming to you because you’re grieving. We all have a set amount of energy and grief takes a lot of it out of us.

• it will get easier. It may always be there like a crack or a stain or rust but hey – people call that vintage and you’re popular with hipsters and gastropubs.

• you’re loved and not alone. Some people don’t know how to console a grieving person. It doesn’t mean they don’t care.

It’s Not You, It’s Me.

Being 25, being young, having a good job, my own house, a car, bills paid on time, I would have expected that would be happy by now. I realized though, and very recently realized, that I am not. I continuously find myself being independent, being in a routine, and feeling a void that is constant and negates all of my accomplishments thus far when, in reality, I have done a lot (and survived a lot) to be this miserable.

I do not love myself. It is a hard thing to say when you think you should. I look in the mirror everyday and smile, but I do not love myself. I wear fashionable clothes, I laugh, I workout hard, I push myself to be better, but I do not love myself. I thought I loved myself, until I engaged in a relationship that pushed me to the edge of my sanity, left me feeling like a crazy person, and realizing that all of my effort was for nothing because, in reality, I do not love myself.

I always blame the other person, spoke of the other person and how I was taken advantage of, hurt, used, manipulated, and I had to admit that in all of these horrible relationships was the common denominator. I pick and choose individuals who either see my character flaws or take my inability to say ‘No,’ and just run with it because, in a relationship with me, people can get away with almost anything.

Taking a long, hard, look at myself, my co-dependency issues, my trust issues, and my unhealthy need to please people, I came to the conclusion that I am the way I am because of my upbringing and my constant desire to try and save my mother. My mom, for my whole life, was an alcoholic. She died in 2011 from her disease, but I didn’t notice until almost five years later that my tendencies all stem from my relationship with her. I excelled in every school activity, every class, every extracurricular. I got my schoolwork done early, I worked from the time I was 12, I did my chores, I got scholarships to college, I was accepted to so many amazing places, I went to Oxford, I paid my own bills starting at 16, and it wasn’t until I was walking on campus the day after her funeral my senior year of college that I felt a black hole in my gut, and realized that I did all of those things for her.

*********

As a kid, you always think it’s you.

I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but I had it in my head from the time I was ten that my mom’s drinking problem was me, it was my brother, it was everything but her. Because, really, how could someone want to destroy their own body? It had to be an outside force. It had to be me. From the time I was very small I did everything my mother asked, and not in the sense that it was teaching me responsibility, but because I thought it would make her less drunk if I did these things. I thought that she would be less sad, I thought she would want to go out of the house again, I thought it would make her realize that she had something great to live for.

In relationships that developed after her death (because, let’s face it, I was so absorbed in saving my mother’s life that I had no regard for myself or confidence to try and date before and during college), I began to notice that every single guy I dated or went for or liked would take advantage of me, hurt me, or I would try and make it work because, “it just felt like it had to be.” Nothing I could do would make them want to stay, but I felt happy in their arms, I felt happy when I laughed, so that had to be real. I was incapable of saying no because, if they were rejected by me, they would want to run away, the same way I shut down when my mother rejected me as a kid. This led to destruction, regret, anger, mistrust, and putting myself in situations that I shouldn’t have stayed in but still lingered at the hope that there was going to be that one little thing I did to make them want to stay. But, just like my mother, you can’t change people. You can’t make people want to be a certain way, you can only change how you see things. You can only change how you handle situations. You can trust your intuition, and you can build the strength to realize when something isn’t meant to be.

My Mother’s Day is About Me.

This is my fifth Mother’s Day without a mother to celebrate. I am bombarded with advertisements, telling me to buy her perfume, a new dress, a purse, or a gift card. Nowadays, though, I’d rather buy some more time. I’d love to buy her voice and play it over and over again. I’d give anything to be selfish with time. Five years, 60 months, somewhere around 1,800 days that I have lived and she has not. Her last two breaths are frozen in time in my head, as I scroll along websites and am force fed advertisements, telling me to buy her perfume, a new dress, a purse, or a gift card.

This Mother’s Day, I request my mother come back and make her delicious roasted chicken. I implore the universe to interlock her fingers in mine, her rings securing a fit that insures, at the end of the day, I won’t have to let go. I would rather fool Death and God and the Universe and risk my own judgment to hear her say “I love you” somewhere other than my dreams. I would make her listen to my day and my months and my years and everything she missed. I want to celebrate her ears and her eyes to hear me and look at me while she’s listening to I know she’s there. I want to celebrate her smile as she laughs at my jokes. I want to hear her heart beat. This is my Mother’s Day.