Relationship Red Flag Journal Entry #1

I had a boyfriend from 1990 to 1995 that I used to call Dearie. I didn’t realize how abusive it was until just before we broke up, when a good friend kept pointing out that I shouldn’t tolerate Dearie’s behavior.

I recently found my journal from the last year or so of that relationship. Here’s an example of a Relationship Red Flag

January 13, 1994

I’m confused! I’m not too sure if I wanted to have sex with Dearie today. I mean it was nice and everything, but I don’t know whether or not I really wanted to. I feel bad about that & I hope Dearie doesn’t think he pressured me into anything. I wasn’t planning on having sex today. I guess that’s why I feel this way.

If you’ve ever felt this way about your partner, it’s a huge fucking red flag and you either should bring it up with the person or ditch the manipulative asshole already. Obviously I know this is easier said than done, but trust me, you should never have to be talked into having sex. No matter who you are.

Surviving Amor Fou, #1: Panic Attacks

a·mour fou/ˌämo͝or ˈfo͞o/noun

  1. uncontrollable or obsessive passion.

I was first introduced to this concept when watching The Sopranos with Kevin. Tony Soprano fell in love with one of Dr. Melfi’s other patients and had quite a tumultuous time of it.

I kind of had a feeling at the time I watched those episodes that my marriage was like that on a different level (we never threw food at each other). No matter how angry I was with Kevin, I couldn’t live without him. He felt the same way. Almost six years into widowhood, I know for certain it was Amour Fou.

When we were alike, we were perfectly in sync. Butter and garlic. When we were dissimilar, we were oil and vinegar. We didn’t want to be around each other or we didn’t want to leave each other’s sight. With some variations on the scale sprinkled in for good measure. 18 years of that was quite a ride.

As I’ve stated many times, sense memory sucks. The other day, I heard a song I hadn’t heard in a long time. It was one of the songs Kevin used to taunt me with if he was angry at me (or angry in general and I was the only other human around). I went right back to being in front of his room, knocking and begging to be let in while the song blasted. All those dark days mixed into one and back came that empty feeling I used to get when he would get mad at me. It’s like I’d lost a part of me and the person who had the missing part wouldn’t give it back.

I turned off the song because I was panicking and it was emotionally painful. I’ve felt grief a lot when listening to music. I wipe away the tears and go on with my day. But this feeling stuck to me and suddenly the prospect of finishing my work day seemed impossible. So, I asked for the rest of the day off because I wasn’t feeling well, and I was granted it.

I talked a bit to those I discuss these things with, and pretty much stared at the TV for the rest of the day, trying to lose myself in familiar worlds. I did my best to cope. Only lamented the lack of access to benzos a tiny bit. (They have their purposes, but highly addictive, therefore difficult to obtain. Thankfully I had something that works just as well.)

That damned panic attack poked at many feelings and memories that I do my best to forget. In my mind’s eye, I had a montage of the worst of it. I couldn’t get it to stop. I hate every single one of those fights. I know a lot of them were the result of recurring bouts of failing to find fulfillment in the life I was told I wanted–combo housewife and office manager.

I can’t change any of it, therefore I don’t like to think about it. Who the hell wants to dwell on all that? Certainly not I. Yet it happens because it’s only been about three years since I began to understand the dynamics of that relationship. 20/20 hindsight, indeed. But I don’t know what knowing then what I know now would have helped all that much. Maybe avoided some arguments? But with Amour Fou, wouldn’t we have just found something else to argue about?

So, when you find yourself in a relationship that is one of those “Can’t live with you, can’t live without you” type things, be careful. As much as you think you can’t leave, you can. Then again, I’ll bet you know that but can’t bring yourself to leave. Believe me, I get it. It’s the nature of the beast, really. Just try to be honest with yourself in the “amour phase” and know that the shit’s gonna hit the fan again.

Also know that love doesn’t mean having to endure that kind of dynamic. It’s totally possible to love someone without having shouting matches on a regular basis.

Sunday Driving and Freewriting

I’m trying to get in the habit of taking a long drive on the weekends. I’ve done it a couple times. The first time I had clutch issues (slave cylinder), and that put the habit on hold for awhile. Now I’m determined not to let the car sit for too long without being driven.

Around where I live, there’s a series of hills that only have a few roads that go over it. Some of them are easy to travel, and others are the older roads that were first made when a bunch of rich people bought up the land and built things like mansions and golf courses. Those roads are “the twisties” that are full of narrow, winding roads.

I was never much for convertibles, but my Sweetie bought me a 23 year old Miata last year. I needed a commuter car, and I knew how to drive stick. It’s acted up on me a couple ways, but has kept me out of danger when it refuses to budge. Though it wasn’t fun to have to replace the ignition key.

But I digress. One of the joys of having a convertible is being able to put the top down and drive the twisties. I have a sun hat, which helps keep the sunburn down. I also wear a t-shirt with sleeves, as tan lines are preferable to sunburn.

Today, I tried a couple twisties I hadn’t done before. One I’d driven a tiny bit of, but not the whole thing. It was a nice drive, but I didn’t expect so may pedestrians and bicycles out. Everyone was wearing masks, and I almost felt bad that I wasn’t. (I probably should when I have the top down, I guess. If I use a drive through, I do put one on.)

I also made myself a playlist for the drive. That way I could put my phone on do not disturb and put it in my bag. Keeps it out of the sun and removes the temptation to check messages. It was nice not to have to think about anything but the music and the road.

Going the speed limit is easier uphill. Downhill, I’m in neutral and use the brakes. I try not to ride the brakes, but if there’s someone in front of me with a car that isn’t made to drive this kind of road, I have to. Social distancing is very much a thing when going downhill. Gotta have room to react for slower drivers and oncoming traffic.

I guess it’s like meditation for me. I’m not good at the traditional notion of meditation. It’s hard for me to quiet my thoughts. (I have to listen to audiobooks in order to fall asleep. I mean, I can fall asleep on my own, but it takes quite a long time to do so.) Blasting the songs that I love while traversing twists and turns in a car with damn near 50/50 balance is a wonderful thing for me. It’s quite literally the opposite of being home most of the time. (I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to work from home and my company is doing well.)

I got a Chromebook the other day. I needed something bigger than my phone with a keyboard, so I went for a refurb of last year’s model that was mainly designed for schoolwork. One of these days I’ll spring for a fancier model with a backlit keyboard and a touchscreen, but for now I’m really happy. In fact, right now I’m sitting in my backyard typing, with my work-issued gaming headset on, blasting music.

I’m working on another blog, but it’s different. It’s all fiction, so I need to get all the backstory down before I decide to publish it. As much as I’ve always wanted to write a novel, it’s just too daunting of a task to do when I work full time and battle depression. I used to do a comic, but that was time consuming. Besides, writing is my art.

Narrative Mostly Freewriting #5

The Miles David album “Bitches Brew” is about to turn 50, and I’m listening to it for the first time. I recognize a lot of the names of the people who are playing with him. I’m 3 minutes into “Pharaoh’s Dance” and I’m in love already. Exactly the kind of jazz I tend to lean towards.

I recently applied for and got a transfer to a different department at work. Took almost a month between me putting in the application and getting the transfer. I leveled up, and it’s great! I’m wearing all the skirts I picked up at thrift shops, and a few of the sweaters, too. (I tend to buy cashmere and wool sweaters only–those are the great bargains). I can still wear jeans if I want, which I do sometimes. I’m finding I need to get shirts in a few different colors now that I care more about matching. I also need to iron on a regular basis. I wear my hair down a lot more often, too. (I still put it up when I eat). I’m liking this level, though it feels like I really should have done this 20 years ago. I know why I didn’t–I’d just married Kevin and the internet heyday of great paying support jobs were starting to fade away because everyone kept selling their companies instead of going bankrupt.

I also got a TV upgrade, even though it’s probably the oldest TV in this house, it’s still a great thing. Part of moving out of the room I was renting with my Sweetie meant that the old Chromecast box was up for grabs. I happily took that, because it means I can really use the streaming services I pay for. I haven’t turned on the TV that’s beamed in for a couple weeks. I also personalized the slide show on the Chromecast to show me things and people I love. Reminds me of a company I did product support for over 15 years ago–they were one of the first digital photo frame companies. But this is a lot easier!

I’m turning 45 in 8 days. How did I get to my mid-40’s? It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I turned 40. As Kevin died when I was 39, I’ve always been a 40-something widow. I’ve known my Sweetie for all of my 40’s thus far, too. It’s just how life turned out. I remember sometimes during my caregiving days (32-29) when I was just about to doze off, the phrase “40 years” popped into my mind. Back then, I hoped it meant that I’d have 40 years with Kevin. Only got 18. What are you gonna do?

OMG! ZAWINUL plays on the song Bitches Brew! The album did kind of have a Weather Report-ish feel to it. Yep, my kind of Jazz!

I love having a Miata. I also love driving stick again in a small car with almost 50/50 balance. I learned the lesson from my 20’s–you’ll kill the clutch if you use it as a brake–and shifting into neutral is delightful. My commute involves several hills, and I often coast down them whenever I can. It’s also fun to coast down on a notoriously congested piece of freeway when I come back down from visiting my Sweetie. If there’s no traffic, it’s fun, and if there is, it’s kind of like driving an automatic.

Drove part of the way home with the top down. That was fun, especially now that I have a new route home. Mine is a common commute that can include going past one or two very popular freeway entrances/exits, one of which is next to a Mall. I also pass by an area with a lot of schools, which means taking side streets isn’t really an option. Sure, I do go a little bit out of the way, but it means not having to deal with traffic and I get to drive some winding roads. (Yet another thing I tend to do in neutral. If I time things right, I end up shifting back into 3rd at the end of the turn.)

This whole “Plague 2020” thing is more amusing than alarming. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but this is just the kind of thing that takes advantage of human nature. The majority of people who get the virus live. Illness taps at people’s insecurities and causes them to freak out and start hoarding things. I just hope it makes people take health care more seriously during the election cycle.

Speaking of which, it’s very hard for me to watch politics on TV these days. I re-watch The West Wing instead. It’s comfort TV for me.

I recently got told that my Cholesterol is too high and my A1C is at the high end of the scale. I can’t do Keto. Kudos to those of you who can, but bread is a staple I know better than to give up entirely. I’m making some changes to my diet that I can live with. I’m eating more veggies for lunch, and I’ve taken to eating cereal on my first break. I’ve cut down on pasta and am opting for cauliflower crust on pizza. Next step is adding leafy greens to lunch. I just added cottage cheese to lunch, using the small Snoopy thermos I got like 35 years ago. The rest of my containers are glass, as I want to try to move away from heating up food in plastic containers.

Ok, well “side 1” of “Bitches Brew” is over, and I need to eat more.

Dear Kevin

Winter, 2020 (specifically March 2nd)

Note: Written as homework for therapy.

SB,

It’s been hard for me to face the loss of you.  You were in my life for 46% of it up to the moment you died.  The cats were our kids, and you stayed alive for them as much as for me.  It doesn’t surprise me that you were dead 6 months after Brubeck died. Your death day was very close to the day your cat Damien died, back in 1993 before I knew you. You didn’t mention him much in the later years, but I think he was on your mind.  

You added to my abandonment issues by leaving the world so brutally.  You didn’t care that it would be a much tougher journey losing you and not having my family. At the end, you painted me and my family as horrible and alienated me from them. All we tried to do was love you and take care of you as much as we could for as long as we could.  I know a lot of times it was not wisely, but too well, but my parents did more for us than your father ever did. In fact, the best thing your father did was die, because I gained another level of understanding of you that helped us for the 7 years you were alive after that.  It still pisses me off just how big of a mess you left when you died; and it’s part of the reason there’s still a lot of emotional pain associated with your memory.  

I miss listening to music, our jokes, our cats, visits from our favorite clients, “cat TV”, making dinner, making love, the way your smile made my heart leap for joy, playing poker or 21 with the red Snoopy cards in your bathroom while you took a bath to try to make your back feel even the tiniest bit better, the different ways you’d tell me it was Bongload Time, when you’d call me Moniegirl or Lucky Charm, our dreams for the house, working on Minimoogs, the way you could cheer me up in the depths of depression, My Show, which was when we’d sit down and go through the folder you kept things you wanted to share with me (when did that start? 911? 2nd gulf war?), hearing you test out synths in front of clients and have them complement your playing, the nerdy as fuck projects you’d come up with, cuddling, hearing you say “I love you”.

Sense memory is still hard to deal with.  A lot of times now, it’s songs I don’t hear often but they’re ones that you loved.  A recent example is Journey’s “Send Her My Love.” It makes me anxious when that happens.  That anxiety often makes me worried about my present life. All that because I can’t bear to miss you.  I loathe, detest, and despise missing you. 

I think of you when I smell vanilla or plumeria.  I tell people at the dispensary about “starving lungs in Jamaica” when someone didn’t finish their dabs.  So many songs still remind me of you, but a lot of them aren’t as emotionally painful as they used to be. Like “Everything Counts” by Depeche Mode.  That used to be an emotional beating. Yet other songs are now emotionally painful because I’ve used them to process the emotional pain related to your loss.  The most notable is “Cousin Kevin,” from The Who’s Tommy.  The lines “Maybe a cigarette burn on your arm would change the expression to one of alarm” hits hard.  The scar from you aiding me in burning myself (even though I was not completely serious about actually doing it) has faded a lot, but oy vey, my soul mate!

Looking at your handwriting isn’t always easy, so I don’t do it too often.  But I just moved out of the place in Victorville in early February, which meant having to open boxes I haven’t opened in more than 6 years.  Evidence of the life we had together. The padded envelope that has all of our wedding stuff in it. All the CD’s and VHS tapes and cassette tapes.  And your pictures! I sent a bunch to Audrey, as I think it’s time to start making sure evidence of your existence is not only in my hands.  

The catalyst for finally forcing myself to deal with how painful it was to lose you was our friend Bruce’s death.  Losing Golden Ears was such a loss. He was a huge connection to you, and losing him was like losing you again. He’d be glad that his dying of cancer on 4/20 prompted me to grow as a person. 

I want to tell you about my life right now, because your death is directly responsible for the life I have now.  I know part of the reason you hung yourself was to free me from the burden of you. We both know just how much of a burden it was at the end.  You’d suffered enough, and I’m glad I was able to accept that at the very end. You said people would help me and take care of me, and it’s true.  My soldering and wiring skills have come in handy to a wonderful group of friends I have now. There’s this cool new event called Neotropolis, and I’m the repair tech for all the LED neon light signs and light bars.  I even have my own group, known as a faction, which I named The Light Nerds. I’m running a repair shop, so of course I need to pay homage to you. I made money selling the T1 boards, and the money often came in exactly when I needed it. 

I’ve been mending fences with my folks for about four and a half years now.  I always knew they never stopped loving me, even though you tried to convince me they didn’t.  They let me move in a year ago last December so I could get the job I have now, which was 14 months ago.  I just changed departments from Customer Service to Logistics. It’s a better position, though I’m not getting a pay rise just yet.  I’m still training, and it’s going well. I built myself a great reputation in Customer Service, which helped me get this new job. It’s a great place to work for, and the benefits are ones I longed to get when you were alive.

I have an actual relationship with my nephew Harry, and I’m so glad.  I’m the aunt who knows about stuff like memes and Anime. We get along and even had a dual birthday lunch last year.  He’s a great kid, and you were wrong–my sister and parents have done a great job raising him. He’s also got a stepdad named Danny who is by far the best brother in law I’ve had.  

In my romantic life–I’ve been in a wonderful relationship with Stephen for nearly 5 years.  We spent the better part of 4 years living and working together, and maintained a place together until recently.  Stephen is amazing. He loves me the way you claimed to love me. Yes, I’m not his wife, but he doesn’t try to make me into the kind of partner he wants.  He wants me to live my own life the way I need to. He lent me his car to go on the interview for my job, knowing it could mean me moving back in with my parents.  It’s not that big a deal, because they love him. He’s spent holidays with us, and has helped them around the house a bunch. He loves me and he knows that my parents are wonderful, so he treats them with the respect they’re due.  

When it comes to my relationship with Stephen, I’ve taken all the good things you did for me and combined it with the way I wish you’d loved me.  As a result, I know Stephen is the love of my life. It’s so easy to love and support him finding his path in life. I taught him how to solder, and we built those boards together.  That’s been a good source of income. There’s so much art he’s shown me that I’d never have known otherwise. It’s great. My not dealing with the loss of you has caused problems in my relationship with him, but now that I’ve figured out what’s going on, I’m determined to deal with feelings as rationally as I can.  

March 1st came and went, and I did my best not to focus on the fact that it was the 24th anniversary of me finding you on AOL.  I spent the weekend with Stephen, which was fantastic. I was sore from our outing on the 29th, and as we were in a hotel room, I opted to take a bath.  It felt very odd to be the one soaking in the tub and asking someone to load me a bowl. Then, on the way to lunch, “your songs” kept popping up in my playlist.  I skipped most of them, because I wanted to focus on the present. But it made me miss you.

So that’s where I am in life, in a place you probably knew I’d be in because of the tremendous faith you (usually) had in me.  I love you still, and a part of me always will. I just need to process this grief a bit more so I can move on. It’s not easy, but I need to do it in order to succeed at this new phase in life.  

I miss you, I love you, and I’m pretty sure you’d be proud of me.

Love,

Poodlefish

Narrative Mostly-Freewriting #2

I stopped posting my writing a long time ago. It was discouraged for many years because it was painted as a selfish indulgence. Now it’s encouraged because I feel good when I write.

And maybe love is letting people be just what they want to be
The door always must be left unlocked
To love when circumstance may lead someone away from you
And not to spend the time just doubting

Howard Jones, “What is Love?”

I always liked that song, but I never realized just how true it is. That verse means a lot to me, because it describes my present way more than my past. There’s a big difference between letting someone think you’re letting them live the way they want to and actually letting them make the choices they need to make without protest. I actually have the kind of love I thought I had for 18 years. It’s wonderful.

It’s just after sunset when I walk out of the gym. I went to the nice one near work, because it’s more conducive to getting more stretching done than the one near home. Plus I couldn’t find sunglasses and I don’t want to be driving into the setting sun.

I have a habit of doing bicycle crunches to the song “I’m a Man” by the Spencer Davis Group. That song became one of my grooves after it was in the 1st episode of the 7th season of Mad Men. Plus the organ is just groovy.

It’s a bit more traffic heading home from the gym at this time, but the gym has a better vibe and better equipment. Though I don’t like the stationary bike’s ability to tell me what I weigh. The scale can fuck with my head. 30 years ago, the first time the manual scale had to be transferred to the 100 block so I could get an accurate weight at the doctor’s, I freaked out. I was 14, and I didn’t weigh much over 100 pounds again until I was 26, when I finally got therapy for the anorexia I didn’t realize I had all those years.

When I get to a certain point in my commute, I shift into neutral and try to coast as much as I can. It’s harder to do with traffic, but I manage a mile or two today. I love being able to do that. Never thought I’d have another manual transmission, but I’m not complaining. I learned about 20 years ago.

Shuffling though my playlist on my route home, I stumble upon Steely Dan’s “FM”, the title song to a 1978 movie about a scrappy little FM Radio station that encounters some Big Corporate interference and how the employees scheme to get their point made. With a happy ending, of course. I have it on VHS somewhere. I even have a TV/VCR combo to watch it on. Not sure when I’ll dig that stuff out.

I think the meds are working. Most nights I get decent sleep, and my body’s slowly adjusting to the daytime med. I’m not dwelling on bad thoughts as much, at least. Should have gotten these months ago. I know my friend Golden Ears would have suggested it, but he’s been gone since last April. His death started to reopen the painful wounds I’ve been avoiding. But that was him, holding people’s feet to the fire when it was merited. Sometimes when I’m working, doing the type of work he mentored me on 20 years ago, I can hear him laughing, faintly.

I get home, drop off my stuff on my bed, and head to the computer to write.

Don’t leave false illusions behind
Don’t cry cause I ain’t changing my mind
So find another fool like before
Cause I ain’t gonna live anymore believing
Some of the lies while all of the signs are deceiving

The Alan Parsons Project, “Eye in the Sky”

Those lyrics are filling my ears as I type this. They remind me of my late husband Kevin at the end of his life. For a few years, he tried to get me to accept the fact that the pain he was in was getting to be too much and he wanted to have a say in when it was time for him to go. For the last year or so of Kevin’s life, each morning after a particularly bad day, I would look outside at the trees to see if he was hanging from one. I’d have to wait for his text to let me know he was up (and alive). Once the last cat died, I accepted what was going to happen because I knew he was miserable, and I felt terrible that he was only around to save me the pain of losing him. He died knowing I’d forgive him, just under 6 months later.

I’ve been trying to move on these 5 1/2 years, but it hasn’t been easy. 3 years ago I finally allowed myself to get really angry at him, and I’ve done my best not to allow myself to feel the pain of the loss. Short-sighted of me to do that. Now that I pretty much have no choice but to deal with this or let it destroy me, it’s a little easier. I’ll allow myself to get caught in sense memory and feel the loss. I’m determined to be able to listen to certain songs without getting overwhelmed with grief.

So hard to laugh a child-like giggle
When the tears start to torture my mind
So hard to shed the life of before
To let my soul automatically soar

But I hit hard at the battle that’s confronting me, yeah
Knock down all the road blocks a-stumbling me
Throw off all the shackles that are binding me down

The Beach Boys, “Long Promised Road”

I never would have loved that song as much as I do without him. He was the one who hunted down the album “Surf’s Up” on vinyl to replace the copy that got warped decades earlier. Those lyrics have comforted me for at least 20 years, come to think of it. I forget how much time has passed. They comfort me now, and remind me that I can process the 18 years he was in my life and finally make peace with them. At least I can listen to this album. As I’ve mentioned before, I love the album “Pet Sounds”, but it’s still too painful. I suppose as part of my therapy I should start listening to it so I can feel the damn pain already and move on and grow into a healthier version of myself.

Three That Left in ’19

This year, the world lost one remarkable woman and two wonderful, brilliant, talented, and funny men to what Gilda Radner called “The most unfunny thing in the world, cancer.” It’s been 30 years since we lost Gilda Radner. I often wonder if the drugs she took to try to have a baby was the catalyst of to set off her genetic predisposition to the disease. But I digress. My friends Golden Ears and Mr. Bill both died of cancer. My youngest aunt Elizabeth died as well. I accept these deaths as a part of life, but they’ve left holes in the lives of many people that only those who feel the loss can comprehend. That pain is one I can relate to in my on way, but not their way. Death is so personal, so subjective from person to person. I think we need to do a better job as a society to accept death and do a better job comforting the dying so they can greet death as an old friend. (Yes, that’s a Deathly Hallows reference.) I guess it really is true that you understand death the longer you’ve been alive.

Golden Ears was my late husband Kevin’s oldest friend, They met in Orange County, CA in 1980. Golden Ears was working at a computer store, and Kevin walked in, went up to the alphaSyntauri keyboard that was hooked up to an Apple II and started playing a line from one of the classic Prog keyboardists (I want to say Emerson). Golden Ears, a talented musician and music lover, recognized the tune, He was a force of nature who was the coolest Nerd I knew. He was the one who set me up with a nice telecommuting job back in 1998 that made me realize that doing customer support was a good fit for me. I’m eternally grateful for that nudge. His memorial service was wonderful, a loving tribute to him by his closest family and friends. It also included a chance to take pictures at a self-serve photo booth with the back drop of the ending frame of the Loony Toons cartoons–That’s All, Folks! Those were his favorite, and the kind of humor that he would have wanted at his memorial.

Mr. Bill was an online friend my age I’d met via the website MetaFilter. He’d lost his wife in 2009, and when my husband died in 2014, he was very supportive. I could be honest with him about what I was feeling, and he validated a lot of the range of emotions I felt the first six months or so. I never met him in person–he lived in Texas. He was a great soul as well as the coolest Gen X Nerd I knew. He was much more than that, as he loved to go to TRF, and a member of his local Masonic Lodge.

My Aunt Elizabeth is my Mom’s youngest sister. The half century she was on this earth was tumultuous, and she carried a wonderful spirit throughout it. As sometimes happens in larger Mexican families, she was only 7 years older than me. I have her to thank for knowing who Gilda Radner is in the first place. She woke me up to see Saturday Night Live when I was 4 to see Roseanne Rosannadanna. I found it funny, even though I wouldn’t understand the jokes until I saw that bit again when I was 15.

2020 is the first full year without all these three, and all of us who knew and loved them will do our best to carry on without them. For Bill Hicks was right, it’s just a ride.

Pain as a Sense Memory Trigger

I’ve written before about some issues I had related to painkillers, sense memory, and survivor’s guilt. Here’s a little more:

How does a widow process whatever emotion’s being pinged by some lower back pain brought on due to her spending a chunk of Saturday working on wiring while sitting on the ground? Like this I guess, because I didn’t really put that whole thought together until I started typing it. There’s always a reason certain things trigger such intense sense memories about my late husband. This time, it’s feeling what he felt. The image of him sitting on a chair, hunched over a circuit board, doing everything from soldering to writing notes to prodding it with some tool, trying to get it do what it was supposed to do, is still clear in my mind. There are any number of songs I could listen to that can invoke that memory. Some also make me recall the cats–the six “purrkids” we had. Or how much I miss having such a great clothesline that also produced some great icicles in the winter. And then I cry, because that part feels safe to miss. The rest, doesn’t.

But physical pain, it does things to us that we’d rather avoid. It forces us to feel things we’ve done our best not to feel. I know that there is a life I used to have that I’ll never get back. I’m fine with that, because I really love the life I have now. I honestly wouldn’t trade anything to get that old life back. I’m more myself that I have been for a couple decades, easily.

But the mind has to deal with that stuff, lest we suffer too much. So it uses sense memory, in part, to remind us that we need to make peace with past pain. It’s okay to put it to rest and move on, but you have to deal with it head-on first before you can have more control over how you deal with those sense memory triggers in the future. Sometimes it feels unfair, but it’s a fact that can’t be changed.

I love Pet Sounds, but I Can’t Listen To It

Over the summer, my Sweetie and I were out with friends of his. While driving, we were parked behind a car that had a sticker of The Beach Boys album Pet Sounds. I perked up, as I love that album. I remarked that it was known for being a great album and it helped inspire the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Pet Sounds is an album that has emotional ties to my late husband. I hate to say it, but the romanticism helped prompt me to abandon my education to live with him when I was 21. I’ve never regretted that decision, because it led to a life I quite enjoyed overall that left me a few unique skills that still come in handy and many memories that make good stories.

That’s also why this album is so hard to listen to nowadays. I tried a couple of months ago while traveling along the Gold Line to/from Union Station to see my surgeon. Some of it was beautiful, as is most art that comes from the genius of a troubled soul. Some of it was a tiny bit physically painful due to my brain transferring the emotional pain the sense memory the music gave me into the physical sensation of what happens nowadays when I try to hold my Hello Kitty cup in my right hand for too long. I remembered the early days of getting to know someone half my life ago who is now a box of ashes in my closet. Half my life ago seems like it was an extra decade ago. I suppose because I’m so far removed from that life, and the kind of thinking I did back then. Exactly the kind of thing that happens when one moves on. To me, the only logical choice is to move on, which is why I was listening to the album again. I needed to appreciate it for what it is again. Am I up to having the songs be in my main playlists? Not yet.

Ugh, Sense Memory

I broke my right arm and dislocated my wrist seven months ago, on my birthday. I had to have surgery to set it. I found that pain is a very big sense memory trigger for me. In the ER, when I was told I was going to get morphine, I suddenly wished for the ability to grab the vial, go back in time a few years to any number of nights my late husband was in pain without painkillers, set the vial on the porch to his room, and go back to the present. That desire surprised me, as I don’t think that way. I’m doing what he wanted–for me to live my own life on my own terms. I’m happy with my life and don’t have any desire to turn back time.

The same desire happened when I got taken into a room to await surgery and was given Dilaudid. Thankfully, when it kicked in I was able to toss that thought aside. I was given a prescription for Percocet, which I filled a little guiltily and after having to explain to the pharmacy that I’d just had surgery on my arm (note the arm in the sling!) and was going to recuperate at my parent’s house. The next day, I decided to take half a Percocet after lunch, as the ibuprofen wasn’t doing much about the pain. I couldn’t remember if I’d taken the pill or not, so I decided to pour them out to count them. The sight of all those pills made me wish for the time machine again. I poured them back into the bottle as fast as I could, discovered the pill was actually on the kitchen counter, took it, and ran to my room. I hate crying as I did that day. I’ve already felt the pain of being helpless to help someone’s agony before, and I don’t need to revisit it because I was given a limited dose of painkillers appropriate for my injury. I did so much crying the first few years after my husband died. It’s been just over 4 years now, and I’ve done the work to process those 18 years of my life and move on. I enjoy living in the present, as it contains my Sweetie.

Today I got an MRI on that hand. I knew I had to stay still in an enclosed place, and I was fine with that. I was given earplugs and told it would be loud. What I didn’t expect was to feel like I’d spent 20 minutes inside a synthesizer. Immediately, my mind flashed to my late husband making very similar noises at similar intervals to the noise that was going on around me. I felt myself in his old room, where we worked, ate, played Scrabble, watched lots of media, listened to lots of music, laughed, and cried. I don’t need to revisit all that. That part of my life is over, and again, I’ve made peace with that.

I decided to “fight” sinking into that feeling that was being prompted by all the noise around me. I knew I could keep it together if I tried. So, I tried to think of something in the present that would calm me. My mind’s eye showed me cuddling with my Sweetie. It helped. When the noise would change, I’d have to refocus on that image. I kept thinking that I didn’t want to sink into the messiness of missing my late husband. It was such a mercurial relationship that it’s not easy to reflect upon. I’d rather think of my present, where my Sweetie and I are building a life together that we both enjoy living.