Archive of ‘unquiet things’ category

Some Rambling Thoughts About Friendships And Why I Don’t Comment On Your Stuff Online

A Thorn amidst the Roses, James Sant (1820–1916)

A Thorn amidst the Roses, James Sant (1820–1916)

“Am I fawning?” “Do I look too desperate? Am I trying too hard?” “Am I being weird and needy or clingy?”

These are thoughts that constantly plague me, and have, ever since that day in first grade when Natalie W. told me to leave her alone and stop trying to be her friend. (I had thought that maybe the two least popular girls in Mrs. Holbrook’s class should be friends, but apparently, I was a moron for thinking so.) I remember feeling a little bit hurt by the exchange, but somehow it also felt inevitable. I had come to believe that, at six years old, I was hopelessly unfriendable–and to my young mind at the time, this humiliating exchange proved my theory beyond the shadow of a doubt. I gave up all attempts at making friends after that, and it would be a very long time before I gave it another shot.

That is not to say I never had any friends, but the companions I had were usually girls that decided, for whatever reason, to make friendly overtures to me. On my first day of fourth grade, it was already several weeks into the school year; I was new to the class, and the school, and the state of Florida as we had just moved to the southeast from Ohio. A frizzy-headed blonde girl with watery blue eyes took it upon herself to immediately become my friend. M. was a rather large girl; she was, in fact, the largest human I had ever seen. But I didn’t care what she looked like. I didn’t care that her family lived in a crowded mobile home that smelled weird and they drank bitter yellow grapefruit juice for every meal (they were constantly dieting, as they were an entire family of rather large people) and that they took me to stupid boring church every Sunday, and that all my new friend M. ever talked about was Kirk Cameron, who I quite frankly thought was a curly-headed goon. Nope, I went along with all of it–I finally had a friend and, dammit, I wasn’t going to do anything to screw it up!

M. and I stayed friends for my remaining years of elementary school, and we had big plans for middle school– but they were soon to be derailed. During my first week of seventh grade as I was shuttling between classes, trying to figure out how my locker worked, how not to get noticed by the wrong people, and myriad other details that I still dream about once a week,  I felt a tap on my shoulder, and a note was thrust between my fingers. Intrigued, I skimmed its contents. In a bold, looping hand was a frenzied note of introduction and flattery. The writer commented on how much they loved my hair and clothes (huh? I hardly ever washed my hair and I was going through a ratty jeans and tee-shirt phase), and by the way, was that me they saw at the heavy metal concert the other night, hanging out with the band? (Uhh? No? I wasn’t allowed to go to concerts, let alone hang out with skeezy dudes twice my age) I didn’t even catch a glimpse of this person, and I didn’t know what to think, and thus began a friendship that throughout its development often felt just as confusing and fraught with as many such moments of “how is this even happening?” as it did at its inception.

V., I was to learn, was a bit of a trouble-maker. A mediocre student with a big mouth, who was always talking trash to the popular girls who looked down on her, she was a sassy whirlwind, and I often thought, much too wild to continue being friends with boring, quiet me–yet she adored and idolized me in a way that I have never encountered since. At the time I thought it was maybe because she coveted the way I lived; my family was in a lower-middle-class sort of situation, but in many ways, we may have been better off than they were. Her family lived,  literally, on the other side of the tracks, the wrong side. They were what I thought of at the time as, “poor people”…which had a thrilling, sort of illicit ring to it and looking back now I wish someone had given me a talking to about how incredibly insensitive and irresponsible it was to romanticize such a thing. Wow, all of this is so uncomfortable to confront and write about now. But back then all I knew was that when I’d visit her home, no way were they going to make me eat a Weight Watchers burrito and a sadly dressed salad for dinner– it was deep-fried fish and french fries and buckets of iced tea so sweet we’d be buzzing around and off the walls until way past midnight.

V. took me to parties where there were boys and beer (gross and grosser; I was a late developer); she convinced me to skip school and see big hair heavy metal bands down on the boardwalk during the era when Daytona was a big destination for crazy college spring breaks; she began an affair with her aunt’s boyfriend when she was 13 (he was 28). At 16 she met a construction worker at a bus stop while she was skipping school, and shortly thereafter she was pregnant. After that there was no more school for V. And no more V. for me.

In both instances, these friends were strangers who approached me, and, not having any better options at the moment, my instinct was, “well, why not?” As such, I suppose I wasn’t as invested in the relationships as I could have been, and when we drifted apart, my response was most likely a shrug and an “oh well.” I never pushed for strengthening our bonds or for making things work, or for another chance. I just let it go.

I’m afraid I do this still in many areas of my life, but I will get back to my thoughts on that after this brief but related next tidbit. I did manage to snag one more best friend in my early 20s. We met through a mutual friend who had organized an evening for us all to meet up and make sushi together, which sounds like a fun, nice way to get to know someone new, right? Facilitated through the buffer of someone you already know? Sounded like a fine idea to me. Well, the mutual friend never showed up. Instead, I spent the evening in a stranger’s kitchen, just the two of us awkwardly warming up to each other while shaping rice and fish into sushi rolls and trying to figure out why our other friend flaked. Nearly twenty years later we still don’t know the answer to that, but I am profoundly grateful to her for she introduced me to the most fascinating, fabulous, complex, and complicated human I have ever met, whom I love with all my heart, and who became my dearest friend in the world. I know it’s a cliché to say so, but in the course of our friendship, although we have had our ups and downs, we have always managed to work them through and emerge from them stronger and more devoted to each other than before. And that’s what’s so wonderful with this particular friendship: when things get weird, or wrong, or challenging, I didn’t just say, “oh well” and walk away. I actually cared about it. About her. About us! And it big-time breaks my heart to think of a life without my dear BGF, so I will always fight to keep her in it.

My M.O. for a long time was to let go, to walk away, to “oh well”.  At this point in my life, although I’ve gotten better at the initial legwork of making friends, it’s the part that comes after the befriending that stumps me. And really, that’s the whole reason I started writing this. A friend on facebook requested some feedback from their friends about something or other…and I was too shy to chime in with a public comment, so I sent her a DM instead. But that got me to thinking…I notice that I don’t comment on a lot of my friends’ stuff– whether it’s on Facebook, or twitter, or Instagram…I oftentimes feel that my commentary or feedback or hell, even my vaguely applied emoji might be taken as too clingy, or needy, and then someone thinks I’m a fawning, bootlicking toady.

As it relates to blossoming friendships, that’s where this fear of neediness and desperation trips me up. How soon to reach out again once we’ve discovered that “hey! we’ve got some things in common and want to be friends!” How much is too much? What sort of continued overtures does one make? How do you build that into something more meaningful? I still haven’t figured that out, really.

I don’t want to be seen as trying too hard or come off as desperate, and I don’t want to think I should back off because maybe I’m innately supposed to know who is worth making the effort for, and who is not. I am not sure that I always do! As I’ve gotten older, though, it has become more important to me to make an effort; I’ve actually got more fucks to give than ever before! I just want to make sure that I’m not throwing them all at new acquaintances who might be made uncomfortable or freaked out or maybe just uninterested in all of my fucks and my genuine attempts at forging a bond and making a friend.

All this is to say, I guess, is that if you wonder why I lurk about and I don’t ever comment on your stuff online, aside from the alleged algorithms that hide your stuff from me in the first place–it’s probably because I don’t want to come on too strong or I’m afraid my earnestness is off-putting, or all the different ways I could phrase it really, just boil down to one thing: I’m scared. I’m scared you won’t like me. That maybe I am as unlikeable or unworthy as first grade me felt so many years ago. I’m just…scared you don’t want to be my friend.

If this reads like a long-winded secret diary entry that was written with the hopes someone will stumble across and read it, I guess that’s because that’s more or less exactly what it is. It feels a little mid-life crisis-y, too. I mean, maybe I should have this figured out, already, you know? Anyway, I use my blog here for a lot of things; an art gallery, a recipe book, a dream journal, a catalogue of covetations, and more recently, and for things like this, I guess it’s just a big ol’ brain dump 

Rebecca Reeves’ Fragile, Intricate Art Of Grief And Loss

seance feature

Mixed media artist Rebecca Reeves’ work is intricate and enthralling, delicately wrought with thin black thread and fraught with powerful, piercing themes of family and loss. Some pieces work to contain and preserve their contents–poignant heirlooms or other meaningful objects– while others encapsulate their interior in a suffocating struggle of sorrow and grief.

More recently, these pieces instead of items obsessively enveloped, incorporates the idea of mirrors and portals, a connection with another world, and–unlike her cocooned works of familial preservation and protection–embraces the notion that we must not allow the spirits of the deceased to become trapped within.

I own one of Rebecca Reeves works, it sits on a shelf in my office and quietly watches me work every day. A sweet, eerie-eyed porcelain doll head atop an antique milk glass jar, to resemble a flower festooned with softly glimmering petals and leaves, each one painstakingly hand-beaded. It is a rare treasure.

And what treasure, too, the opportunity to delve deeper into these works of grace and grief and better get to know the sensitive soul who created them! See below for an interview with artist Rebecca Reeves.

rreeves_pickingupthepiecesbrooch

Unquiet Things: In repeated viewings of your work I am struck how you have taken a thing as vast and fathomless and amorphous as grief and fashioned it into a tiny, tangible keepsake to treasure. You have bound it snugly in thread, embellished it with glass beads, pinned it in place like a rare specimen and protected it under glass. Here, you seem to say. This is the enormity of your staggering grief made small, manageable, secure. It is fragile and delicate. Your grief is not only a thing you can face, but it is a thing to be cherished and preserved.

Now…this is just what I see when I gaze upon your work, of course; I am bringing the weight of my own grief and experiences with loss to the table. But you didn’t make your work for me. Your pieces are intensely personal works inspired by overwhelming emotions experienced when you attempt to live around your grief. And to an extent, we all grieve alone, and our experiences reflect that. What did I get right, in my initial assessment (if anything)? Where do I lose the thread? How are your personal experiences with grief manifested in your creations?

Rebecca Reeves: Thank you for interpreting my work perfectly and for connecting with it on a personal level. When my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer, we were also caring for my grandmother who had vascular dementia and my grandfather’s debilitating, nerve damage from shingles. We all had our roles and worked as a team. As my dad’s cancer metastasized to his brain, tough decisions had to be made for the safety and care of everyone. Within one year and four months, we lost three of our dearest loved ones. There wasn’t a moment to grieve, as one died, another person needed our full attention. After nearly three years, those life-ending decisions both haunt me and bring comfort. It’s a never-ending personal battle of emotional highs and lows, reassurance and self-doubt. Grief surrounds my every day life. I’m now finding that I struggle to live in the moment and see the bright side of things. My art is my outlet.

Working small is the ultimate way to gain control over something that is uncontrollable. Incorporating fiber-related materials into my work reminds me of my family and all of the good memories. Ever since the beginning of my college education, I have channeled loss and grief into my art. My loved ones are my entire world. They gave everything to me and in return, I give everything to them. So it was only a natural progression to create work about the love I have for them. My work comes straight from my heart and more times than not, my emotions get the best of me while working on pieces.

rreeves_seance

Your art incorporates “fiber-related processes” and your “obsessive qualities”; can you expand upon those ideas and how they are embodied in your work? And perhaps how they may have evolved over time, as your grief may ebb or flow, as your different inspirations shift or unfold?

For as long as I can remember, I have been an obsessive person. When I was little, I found comfort in pouring my wooden puzzles together and completing them all at once. I had a Tupperware container with compartments that I would organize and reorganize beads according to size, color, or favorites. When I was 8 or 9 years old, I hung shelves up in my closet in order to organize my toys/games. They didn’t last long since I had no knowledge about drywall anchors. But, it was when I was 10 years old that my life forever changed. My paternal grandfather passed away. It was a life-changing experience because I wished him away. My fascination with death and the need to control the uncontrollable has altered my life and given me comfort.

My grandfather was one of many painters in my family and I once considered this as my medium, but it was the women in my life that influenced my fiber-related processes. From crocheting, knitting, darning, beadwork, and sewing – it was inevitable that fiber took its hold on me.

rreeves_gatheringmyghosts

One of my favorite pieces is Gathering My Ghosts, which was, I believe, created with the idea of connecting to your ancestors on the other side–” mini portals for time traveling.” Can you share how this idea came about and how it all came together?

I can’t remember exactly when the piece began and how far along cancer had its grips on my dad. When I was creating the piece, loss was already setting in and I was thinking about how I could communicate with my ancestors – the ones I love and the ones I’ve never met. I was thinking about the occult during this time. Not practicing, but mulling over the idea of the black mirror; thinking about how my family would cover the mirrors in black cloth during funerary visitations as a superstition. The use of black-colored threads in my obsessive wrapping process is directly attributed to those darkened mirrors.

I do remember finishing the piece and gathering up the details for a large show that I was curating titled, “More Beyond”. My dad was on steroids and looking great on the outside. My parents attended the show and we had the best time. They were so proud. The piece stood in a glorious spot as you walked through the gallery entrance. The piece was also exhibited in a chance-of-a-lifetime show alongside 150 Victorian hairwork pieces at the Kemerer Museum a few months later. “Gathering My Ghosts” now resides in a loving home with a dear friend who also suffered the loss of a parent.

rreeves_inaseaofgrief

In a previous interview, about both you and your husband’s interest in collection Post Mortem photography, you stated, “We respect the artistic expression of death”; I am curious as to what other mediums or forms of artistic expression extends with regard to your collection (or perhaps things you might be interested in collecting.)

Over the 30 years together, we have the typical collections: Victorian mourning jewelry and hairworks, religious items, funerary pieces, post mortem photography, and human bones. Within my personal collection, I have antique silver and beaded purses, porcelain doll legs and fire king ware. We have always been avid antique collectors, doing the circuit of shops and markets. I’ve learned all I know about antiques from generations of my family. Our home is filled with our loved ones’ items. I refer to it as a living museum of my family’s heirlooms. There’s something about touching an object that was once loved by a family member. I like to believe there’s an energy that continues on within.

I’ve inherited an extensive collection of antique glass bottles, tins, books dating back to my great-grandparents, vintage postcards and honeycomb Valentine’s Day cards as well as my great-grandfather’s Independent Order of Odd Fellows memorabilia, just to name a few. We’ve come to the point in our collecting where something really has to strike hard for us to buy more. We question, “How will this piece inspire our art and music?” rather than just expanding a collection.

rreeves_gardenofgrief

In 2018, your Garden of Grief collection was exhibited and sold through the Creeping Museum (whom I love dearly, I think they do such good work!) How was your experience with that? Can you share anything about that particular collection and how that collaboration was born?

The moment I met Alyssa, she found a special place in my heart. When I was introduced to her tiny museum, I knew right then that I had to be a part of what she created. The night of the opening was so memorable and she made me feel special. The series came from a memory of my great-grandmother’s art. When I was little, I remember a beaded bouquet of flowers that she made on her kitchen windowsill. She was an incredibly talented potter, painter, bead artisan and everything in between. From this memory, I began researching and creating beaded flowers with a lot of trial and error. The title to the series came naturally from my heart. As difficult as it was to part with them, I wanted to incorporate some of my dad’s milk glass collection into the series. They then became the foundation for the sculptures.

To give your poor hands a break from all the obsessive stitching, intricate beading and tiny wire wrapping that you do for your art, what sort of things do you get up to in your spare time when you are not creating?

Well, you would think I would try and relax my hands and elbows, but no. There just isn’t enough time to get it all done. My brain never stops and our house to-do list posted on the refrigerator just gets longer and longer. I have the most patient husband and he goes with the flow on all of my crazy ideas. He has banned me, though, from renting any more heavy equipment due to my obsession with moving boulders.

One of my favorite things equivalent to creating art is home design/décor and organizing. I love to rearrange the furniture placement and I specifically designed our home with limited interior walls just for this reason. I adore structure magazines and thank my grandmother for this appreciation. She and I shared subscriptions for decades, earmarking our favorite pages and then discussing how we would incorporate them into our homes. My heart grows heavy when I look at them today without her. My family is everything and taking care of them is first priority. Enjoying a night out to dinner with my love at our favorite haunt or just sitting next to each other in our chairs, watching comedies over and over brings me joy. Spending time with my mom, either working on going through our loved ones’ possessions, having lunch at our favorite teahouse or just simply talking about the daily happenings. Time spent together no matter what we do is precious.

rreeves_untilthen

Are there any gallery shows or exhibits where we may see your work right now, or perhaps further into 2019?

Currently, I am working on a few new pieces that will be exhibiting in two different shows at Gristle Gallery in Brooklyn this year. At the same time, I’m in the beginning stages of a new piece for an upcoming show at Arch Enemy Arts Gallery in August. I’m thrilled to announce that “Slipping Below,” the two-woman exhibition with Danielle Schlunegger-Warner, is now traveling to the West Coast to Ghost Gallery in September. Also, I’ll be vending at a few different venues this year including the upcoming Oddities Market in Chicago, where I received my graduate degree. I’m excited to see the city again.

Can you share any projects that are percolating, or ideas that are coalescing for the upcoming year?

I’m working on the gathering stages for a ghosted sea captain series. It is a continuation of the work that is dedicated to my dad and his service in the Navy. There isn’t a planned venue as of yet, but I have been mind-sketching this series since the close of the “Slipping Below” exhibition at the end of last year. New wearable pieces and tiny originals, incorporating beaded flowers and porcelain hands are brewing for a couple of the upcoming markets this year. When grief and anxieties get the best of me, I find that my greatest distraction is collecting materials and working out ideas in my mind. It helps me justify that I’m still being productive during emotionally hard times.

Find Rebecca Reeves: website // instagram // shop

Conveniences For The Invisible Girl

candleWhen I was a senior in high school, I was enrolled in an advanced physics class that I had absolutely no business taking. I just wasn’t physics-minded, I guess you could say. It could also be said that I wasn’t very academic-minded, but somehow I’d made it through school with decent grades and part of me suspects it is because I was nice and good and never gave anyone any trouble. I also suspect there was a whole bunch of middle-class white privilege tied up in my circumstances as well.

(Which is gross to say but it would be irresponsible and even grosser not to acknowledge. Although I maybe wouldn’t have called us “middle class”; more like one of the bottom rungs of “lower middle class” and the only reason the cops were not at our house once a week is because we had a buffer in the way of one other family on the block that was trashier and even more dysfunctional than we were.)

At any rate, I showed up to class and took notes. I mostly did the homework. I mostly took the tests. And I mostly got middling grades. On one morning, I showed up to physics class and discovered there was a test that I did not study for (see! it happens outside of dreams, too!)

I took my seat, daydreamed my way through the 45 minutes of class, and, not having turned in the test sheet, exited class with the rest of the students when the bell rang. The next Monday, Mr. —  pulled me aside and fretted. “Sarah, I know you were in class on Friday morning. But your test doesn’t seem to be in the stack with the rest of them?” I shrugged my shoulders. “That’s strange,” I offered. “Hm,” he mused. “I’m sorry, it must have fallen out of the stack and gotten lost. I’ll just give you whatever the class average is.”

Was this a lazy teacher? Maybe. He was getting close to retirement. Or perhaps an educator who was merely kind to a struggling student? I had observed him as a thoughtful man, generous with praise, and quick to assist my classmates who were having a hard time. But it’s doubtful he believed me. Or…was it? I was a polite, quiet kid. I showed up. I went through the motions. Maybe that was enough to get by. That’s how I’d gotten by for the past 17 years, after all.

My childhood and young adulthood were rife with instances such as this. Either squeaking by on my reputation of not having a reputation, or being overlooked altogether and being moved ahead with everyone else because that was easier than realizing they hadn’t realized I was there in the first place. “Slipping through the cracks,” I think is how it’s referred to, sometimes.

I have always felt a bit invisible. From a young age, I would often unplug from what was happening around me and retreat inside myself, to my own inner world with its intrigues and machinations and daily dramas. Oftentimes a whole class period would go by and, not really having been there, I’d miss the lesson, or the homework, or the fact that a teacher needed a field trip form filled out for an out-of-class excursion the next day. I can’t count the times I’d show up for school not having some form or another filled out–not even actually realizing that we were going anywhere–and have to sit out a class trip, because I hadn’t been paying attention.

When you’re so withdrawn as to do absent yourself from what’s happening around you, you do start to feel that because you miss what’s going on and you don’t see it—it doesn’t see you. An invisibility cloak made mostly of self-delusion.  And when you’re not present for the memorable things, the class trips, year book photos, graduation ceremonies, you begin to slip from people’s memories. If you were ever in them, to begin with. All of this validates the feeling that you’re beginning to recognize as invisibility.

But, I always assured myself, “you want to be left alone.”  And, “it’s okay if no one includes you, or invites you, or even sits next to you in an empty seat!” I always seem to have a sea of empty seats around me, which is odd because I am certain that I smell really nice, so I guess I must have a really off-putting aura. But anyway, yes, for the most part this is all true. I am perfectly happy to miss out on the parties and the girl’s nights out and the celebrations and the brunches and all the other whatevers. Just let me do my thing, on my own! (As an adult sometimes I do decide to join in,  though, so please don’t stop inviting me!)

This “invisibility” has unfortunately affected my life in more insidious ways. As part of it, I don’t quite feel like I exist, and therefore, I put off doing, or don’t do at all, the typical things that normal people do in this world as part of the whole business of existing. I don’t go to the doctor. I often let my car insurance lapse, neglect to renew my automobile registration. Up until this past January, I hadn’t seen a dentist in over 20 years.

This manifests in lesser ways, as well. Ways that have to do with everyday comforts and just…well, regular useful stuff that I don’t seem to think about. For example: it never even occurred to me to take snacks or something to drink when I have an hour-plus car ride ahead of me. I forever thought I just had to be uncomfortably hungry or thirsty en route. I never carry aspirin or bandaids in my handbag; if I have a headache or a bloody finger, I just always think, “well, I’ll suffer through it for a while.” It’s taken me several years to write things down in a planner or calendar because I’d convinced myself, “oh, you’re not doing anything worth noting, anyway”, or “you don’t have to write it down, you’re supposed to just remember it!” Spoiler alert: I don’t. I probably wasn’t even paying attention to know what to remember in the first place!

This idea of suffering through life is very much tied up for me in this perpetual feeling of invisibility…I can’t work out how one leads to the other, exactly, other than if one does not quite exist, then one’s relative comfort really isn’t all that important.

…and yet. I am terribly guilty, as everyone knows, of frittering away extravagant amounts of money on perfumes and works of art–neither of which are things I need for survival or tending to my day-to-day needs. However…these are the things that make me feel keenly, fiercely, and wholly alive. The one sentiment, one then supposes, really has not much at all to do with the other.

(If you scroll further in a desperate attempt to figure what all of this has been for, and why am I wasting your time, you’ll see it boils down to just this: “Hey! Here’s a list of some stuff I like!”)
Classic Sarah, am I right?

No, but seriously–I have been thinking about this for a long time, and attempting to write this blog post for over a year now. I visited my best good friend last year, and at one point we took a car trip to a somewhat local botanical garden and she packed us a few snacks and some icy drinks for the road. I was flabbergasted. It  just…never even occurred to me that my stomach didn’t have to rumble and there was no need for me to be parched when I reached my destination. As I thought about it more, I wondered, “what are some other useful utilities and creature comforts that I am missing out on?” I’ve polled a few friends and perhaps even unconsciously peeked at their habits, I’ve started focusing more on my own needs and the issues which arise that I’m never prepared to address, and heck, I’ve even been closely watching the media that I consume to see what I can learn about this. I think I may have picked up a thing or two.

What follows below is a list of things gleaned from finally paying attention. They’re not all material things, though some of them are. They may be things that are so glaringly obvious, you’re going to smack your head and exclaim, “Sarah, what is WRONG with you? Everyone knows this!.” Well, everyone, it would seem, but Sarah. Who was too busy reading Ghosts I Have Been by Richard Peck in a fourth grade lesson, when she should have been paying attention to “its” vs. “its”; instead, because she clearly wasn’t paying attention, she didn’t realize until she was 40 that she’d been getting them wrong this whole time. That’s not a good example, though, because this list has nothing to do with grammar. She probably missed the lesson on proper literary segues and transitions, as well.

And, I am pleased to report, I finally saw a dentist this year. Three times since this past January. I’m even going to get my crooked teeth fixed! At no small cost, of course, but as I’m slowly shedding my invisibility, I’d like to get rid of that snaggletoothed situation as well. I also got my first mammogram this year. My mams exist and are real and they need to be grammed! I have begun seeing a counselor again as well, and now that I have written about these feelings, I think I am finally able to put them into words and share them with another person, as well.

Without further ado, then, a List Of Conveniences For The Invisible Girl.

snacks

Car snacks are a thing! Who knew? My best good friend introduced me to the wonders of the individual serving iced tea press which doubles as a portable drinking vessel, and wow. Maybe I’m easily impressed, but this thing is brilliant. The one I use is from David’s Tea, and I usually go for a blend with some tartness, like maybe lemon, or hibiscus. My current favorite car snacks are the original butter & soy sauce flavored potato sticks that BGF brought along on our trip, as well as these spicy seaweed tempura things that are similarly crunchy and addicting.

silky underwear

During that same visit, we got to talking about all of the things that long-time best friends talk about: gossip surrounding the horrible people we hate and the various afflictions and offenses visited upon us by the ravages of time. When I mentioned how disgustingly sweaty I am all the time (boob sweat, argh! and more, I think, a symptom of summertime in southern climes than age, perhaps) she suggested some dusting powder to sprinkle about my assorted bits and keep moisture absorbed and limbs unchafed. To quote one reviewer, “This product changrc [sic] my life.” No regerts!

Also, do you have a tiny bladder that has a tough time holding in all your pee, even on a good day? But then you’ve got a cold, and you’re unwell you are coughing and sneezing and maybe leaking a tiny bit? Yeah, you don’t have to spend the day in pee-damp undies. You could wear a panty liner when you’re sick. Just worth a mention. Something I only realized, oh, in the past year or so.

desk

I honestly thought working from home would help to alleviate some of the work-related anxieties that I live with. But no. Now I just work at a desk in my house, with the added worry that I could get fired at any moment because I am not present to resolve on-site problems. I either sit rigid with dread or slumped in resignation in my chair and stare at a screen for 10 hours in utter silence, save for the incessant ringing of a phone, which has become an inanimate item that I would gleefully murder without remorse. It’s taken me six years to reach the conclusion that hey…you work alone…there’s no one here to complain about the smell or the smoke if you burn a candle  (or use a diffuser.) You can listen to an eerie, psychedelic soundtrack of pan flutes and ghost wails and no one will be bothered by the sounds. Here’s a novel idea: you even can buy a phone dock charger thingy so your cell phone is not always low on battery or charging up in your bedroom because you only own one freaking charging cord.

Don’t get me wrong. Working–from home or otherwise–is baloney. To quote my sister, “work is for jerks!” But until some wealthy benefactor decides to fund my moderately luxurious lifestyle, I guess I gotta be a jerk, too. I have found though, that with a few adjustments, I can be a working jerk suffering in a  slightly nicer atmosphere.

diaries

I have written before about my more diligent use of planners. As a matter of fact, I attribute 100% of my 2019 dentist visits to the fact that I wrote it down to make tooth health a priority, and so I had to follow through with it. My main planner is an undated book from Passion Planner, just plain black. I added a sticker to cover up whatever was embossed there, and I just keep replacing them as they peel off or break down; currently, it’s some sticker art from Poison Apple PrintShop.

I also use the Open Sea Design Co. Sigil planner, sold at Haute Macabre, for keeping lists of things: books I want to read, movies I want to watch, perfumes I want to try, etc. And lastly, I have gotten into the habit of jotting down my nightly adventures again, in this beautiful dream journal from Cocorrina. Speaking of sweet dreams, I’ve decided to stop waiting for thunderstorms to visit and lull me to sleep; instead, we tune into an 8-10 hour long thunderstorm playlist before bed, and it works almost even better than the real thing, especially considering it doesn’t flood the back parlor like actual rain usually does!

kitchen

My hands always feel awful after I spend time washing dishes. Why did I think that housewives on television were the only ones allowed to wear gloves when scrubbing dinner plates? Good lord. It took me a while, but I eventually realized, that I too could avoid drying out my skin while taking care of harsh, soapy chores. In addition to gloves, I have started keeping a small tube of hand cream above the sink (if you’ve got any sample sizes, or travel-sized versions received as gifts, they are perfect for this!) Even if I’m using gloves, my hands still feel gross when I’m done, so treating them to something moisturizing afterward is a nice thing to do.

Additionally, I have had to fish a lot of rings out of the dish disposal while washing dishes because I either knocked them off the countertop or else they got wet and fell off my finger. Do you know how terrifying it is to stick your hand down in that thing? Have you read Firestarter? Yeesh. I probably never would have thought to buy this for myself but I received a small silver swan ring holder last year from the Tijuanan contingent of my partner’s family, and I think it’s just lovely and perfect. No more having to rescue rings from the finger mangler!

handbag

Despite the fact that on occasion I saw my grandmother and my mother switching out purses, I’ve always stubbornly clung to a “one handbag at a time” rule. Which usually meant carrying something clunky when situations called for something small and discreet or toting around a fiddly, fancy purse, ill-suited to travel, etc. It’s only in recent years that I’ve acquired a small shoulder bag for travel in addition to my everyday bag, which is currently this one from MZ WALLACE. Well, I decided I needed a third one, specifically for meeting/visiting other people’s families. Is this weird? I don’t know. Anyway, it’s a cheap tote bag with a William Morris print.

Two items I have added to my handbag for reasons of humiliation and mortification are a small pill case and a phone battery charger thing. I grew so tired of being that one friend who is always asking to borrow a phone charger, or an aspirin; no doubt the friends I were pressing for these items probably thought I was a bit dim for never remembering to bring them, or else a cheapskate for not having them. I’m not dim or cheap! I just thought…well, I just thought that I should be a person who doesn’t get headaches in public and who always leaves the house with a sufficiently charged phone.

Whether it was grumbling stomachs or soggy boobs, uncomfortable home office environments, dead cell phones, or dishpan hands, with so many of these scenarios, I tended to think, “well, that’s how you’re supposed to do it!” and that preparing for an event in which that was not how you did it, was somehow…cheating? At life? I can’t properly explain it. Maybe because I am actually a bit dim and I don’t want to admit it.

As I’m sloooo-ooowly realizing that life doesn’t have to be nearly as hard as I make it on myself, I’d really love to hear about the things you do to “cheat at life”* or make things easier? What are the things you do or use for comfort or convenience? Obvious or esoteric, I wanna hear your secrets to existence!

*I guess some people might call such things “life hacks” but I really hate that term.

Items in featured photo: spider web under glass from lesquelet; candle by In A Dark House for The Creeping Museum; photo by Brittany Markert /In Rooms

Links Of The Dead {May 2019}

Vanitas by Chris Jones

Vanitas by Chris Jones

A gathering of death related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From somber to hilarious, from informative to creepy, here’s a snippet of things that have been reported on or journaled about in or related to the Death Industry recently.

This time last year: Links of the Dead {May 2018} | {May 2017} | {May 2016}

💀 ‘What Does Daddy Cry About?’
💀 30 Astonishing Facts About Death
💀 Why Do 4-Year-Olds Love Talking About Death?
💀 What would you have as your funeral song?
💀 How Come Big Data Doesn’t Know My Mom Is Dead?
💀 Living our lives with Passion: 5 lessons from a Dying Friend.
💀 Woman Takes Anti-Selfies Stance By ‘Dying’ At Famous Landmarks
💀 The 16 Best Books About Dealing With Grief, According to Psychologists
💀 What the loss of my mum taught me about the burden of care on young women
💀 Bird Reflects On Frailty, Impermanence Of Life After Finding Dead Human On Sidewalk
💀 The Unexpected Practice That Helped Me Cope With Grief — When Nothing Else Could
💀 It’s Okay To Be Awkward In The Face Of Grief. You can’t do it right because there is no “right.”
💀 Sootless in Seattle: Washington State Legalizes Composting and Aquamation of Human Remains
💀 Interview with Musician Ruhail Qaisar on, among other things, death rituals in the Himalayas

Ten Things I Know By Flannery Grace Good

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Photo credit: Flannery Grace Good

OH MAN. I don’t even know how to begin with all of my feelings about my friend Flannery Grace Good. She’s kind. She’s funny. She’s a wickedly clever observer of human nonsense. She’s an incredibly talented jeweler who has created some of the most extraordinarily breath-taking things I have ever seen, and she’s also crafted small, sweet treasures for some of my favorite humans–sometimes on a pretty tight schedule, too (because I wait until the last minute to float an idea by her, whoops.) But my friend Flan gets shit done! And she has always come through for me. She’s truly one of the most amazing people I know, and one day I am going to show up on her doorstep and say Hi! I’m your surprise guest for the weekend! And we are going to have a fabulous time because she’d be super into it.
One day, Flan!

Flannery is joining us for our Ten Things installment at Unquiet Things this month, and I am so pleased. Thank you for the time, energy, and vulnerability you shared in the writing of these practical insights and wisdom snippets, Flannery. Thank you for always so being incomparably wonderful. Thank you for being my friend.

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Photo credit: Flannery Grace Good

When Sarah asked me if I would like to contribute to her blog, I didn’t hesitate to say yes! I love and admire her, and felt honored that she thought of me. “Any ten things, I can do this” and I decided “Ten Things I Know” should be easy peasy, despite my fear of writing.

This was not easy for me. The irony of being named after a writer, while struggling with from the heart communication, is pretty funny. My art is the only thing I can speak of with confidence, I consider it my official language, and everything else gets stuffed way down. I’ve been working for myself for 23 years, so my perspective is deep into self-employed weirdo artist territory. This was scary, and helpful to me. I know it’s not perfect, and I sit with the feeling that everyone is going to laugh at me, but that’s a lot like being an artist, fraught with uncertainty. It’s worth it. Thank you, Sarah.

1. Anything Can Be Learned

If you want it, you can do it. I was not a natural when I started making jewelry. My uncle Bubba (who taught me) called me “opposite girl,” because all of my instincts were exactly wrong. I ruined everything I made but I kept going. I wanted it, and put in hours and miles of work. Of course there are people with innate talent, or prodigies, but that is not every successful person. I truly believe that dedication, desire, work, and willingness to fail are all that is needed to do anything. If something truly sparks your interest, follow it.

Growing up in Arkansas, I didn’t have much in the way of art offered in school. I was so bored. In high school, my best subject was French, but I was totally uninspired. My first semester of college, my grades spelled out B-I-F-F. No kidding. The B would have been an A if it weren’t for me skipping so many classes, Advanced French Conversation. After that pathetic performance, I was not in college anymore and got a full-time job at a popular store. This was the mid-90s, so of course, I was making macrame hemp necklaces with fimo yin yangs! They were a hit, and I was able to sell them. That led me to ask my uncle for the millionth time to teach me metalsmithing. He agreed, and in the summer of 1996, I went to his house in Taos, New Mexico, to learn. I will never forget the look on his face when I actually showed up. My first lesson was “don’t touch my stuff, just watch” and that lasted about a month. On the 4th of July, under a sage-scented, firecracker filled sky, I made my first piece. It sucked. Something clicked inside me though, and I have never looked back.

After our summer together, I tried and failed on my own for about a year. Then, I went back to college. I graduated summa cum laude in 3 years, I made straight As. That is what passion will do, and that spark sustains me still. I ruin things all the time, even after 23 years. Bubba says of soldering, “if the wind’s blowin’ out of the south southeast? Forget about it.”

A willingness to fail is necessary, and for me, it is the hardest part, but I have quit having tantrums when I ruin something– it wastes time. I feel so lucky to have found this, and I promise that you can do what you dream of. Just start, and keep going.

TEN THINGS 1

Photo credit: Meredith Mashburn

2. Time Is Our Most Precious Commodity

We’ve all had the experience of standing in an endless line, and there’s that one person huffing and puffing about it. That person is a turd, and one of my biggest pet peeves. As if their time is somehow more important than everyone else’s. When I trade with others, which I do often (it’s a great way to build a collection without money!), I prefer to trade on an hour for hour basis. When someone gives you their time, treasure it, because it is actual treasure.

If you are “that person” in line, think again, it’s unbecoming.

I loathe the term self-care, however, I do advocate taking time for yourself. Give yourself 20 minutes to start, whether that be meditation, a walk, a bath, exercise, dancing, whatever you enjoy, do that. Integrating this into your daily life will improve your quality of life, and you may find that it gives you more time! Being calm and centered makes everything easier. There’s no such thing as being too busy to give yourself 20 minutes, I’ve tried that lie on myself many times, and sometimes I still don that bullshit robe for ego’s sake, but then after a few days I go for a walk or go swimming and realize I was just being full of it. You’re worth it.

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Photo credit: Flannery Grace Good

3. The Frequency And Content Of A Person’s Social Media Posts Has Nothing To Do With Their Real Life

This one is the hardest for me to write, and I am on the verge of tears and unhealthy coping mechanisms just thinking about it, but I want to help so here goes. You are not alone. In 2017, I made a show about loss. Because I cannot speak or write about my experiences, I transformed them into my best work. I dug into my guts and hung them on the wall of my alma mater, Western State Colorado University. I gave a 30-minute speech to a large audience. It was both excruciating and incredibly cathartic.

What does this have to do with social media? Well, from December 2010 through April 2012, my life was Hell. I call that time Hell Year, and it almost killed me. I was always scrolling and posting on Facebook like everything was normal and fine. A selfie, some videos, a funny joke, look what I can do! When inside I was barely hanging on, and outside I was tempting fate because I did not value my life. I’ve never admitted that before…(at this point I had to take a break in writing, and I apologized to myself and let some tears fall). Finding my dog Mesa, tattered and on the verge of death herself, and then reuniting with my now husband (we met when I was slinging those sweet hemp necklaces!), saved my life. Love saved me. Please, hang on. Don’t make assumptions based on what you see on social media. I am forever changed post-Hell Year, and I still have a long road ahead toward loving myself, but I am so glad to be here and moving toward that goal. I am so grateful that I made it, and I see you struggling. Be you ahead, beside, or behind me–I offer you my hand.

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Photo credit: Flannery Grace Good

4. Devastation Is Relative

A dark time is serious business and nothing to dismiss. There’s always someone, somewhere, who has it much worse, but that does not diminish the validity of your/a loved one’s experience. Read that again. I am writing this on behalf of everyone paralyzed by pain, never, ever say the following: “it could be worse” “look on the bright side” “have you tried ___?” “I can’t believe you’re so upset about ___” “think positive.” These things are dismissive, lazy, and downright dangerous to say. If someone you love is hurting, love them. Feed them. Give them your time. Listen, if they feel like talking. Check in regularly with no expectations.

Post Hell Year, I lost a lot of friends, because I wasn’t any fun anymore. My friend Molly got it, and so I would answer her phone calls. She let me be a bitch and has never led me to believe that it almost cost me her friendship.

*cheery voice*: “Hey Flan how’s it going?”
*total dick voice*: “…how the fuck do you think it’s going?”

Repeat that scenario every phone call for a couple years. I need to thank her for that, and I will as soon as I finish writing these. This entry segues pretty well into the next:

TEN THINGS 3

Photo credit: Meredith Mashburn

5. Old Sayings Are Old Sayings Because They’re True

Such as: you really will find out who your friends are when times are tough. Before you go too far into a situation, ask yourself, “are there proverbs written about this?” If so, and they advise against you: reconsider. I am specifically referring to what you make available for public consumption, and behaviors you subject your loved ones to. You never know who you might alienate, and restraint is power. I speak from experience. I have made my share of poor choices, against the wise advice of my family and friends, thinking I know better or that the rules don’t apply to me. I have been humbled, and this is why I am very careful with what I post online. The internet does not get access to my personal life. I am opinionated, and my family and I have weathered extreme devastation, but I will never allow something I post to sully my reputation, or be lapped up by those who might revel in my suffering. Screenshots are forever.

TEN THINGS 7

Photo credit: Flannery Grace Good

6. See The Funny

I took some classes at Berkeley Psychic Institute and one of the first things they teach is “amusement is the highest vibration”. I can’t possibly describe the surreal environment that is “psychic kindergarten” (BPI term) but I have held on to this lesson and I really believe it. If you know me, you’re probably like “wut” about me using the term “highest vibration” and are Googling “Berkeley Psychic Institute” right now. But the point is that when you are in mirth, even compared to the most devout reverence, you are open, and full of joy. My husband makes me laugh all day every day, and sometimes I get him pretty good too. It’s so important.

Find things that make you laugh, cultivate jokes with your friends, don’t be afraid to laugh at the absurd parts of your darkest moments. Because being able to laugh in the worst times can save you.

TEN THINGS 2

Photo credit: Flannery Grace Good

7. Networking, Collecting, And Supporting Are Important

I have an incredible art and jewelry collection. Most of it is by living artists I have connected with online. I am not a wealthy person. I live in the Midwest where it’s cheap, and I will never go back to living somewhere that requires my level of hustle just to pay the bills (sorry, California. P.S. I want my money back). By living in a place I can afford, I am able to invest so much more into materials, and support artists I admire, including other jewelers.

I believe that there is room for everyone at the top. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, even though that sometimes burns. The art world is brutal, and I am not trying to sugar coat that, but the good outweighs the bad. I know the temptation to be a lone wolf is powerful, I have felt it. Wanting to keep all “my” customers to myself, wanting to call out a copycat, wanting to leave other jewelers out of my veneration, you name it. I am not immune to the darker sides of human nature or the realities of competition. However, you can’t do that stuff and truly succeed. Hate, jealousy, and exclusion will bind you. Fellowship and networking opens doors and creates lasting bonds and friendships. If someone comes to me and wants something that I happen to know is another jeweler’s specialty? I will put those people in touch. If someone starts making jewelry and has questions? I have gone as far as to spend hours giving every bit of advice and assistance I can, at no charge. I share everything that moves me. I buy everything I can. I love my friends and community, and am happy for their successes.

TEN THINGS 6

Photo credit: Jessica Joslin

8. Be You

There is so much pressure in life to be a certain way. Especially for women, and especially if you are trying to make a living in art. I know I am selling myself as much as my jewelry. I am an introvert with no persona to speak of. I don’t look cool, I don’t wear makeup, my hair is plain, and I do not discuss my personal life online. I am not on-brand in any way, because I have no brand. I put my time into my work. I like silly animal videos and juvenile humor, and share those things with reckless abandon. It works for me. I make people laugh. I give my time and my money to those in need whenever I can. I am there for my friends and family. I put my spirit into my work. As a result, people want to be like me, not look like me, and that is a true legacy I’m proud of.

Ten Things more

Photo credit: Flannery Grace Good

9. Nature Is Magic

When I was little, my mama taught me that Nature is God (for lack of a better word). “Flanny, did you know that some people never even see the moon?” that question broke my child-heart, and the realization haunts me still. Throughout my life I have cultivated and nurtured a relationship with the natural world, and it is one of my best assets as well as an incredible teacher. Yes, I know what kind of feather that is; yes, I know when the moon is new or full; yes, I have been pulled outside because I felt a rainbow coming; yes, I have wild animal friends, and we talk.

Anyone can receive priceless gifts from nature. Go out into it, regularly. Visit the same place in all seasons and get to know it. I believe that a person has not truly experienced love until they have loved an animal, or nature, and frankly I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t. Nature is a portal to other realms, too. I have seen things that defy explanation, which have led me deeper into my appreciation and relationship with the supernatural, and increased my intuition. I am an only child, born on the Day of the Dead, and grew up in a haunted house, so my baseline was already substantial in that regard. Being in tune with nature is something that can be practiced, and I promise that observing and being in the moment can reap powerful, inspiring rewards.

ten things last

Photo credit: Flannery Grace Good

10. I Don’t Know

I am not religious, because I do not think humans are capable of explaining life, and people seem to do crazy, horrible things in the name of their god. I’m OK with the question mark. It leaves room for magic. Feeling hopeless about the state of humanity is paralyzing, and yet the only option is to keep going. Focusing on the amazing things people do, helps. I am so inspired by beauty, compassion, bravery, ingenuity, and skill. I am also humbled by our insignificance, and calmed by it. I forgive myself for forgetting. I believe in the beyond. That belief does not require dogma, a title, or anyone besides me. I spent a year volunteering in a children’s hospital. Those kids, they have something that leaves most of us as we age. They have a light that is not diminished by sickness or death. They remember. They know.

Find Flannery Grace Good: Website // Instagram // Facebook

Currently {NYC Edition With An L.A. cameo}

ny ny

What a weird, wild, wondrous whirlwind these past few months have been!

I reluctantly visited my least favorite city on earth, and three weeks later, I found a new city to (quite unexpectedly) love; I have communed with quarrelsome goats and curious chickens, I have stood in the shadow of a 305 ft copper lady, I finally met, for the first time, friends I’ve known for over a decade and some I’ve made more recently, and I made new acquaintances of several people who know me or recognize me from my writing (this is a weird one but I secretly love it!) And lastly, I’m sorry to sound a bit schmaltzy, but I also discovered–a little late in the game, but better late than never–how vital and valuable and just…really lovely…that spending time with family can be. Even if it’s your found family. Even if I was resisting it with every particle of my being!

ny wardrobe

In April I tagged along with my partner’s family on a trip to NYC. I know it’s probably impolite to say so and may hurt some feelings, but I truly loathe New York City. It’s just too much, and all of the too much, all at once. However, I was with my love, and his family–so it’s not like I was there hacking it by myself, all alone. His mother had just celebrated a bit of a milestone birthday and wanted to celebrate with her family, doing fun touristy things, in a city that she’d never really gotten to spend much time in.

Being a bit of an ingrate and a brat, I suppose, I was not necessarily looking forward to this trip. Spending time with other people’s families is always a dicey venture. Everyone’s got their own routines, their own agendas, their own way of doing things. Three opinionated brothers are going to snip and pick and bicker a lot. Grumpy dads with bad knees and bad hearing are going to (understandably) be uncomfortable and unhappy and probably pretty vocal about it. Me, I was resentful and sullen and anxious about the distinct possibilities of family squabbles but hopefully no one could tell; I would just be the same, old “why is she so quiet?” Sarah that they had grown to tolerate, if not necessarily love, over the past seven years.

(As you can see, above, I was dressed as a veritable ray of sunshine. I packed approximately seven variations of this outfit! To be fair, this is how I dress no matter where I’m traveling, or with whom. Cloak: Phantom Lovely; Leggings: Blackmilk; Tunic: Aakasha; Necklace: bloodmilk)

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ellis

hair

Hungry and exhausted, I was brought to tears the very first day in the city, after having just arrived and meeting the family in a small sandwich shop next to our Midtown hotel. The first comment directed my way was a concerned, “oh dear, you look so tired”, and come on–who wants to hear something like that? I bit my tongue but I was tempted to say “nah, I’m just ugly.” Then the quarrels began. Where to sit, what to order, who is going to pay for what, was this really the best place to eat?

GAHHHH. I thought I was going to lose my damn mind. Fussing, cussing, contentious people have always upset me, ever since I was very young. I just feel like…people shouldn’t disagree and argue in front of other people, and definitely not in public. I realize I just might be a little bit sensitive to that, though, and I recognize for lots of folks, this is a very normal way to communicate, and they don’t think twice about it. Especially in close families! I know myself well enough, though, to identify what my triggers are, and what is going to upset me, so I stepped away from the group, took a deep breath, and counted to ten. Visited my safe place (Thanks, therapy! More on this later.) Ordered a falafel salad. Rejoined the fray after I felt the tears retreat.

I must note that this was the best salad I’d ever eaten in my entire life! And though the spot where we dined was probably a chain, and really nothing special considering all the options that the city has to offer–it really was some of my favorite food from the whole trip. Maybe because it delivered a delicious respite and nourishment when I sorely needed it.

I’m happy to say that after our initially rocky arrival, most everything settled down–including me–and it was actually a lovely time. I did so many things that I probably never would have chosen to do, if asked; taking a ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, visiting the Empire State Building observatory (look at my crazy hair, it wants to fly off my head straight into space!) — these things have never been at the top of my list of priorities. Or…even on my list at all. Part of me might have said that these pilgrimages were very much wasted on me. Midway in the doing of them, I became aware of feeling… not exactly jazzed learning more about our nation’s history… but rather I came away with a sentiment that I have not experienced much in the course of my lifetime, and as it’s not part of my lived experience, I’m not sure that I have the proper words available in my lexicon to describe it.

My own family is so very small. Two sisters whom I adore. A cousin whom I don’t know very well. A father with whom I don’t communicate. That’s it, really. Everyone else is dead, or else I don’t know them at all and they either don’t know me or have forgotten I exist. In my time as an adult, my family has certainly never traveled together; at most, we’ve had one annual holiday dinner for the last few decades. And even now, that yearly Thanksgiving dinner is becoming a thing of the past as we opt to travel elsewhere, to create our own traditions.

To spend time with this family then, who has accepted me (as far as I can tell, and even though often they tell me I need to wear more bright colors) as one of their own, to do with them the things that “normal families” do; whether it be traveling, dining together, sitting around the table for coffee and conversation–I have never had that, even when my family was alive and whole. That just wasn’t our thing, and though I’m not always sure that I want that level of closeness and communication, it has become something I appreciate more than I ever would have thought possible. It took this trip away with them to the city I most dislike in the world to realize that.

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cher show

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I did, however, do other things in NYC than learn maudlin, melancholic life lessons! We got tickets to The Cher Show, a production recounting the evolution of an iconic star, “packed with so much Cher that it takes three women to play her, ” and, I might add, very accurately reviewed as “…an explosion of fabulous excess that survives against all odds under the weight of all its sequins.”

I’ve never really thought of myself as a Cher fan, though I’m not not a Cher fan, I guess? I mean, I know all the words to her songs, but is that because I enjoy and connect with them on some level or is it because they’ve gotten so much radio play that  it’s all a bit unconscious and subliminal at this point? Well, I’ve always appreciated her over-the-top sense of style, at any rate, and the show certainly played up that aspect in the form of the glittering excess of several dozen amazing costume changes!

I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to actually do anything I wanted to do during this visit, but much to my delight, the group consensus was that we might like to stop by the Gugenheim for the Hilma af Klint exhibit. It’s a cliché, I know, to talk about an artist being ahead of their time, but I think even Hilma herself knew that her paintings–imaginative, abstract articulations of her views on mysticism and spirituality–were the sort of experimental, boundary-defying works that the world in that moment would neither appreciate nor understand. Hilma af Klint stipulated that her art not be shown for twenty years following her death; her work was all but unseen until 1986, and only over the subsequent three decades have her paintings and works on paper begun to receive serious attention. I’m so pleased that I was in the right place at the right time, while this exhibit was available to the public, and that I had the good fortune to have seen it for myself.

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Not even a month later I flew out to L.A. (AND I upgraded to first class seats to mitigate the stress of the whole “peeing in airplanes” situation!) The above photo was taken at the excellent and hitherto-unknown-to-me Clifton’s during a lovely meet and greet hosted by the sweet ladies from The Creeping Museum. Lovely though it may have been, I disappeared back to my hotel room shortly after this photo was taken. I was overcome with …is party anxiety a thing? I am quite certain it is. When I encounter a room where people have already arrived and started to congregate, I can’t think straight. My heart races, I get flushed and sweaty and I want to make a break for it. I have a hard time jumping into conversations; I feel pressured to chat, and even if I can think of a conversation topic suitable for the group, I overthink what to say, and I either end up saying nothing or something …really … weird.

On top of a rude, brutal surprise period and being extra-crampy and headache-y, having spent the last ten hours on my feet in another, slightly different but equally high-stress situation, and not having eaten since about 8am that morning, well…I panicked and split. And I feel awful, because everyone there was so nice, and probably just as awkward and strange as me, but I had reached my limits. I vanished as soon as it seemed appropriate and hurried back to my room for a bit of a weep. I was really beating myself up about it at the time, too, like “why can’t you be more like so-n-so? She’s clever, she’s charming, she always tells a good story that holds listeners rapt, she’s probably nervous too, but she keeps her shit together!” But I also know that I tried… maybeit wasn’t a perfect attempt, but it was an attempt, you know?

Ah, well. I know myself fairly well. I know I am best equipped for circumstances where I’m communicating and interacting one on one; add a few other folks in the mix and I think that’s nearly too much stimulation for me. Make it a roomful of people, and, 99% of the time, I will probably straight up shut down. I’ll keep trying, though! And hopefully people will continue to understand. Your weird friend Sarah is weird, guys. Sorry about it.

But of course Los Angeles was more than uncomfortable social situations; that was truly only one minuscule part of my visit!  There were wonderful friends met and made; friendly farm animals and feral cats; art and artists and books and cocktails and both the most liberating breakfast sandwich I have ever devoured as well as the most elusive sushi burrito that I never actually ate at all. And much, much more! All of that though, is a tale for another time and place …like over at Haute Macabre sometime in the near future, hint hint! Once I’ve had a chance to parse and process and parcel it out, there will be loads more details to share in a ginormous collaborative post with a few of my HM coven-cronies and travel-mates.

I will instead leave you with this image of some the beautiful things I brought back with me. As we all know, the best part of any travel is returning home to spread your newly gotten treasures over your bed and bask in the glory of acquisition and collection!

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Weekly Fragrance Picks January-April

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At the beginning of the year, I shared that I would choose a spot in my home that I see every day, and use it to set out a few choice fripperies and fragrances selected for the week, so that I’d wear more often the lovely things that I own, wit the hopes that they wouldn’t languish, unworn, in a dark cabinet for all eternity.

I will admit, I haven’t exactly been consistent with it; sometimes the same scents remain artistically placed, a fragrant mise-en-scèn, eye-level, atop my chest of drawers for weeks on end without me switching it out (either because I’m lazy or uninspired or else they’re so good that I can’t bear to wear anything else!) But I really have been trying!

If you ever peek at what’s going on with me over on instagram, you probably will have seen my weekly choices posted at various intervals–or maybe not, what with that crazy algorithm and all–but I thought it might be good to do a quarterly check in here on the blog, and show you what I’ve been wearing and enjoying since January.

January 11

January 11: Week two consisted of switching between Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Antique Lace (light, lemony tea cakes and a lace shawl into whose delicate stitches have been knit sugary breakfast cereal crumbs) and an enormous decant of what I believe is Amouage Opus VI (a huge, handsome, peppery-boozy amber); the scents couldn’t be more different but I love them both! Also my dazzlingly fierce rose gold dagger earbobs from Arcana Obscura and a small bracelet from some relatives in Tijuana. I think someone’s kid made it in school.

January 21January 21: I’m a little late with sharing last week’s frippery and fragrance choices, but here we go! Two scents and a sekrit snek mirror by Flannery Grace.

Monarch by Solstice Scents is a sharp, green incense that is balanced out by rich, warm woods, and is for me, personally, is the olfactory equivalent of the golden glow that spreads through your chest after a few sips of whiskey on a winter evening.

Ambre Narguilé by Hermès gets a lot of apple pie references from perfume reviewers, but I don’t quite sense that myself. Pie filling, perhaps. Sans flaky crust. Dried fruits–raisins and plums, stewed in honey and rum and spices, and left on the stove very nearly too long. It’s been cooked down to a syrupy essence of its former self, and if you hadn’t pulled it from the flame, the caramelized sugars might have started to smoke and burn. I don’t know if I smell the tobacco that people mention, either, but then again, many people think tobacco smells like raisins, so…
This is as sweet as it gets for me. It calls to mind a cozying up by firelight with a charmingly old timey book, while wearing an oversized sweater with thick cables and toggle buttons.

February 11

March 12: The last few weeks’ frips & fragrance picks were so nice that I haven’t the heart to change them out yet!

Scent no.1 is Laveau from Seance Perfumes: a soft, simple, gently musky fragrance with notes of sandalwood and bourbon, and which also smells fantastic in candle form on an early spring night, with the breeze (or maybe ghosts) softly ruffling the curtains.

Scent no.2 is Fate for Woman by Amouage, which is described as “a chypre oriental with a rich floral heart intensified by a dark and destructive accord resonating with the tumultuous unknown.” Fate opens up with cool, nose-tickling pencil shavings and spicy, peppery florals follow soon thereafter, just the barest wisps of jasmine and rose. A bronzed and leathery labdanum slinks in and gives way to billowing quantities of powdery vanilla. What remains is the intensely scented blend of talcum powder cut with that opening note of pencil shavings, which seemed to play into every phase and facet of Fate, despite the fact that cedar isn’t even listed in the notes. The tumultuous unknown, it would seem, is a powdery abyss, teeming with the souls of number 2 pencils.

Frips are comprised of the lunar landscape ring from Chase & Scout Jewelry, which is pretty much a permanent fixture on my finger, as well as a simple obsidian pendant from Laurel Whitting that I received as a gift with purchase and which I have found myself wearing almost every day since receiving it.

March 1

March 1: This week’s study in frips and fragrances had me so pleased to rediscover some beloved favorites from past years! Ornaments: my jaunty eyeball necklace from Flora and Fauuna and my glimmering, good luck cicada from Flannery Grace.

Aromatics include Ambre Noir from Sonoma Scent Studio, and which is dense and intense and the darkest amber you could ever hope to meet. Somber and smoldering, with notes of labdanum, rose, incense, moss, leather, and woods, it is a blackened forest fireside frolic when the veil between worlds is thinnest. See also: the final moments in the film The VVitch. I got this in 2009 or so, and I just read that Sonoma Scent studio is closed as of last year. That’s a bummer, I think so many of you would have loved this fragrance.

Holy Terror from Arcana Wildcraft is one of my top ten forever scents. A blend of frankincense, deep myrrh, and beeswax candles, it smells of gentle resins, lofty sandalwood, and less of the fearsome spirits known to haunt certain long-deserted abbeys, than it is curling up and reading about them in a horrid novel by the warm glow of candlelight.

Absinth by Nasomatto is bitter mosses, green woodsmoke, and sinister woods. It’s a bit of a nose-jarring scent at first sniff, as if the punky-poet green fairy quit bohemian Paris to live amongst the ancient dryads and they didn’t get on well but eventually formed an uneasy friendship. It’s a softly surreal, slightly subversive scent that is definitely worth seeking out.

Incidentally, I just finished In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt and Nasomatto’s Absinth is most certainly the fragrance with which I would scent this witchy forest fever-dream of a tale.

March 12

March 12: I am currently switching out last weeks frips and fragrances, and I barely just remembered to take a photo to memorialize them!

Annick Goutal’s Mandragore reminds me of a scene in the 1980’s vampire film The Lost Boys, when the main characters’ grandpa says “….well that’s about as close to town as I like to get.” My perfume shelf is filled mostly with deep, dark, resinous fragrances, and Mandragore, with its bright lemony/peppery opening that quickly fades to a soft, minty bergamot, is as close to a “summer scent” as I like to get. It’s a lovely, (softly) zingy scent that calls to mind some sort of mildly alcoholic herbal shandy one might drink to refresh one’s self at the close of a balmy June afternoon. Unfortunately, much like the buzz from this weak cocktail, the scent lasts but a moment and is gone.

Velvet Tuberose, is a discontinued Bath & Body Works scent which I originally purchased because my Best Good Friend wore it, and it smelled amazing on her. With an opening somehow both airy and earthy, it’s a creamy white floral that dries down to a lush cozy/woody/musky scent, and of course, it never smelled quite as good on me as it did her, and I still associate it with her even though she probably hasn’t worn it in years. I have linked here to a bottle on amazon for $145 if, you know, you absolutely gotta have it.

This lovely butterfly wing pendant was a treasure I picked up at Paxton Gate PDX, though I have long forgotten who the designer is. The ring is of course from Blood Milk; it’s the moonstone version from the Belonging To The Darkness part II collection.

March 18

March 18: Clearing out last week’s frips and fragrances to make room for this week’s picks…

L’Eau by Diptyque is a scent is perhaps discontinued, and one that I am perpetually on the fence about. I think I am probably one of those people that office workers and elevator takers complain about…I like bombastic scents with big personalities, you know, mind-blowing, room-clearing stuff. And L’Eau, well. Hm. It’s initially a massive puff of clove but it’s also an airy clove, a clove phantom. A clove ghost that drowned in a scant puddle of citrus-herbal toilet water. It’s a bit too subtle for me to think of reaching for it, often.

Mississippi Medicine by DS & Durga opens with an astringent, peppery cypress, and gives way to a pine-crackling, smoky fire, sweet birch, muddy grass and scorched leaves… and dries down to a sweetly herbaceous, woody, incense; strange smoke-scented hair upon waking, and the vague dream of descending into the dark, dancing and divining with ancestors, and having been part of rituals older than you can imagine.

The sweet eyeball ear-bobs are an eerie amber favorite from Loved To Death.

April 10

April 10: It’s been maybe two or three weeks since I have switched out my revolving corner of #weeklyscents–I’ve just been enjoying these two lovelies so very much!

Coriandre by Jean Coutrier is a gentle chypre that’s somehow both soft and slightly crisp, and reminds me of a hazy 70’s Polaroid. A warm, grassy summer day recalled through the yellowed veil of memory. It’s dry and woody and musky and I think it smells a bit like a lovely little secret that you might never be ready to share.

Labdanum de Saville by L’Occitane is a lovely resinous amber that is probably categorized as an “oriental” and some might refer to as “sensual”, but I won’t because that word grosses me out. It’s fairly linear, and just the right balance of sweet and dry, with some benzoin and citrusy notes. It’s one of those scents that doesn’t stand out as terribly unique or complex, but it’s also not super boring. It’s a good one to reach for on the days when you want to smell vaguely interesting but you don’t actually care enough to go all-out. I am afraid this one also may be discontinued. I am sorry!

Fripperies include a large moth ring from Blood Milk and a pointy-fingered hand pendant from Burial Ground.

….Which brings us up to current times! I was traveling all last week and only brought one scent with me (quel horreur!) Tom Ford Oud Wood is fine and well and is pretty great, actually; a very handsome fragrance, all cool, slightly bitter, peppery woods. A coniferous-rosewood-sandalwood combo; a tiny, weird, creepy statue of a scent. The kind that might show up in an MR James tale and that moves in the corners of your vision when the eye is focused elsewhere, inches eerily closer to your bed when you’re at the knife’s edge of wakefulness and dream. I truly love it but after wearing it for a week straight while I was in New York,I am quite sick and tired of it, so I must tuck it away for a while.

Other than all that stink-related stuff, did you see I’ve finally got a subscribe button, visibly displayed in the upper right hand portion of the blog? So that you can be notified of new posts? Yeah, I sure do! It only took me four years!

How To Wear ‘Feeling Some Kind Of Way’

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I don’t think I really need to explain this one, do I…? There have been feelings lately, and I am muddling through. This is a look that matches my mood. I’ve got a lot on my plate right now, and some of it should actually be exciting, but I am terrified; between this and the thing I wrote about last week, and some other work-related things, I really don’t know whether I am coming or going right now. I’m simultaneously ecstatic and and electrified with possibility. but also frustrated and angry and utterly paralyzed.

Pairing together clothes and jewelry that I’m only pretending to have seems a silly thing to do with my time, but it’s doing something, and having done one thing, it may easier to do the next, and then another. Progress will be made, I know it will, because it always is.  I just have to start somewhere.

This is a look for that foggy somewhere place of vague starts and stops; where the ideas are buzzing and whirling around your head like hungry flies; you just need to reach out and snatch one of them out of the air with the tips of your fingers. It doesn’t matter which one you grab. This is where you start.

Yohji Yamamoto Asymmetric Layered Dress // Else Boomerang II Underwire Longline Bra & thong // Nutsa Modebadze NM0062 boot // Alexander Wang Roxy hobo bag // Hvnter Gvtherer Whipsnake Accessory // Hagerskans Jewelry moth ring // KimyaJoyas herkimer diamond ring // Arcana Obscura sword necklace // Stacy Hopkins Design Odontolabis Femoralis ring // Lauren Wolf Sea Urchin bangle // Valley Eyewear Gravestone sunglasses // Chantecaille Celestial Nail Sheer // Punker mascara // Moth & Rabbit Perfumes, Enter The Void

 

You Don’t Always Get The Gold Star

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I don’t know exactly what I want to write about this. I’m tempted to be vague, but I’d rather go into as many details as I can muster, because while I had wanted to write about this once it was over, looking back and being able to say, “Finally!” and “whew, thank goodness!” and details would have been okay at that point…including them now, when I am feeling less than ecstatic about it all feels a little gratuitous and petty and “oh woe is me.”

Also, I am not certain this is a thing anyone really wants to read. You’ve probably got some version of this in your life already. Or if you don’t now, or haven’t experienced it yet–just wait it out a bit. It’s coming. What follows is a timeline of resentments and stress that have been building up over the past 8 years, and last night I had a monumental eruption. But it was a silent, violent, ugly-crying kind of breakdown, the kind which you’d never even know is happening if you were in a different room of the house. There’s probably a German word for this silent maelstrom, this noiseless onslaught of hysterical paroxysms whistling and hitching with impotent rage and helplessness.

I’m just writing it out because it might make me feel a little better. All these years I have telling myself “it hasn’t been so bad”. But I think maybe it has. I think maybe it’s been really bad. And I didn’t want to admit it, I thought I was handling everything, and muddling through the best I could. But I am guessing that it’s going to look and feel pretty bad once I type it all out and read back over it. I don’t want to feel guilty, or ashamed, or “lesser” for admitting that it’s been pretty bad… and yet I do feel that way…and so I’ve admitted nothing all this time.

You’ll probably want to come back another day, once I get this out of my system.

I moved back to Florida from NJ in October of 2011 after finally getting out of a long-term, and long-terrible relationship. At this time, I had moved in with my sister and her husband, who lived an hour or so away from my grandparents. I almost immediately began driving to visit them every Sunday; I’d bring them lunch and afterward, do their grocery shopping for them, as my grandmother was nearly immobile and this task was becoming too much for my grandfather. They were in their 90s and had been pretty independent up until then. And as I had just started dating someone who lived nearby, this was a nice arrangement; I’d spend Saturday with him, Sunday with the grandparents, and then head back home to Orlando. This was a practice I would keep up for the next year or so.

In late 2012, my mother, who also lived a little over an hour away from me now, collapsed in the street one night after exiting a cab home from working her night-shift job. A jogger found her some hours later and she was rushed to the hospital. The diagnosis was late stage lung cancer that had spread to her brain. They operated immediately, removed the cancer from her head, and she shortly thereafter started chemotherapy treatments for the rest of it. I will never forget visiting her in the hospital pre-surgery and seeing how crazed and confused and volatile and violent she was acting. It was terrifying. Post-surgery, she was just… confused. She sat up in bed and tried to eat some soup, and then held up the utensil she had been trying to spoon the soup out of the bowl with–a small, disposable comb. “I guess you can’t eat soup with a comb,” she laughed.

What my sister and I had to do next was not so funny. My mother had been living in a tiny house that she had filled with a hoard of cats and dogs and made no provisions for them when she was not around. We knew that she could no longer stay there–she was probably going to be transferred to a rehab facility–and we also knew we could not count on her for any sort of assistance in getting the place cleaned up. She was renting, and unfortunately, this house was beyond trashed. Animal filth all over the place, the smell permeated the very walls. And the walls, aside from stinking, of course, were all torn up. As were both the bathroom and bedroom doors. To bulldoze this house, I think, would have been an affront to the bulldozer.

We did the best we could to haul out all the trash and broken furniture, to clean up all the grime and foulness and filth, to re-home all of those pitiful animals, of which there were between twenty and thirty, most of them very sick by this point. It was disgusting and utterly heartbreaking work. I recall more than once my sister and I crumbling into each other’s arms and sobbing hopelessly.

My mother was transferred to a nursing home and then, once discharged, found another place to rent. From the same landlord who had rented the last house to her! What! To this day I do not understand this situation at all, but apparently these people loved my mother, despite the fact that she utterly trashed their property. She was very charming, and I think many people fell under her spell. I saw glimpses of this myself from time to time, but to me, and in my memory, that is not who she was. She was mostly just… troubled and troublesome. I was surprised to learn that she had the foresight to have gotten cancer insurance and other coverages, and so she didn’t have to worry about working while she recovered in her new home, a peculiar little cottage near the beach, with crooked floors and cramped rooms which she somehow filled with new things and, unbelievably–new animals. This vexed me to no end, but there was no point in saying anything because my mother would do whatever she wanted to do.

Meanwhile, my grandparents were having more and more issues. I learned that my grandfather’s sight was leaving him; he had taken to bringing my grandmother along on his appointments so that she could tell him what color the traffic lights were! When she confessed this to me I was horrified. But he was a very proud, independent man, and he was clinging to what small freedoms he could. This was the time for me to start doing more, though, so I moved in with the man I had been dating for over a year now, and as luck would have it, he lived less than 10 minutes down the road from them. Now I was able to stop by a few times during the week and bring meals, or take the odd lunch hour here and there to bring them to appointments. It was a good thing for everyone. I was flush with the glow of a new relationship and was thrilled to be spending more time with my beau, and I felt a little bit more secure about my grandparents, as they were only a short trip away.

I did not, however, tell my mother that I was living closer to her. I was afraid that she would manipulate me and take advantage of me, and my grandparents, fearing the same thing, begged me not to tell her, either. So I did not. If I agreed to take her to her treatments (which I did, frequently) or spend the weekend with her (which my sister and I did, several times), I just let her believe that I was coming in from Orlando to do so. The knowledge that I was much in much closer proximity to her now was not something I wanted her privy to, and my entire family agreed on this point.

2013 was a-whirl with all of these things, appointments and treatments and errands and grocery shopping, and really, none of it mine. I let so many personal things–health-wise, growth-wise, normal-stuff-you-gotta-do-wise, etc.–slide during these few years because I had no time or energy to even think about it for myself. And even though the year was drawing to a close and many people might be reflecting on these things, they were not at the forefront of my mind. It was a few weeks before Christmas, a Sunday night, and my mother called to tell me that her cancer was gone–everything was OK, that she planned on coming for Christmas dinner at my grandparents, and she’d like us to have prime rib. I may have been rolling my eyes at this point, because one: we never really did a whole year of seasonal family dinners, it was usually just Thanksgiving, and so for my mother to assume we were doing Christmas dinner was sort of weird, and two: most of the time she didn’t even show up at the one Thanksgiving dinner we had each year! But whatever. My mother was well, she wanted a dinner, and it was to be prime rib. I would make it happen.

The next day my sister phoned to tell me that my mother was dead.

Apparently she had passed away sometime during the night; there was coffee in the coffee maker, so I guess she had filled it with water and grounds the night before, and set the timer for the next morning, fully expecting to be having a cup with Sweet-n-low and Coffee-Mate. But it was so strange. She’d just told me the night before that she had a clean bill of health–was that even true? I don’t know why I question this, but I don’t remember what the autopsy said, or if there even was one, and well, my mom was weird. Who knows why she ever said the things she said or did the things she did. It didn’t matter, I suppose. Dead is dead.

She of course left no last wishes, no will, no funeral arrangements. Between the three of us, my sisters and I came up with the cremation costs and we got it taken care of, along with re-homing all of the new pets. Fortunately for us, the landlord took care of getting rid of most of the furniture and such. I am not sure why…maybe they felt sorry for us, maybe they could use those things for their various properties, maybe they just really loved my mother? Maybe all three. I didn’t question it; I was just so glad not to have to go through all of that all over again.

As we went into 2014 I was able to focus more on my grandparents, who weren’t getting any younger. More appointments, always with the grocery shopping. That July they lost power; just their house, no one else on the block was affected. My grandfather couldn’t figure out what was going on and seemed to be freaking out about it (he was a pretty stoic guy, so for him to seem distressed was alarming for me) so I rushed over, spent the majority of the afternoon on the phone with the electric company who said that they couldn’t get someone out until the next day. I spent the remainder of the afternoon there, clearing out their freezer and refrigerator and putting everything into coolers so their food wouldn’t go bad; I spent the night there, so that there would be no dark-house night time weirdness. Eventually the power company did some work and the issue was resolved, but somehow this spelled the beginning of a very long and drawn out end for my grandparents.

Emergency phone calls became more and more frequent; my grandmother was prone to spills, but now my grandfather was having them too. In January of 2015 he discovered an infection and was hospitalized for a week; I spent that whole week and then the next at their house while he was gone, and once he was back. Shortly thereafter there was an incident with some stolen mail; at that point he and I went to the bank together and put my name on their accounts so that I could write out checks and pay bills for them and they didn’t have to worry about money being stolen from their mail box, or forgetting to pay a bill all together. I think this was incredibly demoralizing for him, and he never quite seemed to bounce back. In April he had a small stroke and fell again; he was rushed to the hospital, and I hurried over to their house, around 9pm or so, so that my grandmother wouldn’t be alone. All that night I dreamed I heard him opening up the garage door that led into the kitchen, and announcing that he was home, but those were only dreams. And the truth was that my grandfather would never come home again.

After a few weeks in the hospital, he was transferred to a nursing home, where he would stay for another two weeks. We had gotten notice that they were releasing him on an afternoon in late May; hospice had just come out to the house and set up a hospital bed and oxygen tank. As the techs were leaving, we received a call from the nursing home. My grandfather had just died.

Breaking this news to my grandmother was gut-wrenching. They had been together for over seventy years and she was devastated, but as it turns out, she would go on to live another two years before she would join him. Things were getting  more difficult to handle now: with him now gone, she would need full time care. She was still able to get around with her walker–just barely–but it had been years since she had driven anyway or done any cooking or cleaning. So at this point, aside from my grandfather’s final arrangements (they had pre-paid cremation plans, so at least that was somewhat taken care of) now we had to figure out the dilemma about what to do with my grandmother. For the first month or so, I was living there full-time. This, however, was unsustainable. Though I work from home, I have a very intensive full-time job. Granted, there are days when it is slow, and if I am being honest I might even sneak in an episode of whatever show I’m currently into, or some knitting. Most days though, I am on the phone from before 8am to after 6pm; I am handling operational and admin duties, I act as a personal assistant to my boss, and I am doing the support work for three other people.  I am constantly at my desk, and it’s difficult to walk away from anything, at any time.

We tried hiring the services of a well-known home care company, and that didn’t work out so well. I should have known better. I actually worked for this same place while I was in college, in both an admin and a care-giving role, and so I knew more or less what to expect. For the most part the people that these places hire are not the most caring, conscientious, or reliable employees. They would leave my grandmother alone, forget to feed her, sometimes leave the house entirely. We had to constantly switch out people because they were consistently so awful. And the bills were adding up. One month of full-time care alone was nearly 15K, and after several months of this, I was seeing a rapid decline in terms of their finances. This money had to be able to last as long as she was going to last, and at this rate, we’d be out of options within less than two years–and my grandmother was pretty tenacious thing, so we had to plan for much longer than that.

She was on a wait-list for a local assisted living facility, but she really did not want to go, and it broke my heart to force her to do something she didn’t want to do. ALFs are expensive, too, but not as bad as home care, and we were hoping the level of care would be much greater. In November, after six months of spotty care, we had a bit of a break, and a minor miracle, really. Our sister’s best friend had some medical background, and was between jobs and schooling at that point in time. We hired her at much more reasonable rate (but one I still hope was very fair) to move in and care for my grandmother. This was a solution that worked for everyone. Our friend had a steady income while she studied and did things for licensure, my grandmother got to stay in her home, they both got along fabulously and my sisters and I knew she was being taken care of by someone we could trust. I still had to do grocery shopping and keep the house full of the things it needed, I still dropped in almost every afternoon for a visit, but finally I could breathe.

Though her health worsened, she remained lucid and feisty, with a tremendous appetite for gossip and junk food (Cheetos and Twinkies were often purchased grocery list items.) In January of 2017, sadly, she begin to rapidly decline. Our live-in friend called me in tears on New Years Day to tell me that our grandmother no longer recognized her. She was confined to a hospital bed that hospice had provided and was now getting facility-level care from our friend, who fed and clothed and changed and bathed her. I know this is terribly sad, terribly taxing work on both a physical and emotional level–I got a small taste of it on the days when I would fill in when our friend took a much-needed afternoon or weekend off. It takes an angelic kind of person to do this sort of work, and I am still amazed and grateful that we were able to have that for my grandmother.

My grandmother died on February 15, 2017. The day after Valentines Day. I was working from her house that morning, because our caregiver had a doctor’s appointment, and, of course, my grandmother couldn’t be left alone for even short periods of time. I peeked in at my grandmother, who was snoring softly, and sat down at the dining room table to begin sending out a flurry of emails. Ten minutes later, our friend walked out from my grandmother’s room and quietly said, “I had a feeling it was going to happen today...” I looked up from my screen, I didn’t think I heard her correctly. But I had. Part of me didn’t believe it,. “Are you sure??” I might have asked, running into the room to check for myself, as if my friend wouldn’t know the difference.

And that was the end! I grieved in a normal, timely way for my mother, my grandfather, my grandmother and my now tiny family absent of all beloved elders, and life moved on!
Just kidding!
That was in no way the end.

Once we carried out and collected her wishes for cremation, I contacted her lawyer, who, wow, wonderful, had decided that this was the time to retire and he was passing his 20 year client along to someone else entirely. Ok, fine. I met the new law firm, got the process started, and it was decided that I was to be the personal representative for the estate, as I was the only one local, the only one who had access to bank accounts and personal information, and who intimately knew what had been going on with my grandparents those last few years. It really couldn’t have been anyone else. But I wish it had been. Out of everything else I’ve talked about, dealing with the estate-related things is one of the worst things I have ever had to do.

Two years later we are still dealing with this estate business. Maybe these things always move slowly. Everyone I have spoken with says that it took them two or three years to get things resolved and closed. But I’m just tired. It’s like…my grandmother never died. In life, she hung on so long and although she passed two years ago it is as if she’s still here, fading interminably but hanging on, always in the background of everything I do every day, never moving on to the next world.

I want to move on. I want to properly grieve for my Mawga, whom I loved dearly, fiercely, as much at 42 years of age I did at 4. I don’t think of her or worry and fret and stress out about matters involving her any less now than I did two years ago when she was still with us.. Because I can’t. Because a huge chunk of her existence is still here. And I know the other people affected by this don’t mean me any hurt or harm, but every time I am questioned as to why things are moving so slowly, or what’s wrong with our lawyers, or why is this still dragging on, it crushes me more and more. I feel like I am failing everyone, I am failing my grandmother, and I just am stuck in this limbo of never fully being able to end this and move on, because it’s always one more thing.

So now here it is today. I had a terrible night last night. After a bit of correspondence regarding all of this, in which several instances of things I had said at various points in this process were cut and pasted and repeated back at me, I experienced what I can only think of as some sort of ….disassociation. At one point during the exchange, I froze; I went deaf, my vision blurred, I grew clammy, and suddenly I was somewhere else and it was a decade ago. That horrible man was waking me up at 3am, having dredged up obscure passages from the thousands of emails we had written to each other, for the purpose of throwing something in my face and screaming at me about it until the sun came up. No amount of concessions or apologies ever placated him. This was a common occurrence, and my life was fraught and fragile because of it.

Back in the present, when I realized what was happening, I was advised, in a separate conversation, to step away before I lost all objectivity. Before I did that, I agreed to what was being requested of me, and received a “thank you” for my consent.

Never in my life has “thank you”, or consent, felt so much like a violation. A rape.

I realize this is a revolting and offensive comparison to make, but also think I am in a position to make it.

It is now 1:30pm in the afternoon.This morning I have done what was asked of me.

And ever since I hung up that phone, I have been shaking. And angry. Livid.

[A WHOLE BUNCH OF REDACTED STUFF]*

I realize there are a lot of things, SO MANY THINGS, fueling my rage right now .

[MORE REDACTED STUFF]**

…well, I am not sure that’s my problem anymore. And I have to be OK with that.

Earlier this week I heard someone say something along the lines of, “Not everyone is going to give you a gold star. And you have to be OK with that.” But that’s hard for me. I want everyone to be happy with the work I have done, or just, well, pleased with me, in general. My sister reminds me that as adult children of alcoholics, this is a common issue, and I know it’s one I have struggled with my entire life.  But I can’t make everyone happy. Not everyone is going to feel I have done a good job, nor are they going to give me their approval or a gold star.  I can’t continue to let that sear my soul, and scar my vision, the way it’s done for as long as can remember, the way it informs every decision I make.

I think along the way here I have racked up a lot of stars. I don’t know if they’re all gold, but I at least get some stars for participation, I reckon. For showing up, doing the hard work, for seeing things through. I’ve done OK, I guess. We’re nearly at the end of it though, and I don’t need all the stars. I’ve done what I could, I have done my best. I just need to keep moving forward, and eventually this will pass… and maybe not everyone will be happy, but I am hopeful that I, at least, will have moved on to a better place. Not the same place as my grandmother, of course. Not yet.

Whatever “better” is, I’d like to find it. I just need to get myself there. And I think I definitely get a gold star for that.

* and ** were typed out to get it off my chest initially, and then deleted. Which I realize makes that section a little difficult to parse, but that’s ok. I wrote all of this out because I was having a “fight or flight” reaction today; my adrenaline was up, but I was frozen. My brain was fogged. I had to do something to break the paralysis, and writing helped a little. After reading over it, however, I decided it was best that some things not remain in print.

image credit: dancingmandy96 on redbubble 

Unpopular opinions

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Instead of…the annoying banality of “Living my #bestlife”

Let’s try the more widely experienced, though the less commonly used and perhaps less hashtag friendly (but certainly less smug):

Living my #stressedlife
Living my #depressedlife
Living my #immunosuppressedlife
Living my #obsessedlife
Living my #possessedlife
Living my #housearrestlife

image credit: me

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