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TW: Death, Grief, Loss
I can hear my heartbeat, thudding in my chest and I can’t differentiate whether it’s because I’m slightly unfit and ran to get my charger to type this or whether it’s because I’m excited to share this with you, need to share it with you.
I felt like myself again today. This shouldn’t necessarily be the case, for a hoard of reasons – the first of which being that I shared my friends’ couch last night, lay awkwardly like a piece of lego in an L shape, over-extending my neck and trying not to encroach too much beyond my half of the couch. I should be tired, and perhaps I am but I’m also relieved that I’m only physically tired – exhaustion finally finding a necessary limit at the physical.
Today is the first time I’ve felt like myself since before my dad got sick. That’s somewhere around 8 months of being lost in a wilderness of grief and moving in and around it, deluding myself into believing I hadn’t already been devoured whole. I know I haven’t been me in so many ways because the caress of life hasn’t had the same effect, left the same kind of impression on me, as before. Like a fingerprint in dough, I’ve always been so sensitive to the impression things and people have left on me, rising once more having processed the indentation- the effects of having lived through something and allowed myself to be moved by it. I mean this isn’t always the case, there’s a certain kind of magic in resistance, a magic I have clung to at times – resisting the inevitable inertia of having experienced life and responding to it. I always respond like dough, rising once more, leaving a faint impression of having known, seen, experienced a thing, a moment. We all hold those things, closely and not so closely – some impressions greater than others, in recent years I’ve allowed myself to be clear about the nature of certain scars, their indentation, like a faint flick through an eyebrow – only a few hairs barren. The assumption, of something gruesome and ugly being entirely mistake, some scars are just memorabilia of a life well-lived, of falling off the jungle gym of loving people, learning things, screaming with laughter having been chased by the sibling of adulthood, of growth and a not-so-soft but stable landing of growing up. Anyways, in recent years, I have been like a ball of dough being tested for its ability to rise, and rise I have… but not lately and it’s been lately for a while now.
My dad died and life unapologetically kicked me in the back, I fell into mourning with the audacity of believing it would be momentary and less visceral than I had anticipated. Mourning has given me a new understanding of longevity. Mourning and grief are like little siblings, bare-footed they will follow you around encroaching on your privacy, simply present in unapologetic entirety, they will climb into bed with you – hands cold and reach for you. Sometimes there’s no point in resisting, there really isn’t a roadmap to navigate the devastation of absence that death will leave in your life, and understanding this makes it no less an exhausting process. We don’t talk enough about death, maybe muse intensely on mortality but I don’t really know… I don’t really know if I had ever fully interrogated the consequences of death and how can you be expected to? I’ve been severely depressed in patches and mused on my mortality, as a candle dancing in the wind, in all probability to be shortly extinguished by the brutality of a life I didn’t think I was fit to handle… but those musings, dark and full-bodied were my own – I never extended them to anyone beyond me, and I had never really had to, until now. The truth is, even if I had – I don’t think there’s a hack. There’s no set of keys you can quickly click to by-pass the pain, sometimes you just have to reach out, hold grief’s cold hand and let memories burn through you, eyelids shut, inhaling a new reality heavily.
Lately, reality has burned my nostrils – a life force so strong, a smell so unique, my life and world moulded entirely anew. Death is such a fierce hollowing out of stability, security, truths of a life that one seemed fixed. Grief is just all-encompassing in a way that I haven’t had the words for, in a way that tears can’t soothe and well-intended prayers can’t fix. I knew I haven’t been myself lately, treading cold-footed through a dense and soiled forest of grief, I know this because I kind of stopped listening to music… lol. Ja I mean, I hope your life is going well enough that you can’t relate to that level of… I don’t care to psychoanalyze it – I just hope you can’t relate. There was a while there where the sounds of what once carried me, no longer had the body to pick me up again, no longer acted like calamine lotion soothing emotional rashes. There was something more earnest about my thoughts and filling life, my journey through this unending forest with silence because the words of artists I once loved so much somehow couldn’t hold a candle to my pain, couldn’t plug the hole in the bottom of my weeping bucket…. for a while I just let the silence bleed me out. I think it’s for that reason I haven’t been able to write… I mean not really. The words have been there, appeared but lacked substance – lacked the capacity to aptly describe the seemingly immobile lump in my throat, dull ache in my chest, it just hasn’t been enough… words, actions, all of it hasn’t felt like enough – seemed like enough. And I haven’t wanted to share it because… it’s just really fucking sad. Have ya’ll ever heard a drunk girl cry in a bathroom stall, inconsolably into the arms of her irate best friend, tissue roll crumpled and abused by misplaced makeup – it’s sad like that. Death just feels ill-timed like crying in that way in a club, like losing yourself for months on end. I didn’t know, could never have imagined grief to be so robust, but God what a new hue to have my life painted in.
There’s this scene in Grey’s Anatomy, I don’t watch that show with more longevity than any of my relationships combined I’m just making reference to it, where George O’Malley’s dad dies. Christina goes outside to comfort him, and actually just…
Ja I donno what gripped my YouTube alogrithim to have this moment appear but it did, and I get it. I knew reality shifts on its axis in the most uncanny and sometimes cruel ways, I know this as a writer and an incurable lover… but I never knew it could take forum like this. I never knew how life can be hollowed out of your body and the expectation remain that you will continue to exist, live nonetheless vibrating on a frequency that now exists as something entirely foreign. Somedays that expectation feels cruel and intolerable, the idea that I could rise once more felt like… being turned inside out, exposed and perpetually vulnerable to life’s disappointments. Some days, this expectation, it feels like the only way I know how to honour this gruesome hollowing out of my life, how I know how to move through a void and sink into it, gently… softly instead of banging my fists, letting them bleed raw against something I can’t change.
I knew I haven’t been me because I stopped listening to music, stopped trying to fill the void with something that could lessen the intensity of my voice echoing against the nothingness. Anyways, we all know I love Solo and somehow even her words couldn’t stitch this bleed, couldn’t soothe the infection of this pain ravaging me from the inside out… but today felt better.
Today I felt like myself for the first time in a very long time. When you’re as emotional as I am, 9 times out of 10 you’re inescapably present to yourself, to a knowingness, to essence… somehow grief tipped that cup out and I found myself crying over spilled milk. Here’s what no one tells you, you will grieve them and you will grieve your former self… the newness of life after death posses an impossibility of returning to who you once were. I buried a very particular version of myself, of how I understood myself and this world when I buried my father. And I know, less painfully so now, that part of me lies there with him beneath the shade of a Jacaranda tree and perhaps that is the harrowing eventuality of loving anyone – the idea that you can die in someone’s absence and be expected to live. I had to mourn her too, that SANKOFA… and so now songs sound different and love moves through me in a way that seems magnificently foreign. This is a new life and… I feel like a baby, off-balance as I establish a new center of gravity.
Anyways, today, I felt my spirit roar through my body again- like a gust of wind through a crack in a window, blown wide-open something in me re-appeared. I know this because I’m listening to Solange again and once again the text has morphed into something new, surpassing the disappointment of my previously chosen silence. I saw things I imagined, to a girl like me with a will like mine can be read as a both a threat and a promise, and that is both thrilling and terrifying simultaneously. Sometimes my imagination stretches so far beyond the horizon of what I know to be my life I fear I’ll never touch it, hold it in my hands and when those forces turn maleficent I’m happy that my imagination escapes me. I saw things I imagined always read as a manifestation mantra to me, and I felt like my inability to will my dad back to life, imagine him once more was somehow a failing of those powers – of the magic of existing as a dreamer.
Today I dared to dream again, understanding a world far beyond even my intricate and wild imagination. I dared to believe that the world could bend to my will once more, entertained the idea of seeing things I imagined and then some. At 16 I wouldn’t have dared to dream of a world where I don’t ask for permission to love myself, pleasure myself, prioritize myself, and now at 24 still deep in the woods of grief I’ve felt my spirit sneak in, light breaking on a cold horizon. I have once again felt the magic of a dream, the idea that this defining moment, the severity of being hollowed out in this way can read as a promise of fulfillment. I dare to know myself as dough, rising, the ocean frothing with undiscovered possibility. I didn’t know if my essence would return to me, the magic that makes me me, I didn’t know if I would feel the heavenly touch of my soul… I’m not out the woods yet and perhaps, I’ll build a house here – allow light, warm and full-bodied shine into the darkness beaconing greater dreams to find me here… on this horizon.
Our grief hums to us at night, sometimes it sings during the day but I beg you to know that the tune isn’t endless, that it can be interrupted by happiness, interrupted by a new you.
Today I left flowers on my grave.
There’s nothing glorious about this, I’m not Lazaerth but God knows I rise.
Today I left flowers on my grave and I felt myself return to myself, as something new… I understand the idea of When I Get Home so differently now. The text that I am has been re-framed, interpreted as something new but my essence? God how I love the sound of my voice, I missed this sound. How I’ve missed the sound of rain, the splendor of self-belief.
Suffice to say,
SANKOFA’S BACK BABY.
P.S. If you’re grieving, still making your way back to your grave – know I leave flowers for you daily, know I lament you as something lost and celebrate you as someone new. If you can’t call out to be found, your voice hoarse and breaking on impact- know I hear that sound, you are not a tree falling unnoticed in this forest.