When Everything Falls Apart

This week I picked up Mary’s ashes and placed them in the wooden box made by her son from her parent’s dining room table. I brought death certificates to the bank, the insurance company, credit cards, and social security. I’ve taken my dad for a haircut and a straight edge razor shave. We’ve had a memorial service, Valentine’s Day, and a birthday party. We’ve looked at a thousand old pictures, tracing our shared and separate past. I’ve heard him weeping beside me and from his room across the house.

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The Dying Time

In the dying time, time slows down. Every thing is sacred and significant. Each breath is a count away from the last. In the dying time, the sacred and the profane walk hand in hand. What were her last words? Did we get the password for her phone? Did she hear us sing? Did she hear the things we didn’t say? What will we do with all these swabs and tubes? What did her parents look like when she saw them in the room? Who will wear her clothes? Who will wear her shoes? Who will wear her wedding ring?

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Saint Mary

I started calling my step-mother, Mary, St. Mary around the time my dad was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia with Parkinson's disease. She had the unflappable tenacity to get him a proper diagnosis at Saint John's when the neurologists in Richmond’s medical community were able to come up with nothing better than temporary psychosis. Plus, she worked at St. Mary’s in HR. She never loses her temper, her patience never waivers. Saint Mary.

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Showing Up

Right now it’s all about showing up. Showing up for myself, for my family, for my class. Showing up for birthday celebrations, death conversations, commitments, and responsibilities. Right now it’s about getting out of bed, getting dressed, and fully inhabiting my day rather than creeping around the dark edges of it. Right now there’s no way to face life except face first and head on.

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LIFE

One snow day last winter Henry and I went through old photos and made a folder called “LIFE.” To qualify for the “LIFE” folder no one could be posing, there had to be some level of mess, emotion or action. It had to look real. These are usually the shots we edit out, clean up, make more palatable before presenting them to the world.

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Meat Suit

My therapist is fond of talking about meat suits. My meat suit, her meat suit, everyone on this planet’s meat suit and what are souls are here to learn once we put one on. It does make death sound less scary doesn't it?— taking off the meat suit? Pleasant even. A relief.

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Wham, Bam, Thank You Ma'am

It's so weird when your life is on a collision course both towards excruciating heartbreak and the person you were always meant to become. That walking through the hardest shit is sometimes doing the best work, the work that shapes your character and your karma and your destiny. It might feel a little bit like an amputation, the severing of self from people and friendships you love who were never meant to live or last forever. It might feel like the morning after a one night stand you thought was just the beginning of something good.

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Lucky

It is the final days of 2018 and I am in South Nags Head with truly amazing friends. From where I sit I can see swaths of ocean, clouds, sun, sky, and earth. I hear the roar of the surf and the chatter of birds and my son playing ukulele. I’m wearing a sun dress, a hoody, and brand new sheep slippers covered in decorative fuzzy balls. Every second feels like stolen time, an extravagant gift. I can’t afford to take a second of this wild beauty for granted.

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Daughter

A few days ago, sobbing into my husband’s chest, I said aren’t you glad I’m on antidepressants?

Yes, he said. I am. I imagined the mess I’d be without them. Medication and meditation, yoga and dance, meetings and writing and friends and therapy. There are so many beautiful things in my life but the foundation those things were built on is a rumbling fault line. I wish there were things to write about other than my parents’ illnesses— the hospitals and surgeries and oxygen tanks and cancers and Parkinson’s and dementia, the doctor’s visits and healing wounds and the PTs and follow ups—but it’s the ocean I’m swimming in. Their world is my origin story and I carry them with me everywhere.

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Let the Light Blaze In

This weekend I went to a two day dance retreat in Virginia Beach. If you’ve ever imagined a primal ceremonial dance where everyone’s doing their own thing— a few people whirling and twirling, some running around in circle, some rolling on the floor or writhing against a wall— this is it. I don’t think I could love it more. It’s helping me crack through a rigid self-consciousness as old as a snake’s first skin.

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