Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Passing the flame

It's no secret the marriage has been strained. 

What's to be expected after stroke? Especially as extensive as Mr. PNU's.

I guess what's been hardest are expectations. Who am I suppose to be in all of this? What does that look like? Is is true to myself? Is it true to the marriage? And when I fall short do others get to judge?

It's been hard fought to figure out. 

Tonight, it sort of figured itself out for both of us. I can't trust him. And he really has no business trusting me. Not as a wife, anyway. I've been there as support. Ass-wiper. Chauffeur. Stage crew. Cameraman. That sort of thing. But the intimacy died months ago, and we've been good friends. Constants. Companions. Ish. 

So I shouldn't be surprised that in the hastiness of decisions, his was to contact his case worker about legalities of divorce. Right? I mean, the word had been tossed around in the form of a possibility, even though I'd never face it head on as what was going to happen to us. It was always separation, and then me as support. Even if I didn't know how I'd do that, or why.

In the grand scheme of plans forever means forever means forever. Even if I'd fallen in love outside of the marriage. Even if my heart was elsewhere. Even if I was suppressing everything that was becoming my life in terms of children, education, romance, finance, future, future, future.

And I've bucked a little at the chain of events. Reeled. Even though if I were honest in return the nature of my new world is in distinct contrast with Mr. PNU's. That's a hard pill. I'm barely swallowing. But I'm taking the medicine all the same. Because what's the use in fighting anymore? It's been over for a long time.

The hardest detail to ingest is that this was it for me in every regard. Fairytale. Story for the ages. The one.

The man.

And that, in a way, makes moving on to my darling woman that much easier. Even if it's serial. Even if it's got to struggle at stability. Even if it's scandalous and unethical and adulterous and kind of crazy.

Tonight I text her, "You are a light in this wilderness. Thank you for staying lit. I love you." 

And I mean it. For now, I mean it.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The quandary of the writing life

When you understand the value of having eager, interested readers,
but all you want is to write & to be left the hell alone.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


Of your face again
wringing your bitter saline
over your lost way
unload this measure of stones
smooth your stumbling road home

Friday, April 21, 2017


& the light of the world before 11
city lights & the hum of rhythm in my ears
the cold of day turned to rain & dark

in my ears the rhythm
& Spinoza
all that is fact

in the black of the hour
the barking of dogs & street lights
inhaling this smoke & breathing

the heart of me out into the world
& the beat of machines
the glimmer of lights produced & seen

by the hour that is dark
the plans that are snuffed by intoxicants
& rationale

borderline trees without green in the dark
unseen tremors of
fibrillation & networks reaching for more than

cold space & synthetic cuts in
soundtime & the shifting balance
one foot to the limb next offered

& the irises constricted in their beds across
streets and towns & pulsing water &
sleeplack want-not dreams pressing

the give-in of pearl drone
edge above tracheal spasmgive

when the borderland gleam between
articulates the passing glance & harbored kiss
who secreted the journey of

impassioned coffee &
too many touches bartered over
& spans of disagreement taken

on the bias forget & suppress
thoughts never modulated
by the lilac &

how many flowers when minutes tick & sobriety proves
trapped in a room with placed
mirrors again

the emptiness of the hour promises
day again & fact
& reason goes on as it does

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dispatch to the future

Dear Future Self,

I'm writing in hopes we find one another & because I need direction & a point on which to focus when I'm looking back. I need to give you reason to look back & me a reason to push forward. We both know I'm too chickenshit to follow through with self-harm, but we also know I'm tired of the fight. Today has been one for the books in terms of pain & disappointment. So I think I might need to remind you about causal antecedents. Loss follows love. Disappointment follows hope. Regret chases the heels of bravery.

You say you are broken, but you couldn't unless you know what it feels like to be whole. I know you want to give in to your present state of disrepair, that you don't know what comes next. But you are preceded by great reserves of courage & an uncanny willingness to believe in the beauty to be had in this world & the human beings you find here. You know this is rare because people tell you how odd it is. It doesn't make you special; it means you have reason to keep plodding along.

Here's what I want you to remember:

You have two feet & they have carried you to the tops of mountains most never reach. You have a good heart & you have loved those you could with fierce determination to do well by them. You have ears that know music in birdsong, trainsong, rainsong & the wind. You know how to listen closely to others & you have that same gift to listen to your own heart. You see the world clearly. You are intelligent enough to survive as long as is needed. You are not afraid to write the words that others fear to think. 

You are enough for yourself.

When the mornings come, I want you to wake up. Make your bed. Make coffee. Meditate. Walk outdoors. When you come back, wash the body that carries you. Care for it as if it were another person that you love more than you love yourself. Find clothes that make you feel comfortable or pretty or tough. Wear them for yourself, not others. Once you are groomed, write for an hour, perhaps two if the passion grabs you. Lay out your thoughts without fear; organize the reason into words. Then, read. Poetry, novels, philosophy. Soak it in. If you find your thoughts drifting, feed your body as much as is necessary to begin the work again. 

Keep your appointments. Spend time with your children. If time allows, exercise even more in the afternoon. Be fearlessly creative. Start as many projects as you need until you find the one that needs finishing. Stops & starts are to be expected. At 5 p.m. each day, let your mind rest. Welcome frivolous recreation and gaiety. Take trips to museums. See films. Attend symposium and lectures. Have dinner with your family & with friends. Throw an occasional party. Cook for those you love. Tidy your environment. Take your meds. Give in to exhaustion. Sleep many, long, restful hours.

In time you will remember the patterns of you. The pain will subside. The wholeness will spread through you and you will be enough for others then, too. 

I know this has been one of the hardest of days, but perhaps, if you keep plodding through, in a year we can check back and see what's become of you. Perhaps the loss, disappointment & regret will have faded away again. Perhaps love, hope & courage will be back in bloom.

I know this is hard right now. You know I'm one to talk about the extent of how hard our life has been. But between the two of us, I'm amazed we're still here, still plodding. It takes guts. It takes persistence & fortitude. What most people don't know is the extent of surrendering it takes too. I know you'll figure that part out in the next few months. Even when that part of you that needs to be in complete control won't give it a day's rest, you'll figure out how to let go. The uncertainty of what's out there is what nags at you, but therein lies the adventure. 

Now your job is to pull your self together & I mean that quite seriously. Find yourself without defining that person by what she does for others. Do the next year for you. Your kids will come in close second, but this next 365 days are primarily for you. You have my permission to appear entirely selfish. Learn self-care until you could speak about it at seminars and get paid. Then, we'll check in again.

You just must promise me to be good to us. We've grown a little ragged & brittle-thin. I want to see what's down the road, but I can only count on you being there for me to find out. I get it—the weariness, the hurt—I do. But let's not give up. Not just yet.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


I've told this story so many different ways.

We'd discussed how important it was that he not get up in the morning and walk out of the room. He'd done it a number of times so as to not disturb my light sleep. But the act triggered memories of my third marriage; the emotional disconnect there, the physical and sexual abuse, the gaslighting, and constant ghosting. We'd discussed my need for some sign of his continued affection. 

And so as Mr. PNU sat up at the edge of the bed I reached for him.

The arterial wall split sometime in the night; the defective thinning of that tissue likely congenital. There were no preventative measures he might have taken. It was all a matter of time. The stress of his self-imposed expectations, his shoddy diet and lack of personal physical care may have increased his blood pressure to some degree. But the tear would have happened eventually, and for us sooner than later. The body's natural self-healing response sent platelets to the site by the hundreds, accumulating like clouds across the night sky until the stars are no longer visible.

Memories of the day before continue to haunt me. The last time he walked through our bedroom door late morning after volunteering at Wasatch House with the mentally ill. I reached for his body, pulled him down on top of me, and we frantically made love as equal partners. Our lunch together at Burgers Supreme. Every meeting and parting on campus. The dinner with his colleagues that night in Springville, and his all around disease and expressed frustration on the way home at feeling he had little to contribute to the evening's dialogue. He was ever self-critical, ever doubting his goodness, ever bumbling through the perfection of our marriage with his dissatisfaction. First and foremost in his mind: his arrival. The point at which he would know he'd filled the measure of his whole self. I didn't argue with him about it that night. His exhaustion was heavy, and instead I let him doze next to me while I worked the final edits on a poem about a shrine in Nagasaki that was split in two, half of it demolished upon detonation of Fat Man on Aug. 9, 1945. In my headphones: Gorecki's Symphony 3 Op. 36. And then I turned out the lights to sleep.

I reached for him because he wasn't going to remember my needs. I extended and hand and pulled him back down beside me, where we cuddled and talked until the alarm clock indicated we were right to be awake at all. The signs had begun manifesting. The dull numbness in his hand. He recited poetry and shook out his hand again.

I said, "That's a symptom of stroke."

And he dismissed me. Too often I think my husband has dismissed me, my knowledge, my experience, my presence. All the while he's given me a pedestal much like the onlookers over the last two years. Dismissal and pedestals are how we avert our eyes from the depth and range of wisdom of other human beings. It's easier than accepting our lack of solo competence. I know, because I catch myself doing the same all the time. We all think we know better than everyone else.

Ten minutes later, when he reached for me the last time, his left arm hung limp at his side, his face drooped and his eyes rolled back into his head. I laid him on our bed, and still dripping, naked from my shower, called 9-1-1. Two years ago. Two years ago right now at 6 a.m.

I reached for him to come lay beside me, to connect, to share our dreams, to touch, to love. One last time, I reached out for what I needed. One last time, he responded. And then the marriage, the man, that blissful life—it split in two.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Impermanence of love and the self

Before Mr. PNU, I thought I knew who I was, found myself firmly grounded in that skin.

If trauma splits the self then how many compartments are threaded along the line of personhood? And how does one gather them back in?

In my youth I felt I carried three women inside my body; the girl, the woman, the hag. I often imagined myself in the twilight of life—white hair pulled back, a lose shift brushing my knees dirt-covered from kneeling in my garden around a quiet porch. In the end I see myself alone. And as the day sinks behind the western horizon, all lights and selves I carry dim with it. 

But I can't find the hag's contentedness in me now, her body's gentle resignation. I can't find my self. Only the outline of the skin's baggage. Memories of past selves are a clutter of competing voices; the vacuum, a swirl of lacking definition. I hunger for clean lines and absolutes. Emotion all in a row.

I spent most of my childhood alone with words, and art, and music; talked to myself more than I did other people. I learned about myself as defined with a deep sense of separateness or disbelonging. I don't believe I didn't want love, but that I never learned how it is formulated, and so perhaps I've spent my life as both pursuant and combatant. And perhaps why as an adult I've been so unsettled each time romance happens. Frenetic. Companionships are made, if not fabricated like imaginary playmates. Love is a creative act. The comfort of leaving the self to meet the other comes about as an unholy risk. I stumble in, make art, stumble out. Return to the quiet. Remember the surrender of control in belonging and dance back. My skin becomes a bag for tumult. How does the lonely child learn to be settled in herself? She further splits, fragments, disarticulates from one state of continuity to another. And here I am: fractured again. 

For my loss, I don't weep often enough.

I don't weep often enough.

Not nearly often enough.

I hardly weep.

Friday, April 14, 2017


Today, the story reads:  The window is empty of the man who once stood there watching me tend my garden. I live with my two youngest children & an old cat. Bleeding hearts grow on the patio. I am loved & I love in return. The demonstrative notion of happiness is my pursuit. Somedays I find it in abundance.

By February's end I recognized the performative act of the state we call "marriage" cannot be carried by one person alone. Mid-March, I let go of the weight of my dual role & accepted that my own union had come undone years before. It unraveled the morning Mr. PNU woke thru no fault of his own with a clot lodged in his carotid artery. The ties had largely separated by that same afternoon. I didn't know. But who does? Who knows the right & wrong of these situations? Instead of grieving I coped my way through two years of script where I took my own cues & his. I wrote our lines, each of our acts. I went through the motions of two players until they had become one role: star & supporting actress. The reception, warm & enthusiastic, kept the play on stage. I embraced the title: pleaser. But found little in the accolades that pleased me.

Who holds the yardstick by which I am measured? Whom else could have done better, or differently? I remember a man in my hometown whose wife fell to early onset alzheimer's. When he eventually put her in a home, divorced her & went on to remarry, my mother was a pincushion of disdain. I know what's being said of me without hearing the words. 

But how to uncover the lives of the actors when the stage lights go down? The makeup comes off, the fatigue sets in. How to explain that the marvel of love was a series of concessions & menial tasks that could never be reciprocated?

When Mr. PNU left in March with his parents, we missed him only as much as a heavy presence that no longer occupied the southwest bedroom. The work abated & the children calmed. I bumbled through the experimentation of self again. A month later, the aches and pains of this house settle. The dryer hums. The cat sleeps in the recliner. Lights are only as dim as necessary for comfort. It is nearing ten o'clock & my own person's thoughts are not extinguished by the repressing requirement of staying mute.

I know the narratives by which I am judged. I wandered mountain paths for months of the past year, praying until the answers became clear that my lifelong spiritual narrative was filled with plot holes. The uncertainty that filled this space is supremely more comforting than the explanation molds into which I can no longer pour myself. Letting go offers me a free fall into practicing the ethics of self-care. As has been shared in the past month: Selfishness is attempting to get others to do what you want. Doing what you need to do for yourself is self-care.

Grieving is intermittent. I've released the man I married in increments each day, expecting less & less that he would ever return, until the day came that I was able to accept that he will not. The man who is left deserves to be cared for by professionals rather than a wife for whom he can never fill expectation, desire, or to whom he can never be a companion. The man who is left deserves not to be resented. When he comes to that realization a weight will lift for him as well. 

I release him. I release myself. The world is a cluster of ends & beginnings. Like a train car, I want to hold & deliver, encase & be drawn. I want to receive adornment & fleck off rust, paint. I want to be stroked by pampas grass & cattails. I yoke & unyoke, link up & find myself untethered. I dance & stand solitary in spaces.

I want to dance & wait my turn.

The future is a new possibility; one I thought gone. I am living by small measure more & more each day, remembering who I was, who I've been. I continue to look for the light against the shadow. Hope reawakens like a green nub pushing through the soil. All things buried bubble up. 

I open my heart & find long-cocooned wings.