Music I’m into right now: James Blake
I’ve been down to the open road
I’ll wait for you, you know
And we both end up alone
And if only we could have known
(I was effin low.)
A friend recently contacted me and asked me to send along any suggestions for books/collections to read. They let me know that they often enjoy the different things I post up on Facebook and wondered if I might have some suggestions - anything to make them smile.
Now, this truly warmed my heart. Obviously we are all floating around on things like Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Instagram and Google+ (I know, I know, no one is on Google+). In any case, we are floating around, sharing articles and quotes and music and photos and not really ever sure who is connecting in and enjoying any of it. To me, the ultimate reason to even have all of these ways to connect is to actually make good on that connection; to have an impact on someone else in a way that positively improves their day - even if it is just for a few minutes.
With that said, I also reflected on the fact that in the last year or so, I have watched many of the people I love most struggle with extreme loss. And I mean really fucking horrible loss. Like, you’re on the ground and you can’t get up loss. Knock you in the chest and take your breath away forever loss. Crawl into bed and sleep for a month loss. And for many of these people, I see the losses only adding up. And I also see very clearly that we really do need something to smile about.
In most cases, it is some version of losing a person they love, whether it is to death or divorce or distance. Let’s call them the 3 D’s of Loneliness. I have watched many of these challenging losses impact the world of people around me… and they haven’t exactly left me alone either. While the level of loss people are continuously experiencing also continues to floor me, I can’t help but marvel at our overwhelming capacity to keep getting up and confronting our days with our heads held high. Although, let’s be honest, we know there are definitely days that crying in the shower is our way of confronting the day, but that’s okay too.
My theory is that we continue to charge forward, face first, despite morning shower tears, because we often have this incredible network of people behind us who are willing to prioritize us when we’re falling down. Aside from their selfless love, these are the same people we share things with and connect with. We have the ability to pass a song along and say, “I know you will love this and feel it in your bones in the way that I am feeling it in my bones.” To pass along a book and say, “This helps me rearrange my head or my heart when I’m feeling lost and confused. I hope it helps you too.” These soft, empathetic, and loving touches with one another are often all we have in the face of supreme loss, a constant give and take that allows us to express ourselves to one another and support one another through words, music, and photos. This sharing process is the currency of connection. And in the face of that supreme loss, I see every day examples of the human capacity to keep on loving and giving and holding each other up. It gets me every damn time.
Of course, with loss comes great fear. It is next to impossible to endure losing someone you hold so dearly, have that process happen over and over again, in a variety of ways, and not walk away with just one thought: I’m never letting this happen again. That fear of pain and fear of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to loss can make us hesitant and bind us more strongly to a desire for distance and disconnect rather than a desire for closeness and connection. We can be torn between the head’s need to protect ourselves and the heart’s need to continue to love. In those moments of conflict, I am now convinced the only thing to walk you through the fear is the network of people who won’t give up on you, even if you freeze up, even when you are that little deer in the head lights. Sometimes patience and hand holding is very, very necessary.
So, on this rainy day, I am grateful for the love that abounds in my life, the people who hold me up and keep me moving when I freeze. In the name of sharing and connecting, I also give you five of my favorite things lately that make the face of loss seem a little more bearable:
1. Jonathan Safran Foer: There are many who feel his books are overly sentimental, possibly even corny. To those people, I think you are dead wrong. Whenever my heart is in a funk, reading Everything is Illuminated or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close always seems to set me right. I am reminded again of the human capacity for love and loss, and the importance of always keeping ourselves open to possibility. It is often a necessary reminder for days that are full of fear. I have possibly reread each of these books a hundred times and keep giving away my copies of them.
2. The Head and the Heart: Considering this band actually has a line in one of their songs that goes “don’t follow your head, follow your heart,” the reason they are on this list should be obvious. For those who are unfamiliar with this band, I give you: Rivers and Roads (for the times you are missing the one you love, missing home, anyone that is far away); Honey Come Home (for those of us getting divorced… which is basically everyone I know); Shake (for when you finally find someone to love again, even if it’s a mistake; someone that makes you shake).
3. Poetry: Yeah, I’m a total sucker for poetry. Frank O’Hara. Sylvia Plath. Anne Sexton. Sharon Olds. Walt Whitman. Audre Lorde. Writing your own poems is also cathartic, even when they are terrible little creations. Writing is this free form way of digging open all the caverns and getting out all the demons. Not always fun, but often necessary.
4. Music in General: Aside from The Head and the Heart specifically, music has been a life line lately. This has included: The National, St. Vincent, Volcano Choir, Arcade Fire, The Weeknd, Bon Iver, The Avett Brothers, Phosphorescent, and about a zillion other bands.
5. The Beach: Sand may be overrated (it’s just tiny little rocks), but the beach as a whole just isn’t. Seriously people, when your brain is foggy, go to the beach. I went recently with one of my friends and she put it perfectly. She said, the beach always reminds her of just how vast this world is. I agree. Remembering that the world is huge and full of possibility is always a reassuring reminder. The beach is a place that is lovely to visit alone or nice to visit with one of those people in your network who loves the hell out of you.
And so, my question to the world out there, what makes loss bearable for you?
They told me to finish it
and to stand up tall
and straight and be proud.
So I pulled other’s words
into my sentences and found
bellowed, crowded space inside
and along all the lines I had set
aside for you.
I found my own voice once,
years ago, standing on a beach
with my grandmother by my side.
She touched a hand to
my shoulder and with single-minded,
channeled energy, she reminded me of
exactly what I am and
what I need.
You’re leaving, aren’t you?
His voice spells relief. I cannot
be sure how to respond,
because I will never really walk
away, but I’ve also been thinking
about freedom and the how to of
escaping the emptied life he has
left me with.
How can one walk away with
no voice to speak of and
legs that are locked in place,
heavy and weighted with fear?
For the time has come to start
anew and my eyes are hardly open,
but I’m keeping my hands held out,
held out, held out.
Sifting through the hazy
smoke blaring all through
the house there were
broken bells laid bare
on the tile floors. And
all the music that had
been shared until this
point was a shuffling
love affair, sheltering
broken hearts that
never knew the sound
of bells or of snowfall
or of whispered nothings
in the hot heat of night.
Someone tossed forward
a blatant sigh, a lightly
trilled caress that bound
nothing or also bound
everything. And this quieted
the little tones that led
us on. And so the
music came and went
and the haze built up
along the walls, pushing
out through the cracks in the
windows. Every smoke alarm failing
to sound among the burning.
There were those who tried
best to mend the shambled chaos.
But there we stood in
the midst of a mess of
all that we were blessed:
cradling and falling and
never trying quite hard
enough to succeed
There was a found shape
to this and that shape was
a rounded room that filled
the space across your face.
All of it was assembled the way
a potter works hands across clay
and there were too many pieces
to fit along the face spaces.
The sparkling water splashed
hard and heavy all day and
missed the sunglasses that fished
across your open palms.
And the bar struck out a merry laugh,
a loud and raucous game
that fit into our frame and
saluted our flames. Soon
the birds were hula hooping
into the dawn. Other fingers strayed
across mandolins while mine found the
slight of your chin and at night I
found myself weeping into the twilight
when all was silent.
how a glowing sun makes
its way across the sky
and disappears once
And unreasonable as
flecks of mica that
speckle half across
the shore line, gems, all
the spiders crawling
into my ceiling tiles,
skirting away from
And unreasonable as
making dinner in a kitchen
alone, while other helping hands
only show later to do
forgetting words to your favorite song,
humming along instead and looking
back only to lose your face in
And unreasonable as
your tender face to begin with.
And the lingering dust that
settles slowly across the
I never learned the constellations
So I made a pact with myself to tenderly study the stars.
I will learn each one, one at a time
And mark the ones I learn along my skin once or twice (until I get it right).
So I have spent weeks staring up at the sky
Though all the stars move each day, forming new patterns in my eyes.
In time the constellations are lost in my mind
I change my tactics; start drawing new constellations along your back.
I trace along your freckles midst newly woven patterns
And for every tracing I drum along you once or twice (until I get it right).
I am found past the point where stars can sate my longing
For even the free or the unfurled night dreamers have spoken limits.
You lean down and light the fire to warm the room
While I curl up along the bed to watch you finish the rest (to rest).
On this day constellations lose their interest, blue eyes find their loam
I am catapulted into tomorrow’s evenings.
Cast away like an old sky scraper that knows no love and no home.
I have been reading like mad lately and am in a Frank O’Hara phase. Loving this, among many of his other poems. Tempted to write my own lines for fortune cookies.
I think you’re wonderful and so does everyone else.
Just as Jackie Kennedy has a baby boy, so will you—even bigger.
You will meet a tall beautiful blonde stranger, and you will not say hello.
You will take a long trip and you will be very happy, though alone.
You will marry the first person who tells you your eyes are like scrambled eggs.
In the beginning there was YOU—there will always be YOU, I guess.
You will write a great play and it will run for three performances.
Please phone The Village Voice immediately: they want to interview you.
Roger L. Stevens and Kermit Bloomgarden have their eyes on you.
Relax a little; one of your most celebrated nervous tics will be your undoing.
Your first volume of poetry will be published as soon as you finish it.
You may be a hit uptown, but downtown you’re legendary!
Your walk has a musical quality which will bring you fame and fortune.
You will eat cake.
Who do you think you are, anyway? Jo Van Fleet?
You think your life is like Pirandello, but it’s really like O’Neill.
A few dance lessons with James Waring and who knows? Maybe something will happen.
That’s not a run in your stocking, it’s a hand on your leg.
I realize you’ve lived in France, but that doesn’t mean you know EVERYTHING!
You should wear white more often—it becomes you.
The next person to speak to you will have a very intriguing proposal to make.
A lot of people in this room wish they were you.
Have you been to Mike Goldberg’s show? Al Leslie’s? Lee Krasner’s?
At times, your disinterestedness may seem insincere, to strangers.
Now that the election’s over, what are you going to do with yourself?
You are a prisoner in a croissant factory and you love it.
You eat meat. Why do you eat meat?
Beyond the horizon there is a vale of gloom.
You too could be Premier of France, if only … if only…
I am certainly not the most consistent blogger, the most upbeat one, or the most fascinating. Instead, I am okay with being inconsistent, a little moody, and sometimes boring. I haven’t written anything in awhile; this one’s for you, Ginger.
I have slowly forgotten the particulars of
the last time I saw you. I remember the
trees and the way they were twisted up
into the blue skies and the way the sunset
the night before felt like fire.
I have slowly forgotten the way that you
smell and your touch. I remember the
way you stood in the yellowed kitchen
standing small and petite over sauce
simmering away steady on the stove.
I have slowly forgotten the sound of
your voice. I need to remind myself by
playing a two year old message you left one
day. You’re telling me how it is cold at home
and that I must be out gallivanting.
I have slowly forgotten the feel of
walking away. I just remember walking
into a cold room and you looked just
like you had fallen asleep to late night
I have slowly forgotten the way it
broke everything. I remember that
phone call, pulling off the road,
and screaming at my father to tell
me he was lying.
I have slowly forgotten what it was like
to write you postcards and sign with X’s and O’s.
But I remember the last love letter
I ever passed along and it was sung
by your side as I kissed you goodbye.
Because it fit the weekend quite well, and I’ve long forgotten that writing is something I love to do. Reminder: write more, and often.
Because here is
my basic essence and my
rooting into the earth. I am a sweet
faced baby doll licking down an iced
coffee and crooning along to the radio
at the beach, with the wicked hot
sun raining down on my
Nicole and Emily make
sand angels and at the end
of it all we are showering sand
out from all our cervices, and
somehow we have so many more
than we did when we were
Clams hot suckle themselves
over the grill and godpapa tends
the shellfish and godmama tends
the butter and everyone finds
the aloe or sucks the
salt from the ends of their
Because I always come back
to this, or here, or the place
I came to be and I am
the sweet, hot wind tearing
through the dunes or I am
tiny piping plover, picking
space for my
But I am not dissolved into dust,
I am still the ticking bird
crooning for the night and
swooning for the day. Hot lit
under my feathers with
a thirst for sunburst thunder.
Clinging to my breezes
like a sweet baby looking for
the milk fix.