for the past few months, I have walked in a daze of exhaustion and frustration and, yes, grief—to the point where it often stopped registering because it became my new normal.
“I live here now,” I joked with my student teacher, eve… but we both know I wasn’t really joking. we’d just spent a whole day helping students process the loss of one of their classmates, of one of our students, of someone I had known since he was fourteen years old and who was gunned down within a few blocks of my apartment at eighteen… and we felt numb, cold, detached from our bodies as we dragged ourselves down the stairs.
to be perfectly honest, I don’t know why I’m writing this here, of all places—or now, after all this time.
I don’t know a lot of things right now.
perhaps that is why I’m writing this, after all… so I can try to make sense of things. thus, this will most likely be messy and it might not ever reach a conclusion—but I can promise you it’ll be honest.
and so, in the interest of honesty, allow me to (re)introduce myself: I’m elle, I’ll be 33 in six weeks, I’m divorced and jewish and queer and neurodivergent, and I’m an educator and doctoral student…
…and last thursday, for the first time in over two years, I wished I were dead.
“…that which we call a rose / by any other word would smell as sweet…” ~Romeo and Juliet, 2.2.43-44
(cw: grief, complicated family dynamics)
I feel like I write one of these every few years at this point—a post in which I wax poetic about how many names I have and why I have so many and what they all mean and what I would like to be called, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam. so I figured, for once, I’m going to write that post not on Facebook and I’m going to archive it somewhere where I can just have a handy link for future reference. 🙂
why do I keep having to do this, you might ask?
the truth is that I was doomed from birth—I had been destined to be the third of my name, named after my grandfather (who had no sons) and his father before him, but then I was assigned female at birth and my mom had to get really creative really quickly and ended up saddling me with a host of names that have started many an interesting story.
(cw: death of a parent, grief, major life changes)
whenever I’ve spoken to anyone in person about my dad’s death recently, I’ve always turned it into some “here is what I have learned from this” kind of situation, so I figured I would share those three lessons with y’all to start off this week since I’m taking a moment to remember them and recenter myself.
listen to your damn doctor(s). my dad was 51, healthy as far as we knew, active—not exactly a top candidate for a heart attack, but he still had one. we later realized that he had some underlying health issues that, if treated, might have led to a different outcome (or maybe not… heart attacks are unpredictable). with that in mind, I came back from Puerto Rico and called literally every conceivable doctor to make an appointment. going back to old doctors, getting new ones, running new tests, looking into prescriptions… and I doubled-down on this year’s goal to make better health choices so I can maximize my time and the quality of whatever time I have.
say what you need to say while you still have time. a recurring theme during my dad’s funeral was the, “I never got to say ______________.” a lot of us hadn’t spoken to him in a while or, if we had, it had been about something inconsequential—we’d been dancing around big things that are now forever unsaid. so, if there’s someone in your life you need to make amends with, or someone you really have things to say to? do it now, while you can. especially since we’re social distancing—write the email, make the phone call, schedule the video chat. show people that you care… they need it now more than ever.
life is too damn short to be miserable. as we recapped my father’s life in our attempt to write our own eulogy, my siblings and I realized that life isn’t a series of achievements/ accomplishments/purchases/travels—it’s about the connections and the way we touch each other’s lives and what we do with those achievements/accomplishments/purchases/travels. so we sat there and thought about our own lives. if we were to watch the montage of our lives flash before our eyes like some overwrought death scene in a film, would we like what we see? would we feel satisfied? would we feel like we did all we could and lived as well as possible? the answer for several of us—definitely for me—was a resounding no… and that answer has haunted me for the past couple of months as I tried to figure out what needs to change.
my dad’s death changed my life—not just because I lost him, but because his death forced me to confront and accept a lot of things that I had been talking myself in circles around for weeks and months and years. and now, in the midst of a global pandemic, these lessons seem to me more important than ever.
I guess that, in his own way, my dad’s still trying to guide me on to a better path. ♥
let’s see how much we remember and when we’re at with stuff… I’m hoping this is a new baseline and that I can start getting back on track with stuff next month (but something awful has gone down every month so far so I’m not suuuuuper hopeful).
create a writing routine. as is obvious by the fact that I didn’t exactly blog for, oh, two months, this is totally something I haven’t been doing. I particularly have struggled with starting my dissertation as my life’s been falling apart over the past almost eight weeks. BUT, better times are in sight—I actually worked on chapter one of my dissertation tonight and should have a draft of it sent to my chair by EOB tomorrow, and I will be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo next month with my student teacher and our students. I’ve also been a lot more active on here over the past week and I’m hoping to continue posting at least once a week moving forward… we’ll see!
be responsible with money. this has been… a total mess. the madness of the past eight weeks required some unexpected spending in the form of flights and a lawyer’s retainer—so, several thousand dollars later, I had to sort of rethink my financial goals for the year. that said, I’ve officially paid off another credit account, I’m current on everything, and I’ve been true to my work of rethinking my relationship with my possessions and going through my closet/drawers/bookshelves with some KonMari magic. spending time going through memories and choosing to cleanse my space has actually been really healing… and I’m looking forward to sharing some more information about The Unfuckening™️—aka my big apartment makeover—as soon as it’s done in a couple of weeks.
(recurring cw for the THIRD goal: mentions/discussions of mental health [specifically anxiety, bipolar depression, ADHD], psychotropic medications, weight loss, food/nutrient/calorie tracking. if any of these could be remotely upsetting, please take care of yourself and skip that whole section! to make it easier to know what’s where, I’ve tagged mental and physical health in bold italics.)
hi, hello, it’s me, your flaky friend. you might not have said this to me, or about me, but I’m sure at some moment I have canceled or amended plans at the last-minute and you’ve sighed and been like “yeah, that tracks.” I might’ve even called myself that in the multi-text message and prefaced it message with 35 apologies and some self-deprecating bit like because of who I am as a person in order to soften the blow.
the truth is, I’m not really a flake.
I don’t cancel because I don’t want to see you or because I don’t care about your time or because I think someone else is more important than you. I just have a bit of, a, cutlery issue and I run out of spoons very often. (not sure what I mean by that? you can read the Unified Cutlery Theory here, explained much more concisely than I could do it. no, really, go ahead. I’ll wait.)
so, how does the cutlery relate to me canceling plans? let me illustrate this for you…
(cw: mental health issues, particularly depression and anxiety; discussions of ADHD; mentions of societal fatphobia)