Sundown, Moon Rise

I pray sometimes. To whom? To what? I am unsure. I call it the Universe but maybe it is God, maybe it is some sort of higher power. The Universe and Mother Nature are higher powers in my eyes but the point is I pray sometimes. Does it help me? I can’t honestly say that it does. I think it’s something organized religion imposed upon society to make us sleep better at night and feel better about all of the so-called sins we commit on a daily basis. But that’s just me. In no way is this follow up a judgment upon other people’s beliefs.

I still don’t believe in luck – I really never have. Sure, I use the expressions, “I was lucky” or “You’re so lucky,” but I’ve never believed in coincidences and for someone to be lucky implies such happenstance. There are no accidents in this life – I wish I could say there were because God (or the Universe) knows how much I despise that exhausted expression that, “everything happens for a reason.” Alas, it does and whether we know and/or like the reason is an entirely different story.

Interestingly enough, I just returned from a six-day trip to my hometown of Kansas City where religion and praying and God are everywhere – even the local diner! I have complete respect for people’s beliefs except for when said people try and shove their beliefs down my throat. I love living in a country that is built on an idealistic foundation of diversity and acceptance. These ideals aren’t obviously well received or practiced in all corners of this country but the concept is there and well practiced in many places like the place I call home, Los Angeles, and we have to begin somewhere.

I am grateful for parents who never forced me to attend church but left the choice up to me, a mother who expressed her experiences and aversion with organized religion but never made me feel bad for being curious. I’ve attended Catholic mass on Christmas Eve, fell asleep in the fetal position of a pew at a Midwest, mostly white congregation of a Baptist church, pretended to feel the holy spirit at a Methodist worship service, ran out of a predominantly black Baptist church into the cold, winter night due to an anxiety attack, and been told I’m going to Hell unless I ask Jesus into my heart. This all resulted in the formation of my own spiritual beliefs – beliefs that allow me to feel peace in my soul and resonate on a higher level for me than monotonously singing Christian hymns ever did.

After lying next to death, my spirituality wavered. I began to lose a lot of faith in everything including some lifelong convictions and myself. Thankfully, spirituality is also what picked me up after so much loss, what taught me that the loss and the disappointment are worth it most of the time. My mother used to repeatedly iterate, “the price of love is grief,” and that couldn’t be a truer statement. But, I would much rather love and lose than never love at all. I would much rather experience the grief if it means I get to experience the joy, the butterflies, and the connections. And if all I’m left with are great memories, then it’s worth it.

I still want something of substance to last longer than most things in my life have. That is a sentiment I can only describe as human. I am constantly telling myself, “Life is too short. Go for what you want, Linds. Ask for what you want. Take initiative.” Lives are so full of regrets and while this may be unavoidable, having a life full of chances taken and an abundance of loss is a life well lived and precisely the true story I intend to tell even in my death.

A Righteous Revival

I once laid in bed with death, right next to it – our skins touching, my body’s warmth against its eerie absent-like coolness and my weary head upon its betraying shoulder. I managed to whisper a few nonsensical words to its deaf ears and shed a few tears in its unwelcome and untimely presence. I once vowed my life – the one I’m living right now – for better or for worse, in sickness and in health to another living, breathing human being in the attendance of other living, breathing human beings. I once allowed death to fool me into longing for its bittersweet company but I’m still living that life. I no longer vow it to anyone – not another human being, not even death – only my self.

I just want something to last longer than I, I thought to myself as I stepped into the…

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A Champagne Toast

I had it in my whimsical mind that beautiful, spring morning in New York City that one should dress up for such occasions. I wore this midi length, violet hued short sleeve dress with a high-waist belt and, of course, heels. David was equally as put together as we jauntily waltzed into 141 Worth Street in lower Manhattan to obtain our marriage license. And that night, after work, we excitedly made our way to 230 5th – the rooftop bar where we’d claimed to have fallen in love almost two years prior – in our fancier than usual attire to celebrate this momentous day. With champagne in hand, my husband to be and I toasted to us, to the life we were already creating together against a stunning backdrop of fake palm trees and the Manhattan skyline, the mesmerizing sunset easily stealing the show with the iconic Empire State Building coming in at a close second.

It was there, on that very rooftop, two years prior that I had asked this person before me, “Where did you come from?” as if he was some never before seen or experienced alien life form from Mars and by the entanglement of butterflies in my stomach and the way I kept losing my breath every time our eyes met, I might have actually speculated such. The truth, however, was that I didn’t expect to fall head over heels for someone as quickly as I did and my verbalized question was more of a million thoughts – “How did this happen? Why is this happening? Oh my God – No and Yes” – all in those five little words. My question was a simpler way of interrogating the Universe’s plan and the soundness of my own decisions in a city that wasn’t even my home yet, in a city that had inexplicably claimed my beating heart for so many years. When David responded, “The same place as you,” all of those questions, speculations, concerns and trepidations flew off the side of that skyscraper, on to the trash-lined sidewalk of Fifth Avenue. My only available transportation left was a leap of faith.

Our official meeting in July of 2010 was a serendipitous account of unrelated, idealistic circumstances that by even the most starry-eyed, hopeless romantic’s standards would be deemed a fictional story. It was so uncanny that our friends and family members would ask to hear a retelling of the account, intently listening to each of our perspectives with such palpable attention, it had the ability to recreate those butterflies in my stomach. Even I had vowed one day to write the story as if it were a young adult novel with fictitious characters based heavily upon what David and I were toasting atop that rooftop in early June of 2012, just a month shy of our wedding date.

I certainly didn’t anticipate this fairy tale’s ending to be anything less than a happily ever after with potential room for a sequel. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and while that fairy tale ended quite some time ago, its official and legal ending arrived today in the form of a large manila envelope addressed to Lindsay Taylor (insert my married surname), which is no longer my surname as of May 18th, 2016. After a tumultuous, seemingly unending, almost three-year process, that marriage license, that David and I were celebrating when he snapped my picture in my violet dress in the evening’s glow of the setting sun, is no longer valid.

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After all of the countless Mondays through Saturdays that I’ve patiently walked to my mailbox, anticipating that very envelope I found there today, one would expect me to be relieved, overjoyed, even jumping with sheer delight! And while relief is certainly profoundly present and I was clearly excited, shaking with overdue expectation as I ripped open the envelope – sadness is also a glaringly prominent emotion. So is a sense of failure. I suppose in layman’s terms, one could deem the surreal and somewhat shocking day as bittersweet. It tastes like dark chocolate mixed with fresh blood, the kind of blood from all the metaphorical punches thrown, the figurative scratch and bite marks that we leave upon another’s life that can act as an open wound at any given moment. Today, my wounds were gouged wide open as the date May 18, 2016 was repeatedly stamped all over the paperwork in front of me and the stupid legal description, “dissolution of marriage,” in its stupid serif font recurred along every other line. Today, I was reminded of all of the reasons why I married this person who had come from the same place I had and all of the reasons why I no longer am.

Birthdays for the Dead

I never know how the depression is going to present itself or to what degree. Sometimes, it’s sudden and other times, it’s inexplicable and manic. One thing is for certain, it’s expected around the months of April, August and the holidays so it’s safe to say that for the past five years I feel this heaviness, this weight, pretty much a third of the entire year. And that’s not counting the other two thirds of the year when the minutest thing can send me spiraling downward into the dark abyss of grief, loneliness and sadness. It all comes down to the hard to swallow fact that living in a world without my mother has been an unwanted learning experience, one where simply not existing myself often feels more ideal than celebrating another one of her birthdays without candles that will be extinguished by her very breath.

Tomorrow, April 8th, I will wish my mother another happy birthday, the fifth to be exact, since she took her last breath. There is no guidebook for these types of things – how to celebrate the birth date of a deceased loved one – filed under the self-help section of your local bookstore. Or maybe there is? But I sure as hell don’t want to read it. And just as there isn’t sufficient guidance on how to conduct special occasions in light of death, there isn’t warning of the so-called chemical imbalance in the brain that is sure to rear its ugly head. Sure, I know what month is approaching but as I stated above, one cannot anticipate depression’s presentation, its severity or its effect. One can only ride it out, go with the flow per se.

This particular year, I have found it increasingly difficult to lift my body out of bed every single morning this week. I guarantee the people with whom I conduct my weekly routine are none the wiser. Should I applaud myself for this? Is this an accomplishment?   Let me just pause and pat myself on the back for being able to conceal my detrimental grief for eight hours a day. And if you’re not grasping the hard sarcasm in those last few sentences or sensing the exaggerated rolling of my eyes whilst I wrote it, you’re missing something.

In some ways, the daily routine aids in easing some of the tremendous sadness that has surrounded this particular month for the past five years. I’m immensely grateful I just so happen to be exceptionally busy at work this week. But nighttime inevitably comes enveloping me in its bulging, sorrowful arms and then the early morning rudely awakens me to yet another awful, unwelcome reminder, “Your mother is dead.”

 

Pi Miles to My Destination

As I drove my rental van south on I-35 in Shawnee, Kansas a few minutes past five am on a Wednesday, headlights illuminating the dark wee hours of the morning, tears welled in my eyes. I sucked it up, not wanting to cloud my already poor night vision. The thought occurred to me that for the past four years, since my mother’s passing, I’ve been in search of something that I can’t quite find, that I’ll never find. I’ve been in search of her. And no matter how cognitively aware I may be that I’ll never find what I’m looking for, it’s almost like a reflex.

Last week, I returned from Kansas City after a long, solo twenty-six hour road trip. I spent a brief four days and three nights there before making my way back west with a van full of the remainder of my mother’s belongings. This included furnishings, photo albums and perhaps the most treasured of all, letters upon letters and cards written to my mother from various people, including myself, throughout the years. It’s truly a gold mine! She saved everything and I mean everything.

Those four days and three nights whirred by in the blink of an eye as I drove from one Kansas City icon to the next, showing my boyfriend where I spent the first eighteen years of my life. Thankfully, I was able to spend some of this time with loved ones I rarely get to see or speak to.

The emotional response to the death of my mother is to constantly seek her presence. Perhaps this is why it is not in the least bit difficult for me to drive to the home in which I grew up in and sit outside staring, reminiscing about “the old days.” Perhaps, I have this morbid, unconscious expectation that she’ll emerge from the wisteria-covered fence, gardening shovel in hand, perspiration dressing her smiling face and dirt covering her exposed knees.

I experienced this sudden heartache on a few other occasions during this quick trip, this feeling of grasping at something that I cannot quite reach. It was in stark contrast to the bold, green signs stating how many definite miles to my intended destination I was. On one of those signs, I imagine this particular state appearing as an irrational number, almost indefinite.

Mostly, it occurred when I was alone but once, in the presence of my grandmother. I realized that the photo of the beautiful woman on her refrigerator was my mother standing on the porch of her childhood home, white slacks and blue sweater, her long hair hanging down behind her narrow shoulders. I had been to the fridge many times before but this particular evening, I guess I just took a closer look.

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I suppose being in that close proximity to her mother, her history, places in which she walked, lived and breathed made the inability to reach out and touch her that much more painful. And maybe I felt bad, guilty, for not noticing the photo beforehand? It has been a great fear of mine since she died that I may forget the sound of her voice, the texture of her hair, the color of her eyes, the way she would say “that-a-way” instead of “that way” and so forth.

I know she’s always with me. She’s a part of me. Her energy still exists. As I said, on a cognitive level, I understand and believe all of these things but I’ve realized that the old adage is bitter-sweetly true: the heart wants what the heart wants. And my heart will forever want what once filled the colossal hole that it has been beating with in her absence.