Hey. Hi. It’s me. I still exist. Mostly.
I know I’ve been posting sporadically lately. Everything’s been a little bananatown these past few months. I was recently told that lists, which are my jam this time of year, are the laziest form of writing. So, yeah, all confidence lost plus all time sucked equals no bloggenings. Sorry. I’ll be back to normal soon.
Meanwhile, shit’s not great. You know, fall and whatnot. I’ll spare you all the black wave details. We know each other. You get it. I’m really okay. Just brainfried. Oh, and I smacked my own face on a fencepost the other day. That’s exciting. Got some color in my cheeks, as the girly girls say. Even though I think they may be talking about something else. I’m exhausted. I’ve been in my head too much. I’m bored even though I’m so busy I can’t see straight. This week has been brutal.
I lost something. It was driving me bugshit, mostly because my life is lived in tiny spaces and, even if I weren’t pathologically over-organized, there aren’t that many goddamn places to hide stuff. It’s the little things that get under your skin when you’re all sleep-deprived and delicate, you know?
It was a blog. I still write everything out longhand before I type it. That Pavlovian aesthetic thing is helpful. I wrote this post last year after The Husband’s uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I was pissed and sad and all fucked up about it, but I decided not to post it at the time out of respect for the family’s privacy. And also not to bring any more bad juju to the situation. Better to treat these calamities with heavy doses of loving kindness and as much mirth as possible. So I spent the better part of an evening tearing my bedroom to shreds looking for this thing, and eventually I got so upset that I was laying on the floor crying, thinking how it was just gone, how it would be just a piece of paper to whoever found it, deprived of all meaning. Of course that’s when I see a box out of the corner of my eye, and of course that’s when I remember that I’ve got almost two year’s worth of blog posts stacked up in that box and that I stashed the box under a stack of books for safe keeping. Because I’m brainfried.
So, even though it may not make a whole lot of sense, here’s a thing I wrote almost a year ago:
Once upon a time I met a sweet, goofy boy during a Magic tournament at a comic book shop. There may have been Jim Beam involved. I married him. This latter fact has nothing to do with the Jim Beam. What I didn’t realize at the time is that you don’t ever just marry a person, you marry their stories, their baggage, their hangups, their annoying habits, and all their future selves. More to the point – you also marry their family. And I hit a goldmine. I mean seriously, I won the in-law lottery. And for the longest time I thought there was no way they’d accept me – the bisexual, Atheist, liberal, metalhead writer girl with too much eyeliner on who drank a lot and hitchhiked for fun. The girl with mental illness. The scifi enthusiast. The one with all the piercings in her face. The one most aptly described as “over there in the corner by herself.” And they wanted to take me to church, these people.
They did. They dragged my ass to church. But not to change my mind. Just to show me who they are, where they’re coming from, and what they stand for. From that I learned so much more than I would have ever thought I could. They didn’t just accept me, they embraced me. They love me. They’re never going to question my beliefs or my politics or my dirty mouth, because they trust in some kind of goodness they see in me, one I didn’t really know was in there. So now I’m stuck forever with this big bunch of badasses who are putting all of their energy into changing the world. All day, every day. It’s intimidating, but it gives me something to strive for.
So when his aunt Ginger married Greg, we were living in North Carolina and didn’t get to see the family as often as we’d like. It took a while for us to get to know him. Not to like him, because he’s nothing if not immediately likeable, but to really know him and understand how he fit into this big, constantly changing family machine. Truth is, I thought he was a weirdo just like me. Well, not just like me, obviously. But interesting, and with a depth of unexpected stories. He’s an honorable man. I saw goodness in him, and suddenly I understood better how I must have seemed to these people so unlike myself years before. Odd, but worth the effort. Someone whose stories you want to hear, who you know you can trust and laugh with and hug.
And now he’s sick. I would say he’s “dying,” but we’re all dying. We should really just stop using that word exclusively for the ill. He’s sick and it makes me sad. It makes me angry. When people lament about bad things happening to good people, I always think we should stop saying that, as well, because good things and bad things happen all the time to everyone. Nevertheless, this sickness makes me want to punch a wall. There’s no logic to it at all, but somehow this seems unfair. Not that I wish cancer upon anyone else, someone deemed a bad person. Mostly I just don’t think we have a psychological mechanism for dealing with the suddenness of tragedy, with the prospect of having a Greg-shaped hole in our lives, in our story, in our machine. It’s not the thing itself, but the idea of it that’s hard. Sickness and death are parts of living. We’ve had them both since the beginning. It doesn’t get easier. It never will.
But I’m comforted by knowing that this family shines with a golden light like no people I’ve ever met. I’m comforted knowing that Greg and Ginger have built a wall of friends and community and faith that will keep the darkness out. I’m comforted knowing that he’s a scrappy Scottish bastard who will fight this thing tooth and nail, with everything he has in him, laughing all the way. And so will we all, for his sake. I’m ready. Bring it on, cancer. You have no idea who you’re up against.
In August, Greg died. I wanted to send this to Ginger when it happened, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to be the one to make her cry again. But, still, I should have said all the things. I should have posted this when I wrote it or, better, said all the things to his face. I shouldn’t have ever deluded myself into thinking there would be time. Time is not a thing we’re promised. But such is life, and these are the everlasting regrets of wordy people. The self-editing and the “what I should have said” goes on forever.
Last week, my best friend, the very first friend I ever made on the face of this planet, was diagnosed with cancer. It’s early, and it’s a pretty treatable flavor of cancer. I’m confident. He’s tough as hell and will fight a bitch even if he has to fight dirty. And yet. It makes me want to say all the things. Doesn’t it? When you get news like that? Just so you know you did it? Aren’t we all walking around being fucking cowards, not saying what we want to say all the time? I certainly feel cowardly. Or weak. Or something.
And while I’m sure this particular friend with this particular cancer is going to be okay on this particular occasion, what if it hadn’t been this thing? This thing that can be stopped right now? What if it had been a bus or a murder or an aneurism? I don’t wish those things on anyone, obviously, but they happen every day. What if I never get my deathbed confessional moment?
I didn’t when my dad died.
I didn’t when my friend overdosed.
I didn’t when my other friend ate a shotgun.
I didn’t when my other uncle wrecked his motorcycle.
I didn’t when my cousin got run over by a tractor.
I didn’t, even, when my grandmother’s brain was so riddled with holes that she was gone long before she was gone.
Shit happens. People die. All people. What’s the line? “On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” It’s a truth I’m comfortable with. It’s all that life shit beforehand that’s hard. So tell your friends you love them. Visit when you can. Hug often and vigorously. Don’t put off saying those things that linger and tickle in the back of your brain. Tell complete strangers on the internet that hilarious story about the time he stole your sister’s car and got busted because he left the keys in it and had to break the window in the Hardee’s parking lot at two in the morning (absolute truth, and still funny twenty years later). Hold them when they cry. Laugh at the world, because we’re in this together. Call your mom. Send that silly birthday card that only you two would get. Buy the sad-looking guy alone at the end of the bar a drink. Ask him if he’s okay. Life is short. Fill it with kindness. Fill it with unforgettable moments. All we are is the memories that other people carry. Make them count.