Archive | dark

Tequila on Thursday Morning

Last Thursday, May 18th, I sat at my desk at 10 am and took two shots of tequila.*
One for Chris Cornell’s death.
And one for his life.

The life that came through that amazing voice.

::: ::: ::: :::

I haven’t said anything yet, because my grief is not over. Barely begun, honestly. The 3-day emotional cycle of social media is not enough for this death, for me.

Chris Cornell was someone I chose to listen to, a few years after the biggest rush of grunge. I bought Temple of the Dog as one of my 10 CD selections with BMG (only a penny, do you remember that?). It wasn’t a case of being caught up in the music of my generation, it felt more intentional than that. It was an adult purchase, inside of my budding adult sense of myself.

He was important because of his talent, because of his emotions and how much he loved Andrew Wood, because of how his beautiful voice conveyed all of it. But also, for me, because his voice and music fed the seeds of my self.

::: ::: ::: :::

Because I am from Seattle, I have a lot of friends back there, and with Chris Cornell being a son of that city, there were lots of memories.

A former roommate talked about taking a Chem class with Soundgarden’s bassist, Hiro Yamamoto at Western Washington University (my alma mater. I remember when he came back from class to tell us what had happened, how it had been discovered. Great story, not gonna tell you; it’s his business).

Another friend, who I knew had worked for the King County Coroner’s office (but didn’t put two and two together until she shared), talked about being part of the team that catalogued and packed up Layne Stayley’s remains when he was found in 2002 (15 years ago, my god). Another voice that can never be duplicated, lost to drugs. (“So many sharps,” my friend said, “so many.”)

And people who had served Chris Cornell around town. Or seen him in the early years. There was a comedy show in Seattle in the 1990s called “Almost Live” where Billy Nye got his start. Soundgarden was part of “The Lame List” piece once. (See also: ‘High Five-n’ White Guys’ and ‘Chihuly and Jones’ – INFJ’s have a terrible sense of humor.)

Who had not seen him in concert once or twelve times? When Lollapalooza was still a mud fest in what was the backwater of Enumclaw, WA. (For a joke we call it ‘Enum-scratch.’) I listened to each song as people posted their favorites and felt my own connections. I read some reports and some posts (this one is my favorite) about what his music meant. And I thought about why I had included him as one of the first members of the ‘Shiva’ board on Pinterest (which seems a ridiculous thing to say as a Gen-Xer: Pinterest). He embodied the full sense of masculinity to me. He was not afraid of himself. He had his demons, to be sure. But he explored so much of life, of himself- and made beauty from it. I deeply admire that.

I had last seen him when he came to Providence on his solo tour. He was on stage simply to have a good time with music. The kid who sat next to me was not born before 1996, and I took umbrage with his youth, but not with his taste in music. Chris Cornell as a god of both our youths. And there he was, taking requests, also denying requests, and just messing with music until it sounded good to him. He left the stage as a warped chord echoed so loud it hurt. It made your head buzz in the way you knew you would not be able to speak in a normal tone of voice until the next morning.

::: ::: ::: :::

But now, at 42 and with a master’s degree in mental health, one thing in particular stays with me: mid-life masculine depression. Yes, Chris Cornell dealt with depression and anxiety either due to or related to his drug use. But so many men deal with undiagnosed depression at this age. At the very least, it deadens them and kills their relationships, and sometimes their work.

I work with many women whose male partners suffer from depression (which has different symptoms than female depression). Male-specific symptoms of depression include physical ailments, anger, and reckless behavior. Men tend to turn their depression outwards, while women turn it inwards. And, especially for men, treating depression makes them feel inadequate. So they don’t treat it…and their relationships falter or they lose their job…and they feel inadequate so they don’t treat… You see where this goes.

There are a variety of reasons that depression happens in men. We all have inside of us the capacity to have every mental health disorder there is in the book. But the silence of it is what makes it so dangerous for men. As my friend, Jenifer said, “Suicide was stalking him (Chris Cornell) and we couldn’t help. How could we have known suicide was stalking him?” Only if he told us.

And the same is true for those around you. If you suspect you are (or your partner is) depressed, please seek help.There are lots of treatment options, many of which are not pharmaceutical (if that bothers you).

Male mid-life depression is a thing.
Male depression is a thing.
And you can have treatment and support.

The music of your life is deeply valuable to someone. Many more ‘someones’ than you suspect, probably. Your fans want you to live, just as we wish Chris Cornell could have.

::: ::: ::: :::

I think there is more to say about Chris Cornell’s death, but it’s not yet formed. I’ll share it when the time is right. And if you’re mourning- maybe it’s finally time for that trip to Seattle. Here’s my map. Visit ‘A Sound Garden,’ will ya?

Blessed be, Chris Cornell. Rest in peace.

 

*I’m not given to drinking much. I like a little wine sometimes, and some champagne on New Year’s Day. But Thursday morning I needed the burning gold of tequila running down my throat in the same way the hot tears ran down my cheeks.

 

 

0

The Sensuality of War.

I first wanted to write, “There is none.” and leave the post at that. But then I began to think about it.

There is a sensuality to war.

But it’s not what you think it is.

The sensuality of war is simply to be alive.
To be alive and attain anything approximating ‘normal’ again.

Let’s talk about the sensuality of war, since it seems to be so fresh in our national consciousness.

::: ::: ::: :::

First let me tell you about the smell of rotting flesh.

When you are at war, you will smell this.
Whether it is from an IED wound gone wrong or the leftovers of a nuclear bomb.

I have smelled rotting flesh. I worked in a nursing home through college.
Bed wounds and surgeries that don’t heal.
And the flesh rots, even when there’s been good care.

And once you smell rotting flesh, you will feel so grateful for the smell of nothing.
For the smell of air.
Strangely, even the smell of an outhouse full of shit is an improvement over rotting flesh.

To be alive and smell nothing- that is the sensuality of war.

::: ::: ::: :::

The sensuality of war is a good nights rest and the miracle of how that feels.

The memories, the sounds with no pictures, the triggers- they come with war.
And to be free of them is the most sensual thing in the world.
Ask a veteran with PTSD.

To sleep well and deeply is the sensuality of war.

 

[I do not know the artist who took this picture. If you know, please
inform me so I can offer the correct attributions. ]

 

The sensuality of war is holding a human being you love and feeling their warmth.

There is no end of cold inside war.
The cold of the physical body.
The cold of MREs.
The cold of distance.
The way the heart must numb itself to make it through.

And then, to hold someone you love, who loves you, that is the most alive thing.
Whether it is spouse or comrade or animal.
The feeling of ‘normal’ inside someone’s arms; that is the sensuality of war.

::: ::: ::: :::

The sensuality of war is to sit in a chair, in a normal place- a house, a restaurant- and feel calm.

To not remember the nights you slept against cold armor.
To not worry there is someone behind you (to not hear or imagine them there).

To feel your body settle and relax and know it can remain that way for some period.
To laugh inside that chair.

Breathing in a relaxed rhythm is the sensuality of war.

::: ::: ::: :::

War is awful and ugly and should be avoided at all costs. Always. In this day and age we have more than enough tools to keep ourselves from war.

I understand the allure of it all. I have been in emotional wars where my victory was certain – and that felt so delicious. Power is delicious.

But the power of war is the Buddhists hungry ghost; it has a never-ending stomach. It can never be filled- until the last opponent is dead. And then what is left? Nothing but the stench of rotting flesh.

War is sensual- it can make us feel very alive. But I think it is a backward kind of sensuality- where we dig ourselves into a hole and only feel alive again when we claw our way back to baseline. Maybe that’s the point of war- to remind ourselves how wretched the hole is, how good ‘baseline’ can feel. But we all know: war is almost never worth it.

Perhaps instead of enduring the sensuality of war, we could try something new: to practice the maturity of staying at baseline and loving it exactly as it is, not as something ‘better’ in contrast to a disaster.

 

 

0

On grief.

A few months back, I was asked to help a friend create a ceremony to bring her grief ‘home.’ (For those of you who know her, I received permission to share her story.) Her mother had passed in the last few weeks, but in a different part of the country. Her life was here now, in Rhode Island, and she needed a way to bring that grief home, she told me.

I have performed very few memorial services. Usually when someone dies, we seek the familiar, so the old church, whatever it may be, is where we turn. But this was not a memorial service, per se. It was not a way to remember a person, or commune in shared grief, or to connect as a tool to banish grief, but a way to bring grief home, to live with it- to bring it to those who love my friend, so that they could know her better and support her. And that is such a different perspective than most of us take on grief.

Grief is a tricky thing. We have those models, the Stages of Grief, but very few things work as the model suggests, most definitely grief (and if you’ve ever had an amazing design idea at IKEA and tried to make it work at home, you know of what I speak). Grief is a lonely walk, so often, because we see the person, the life, the choices, so differently from anyone else. And this doesn’t only apply to the death of people- it is equally true for the death of relationships, jobs, the ways we see ourselves. Grief, in a counterintuitive way, sprouts anew each time, different flowers from the same root.

For me, grief has been best described by symbols.

There is the initial grief that is like an Egyptian pyramid. A sacred, dark place, vast. It is beautiful- full of gold, memories, resources, things we can actually touch and see and smell. Even when it is cold, the darkness of the passageways of grief has a weight that I welcome. I have walked in the tunnels, admiring all of it, touching the walls, running the fabric of memory through my fingers, even as I knew that it was dead. The warmth of the gold was only because I stood near it, only because my fire gave it light. All of it was dead, even if it was so beautiful that I would be happy to live there forever on some days.

When I think of grief I am reminded that it is not just for dead things that we grieve. It is for what is lost- even if that job, that person, that idea lives on. The connection is lost or radically changed and we grieve for that. Sometimes we cannot let go, even though we know we must. The spiritual practice of grief is opening our grip, by tiny degrees, until our hand is free to move again. We cry and rage and gnash, but eventually, we must let go, or we will die, too. (But also, take your time. That’s the only way to do it.)

As I have accepted the death of things, the way they would never return to ‘normal,’ grief has been a garden of the dead, dead flowers and trellis’ and sculpted hedgerows. Some days the wind blows cold, and others the sun shines. But everything is obviously dead here. And I walk along, letting my hand touch the fragile leaves, watching the memories waft away in the wind, pieces crumbling simply with my walking by them. Here are all my delights and aliveness and growth, returning to the Earth. It is falling apart, and I can do nothing about it, because should I plant again, it will never grow the same. I surrender and accept.

All along the path, grief has been a whack-a-mole. So often I would jump up and try to whack it back into something (whack it ‘away,’ whack it into a particular shape, whack it just to whack it). But then, I slump beside the machine and refuse to play. Let grief do what it will, I will wait for the time to run out, and then decide what do to next.

I have wondered if The Stages of Grief are something that happens inside each of these places. Inside the beautiful pyramid of memory and desire, we bounce between denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Inside the dead garden, we do the same. Perhaps the whack-a-mole is simply these five things repeating themselves until our lessons are learned.

 

 

There is no answer, of course, because grief is a similar::unique path for each person, each time they encounter it.

Grief is one of the most difficult human emotions, I think. It is so painful. It involves so much of us- not just body, mind, spirit as we are now, but all of those things and the depths of our history to the present moment as well. Grief cleans us out.

Perhaps that is the best metaphor, grief cleans us out. There are several rooms in the house of my heart that have been invaded by grief (and sometimes I have welcomed it, but not usually). And it is only through the process of grief that I have had to clean out those rooms. But by cleaning them out, leaving what’s most important (memories, lessons, boundaries), have I been able to move on, to leave the space and energy for new things to come along- sometimes new things in the same room, sometimes new rooms all together.

Grief changes us. That is really all I can say. And that to engage with it is an act of bravery. To bring our grief home is one of the deepest forms of courage of the heart.

 

 

0

Still…

Well, hello stranger. I missed the solar eclipse and new moon in Pisces on Feb 26th. Quick recap: chaotic energy. But today I finished my work so I’m giving myself the gift of a quick post here. I’ve got so many things rattling in my head right now…I will write them to you eventually.

::: ::: ::: :::

Still by Alanis Morissette

I am the harm that you inflict
I am your brilliance and frustration
I’m the nuclear bombs if they ‘re to hit
I am your immaturity and your indignance

I am your misfits and your praises
I am your doubt and your conviction
I am your charity and your rape
I am your grasping and expectation

I see you averting your glances
I see you cheering on the war
I see you ignoring your children

And I love you still
And I love you still

I am your joy and your regret
I am your fury and your elation
I am your yearning and your sweat
I am your faithless and your religion

I see you altering history
I see you abusing the land
I see you and your selective amnesia

And I love you still
And I love you still

I am your tragedy and your fortune
I am your crisis and delight
I am your profits and your prophets
I am your art I am your bytes

I am your death and your decisions
I am your passion and your plights
I am your sickness and convalescence
I am your weapons and your light

I see you holding your grudges
I see you gunning them down
I see you silencing your sisters

And I love you still
And I love you still

I see you lie to your country
I see you forcing them out
I see you blaming each other

And I love you still
And I love you still

::: ::: ::: :::

I was on the bike last weekend and my iPod oracle decided to play this. I hadn’t heard it in a year or more and I played it three times through. It reminded me of many things, but mostly the profound nature of love- it’s breadth and depth.

Love. I’m learning a lot about love right now. My beloved and I celebrated the 21st anniversary of our first date in early March. It was very cool to think about how strong and lucky we are to have had so many good years together.

We’ve loved each other in many different ways.

We love amidst the hurt we cause each other, we love amidst the healing. We love in the parts of ourselves it takes patience (perhaps years of patience) to show each other. We love in the spontaneous connections of joy when thing are easy. There is a reason we have had three marriages in our 21 years together- love.

In other places, I am learning about love that is unpleasant, tough, defiant, strong like a boot kicking your ass. There is patience here, too. I am learning to love and respect myself more each day. Learning to dig out the less-than-loving parts of myself as I confront more of my own racism and sexism (got called out about rape culture- felt like an asshole. Lived through it, learned, and won’t repeat the mistake again!).

This song reminded me of what love is. So many things I cannot even describe or comprehend. So many things that are unexpected or beyond my understanding. Love surrounds the demons of life, too.

I’ve nothing more to say or share at the moment (quick post, I said!). It’s just what I’ve been pondering lately on the long walk home.

Big love, fellow travelers,
Joanna :: xoxo

 

0

Twenty Years of Sex With The Same Person

[and if that thought terrifies you as it relates to the person you’re with, you need to find a new person.]

Today is about half way between the night my husband and I got engaged and the night we had our first date. This year will be our 20th year married and our 21st year together. We’re better than we’ve ever been and I find myself in gratitude for him every day lately. We ain’t perfect, but we’re really, really good. And this is to say: so is the sex.

And the sex is good because the respect is good. And the sex is deep because the trust is deep. And the sex is delicious because the communication is delicious. Twenty years and we are getting better and better at this.

This is my gift to him, between these days marking the highlights of our love.

Twenty Years of Sex With The Same Person

We met in our 20s, but sometimes
we double back to younger times-
I wore my high school sweatshirt
you had to pinch my nipples hard
through the cotton
we fucked like 18 year-olds
because we could
to fulfill the fantasy of us-
wishing we’d had
this
back then.

 

Other nights, we remember 35,
Bone-deep fatigue
and yet so desperate for skin + connection
like when the babies were small.
Our love-making habitual
our bodies so well known to one another
producing the needed orgasm
and the dreamless sleep of a thousand years
together.

 

This very moment we are mid-lifers
new worlds happen because
we communicate, fantasize, and explore
my orgasm an icicle blue mandala
the portocorano tinkling between my breasts
something new, even at this age
I come best with my mouth full.

 

I imagine what comes next-
30, 40 years together
The books and my crones tell me
Other hills and valleys to traverse
with these bodies
this love
We will find a place on the hill
in the sun
and tease each other
the warmth of the hours heating us
and the waves of love and lust
crashing again
like they always have.
Older, wiser, no less sexy.

 

Growing and wild in this vine of love.
All our years together.
All our years to come.

 

::: ::: ::: :::

Perhaps because of this mid-point in my personal love history, perhaps because Valentine’s Day is nearing, I keep thinking of engagements. V-day is one of the top days for engagements. I wonder if some men who propose that day are secretly thinking, “If I do it on Valentine’s Day I’m gonna get sex and a blow job every year because I can remember what day we got engaged. Har har har…” (Yes, I am going to diss a dude for thinking that.) Women may think it’s romantic until you realize that’s probably why he picked the day.

If you’re thinking of getting engaged on V-day- pick any other day. Literally any other day. Pick the day before, tell her you couldn’t wait. Pick the day after, tell her you were just so full of love you couldn’t contain it one day. Be creative. Connect it to something special between the two of you. (Plus, it’s my birthday, you want that hanging over the day? ha ha ha) Because, when you’re in love with someone, really in love, you want to celebrate them and lift them up on special days. You don’t look for excuses to not celebrate them or double up on your ‘show them you love them’ duty.

Maybe that’s why this all comes to mind now. There have been difficulties in my marriage, big ones. But our love has never been a chore. We have been dedicated to its growth, but never bored with its duties. I hope you find a love that grows deep, that fucks well, that lets you become your full self. Because that is what love does.
 
 

0