Grief is the Odyssey of spiritual journeys. Tragic, messy, exhausting, violent.
And in the end, alone.
Grief is the Odyssey of spiritual journeys. Tragic, messy, exhausting, violent.
And in the end, alone.
Saturday will mark two years since my husband died. Two years since I went singing into our guest room, where he’d slept because he was sick and didn’t want to wake me or risk my health. He thought it was the flu, but in 37 years, he had never been sick for more than 24 hours, so after day two, I’d made an appointment for him to see his doctor, on what turned out to be the day he died.
I was laughing at us both, thinking we’d overslept, and saying “wake up, sleepyhead-somebody’s got to let the chickens out!
And I danced into the room singing “Wake Up Little Susie,” amazed that we’d both slept late, and expecting to see his grumpy, pre-caffeinated morning face, with that begrudging smile he’d first muster for my benefit, but which became real when I kissed him and made him laugh.
I won’t go into the horrid details of that discovery and morning- the shock that’s lasted nearly two years and the PTSD I still struggle with. What I do want to say is that although I can as yet see no future for myself, it has been my personal Beloved Community who have consistently done that for me. They have held me, and listened to me- crying, wailing, confused, furious, hopeless, “bereft, bothered, and bewildered.” They sat with me and helped sort through his things. They worked hard and helped me pack up thirty seven years of our lives together, even the things they knew were ridiculous and I’d dispose of later. They’ve walked me through basic things I could no longer figure out, and they’ve been always kind and given me the shoves I’ve needed at just the right times. They’ve kept me alive and held the space I might someday walk into, where Life resides and maybe flourishes.
Some wise person once said to me that when you can’t see your future or how you’ll make it, that’s when you’re creating something new, not just moving the pieces around.
I know that is true, but honestly? Right now I don’t care, I don’t wanna! And I know I’m sort of holding myself in an emotional hostage situation, but I want to just do enough to feel less pain. I kinda hate the thought of “life going on,” y’know?
I have a lovely next door neighbor, who’s happily married to his second wife. His first wife died, and he recently told me that she was diagnosed only a few months after they married: can you imagine?!?
Anyhow, he shared his story of grief and “nothingness” before he met his current, beautiful wife. And he also shared that every once in a while, something will trigger that sense of loss and pain, despite his happiness and general contentment.
I was both touched and relieved when he told me that. To know that it’s possible to regain joy and still grieve the beloved lost. That love grows around the grief.
My loved ones-kin and kith- are like the gold used in Kintsugi, helping me to find my scattered, broken pieces, and believing that I will again be a whole, yet different and beautiful self. In unexpected ways and levels, community is Life.
I just received an email from a newsletter I’ve been reading for years, announcing a change in their domain name and asking to be “whitelisted.”
Now, I don’t know where you come from, but that sounds like some straight up KKK/white supremacist ish to me. As does “blacklisting/blackballing/blackmail/blackguard” and all the other terms employed to situate whiteness as good and blackness as bad.
And no, this isn’t a new thought. I’ve interrogated racism in language since at least the 1970s, which is exactly my point: how are people still using these words without a thought? Even with the limitations of English, there are alternatives. However, rooting out the inherent racism behind the words requires a fundamental reckoning with the culture and the societies on which they stand. And there’s the rub: people talk a good game, but true decolonization calls into question every structure and belief that we have, starting with the fabrication that folks really want equality and justice for all. Think about it and what that really means.
It’s the reality of revolution, not merely transient reform.
Good day, and thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
Full day without WiFi l/access to work or a talk I was actually looking forward to. Out since about 4 AM except for about 20 minutes this morning. At least three blocks in the area were out. (Interestingly, only those with the newest, routerless tech)
But ya know what? I still had every other amenity and driveable roads, unlike millions of US citizens in Puerto Rico, where people have never recovered from Hurricane Maria, that killed 3,000. (That’s more than perished at the World Trade Center on 9/11, and almost all preventable if the US exploited even a bit less and invested in infrastructure for the local citizens as it does for an economic system that rewards only a select few.) Americans are again being forced to live without electricity or safe water following the recent hurricane Fiona.
So why weren’t all patriots up in arms about the mistreatment and lack of support for other US citizens? Why must we send aid to Kansas, Mississippi or California for their natural (also measurably preventable) recurring disasters? And why are “disaster/vulture” capitalists and neoliberal governments openly allowing these, and other areas of the USA to be destroyed while locals are impoverished, removed and replaced with wealthier gentrifiers/neocolonialists?
This is happening across the US as prices for necessities soar, wages stagnate, and greedy corporations enjoy increasingly higher profits.
Yet the death and related “news” about a colonizing monarch of a country the US fought to get away from was the only news that media and many others cared about or reported. That’s some serious cognitive dissonance and denial of your actual relationship to Power, folks. And some serious manipulations by corporate media, mimicking the fall of the Roman Empire. (Look it up/read a book without pictures. Here’s a simple intro:
“The best known is “panem et circenses” which translates to “bread and circus games”. The brutal and often very bloody fights in the arenas were basically free and so was the daily bread allotment. Since the Coliseum in Rome (known also as “Amphitheatrum Novum” or “Amphitheatrum Flavium”) had a limited number of seats the admission tickets were drawn by lot. A citizen of Rome could hope, at least once a year to win a ticket.
Another example is the Circus Maximus where chariot-races were held. These events were also free of charge to the citizens since all costs were carried by the state.” Quara
Meanwhile, our distractions aren’t even free! You pay for your own distractions and ignore the downward spiral, thinking that buying more products to arm yourselves and fortress your mortgaged houses against your neighbors is the answer. 🤦🏽♀️ 🤷🏽♀️🤦🏽♀️
Anyhow…thus endith the lesson. Don’t mind me…
Below are a coupla organizations that are helping. Do what it’s government hasn’t and help your neighbors out of a jam. Thanks.
Friends, you know that I usually make a fuss over my birthday, but this has been a personally challenging time and yesterday topped it off. We’re in a nightmare where a bunch of greedy, heartless two-leggeds want to force women to have children but won’t regulate the formula companies or spend the money to feed the children women are forced to bear. They know that the majority of these under nourished, possibly unloved kids will be poor and more likely to be incarcerated, often for the same crimes that their jailer’s own children and grandchildren commit but for which they will never be punished. And the rotten cherry on top of this putrid cake is that these immoral and cruel meat suits also adjudicated that death row prisoners could no longer use exculpatory evidence to free themselves when wrongly imprisoned.
So it boils down to the willful and fully conscious control, virtual enslavement, and persecution of women, people of the global majority, and the poor.
My birthday wish is that you actively fight against this in every way that you can. Give money, take to the streets (masked, of course), write letters and put your various amazing talents to good use. Organize, Agitate, and Change the World because a better one is waiting to be born. And it must be born, “by any means necessary.” We cannot wait!
Today marks nine months since my husband died and ends the week when things shifted for me. The last bits of magical thinking died somewhere around Wednesday, a day that has often marked changes in my life, although generally more benign, like getting a new job. It is Oya’s day- the Orisha of Change and the Guardian of the Cemetery Gate. It is she who admits the dead and has the power to deny entry. She’s the warrior who rides before Chango in the form of the whirlwind, the harbinger of his oncoming storm.
I am not one of her children, but my appreciation of that deity goes beyond the general respect I have for ancestral beliefs. I guess you could say that I get her, and like my childhood love for Athena, she is the archetypical embodiment of qualities to which I have aspired. This week my emotions made such a radical shift that I could not help but think of her, despite the inactivity of my beliefs.
For nine months some part of me hadn’t really believed that my husband was dead. It was unacceptable and just impossible. I looked for signs and portents. I prayed that his soul might enter an otherwise healthy but prematurely dying body, like in the old movie, “Here Comes Mr. Jordan”, or the more recent “Soul.” His death was an intolerable mistake and I expected the correction every pain-filled day.
Years ago, I had an ugly dream that Ray had won the lottery and when I came home from work, he was waiting for me in a big limo, on his way out of town. He handed me his keys and said that he’d paid the rent for the year. It was November.
When I woke up, I was angry at him, with that residue from lucid dreams that sometimes floods the borders between our waking and dreaming worlds. He of course laughed, held me, and was a bit hurt that I held even the slightest doubt about his complete loyalty and devotion to me, and over the years it became a bit of a family joke, and I’d always end the laughing by saying, “Uh huh- I’m keeping my eye on you, brother!” It was particularly funny to everyone because most of our friends had never seen a man as devoted as my husband was to me. Yes, he could be incredibly stubborn, obtuse, and frustrating, as in any marriage. But he was “as constant as the Northern Star” to quote Joni Mitchell. Adultery was an intolerable sin to him and one of the few things for which he would cut off a friendship. It was not in his playbook. He understood the boundaries of mild flirtation and never went anywhere close to its edge. He didn’t hang out on his own or with “the boys.” Once married, he was completely faithful, so my residual anger over a few days after the dream befuddled and amused him.
I tell that story because this week I understood that he was not coming back. I know that because I know that my husband would never willingly leave me and if there was any consciousness beyond the grave, any way that he could return to me or fetch me, he would have done it. There is nothing that would stop him. He prided himself as a Marine to never leave a comrade behind, and his love for me more than doubled that emotion. He would sometimes say to me, “You go, we go” and he meant that most sincerely. So for whatever reason(s), this week something shifted in me and I knew that he was indeed gone. It is real.
I won’t bore you with the aftermath of such a shift, I’m still processing and so far there’s nothing beautiful or redemptive in it. But I will leave you with something by Carl Sagan’s widow that showed up on my Facebook feed on Thursday and felt affirming:
I think most of us have done it, because the parallels are obvious, but it’s time we all stop comparing what’s going on in the USA with the Taliban.
These are home grown, mostly white male Christians, Not Muslims, not “the Other,” not the dark bogeymen invoked by the shadowy fears of your own cruel history.
Call them the specific misogynist, power hungry, mean spirited, detestable villains that they are. Name them without mystifying them, without distractions or by using a different set of misogynists (who aren’t actually endangering us here) as shields or deflectors.
Own them as an ever present part of American society and a perversion of absolutely everything that Jesus taught or required of His followers, much less of anything that even vaguely resembles democracy.
There’s no new ugliness in this country. The racism, narcissism, misogyny, cruelty, disrespect for the Earth and all creation: that’s yours, America. You brought it with you and you cling to it and revive it regularly. You raise your children with these beliefs and you find ways to profit from them, and then you use your profits to do exactly what you condemn in, and project onto others.
Own it, call it by its true true name, (Dorothee Sölle’s “Christofascists”works very well) and never again insult our intelligence and reality with your denials.
Or do that most difficult thing: Change.
He who does not oppose evil, commands it to be done (Leonardo Da Vinci)
As my heart alternately breaks and inflames with rage, I find myself anxiously begging our representatives to hurry to rescue the US citizens of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. To do what all we can for the VICTIMS of ravaging storms, in and around the Caribbean. This is what my heart is screaming.
But then my knowledge of history and the current political climate and economic priorities kicks in and I know that the point is not to “save” Puerto Rico, it’s to let as many die or give up as possible. The point is for the capitalist vultures to finish what they’ve been doing: wresting complete control over the land and all resources, including the remaining workforce. The point is to let 45’s friends and their ilk denigrate the people for being poor after taking away their ability to thrive at home. For a man who declared bankruptcy multiple times to dare to disparage victims of colonialism and hurricanes while allowing, no, encouraging his disaster capitalist buddies to steal all they can.
The pattern can also be seen in the current attempts to disenfranchise the stricken people of Barbuda by the government of Antigua, whose members have vested interests in development that will do little to profit the people of Barbuda, but will certainly take away their inherited rights to the land they hold in trust.
If these uber/hyper capitalists have their way, you won’t be able to subsist on your own land, grow your own food, use solar, fish, or pluck an avocado from a tree. Remember the 2020 Plan to eliminate agriculture in Puerto Rico? Then also remember that, as a Barbudan elder often said to me, “A people who cannot feed themselves are bound to become slaves.”
Look around the US as unions are decimated, water is polluted and your rights to it are handed over to those who pollute and sell it back to you. Look at the outlawing of your right to collect rainwater or go off grid in states like Florida. Look at the destruction of a once internationally envied, free education system. Look at the ways in which you’re stimulated to buy what you don’t need but are dissuaded from being active participants in your own governance. Look at the millions who are a paycheck away from devastating medical debt, the millions of Americans imprisoned, often because they can’t afford bail or good representation.
Look around and know that you are all being colonized and enslaved. You are Puerto Rico on a three second delay. Wake Up and ACT.