Tat Tvam Asi (Sanskrit: You are that)

There’s never an appropriate time to say goodbye. I had to just decide and then do it. All while knowing that it would be the last moments I’d ever be able to cradle him and look into his eyes.

On the day he got sick, he had to be rushed into emergency surgery, because it came out of nowhere. He made it through surgery and would need to be monitored for the next two days at the 24-hour clinic to ensure he was healing properly.

It quickly morphed into the type of stress that leaves pit stains and leads your thoughts to dark places when you’re supposed to be doing other things.

I visited him at the clinic, and he was becoming very ill. He tried to jump out of the cage to be with me. It shattered my heart. I spent so much time telling him how beautiful his little, pink nose was, how I was eternally grateful for the gift of his life and what happiness it had brought me. Then, it was time for the inevitable.

I think about him every day; his little box is on my shelf, and recently, I purchased a stainless-steel necklace I could put some of his ashes in. It never feels like enough to just think about him every day or wear him near my heart.

His last days are forever extant in my mind, and it haunts me the way not having closure does. I feel the same kind of sadness over lost items that were lost too soon—like a favorite headband I dropped in the woods when I was drunk as a freshman in college. Or, a set of yoga blocks I bawled hysterically over when my mischievous baby clawed them. They were a gift from my sister, and the pristine concept of them were now battered and destroyed.

But it’s not like that at all. Those are just things.

It’s more like the time I told my mom I didn’t want to go to church with her. She’d often go without the rest of the family, and I would sometimes accompany her. I told her no, and then spent the entire time, until she returned, in the driveway crying, because I lost the opportunity to be with my mother—I may have hurt her feelings.

It’s like the time when I was thirteen and I threw a piece of pizza at my sister’s head while we were arguing and then immediately burst into tears because I could never take it back.

It’s like the dozen times I didn’t reach out to old friends and just let them slip away.

It’s like the loss of my best friend, after choosing a boy, who decided he didn’t want me anyway, instead of her.

Those things are irreparable. They can’t be rewound or edited. They are what they are.

You want to protect those you cherish. Everyone always tells me that he felt so loved and had a good life, but on the day he first got sick, I pushed him off the bed really hard. I didn’t know he was sick. He was pestering me for food, and he was a total nuisance. Sometimes, I had to be forceful about getting him off the bed, and I shoved him roughly. I could have ruptured his bladder. I feel so much overwhelming guilt about that moment. His momma was supposed to protect him, and, instead, I may have hurt him.

I can never undo that moment.

For the past three years, I have held my baby’s ashes each night for the near week of hell he went through before he passed away.

I’ve made a promise to him and to myself that I would keep him by my side me during the days I couldn’t be with him at the clinic. So, since Monday, I have slept with his box in my bed. I have the necklace of his ashes around my neck. He will never have to be alone on these five days ever again.

He’s not here. Truth is, he is resting eternally, and he is okay. I am the one who is not okay.

Along with the necklace of his remains, I am wearing a necklace today with the Sanskrit phrase “Tat Tvam Asi,” which means “You are that.” I see others in myself and myself in others. Maybe this is my urge to protect him postmortem, because, in actuality, I’m really protecting myself.

No mother always does the right thing or can keep pain away from her baby. Yet, like the little girl crying in her driveway for a moment that will never come back, I clasp and cradle his remains, because I made a promise.

Discarded

The strange thing about heartbreak is that the loneliness never gets easier.

Yesterday at lunch, my coworkers talked about ravioli.  You and I will never make them with your grandmother’s pasta maker.

I haven’t watched the newest episode of “This Is Us” and often feel compelled to wait for an imaginary time when we’ll watch it together.

I think about making pizza in the flour-filled air of our kitchen. I miss the taste of the seasonings you melded into the crust.

I drive by the old apartment that we lived in for less than a year. Soon someone else’s bed will be where our bodies held each other every night.

I want to tell you how there’s no way to lose the “Zen” mode in my Bejeweled game. How that’s why I have millions of points.

Or how my car starter battery was only dead and now it works great from far away.

Or how Aum was being so cute the other day.

Or the fact that I had my parents pick me up from a party last Saturday because I was too sad to be there.

It’s been over three months, and it literally feels like yesterday that you were mine.

I have moments where my deluded mind tricks me into believing it’s not done.

And the crash to reality from those moments is always so indelicate and raw. Like poor stitching being pulled apart so it can be redone crooked and wrong.

I’m full of pockmarks and broken threads.

I live in this loneliness of forgetting that you are never coming back and that when I wake up in a panic, it’s because you are not mine and never will be.

That I was just another tragedy. Scrap swept aside to become trash.

Somewhere in the landfill of my toxic thoughts and brooding heart, I am lost. Unless reclaimed, garbage never becomes anything useful again.

That’s the kind of lonely this is.

Miss You (7/30/18)

I miss you.
All the goddamn time.
Even when you’re in the room,
I miss you.

I once told you this,
but now that luxury is gone.

I suffer alone
with the immensity,
the missing.

The knowing that everyone now gets
more of you
than I ever will again.

Always Been (8/16/18)

I think of the irreversible damage of a mother not holding her child;
of blame and abuse from birth–
and I know no one really is ever okay after something like that.

Then, I think of myself,
loved and rocked from womb to walking–
showered in affection and praise.

I naively fall right onto men’s laps and into their arms–
not understanding the harm
that is incurred later in life when you used to trust
and now know it’s always been a lie.

Dysphoria

The heartbreaking ease of going to sleep with tear drops blanketing my face is like a familiar song. Although I feel so alone in those moments, I know every verse, every note.

I’ve hummed it my entire life.

This has been the longest breakup. He broke up with me July 8th, and it is only today, September 26th, that I wake up no longer having to worry about the old apartment, the storage unit, or any of that. Of course, there are still a couple loose ends to tie up, but it is so close to being final.

I have been telling myself for months that things will be better once it is all done and I am no longer breathing in the air of purgatory—stale, tepid, and apathetic. I also knew that once all the pieces were put away and our lives were once again separate and unknowing that I would feel the panic of isolation, erasure, impermanence.

Both are true.

So, I am left in a wind-swept tunnel, clear of the physical presence of him, but every molecule in the air is vibrating with the verse I sing myself to sleep with.

I will slowly forget the words, and new words will fill that space. The song will never be gone, but it’s nice to get it out of my head for just a while, if I can.

Boxes & Rain Drops

I am moving in a month, and the unwieldy mountain of stress is identical to the literal mass of things I own.

In an attempt to get a head start on the increasing agenda of tasks I have to do, I’ve begun to sort through miscellany. Boxes I had in storage, my medicine cabinet, old make-up… I reached into my walk-in closet last night and found a small shoebox of letters I have kept for years. Since 2006, to be precise.

It took me a few hours to sift through them all—opening each envelope, inspecting the contents, skimming the hand-crafted words that took commitment and dedication.

These letters all came from a friend who was incarcerated. He and I had dated, and right after we broke up, he did a bad thing and went to jail.

We wrote each other for the entire 6 years he was locked up.

Emotions pelted me throughout the reading like a gentle rainstorm that occasionally picked up or slowed. I was caught off guard by a sentence of deep regret, or my skin blushed by a few compliments of my beauty and effervescence about which he would sometimes reminisce.

I’ve read all of these before. Some of the sentences were so familiar even after all of these years, because, for a time, I had relied so much on the comfort and happiness those paper confessions provided me.

Yet, so many little things I had forgotten. He had written, telling me that I reminded him of a girl in the 2008 Ford Edge commercial, who was lost in thought looking up at the stars with her big, brown eyes.

Or the hand-made stamps his father would carve every year for Christmas cards, and how I had succeeded in putting every other person alive to shame (except his father) with my creative cards I sent him every year for his birthday and Christmas.

Or how he remembered that I used to eat soy bologna sandwiches and never smiled with my teeth in photographs.

It was such a strange and unusual bond we created during his time away, because we both avowed to continue the practice of hand-written letters.

We’d talk about our rituals of writing, where we sat, and what our surroundings looked like as we penned long notes to each other. He’d start letters off with a gregarious greeting, punctuated with far too much excitement for his caged-in existence, musing with eloquent language about my current antics. He shared an intimate look at the inside of a penitentary, while I wrote on and on about outings, my cats, my relationship woes, and, apparently, how great my ass was looking (that came up a few times—I know, because he made sure to comment in his letters sent back).

I held a six-year time capsule that was one-sided. I only had his letters, so I had to fill in the gaps of what was going on in my own world, while he talked about his. I could infer from his commentary easily, and it was like a nicely boxed-up version of my life from the moment he went to jail until the day Rocky and I first broke up. That was the last letter from him before he was released—commenting on how sorry he was to hear about my breakup. That was in 2013.

The letters began with talk of him missing his Myspace page and texting on his phone, and galloped forward into Facebook, various tv shows that had their popularity over that time period, and onward still to mention my employment at the company for which I still work.

I remember when he was released to a half-way house and I was finally able to talk to him on the phone. He had a crappy flip phone, and we talked for over two hours that first night. I chain-smoked cloves, and we delved into everything we didn’t say in our letters.

I went to visit him at his job in West Hartford. We talked a few more times.

That was a few years ago.

He’s free and we don’t talk. Convenience and real life has stripped us of our intimate bond.

But we are Facebook friends…

He often wrote to me, expressing his gratitude for my continued devotedness to writing him, but in the last letter, he stated that I had swayed his mind on womanhood, which went beyond his expectations and even broke down the rusted barrier of his misguided trust.

And now we don’t talk.

The gentle rain of emotions pelted me a little harder right then.

I always re-read everything personal before purging it. I set aside an entire evening to remember. It was only four years later that I decided to take the shoebox down from the shelf, because I need to simplify my personal belongings before moving.

The stress and commitment of moving has caused me to remember what a great friend I have had all these years. How I was once capable of staying true to a friendship with a steadfastness that is only now seen in the few hours left I have to vacate this apartment and start fresh.

Hand-written letters may never be in our future again, but I hope he knows when he reads this that, even in silence, the bonds of friendship still lie.

Open Letter from a Former Skinny Girl

I know you didn’t mean to call me gross when you grabbed your non-existent gut and exclaimed how disgusting you were, but you, a current skinny girl, were standing right next to me, a former one.

If I had to objectively assess myself I would say I am medium build and somewhat athletic, since I am hitting the gym, seeing a personal trainer, and finally putting some tone back on my body. So, this letter is not from someone who is morbidly obese or might be considered overweight by others, but according to what my scale says, and according to what my personal trainer has been paid to tell me, I’m technically overweight.

I have struggled with my body image for years, even when I was a size 0 and could stuff my face with cookies and chicken nuggets for dinner on a regular basis if I had wanted. Now, reaching my mid-thirties and coming to terms with my altered metabolism, even while eating regimented salads, burgers with no bun, quinoa, zucchini pasta, and lean chicken, I can’t seem to win. I probably workout approximately four to five times a week and have hardly seen results. I don’t buy bread anymore, I choose salmon over pasta, and make spinach and kale smoothies nearly every morning.

Most people do not mean to hurt the feelings of others when talking about their own bodies, but it happens. I am not writing to call someone out on bullying; I am writing because I used to be her: the skinny girl with maybe two ounces of fat on her body, who complained about her looks to garner the attention of those around her.

People who are unhappy with their bodies don’t go around lifting their shirts up to show their flesh. We are the ones in the corner quietly shaming ourselves for being pieces of garbage and thinking about how we should not have indulged in that slice of pizza, placing unrealistic and undoubtedly harsh expectations on ourselves.

I don’t want to be taunted by my guy friends, asking where my six-pack is (which is rock-solid and hiding under a small layer, by the way), and I don’t want to be the invisible female in the room, because the tinier, more fit one is standing a couple of feet away.

I realize that someone commenting on my body when I didn’t ask them to is not my fault, and I no longer have this strong desire to caper around men, begging for attention. I just don’t. Some of it might be because I have some extra weight I don’t feel comfortable with, but mostly, it’s because I realize who I used to be, and I don’t like that person.

I used to be that girl who saw something in a magazine and knew if I bought it, it would almost always look the same way on me.

I was that girl who felt uncomfortable when I was around people who legitimately complained about their weight, because I knew I was a poser only seeking attention. Trust me, I had body issues even when I was 105 lbs, but my weight problem has changed from a mental one to an actual physical one.

When I was in my twenties, my fiancé at the time referred to me as a “miniature supermodel”, because I was only 5’2” instead of 5’9”, yet perfectly proportioned. He also happened to control what I wore fairly often. I couldn’t wear short shorts, and I wasn’t allowed to show off my legs in tiny dresses.

Within a year or two of when we broke up, I began to put on weight. There’s a part of me that still feels animosity that I couldn’t “show it off” when I had the chance. The only thing I get to show off these days is my cleavage, because one of the benefits of gaining weight is that I grew two cup sizes.

I have this interesting perspective about my weight gain, because I haven’t had this issue my whole life. Until I turned 30, I was nearly too thin, by no fault of my own; it was just my genetics. I see the girls around me who are like this, and may stay like this, and think about how I was so insensitive to others’ feelings with the way I acted around men and the way I talked about my own body.

For that, I openly apologize.

It’s not fun to be on the other side.

And I know, even as I write this, there is someone else out there possibly reading who is struggling a lot harder than me. I can’t change the way our bodies look, but I can give you the silent nod and the verbal reassurance that even if you aren’t content with your appearance, there are so many people out there who think you are drop-dead gorgeous. And, naturally, you should think so, too, but as is clearly evident by this letter, we can’t always control our emotions or negative thoughts.

I don’t think I’ll ever be a size 0 again, and my choice to work on my weight is solely mine, not to be judged by how anyone else treats their body, but even if I do lose some weight, what I will never lose is the humility I gained in understanding what a huge impact a few innocent words have on those around us.

Sincerely,

A girl continually learning compassion