It is an ocean
Sometimes it recedes
and we lie,
catching our breath
of what it was like
to not grieve
it engulfs us
drowning us in the past
in our love
even with wounds unhealed
that will never heal
we are borne away
on a strange tide
to an unfamiliar land,
to find our way.
And our past
in a house
in a place
© 2017 TGL
Have you ever been depressed? I’m not talking about one or two blue days. I’m talking about soul crushing depths of despair, in a hole so deep that the sun, even light is a myth. If not, you may be one of the people that sees, but doesn’t really see someone who is.
It’s easy to judge and give advice. “It’s all in your head.” “If you just see a doctor, you’ll be fine.” And there’s my personal favourite, “tough love”, as in: “I’m not going to talk to you until you get your act together and see someone,” punishing you for being sick. It’s as if they think that the depressed are stupid, or willful. They’re not. But until you’ve been in that dark, you just don’t know. You don’t know about feeling paralyzed about pretty much everything. Just getting out of bed and feeding yourself is an effort on those days when all you want to do is face the wall and sleep it all away. You feel like a burden on your friends, your family, because you feel like you’re a burden even to yourself. You don’t believe that you could possibly be loved or cared about, because you feel like you don’t deserve it. In that situation, it’s as impossible to call a doctor as it is for most of us to scale Mt. Everest.
Patience. This is what the depressed need. Love. Support. Just let them know you’re there, if they need to talk. And then really be there. Knowing that someone truly cares can help get them through a particularly bad patch. Ask them how you can help, but don’t be put off if there isn’t anything at the moment. Maybe make some easy food, to make sure they eat. Offer to make calls for them. Just be there. Don’t let a friend or family member slip through your fingers when you could, literally, save a life.
Our basement leaked in the last rain. I hadn’t noticed until today, when I started moving things around for a party we’re having. Of all the things that could have been damaged, all of the silly, frivolous things that could be easily parted with, the one thing that took damage was a box.
At first glance, I thought it might hold fabric, that I could throw into the wash or the trash, depending on the condition. But no. Out of everything it could be, it was a little box of things, belonging to my darling Steffan. He was my housemate, the little brother I’d never had, the girlfriend that stole my clothes, my sweet, fragile gay friend, who passed away of AIDS in 1994, at the unthinkably young age of 31. So much time gone by.
You would think, that after almost 23 years, that I’d be able to deal with a box of things rationally and dispassionately, but seeing his things, wet, his ID cards, his little statues, it was, somehow, like losing him all over again, sitting with him, holding his hand and breathing with him…until he didn’t anymore. And I am, for a moment’s time, drowned in the great wave of my grief, that ocean of sadness and tears.
I’ll be better, salvage what I can and move it to a higher, better spot, but oh, my Steffan, I miss you so much.
Does he really think I’ve forgotten? Even after almost 50 years, the thought of his hands all over me burns me like a brand, indelible, still raw, the scab so thin that a good breeze, a careless word could blow it away and start the flow of blood again. Every day is a battle. Every day so far, I win it. Stuffing it in the box, behind a door, behind a wall. Don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. No one will believe you anyway. That IS what he said to me. I was believed, but it still must be my fault. Never speak of it. The family must never know. And so I deal with it alone, as I always have. And if sometimes I seem hard, or cold or dark, you must know the dark that I live in, the dark that always stares back at me, comforts me. The dark does not judge. It’s how I survive.
Whenever tragedy like this hits, we sorrow, we rage, we blame, we saturate the media with it until we are so heartily sick of the spectacle that we hide it away until the next time, and then, once again, we wear our sackcloth and ashes and our outrage.
I’m all for better background checks, but our problem is deeper than merely guns. Guns are too easy, and there’s more to it. It’s a society, a way of thinking, a judgement that told the young man, the killer, that having the feelings he was having was wrong. And in his mental instability, he clutched at what he obviously thought was the means to eradicate that. And horror ensued. It’s a mindset that believes that violence and weapons are the only answer when faced with an unanswerable question. It’s the labels that divide into us and them, into religions and politics and ways of thinking that allow the unthinkable to become commonplace. When hate is the first response, violence will, inevitably, follow. And it is so very easy to hate, isn’t it? I have seen people, that I would call friends of mine, rabidly, mindlessly hating, letting it consume them, every waking moment, tarnishing their lives and never really knowing what havoc they’re wreaking on themselves, their families.
In our anger and our fire for vengeance, we forget what’s important. And what’s important is that every one of these bright, funny, lovely human beings was someone’s son, daughter, lover, friend, and that these families have had their very hearts torn out. Perhaps, if we come together to weep, to mourn the loss of those bright flames, we will realize that what unites us is more than what divides us. Though we are straight and LGBTQ, Republican and Democrat, Jew and Christian and Muslim and Pagan, and a million other things, one thing, one thread weaves us all together. We are all human, and we all bleed the same.
So, as the days roll on, hug your family, your friends tightly, because there is no promise of tomorrow. And work for change, for a brighter day when we will not be defined by the labels of who we love or how we worship. But remember to stretch out a hand to those that need it, that might be “different”. The only answer to hate, to fear, is love. And I know that sounds simplistic, but in the face of fear, of hate, to love, to look beyond the differences and see the humanity shining through, that bright thread of blood, is the bravest thing you will ever do. #LoveIsLoveIsLoveIsLoveIsLove
“Whistling girls and crowing hens always come to some bad ends,” my grandma used to say, just before she would tell me that while I was a gracious loser (she was right; I am), I was a “very poor winner.” By that, my grandma meant that I loved winning too much and that, when I did win, I wasn’t good at pretending not to care. And, she was right; I do and I’m not; it’s made me a hell of a lawyer. My grandma loved me and she was just trying to prepare me for what she called “the real world.”
One of the almost unconscious (and completely unpaid) jobs that women are doing all the damn time is managing their own behavior in order to manage men’s emotions. We do it so much that we’re often not even aware that we’re doing it. While the Jungian projection is that…
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