facts & feelings

A friend told me this week that feelings aren’t facts. Oh, the great great freedom of those words. I started breathing more deeply the moment my mind grasped them.

It’s a Sunday, early evening, and I should be making dinner, but the boy is cutting a molar and a cuspid, which means he’s in agony, which means he’s taking a desperately-needed-late-nap on my chest. Here, then, are the scattered facts and feelings of my today.

  • We have an astonishingly great community. I’ll write it again because it is breathtakingly true: we have an astonishingly great community. There is no such thing as deserving the profoundly generous and loving and empathic and compassionate and ever-present friends and family we’re surrounded with. We don’t deserve you all, which means that having you all is just a matter of grace. Grace. Not God’s grace, but humanity’s grace. We are surrounded by it.
  • I am overwhelmed, crushed, by the simple narrative being constructed around the Tsarnaev brothers right now. We are so quick to condemn violence without struggling to understand our own complicity in it. Our willingness to model it in ways small and big. How is it possible that expressing compassion for a no-doubt terrified teenager (a child) can be read as negating the suffering that teenager likely inflicted? I am heartbroken by this tragedy, but I am even more heartbroken by our quick, unconsidered, vengeance-driven reaction to it. People suffer. Even people who inflict suffering suffer. I don’t know how to express what I’m saying. There’s complexity, and I shudder for our fate when I sense that it is being ignored. Yogi’s mama wrote a little about this this week, as did Anna. If I felt more whole, I’d try to contribute something meaningful. As it stands, all I can do is worry, and mourn, and wish. If my writing this makes you angry, please know that I mean no harm, and please let it go. I don’t even know how to process anger right now. I can’t meet it with anything but confusion.
  • Nemesis is lonely without her brother. We are lonely without her brother. Saul (who is no longer Saul) is now five months old. He’s been gone for four months. His birth mother refuses to send us a photo. Since he left, we’ve lost my dad, and Love Child, and our puppy cat. We are not in the weeds of despondence, as we’ve been before. Instead, we’re heavy but moving. Walking with grief in a new way that feels permanent (though thankfully I see through that word). I found a list I made in 2009, shortly before our wedding. On it, I name loss as my biggest fear. It was relatively unknown to me then. It is no longer my biggest fear. It is like a friend I didn’t meant to befriend. I’m not even sure how I’d answer that question now.
  • Anyway, we are lonely, and I keep having the impulse to bring home a kitten. Or a cat. Another being. A being who is unlikely to be taken from us. A being who is likely to stay awhile. Who will make Bram smile. Who will warm our hearts. Who will in no way replace E, or Sauly, or Love Child. Who could never replace Hades, king of the cottage frontier, cat-king of my heart. But who could be a home for some of the love we have that needs a home. I sense, though, that we’d be judged. That it is too soon. That there are appropriate ways of responding to loss and that we haven’t been appropriate. I’m not explaining this well. I just want more beings to love. Right now, I might adopt a flea circus if I felt that one needed me. Perhaps that is the argument for waiting.
  • We went to a SHARE meeting together last week: our first together since B was born. I’m always struck by the gentleness in those rooms. People are fragile. There are spaces where that is just recognized.
  • I found teaching! Okay, that’s overstating it. I found two sections for the fall. Media and the Sexes. With that phone call, the absence of students in my life this year came flooding in. Students! Yes! I am more fully me when I am teaching. When I am learning from students. When we are of one another in the way that the classroom makes possible. I sigh with relief from this news, not just because we (desperately) need the money, but because I desperately need that purpose again. The exchange of ideas. The intellectual intimacy. The community. The presence it demands of me. Yes. Teaching. What relief.
  • My defense is set for May 10th. PhDs: How did you celebrate? We have to celebrate. If we insist (as we do) on mourning the losses, we must celebrate the victories. We have earned this. As a family. So how did you let in the joy.relief.pride of being done?
  • We are interring my dad’s ashes on Wednesday. We will try to make a day of it: eat good food, take Bram to the zoo. A day that is not born solely of sadness.
  • Tomorrow, Bram and I will celebrate Earth Day at a bird sanctuary. I never really understood birds before. Lately, I get tears in my eyes watching them fly.
  • Here are my true, true loves. There’s no such thing as deserving this life. That I am living it is merely a matter of human grace. Kindness. The kindness others have bestowed on me.



15 thoughts on “facts & feelings

  1. There is no such thing as too soon. You do not strike me as the kind of person who would bring home an animal to later abandon. That would be the only valid reason not to bring home a kitten or a cat to love.

    I too lost my heart-dog in January. I had thought I would want to be without dogs for awhile, but the loss was too great. We went out a week later and brought home two new puppies. What I learned raising my heart dog has been instrumental in the raising and training of Lily and Skittle. They will never replace my Spike, but they do give me an outlet for all of my dog love and amusement I was missing.

    I vote for a kitten or maybe two.

  2. “Even people who inflict suffering suffer.” — *Especially* people who inflict suffering suffer, I’d say. Hurt people hurt people. Pretty sure that’s another 12-step-program-ism. I’m never as profoundly NOT proud to be an American as during times like these. Ugh.

    This resonates so strongly with me: “It is like a friend I didn’t meant to befriend.” Yes. I used to say to people after my mother died that Death and I are like this, and put my fingers right next to each other. I was more talking about dying, as in the process, rather than death, as in the event – the loss. But still. That’s because I was sososo traumatized by the dying, by watching her suffer and rot, by waiting. There is this way that we human things have of befriending our tragedies and traumas in order to cope. Although I’ve certainly met those who do not have this ability/tendency, so maybe it’s those of us who have a propensity toward thoughtful processing/self examination?

    My father always used to say that you can’t replace your grandma but you can replace your dog. Now, he was a serious animal lover, so don’t be offended, and also know that he would qualify it with a wink or a really quiet, “Well, you can sort of replace your dog…” I do think that our lifetime relative to that of our animal companions creates an unbalanced ratio that just has to mean we are meant to and capable of carrying on several very significant relationships within the human-animal bond. Anyway, screw other peoples’ potential judgement – that’s ridic. You two have NOT been inappropriate in your responses to loss. These matters are so personal, so fluid. Here’s one more from the Al-Anon set for you – Go where it’s warm. It means, basically, do what makes you feel good. Don’t sit in the cold, miserable place feeling bad when it’s within your power to go where it’s warm. If you two have love to give and can give a soul a safe, happy home, fucking do it!

    Lastly, congrats for teaching. Wonderful, wonderful news. Sending our love (and soon, our hand-me-downs) your way.

  3. You absolutely deserve ALL of the love coming your way.
    People are going to judge. Follow your heart anyway. You’ve endured an insane amount of grief in a very short amount of time. Bring on the joy (kitten(s))!
    Love y’all!!!

  4. Beautifully, achingly written as always.
    I haven’t been online a whole lot since I saw your last post about losing Lovechild. I was shocked to read you have experienced yet another loss. I lost my beloved dog years ago and grieved solidly for at least a year. I don’t know how I would have coped if it had happened at the same time as my miscarriages. You are all so strong. On that note I find it unfathomable that you managed to complete your dissertation just days later.
    Sending you (some more) love from across the world in NZ.

  5. I lost my soul-dog almost 4 years ago. I was not (and am still not) in a place (geographically or financially) to own a pet, but whenever I’m with a dog, any dog, a part of my heart heals just a little bit more. I totally get why you would want to bring another creature home–there is something about loving an animal that heals a family, even if just a little bit.

    And I really appreciate what you have to say about the Tsarnev brothers. I’m still not able to say anything. I understand why people are angry, hurt, distressed. A lot of people got hurt. People died. But I look at the face of the young man who is still alive and I think, “He’s my brother’s age. He could be my student.” It hurts. I think about his family, and I wonder what kind of unrelenting hell are they in. Thank you for saying what I cannot seem to these days.

  6. There’s so much I want to write to you, but I’ll try to be brief.
    I have read your blog for a couple of years now, but I think this is the first time I comment. I am so sorry for your pain of the losses you have had. I really feel for you.

    My girlfriend of almost ten years left me in October 2012 one day prior to what should have been our 8th insemination, and less than three weeks before I had to defend my thesis. She had had an affair with a colleague on and off for some time, but had promised me in July that it was definitely over. I had believed her and we had started to try for a family again. I loved her so incredibly much.
    I was devastated when she left. We had been through so much and now she was suddenly with someone else?! (Adding to the pain and confusion was that the colleague had a child in April 2012, and had asked my girlfriend to be the other parent – which she now is. They moved in with each other in February, less than 4 months after our break up.).

    Of course it was not easy to celebrate the graduation. The only person I wanted to celebrate with was not there anymore. But I held the party as I had planned to, and it was great. My friends speeches were very comforting, and afterwards I felt proud of myself.
    The celebration was held at the evening, in a cozy restaurant. My best friends were there, my family and some of my colleagues. I had two of my very closest friends staying over at my place afterwards, since I was scared of becoming terrible sad afterwards if I was alone.

    I hope that you find a way to celebrate your phd. It is something worth celebrating, even if you are in a darker place in your life at the time when it is finished.
    I hope that May 10th will be a day of happiness and fulfillment!

  7. I don’t know how to best encourage you to get to a shelter and find a new kitty, but whatever would work is what I wish I could write here! Anyone judging you for getting a kitten after all of the loss you’ve endured in the past 6 months isn’t much of a friend.
    As for the graduation–I would have the biggest party I could stand, and get a sitter for Bram so you can go on partying as late as you want. :)

  8. I have been thinking of you three quite a lot. For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s too soon or the wrong thing to do to bring home another kitty. It’s not a replacement, just more love in your house.

  9. Here’s to new kittens! There is nothing better for the soul than a bringing a new, young pet soul into a home. There should be no judgement in how people deal with death. People deal in the ways they need to deal and anyone who judges that is simply wrong.

    Thank you for your wise words on the situation with the Boston bombing. I have been so deeply troubled by the way that much of the aftermath was handled and it made me incredibly uncomfortable to see how it was being dealt with by the media. It is so good to know that there are others who feel the same way. So thank you for that. As always, you manage to put into words the things that many of us are thinking and feeling.

    And one last word on you being deserving of the loves that you have in your life. We attract what we put out in the world. You put out goodness and goodness has found you and led to the creation of your beautiful and incredible family. That is no accident. You deserve every drop of it.

    I wish to you some peace in all of this grief. Peace when it is time for there to be peace. And whatever it takes you to find that peace is exactly what you should be doing.

  10. R, I’ve had this saved for days, trying to find a way to support you without sounding pushy. When I lost my Patches, I found so much comfort in bringing Anjanka into our lives. The wonder of getting to know her and learning to love and trust one another did not end my grief. I remember many nights, weeks after we’d said goodbye, crying myself to sleep, missing my best friend. But, in those moments, my grey bear would often jump on the bed for a snuggle, and she was such a comfort. We lean on our friends when walking through grief, and cats are some of the best friends around. People may judge-I’m sure some judged me-but in the end, I know that won’t matter. Whatever you decide, you all have my love and support.

    Also, thank you for your thoughts on the Boston bombings. I want to hide when things like this happen. The rhetoric and hatred disguised as patriotism are too much, and it helps to know that, while we are often tough to hear among the clamor for vengeance, there are many of us who struggle.

  11. Maybe a new cat in your lives might be a comfort not just for the humans, but for Nemesis too? We adopted two brother kittens a few months ago, and I can only imagine how lonely they’d be after losing their partner in crime. I’m sure it would not be the same as having her brother, but I bet she might feel soothed by having a new buddy to spend her days with.

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