The night after our Halloween party it was calm enough to take pictures. I turned on all the electrical features in the dining room and turned off the lights. It was peaceful, ethereal. More pictures to come.
So I had a TWO HOUR intake interview for the intensive therapy thinger where I am hopefully gonna learn the skills to grieve my mother appropriately and maybe stop being a hostage to such intense social anxiety. The interview was exhausting, but went really well. I almost didn't make it; I was so anxious. The woman who interviewed me said she wanted to "work it so that I was in one of her groups." We did hit it off, had a great rapport.
I love when it works like that, and people don't suck.
Anyway, allllllllll that talking about my extensive history softened me up for A, who was very good to see today. At the end of our work together, I posed an offhand question. Why did she think my emotions were coming out as anxiety / anger and not sadness.... which seems a more obvious emotion for grieving? She thought a moment and said, "Maybe because there's no fight in it. Sadness. It's like a surrender."
And really, she did nail it for me right there. What do I have a problem with? Being vulnerable. What makes one really vulnerable? Surrendering. Imagine how good it would feel to lay down my arms.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA like that's going to happen. Well, I'll need to do some work on my psyche before it does. I'll need to. Because the situation I have now is untenable. I can't live my life like this.
When I went into recovery nearly fourteen years ago, it was like building a whole new, healthy person from scratch. I had to decontaminate myself of all the toxicity that had been passed on to me and sort of start over. Somehow I got the idea that living well = fighting. Surviving. Being in control. Because the old me was so so soooooo out of control.
I wonder if the ability to surrender, or rather the inability to do so, is also the key to why I have fibro. Just a thought. I have to go cue up "Eye of the Tiger" now.
And here's a picture in case you didn't feel like reading all those words:
And it was packed with photos of my mother, yearbook, diploma, photos of me, a baby, in her lap. My grandfather rolling on the lawn with her childhood dog, Tramp. Envelopes stuffed with photos I haven't even opened yet. And at the bottom of the box, another box marked priority mail. I didn't untape it. In fact, I was expecting visitors so I taped the whole box up. There are enough photos there for two scrapbooks. One about me, and one about my mother.
We don't really do as many photo albums on paper anymore. But these photos are aging. One day they will be old. I want them preserved, not shoved in falling-apart packets.
I remember the family clamoring for wedding pictures. Just one picture. I was late on getting them out. Their claims were more than justified since we had eloped. I remember I was stressed about sending those pictures, but can't remember why, perhaps because that stress doesn't even compare to this one. In the box from Georgia was a slim album labeled PHOTOGRAPHS (sans-serif, small caps, stamped on black leather) and I thought oh what a cute album with the retro cover and I opened it and there were the wedding pictures I sent my mother.
I remember the anxiety of picking them out. How much I wanted to share, how much to keep. Was that the year she disinvited me for Thanksgiving? Our relationship was complicated is what I tell people. It doesn't even begin to crest the issue.
So the box is in the middle of my living room floor. Mike asked me if I wanted him to take it to the attic. I said no because if it gets moved to the attic I will never deal with what's inside because it's overwhelming. And I bet if I asked N right now she would say that putting together those scrapbooks would be one way of dealing with my grief in a healthy manner unlike REDACTED
But it's in the middle of the floor now and here are some completely unrelated pictures. These are part of the southside series I've been posting lately.
N says you don't present [yourself] as needy as you say you are, but I believe you.
I say I have good days and bad days.
Recently I was offered an interview at an intensive (9 hrs / wk) group therapy program. It's on Friday. I'm thinking of making a bulleted list of shit. B/c I get flustered talking to strangers.
For me agoraphobia feels
Like people can touch me with their eyes.
Like there's a magnetic field or something that projects from them to me.
When I feel it it's like grating over my skin.
Like pressing down on the nerves of my skin and I can't breathe the same.
Like every distance is too far away from safe.
This happened before once but it was so long ago that I [would rather not] have to dig through those years to remember what the solution was. Also I was 17.
I've decided to go back to being vegetarian.
B/c I'm worried about failure, I've decided to be veg + fish, like Mike. And not be too self-judgmental as to whether I "succeed" or not.
When I became veg for the first time it was b/c I was worried about the contribution I was making to factory farming, etc. When I went off it was b/c of curried chicken legs on the grill.
It's not like I never thought about those things after. About animals, the environment.
If you leave me a comment about how animals taste good or how my philosophy should have withstood curried chicken legs or how veg + fish isn't doing enough to blah blah blah I will delete it.
Maybe I decided I want to work towards veg again b/c I feel like it.
This morning is a good morning.
This morning is a good morning b/c Mike helped me by liberating me from C who is triggering lately just leave her a check and tell her to lock up and by driving me through the first leg of my travels.
Sometimes there's a line btwn interdependent and needy and it's blurry. I recognize also needy is a judgment I have put upon myself.
Maybe needy is what I feel when there isn't enough interdependence scenarios to make it work. My life work. Which is complicated right now. And I don't mean my life's work; I mean my life's working, its operation: showering and leaving the house.
My friends have been so good to me.
I have also decided that, for now, I'm using the white cane only for extremely necessitous situations: night, crowds, unfamiliar streets. It is a risk.
N said try to access your personality when you were in Pittsburgh before you used the cane. What were you like?
Smiley and friendly and I looked people in the face. And I felt like I was cute all the time or most of it.
And I didn't feel the eyes pressing pressing pressing on me all the time. I know I have regressed I know I have transgressed the cane is a tool but it is also a marker also a badge and not like (A) badge in The Scarlet Letter or something.
Badge of honor but I prevaricate I also feel in the part of me I don't want to explore I feel like it is (A) badge as well and that's why I need to put it away for now b/c my skin is so raw from everything and the nerves
it feels like iron filings rrrrrrrrub against my arms and neck when people look at me.
Fascia tighten tightens my protection my net my inadequate-
Today with the assistance of my friend K I am going to the Bereavement Center to see about, well, grieving and how to do it. Part of me feels like omg, the last thing I need is another f-ing therapist. But they also have support groups which may be helpful. I've had positive experiences with group therapy before, so I'm cautiously optimistic about it.
Among the many sympathy cards I've received (thank you, btw, even though it is really difficult to open them) workshop-mate DK sent a note that included the following line: I don't think anything really prepares us for losing our parents, but I am especially sorry that you have suffered this loss while you are still so young.
I really appreciated that thought. Because I feel I am too young to deal with this loss, but I'm not a child, and so I don't have the family all around me and the more structured and supported grieving that a child (ideally) would have.
[Aside: Stepgoddess Pam has recently left me two voicemails which I haven't responded. She says in each one, if you feel like talking.... I don't. But I love her. After the ashes arrived I regressed somehow back into myself. If you are reading this Pam I know you're there.]
Of course I feel like magically "older" women who lose their moms must have some grain of life experience that fortifies them for it, but that's probably not the case. My mom was 66 when she died. I feel like that's the age you're "supposed" to be when you lose your parents. 66 means you've had a lot of stuff happen in your life and probably learned how to get through a crisis or two.
I'm not saying I haven't had crises, but as far as stress goes, this situation and its surrounding weirdness equal, in stress, what happened when I was 17 years old, when my dad found out about my self-injury and moved me out of my mom's house into his apartment and I finally got diagnosed with OCD and could leave the house without breaking apart. Or when I was 20 and breaking it off with my psycho abusive boyfriend of five years. Those were times when I crossed from this reality into a border area between what's real for everyone else and what was real for me... a world so decorated with pain. Pain dripped from every aspect of the landscape. Gory, lonely, boring, crazy-making. I was so utterly crazy that I was actually bored by how crazy I was. Time stopped moving. There were people around, but I was completely alone in it.
My stylist told me I was losing my hair. From stress. But she also said it had started to grow back. Yay for growing back. Then I got all of it chopped off so I now have a little pixie with long bangs and pink extensions. It's breast cancer awareness month, you know. So pink. N said I "looked stunning" and "[she] liked my fluff."I guess that's a good description for the stuff on top off my head now. I had been calling it quills.
Here's another collage, International Correspondence (after Nick Bantock).
One of the grieving responses that I have noticed, and consider rather strange and disabling, is my regression from a normal (well, okay, from my baseline) social anxiety to an extreme social anxiety. This I did not expect.
Soon after I was diagnosed with fibro I started working with A. Our first project for me was how to develop the ability to take up more space in the world. My aura was small, infinitesimal. If you don't know / believe in auras, just imagine always feeling like you have to shrink / cringe away from every stimulus. As a walker / rider-of-buses, I'm constantly exposed during my commutes. They have always been my trigger. These are situations where you don't volunteer to be with people, and you don't necessarily know how many people you're going to encounter or what their moods will be like on any given morning. We worked on this project for a long time, about a year, before I started noticing real improvement. It was worth it though. My fibro isn't as bad. I started to fall down less, and this was before I was using the white cane.
My decision to use the white cane came in April of last year. It was at what I consider the apex of my ability to take up space in the world, when I made this decision. Everyone looks at me. Not menacingly, but with curiosity. In my neighborhood, the south side slopes / flats, people's social boundaries are more blurry. They want to ask questions... which is okay I guess... but the thing that really triggers my social anxiety is when they (especially men; mostly it is men who do this) insist on helping me when I don't need help. It makes me feel overly scrutinized and rather incompetent. If you've been reading my blog all along, you know this and the struggle I have worked on to desensitize myself to these feelings and the anxiety they provoke in me.
The choice is desensitization or I never leave my house.
I was really starting to get ahold of myself there... for about two weeks. My anger levels were really starting to go down. My anxiety was starting to revert to baseline as well, the baseline I had established after working with A.
Then my mom passed away and I've noticed as part of my grieving that the social anxiety is once again off the charts. It's sort of hit agoraphobic levels. Some days I don't make it out of the house. Part of the anxiety is knowing I will be out there, with the cane, and the resulting interrogations / micromanagement of strangers. But I don't want to stop using the cane now, even though it would get me out of the house more. Some reasons: safety. I fall down less. Cars and people give me a wider berth. Also, integration of my identity. Meaning, it was hard enough to pull the cane out full-time. Going backwards would mean I'd put a tear in my identity and have to reintegrate all over again. Lastly, I'm worried about being accused as a faker. I've read on some blind blogs that people with low vision are / were / have been accused of "faking" blindness b/c they can appear to "see" yet use the white cane. I'm worried about the bus drivers' opinions of me. That they will think I'm faking to get a seat or something.
Now if you are thinking f those bus drivers; don't worry about what they think... If I could do that, then I would already have less of a problem. I wish I could not care.... so much of my values involve not caring about what others think and doing what I want / feel is the right thing. It's just that right now, I'm having a problem not caring. I was doing well.... and now I'm just regressing and frustrated about it. Thanks for reading :)
My mom's ashes arrived on Saturday, in a cube-shaped USPS Priority Mail box. Mike said he wished they had sent with a signature required b/c it was just left on the porch. I said I was glad they didn't ask for a signature because it's hard to be home to sign for something. I left it on the mail table until Sunday morning even though I could tell what was in there by the shape of the box and the return address.
Early Sunday, before coffee because lots of times when you do things before coffee they hurt less, I took the box to the attic and opened it. And then spend several minutes carefully picking the packing peanuts off and securing them away from the cats. She was packed in an envelope, with newspaper all around. The urn is beautiful. It's green and gold with a shamrock on it. Funny, she was not irish, but her name was. Kathleen Rose. I keep having to correct verb tenses from is to was. I guess a lot of people wanted some of her, because the urn is also tiny. Mike said, I heard that people don't actually come out to be a lot [of ashes]. But I remember Juno's ashes as being pretty significant and she was only like 9-10 pounds.
I feel a compulsion to go over and open the Juno box to heft her ashes.
I ignore the compulsion.
Anyway, mom went back in the shipping box for now so cats won't disturb her. The shrine isn't ready by a long ways.
I had a collage challenge for which the prompt was ANGEL. Here is what came out.
My mother passed away two weeks ago today. I can still hardly believe it. I've been trying so hard to escape my brain, to let the feelings out slowly. Truly, I am a bit scared of my feelings. Amidst my frantic attempts at escape, N says sometimes I will just have to "sit up with it." It meaning, I suppose, the feelings.
This morning I woke up with extra sadness. I'm trying like crazy to distract myself with anything, anything. So many crafts, so many poems. The poems are harder, but worth it. I'm going to have new publication news soon.
Halloween is a good distraction. We are throwing a party but I'm really out of the game AFA party-throwing. I think Steph made a facebook event or something but I don't know how to find it or invite people. Pumpkin carving. Mulled cider. Candy. Send me email.
Tasks with too many steps overwhelm me.
Sorry that I'm being really self-absorbed right now. I probably have not visited your Facebook / blog as often as you have visited mine.
Thank you for the sympathy cards, messages, and sweet friend-stuff you've sent. If you didn't send, don't worry about it. The sympathy cards are a double-edged... thing-with-edges.
I keep going out to do stuff and then getting some of the stuff accomplished and then having anxiety attacks which necessitate my return home by slow painful bus ride.
It's worse at night. Meaning, events scheduled in the evening are still too hard for some reason.
Evenings are hard period.
Jenn is helping with many offers of low-key of visitation. Meaning I get to go to her house and do nothing and it's during the day so I don't freak out so much. And she keeps offering so I don't forget to come over. Or sometimes it's lunch. Which also has structural parts. Order. Eat. Talk. Eat more.
I've mostly had anger and anxiety, but the sadness is starting.
I've been working out more to try and maintain my good weight despite an overlove, right now, of sweetness. I'm talking about eating nutella out of the jar. I wish I hadn't bought that. If anyone has ideas for better indulgences, please message or comment. Carrot sticks and apples do not count.
I think I will invent and diagram the dodecahedronal stages of grief.
It's the edges one needs to be wary of, not so much the planes.
I got back from GA on Saturday. The service was okay. Even though I was raised Catholic, I am intimidated by churches. Especially southern churches. I feel that their participants are a moment away from bursting out with themes of punishment and hellfire.
I did end up delivering the eulogy, which a lot of people gave me praise for. It ended up being a slightly bigger deal than I thought... I thought there would be several speakers, but I was the only one. The minister was like, And now Jill Khoury will speak on behalf of the family. And I thought, actually, I'm just speaking on behalf of me. The family did not approve this message beforehand... this could end up going badly. But it didn't.
I spoke from the heart and didn't tell any lies. So there.
And now, after it's all over...
...I'm sort of trudging along. Things seem possible, doable, one moment, and overwhelming the next. I told Mike that I was gonna go to a workshop this evening and he said it was good to get back into the swing of things. And now, after having a 20-30 minute interaction with someone who asked detailed questions about the aftermath of my mom's death / the service, I feel totally drained…. like I can barely make it to therapy and then meet a friend for lunch.
So I don't know if I'll get a second wind this afternoon and end up workshopping… Apparently my mom left me a note to read after she passed and gave it to my aunt, who gave it to Mike, who gave it to me this morning. I'm saving it for my therapy session to open it. Apparently she enclosed it in a book called Heaven Is for Real, which I'm like….. oh crap. What is this?! I'm not sure what I believe re: heaven / hell, but don't leave me a book with a title that seems like it wants to instruct me eschatologically on what is and what is not.
I feel bad for having missed the past several workshops and I have lots of poems to workshop.
I just want to crawl into bed now though.
This morning I looked up how to respond to sympathy cards on the internet. Rather, I looked up, on the internet, how to respond to sympathy cards. Apparently some people say you don't have to send thankyou cards and some people say you do. I was going to make it into a sort of therapeutic crafting by handmaking my thank you cards. Now I'm looking at the cards I made and thinking these are too bright and colorful. They're totally wrong. Fuck this. Do I make new cards? Do I even bother? Do I go back to bed and not get out? Option C is looking appealing.
And wtf is in that note my mom left for me?!?! I thought we really said all we had to say and left it on a good note. Now she ends up having the last word, whatever it is.