How Much Difference does it Make?

I will hold the candle till it burns up my arm / I’ll keep takin’ punches until their will grows tired / I will stare the sun down until my eyes go blind…I’ll swallow poison until I grow immune/ I will scream my lungs out till it fills this room / How much difference / How much difference / How much difference does it make…” Eddie Vedder affectingly asked in the Pearl Jam song, “Indifference.”

In some parallel Universe, this was all that I had to do to get my Mother back – I was bargaining with a God I didn’t believe in and a Universe I deemed cruel.  I was willing to try it all – at the same time.  Someone find me a lighter, I thought to myself.  Let’s go outside, with a candle, where the sun shines and bring some arsenic.  The difficult part would be finding someone willing to punch my ass.  Inside, I had already been screaming my lungs out since the morning I received the shattering news that my mama was living with terminal cancer.

The day after her passing, I took to keeping myself as busy as possible, which included creating a video montage of photographs set to music and a scrapbook for her upcoming memorial.  I chose “Indifference” by Pearl Jam as the intro song and it couldn’t have been more poignant.  I think I listened to that song on repeat, about sixty times, during the course of the week and a half that I was at my mama’s home in Kansas City.

The bargaining began as soon as my flight from JFK landed at MCI, “I will stand arms outstretched / Pretend I’m free to roam / I will make my way through one more day in hell…” How much difference did it make?  None.  Bargaining is, unfortunately, one of the five stages of grief, also known as the Kübler-Ross model.

It still rears its ugly head from time to time though nowadays my bargaining has leaned a bit more on the practical side.  For example, I pray to a God that I again believe in, asking to visit my mother in my impending slumber – if I can’t have her back physically, at least let me see her in my dreams.  Gratefully, my prayers have been answered on a couple of vividly memorable occasions.

Anger, denial, depression and acceptance are the other four stages and they do not occur in any specific order.  One can experience denial, then acceptance and then denial again.  There is no exact science to the model – only a certainty that someone who is grieving will experience these five emotional stages.

On a personal level, as far as the loss of my mother, I still experience all of them sans denial.  Denial was more prominent prior to her death, after learning that it was lung cancer and not mononucleosis – I recall guilelessly thinking that because my dad was alive for two years following his horrific diagnosis, my mother would be, too, if not longer!  I inadvertently labeled this thought process “positive thinking” for some time but the truth was that I was in utter denial.  In my heart, I always knew I was going to lose her sooner than later and I lost her eight months later.  And no matter what anyone says, one cannot prepare for such a devastating loss.

My mother knew she was going to die, too, and it wasn’t negative thinking by any means – there are simply just some things in life that when listening from within, you just know.  This is why, only a few short weeks after receiving her dismal prognosis, she secretly wrote letters to the people she felt closest to in her life, including my brother and I, her sister and a few of her best friends.  She folded them all together and hid them.

During a moment, doped up on necessary excess amounts of morphine, my mother briefly mentioned, “There are letters” though, she couldn’t remember the location of them either.  The lost letters became a mere rumor until a couple of days after her passing, while sitting, conversing in her bedroom.  I asked my Auntie about the alleged letters to which she replied, “She said she wrote some but I looked everywhere and I can’t find them.”

I immediately got up from my mother’s bed where I was sitting and assuredly walked over to an old, antique radio box that was my great Grandfather’s.  I opened it up and inside were a few folded up one page letters in between a box of envelopes and some miscellaneous stationery.  I don’t know how I knew – I just did.  This is the kind of relationship my mama and I always had – we both just always knew when it came to the other – our bond was intense and metaphysically spiritual.

Until this very moment, I have only shared this letter with a handful of very close people in my life and I find it only fitting that it be read in my mother’s handwriting. That is why I have attached an image of the letter instead of typing it out.  After moving to Los Angeles at the age of eighteen, her and I would write letters back and forth to each other constantly, during a time when snail mail was valued by more than a few old souls.

This was the last letter I would ever receive from the most important person in my life – a woman with a heart of gold and the spirit of an army – my beautiful, intelligent, passionate and strong mother:

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In My Life, I Love You More

2/15/2012

Dear mama,

You were in my dream Sunday night.  Was it real?  God – I hope so.  And if it was, well you know what I’m on my way to do right now.  I hate that I’m flying to Kansas City and the one person that I would always be most excited to see and spend time with is no longer there.  What an awful feeling!  My heart still aches in the thought of your absence.  I think there’s a large part of me that still has not accepted it.  I want more than anything to come “home” and do all the things we loved to do together – Shopping, Red Lobster, watch Wheel of Fortune and Everybody Loves Raymond.  I would give you nightly hand massages.  I don’t understand why I had to lose you so soon – too soon?!  I’m so angry sometimes still and still feel the guilt at times, as well.  But I’m also very happy with the life that David and I are building.  Are you happy for us?  Did you hear what David suggested we do on your birthday?  You’re invited to dinner.  Mama – I don’t know if you are able to do these things but as my angel, can you watch over David and I’s relationship and protect it the way you used to protect me all those years?  I hope that’s not too much to ask for.  I just don’t trust anyone else like I trust you.  It’s not fair.  I miss you so much.  What if I lose David?  God – I don’t think I could bare it, mama.  You were right – David came into my life for many reasons but one of the main reasons was that I was gonna need someone once you were gone.  I hope you and dad keep each other company.  Please tell him I love him and miss him very much.  Can you believe I’m going to be a married woman?  That I’m going to be a wife?  I think you can :) I really wish you were going to be there physically.  Ok – I’m signing off now.  I love you, mama.

Love, Linds

This song was dedicated and played at my wedding in memory of my parents

Everything I’ve ever Let Go of has Claw Marks on It

I curse – like a seasoned sailor.  I have a dirty mind, or a sexy imagination, depending on who’s judging.  I drink – a lot.  I get high occasionally.  I keep it real – I’m not afraid to speak my mind.  And I don’t feel bad for any of the above.  My current philosophy on my life consists of doing what I want to do if it makes me happy – as long as I’m not inflicting harm upon anyone or myself.  It’s taken great practice to get to this point and I am certain I will run into times where I begin to second guess myself but the truth is, there is no other ideal way for me to live.

Going forward, I wish to only to be surrounded by people who accept and love me for me.  If someone has a problem with my ability to use the word “fuck” in pretty much any context or the way I get a hearty laugh out of the fact that I’m still learning how to use a bong, frequently referring to myself as a “newbie,” then that person most likely shouldn’t be around me.  If he or she expresses disdain for my frequent inappropriateness or criticizes me for my aptitude to drink a bottle of wine in one sitting, then he or she shouldn’t be a friend of mine.

I have gratefully managed to find myself surrounded by some of the most amazing human beings on this planet – an eclectic mix of old and new, from all corners of the Earth and each with his/her own unique story.  They accept me with grace, love me because of my potty mouth, laugh with me when my extensive imagination manifests itself into words or actions, drink bottles of wine with me, light the bong for me and they don’t have a problem letting me know if and when I’ve crossed a line.

I greatly appreciate someone who can look me in the eye and say, “Linds, you’re being irrational and you shouldn’t do that.” – Someone who still loves me even if I don’t heed his/her advice, who now looks me in the eye and says, “I told you so – you shouldn’t have done that you crazy bitch.”  I’m reminded every day of just how blessed I am by these people I call my family.

It’s true what they say about knowing who your true friends are when the going gets rough – when life present one with death, disaster, divorce, what have you.  I recently lost a couple of friends, who I had deemed close for about ten years.  Quite honestly, I’m not sure how or why this came to fruition.  The only thing I can figure is that when my life saw some dark trials and tribulations, they saw a bright, neon exit sign.

I read this funny quote once that said:

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In all relationships I’ve ever cared about that appeared to be nearing their end, I’ve had a need to make certain that I gave it my all, so I often found myself blocking the exit way – clawing away at anything that might be salvageable.  Truthfully, though, who wants to be surrounded by people that you had to dig your claws into to make them stick around for a little while longer?  In my humble opinion, the only claws worth digging are the ones in the bedroom, on someone’s back.

Letting go, though, mercifully comes with growth, maturity and freedom.  By finally stepping out of the way of the exit, I allow more room for my true friends and for my self to cultivate the positive kind of life in which I wish to lead.  When the ride gets a little bumpy and someone stands up in hasty search for the nearest exit, I’ve discovered that it’s best to let him/her find it.  There are plenty of quality passengers already making my ride well worth it and the exciting prospect of, perhaps, others along this journey that will want to hop on.  Space is never limited but one must earn a seat.

Pools of Joy & Waves of Sorrow

Two years ago, David and I became officially engaged in an MGM Grand suite in Las Vegas.  Both of us clad in our birthday suits, him on one knee and I standing in front of him at the foot of the king size hotel bed.  His tenacious proposals had begun about thirty-six hours earlier, during his birthday dinner at The Little Door, a romantic, upscale French restaurant in the Beverly-Grove neighborhood of Los Angeles.

David and I had arrived at LAX a day prior to attend a friend’s afternoon wedding.  That night, I took him out to a nice dinner as part of his weekend birthday celebration.  It was in the restaurant, over some vino and seafood that he began repeating, “Let’s get married.  Marry me.”  It was initially more of a statement/borderline demand and was consistently answered with a giggly, “No.”  After about five times of him bringing up the idea of my being his fiancé, my “No’s” became more of a “Can we please stop talking about this now” sans the giggling.

I was visibly concerned for many reasons – the obvious being that marriage was never on my to-do list.  I was perfectly capable of commitment without a piece of paper.  The other was that we had just attended a wedding that afternoon which is where I decided all of his idealistic thoughts were stemming from.  Love was in the air, for lack of better terms.  At one point during the dinner while discussing the possibility of becoming newlyweds, he abruptly stood from the table and I swear to you, I think I almost had a heart attack as his motions insinuated that he was getting down on one knee in front of the entire restaurant.

Sit down!  Sit down!  Sit down – Right now!” I spat as quietly as one could in a completely booked dining room where the tables were so nearby each other, one could eavesdrop if desired.  Inside, I was screaming something along the lines of, “Sit your ass down right now or so help me I will run out of this place!”  David claims he was simply standing to come over to my side of the table and lay a passionate kiss on my lips.  To this day, I believe he was going to kneel and judging by my knee-jerk reaction, he realized that I’m not the “propose to your girlfriend on the teleprompter” kinda chick.  I’m not kidding when I say that I thought my heart was going to go into attack mode.  Hmmm another case of foreshadowing, I wonder as I type?

As we bid our goodnights, David adamantly notified me that he would ask me again, in the morning, as soon as he awoke.  He added that this was how I would know he was serious and that it wasn’t merely because we had just attended a wedding.  He concluded that he would ask me to marry him until my answer was a resolute “Yes.”

Sure enough, the following morning when David opened his eyes and found me getting ready for our short drive to Las Vegas for the continuation of his birthday weekend, he asked, “Will you marry me?”  I laughed it off, kissed him good morning and walked out of the bedroom.

That afternoon, while enjoying a delicious Mexican lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in the Venetian Hotel of Sin City, his proposal became a “Let’s do it now” pitch, “in Vegas. We already have our witnesses,” he swiftly motioned to my best friend and her husband.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  There’s no way I could get married in Vegas – or could I?  “No,” I replied, casually shaking my head and accurately pointing out that his mother would be extremely disappointed.

After lunch, we made our way to the hotel room to rest up for the evening’s events.  I bought us tickets, as a birthday gift for David, to the Beatles LOVE Cirque de Soleil show at The Mirage.  After passionately making love a couple of times, we lay upon the mangled sheets in a sort of sweaty, post sex high.  Once again, David asked me to marry him.  I responded, “Well, I’m definitely not getting married in Vegas and I’m definitely not going to say yes until you do it properly.”

David immediately jumped up from the bed, prompting me to follow.  As I stood, he slowly knelt on his right knee, looking up at me with his handsome, child-like eyes.  What resulted was a flawless deliverance of one of the most beautifully eloquent and convincing speeches I have ever heard in my life – so much so that I believe any one, man or woman, standing in front of him at that moment would have accepted his proposal.  I happened to be standing in front of him at that moment, following my heart and my heart said, “Yes.”

Today, January 23rd, 2014, is David’s 25th birthday.  Ironically enough, I met David when I was twenty-five.  He was twenty-one and I remember feeling no reservations about the blatant age difference at the time – I believe that’s that fucking blinding phenomenon called being in love or whatever.  Having never dated a younger guy prior to him, I thought to myself, age is just a number.  I now know it’s a number that can make some people seem miles, sometimes worlds apart.  The same can be said for separation and divorce – One year, you can be sitting in an enthusiastic audience, together, watching acrobatic performers dance in perfect synchronization to hit after hit of Beatles’ tunes and a couple of years later, you can be residing under entirely different roofs, miles apart, wondering if you can find it in your heart to ever again wish him a Happy Birthday…

Real Loss & Good Will Hunting

Some, like myself, may consider the car accident a glaringly obvious foreshadowing of a relationship that was headed in an extremely destructive direction.  The thing was I often trusted that no matter how destructive something became, especially in dealing with matters of the heart, it could always be repaired – like the Mazda.  Unfortunately, hearts are only repairable when the mechanic inflicting the damage is willing to get his hands dirty, grab his tools and spend some quality time in the shop.

Looking back, I willingly played the exhausting part as mechanic for the majority of my three-year relationship with David but I was often, despairingly, left alone to my own devices.  No matter how much time I dedicated to repairs, I could never quite patch up the incessant oil leak.  To this day, I still ask that timeless question, “Why isn’t love enough?”  And inevitably following that question, that damn Patty Smyth and Bryan Adams duet gets lodged in my mind.  And growing up, I naively believed that love could conquer all.  I’ve learned the difficult way that it most certainly does not.  Loving oneself may conquer all but love, itself, does not.

I recently came across this quote from the movie, Good Will Hunting, and it struck home hard, in so many ways:

If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap; watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell? And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms “visiting hours” don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself.

I get intense chills down the length of my spine every time I re-read that.  I felt like the character, Sean, was speaking directly to David.  And then, of course, I thought of my dear Mother.

During the beginning stages of David and I’s separation last August, I recall a heavy-hearted mid-afternoon conversation between us.  As the sorrow became apparent in his deep, brown almond-shaped eyes, the conviction in my heart became a fiery rage as I resolutely declared these exact words, “Don’t you worry about me.  I’ve been through a lot worse.”  Of course, accurately referring to the devastating loss of my mother.  To this, David bared no response.  What could one justifiably say when he’s never felt truly happy waking up next to me, when he’s never let himself be truly vulnerable, when he’s never recognized my worth or the depths of my love for him, and when he doesn’t know what it’s like to love someone more than himself?

This brings me back to a part of the dialogue from Good Will Hunting – “…You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself.”  I know about real loss and I’m eternally grateful that I know about real loss.  If I didn’t know about it, I wouldn’t know what real love is.