notes from a journal entry, the day after a perfect wedding

It’s Monday, 5:10pm. The notes at the bottom of my journaling app show the address of where we now call home, tells me it’s 73 and sunny. Pacific Time.

I wanted so badly to get up on Saturday night and cry into that microphone, in front of both of you and everybody else, but I knew I would have stumbled through it, not gotten it all out, and then spent the hours, days + weeks following trying to explain what I meant, rehashing every word.

It was a flood, really. The weather and the hilarity of the house and the terrible sad zoo, the seemingly infinite details; the feelings. It would have been impossible to encapsulate in moments and minutes, with a few jokes and a killer ending… so how do I start, from this starting? It’s a story of love. Not just your love, your relationship, your wedding day — it’s the years and moments and everything until now fused into a point of light, and the space past that light that shines out as far as we are capable of seeing, and longer past that. That’s another reason why I couldn’t give a speech, because I couldn’t talk about the two of you without talking about me and the journey I’ve been on, before you and then with you since we met, respectively.

Not many people have stuck it out with me the way you have. I’m constantly learning, thinking I have something figured out, fucking it up, realizing I don’t know as much as I thought I did, starting over — leaving blooms and disasters in my wake, depending on the day. You’ve come with me full circle several times, in bliss and in darkness, full-hearted and broken down in a ticket booth, holding on for dear life when no one else understood. We’ve been fans, roommates, confidants; brought out the best and the worst in each other. Killorn, you’ve shown forgiveness for the learning cycle I went through that pushed us apart, when I pushed you away — and without hesitation, you picked up the hammer and boards with me and built the bridge that brought us back together. You have been patient and vulnerable and kind, through life and death and shattered dreams and incredible successes. I know I’m not the easiest person to be friends with — to put it mildly — I give a lot, and while I don’t keep score, I demand a lot in return once I’ve passed a certain level of emotional intimacy. I used to leave that door open around the clock, and now it’s guarded and sacred and only creaks open on certain days of the year, when the planets are all lined up and the sky turns that perfect shade of pink, dependable and rare, like solstice at Stonehenge, or that one day of the year in Manhattan when everything lines up and the sunset burns down that one specific street.

We were all so scared for you when everything was coming undone that year in the Ballard house. In my cold and controlling, holier-than-thou state, my love and fear for you turned to anger and too-thick skin. All you needed were open arms, and all you got was this terrible disdain. I can’t ever replay those days and change them, I can’t ever take any of it back, and I can’t ever undo the damage. I know we’ve talked about this at length since, but I need you to know that I carry that hurt and regret with me. Every time my heart overflows with love for you, the pain comes with it, and I think it’s just the burden I have to bear so that I don’t ever treat anyone that way ever again. We spoke in whispers, cross-legged on Lori’s bed, wanting to help you but not knowing how, afraid you were painting yourself into another corner of escapism when we heard you on the phone all hours of the night with someone we knew you’d only met through a joke about a sweatshirt on Twitter.

Oh, how wrong we were.

I can’t tell you with sufficient intensity how glad I am that we, the us that lives between you and I, survived. I don’t deserve the love and trust and vulnerability you show me, but somehow, you keep the line open and you keep letting me in. This kind of friendship is secondary only to the changes in me that have happened since colliding with Barry, as far as the degree to which someone’s unyielding love and grace for me, as-is, has completely changed and shaped who I am, for the better. You know all of this, already. But it seemed like the right time to tell you again.

So now it’s now, and we’re about forty-eight hours past the fishing line and the chicken and the gnats and the happy tears, and years past the nuclear fallout… The thing I kept saying to Barry on the way out, the thing I’ve always talked about when I describe you and Mark, is that he is your fucking whisperer. He sees all of you, complete; your joys and your sorrows, the strong facade and the most vulnerable underbelly, simultaneous. And I kept thinking about how wonderful it was, for you to have found your Person, and knowing we were heading out to the middle of nowhere to celebrate and cherish you both, to support you and witness you and take those vows and be by your side(s). And if that was all that had happened, it would have been enough for the flood, the feelings and tears, the tears that started the moment I saw you coming through the woods and didn’t stop until well after dinner.

But what I quickly realized, as speech after speech came to pass in that room, as the love just poured out of everyone in every conversation, was that you are surrounded by people who see you, the way we see you, the way Mark sees you. And as it turns out, you were that person for Mark, too. Between the friends and the family that have known you forever, to the coworkers who totally fucking get everything about you — I was in total and absolute awe. To be so seen, to be so loved… it’s something I can only dream of, something I’ve only caught in glimpses and moments, something I thought I saw and felt and could touch but almost always wound up having a false bottom to it, a trap door that I fell through right when I was sure it was Different This Time.

To be in the presence of that, to be by your side for such an incredible day — I am not exaggerating when I say that it was an absolute privilege, and it’s causing Barry and I to take a serious look at who we are, what we’re surrounding ourselves with, and whether or not it’s moving towards what we truly want. Once again, the person you are, the love that you exude, has changed me, and continues to mold me for the better.

I don’t know how to close this, except to say that I can only hope to one day be half the person you are, and to be surrounded with a fraction of the love that you give and that you generate around you. That period when everything was so, so dark? It turns out that the light at the end of your tunnel was you.

I love you both. xo

Like any other moderately depressed person riding out the winter in Seattle, I’ve done my share of binge-watching on Netflix, and like many of us I’ve plowed through all the seasons of The West Wing (more than once).

There’s a moment where CJ says something to the effect of, don’t act like I don’t understand that I’m living the first line of my obituary right now. That moment has always stayed with me, imprinted. I want to have that feeling — I want to know what that means the way that I know my own name. And just like everything else, getting there starts with taking down the things that are in the way, between me and that truth.

So far I’ve dismantled AA ideologies, many toxic friendships, and I’m chipping away at day-to-day worklife adjustments. I’m in one of those stages where my old car (life) is in flames behind me, and my new car (life) isn’t on the horizon yet, and I just have to keep walking away from that fire, knowing that heading in the right direction will eventually pay off.

No matter what, I have to keep walking.

it makes me sick to think about the things I threw away
old thought-it-was love letters
true mementos of my life
because I gave in to a man
who couldn’t take me as I was
decades-old moments, now dust under the sofa
I still have the memories
but I lost the little pieces

those crazy scraps of paper
that had me rushing to my mailbox every week
that one letter sent on music staff —
how could I forget you?
who knows what I lost, that those little pieces could show me
today
those were the things that mattered
(we are what we archive)
and if so, I am:
lost, shredded, recycled, disintegrated
forgotten cosmic stardust somewhere in the atmosphere
ash from a fire,
shapeless and discarded

of all those little pieces gone,
I miss myself the most.

lots and lots of dreams lately. I should be writing more of them down.

there was that one a while ago about the indoor miniature golf course / abandoned puppet prop rooms, kind of a kid’s maze with a waterslide as the last section, suddenly you’re through and in an amusement park. a ferris wheel as tall as a skyscraper. I think it rained. I don’t quite remember.

and the one I kept having over and over that rarely shows up anymore, about how I had to go around the house and keep re-closing and re-locking all the doors and windows, over and over and over. someone kept leaving them open and I’d come home from being out and there was someone or something on the loose (murderer, stalker in the woods, huge monster dinosaurs and gorillas) and I’d never know if he / they had gotten in or not. I kept saying to myself, who in their right mind would leave all of this open? but never knew who it was.

the ones about friends lately: jen leahy in gold with a downtown job, alicia and jamie and slaven all moving to chicago, jesse keeping me on the phone for hours but unable to tell me why and unwilling to let out his story.

and the other night, the one about the sex casino where nothing happened, save for the abandonment of the little boy at the door; the one about the wedding-slash-wake… one where my aunt was trying to turn my mom against me… lots involving dead relatives. barry is in most of them too. I came close to lucidity the other night, he looked over at me and said something to the effect of, can you tell when the scary part is coming, I can and I was like YES ME TOO and we were able to get around scary part before it caught up to us, somehow.

I don’t know if any of this means anything, or if it all means everything, or something in between. I guess I could ask my therapist.

last night was especially vivid. I was actively violating the temporal prime directive to try and keep my sister from killing herself (that part happened in real life two summers ago), and there was also an alternate existence at play — I’d somehow gone back in time to another plane, where barry and I didn’t know each other, and the suicide was about to happen but so was her wedding. there was a photocopied packet with an image on the front, and she scolded me when I made a jesus joke.

I told my husband and he understood how heavy it was. I told a coworker and she asked if I thought it was my sister coming to visit me, in the spiritual sense. I didn’t know how to answer. I haven’t told my aunt because she’ll think It’s A Sign having to do with how my brother-in-law played a role in her death, and that my sister is trying to reach me to tell me about it. (not joking.)  and now I’m telling the internet for some sort of catharsis, perhaps? I don’t know. blogging is still part of my processing.

I think that’s all I’ve got for now.

You could fill a whole dinner table up with everyone in my family that’s died. Four great-grandparents that I never met, three grandparents that I did (plus my dad’s dad, who I didn’t), my parents, my only sibling, an aunt, a couple of dogs, and at least one cat.

For some reason this morning, New Year’s Eve, driving back from dropping Barry off at work and just about to pass over the University Bridge, it struck me that they were all there with me — that’s so uncomfortable to type — in some form at least. Memories, ghosts; both?

I can’t quite get it all the way sorted, but I got this overwhelmingly positive feeling that I wasn’t alone. Quite a contrast to Christmas Eve, when the mere idea of a possible thought about my parents turned me into a pile of sobbing, hopeless toddler on my husband’s lap.

And some years the holidays show up and it’s suddenly like you’re buckled in to the Grief Express™ and trying to Handle Regular Things like you did yesterday is impossible, and everything feels less like a Saturday and more like trying to clean up a overflowing bag of garbage that just makes more and more of a mess as you try to deal with it.

If this is happening to you, it’s okay, and more importantly, you’re okay. It’s okay if Christmas is a sad sack nightmare, and it’s okay if all you can do is leave that Neil Young record on repeat and sit in your husband’s lap and cry it out.

Don’t forget to take your meds, and drink more water than you think you need, and remember that you’re allowed to do whatever it is you need to do to get through it. Maybe you just have to shut the world off until Tuesday, or stop at the pot store, or maybe making cookies or taking a walk or watching Elf or Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas will help.

Above all else, know that you’re not alone. This shit is hard.

PS, we’ll be making lasagna tomorrow if anybody needs a place to come and hang out.

go downstairs
no card for the bus
no money for the bus

go upstairs and
dig through desk drawers until you find
enough

go downstairs
walk to the bus
miss the bus

wait patiently in your husband’s coat

signs taped up in windows
rainbow bullseye marking time
on the end of a fiberglass log
hearts carved into the cement
a sign for an indian restaurant hanging over
a boarded-up garage

the bus makes you sick
chew mint gum
walk behind the guy
who smokes pot for a block
two blocks

wonder if you can pull off a vegan thanksgiving
think about the friend who let you down

look at the people you pass by
realize suddenly
that they all have
full
giant
purposeful
directionless
beautiful
awful
incredible
lifetimes

whole entire lifetimes

and all of them together
a huge entire lifetime in itself

realize you are small
realize you are hungry
walk into your rental house
and write it all down