Happy Hellidays

The impending holidays have me in a darkly pensive frame of mind, and coherent cultural critique requires focus, and is not a timely way to accomplish what I would like to, as the holidays are in full swing – a turn of phrase that might call dancing to mind, if the holidays are a time with some joy in them for you, and that might call to mind dangling from the end of a rope, if it is a time that feels like it exists to enhance your misery.

That is not meant to be a cruel joke – for people who are lonely and depressed, the relentless tide of supposed cheer can escalate those feelings of isolation and sadness. I knew someone who ended her life on a new year’s eve. I wish no one ever felt that way, but people do, and denying it does not help.

Which is, in all, why I want to skip the lengthier attempt to reason out why the things that are wrong with this time of year are what they are, and instead just address people on either side of the holiday-having divide. With the caveat that I am just a person, I am not a shrink or a saint. I can’t heal you or prescribe to you or save you. I am not in a position to offer more than the words on the screen, in the hope that maybe I can make the season a little less miserable for you, and if at all possible, maybe a little happier.

If you are someone who has loved ones to spend the holidays with, someone who has a safe, comfortable home that is decorated, and houses holiday gifts, and maybe serves as the site of a holiday event, you might be feeling your own negative feelings this time of year. Maybe you put pressure on yourself to be the perfect host, perfect Santa. I have been that person, when I was young and struggling to fill a role I could not, and felt the pressure of performing in a family in which love was incredibly conditionally and inconsistently given (which I didn’t understand was not actually love). And I can understand those feelings. Especially when, as is inevitable, there is someone in your awareness who has more. Who can buy more gifts, or more expensive gifts. Who has a bigger house. Whose family has more on-the-surface successes or apparent happiness.

Every person, even the most decent, I think, has a touch of narcissism – we spend all of our time with ourselves, and we spend, most likely, too much time thinking about ourselves. And the kind of pain associated with over-achieving holiday hosting is not inescapable pain, it is chosen pain. We don’t have to do all the things. There is almost certainly no fatal consequence to not doing them. That someone in your family might be displeased is not, most likely, a true survival threat, and would merely be unpleasant – and probably less unpleasant than having a stress heart-attack while trying to make home-made eggnog.

Beyond that, the kind of stress that comes from having in excess and over-achieving is also a pain rooted in only focusing our attention on others who have (or seem to have) more than we do – meaning the kind of focus on others that is really still just a focus on ourselves, the kind that fuels the masochistic pleasure of self-pity, not empathy and compassion. The latter comes from looking at those who have less – unhappier families, no family, less money, no money, unsafe homes, no homes. If we choose not to look at those whose inescapable suffering diminishes our ability to throw self-pity parties, we keep ourselves locked in unhealthy behaviors, in unnecessary misery, in lives that are bound to be less happy and fulfilled.

If the suggestion that you don’t have to make dinner for fifty even if your mother-in-law will be a real bitch about it has you ready to scream that I don’t get it, you don’t have a choice, well, you are kind of proving my point. That the way you are approaching the holiday isn’t just dismissive of the pain of people in truly dire circumstances, it is not making you happy.

This is one of the thing that most mystifies me about the financial and social systems that exist the world over – even the people who benefit the most from those systems don’t seem to be happy. Many, if not all, seem to be straight up miserable.

Participation in the holidays are, by and large, at least in our non-theocracy, a matter of choice for those with the means to participate. And many choose to participate at the cost of their happiness.

We all make choices. If your choice is to drive yourself to distraction trying to please people , people who would prefer that you drive yourself to distraction to please them than that you also be happy, well, that is your choice. But I do hope you will at least consider whether that is a good choice, a choice you want to make for yourself.

And if you have the means to give, I would ask you to consider maybe giving where it will not be demanded, or taken for granted, or unappreciated – there are people in your community whose lives would actually be changed for the better by a benevolent stranger paying their heating bill or getting rid of a credit card debt. There are multitudes of critical and underfunded services for people who are suffering that would make good use the fifty dollars you spent on an iTunes gift card that your nephew threw in the trash. There are loads of people on platforms like GoFundMe in desperate need of help to survive tragedies. Hell, there are people in your own life who would be absolutely thrilled to be invited to your house for a holiday affair of wearing pajamas and being provided with wine and takeout while appreciating your beautiful Christmas decorations, who would appreciate generosity that did not require you to suffer even a little stress-baldness.

If the holidays really are about generosity and celebration, about spreading cheer and kindness, and not about keeping up appearances or fulfilling a role that causes you pain, or if you would like them to be, there is still time to make different choices. The kind that don’t just make other people happy, but that will bring you happiness, too. Even if you never get to see the people you’ve helped, you get to know that you, you, had the power to change a life for the better, and did. And that is the point of giving. To do what kindness you can, because you can. A gift is something freely given. Not in the expectation of anything in return – including gratitude. A transaction is not a gift.

And if you are someone for whom the holidays feel like an in-your-face, sadistic reminder of all that you wish you had, but don’t, well, I feel you, too. I have spent more than one Christmas alone. I may again. I know what it is like to live on a razor’s edge of survival. I know what it is like to lose everything you have. I know what it is like to live with violence. I know what it is like to lose all of the people you love most. I know that if you are included as a lone afterthought in some other family’s holiday, it can be lonelier than spending the day alone, because on the holiday (everyday, really), we all tend to want to be where we feel we belong, and when we don’t, the sadness of watching people from the sidelines who have what you don’t can be what it feels like the holidays are about.

I can’t promise you that some kind-hearted soul will come along and invite you into a celebration where you will feel truly welcomed and included. Or that your estranged family will be visited by three ghosts in the night and wake up new, kinder people ready to make amends and bring longed-for love into your life. Or that Santa will drop a bag of cash from his sleigh that will free you from your survival fears and enable you to get a last-minute tree and gifts for your kids. Or that the person who broke your heart will experience a change in their own, and reach out to you, and take away the feeling that you ceased to exist when they ceased to acknowledge you.

I am not going to be the asshole blowing thoughts-and-prayers-and-unfounded-optimism up your ass. Grief is hard. Poverty is hard. Loneliness is hard. Living with trauma or its after-effects is hard. I know it myself, and if you are reading on because the miserable-holidays speaks to you, I am pretty secure in saying you know it, too. I am not expecting a merry anything this year. And that sucks. But I am expecting I will wake up in late February when this long run of holidaying is over, and still be here to fight and hope and, everything-willing, be happy another day. I have lived through many of the god-I-wish-this-would-kill-me experiences, and they sucked as hard as that hyphenated run of words suggests, but I lived. I live. I intend to keep living.

I hope it helps you to know there are other people who aren’t going to be happily blowing lines off Santa’s ass, or having an old-fashioned family money fight in the solarium this holiday season. That you aren’t the only person who wishes it was March already, and you would be free til November of the have/have-not-idays. Maybe if you look around, you will find someone else in your life who will want to spend the helliday with you. Maybe, however fucked your life is, you still have the ability to help someone else who is as bad – or worse – off. Truly, even when you are down, it is possible to help, and there is something reaffirming about connecting meaningfully with another human being. We are, like it or not, social animals. It is how we evolved, how we survived, how we still survive. And it is hard to feel powerless or worthless or hopeless when your actions make a positive difference in another life.

Even if you end up spending the holidays crying into the whiskey you are pretending is egg nog while “I’ll be home for Christmas” plays on a loop, you can still switch to water, get some sleep, and wake up to the relief of days that have no sad emotional resonance. If the whiskey-nog brings you to contemplating what the unfortunate soul I knew did, who ended her own life on a holiday about new beginnings, because, I suppose, she couldn’t imagine such things when she had so many powerful losses in the recent past, please remember that there are hotlines you can call, where total strangers willingly listen to people in their darkest moments, because there are, in fact, some decent human beings out there, and not everything good is out of reach to those who aren’t lucky enough to have love and money. (The suicide hotline number in the U.S., by the way, is 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-273-TALK.)

There is little in this world more valuable than the support of a compassionate human being when we feel alone and lost and ready to give up. And that is something you can have. I hope if you need it, you will call. Even if you aren’t actively suicidal, you can still call and talk to someone at the National Suicide Hotline. And there are other hotlines and warm lines out there, as well, with people who will advise you about escaping abuse, or who are fellow sufferers of addiction or mental illness, and a myriad of other options.

I wish for everyone to both give and receive some compassion and kindness this holiday season – including giving some of both to yourselves. Maybe for you, that means allowing that you don’t have to host a work party and a neighborhood party and a family party, and just do one, or hell, none. Give the money to charity, instead, and if anyone gives you any shit about not hosting, tell them you decided this year to give the money to aid organizations feeding starving children, and let them feel like an asshole (or know they will be judged as one if they open their mouths to bitch at that point).

Maybe it means allowing that it is okay to need help, and calling a friend, or calling a hotline.

Maybe it means choosing to ignore the holiday altogether and doing some spring-cleaning in December instead.

I also hope everyone will take some time to consider the idealized meanings of the holiday season, and try to put more effort into those things.

Could be you yourself are one of those estranged loved ones who could choose to make amends. You could Ebenezer Scrooge someone into a renewed faith in life and humanity by doing what is difficult, owning your fuck-ups, and behaving differently.

Maybe there is someone in your sphere of acquaintance who is not the easiest person to deal with, who likely could use a little compassion – even if it is just saying hello to a crabby neighbor, and ignoring their defensive reply (or non-reply).

Maybe there is a person who is elderly and living alone in your neighborhood you could choose to befriend – starting with an invite to the holiday party you are throwing. They will likely appreciate it a lot more than the people you look at with barely-suppressed resentment across the dining table.

Maybe you could just take the time to reevaluate how you view the people who suffer in the world, if you are one who tends to blame and shame, and ask what fears about the fragility and vulnerability of your own good luck probably fuel those beliefs.

Maybe instead of spending fifty dollars on a gift card for someone who doesn’t need or appreciate it, you can put that fifty dollars in the hands of someone who has nothing, the next time you see someone sleeping on a street. Fifty dollars is a fortune for someone with nothing – and if you want to go off on some compassionless rant about how they will just spend it on drugs or booze, well, be honest – you live inside, and you probably do the same with some of the money you have, and know you do so as a way to deal with pain of some kind. Do you really think the stress of your life can touch the stress of weathering the winter outdoors? Before you consider the statistics that a majority of people who are homeless are veterans, and a majority of people who are homeless suffer from mental illness (and the sad reality that means a large number must be both)?

Maybe all of this sounds like bullshit, but if you are so sure it is, you could try, and try to prove me wrong – in all likelihood, you will find out that some of it isn’t bullshit. There are so many things we can do, that require little of us, that can make a difference in someone else’s life – and doing that usually feels pretty good. One Christmas – the first I spent alone, actually – the friend I call my little brother, who was serving in Afghanistan at the time, who I hadn’t heard from in worryingly long, called me. That remains the single greatest Christmas gift I have ever gotten, and made a day that was overall pretty sad suddenly happier.

Helping others really does help ourselves, too. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t be typing into the void, trying to encourage hypothetical readers through a season that is difficult for many, some by choice, some by circumstance, and feeling a little less unhappy about the holidays myself. Isolation makes most of what is bad, worse. Give yourself a chance to feel a little better. Your words, your time, your attention, your company – these are gifts most of us are able to give, and some of the most needed and appreciated. (That said, if you can give money, to people without it, money can be the difference between life and death, so by all means, if you can, give that, too.)

I wish you happy holidays, or join you in saying fuck the holidays, according to whichever actually makes your holidays a little better.


Dear Kath, (9)

Dear Kath,

Back again, with my stomach churned from anxiety, trying to pep talk myself and finding it not at all helpful. Considered the whole “think of all the things you have survived” strategy, but thinking of those things is pretty much just scary, not empowering. Which makes sense, as courage is not fearlessness, courage is acting in spite of feeling fear. And fear is what I feel right now. Whether or not I have survived equally bad or worse does not make this any easier. It makes it terrifying. I know how bad things can be. Have been. Are. I don’t want any more. I want to be through this already. I am choking, sister, and there is fuck all I can do in this moment, but I also don’t have the capacity to forget about it and relax. If you are watching out for me, please, send the dog with a backpack full of cash, or similar. I need a fucking break. I am past my capacity to function in dire circumstances. I need a fucking break. Please. I want to know what it is like to live a life that is tranquil. That is lucky. That is something that doesn’t give me nightmares and rob me of the escape of sleep. I want to know what it is like to have some peace. I want to know what it is like to live a life that doesn’t feel like an escalating series of punishments. I want to know what it is like to feel real relief, to know everything is okay, now, and will be okay. This is pretty much straight word-vomit, but I needed to blurt somewhere. I needed to get the panic out of my head and anywhere else. I need you. Where did you go? That is the question that haunts us after death, isn’t it? You were right here, you were here, and now you aren’t. Why aren’t you here? Where did you go? Dammit, I need you to be here. I need to pick up the phone and be able to hear your voice. I need to hear the voice that…gave me some solid ground. I feel like I have lost every single bit of stability, every inch of foundation, one piece after another. Relentlessly. For years. And years. And years. I can’t take any more, Kath. I lived past losing you, and it just keeps getting worse. Please, please, help me right now. Help me, please.

I love you. I miss you. I feel lost without you.

And I considered just leaving this in the drafts or deleting it, but ultimately, truthfully, it made me feel better. One of the worst habits born of fucked up experiences, I think, is learning to try to suppress what we feel, to deny it, to bury, not to express it. And sometimes what we really need to do is just let ourselves have a good, mindless, freaked-out blurt. Word-vomit, indeed. One of those instances of better out than in. Suppression is one of those things that I think is the root of, and amplifiers of, anxiety.

I have not solved my problems. I am still waiting for the backpack dog. But I feel at least like now I can put some shit aside for a while and let my mind be distracted and hope that allows me to sleep peacefully after. Not everything helpful is pretty. Not everything that is helpful is a cure-all. But it is still worth doing.

I put my very brief panicked word-barf out there for anyone who is keeping it all inside. Maybe try word-vomiting that shit out, onto a page, into a hotline staffers’ ear, to a trusted loved one who has the capacity in the moment to hold some space for your pain, whatever you have, wherever it feels safe, let it rip. You might not make a lot of sense, you might not say what you logically mean, you might say things that are exagerrated or nonsensical – and you might find that venting your feelings (in a non-abusive way, if you are venting to another person, I am not advocating for yelling or throwing shit or any of that biz) provides you with relief from the very feelings you want to be relieved of.

Letting your freak-out flag fly might help. It helped me. I am going to watch some Netflix and hopefully hit sleepytown.

Seriously, Kath, this whole exercise is turning into a weird fucking journey into basic emotional coping and self-care skills. Beats the hell out of sitting around feeling terrified without end. What the fuck would I have ever done without you? Thank you for being someone who loved me so truly that you left me with a little piece of the space you held for me. It is like I still have your permission to say how I am, and that is enough to allow me to do it. I don’t think you will ever stop saving my ass. Goddamn, I miss you, bitch.

I love you so much. You are still the heart of my heart. Always will be.


Dear Kath, (8)

Dear Kath,

It has been a weird day. I guess most of my days are weird, by some standards, but today was weird by mine. I am back here for the second time today, because, of course, it is you I want to talk to. And at this point, I just want to allow myself to do this whenever I want to talk to you.

Because it helps me.

Because it helps me keep feeling connected to you, and that is something I really don’t know how to live without. Until two years ago, I had never lived a day of my life without you as some part of it. And man, that still feels so fucking unreal. I would probably be better able to accept finding out that you pulled a massively cruel prank than that you really aren’t here any more. Two years. And they have SUCKED. And for so many reasons. Like losing the closest human being in my life was not a world of suck enough. It is one of those wishfully human things, that we want there to be some order, some rules, some restraint, that only one massively shitty thing could happen at a time. No such fucking thing, of course, but when there is a pileup of awful experiences, I think it does add to our sense of disconnect, of this-cannot-be-happening.

Because I need to start allowing myself to do things more often just because I want to, to allow that to be enough reason, even though there are so many things that feel so pressing to do. If I don’t, I am going to burn out completely, long before I get anywhere near the life I want to have. The life I want to have, for a start, is one built around having and doing the things I want. Maybe thinking about you and your seasonal bucket lists put me in this mindframe. That it is important to try to stuff some little bits of pleasantness into all unpleasant days, so that we don’t fall into despair, or get paralyzed by anxiety, or cease to see the point in living because we cease to feel anything good.

Because I know that part of what I want to do is this, or some version of this: write, hopefully in a way that reaches people on a level that is helpful to them in their own lives. Ideally in a way that is entertaining. I have known a lot of times of difficulty, and many of them with some degree of loneliness and isolation, and the work other strangers shared was a part of how I got through those times. Get through those times. There can be value in the indirect human connection we experience by engaging with what someone else has made, has communicated.

And because I think the only way I get to where I am doing that successfully requires that I just keep writing and publishing as often as I can, and finding my way to the work I want to be doing by doing the work that I feel able to do right now. It is so easy, I think, for all of us to get stuck, to keep waiting, instead of trying. This is not ground-breaking material, and it lacks my voice, the voice I still feel I am recovering in the aftermath of multiple new traumatic experiences. I have no particular reason to think it will be read by many people. And that isn’t really the point. I have no control over that. I have control over whether I take the time to string words together into sentences, and whether I put those words where they can be seen by people who might be inclined to read some random bit of writing by a stranger. Entertaining or not, you never know whether what you need to say might be words someone else needs to read. I have found wisdom in many unexpected places over the years. Maybe for some other person, the letters I write to you will have some unexpected value. I hope so. I would prefer not to suffer, but if I am going to suffer, I would like it to serve some purpose, to create some meaning out of it.

Because in some part of my mind, I know this will be one more of those things that lead me to somewhere closer to where I want to be, that I will be able to look back on this, and even if at that point I think it is trite garbage, I will know it took me somewhere I wouldn’t have gotten if I sat and waited for the Muse to strike or circumstances to improve or for the perfect idea, perfectly executed.

On the bright side, right now, I do feel more like I am really addressing you. Which is some indirect connection I am grateful to have.

Although I admit I am past the point in babbling to you where I would want to be interrupted. I want to be asking you how you are, and what your plans are, and how you are feeling. I want you to tell me what you think about where I am, about what has happened, about what I am doing, about what you think I should do. I am doing the best I can by asking myself what I think you would say, but it isn’t the same. I miss your voice. If I am being honest about it, maybe my lost voice didn’t go missing with the recent round of nesting-doll-style traumas. I lost you in pieces, and I think when I was where I didn’t know how to talk to you, where we were not communicating well at all, that I had also lost my voice in pieces. A little at a time, so I didn’t really notice that it was gone.

I guess that is one more reason to do this – we really do need to express what is in our heads outside of ourselves, maybe ideally to someone else, because we are social animals, and we rely on seeing ourselves reflected back in each other. I got too isolated with someone who was funhouse mirroring me. I needed more perspective than I had, and I got lost. I think maybe you got lost, too. I wish we had gotten more time, because I know we would have helped each other get found. But you are gone now. And I don’t want to stay lost. So I am keeping you alive in my mind as much as I can. Your perspective is the one I need most right now, I think. One that helped me come this point, that we need to be careful of who we choose to see ourselves reflected back by.

I probably haven’t blown anyone’s mind with this, Kath, certainly not my own. But I feel a little better than I did earlier today. And somewhere in the half-assed rambles there are a couple of things I imagine will be useful to be reminded of, sooner or later. And I got to spend a little time with you, so to speak. Worth it.

I love you.


p.s. All the “voice” talk belatedly brought me to what should have been most obvious – that I am choosing to write to you, because if there was anyone I could be myself with, andyone I felt seen by, understood by, it was you. What better way to rediscover my voice than by talking to the one person I knew really heard it?


Dear Kath, (7)

Dear Kath,

I am anxious, still, and I am tired, still, and I am frustrated that both are prohibitive of getting stuff done. I want to feel better, to be in a physical and mental state that is happy and productive, I want the damage done to my life to be left in the past, to be living a life that I want to be living. I want the mail I am waiting on to arrive so I can get through one more series of things I don’t want to do.

And all of this makes me feel closer to you, in a dismal way, because you lived with so many inescapable pains for so long. And gives me perspective, because however bad I feel, I am still much physically healthier than you got to be. And as ever, makes me miss you.

I don’t know what I am getting at here, I just felt like I should try. I don’t know what else to write. I don’t know what else to do in this moment. I don’t want to wait or ruminate. So here I am. Typing and trying to focus at least on the idea that it is you I am writing to. Except I am not really succeeding there. I think right now I feel your absence too much not to feel like I am just writing to myself. Maybe that is why this feels so stilted and aimless.

What would make this different? How would it be different if I were talking to you? Well, I probably wouldn’t be so vague, for a start, but I still feel like I should be at least somewhat vague, as I don’t want to turn what is meant to be helpful into something potentially hurtful to someone else.

But still, I am being pretty pointlessly vague. And not even fully honest. Because what I want has nothing to do with the things that seem necessary or plausible right now. I don’t want to deal with all of the shit I have been left to deal with. At all. I don’t want to get through it; I want it to disappear.

I want someone, for once, to be sorry for taking my life apart. I want to get some meaningful amends from someone who has shown so much cruelty and remorselessness that I should admit that in all reality, I probably never knew who they truly are, and they absolutely, provably, never loved me at all. I want to be done with feeling suspended between how I felt about who I imagined them to be, and how I know I should feel about who they have revealed themself to be. Whether by my hope unlikely actualizing or more likely my hope dying, I want to be released from the in-between. No, that is dishonest, too. I want the unlikely positive. I am fucking sick of the realistically ugly. If I really wanted the release above all, I would just convince myself to accept the awful as the unassailable truth. Maybe I don’t because doing that is not going to de-wreak havoc in my life.

Actually, I don’t want to feel that caring about someone, about trying to be kinder to them than they have been toward me, that believing people can choose to change, that holding space for hope is a bad thing. I don’t want to feel badly about loving, even where I am not loved in return. I don’t want to lose everything inside of me that I value because of anyone else’s actions, however devastating the consequences of those actions. I fought long and hard to keep myself from becoming someone lost to hate or indifference. I don’t want to give up now. I certainly don’t want to lose what I fought so hard to keep just to give myself the hollow comfort of pretend certainty. I know what happened, I know how I feel, but I have no idea what is going on inside of another person’s mind, and I have no idea what the future holds. Uncertainty is uncomfortable, but it is also reality. I want to stand in the truth, even when the truth is “I don’t know.”

I want my life to be put back together as suddenly, surprisingly, completely as it was torn apart. I want to be happy, I want my dreams to be pleasant, I want waking up to provoke positive anticipation, not dread. I have no idea when or how or if I can get there. And I am afraid the harm done is just going to keep following me, is going to fuck up my future as well as my present, that I am going to be in the hell of endlessly having to fight the consequences of someone else’s actions and lies instead of being able to move on. Consequences that feel relentless and overwhelming and inescapable for me, consequences that for them were so seemingly easily evaded by redirecting them onto me. I don’t want to spend my entire life fighting, I don’t want my life to be so utterly vulnerable to others’ cruelties, but it is, and I am afraid I will be fighting forever, or eventually be too exhausted to fight any more, and simply be ruined.

And all the pain and uncertainty would be more tolerable if you were here. I would be talking to you now, instead of typing to myself. I just can’t find that feeling of connection here right now.

I guess I am carrying on with this anyway because I know that a lot of progress and healing and change and just plain survival is flailing around in often-random attempts to repair things, to move forward, to change circumstances. And that momentum is so easy to lose when things are difficult, especially when they are prolongedly difficult, especially when we can’t see an end and fear there may not be one, especially when we feel alone. Sometimes, even though there is no obvious value to our efforts, they are still worth the attempt, if only to keep us moving, to keep us from giving up, to keep us hopeful. Even if the hope is so small in comparison with whatever our struggles are, we don’t really feel it as hope – but it is there, because we are hanging on, and trying. If we had no hope at all, we would just lie down and stay down. I am not pretending I haven’t felt the need to lie down quite a bit, nor that I wouldn’t give just about anything to be able to rest well, but I keep struggling up every day. I am trying. I would dearly love to be able to nap – hell, to sleep for several weeks straight, with nothing to lose by taking a fortnight nap. But I am trying.

I guess that is part of the value of this, too – that I need to get out of my head, even just onto the page, to get some emotional perspective. This has been hard as hell. For a while now. For a longer while now than I tend to be focused on of late. Of course I am tired. Of course I feel scared. I am doing the best I can in really limiting circumstances. Even if I can’t feel the connection with you I wish to, still, putting my rambly thoughts in the context of you helps me to be a little more forgiving of myself. That all said, I could use an absolute shitload of help, sister. And I hope that if I continue to do this, even when it feels kind of forced and pointless, I will feel that connection with you again. I don’t want to deny myself the chance by giving up on this. I don’t want to deny myself a happier life by giving up on myself. Sometimes, I just need my big sister to remind me of all the things I tend to forget when I hurt.

You were the greatest gift and the greatest loss of my life. I don’t have any real follow up to that statement, it is just the truth.

For you, I keep trying. I will keep trying. Just…I need some wisdom and some help. Some strength, or better still, some luck, so the strength is unnecessary. Please. Thank you.

I love you.



Dear Kath, (6)

Dear Kath,

I have to start with: every time I question the point of doing this, just thinking about it starts to shift my perspective.

I was in the space of feeling torn, because what I really want is to have a conversation with you, and doing this is what I am left with. But as soon as I thought about it in the “What is the point, anyway? If she was here, and I could talk with her, what would I say? What would she have to say that would be helpful?” way, before I even started typing, I had a couple of answers.

I would want to tell you I am in the blank emotional space of a relentless grind of pain and anxiety with no end I can see. And that I need something else to focus on, anything else, because without some freedom from anxiety, I am getting more and more locked up, frozen, feeling paralyzed. And I don’t want to end up in even worse circumstances because I feel unable to act. And immediately I knew you would tell me to do what you did, to make a list of things you wanted to do for the joy of the experience. Which admittedly feels difficult to me, because you did that to make actual plans, and I don’t want to imagine, I want to have, and having also feels impossible in this emotionally endless void. And I knew you would tell me to write what I am grateful for. Which also feels difficult, but can be done. As much as I feel resistant to both, I can still see the value – because at least while I am writing those things, my mind will be on something other than what is eating away at me.

And I would want to tell you that I am also feeling stuck in the pull between loving and missing people, and knowing they are people who I am almost certainly better off without. I don’t know exactly what you would tell me about that. I know you would tell me you love me, and that you would be there for me. I know you would understand, because you had so many people in your life who you loved who hurt and disappointed you. And I know you wouldn’t judge me; I think generally, you were wiser, kinder, more forgiving than me, and you would not see me as in the wrong for caring about people in spite of their behavior, in spite of the harm they did. And do. And I would feel better, because I wouldn’t feel alone.

You were unparalleled in your ability to love, Kath. I find more comfort in your memory than I do in any of the people left in my life. I will never stop needing you. I will never stop missing you. And I will never cease to be grateful to have had you in my life. I love you, sister, so much more than I fear you ever knew. I owe you everything. I would never have survived as long as I did without you, and I wouldn’t be surviving now if I had never known you.

I will do my best to follow the advice that is what I believe you would tell me. Starting with saying, again, thank you. This is nowhere near as good as having your voice, but it is worlds better than suffering in solitude. I hope I never lose my memories of you, of who you were. I would be lost without them. Everything is not all better, but I still feel better now than when I started writing. And I paused before finishing this so I didn’t fail to follow your advice. And of course it helped. (This is where I would allow you to go ahead and gloat.)

What the fuck would I do without you? Even without you, you are with me.



p.s. Seriously, girl, I should do this at least once a day. The more I have you in my days, the better my life is. I am in a much better frame of mind than I have been for days.

Dear Kath, (5)

Dear Kath,

I feel worn out, and I wish I was in a place where I could write something, make something, do something that feels meaningful. But I am just so fucking tired.

And herein lies the point of writing to you (well, one of the points) – because it took calling up your voice to get to the point of “If you’re tired, take a break.” Same thing I would tell you, you would tell me, and if I tried to brush it off, you could point out I was being a hypocrite.

I love you and miss you. Thank you for giving me a voice that loves me to recall when I need one.