Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day 147: Making It Right

July 26, 2014

Last week I was in Portland, taking in all things organic and delightful and all things Maud (my friend from high school). It was the kind of trip where I could feel happy cells regenerating. I was having more "I can do this" moments than "please make this stop" moments. Happy hugs, good belly laughs, ridiculously good food, jogs in the park, a soak in a hot spring tub, and then...

[insert record needle being dragged across a record and then silence]

What happened? What happened on the day after a beautiful outing to Cannon Beach, where Maud says "Gareth surprised you with a bouquet of dogs!" as an explanation to the ridiculous and multiple dog encounters we had while there. (Gareth delighted in my love of dogs and often did things to light that excitement, i.e. a text in the middle of the day which simply read "DOGS! DOGS! DOGS!")

What happened on the following morning where I found myself plunged deep into the sadness, the missing of him, the improbability that I could in fact "do this." I remembered Gareth telling me on several occasions that I was a "spiritual warrior" and here I was months after he was gone sobbing to an empty room "I'm not a spiritual warrior, Gareth! You were wrong! You were so wrong! I can't do this. I can't do this anymore." I was flattened. And this threw me a bit.

I also remembered the words of Megan Devine, who assures those in grief that "there's no way to do this wrong." And I heard her. So this sudden plunging, this feeling like it was too much, was...ok. It was a wave. A really, really big one. But that's all it was. And I know how to ride the waves.

I showered and left the house, hopped on a streetcar headed for downtown, and decided to let the wind take me wherever it felt. I passed an interesting young couple leaning against a brick wall near an adult shop window display and snapped their photo. I stopped and traded a few words with them and felt the repair of the smallest part of me. As an introvert, I've always been a bit fascinated with my love of engaging interesting people like this in conversation. The stranger the story, or the more out of normal society the person may be, the better, really. I've always been this way. Long is the list of homeless or schizophrenic people I've sat with for hours at a time, taking in their stories.

This young couple was neither homeless nor schizophrenic, but they were doing their best to thumb their noses as cultural establishment and as such, I found them charming in some way.

As soon as I left them, the heaviness returned and I let myself continue walking with both hands full- one with this great sadness and one with a familiar curious wonder of the world around me. I can hold both of these at the same time.

A few blocks later I passed a man crouched below a doorway. He was holding a small notebook and pen and as I passed I noticed him laughing, seemingly to himself. He appeared ridiculously happy and I wondered why. I decided to stop and ask him.

I was only a few words into my question when his pointer finger went up as though to pause me and he pointed at his headphones with his other hand. I realized he was actually on a phone call, which must have accounted for his sudden laughter. He was in the middle of a funny conversation. I nodded and left him there.

Then it occurred to me that everyone I was passing on the street had felt moments of happiness at some point in their day, their week, their life. What did it for them? What brought them happiness? How amazing that all I need to do was ask. So I did.

There was the guy with the rotted teeth and other signs of a rough life who softened like a little kitten when we got to talking. I gave him $2 for vodka after he asked for it.

What makes you happy?
"Pot. Cigarettes. Sex. Painting. Playing music on stage for everyone. Whatever I have- my pot, my alcohol- I give to people. If you feed Karma, she'll freak the shit outta you real well."

There was the older man who I thought looked like a sweet grandpa until he surprised me with his answer. He also didn't want me to take his photo, but I may have accidentally hit the button anyway.

What makes you happy?
"I happy all the time. And I have a knife. Somebody they tell me 'fuck you,' I tell them 'fuck you' right back."
There was the man who spoke softly and with joy about music and food.

What makes you happy?
"Music. Disco. Soul when I'm down. That and cooking."

There was the woman who started off very cautious and reserved and then cracked the window open. We talked for quite a bit about what she said.

What makes you happy?
"What would've made me happy is having my life stay whole."
I found this man washing his hair in a nearby drinking fountain and this girl reading a book in a public square. The man was homeless and really engaging and the girl was so appreciative of the opportunity to connect.

What makes you happy?
"Weed. Weed makes me happy."
What makes you happy?
"Sensory things. Like smelling good things or eating good food or touching soft things. And I know it sounds cliche, but breathing. Breathing makes me happy."

And there was this woman, who is struggling with being miles and miles away from her kids during a custody dispute.

What makes you happy?
"Lately I like to draw what I'm feeling at the moment."
And this man, who spent time in Vietnam and saw a young man fall from his apartment window a few years ago. He sipped freely from a bottle of vodka the whole time we spent talking to one another.
What makes you happy?
"Enjoying life."
How do you do that?
"Anyway I can. You ever been to hell?"
"You're livin' in it."
 I met these two, who told reminded me that loss is a part of life.

What makes you happy?
"This is what makes me happy. This is my sister."
And this couple. The girl's ex-husband won't let her see her children and she's waiting for them to get old enough to come looking for her, as she's convinced they will.

What makes you happy?
Her: "My kids. Companionship. And this one."
Him: "Self-indulgence."

And this couple. The man seemed a bit put off at first. "Want to know the truth?" I asked. "The truth is I woke up this morning and felt pretty low. I mean really low. Like I don't want to be here low. And I'm not going to do anything stupid or anything. It's just that my boyfriend died and I miss him so much. And I don't know what to do with that. And I figured if I just ask other people what makes them happy, maybe I can get a little of what they have today." And then he answered my original question. And then he hugged me. A really long human hug. 

What makes you happy?
Her: "This. Eating and drinking. And beautiful weather."
Him: "Hugs make me happy."
While talking to one woman on the street, these two guys crossed right by me. The one was beaming from ear to hear and I left the woman and ran to catch up with them. I had to know- what can make a guy so incredibly happy? What was doing it for him in that very moment.

What makes you happy?
Guy 1: "Summer skin. Legs. And cleavage. Summer cleavage."
Guy 2: "Same thing."
By the end of the day I was chirping with giddiness. I was cloaked in the happiness of others. The compassion of others. The stories of shared suffering. These are people I would have walked right past and not known about estranged children or dead spouses or crushed hopes. They were just as open to sharing stories of suffering as stories of what brought them happiness.

I am not alone in this. In my grief. In my joy.  "We're all just here to walk each other home," writes Ram Daas. I was letting others walk me home. And I was walking them home, too.

By the end of the day and on my walk from the streetcar stop back to the house, I had that same light feeling that one would have at the end of a wonderful date. I was singing. I was smiling. I may have even skipped a bit. I spoke with Gareth as though he were walking back with me, because I really feel like he was. He was there, having delighted in watching how my spirit in this body connects with other spirits in their bodies. I brushed my spirit up against others' and made them spark. The day was full of sparks.

When I got back to St. Louis, I spent a brief part of an afternoon with my niece doing the same thing- collecting stories of happiness and taking in the best parts of people. This feeds me. Gareth noticed and loved this part of me. And I realized that I love this part of myself.

What makes you happy?
Girl: "This kid."
Guy: "Tacos. Korean tacos."
What makes you happy?
Middle: "Blunts."
Left: "I think I can pretty much speak for all of us when I say sneakers."
Right: "My baby. 7 months old."
What makes you happy?
"Beautiful women. I can't see too well, so I gotta get up close."
What makes you happy?
"Drawing [comics]. It's a weird thing. I get upset if I don't work for a couple days. I might have a problem."
What makes you happy?
"People like you."
What makes you happy.
"Him. My nephew."
This. This makes me happy. Stopping for a moment to connect with someone I'd otherwise pass unnoticed on the sidewalk. Hello, spirit. Hello, there. I see you in there. Let's spark.


As a final note, I woke up a bit weepy this morning. I got up and went for a run, and at the end of the run I heard Gareth's voice in my head. Here's what it said:

" you see? This is what you love about being here. You love these different people- talking to them. Taking them in. This is the form their spirits take here. On this earth. You have to BE HERE to experience what you love, babe. This is where you get to do it. While you're here. Focus on that. You've gotta do this, babe. You CAN do this."

And he's right. "Ok," I said. "I'll do it. You're right. I do really like my people. These are my people."

"Who's my babe?" he said.

"I am," I smiled.

"Who is?"

"It's me," I said.

"Still you?"


"How about now?"

"Still me," I laughed.


"Yep. That would"

"Are you my babe?"

"Yep. Sure am."

"What about now?"

"That would be 'affirmative.'"

"So, right before...a minute were my babe. And how about now? What are you thinkin'?"

"Um...that I'm still your babe?"

"And now?"

And this went on for a good block or so, with me laughing the whole way. Because it's exactly the kind of asinine conversation we would have had and let run on for the longest time imaginable. We were each other's best audience.

I finished the run and walked back to my parent's house. Once inside I told my mom about hearing Gareth. "I don't know if it's him, my subconscious, God, my own voice, a combination of some of these things, or none of them, but it made me feel better. And it made me laugh."

"Well, let me tell you about the conversation I had with Gareth while you were gone..."

It turns out my mom, having seen me crying in the morning, had some choice words for Gareth while I was gone on my run. If I remember correctly, it was something like, "Now listen here, Gareth! You made some poor choices and as a result my daughter is miserable. You are going to have to make this right, dammit. I MEAN IT! You are going to have to help her out, now. You do what you have to do. As a guardian angel, you only have one person to look after right now, and that's my daughter. Make this right!" She was mad. And I get that. And, some would say so did Gareth. Because at the time she was giving him what-for, I was having a real pick-me-up chat with him on my run.

There's no need for me to figure any of it out. I can only tell it as I experience it. But, there it is.

And if Gareth does have the ability to "make this right"- to help ease my sadness and usher me along in this process, he'd do it with creativity, humor, and compassion. That was the spirit of the man I saw and the man I loved deeply. And it's the spirit that I believe is still with me.

Let's make this right, Gareth! I'll do my part and you do yours. xoxo


  1. oh I so remember at the height of my acute grief calling out in my mind to the one-and she would come-mentally via thoughts, songs, coincidences(God moments)...........I believe it is real-I believe you-keep on keeping will find its way

  2. Romans 1:11 "I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gifts to make you strong." It is no accident/coincidence you keep seeing the number "111"- You are being Called it is a message, for example, "Number 111 symbolizes the principles of spiritual awakening and enlightenment, high energy, inspiration and intuition, self-expression and sensitivity. "