Tag: grief (page 1 of 2)

500 Words on Happiness

HOLY SHIT IT’S A NEW BLOG POST

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much time I’ve lost, or has been stolen from me, because I’ve been unhappy. Unhappily married, unhappily employed, unhappily living. As human beings, nobody would choose to be unhappy, save for the willfully masochistic, and I’m not one of them. I neither wish to glorify nor romanticize ‘the struggle’. I’d rather not struggle at all just to be happy for more than a couple of hours at a time.

I know that a bulk of my unhappiness is not my fault. There’s trauma in my past that has undeniable influence on my bipolar disorder. The grief I carry is fairly substantial, and with that comes a generous helping of survivor’s guilt. These things raise barriers, between me and happiness, between me and others. They alter my perceptions, deprive me of balance, and prevent me from focusing on happiness. They squat in the back of my mind, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. And I have to work to wrangle them, every single day.

Even when they don’t overwhelm me, fighting back against the tide of negativity takes focus and energy. It’s an expenditure of spell slots, to put it in D&D terms. And those are fewer spell slots I have for writing, for looking ahead, for just enjoying life and the good things and people I have in mine. Again, this isn’t anyone’s fault. I refuse to make it anyone else’s fault or responsibility. Because these damaged processes and erroneous perceptions are entirely internal, they’re mine to understand and overcome. Even if I can’t, at least I can try.

On top of that, it’s not just me they effect. It takes a toll on my relationships. It has for a very long time. I’ve built most if not all of my committed relationships, anything beyond being close friends, on some form of false assumption or premise in terms of what role I feel I need to fulfill. I know that I am able-bodied, privileged in many ways, and simply have a willingness to add value to the lives of those around me, rather than keeping it for myself. That creates in me a sense of noblesse¬†oblige, that it’s not only my desire to use these things for those I care for with less privilege than me, but it is my duty. It’s another thing that negatively impacts my happiness.

And rather than actually adding to the happiness of others, as consistently and completely as I want to, it gets in the way of their happiness, too. Thus creating a cycle that breaks me down and wears me out.

So, what can I do about it?

I can talk to my therapist, adjust my medication if necessary, keep reaching out for resources and knowledge and guidance. I can push myself to learn more and do better. I can at least try. I can fight.

And I can write about it.

Sometimes, that’s all I’ve got.

So. Good Grief.

Courtesy Virgin EMI

In case you weren’t aware, I am a huge fan of the band Bastille. Their first album, Bad Blood, continues to be a part of my regular CD rotation in my car. (Yes, my car still uses CDs when the radio’s not on, I need to re-install my head unit.) Specifically, ‘Pompeii’, ‘Icarus’, ‘Flaws’, and ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’ are particularly emotional for me, to hear or to sing along with (Do you understand that we will never be the same again? / The future’s in our hands, and we will never be the same again.) It’s soil rich for planting our own experiences next to the thoughts and feelings conveyed in the music, and reaping the benefits of a more complete, more complex, more satisfying understanding of where we are in the world.

So let’s talk about the first single from their follow-up album, Wild World, simply entitled ‘Good Grief’. It’s an example of Dan Smith speaking as if he’s rooting around inside of my brainpan. I’m going to break it down from my perspective and try to explore why it’s hitting me so hard where I live.

  1. Much like their first single, ‘Pompeii’, Bastille perfectly juxtaposes an upbeat, even bouncy tune with quite serious and introspective lyrics. You can easily dance to ‘Good Grief’, but if you stop and listen to the words, you almost feel abashed for doing so. It sounds happy, but it isn’t. This is going to be a classic and exemplary song of Bastille’s.
  2. From the very start, and throughout, is the notion of “watching through [our] fingers”. It’s something terrifying in front of us, and we don’t want to see it, but it’s still something we have to face. We’re scared. We’re confused. We want to hide, but we can’t run. So we do what we can. We cry into our hands and we keep our face hidden, but we watch. In horror, in curiosity, in a desire to hold onto as much as we can, we watch.
  3. Grief is grief is grief. It’s something I’ve learned the hard way. It’s difficult to tell if the singer is going through the process of mourning the death of a loved one, or trying to survive a particularly bad break-up. Memories and feelings linger on, even if the person in question has ceased to exist (or we want them to). So things like old photographs where the person is not missing, their favorite song… they trigger those feelings and memories, and we do irrational things, like dancing at a somber funeral, or drinking until we lose control of our words.
  4. The way the last syllable of each repeated line in the verses feels like the singer is trying to get their thoughts and feelings out, but can’t quite see it through to the end. They lose their strength before they reach the end of the line. So much energy is being devoted to just staying alive, getting through another day, just fucking breathing, that it’s difficult to even speak completely. Sometimes you can’t even get out of bed in the morning. How can you be expected to complexly imagine your situation and find your way through it?
  5. “What’s going to be left of the world if you’re not in it?” This is such a powerful line. Our worlds change drastically when a loved one dies or a lover leaves us. We have to realign ourselves with our own hearts and our own goals, and we can easily lose sight of that because of the upheaval. We cope in different ways – casting our beloved as dastardly villains or shrieking monstrosities, denying anything bad actually happened, curling up in a dark corner wishing the world would go away – but in the end, we come back to questioning what is going to happen next in our world. And this is the question we need to face… even if we’re watching it through our fingers.
  6. Every minute we miss those no longer with us. When we stumble or make a mistake, we want that person there to either laugh with us through the foible or support us in picking ourselves back up. It underscores the loss, makes it more powerful in our minds, strains our hearts, and we miss them more.
  7. The burning clothes is either a reference to cremation for the dead or the catharsis of burning items connected to the lost partner. This is not always done by angry ex-lovers; sometimes, it’s part of a calming, cleansing ritual, part of an attempt to move on, at least in some measure. A Viking funeral for a love that was followed with audacity and fought for with bravery until the weight of the world crushed it. … Did I mention I’m a hopeless romantic? Which is an odd turn of phrase considering when you’re a “hopeless” romantic, you hold onto hope a lot more than some others. … Where was I?
  8. The female voice feels like an outside perspective. It’s interesting that Dan chose these lines from Weird Science. While it seems like it could be echoes of whomever was lost, it feels to me more like this is a current partner or friend or family member, trying to get the singer out and about, to re-embrace the life they’ve felt they’ve lost due to their grief. We all need friends like that.
  9. Grief isn’t just limited to us. It spirals out from the source of the loss and touches so many people. More than we might expect. Faced with the scope of the tragedy, be it an accidental one or the result of a choice, falling into the embrace of something like alcohol can be easier than dealing with all of these conflicting, devastating thoughts and emotions. We can get drunk, be foolish, lose control of our senses or our words, but in the end, we are put back in our place. And much like the interlude returns to the driving chorus, we come back to feeling that loss, seeing the ghost of the one we’ve loved, and every minute of every hour, we miss them. We miss them. We miss them more.
  10. The video. Oh, the video. The video is so brilliant. There are memories, dreams, and more that begin to have their narratives blending into one another, so many routes to escapism. But we keep coming back to Dan, wandering and alone, trying so hard to reconnect with whatever he’s lost in the real world. Watch the way the color palettes change. We want to be happy. We want to escape. But the real world keeps pulling us back… putting us in our place.

This is seriously one of the very best songs I’ve heard in a long time, and it’s going to be in my heart and on my mind for a long time. I’m hoping that taking this time to ruminate on it, as well as the general upswing in energy I’ve been feeling, will help me carve out more portions of the days ahead to get more writing done, be it here or in ways that push me past tomorrow.

It’s good to be back.



Ruins

Image courtesy Wikipedia

When something comes up that causes involuntary reactions, that triggers us, we need to be able to step back from the incident and determine why it occurred. More often than not, something in our past imposes itself upon the present, and pushes us to act in defense of a perceived threat.

I mentioned in a previous journal entry that I tried to start dating again too soon. I’ve been trying to determine what it is I actually want in order to feel like I’m moving in a positive direction towards the future. I’ve had some conversations that have lent themselves to considering second dates, future encounters, and even the possibility of a match, a coupling, a relationship.

That’s when I get fucking terrified. That’s when I get triggered.

The very thought of something approaching a partnership or relationship with someone has triggered many involuntary reactions. I tense up. I feel my jaw tighten. A particular email from months ago shows up in my head, almost word for word, whispered into my ear without my consent. My instincts tell me that I’m going to cause another disaster, that I am setting myself up to fail. I get scared. Outwardly, I either push away and shut down, or I start running off at the mouth about my reactions and their causes, which is selfish and unfair to whomever happens to be speaking with me at the time. Those conversations tend to end badly for everyone involved. That, in turn, leaves me feeling broken and alone all over again.

Especially when most of your self-care and theraputic training has been in CBT (cognative behavioral therapy), you can spend a great deal of time, as I’ve put it, chasing the rabbits in your head – my head weasels, as I’ve called them. For me, a lot of them disappear down into the warrens where I keep my past, my secrets, my pain, my failures. The last few months have seen me ruminating on what went wrong before. I took the admonishments against me to heart, tried to read between the lines when information ceased or was no longer available, and looked deeply for things within myself to correct. Aware of the fact that I’ve been cast out by many, villified by others, and left to my own devices regarding my wounds, I’ve disappeared down those weasel holes under the ruins many times.

I can still see and smell the smoke from all of the burned bridges of my recent past. The water hoses near my feet lay leaking and ineffective. It’s so easy for me to fall into patterns of thought like that, and visualize what happened in such maudlin terms. I’ve spent so much time in my past all but destroying myself over my mistakes. I’ve made a ruin of many situations simply because I have been so aggressive in punishing myself. While I have worked hard to be more forgiving of myself and imagine myself complexly, at times I still fall into the unfortunate habit of seeing myself not as an individual of merit who simply has flaws, but rather as a violator of some code of conduct where punishments begin at public flogging in the square and escalate to summary execution.

After all, that’s what I did to Josh-that-was.

I’m trying to push myself through this. I’m on the right medication for my bipolar, and I’m trying to work with therapists on my borderline. I’ve had some give me recommendations of books to read and basic exercises to follow. But this in and of itself is fraught with obstacles. Group DBT therapy is prohibitively expensive and, as far as I’ve discovered, not covered by most insurances. The path to establishing one-on-one work with the right therapist is labyrinthine and tangled in red tape to a degree that would make a shibari enthusiast blush. And as patient as I can be, I tend to have more impatience with myself and my emotional progress. This leads to frustration, which in turn can lead to irrational anger, itself part and parcel of borderline personality disorder.

At least CBT allows me to recognize those things.

The thing I am trying to keep in mind is that we are as defined by our failures as we are by success. In fact, we learn more when we lose than when we win. As Bastille says, we need our flaws “to be who we are, without them we’d be doomed”. What isn’t letting me fully embrace that concept and move forward into a future that I feel can be a happy one for me is the fact that my flaws are rooted in so many failures in my past. I want to make sure I do not repeat my mistakes, hurt anyone else I care about, or put myself in a worse position than the one I already occupy (which is difficult to imagine at times). To do that, I need to study the past. I feel I need to step away from good things I’m trying to cultivate and foster, and turn towards the ruins, covering my hands in cold ash rather than warm topsoil.

I don’t want to romanticize any of this. I’m not plunging into forgotten tombs in a weather-beaten fedora cracking a bullwhip. I’m not deciphering hidden messages that were left behind as some sort of treasure map. I’m not putting together something shared between myself and another individual in the hopes it’ll be like it was before.

I’m sifting through these ruins to understand why everything was destroyed, and why everyone is dead.

My only real hope is that the dead have something to teach the living.


I’m once again being forced to move and that’s brought along with it a whole lot of tension and fear and doubt and bad memories. It’s really fucked with me. Add a computer crash to that and you have a recipe for a wonderful environment for nothing creative to happen.

I hope to start writing and vlogging regularly again soon. Thank you all for your patience.

I Am My Own Ex

“If you treated a partner the way you treat yourself, would you tolerate it?”

Short answer: no.

Long answer: I’d dump my ass the way I was dumped.

Long nights of contemplation and bouts of fighting back tears have reinforced that I was not abandoned out of a lack of love. It was limits of tolerance being exceeded. We often see in one another potential, our ability for growth and change, the people those we love could be given the right environment. I created the wrong environment for Eurydice. In point of fact, I made it a toxic one.

I would not be able to see this if I have just hopped into another relationship. I do not want to create another environment like that for someone, anyone, that I love.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

I no longer hate myself. I no longer want to kill myself.

I love myself.

I just don’t like myself very much. And if I could, I’d dump myself.

I am my own ex.

And my harshness towards myself, the puritanical way in which I seek justice for the wrongs I’ve committed, creates a toxic environment for myself.

This is why I need therapy. The medication merely helps me recognize and arrest the extremes of my shifts in mood and thought patterns. It doesn’t happen immediately, but it does happen. I do have awareness. I can hold onto the mast when the storms come, rather than being swept into it. I can see the storm coming. I can’t stop it, but I can weather it better than I ever could.

A little voice – my contrite head weasel – tells me it doesn’t matter.

I lost the dearest part of my heart and I will never get it back.

As I said in a rather maudlin bit of Tumblr art, I understand this. It was a gift. And Eurydice can keep it. Or throw it away the way she did me.

I just have to learn to live without it.

I love myself. I just don’t like myself. I am my own ex.

I want to like me. Even in the midst of my anger and sorrow towards this gap between who I am and who I’m trying to be (and, thankfully, the increasing distance between who I am and that thing I was), I want to make things right. I want to appreciate myself on a consistent basis. I want to treat myself the way I want to be treated, the way I want to treat those I love. I want to never lose sight of love, to base all of my interactions on love, and live in love every single day just as much as I am living my truth, naked and unashamed of it, consistently and transparently honest with myself and those around me.

I want reconciliation. I want closure. I want reassurance that love still exists, that it’s still possible, that it’s going to be okay.

I’m holding back tears as I type this because it all feels so impossible and far away.

Okay. Deep breaths. Game face. I can get through this.

I have had experiences where an ex and I have slowly, carefully, gotten back in touch with one another. Repaired some damage. Forgiven one another. Acknowledged that love does not fade, even as we as individuals grow and change.

Reconciliation with myself has never been a goal before. Because I was never honest with myself to realize the environment I make for myself or the true nature of my relationship with myself. But I have to make it a goal. I have to be on better terms with myself. By myself. For myself.

This has to be a goal in therapy.

It won’t stop me missing other people. Friendship. Intimacy. Partnership.

True love.

“Missing people is a constant state of being.” Furiosa (the person I call Furiosa in my life) said that. Or something like that.

She and I don’t talk much anymore, either.

I know the people who still do talk to me mean well. That they are trying to support me. I do appreciate the love, and the spirit in which such support is given.

But for the people who have abandoned me, no. It is not “their loss.” They are not villains or cruel people. They should not be demonized for taking back space for themselves. They should not be cast as evil beings out to hurt me. I refuse to subscribe to that narrative. Please do me the favor of not hating the people who’ve hurt me. They didn’t do it out of spite. They did it to protect themselves.

I am left with pain and loneliness. I tell myself, rationally, that is the extent of the punishment I deserve. There may be some hope at some point in the future of things getting better. Of divides being bridged. I can’t let go of that hope. I fight to hold on to any scrap of hope I can, day and night, like I’m running out of time.

Being stripped of everything else, of every comfort and every piece of Josh-that-was, this is who I am. I do not know how else to be.

And someday, at some point, I’ll learn to like myself again. Reconcile with myself. Forgive myself.

Thank you for bearing with me until then.

I wish everyone I still love could have done that. But I understand why they didn’t.

I wish they would understand me. But I understand why they won’t.

I wish for just one kind word. But, cancerous as it is, I understand the silence.

I will learn to live with it.

I have no other choice.

Dealing With Frustration

Haunted

This week has been incredibly frustrating for me. A number of deeply honest and emotional posts all over social media combined with all sorts of self-care oriented shenanigans and missteps that lead me into a downturn. I’m still navigating the dark and bullshit-smelling waters of bipolar depression, and as a result, I don’t have a great deal to put here regarding the nature of frustration how it applies to my life. Short version? It sucks.

So I don’t have a great deal to put here, but hey! It’s the first of the month!

Click the image above to see me read a poem I wrote around Christmas of last year. It has nothing to do with Christmas. It has everything to do with something else associated with that date.

And click here to watch this week’s vlog. I’ve also got a playlist of every vlog! You can find it here. While you’re there, subscribe to the channel! Support my Patreon! Send me presents, dammit!

Anyway. Have a nice weekend.

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