Grief is neither a disorder
nor a healing process;
it is a sign of health itself,
a whole and natural gesture of love.
Nor must we see grief
as a step towards something better.
No matter how much it hurts –
and it may be the greatest pain in life –
grief can be an end in itself,
a pure expression of love.
– Gerald May –
what a very sad day in america. the deaths of 50 souls in one sweep have been jettisoned to the next level at the hands of an angry citizen. the lgbt community is targeted and wounded during pride month in a southern state and the southern anti-lgbt rhetoric continues to pour out like a geyser in yellowstone.
“Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (Corinthians 13:4-7)
my friend’s ashes were blessed, reminisces shared, tears shed today at the small catholic church in englewood. i comforted friends from my past and was comforted by my friends of today. i sat quietly while others shared their history and insight. his longtime friend read the famous passage on love and i understood it more intimately than i could ever imagine. i ceremoniously put to rest any idea that i could head backwards.
i need to set a new course. i am unsure. it is not frightening, but i am reticent. i can’t intuit how to move forward. i can’t feel my feet. i can feel the wind and hear the pounding surf. i feel cold. i am waiting and trying my damnedest to lean into the unknowing.
there are (as always) many opinions for me to choose from. not my usual style though. internal wisdom tells me if i don’t know what to do, then do nothing. life is just like playing poker sometimes. good bye my dear friend. safe journey. you will be missed.
and as for me, i am still. i am not a body. i am free. for i am still…… as god created me.
i have posted a few times about my sponsor and his diagnosis of stage IV liver cancer earlier this year. i called his home 2 days ago and was informed by a voice i didn’t know that he had been moved to hospice. and i just received a call from that same voice letting me know that he passed this morning in his sleep. i was concerned about his mother. i asked the mysterious voice to please give my number to his mother. his mom called me 10 minutes later. i have been filled with a bittersweet sadness since. there is drama with his mama and it may be forever unresolved. it’s not my drama, but i am privy to it none-the-less.
paul was my sponsor, but more importantly he was my friend and mentor. when i met him he was attending 12 step meetings and always quoting from “the big book”. it usually annoyed me greatly when people did that, but for some reason, his gentle demeanor dissolved my disdain. i didn’t need an aggressive sponsor. paul fit that bill. he taught me the concept of “god doesn’t create junk” and repeated it over and over. here is a post from my 1st blog which captures a sense of just how integrated his words are into my process. the post was titled “house of flying daggers”
when paul was diagnosed, he started to shut down- both emotionally and physically, and the experience of losing him began at that time for me. i spoke with him weekly at least, but didn’t see him more than 10 times or so. each time i did see him, and many times on the phone, he would well up with tears. he struggled with his feelings about his health and i am sure with his own sense of loss, fear, and probably his sense of failure with his battle with cancer as well.
what i am resisting here is conveying the emptiness and melancholy that winds through me like the highline canal meanders through our fair city. friends like paul do not appear in my life everyday. i am a flawed friend. i carry much baggage. those who can accept and withstand me are very few and far between. i have conveyed these feelings to him, but it never seemed enough- especially now.
he used to call me “cosmo”. he felt pride and respect for the work i did. he was always supportive of my work in the hiv community and in the recovery community. he understood that i strangely live a sober life filled with synchronicity and opportunity. he also reminded me that i might just be doing the work i was meant to do. i have had a cheerleader like no other and will probably never experience that level of trust and support again. i hope i didn’t take it for granted nor have it in vain. and i certainly hope i was able to be even a fraction of this for him.
i am not at all aware of where i go from here. the more dramatic part of me sees myself almost as jill clayburgh sitting on the floor of that empty apartment at the end of “an unmarried woman”. drama aside, a cornerstone of my foundation seems to have vanished. no doubt i’ll get to that, but this damn wind that i have to deal with until then…..
i am completely without words to describe just how helpless i feel. my good friend was diagnosed with 4th stage liver cancer recently. it has metastasized in 4 places on his liver and it is beyond treatment. i can’t fix it and i can’t make it go away.
at first he presented with a distinct sense of defeat. this had concerned me greatly. he resigned from his job and set up an at home hospice situation. it all seemed so fast and surreal. then he began to talk about things like healthy living, diet and nutrition, and chinese medicine. this gave me some sense of relief. and hope.
but recently, there has been a shift. i get the sense that he is avoiding my calls and isolating. i hope i am wrong, but i have been down a road similar to this on several occasions and it sucks. it is painful. it feels hopeless. i am not at all eager to do again.
on the other hand, i do love my friend. just as i loved my friends before. my experience taught me that when people get physically ill, they turn inward emotionally.. it’s so much effort to communicate. and it’s hard to see oneself (sick) in another persons eyes. it’s as if they are saying “let me go” without any words.
today, at a meeting, after another person shared, i came to understand that i haven’t wanted to deal with this situation. at all. so i have been making myself crazy trying to avoid it. i have been defensive. i have been boastful. i have instigated not-so-good things. i have worn a victim silhouette.
but as i grow towards what i hope is the light, i have to accept where i am at. and i have to understand it and i have to be willing to let it go. i posted a quote today that suggested opening one’s heart means showing the scars that are there. simple set of words with a much more significant process to make happen. but i’m gonna try. even if it makes me cry. and i know it is gonna.
i had a long day at work catching up on paperwork and trying to regain my emotional balance somehow. i just feel wonky. change has moved into our department like the santa ana winds, and i am stirred deeply by the gales.
i volunteered for the foundation at a fundraiser for the adolescent psychiatric program. a young black woman named madeline spoke about her experiences with mental health issues in her own neighborhood. the simplicity of her stories of her neighbors and friends, gutted by mental health issues, just like hooks thrown by invisible fishing lines had me teary. i remembered my own adolescence usurped by imbalance which set a course of living on the edge which lasted decades more than appropriate. mental illness is very real and very closeted. i need to work more to illuminate this.
today i spoke with my friend. he spent his final day at work and was cagey and passive aggressive as he talked around it. he talked about hooking up with home health care with hospice to follow. it was matter of fact and chilled both of us as it was discussed. months pass very quickly while time can move slowly in the same life. i wonder if that will be the case here.
i couldn’t sleep this morning. longtime companion was running on cable, so i watched it again. the film still moves\ me deeply, but the effects are not as acute at all. i have moved past the pain and fear of that time, but find i continue to deal with loss and the inability to change life and death. luckily, i have become adept at learning not to run.
this seems to be rambling. it is very late and i should sleep.
i have come to understand yet another layer of how i operate in my part of the world. maybe i knew this before, but with the latest turn in the road, my nature drifts yet again from the mists. i feel gratitude for this renewed awareness, but i would trade this gift for one of unknowing- sadly even if for only a short while. but the decades have rescinded my right to deny.
i wrote about an encounter with someone who was deeply lost in his drinking last week. 4 days later he had died. i was very saddened by it all. feeling quite helpless and ineffective is just a fraction of the things that i have tried on. it’s better today. i am accepting and letting go. it is a process though.
the flip side of course, is that the struggling soul- my friend- is struggling no more. he doesn’t have to hate his hiv and his hep-c any longer. he doesn’t have to deny that he doesn’t feel his best.any more. he doesn’t need to imbibe till the blackness rolls in any longer. and he doesn’t have to hide who he is and how he is. he is free.
this space i now find myself in is part of my reality. strangely, it has been for half my life-in one way or another. in the 80’s and 90’s it was the virus that was taking out many of my contemporaries. drugs and alcohol took out a few too, but it was mostly aids. now i find the opposite to be true. working within the hiv field, the virus takes out a few, but more than anything else, i see multiple earth departures fueled by substances.
i am practicing staying grounded as i continue to remember that people die. this death is not an isolated incident. thankfully, it is not a daily one, but it happens more than i would like. i am thankful i am able to available for others. the 80’s found me numbing out myself. today i am listening. i honestly am changing. one day at a time.
sad news yesterday came my way. kenny-a friend who has been in the hospital for several months with multiple complications from lymphoma had passed over. not sad for him, as he had been in a coma for 3 of those months, his body riddled with shingles, he acquired a viral pneumonia that wasn’t responding to treatment, and the multitude of meds he was taking were taking their own toll.
i met kenny about 6 years ago with his wife Susan at a 12 step meeting on a Saturday morning. His wife was a colorful and eccentric woman who wore leopard print and brightly colored eyeglasses with contrasting shoes and bags. he had just decided to get clean about a year before i did. it turned out that we had the same person for a sponsor and would share breakfast together after meetings with sponsees or with each other. his soul was of the kindest ilk. he looked to the good things in people, where i could never say that is my first stop. he exuded caring and shared openly and honestly about the chasms he had traversed.
susan passed about 2 years ago, in february i think. she had contracted cancer as well, and had mental health issues that compounded with her illness and with chemo. he had contract lymphoma 2 years prior to that, but had aced a rocky venture with his chemo and seemed to be thriving. and he hunkered down and became caretaker for his ailing wife with more dignity and grace than hallmark can put in a month of programming. and he mourned openly and lovingly for several months after her passing.
kenny taught me about acceptance in a surprising way. he always greeted me with a positive tone and an air of inclusivity that astonished me. during several years of our friendship, i found myself riddled with ptsd and untreated mental health issues which encased me in standoffishness and aloofness bound by self judgement. he would always act as if none of that were visible, even though i had pushed so many others away. every encounter left me feeling as if i were one of the boys. boy did i need that, too.
i will miss him and i will miss the possibility of seeing him again. but i smile everytime i have thought of him these last few months. not for his pain, but for his life and what his spirit brought into mine.
so it has been a bit since the last post. my laptop crashed and there was some drama getting it up and running again. 4 weeks of frustration and jones-ing later, i am returning and happy to report that life continues. i find the joy of living expanding these days as i have begun to revisit some of my spiritual practices and beliefs. the spiritual side to my life is the part that enlarges my life. and as i review this last year, i think that envisioning a larger life is what is perhaps the most needed.
i have felt my heart opening with my work. the opportunity to discover compassion is feeding my soul and stretching my understanding. accompanying my growth is some fear, some challenge, and some wonder…. and some big inner smiles.
i have been working the catering jobs quite frequently for my schedule. it has been fun and it has reconfirmed that i thrive around diversity in my days. and i profit financially, too.
with regard to my previous post, i have been feeling a bit of remorse as it seems a bitchy entry. i suppose it was. i have been close to someone who began to withdraw months ago and i have been in my own denial about both this and my connection to it. naturally, i have wanted to make my friends drama and pain about me. this is a mistake. i am affected, but really it is about him. it is sad, it is painful no doubt, and it will require work to return to the sunlight of spirit. with regard to my self-centered moments, i am with regret. but i understand, at the same time.
a person i know passed over and it was a complete surprise. there was opiate abuse involved and there were both depression and lies. sadly, the partner has been feeling the effects more directly. the non-disclosure of an HIV status causes the situation to be more confusing and painful for the person left behind. sometimes life just ain’t pretty.
all for now, but i’ll update soon. i have missed writing.