The World is Ugly, but You are Not

First, I want to say I know that this ramble is one of millions, so I’m aware it isn’t unique.  Second, thank you for reading it anyway.

I’m turning thirty this year.  This shocks me every time I think about it, because seven years ago, I never saw past twenty-three.  I was terrified to turn twenty-five.  Because it meant I’d failed.  It’s hard to admit this, but I was upset that I’d failed to die.  I don’t talk about this much because it hurts people I care about to remember.  It hurts me to remember, too.

I’m admitting the world for me is still nasty.  Not nearly as nasty as it was when I was twenty-three.  But I still fight daily.  It is exhausting.  Kudos to those who do it for their whole lives.

I’m admitting that I still have no idea if it gets better.  I say this because I’ll have solid good days for months, almost years.  But I’m an expert self-saboteur, and I remember the depression.  The challenge is learning to balance.  Learning to accept it.  I mostly avoid it, saying I’ll put it away for now and look later.  But as with anything needing attention, it rears up and says, “It’s time.  Drop everything and notice me.”

I had this thought out better in my head, but now as I’m typing it, it’s starting to feel too rehearsed.  So I’ll just go where I wanted to.

In September, last year someone–I can’t even tell you how important they were to me–passed away from stroke complications.  Since then, I’ve been reeling back and forth in my head, trying to keep myself from falling completely apart.  I don’t talk about him, because he’s too special.  He’s the one person I knew was listening when I screamed into the void.  Definitely.  He heard me and he saw me and he told me I could scream louder if necessary.  You lose someone like that and your world is swept away.  You don’t know what morning means other than “it’s today, time to smile.” You think food is gross.  You think everything is for dreamers who can afford the luxury of a grin.

And then I see the way my brother looks at his wife.  I see the way my sister boldly stalks the world with a challenge of “fight me, bitch.”  I see the way my mother is striving so hard for personal excellence.  I see my dad growing older, but still retaining his delight for Star Trek (Discovery, if you’re interested).

My point for all of this is put so simply in a song by one of my personal favorite bands of all time, Linkin Park.  “The hardest part of ending is starting again.”

Every day you can start over.  Tell yourself instead of “I shouldn’t,” “I did, but I will.”  You are not the bad person you believe yourself to be.  In the quiet of your heart, when you think no one is there to see you watch what you’ve become, you are still good.  You are powerful.  You are incredible.

The bad days will always happen.  It’s what you do with them that makes the difference.

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Letter to Henry

Dear Henry,

I found this song today on one of the many re-watches of a show I’m fond of, and it made me think of you.  I think it’s dishonest if I don’t admit a lot of stuff makes me think of you these days.  I also feel like I didn’t think about you enough while you were still alive.

Sometimes I regret not talking to you more.  I was afraid of letting you down. I knew how you felt about me.  Or I thought I knew.  I feel full of myself believing you loved me.

Maybe I’m obsessing.  I don’t know.  All I know is I can’t sleep well.  I can’t eat the food I want to eat because it tastes like nothing.  I’m avoiding myself because I’ll think about you and I don’t want to be sad.

I wish I could talk to you. This isn’t enough.

I love you.

Letter to Henry

Dear Henry,

It strikes me every time I drive home from work how quiet the night is here.  Sure, there are trains going through sometimes, but mostly it’s just me and the few stragglers on the road.  The moon has been full the past few nights I’ve looked into the sky, and it’s made me think of you.  There was one time in particular, when the moon was hidden by some black clouds, and the sky was already dark, so it looked like the clouds were tucking the moon in for a nap.  It reminded me of you so strongly that I had to clear my throat a few times to get rid of the sudden urge to cry.

I was thinking about a letter I wrote to you a few years ago.  And as I was thinking about it, I wanted again to be quiet with you.  There’s something beautiful in silence between friends.  I created a little scene in that letter, just for you, of how it’d be.  I’d be sitting down fiddling with one of your unlit cigarettes, and you’d be listening to me chatter away about something.  You’d have a smile on your face because you found it amusing that I knew how to hold a cigarette even though I’ve never smoked in my life.

Henry, I wish I could have told you in person how much I love you.  Sometimes it keeps me up at night that you never knew.  I haven’t been able to read the letters I wrote you because it’s hard to see it from the back end.  Maybe you knew.  Maybe you were too polite to say so.  But I miss you with my whole self, and I wish I could wrap up beside you and just exist with you.

I never knew it was possible to miss someone like this.  I don’t recommend it.  It’s seriously fucking awful.

I love you.

A Second Letter to Henry

Dear Henry,

Today is your birthday.  You would have been fifty-seven years old.  I went to the gym this morning with a friend of mine, and then I picked up my sister.  We went to a gyro place where we had coffee in your honor.  I would have had chocolate cake, but they didn’t have that.

It’s a funny thing, really, because the world is tempestuous today.  Tornado sirens were going off when we got to the restaurant.  My sister asked me if I wanted to eat, and I said if it was my time to go, then it was my time to go.

I feel like the world around me is being sad because I can’t be.  Why can’t I be sad?  It’s my anniversary with my partner.  We’ve been together a year.  There’s a piece of me that feels like I should just be curled up and under a blanket away from the storms outside, but I can’t.  He deserves me today.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the people I see post motivating images on Instagram.  You may wonder what this has to do with you, but I’ll get there.  I see weight loss, or some other goal, and I’m proud of them for making their lives better.  I’ve wanted to make my own life better, partly why I joined the gym, but I’ve struggled to leave behind my habits.  Convenience and laziness are my vices.

The thing I’m missing is the confidence those people have.  I am not confident I can make changes that stick.  I’m not confident I can actually keep my apartment clean for longer than a week.  I thought I could be that.  Most of me wants to be that.  I want to be the one who can post inspirational stories on Instagram or uplifting moments to my Facebook friends.

This relates to you because I never had the confidence to come see you.  I worried you’d think I was too fat or too childish or some other excuse for not going.  I went to Texas, no problem, but when it came to you, I limited myself.  I think I was too afraid you’d love the version of me you didn’t have to see, and the real thing was too much too awful.

You wrote goodbye in your last letter to me.  You never said goodbye, it was always “I’m going to go mail this now and then it’ll be your letter.”  Or something to that effect.

I don’t do well with goodbyes.  I miss you terribly.  I wish I could talk to you today, and tell you how wonderful you are.  I wish I could share chocolate cake with you.  Or spaghetti.  You liked spaghetti.

The world is too dim without you in it, Henry.

I love you.

A Letter to Henry

Dear Henry,

I suppose it’s only fair that I start this letter the same way I started all of the ones I wrote to you.  Those are currently sitting on the desk beside me as I type this.  Your brother sent them to me.  I didn’t want them thrown away.  I didn’t want the only evidence of my love for you destroyed.  I’ve thought about putting them in with the ones you sent me, as kind of a timeline of our correspondence, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to look through them except once.

You see, I read through two of the letters I sent you, and I was struck by the depth of love filling them.  I loved you very much.  I still do.  I’m planning on getting a tattoo of a Kerouac quote on my arm, just for you.  I don’t know how well that would go over for you, but you’ve been so integral in my life, so it’s only fitting to have a piece of you documented.

I try not to think about it all, honestly.  Because when I do I start to feel disloyal to my partner.  He’s a fantastic person, and he’s very understanding about the two of us.  The reason I feel disloyal sometimes is because of how much I forgot I love you.  Maybe the saying is true, that after someone’s gone you only remember the good bits.  But I’ve got to disagree with that statement because all of the bits with you were good.  Even when you were being a curmudgeon.

Your letters proved that you weren’t just a cranky person.  You suffered a lot.  The mental anguish you described in some of them, and the allusions to it, reminded me that you were so beautiful.  You were so very loved, and I wanted the world to see you for who I saw you as.  I wanted the members of our little forum to accept the man I saw behind the grumpy messages, the arguments.  I wanted the world to love you like I did.  And I still do.

Your birthday is coming up.  And I will celebrate it, along with a few other things, but mostly I’ll be celebrating you.  I’ve made a deal with my partner.  The morning is for you.  The rest of the day is for me and him.

I have so much I wanted to say to you.  I’ve been preparing myself for grad school.  I know you’d be proud of that.  I’ve been working on being happier, and I know you’d be pleased as punch about it.  I’ve been writing more, too.  Something you and I loved to talk about.  There is so much of your love for writing in our letters.  It made me smile when I read over them again.

Henry, the world is not the same without you.  Days differ on whether it’s too big or too small.  Today it’s just empty.  It’s empty because you’re dead and I didn’t get to tell you enough how much I love you and how cherished you are.

I miss you.  You are the moon, and the moon is a piece of me…

love, Carla

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I forget what it feels like to hold your hand,
and I wish I hadn’t let go.
I see your smile sometimes in my mother’s face
and I wish I saw more of it in yours.
Missing you is like stepping on mud,
but now my whole body’s stuck,
and I’m supposed to keep stepping forward.
I left my shoes behind a long time ago,
and I wish I hadn’t been scared to see you die.

——-

My grandmother passed away a week or so ago, and it’s been hard to figure out how to keep being the upbeat person people expect from me.  She had severe Dementia, to the point where she stopped talking and eating, and while it was terrifying to visit her, I feel like an absolute mong for using my fear as an excuse not to see her.

I hope you are all doing well, and if not, hang in there.  The world seems uneasy these days, and we’re not leaving much for the future generations to look on with pride, but believe in the good.  It is there.

Daydream

The job I want will be one where
I don’t look forward to a day off,
where I’m sad I have to go home
for the day, and delighted to wake
for in the morning.

The crumbly house I want will be one
where I can sit on the deck covered
in bug spray because the lake gets
infested with mosquitoes in summer.

The quiet I want will be one where
I can open my mouth in a yawn
only to hear it echo back to me.

The life I want will be one where
I’m not afraid of myself anymore,
and I’m not broken from poverty,
wondering will it ever be over.