all part of the song

 In the six and a half years since my husband died, I’ve dwelt frequently on the yin-yang hugeness life —  the light paired with darkness, the concord flanked by discord, the joys of existence nesting quietly with its pains like two spooning lovers at sunrise.

But not long ago, I had a reminder. An epiphany, even. I needn’t explain what prompted it, exactly, or why and how it hit me. I will say the run-up involved some lingering hurt, less a major wound than a cascade of hazy memories and minor spasms that should have been negligible and normally would be.  But taken together, they assumed an accumulated weight that triggered painful reflection and dragged me down into a stinky little pit of navel-gazing, self-questioning and guilt.

I thought about everything. Things said. Things unsaid. Actions taken. Actions not taken. Failures to love. Failures to listen. Voices raised and heated. Voices muted and cold. Misunderstandings. Miscommunications. Chasms unbreachable, even by love.

Thinking, of course, is a pain in the ass. So is guilt. I’ve talked and written about it before, addressing Chris’s suicide in 2011, my sister Lucy’s suicide in 1992, my father’s attempt in 1974 and the inevitable, cognitive-affective pickle that afflicts survivors. We feel guilty. We know we didn’t actually cause our loved ones’ deaths, and we know it’s irrational to feel otherwise, but still, we feel guilty. That’s just how it works. When I stumbled across YouTube comments suggesting that indeed I must have driven Lucy and Chris to suicide, I both agreed with this assessment (of course I did, you assholes!) and recognized the absurdity of it (of course I didn’t, you assholes!).

But even in lesser ways and in smaller corners of my psyche, I struggle with guilt. I struggle with my own flaws, my sense of brokenness and my fears of alienating the people I love. But who doesn’t? If you don’t, I worry about you; it means you’re blind to your own blessed imperfections, and you’re missing the point of this realm we swim in. The most casually judgmental words ever aimed at me came from one so blind, and I remember thinking: You just don’t get it, do you? We’re not here to be right. We’re here to be human. To love, to screw up, to love some more, to screw up some more, to scream until we’re blue in the face, cry until we’re spent and forgive until we’re breathless: That’s pretty much the gist of it. Love, then love, then love.

This hit me once again as I was pondering the depths of my own navel. I heard, suddenly, a remark Chris made about our marriage and its occasional bumps: “It’s all part of the melody of us.” He was right. Music has its flights of ringing joy, its thundering strife and sadness, its accidentals, chromatic fugues and weirdly discordant turns.  So did we. We weren’t perfect. We had our arguments. But they didn’t stop our love; they were pieces of our love. They were all part of the truth between us, an intimacy that embraced the light and the dark in own humanity.

He might be gone, but the truth we shared isn’t. It was life. We clutched it fiercely.

It’s all part of the song.

weird scar update

So I found this in the “drafts” folder just now: an empty post titled “weird scar update.” And I have noooooo idea what it means. I’m serious. None. A few years back I came up with a headline for a blog post I never wrote.

I’ve written about my scars before, so, no, it isn’t all that unusual as topics go, not really, not on a blog with the word “shit” in the title, and not for someone as multifariously scarred as I am. It is perfectly normal for me to be telling you about my unsealed wounds both psychological and physical.

But still: “weird scar update.” What the hell was that? What did I mean? Was it a reference to my latest hangnail? A glass shard embedded on the bottom of my right foot? That time someone compared a conversation with me to sitting through the “Ring” cycle?

Again: no idea. I can’t say what I’d planned on writing about at the time. However, as fate and coinky-dinks would have it, I do have some exciting news to report on the skinned-knee front, having taken a rather gymnastic fall on the ice outside church recently. It was one of those whoopty-whoops feet-in-the-air vaults into space that Linus suffered at the hands of Lucy and, in my case, thankfully resolved not with a spinal injury but with a rough landing on all fours. As a memento, I now sport a pair of lingering, sangria-colored splotches just below my left kneecap.

I have no idea whether these scars will ever fade. I’m hoping, at least, that they’ll dial down to a nice shade of burgundy or hibiscus in time for bare-legs season, which I refuse to refer to as “spring” or “summer” given that the damned weather is still behaving like damned winter and I actually wore my damned down parka to work this morning, dammit.

To be honest, I kind of doubt they’ll ever disappear, or even diminish. Scars tend not to. But looking at them tonight, it hit me: those two wee splotches on my skin resemble EYEBALLS, people! Yes! Eyeballs! A little off-center, a little drunken and dorky, but open. Cheerful. Wide-eyed. Trusting. And so, being truly and unapologetically bizarre, aiming to fulfill the cryptic weirdo promise of this heretofore unwritten blog post, I grabbed a marker, drew a smile on my kneecap and added a dot for a nose. 

Dwelling on this artful portrait, which I did for approximately eighteen seconds before scrubbing it off, I pondered its resemblance to the Mona Lisa and other Renaissance masterworks. No, wait. That is a lie. I did no such thing, though surely the contrasts in light resemble chiaroscuro, do they not? Again I lie. They do not.

In conclusion, I would like to come up with some beautiful and insightful profundity with which to cap this ridiculous post, but I don’t think I have it in me. Maybe something about smiling through the pain of existence? Choosing hope over despair and faith in the aftermath of trauma? The importance of putting a happy face on the shit that flies our way, sending our asses to the sky and our knees to the sidewalk? The need to get up after a fall and keep at it, keep moving, keep swinging one scarred leg after another into the unseeable future? The transformative power of a Sharpie in reshaping our conceptions of ourselves?

And there you have it. Weird scar update. The end.