No Weddings, But a Funeral and A Rollercoaster

img_0081I hate rollercoasters. Let’s just get that down officially, shall we? It has been a rollercoaster week for me.

It began Monday, when one of the bigger triggers of my very-Cold-War-get-under-your-desk-kiss-your-ass-goodbye childhood was hammered by a news story where a restaurant owner ordered a “nigger” out of his place.  And yes, I AM going to by gods use THAT word just so you all can be reminded just how UGLY it is.    Yes, I grew up partially in the segregated South and that word was heard constantly.  Even in schools and (gasp!) churches.  I walked away from the news item reeling, holding back tears only half successfully.  I literally curled up in my bed in a pile of pillows and shut off the lights.

Tuesday was “date day” for the Minotaur and me.   We will see our 40th anniversary of marriage this month — and it has been “interesting” in the Chinese curse sort of way since we both suffer PTSD.  Mine is of standing clear to my childhood — he has it from a similarly abusive childhood AND the Viet Nam War.  So, pretty much one or the other of us is triggered at almost any given moment of difficulty.  The Minotaur, finally, after more than a year in VA counseling and marital counseling, IS in a better place.  Apparently, this cued MY little inwardly bleeding self to think it would be alright to cut loose and fall apart?

Because Tuesday, still tender from re-confronting memories of three months *of 5th grade hell in Louisiana — where the teacher opened each day crying “All you children who hate niggers raise your hands!” — I fell apart.  We were in the car, and the Minotaur was on auto-pilot “find a freeway” mode.  I hate our freeways; people drive Mad-Max-ish on them here.  So, I wigged out and we had a huge fight and no date time happened.  I beat myself up the rest of the night, barely sleeping and writhing in self-loathing for my personal failures.

*Only 3 months because I dropped out of school then.

Wednesday I put it on hold, choke-chaining myself into duty of re-stocking the cupboards before the other household residents got restless.  But, ah, Thursday — oh woe.  Thursday we went to the funeral of the 23 year old daughter of a guy from the Minotaur’s veterans’ group.

First off?  I am pretty sure the “Christian” god IS dead.  The funeral put me in a Baptist Church for over two hours and the very things I thought as the service droned on and on SHOULD have brought lightening down IF there was a god there, ok?  Yes, I know, harsh and melodramatic.

But rollercoasters bring out the melodrama in me, deal with it.

First, the “viewing”.  Oh my gods and goblins — she was SO young.  At 23, I got married.  She had just given birth to a pair of tiny twins.  Motherless twins, now.  It was shocking looking at that pretty young dead face.  There were Bible readings, the usual “green pastures” bits.  I told myself if it comforted the family, it was ok.  But of course, it was NOT ok.

Then the family members spoke with tear-stained faces of how much she meant to them, how she brightened every room and helped everyone she met.  Now THAT was brutal and grief-soaked.  Then there was a song about “holding the hand of God and keeping the mind on things eternal” and I began to risk a lightening strike.  Because for me, a humanist pagan?  This is NOT helpful or comforting at all — this is “shove that grief and anger in a bottle and be good little Good Book slaves!”  What about NOT thinking of the eternal and about questioning why the hell a 23 year old is DEAD? What failed that this young mother is DEAD?!

Then the youngish minister spoke.  He was incredibly proficient in trite platitudes about how time heals, god doesn’t give more than you can handle (apparently “god” thinks this family is a bunch of badasses?), etc.  He KEPT saying he was “almost done” and yet kept talking.  He explained that in times of grief and pain, it felt “as if God doesn’t make sense.”  Then he got downright revolutionary and daring and said, flat out: “God doesn’t always make sense to us.”  Of course, he went on to explain that was what “faith” was for — to help us through those things we cannot understand.  That’s when “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder began playing in my head at about 110 decibels.

The tear-soaked tissue in my hand was balled into a rock-hard ball by now.  I was SO hurt for the family in front of me suppressing sobs.  THIS is all their “faith” had to offer them?  Platitudes?  Hollow phrases about just getting through it?  Hel’s bells, I TOLD them that a couple days after we got the news: “When you are going through hell, KEEP going.”  The minister told them their tears should “endure through the night, but joy comes in the morning.”  What IS that — a Christian order to “shake it off” that a beautiful, smart, loving woman doesn’t deserve more mourning than that because god says so?!  What about WHY she is dead, what societal failure – aided by religious opiates of “stop bawling and move on back to work, etc” – made it so unremarkable that she IS dead?

So yes, here is Friday.  I feel like a beehive has been tucked into my ribcage.  If “God” is the answer, I think we are asking the wrong fucking question.  But I’m just a “godless heathen” — so surely my opinion is to be discounted if not ignored entirely.

 

Each Walk More Difficult

samhain-walkThis is not the blog concerned primarily with the labyrinth I built, the path I walk for those fallen in America’s most recent wars. But where DO I put this, if not here where I discuss what I believe or disbelieve?

I built the Walk of the Fallen in 2003.  Building it and walking it in the first year or two was emotionally and spiritually grueling.  I experienced things I formally did not believe in out there.  Things I encapsulated in my life as ideals, metaphors, archetypes became something else on those sandstone bits embedded in my rocky soil.  I cannot explain my experiences there, nor can I deny them.

For thirteen years now, I have walked in every name of every American or Coalition troop killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and a few other places — Ft. Sam Houston, Benghazi, Kuwait — all deaths I consider to have come about as a result of George W. Bush unwisely choosing to invade Iraq and Afghanistan in the wake of 9-11.  The death tolls, even with renewed combat against ISIL in Iraq, are much reduced.  But still, the names come in.

And every walk is worse in sensation.  It is a a grinding misery and heartbreak.  A decade and a half of war and we are not done.  When will it ever be done?  I should walk daily, as twenty of more veterans die by their own hand daily.  I cannot even find those names, of course.  And my heart quails at those nameless walks.  How many times do I ring the brass bell?  Superstition rears its head — if I ring the bell once too often, does another battered veteran off himself?

I feel like a failure because my energy flags.  My resolve remains, but weakened — it takes me longer to get my tears under control to go out onto the stones.  Sometimes days longer.  There have been other times in the thirteen years when it was difficult, each time feeling like some deeper initiation into — well, into what?  I don’t know till I get there, do I?  Weakness, vulnerability, pain — the lesser mentioned threads of the Hermit’s robe.

Poetry Month – Eleven

 

LiveAt the ending, what really remains?

A plot, a stone, an urn, a few photographs?

What memory will I be when I am no more alive?

Now, more life behind me than before me,

The question is more live than before,

I find myself posing, framing moments –

Oh, how vain as Friend Night gathers!

Will he recall my tattoo’d shoulder thus bared?

Did his memory “snap” my hair spread across the pillow?

I am a small woman, I’ve led a small life…

No monuments for me unless of my making?

 

But I am content with that, no mistake,

I once was not, but now I am at peace,

My “raindrop” has had instants of “sparkle”,

Tis sufficient if he knows I loved with intent,

Tis sufficient if my children recall a lullaby sung,

A joke shared in laughter or tears dried,

Sufficient, if friends remember a warning given,

A book gifted, a story revealed, an effort made,

Fame is fickle and often defiling,

It warps reality out of shape for approval,

Better quiet truths unyielding for me.

 

They say “What is remembered, lives.”

Is that true, and is it a good?

We remember wars – and refight them ever,

We remember hurts – and revenge them often,

I’d sooner be forgotten than live that zombie life!

The goods that we recall, we seem rarely to repeat,

Only the burr ‘neath our saddle gets attention,

Yet, I think, “Did he see my hair that day?”

Or, “Oh, how the wind caught my skirts prettily!”

Thus, perhaps, feels the rose before the final dissolution?

So, let me fade with grace….a fall of petals?

 

 

 

Prostrated…in Winter’s Nest

imageI know I said I would start this blog in the new year. Then my resolve stuttered with world weariness and an innate cynicism about my current culture. I was trying to revive myself and believe there were still things I could say that might make a difference to me and my readers.

But last Monday afternoon, as I moved topics around in my brain and read aloud to myself behind my own eyelids about what I might say here, we got a  message from the other side of the country. Ever since, I have either paced in agitation or fallen into an armchair wringing my hands, feeling paralyzed with helplessness. Across the country, a man almost as dear to me as my own sons is lying in that horridly  suspended state between life and death. He is my oldest son’s best friend and was his best man at his wedding. He is 38 years old and has a wife and two young children. He and his wife are both veterans of the Afghan war.

Last Sunday, an aneurysm ruptured in his brain. In the next few hours he had at least 10 strokes and every part of his brain has thereby been damaged. He is unconscious and receiving ventilator support to assist his breathing.   I find myself unable to think creatively or even to attack normal household projects. Food seems tasteless. Enthusiasm is an abstract concept.   So until the situation is resolved one way or the other, I fear there will be no energy for anything being said here.