My Complicated Relationship with My Grandmothers

Its hard being two generations apart. The world really changes generationally.

I grew up being told that its fine, even wonderful, to be gay. My grandparents, if they were told anything, were probably taught it was shameful, if not worse.

I was growing up in a time when we were pretty sure racism was mostly over, my grandparents were adults before the civil rights act was passed.

In our culture grandparents are these near mythical quality beings who swoop into our lives bringing unconditional love, treats, gifts, and the best cooking you’ve ever had. I certainly had some of that.

My Dad was the first of his six bothers to have a child. That child was me, and I was born female. My grandmother (who I called Grandma) was over the moon. She adored me. She had always hoped in having many children she would have both boys and girls. For whatever reason she didn’t get any girls, so I was her first.

Her and my parents seemed bent on doing every girly stereotype with me. In many of my earliest pictures I am wearing frilly pink dresses. The problem was as soon as I had any say in it I was adamant that I didn’t like them and didn’t want them. Luckily for my Grandma, I did love my long hair as a young child and loved having her give me braids and pigtails. But it wasn’t too long until I cut off my long hair too.

When I was young I had sensory issues. I didn’t know it then, I don’t think anyone knew it then. But I remember how clothes would hurt. I don’t mean irritate, I mean hurt. Dresses were scratchy to the point of pain, stiff pants were no better. I refused to wear much besides sweat pants and pajamas at a young age. I only wore one brand of socks until I was a teen! I refused (and still do) underwire bras. I refused almost everything that is stereo typically girly in favor of sports jerseys (later skate t-shirts), soft pants, and short hair.

This was so hard for my grandmother who loved me so much. And I loved her. After my Father (her son) passed away we were even closer. I spent a lot of time with her and Papa. They were some of the only consistent childcare my single mother could rely on. I seriously loved and still love them. I was incredibly close to my grandmother despite our constant battles over my appearance and habits.

She made amazing food and let us eat ice cream every night after dinner. Neapolitan. Mixing all the flavors together and watching the late night news while Papa fell asleep on the couch was a regular occurrence in my childhood. I would go lay down on the couch after finishing my ice cream and fall asleep. She would wake me up and make me go brush my teeth and go to bed. I miss her a lot.

My other grandmother (my mother’s mother). Was burnt out by the time I was born. Her husband has passed away long before I was born and I never knew him. She had eight children, three who still lived at home with varying special needs, and several grandchildren. She ran a businesses. I didn’t spend much time with her. I did love playing in her massive home on her massive property though. I have far more memories about the house and pool than anything else. Every Christmas Eve and 4th of July was another chance to play in that crazy old, huge, dark house.

This grandmother, who I wasn’t allowed to call grandma, or her name, only her nickname, was always busy when I was around. I remember her being stressed out and well dressed, always with a cigarette in her hand and often telling someone to do something. I don’t remember any conversations or tender moments. I do remember that she would give us twenty dollars plus our age in cash every christmas. That was a nice score.

Her house was always packed with people for every party. Our family alone was massive, then add friends, in-laws, and other people and things got crazy. The adults seemed happiest when the kids left them alone so thats what we did. We went off and did kid stuff like exploring every nook and cranny of the house, watching TV, making prank phone calls, using the vents as a “secret” way to communicate while we “spied” on the adults (spying was extremely frowned upon on my dad’s side, my mom’s family didn’t seem to mind much).

I remember my last memory of her before she died she was yelling at me not to play with the muddy farm dog. I loved dogs, probably more than people at that age. It hurt and I was sad. Why wouldn’t I pet that dog? All dogs needed kids to pet them right?

The one real point of connection I had with her was video games. She had an NES and played the crap out of it. She knew Super Mario Bros. 3 inside and out. She could complete the game fully, or speed run it (any%) in about 10 minutes. I was blown away by that. I loved video games (almost as much as dogs) and she was amazing at them. I think her obsession with Mario helped legitimize video games for my own mother and her siblings allowing my cousins and I a massive amount of freedom to play the games we liked.

When my mother’s mother died there was a lot of turmoil in the family. What would become of her farm, her three sons, her stuff (so much stuff), her animals? It was a rough time in my life (I think 12 is a bit rough for everyone). We spent a lot of time at her house, with a lot of sad people. I felt guilty that I wasn’t sad enough. I was still grieving the loss of my father, and didn’t particularly miss my grandmother.

I remember the huge garage sale where we sold her stuff particularly well. A lot of that stuff came home with us, including her desk, which eventually became my desk. I later found a list under a drawer in that desk that she had written. It was my own little secret connection to her. I didn’t find it until I was in my late teens, and by that point I was grieving what could have been. I wished I had been given the opportunity to know her better.

My father’s mother lived much longer. She was at my wedding, though she didn’t live long enough to meet any of her great-grandchildren. She had leukemia and a heart attack while I was in college. My school was right down the street from her house and the two hospitals she would spend her last months in. I would visit her and Papa three times a week or more. Watching her suffer was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone though. We grew even closer in that time, even though she couldn’t speak. Her and I were quite close for over two decades, even though she could never fully understand why I was the way I was and was often upset with me for taking risks, getting dirty, and not dressing up.

I felt like I was blessed growing up to be so close to my father’s parents when I lost him so young. It didn’t bother me too much that I wasn’t close to my mother’s mother and never met her father, becuase I had one set of grandparents who were at every single event. Every school play, every band concert, any time my mother was sick; Grandma and Papa were there. Presence can overcome a plethora of cultural and generational differences, and presence helped me to become very close to them.

Being two generations separated from each other is hard. Our world changes fast and our grandchildren’s world may not feel like our own. I don’t hold my grandparents differing cultural understanding against them. I love them in spite of it.

I can see the same struggle in my parents and in-laws with their grandchildren. But love and presence is overcoming that gap. I hope my own love and understanding can grow to overcome the generational gap I will have with my own grandchildren.

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Ten Years.

Ten years. What can I say? To you my best friend of many more than 10 years. It was 2001 when I first met you. By 2003 we were best friends, and best friends trying hard to convince everyone that “A guy and a girl can JUST be friends.” We didn’t convince anyone. By 2004 finally decided to make things “official”. We were more than just best friends.

 

I still get butterflies in my stomach when I’m close to you, just like that first time I held your hand in my parents basement. We could have held hands all night.

 

Now I know that this isn’t ending. I don’t need to worry that you will leave, or that I’ll find a reason to leave. The trust we share is something that can only come with years of being vulnerable, and being vulnerable started a long time ago. Like when I had my wisdom teeth removed and you helped me change my shirt after I spilled my milkshake all over myself, and I kept crying.

I’m not good at handling drugs.

I still trust you to get me through every injury and illness. And there have been plenty. The hardest of which is what brought our most wonderful blessing into our lives. The unexpected c-section that left me with a scar 8 inches long and barely able to function for the first week of our precious son’s life. You were a rock star. My rock star. OUR rock star.

The amount we’ve grown since dating, becoming married, becoming parents, and moving 2000 miles away from our support system is immeasurable. We couldn’t have done that without each other to lean on daily, though every beautiful moment and every wretched one. We’ve seen a lot of low points together. The death of my grandma. The death of your grandpa. The betrayal of our community, and the ache of missing our families, so far away.

My struggles with anxiety took me to my lowest low, and you expressed nothing but real unconditional love. Like nothing I thought possible. When I was unable to function, you functioned twice as hard. There is no way to measure the amount of love you’ve give to me, and to Mark.

We’ve also seen so many amazing beautiful moments. We’ve adopted 6 dogs together! Who does that!? We started a community that was amazing and brought so much joy and hope to people who struggled to find it. We’ve traveled all around the midwest, down to the south, all over the northwest, and even once out of the country! We have made friends from all over the world though your tenacity and passion for music! We’ve built a new circle of amazing friends here in Portland. Our life is one steeped in beauty and love.

We are both people who are constantly questioning and researching, and what once were impassioned arguments, leaving us steaming at each other, are now respectful debates able to bring us both closer to understanding another view point. We’ve learned to communicate with each other and that has allowed our love to grow significantly more deep. This might be the greatest accomplishment of all.

If the next ten years are going to look anything like the last ten, I say bring it on! We will only become stronger together as we continue to grow and learn and love. I don’t know where the road ahead leads, but I know exactly who I want to travel down it with. Ace, I love you, you really are my best friend, and even my soul mate.

I Don’t Believe in God Today

I wrote that in my journal about a week ago. Its been true every day since.

I had a lot of panic at church Sunday evening. I felt like a fraud just being there. It was especially hard that there were some very churchy people there using language about God that I’ve mostly abandoned. My anxiety was high. I spent a lot of time in the bathroom. I couldn’t eat. I wanted to say something but I couldn’t. I hoped to be able to sit down with our pastor this week, but she’s busy. Such is life. I haven’t even talked to Ace about it. Maybe this will pass. Maybe it won’t.

I do know cognitively that my life is safe. I believe now that my friends are my friends regardless of my spiritual beliefs. I could tell them tomorrow that I’m hindu now and most of them would say “Tell me more about that” and that’s what I need. Thats what we all need. I believe the same thing about my spiritual community. I would still be welcomed no matter what I believed as long as I’m open to listening to everyone else at the table. My amygdala isn’t so sure though, its terrified. My brain remembers last time I shifted my faith, just a little bit, and I lost almost everyone. I didn’t just loose them, but they hurt me in the process.

Right now Christianity (even “good” Christianity) is making me uncomfortable. I just don’t believe in a God as personal as the Christian God. I don’t believe in a God that speaks real words directly to me.

Yet, I still believe in something. I believe in energy and oneness. I am solidly not an atheist. But yet, its hard to consider myself a theist, thats too concrete. If I had to peg myself down in the moment I could call myself a mystic. I feel comfortable with that. But tomorrow is a new day and tomorrow that may not fit quite right anymore. And I’m ok with that.

I also feel as if maybe I’ve finally completely deconstructed. Deconstruction is a popular term among progressive Christians. It is the disassembling of your former (often evangelical or fundamentalist) theology over time. I spent years studying and building that theology, but I started on a foundation handed to me by someone else. Heck, the whole house was handed to me and I just spent all that time replacing the windows and remodeling the kitchen. I kept the parts I liked and changed what I didn’t. It was an important part of my life. But I didn’t build that house and more recently I’ve been taking it apart and now there is really nothing left. Just the ground beneath my bare feet.

So here I am with my theology gone, dust in the wind, standing on the bare ground wondering what is next. Wondering if I even need a house at all. I’m not even sure how I got here. I didn’t consciously do this. I just looked around and noticed it was all gone. And honestly it scares me. I’m very used to having a theology. Yes, its changed drastically over the years from biblical fundamentalism in high school, via a slow shift to more progressive Christianity, but this is new territory. I’ve had times when I’ve doubted. This doesn’t feel the same, this is true and complete deconstruction. Its all torn down.

What’s left for me right now is seeing something more in all that is.

I love the night sky. I love learning the names of the planets and the stars. I love telling random people “See that bright star, its actually Jupiter!” Kids especially are receptive to this. They love watching the International Space Station pass over as much as I do. Many of my adult friends just don’t care what that speck of light is called or how far away it is. I do. And in those billions of tiny specks I see something bigger than myself. There is something more, something spiritual. Looking into the stars stirs it inside me. Every night I go outside and its cloudy (which is a lot, I live in Portland) I am disappointed that I don’t get to have that moment of true awe before I lay down to sleep. Even here in the city where I can only see two dozen stars I’m given an overwhelming sense of wonder each and every time. The moments I get out to a truly dark sky are utterly overwhelming.

I see something more in children as well. They are the most amazing complicated fantastic people. They come out of the womb with a sense of wonder unlike anything they will experience again. Everything is new. I wish I could stand the loss of sleep that having a baby involves just to watch those first two years again. They are utterly beautiful. I see something more than just cells at work in young children. There is a spark of something more, something spiritual. Every child I meet has that spark, even the ones who have needed to hide it to keep it safe. Its still down there and I still see it.

I love and study science and the more I do, the more I see something more, so no I’m not an atheist, but right now I don’t believe in God either.

Sure, My Kid is Starting First Grade This Year.

Its summer and it always seems that by the time we really get into the swing of summer everybody is already talking about the school year starting up again. They are already setting up the “Back to School” displays at the stores and I’m already getting asked “What grade will Mark be in this year?”

More often then not I straight up lie to this question, because I realize its not about the question. People really don’t care what grade your kid is in, unless they are going to the same school as their child. This question is the same as “What are you doing for Christmas?” It is a polite seasonal conversation maker. More than anything they are trying to relate to my child’s age.

There are times that I am close enough to someone to give them the long full version. It usually starts with, “There are no grade levels at my child’s school.” Then maybe I’ll explain how children are grouped based roughly on age into three “rooms” and how my son will probably stick with room A this year, but that will be up to him and his teachers.

Democratic schools do not arbitrarily divide students up based on birth year. We know from experience and studies that dividing children up this way isn’t even the best way to educate children and people really struggle grasp how radically different a democratic school is from any public school. Its harder to explain than unschooling most of the time. Its easy to tell you what there isn’t. Its much harder to communicate what there is and how magical the environment can be.

In a democratic school there are no grade levels, there are no grades. There are no tests. There are no report cards. There are no traditional classrooms. There is no age segregation. There is no ability segregation. The only times the kids are divided up is for a short morning meeting, and then for classes they choose to sign up for. There are no punishments or requirements.

In a democratic school there is community, and freedom, and respect in a way that just isn’t possible when teachers must coerce children to comply to state standards of learning and testing. At Village Free School there is extremely little the children must do and values that are held highest are taking care of yourself, taking care of others, and taking care of the school, and when it comes down to it there is always a community surrounding you ready to help you do those things so you are never alone in it.

One of the biggest daily challenges is getting the kids to eat (which falls under ‘take care of yourself’). With the youngest kids (room A) they put lunch on the whiteboard with the plans for the day (none of which are required, unless its an all-school trip). They talk about lunch and then give the kids reminders when 12:30 rolls around that they should maybe take some time to eat. I often check my son’s lunch box when I pick him to find it mostly full. No one makes him sit in a lunch room for 30 minutes, so he’s still learning to find the discipline to listen to his body and feed himself. Luckily the car ride home is a great time to catch up on some eating.

My son spends his days playing with people of literally all ages. There aren’t a ton of babies and toddlers around (becuase the school starts at age 5) but they are there. Younger siblings and teacher’s kids are welcome and there are at least two toddlers that are regulars and the kids adore them. The teachers are often right in the thick of things playing with the kids or are nearby for when the kids need help, usually when a conflict arises.Thats when things get really radical.

If there is a curriculum it is human relationships and learning how to be decent person though listening to others and solving problems together. Much of the day is spent solving conflicts or working out things in groups. What to play, where to play it, what will the rules be, will we let this late comer join in, how to we keep it fair for smaller kids? The kids spend a lot of time working though these questions. Justice and fairness is a high priority for most of the kids, and they will become very passionate when there is a real or perceived injustice towards themselves or one of their friends. This is where the amazing adults can step in and guide them though “challenges” using various peaceful techniques to solve the problem to the best of everyones ability and satisfaction.

That doesn’t mean that everyone is always happy. Sometimes kids walk away from challenges feeling like they didn’t get the outcome they wanted, sometimes kids cry or get angry, sometimes the adults don’t know exactly what to do. But the focus on respecting each other and letting everyone feel heard and cared for goes a long way all on its own. The lack of hard structure to the day allows lots of time to work though challenges with no rush and this is key. Real conflicts don’t get solved in five minutes and kids have real conflicts.

My son is not starting first grade this year. He is beginning his second year at the Village Free School. Where he will spend his days playing and learning though play. He will have time to read books and be read to, he will engage in art whenever he chooses and to whatever extent he choses, he will be surrounded by capable loving adults who are available to help him explore any questions he has. He will have the opportunity to participate  in “offerings” taught by teachers, fellow students, and outside instructors. Last year he choose no to sign up for any, and that was perfectly acceptable. He still occasionally jumped in and participated when he saw something fun going on as an offering. He will be part of a community that accepts him for who he is today and has no expectations or timelines for his growth. They understand that children grow all on their own when given the fertile environment to do so. Some flowers grow faster than others, some grow tall slowly, but they all are beautiful flowers deserving of sunshine, water, and fertilizer.

But sure, yeah, my kid is starting first grade this year.

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Village Free School!

What is Going on in My Head?

The mind is a mind boggling thing. The fact that we use this tool in an attempt to understand itself shows how complex it is, and how far we are from understanding how it works.

I often hear we are in the days Galileo when it come to neuroscience. We finally have imaging devices, but they are crude and showing us things at a macro level, while the micro details still elude us. I’m a little obsessed with neuroscience right now, every other book that I’m reading has “brain” in the title. To the point my friends poke friends at it. (Angie, I’m lovingly looking at you!) I feel like this is both because of my intense curiosity, and becuase of my desire to understand myself. Maybe if I understand the biology at play I can better understand why I have the strengths and weakness I do, and maybe even work on the weaker parts.

Lately I am again being tormented by dreams. At least its not so bad that I am afraid to sleep, as its been in the past. I still vividly remember the period of nightmares I had in high school that left me sleepless at night and falling asleep in class. And more recently, about a year or two ago, I was having dreams of dying and waking up unable to breath. That was another time I was too scared to sleep. Both of those times I would read or watch TV until I was physically unable to stay awake.

This time is a little different. I’m having dreams about specific people in specific scenarios and it seems every time I dream it escalates in intensity.  This is paired with waking up feeling not well rested and tension in my neck and head. I feel like its a window to some unresolved trauma from broken relationships, but what the fuck do I know? I really wish that part of me would speak more clearly to the rest of me so I would know if there is something I can do to resolve this. Until that happens I have writing, yoga, and meditation to try and keep me grounded.

What is going on in my head!?

How I Almost Hated Writing

Most of school came easy to me. Too easy. So easy it was incredibly boring. I would live in my head until recess and lunch came along and allowed me to talk with my friends without being chastised. I usually hung out with the other nerdy kids. We didn’t know we were nerds at the time. The few friends from the K-8 school I attended (starting in 2nd grade) that I’m connected with via facebook are pretty proud nerds posting about what Harry Potter houses they are their favorite Magic the Gathering cards. We aren’t all the same flavor of nerd, but we are nerds none the less.

Yet I struggled in two specific areas at school, early on it was writing. Putting my thoughts on a page was hard. I didn’t have great fine motor skills and even though grammar was something I had mostly mastered in speech translating that to periods and commas on a page didn’t make any sense.  The confining rules of grammar and the obsession with correct spelling nearly destroyed the love of writing in me.

I remember being in second grade and being told I was spelling too many words wrong and being made to write the words I misspelled over and over on a page until I got them right. I remember my mom drilling me on spelling words at home. No matter how much I practiced I would only get about half correct on the spelling tests. I still don’t understand how to figure out how a new word is spelled at 31. All those spelling assignments and punishments did for me was make me HATE writing.

By 3rd grade my mom was spending me to a tutor over the summer who was teaching me spelling and grammar. I hated that I was going to school over the summer, but at least this teacher was nice. She let me write about things I cared about and was gentle in her corrections. I was so torn on those lessons. I loved and hated them all at once, but she helped remind me that writing could be a good thing. I started journaling not long after that.

In 4th grade I started my first journal, writing mostly about the boy at school I had a crush on. Turns out he’s really into guys, but in Catholic school that wasn’t really something he could be honest about. He was so nice to me, and his last name was next to mine alphabetically, so we were always next to each other in line and often had our desks next to each other. We got in trouble for talking a lot and became close friends for a few years. He thought my mom was cool, it was hard for me to see it.

At school writing continued to be a challenge while everything else (except math) came easily. I now believe I had an undiagnosed learning disability, probably stealth dyslexia, which contributed to most of my struggles. Even though I could never articulate them well the rules of grammar eventually came naturally to me. I’ve since learned that good writing bends those rules too its will and I don’t worry about them. Writing is a tool, like music, to make someone else feel a little bit of what I feel. The point of learning the rules is to learn how to break them.

In Jr. High we learned how to type properly on computers. I hated those lessons, but they opened up a new world for me. Having a word processor that spell checked for me changed my life. It freed me to simply write. Teachers still made big red marks for my run on sentences and missing commas, but spelling was much less of an issue and the struggle of poor fine motor skills was completely gone. By that time we had a computer at home on which I was writing for fun regularly. By age 12 I was writing for a now long defunct website called sk8radio. I wrote product reviews and contest recaps in exchange for free stuff. It was awesome! I was a kid featured right there on the site with all adults and no one made a big deal about it. I was a competent writer who knew skateboarding and thats all that mattered. There was an editor for the site who made very small changes to my work and gave me feedback. No big red marks from teachers.

In High School things were mixed. I was constantly forced to write papers on things I just didn’t give a shit about. It wore me down. I journaled a lot. Its hard to go back and read those journals becuase they talk about being bullied, being scared, and my weird hyper spirituality. Believing in an all present, very involved God got me though the hellish days of Woodstock High School. But there were bright points. Some teachers gave a lot of freedom in their assignments and I could find something I really loved to write about. Of course there were always the fun classes, music and the sciences, which both were oases in a long hellish day of boredom, bullying, and self-hatred over my inability to do any math competently.

One class in particular really set in stone my love of writing, and it wasn’t even one of the “fun” english classes I took. My guidance counselor pushed me hard to take “College Bound Composition” at the honors level my senior year.  She noted my consistently high scores in english and wondered why I wasn’t already in honors classes. I reluctantly took the class and in it we wrote of mixture of fun and terribly boring assignments, all very practical.

One day a few weeks into the class my teacher, Mrs. Aavang, took me aside and told me I was a gifted writer. I thought she was nuts. She told me that she rarely saw people with such a natural writing voice, and that I was particularly good at writing my own story and that I should keep cultivating that voice. I didn’t really listen at the time. I just thought, “Is this going to get me into college? Probably not, lets work on that stuff.” But her encouragement stayed with me. It rung quietly in my mind and I continued to journal and eventually blog in various places.

It stayed with me back in my Xenga days when I would write long personal stories mostly about my youth group and spiritual experinces, throughout college in assignments that I cared deeply about. At that level most of the assignments were meaningful, and the teachers engaging. That encouragement is with me now and I’m expanding on how I share that voice publicly and more vulnerably.

I’ve now learned to really love writing and let those awful early memories be separated from the fulfillment it brings me now. I’m even working on my hand writing. I now own a fountain pen and practice my hand writing. Its finally improving a bit and doesn’t look like a six year olds anymore. It took till my thirties to be self-motivated in that regard. I believe it would have come much sooner had it not been forced upon me too early in my development.

Now my own son is six and learning to write. I’ve made the mistake of pushing him to practice his letters in the past. He pushed back, HARD. I backed off and eventually he started writing all on his own.

The other day he wrote a list of all the words he knows how to write, completely on his own, entirely self-motivated. Writing is a big motivation for me to stick with self-directed learning for my own son. He won’t be pushed to do spelling lists and writing exercises. He will find his writing voice in time, probably sooner than I did without the baggage of being forced to do something within confining rules too early in development. Six year olds should be writing what they love and not worrying about grammar. There is lots of time to learn that along the way, which frankly is how I learned most of it. The lessons about sentence structure never meant much to me. I learned to write mostly by reading and I’ve always loved to read. My son loves to read already and started reading at an earlier age than I did. I’m excited to watch him develop his love of writing as I continue to cultivate mine.

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My Lamy Safari and relearning cursive as an adult.

Carrie & Lowell

Finding words can often be the hardest part of life. And putting words to your deepest feelings in incredibly powerful. A huge focus of my work with the kids this summer is helping them find words. I want to give them examples when I see them struggling and then have them articulate them back to me. Sometimes I need someone to do the same for me. That can come in different forms, friends, family, professionals, but the most powerful place I find words when they don’t come for me is in art.

Carrie & Lowell has been an incredibly important album for me since I first heard the single “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross.” I had no idea what it was about, but I could feel the heaviness, and the Christian imagery resonated deeply with me. The first time I listened to it straight though, I had to listen to it again. I listened to it daily for weeks, I learned every word and I cried and cried and cried.

There is a hurt deep at the core of who I am. A loss that had defined me since I was 4 years old. The vast majority of my life I’ve lived without my Father. He died in a horrible accident when I was not quite four and half. He was in his late 20s.

I spent my childhood feeling a profound loss and also feeling like I was never allowed to speak of that loss. I had to keep it deep within myself. I was often angry, but I kept it under wraps as best I could expressing it though various sports. You can throw a ball hard or kick your foot though a board and people don’t get too upset. I was never good at finding the words to tell anyone how I really felt. I still kind of suck at it, but I’m getting better. I have a few safe people now, and I write. I write here, and in other more personal places.

But Carrie & Lowell reached something I never was able to reach in myself with lines like

For my prayer has always been love
What did I do to deserve this?

and

Do I care if I despise this? Nothing else matters, I know
In a veil of great disguises; how do I live with your ghost?

How do I live with your ghost. Thats always been the struggle.

And then there is

Should I tear my eyes out now, before I see too much?
Should I tear my arms out now, I wanna feel your touch

Which so captures the deep visceral physical feeling of loss. To feel a loved person’s touch again. Nothing can actually communicate that feeling. But Sufjan does a damn good job.

Those past two lines are from the track “The only Thing” which resonates most deeply with me of any track on the album. I’ve struggled with feeling this loss so intensely I want to hurt myself. I’ve imagined how easy it would be to escape it all from driving off a bridge or into a tree. Then I realize I would only be passing on this same intense pain to the people who love me that dearly, and there are at least a few. I would never wish this pain on anyone, so I continue to find the best ways I can to cope, I search for healthier ways to deal with my struggles. This album provided one I didn’t know existed. Sufjan’s mourning of the loss of his mother and his reminiscing of his childhood helps me to explore those own intense feelings in myself.

I forgive you, mother, I can hear you
And I long to be near you
But every road leads to an end
Yes every road leads to an end
Your apparition passes through me in the willows
Five red hens – you’ll never see us again
You’ll never see us again

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