Ten Things I Tell Myself to Make Life Worth Living by Ariel of Carpe That Diem

© Janice Gobey. Used with written permission.

© Janice Gobey. Used with written permission.

I first met Ariel on a strange and stressful day during a very strange and stressful chapter of my life. It was on an afternoon spent surrounded by strangers, talking about potentially uncomfortable things, and though we were brought together for a common purpose and it was in fact, a gathering which I myself had initiated and facilitated, I very much did not want to be there. I am not sure if Ariel picked up on that at the time, but as we’ve come to know one another during the course of our friendship, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are one of the few people who just gets it. And is okay with it. And doesn’t judge me or think less of me for being a weird, squirrelly hermit.

Whether we meet up for scintillating discourse on matters of mortality, or deliciously unhinged Gothic cinema; were we to spend an emotional hour together discussing a local tragedy and its personal implications or just run into each other on a busy street corner (yes, this has happened! and we don’t even live that close to each other!) I always know I will come away astounded by Ariel’s brilliant insights, awestruck at their tremendous sagacity and, of course enthralled by their incisive wit–and I am astonished, to be frank, that this incredible human,  this one-of-a-kind (in the truest, purest sense) person actually wants anything at all to do with me! But …they do? This makes me indescribably happy and fills me with the sort of delirious, demented joy that I’m pretty sure only other lonely weirdos understand fully. And though we don’t get together often, when we do, it calls t mind Doctor Who meme I sometimes see floating around on Facebook, the one that says “Spend Your Life Doing Strange Things With Weird People.” Except, well. It wasn’t weird enough.

I had to make a version for Ariel and I. Here you go! You’re welcome!

I am lucky to have met Ariel when I did, and that we grew to become friends, and I am beyond thrilled that they are this month’s Ten Things guest blogger. See below Ariel’s Ten Things I Tell Myself to Make Life Worth Living, and I will share with you the same thing I said to Ariel, that I am awestruck and utterly humbled that they would write any of this at my behest, and I feel so incredibly undeserving of what they’ve shared below. It is beautiful and difficult and wrenching and absolutely perfect.

 

Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘Woman Before Rising Sun’

Caspar David Friedrich’s ‘Woman Before Rising Sun’

1. It’s Okay to Delay

This is a mantra that I’m just learning. It is a challenge, and by no means am I proficient. And while on the surface this phrase seems to echo sentiments that it’s “never too late,” it means something a little bit differently to me.

There’s a popular rationalization for transness out there that implies that a trans person is X gender trapped in a Y-sexed body. Personally, that is not my trans narrative. I have perceived myself, however, as the hapless protagonist in a cosmic narrative of a Can-Doer trapped within a Do-Little. I am predictably-unpredictably hindered, hampered, prohibited and limited by disabling chronic illness.

I idealize the tenets of minimalism and idolize the gurus who promise that the key to a fulfilling and adventurous life is the process of simplifying day-to-day tasks and purging material objects. The irony is that I live a fairly consistently low-impact lifestyle. I don’t have much to “declutter.” I don’t have an overflowing calendar brimming with engagements. I don’t keep many obligations. I scarcely have anything to write in a to-do list or planner or place in a twee inbox.

When I do accumulate tasks, I embark on a journey of epic proportions to hit all the high notes. When the mania strikes, I start plotting. I scheme out several “appointments”.

And then I hit my nadir.

For me, fatigue, flares and malaise are byproducts of ambition. I quickly become sobered by the humiliation that I have to suspend my schedule. And then I feel ashamed for it.

But then I defer back to what I learned all along from my minimalist icons. I appreciate what has “sparked joy” within me in my accomplishments. I appreciate the effort of taking on days, weeks, even months’ worth of accumulation and pre-planning to achieve. I appreciate that a “rest period” is an opportunity to regenerate. If delaying means reveling in the highs and charting a new course, then it’s okay to delay.

To Write Love on Her Arms for World Suicide Prevention Day

“To Write Love on Her Arms,” for World Suicide Prevention Day

2. Tomorrow is Another Day

As someone who dissociates on the regular, time is an alien and abstract concept. Don’t get me wrong, I comprehend the science of the planetary rotations and the lunar cycle. I understand the guidance of the almanac and the shift of the seasons. I defer to the sacred obligations of my religious calendar.

But I’ll be frank. I don’t follow a Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday, etc. schedule. I divide my days by shifting between pajamas and civilian clothes, going outside for extended periods vs. remaining indoors indefinitely, or days when my partner is at work or at home. Sometimes the ‘pajama days’ are disproportionately longer than the ‘civvies days’. Sometimes my partner picks up extra shifts or flips his schedule around, and I’m sparked into spontaneity. As you can imagine, these units of measurement do not translate well to real-time deadlines.

Over the course of these ‘days’, I lose huge chunks of time to no recollection with nothing to show for it. And in the periods where I am cognizant of my presence, I’m often unable to project myself into ‘meaningful’ activity.

I still haven’t quite de-conditioned from the stress of a metered week. I used to live a very professional and organized life. I agonized under the weight of timed obligations. I grit my teeth and asked for extensions.

That’s not my life anymore. Maybe it will be again some day, but for the here-and-now, tomorrows might not necessarily be “tomorrow” in a traditional sense. It might be several days from the current day. But every “tomorrow” is a chance to center my presence in the present. It’s another opportunity to push through the fog and orient myself to the novelty of a new day’s offerings.

3. Yesterday is a Thing of the Past

This is really the same face of the Janus coin as the preceding truth. The pursuit of tomorrow means leaving yesterday in the past. This isn’t to say that the past is irrelevant. The past is a hard-packed foundation for progress. But no one can reach for the heavens if they’re wallowing in the dirt. (Disclaimer: this is by no means a diss on archaeologists.)

I have a hard time putting things down. I’m sure I could blame Aries energy. There’s countless astrological interpretations as to why I just won’t leggo my eg(g)o. I’m slowly learning to leave yesterday in its grave by meditating on the Jewish honorific: zikhronam liv’rakha. This phrase translates into ‘may their memories be a blessing’ as well as ‘may their memories be for a blessing’. The meaningfulness of for whom this blessing is for (for the deceased or for the living) may be debatable. In both senses: I am blessed that yesterday occurred, regardless of what happened there, and yesterday is blessed by the fact that I lived throughout it.

Henry Clarke’s illustration for “Cask of Amontillado”

Henry Clarke’s illustration for “Cask of Amontillado”

4. Forgive, But Don’t Forget

Yesterdays haunt me from beyond the grave with the ghosts of people, events and circumstances that have deeply wounded me. Much of my trauma has manifested into trigger points that are part of my everyday life. When a new mental health professional pushes me to express how trauma manifests, I often find myself trying to suppress the details.

My regular therapist noticed this veneer right away. He also identified what he suspected was going on. I was already re-living the trauma, but I was attempting to protect myself from experiencing guilt, shame, self-loathing, and all the other usual suspects. Most of the people and places associated with my triggers are removed from my life. Rightly or wrongly, in my headspace, I’m the only one left to absorb the culpability of what happened.

I will never forgive the people who did badly by me, partly because I logistically cannot, and partly because I earnestly do not want to (and nor should I have to). I can’t ever forgive the places where I was wronged, because to anthropomorphize a space in that capacity errs too closely to de-burdening humans of their accountability.

I can, however, forgive myself for subjecting myself to my own internally recurring unkindness. And by learning to forgive myself, I can eventually learn to recall my histories in ways where I can continue to practice compassion in my life.

 

5. Old Dreams Die; New Dreams Are Born

Even though I strive to live a death positive life, I grapple with thanatophobia every day. This isn’t always demonstrated by the anxiety of my own mortality. Sometimes it manifests in struggling to accept that I am not the same person as I have been previously. The current me often feels like an impostor masquerading in the skin of the older me, mainly because I am not fulfilling the hopes and dreams of the older me.

The older me is Oxford-educated and was en route to doctorate status. The older me eagerly wanted to be a parent. The older me was a working professional who volunteered for special projects and promotion opportunities. The older me practiced yoga daily and researched teaching scholarships. The order me sang in the choir and fantasized about the opera. The older me drove a car and had aspirations of being an air-conditioned vagabond. The current me is not a realization of any of these.

The current me, however, is the descendant of all of these. The death of my old dreams was the birth of new opportunities. Those dreams, too, may age out of me in the tomorrows from now. But new dreams will be birthed from those dreams, and so on and so on.

this is a clever lyric shot from the 88rising video for “Midsummer Madness,”

this is a clever lyric shot from the 88rising video for “Midsummer Madness,”

6. Expectations and Standards Are Only as Real as You Make Them

In the words of the prophet Joji: fuck the rules.

At least 30% of my therapy sessions in the span of 5 years have covered my anxieties, my resentment and my wallowing grief regarding my deep-seeded fear that I’ll never produce a life worth the monetary value. I routinely agonize that no amount of expensive surgery or recurring costs of hormone replacement will ever convince the public to perceive with my gender; that no amount of emotional, physical or skill-based labor will equal out the debt of my student loans; that no temple will accept my patrilineal heritage and consider me a worthy investment of “birthright”; that no mounting medical bills or adaptive tools will enable me to maintain pace with my abled fellows.

Every time, I have to re-educate myself that the gospel of ‘Being Human’ is actually an arbitrary set of guidelines inferred from a messy collage.

Some folks over the years have approximated what “gender” looks like and whether that gender’s presentation amounts to being “ugly” or “beautiful”; others have calculated how the “value” of a human being can be measured; some have proposed what amount of competency in one flavor-of-the-victors language amounts to “literacy.”

For the most part, we unconsciously enforce the ‘rules’ of humanity. We make baseless accusations and judgments from precognitions that were taught us by parents, siblings, friends, television personalities, magazine advertisements, history books, religious doctrines, billboards, neon signs, stump speeches, inspirational speakers, etc. We mount these on a vision board that coats our minds’ eye with the color lens of our choosing. Such lenses are ableism, white supremacy, classism, xenophobia, misogyny, heterosexism, cissexism, antisemitism, etc. We may identify these lenses by different shades or hues depending on our learned perceptions (what differentiates ableism from internalized ableism, for instance?), but ultimately, “blood orange” by any other name is just fucking red.

The fact of the matter is that these hypothetical ’truths’ are based on centuries’ worth of tradition, rebellion, assimilation, appropriation, aggrandizing and the existential need to apply meaning to every little thing. It’s a social neurosis that’s demonstrated perfectly in the Garden of Eden narrative: Adam is charged with identifying every animal and plant in Eden, yet humankind is cursed by the malady of sin when he and Eve seek to qualify their knowledge from the tree. Is it our own desire to categorize and define the world around us rather than simply identify and appreciate the beauty of diversity that pollutes our souls?

Who knows? Judging our current human relevance off of archaic presumptions shouldn’t be how we define what it means to “matter.” “Mattering” should be determined by our compassion (however we choose to express it), our presence (however we make it known) and our impact (however we manifest it).

At the Alfond Inn in Winter Park

At the Alfond Inn in Winter Park

7. We Are the Gods, Now

If everything around us is, at best, subjective, or at worst, built on fakery, lies and creative exploits, then where do we go from there? As Gabriel Byrne-as-Byron once bellowed to Natasha Richardson-as-Mary Godwin in a delightful 80s romp: “We are the gods, now.”

In the context of Ken Russell’s Gothic, Byron, Godwin, her paramour Percy Bysshe Shelley, her stepsister Claire Clairmont, and Byron’s [strikeout]#1 Fan Please[strikeout] biographer John Polidori are questioning their own personas, desires, grievances and dreams. Guilt, lust, heartbreak, grief, insecurity, mortality, anger and fear plague the fivesome when they are imprisoned in a labyrinthine villa by an atmospheric dark-and-stormy night. Godwin herself becomes the Promethean bringer of the dawn when she channels her negative energy into the momentum for her first published novel, Frankenstein: a piece that in real life would see revision fostered by the same manipulation of tragic energy from within her inner circle and drawn from a changing European social climate.

Frankenstein relays much of its explicit religious overtures from English comprehensions of Christian mythology. And from the exclusively Abrahamic perspective, a fallible god that lives, dies, achieves or fails is inconceivable. A god who is driven by passion and by mundanity is unfathomable. But these are the very tenets of godhood in other mythologies globally: the Olympians, the Teotl, the K’uh, the Deva/i, and so on and so on. The winking acknowledgment is in Godwin’s subtitle: the Modern Prometheus, a Titan who is credited in Hellenic literature for both bringing fire to the first people manifest of clay… and for drunkenly mis-applying genitals to many of the clay peoples he personally created (Aesop’s 517th Fable on gender fluidity and attraction model fluidity).

By no means do I want to portray myself as sacrilegious or anti-theistic. Rather, I want to celebrate my status as a vessel of divine power, from wherever and whomever I may have inherited that divinity from. I want to learn to perceive my mistakes as opportunities for vernal growth to replace my ingrained doctrine that successes are the only tales worth celebrating.

via quote fancy

image via quote fancy

8. ‘Failure’ is Another Word for Everything to Gain

If ‘freedom’ is just another word for nothing left to lose, then it stands to reason that ‘failure’ is another word for everything to gain. The basis of this one isn’t very novel. It’s preached in sermons, penned in self-help books, bulleted in business seminars and parroted in virtually every Hero’s Journey that sees the protagonist stumble before they run.

It’s a redundancy because for as true as the statement is, the mantra that ‘failure is not an option’. It’s a phrase that in its popular application is, at best, apocryphal. In practical translation: it’s a fucking lie. It’s a lie that has become a commodity. It is a provocative phrase that evokes fear even in the most humble of practices.

Failure equates to destiny. Failure draws out the possibilities of what were previously sketchy boundaries. Failure identifies goals and stretch goals. Failure articulates purpose. Failure generates motivation.

Every failure I experience is just exposition to my next accomplishment, which may be totally unlike that I initially projected for myself. Taking the path of Ls may lead me to a road that I never would have discovered if I only stayed on the straight and narrow. The terror of being and feeling lost is outweighed by the sublime sights of possibility.

@muertosruz

image: @muertosruz

9. You Live Your Own Obituary

I have lived long enough to see my friends die. In the LGBTQ+ and in the disabled and chronic illness communities, it happens disproportionately more often and sooner than in the general population. Not all of them were honored in ways that did justice to their legacies, namely due to a lack of respect to their core identities. But even if their services were all-inclusive, I don’t know if words and actions alone would have been enough to eulogize their memories.

For every grim and sober detail, I have several living memories, anecdotes, recollections and flashbacks. However brief my friends’ lives may have been, they were rich. Like a spectacularly fudgy, heavy slice of cake cut into a deceptive sliver on a comically large saucer. Had they lived longer, how would it shift the narrative of that presentation? Where would my memories trail off to?

Every day that I thrive, I add another chapter to my living obituary. I generate more content for an everlasting eulogy that will be curated and maintained by those who survive me.

Atlas and Caliban snuggling on it’s a small world

Atlas and Caliban snuggling on it’s a small world

10. Your Friends Will Bury You

At the time of writing this, a friend has been dead for several days. My partner and I lived with him for a time. When we moved out, we made plans to stay connected. It didn’t work out. We were on opposite sides of town living opposite lives. When we had the news broken to us, we were told he was living in a group home just down the street from us. That crushed me.

We never explicitly related to each other about living as severely mentally ill people, but it was definitely the baseline of how we were able to be friendly toward one another and respect one another’ boundaries. Our unspoken civility was refreshing at the time. Now it’s a weight in the pit of my heart. I feel equal parts culpable for not being present in his life and equal parts fearful that I could flicker out in the shadows cast by the people surrounding me.

My life has very much been pillared by isolation, loneliness, drifting and severed relationships and by agoraphobia. It is only now, as I crest on my 30s, that I’m forging friendships that are forgiving to my less-than-sociable tendencies and nourishing to my hunger for human connection.

Part of this I can credit to my personal growth, particularly my learned talents of pruning back toxic relationships and nourishing what I’ve managed to germinate within inspiring people and compelling communities. Part of this I want to credit to the fact that as I’ve aged and matured, so have the people I choose to surround myself with. But I feel most confident in and grateful to what emerging technology has enabled me with in order to stay connected to the friends I rarely see and the friends I’ve never seen in the flesh.

Tangential to the above, if I have faith in nothing else when I die, I will have total faith in the fact that my friends will be the ones to memorialize me. Regardless of whether they may be physically present, I will know that they will hold space for me because of how I have pushed myself and how I continue to push myself to hold space for them while we are alive.

Find Ariel: Carpe That Diem blog  // @carpe_that_diem on instagram

Goodbye, Sweet Meepster

My heart is breaking for my sister today. One of her dear girls has gotten old and very unwell, and they’ve come to the conclusion it is time to say goodbyes and gently facilitate little Megan’s journey to the next world. I spent the day with them yesterday, but am back home this morning, weeping all morning with sadness for everyone, and still mourning my own losses of this kind, when I had to do the same for my own beloved companion back in 2010.

Anyway, here’s to Megan, lil Mama, the meepingest Meepster to ever meep. See you in another life, you sweet, silly thing.

(If you’d like to see more ridiculous photos of these lovelies, my brother in law made a tumblr for their ridiculousness a few years back: Mallory and Megan.)

Weekly Fragrance Picks January-April

feature

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!

A moth, a swan, a cold, clear moon

A moth, a swan, a cold, clear moon from ghoulnextdoor on 8tracks Radio.

{image: James Jean}

Track list: The Moth by PJ Harvey | The Swan by Ionna Gika | For The Sun by Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky | All Of This by Ayla Nereo | Cold Clear Moon (Written By Tomo Nakayama) by Swimming Bell | Tiptoe by Gracie and Rachel | Possession 2019 by Kompromat | Psychic Sobriety by Foie Gras | Romance Noire by Double Mixte | Kuiper Belt by KÅRP | Starbound by Mouth Wound

How To Wear ‘Feeling Some Kind Of Way’

primitive

 

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

 

A Visit To Roversia

dream5

Excuse me while I slip away into this Roversian dream world where one swans in silence on velvet staircases, leans tenderly into the open hearts of somber trees, and runs away forever to weep one’s sorrows into the thorny embrace of labyrinthine shrubbery.

(I recall seeing this October 2009 W Magazine editorial several years ago, but it’s resonating so deeply with me right now. I frequently these days find myself longing to hide away from everything in a secret dream world via a hidden door in a hedge. I’ll come back in 100 years and all my troubles will have crumbled to dust.)

dream6

Photography: Paolo Roversi

Hair by Rita Marmor/TRESemme; makeup by Lucia Pieroni/ Streeters for Cle de Peau Beaute; manicures by Yuna Park/Streeters. Models: Jac/IMG; Darya Kurovska/Supreme; Dorothea Barth Jorgensen and Regina Feoktistova, both at Women Model Management. Set design by Piers Hanmer; production by Viewfinders; digital technician: Antonio Pizzichino/d-touch. Photography assistant: Arno Frugier. Market Editor: Carolyn Tate Angel. Fashion assistants: Kathryn Typaldos and Katie Casamassimo

dream9

dream2

dream4

dream8

dream12

dream13

Moth & Myth Giveaway At Haute Macabre

Moth-and-Myth-giveaway

Last weekat Haute Macabre we explored the offerings of Moth & Myth, an artistic endeavor renowned for producing cruelty-free and vegan designs showcasing the unique bounty of moths and butterflies (and I shared some of my favorite lepidopteran-inspired haiku classics by way of an introduction!)

Today is the last day of the giveaway to win an “autumn” packets of moths, so be sure to visit the post and leave a comment to be entered for the opportunity!

You Don’t Always Get The Gold Star

ap,550x550,12x12,1,transparent,t.u2

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 

Links Of The Dead {March 2019}

“Spring” by Miguel Angélus Batista.

“Spring” by Miguel Angélus Batista.

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 {March 2018} | {March 2017} | {March 2014}

💀 Czechs clean thousands of human bones in ossuary renovation
💀 How a Common Death Ritual Made It Harder to Mourn the Loss of My Mother
💀 Grief and gaming: How I mourned my online friend
💀 Death By 1,000 Clicks: Where Electronic Health Records Went Wrong
💀 Memento Mori Motherfucker: Do Your Job
💀 Lessons In Life And Death From 12-Year-Old Lola
💀 Grief, Loss, & the Cult Of Positivity: Interview with The Mental Illness Happy Hour
💀 Making a Mourner: The Life, Love and Grief of Courtney Lane
💀 After her husband’s opiate overdose, a woman struggles to replace his healing touch with her own.

1 3 4 5 6 7 70