Can I talk to you about something serious for a sec?

Content warning: Death and death-related topics ahead

I’ve heard my boss say, on more than one occasion, that “nobody gets out of life alive.” She doesn’t say a lot that’s worth repeating, but this is one of her finest and most salient comments.

We’re all gonna die one day.

And yes, many of us hope that it will happen way down the road when we’re super old and we’ve accomplished everything and our bones hurt so much that death will look like a welcome friend.

Some of us, though we are still young, feel that pain in our bones now and might sometimes wonder if it would be so bad if it comes a little sooner.

Some of us are terrified of both aging and death, and we live out our formative years avoiding the topic. I imagine most of those people didn’t get past the content warning.

And sometimes, we hear a story and are faced with the stark reality that most of us do not have control over when it happens – not for ourselves and not for our loved ones. As it ought to be.

It doesn’t really matter what your relationship with death is – the fact is, we are all going to have one some day.

So, if you have people or causes in your life that matter to you, get your shit together.

Yes, it’s probably more important to do this if you have assets, but even if you don’t – you can leave behind instructions for your loved ones on what you’d want in the unfortunate event of a terrible accident. How do you want your remains handled? I’m telling you right now, that shit is EXPENSIVE. Can you set aside anything to help with those expenses?

Also, there are documents you might want to consider having in your files – like an Advanced Directive or a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) if that’s what you’re into, or a Power of Attorney for someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated or unconscious.

If you do have assets – talk to a professional. Homes and life insurance policies and other large financial assets…if you don’t square this stuff away, then depending on where you live and your legal marital status, everything can go haywire after you’re gone. You have absolutely no say in it unless you’ve figured it all out in advance.

Now, when my husband died – we had none of these things. I know he would not have wanted to be resuscitated. He was miserable and in pain all the time, and he’d said as much..but we did not have this document signed and notarized. I watched as the paramedics tried (to no avail) to bring him back, somewhat terrified that they’d succeed and he’d be in even MORE pain than he was before from the way they’d had to handle his body.

And, because he was my husband and we live in California, when he died – everything he owned automatically became mine. But if we hadn’t been married yet, without the documentation to back it up – his half of my house that we bought together might have ended up in probate, paying off his personal debt or in his ex-wife’s hands, as the legal guardian of his underage daughter.

And that’s a pretty straightforward relationship: husband and wife. What if we’d been polyamorous? Lots of you are. Lots of you are in long term relationships with multiple people and some of those people don’t really like each other. Do you want to leave it up to them to figure out who gets what?

One of the biggest shocks to my system after he died was that I could no longer call him to ask him the simplest questions. Like “Where is the charger cable for that really expensive camera you bought?” or “What is the password for our cable account?”

They can’t ask you what you would have wanted. They can only guess.

So make it easy for them.

And, if you don’t have people in your life or if you are so inclined, remember that there are charitable causes out there that can also be listed as beneficiaries of your estate, if you’re into that sort of thing.

This semi-morbid post brought to you by the learning of Chris Cornell’s passing this morning at the age of 52 – same age as my late husband.

Nobody gets out of life alive. Get it together while you still can.

For me, it was Anton Yelchin

We lost a lot of our heroes, idols, role models, and artists this year. For many people, a David Bowie, a Harper Lee, an Alan Rickman, a Muhammad Ali, or a Carrie Fisher might have been the person they could look to in an isolating world and feel less alone.

Did you know Alan Rickman didn’t have his breakthrough role as an actor until he was a year older than I am now? There were many times when my late husband, who felt he’d reached his peak in college, looked to Alan Rickman and his story as a beacon of hope that there might be more ahead than behind him.

For so many people, these artists were more than just famous people. They were hope in human form.

Some of those losses hit some people harder than others. The one that really sort of threw me for a loop – the one that really had me reeling this past June was Anton Yelchin.

He was young and talented. He was at the start of what might have been an incredible career doing the thing he loved to do, and everything was falling into place….

And a freak…and I mean super freak accident took his life at 27.

It was a very shocking reminder of the lesson that had already cemented itself into my bones the morning my husband passed away at 52 from an accidental overdose of prescribed medication.

You really never fucking know.

A night or two after Anton Yelchin died, I had a nightmare. I don’t want to get into the details, but suffice it to say I woke up in a panic thinking I’d lost another love of my life way too early. It was horrible, and it shook my otherwise stalwart optimism about the future.

This year, my grandfather finally succumbed to old age. He made it to the end of the game – two grown children, five grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren – all happy, healthy, successful. He was the embodiment of the American Dream. He immigrated to the United States with a couple hundred dollars in his pocket, a wife and two children, and grabbed hold of every opportunity he could to make it work.

I wasn’t devastated when he passed away. Sure, it was sad, but it was also peaceful. He accomplished everything he’d set out to accomplish, and in the end, died painlessly and peacefully in bed with his wife and children at his side.

Different from my mom’s cousin, who also passed away earlier this year in his 60s after a battle with cancer, or my husband who’s struggle with addiction and depression had already taken his mind and spirit from me long before it took his body.

But Anton Yelchin….

That one hurt in unexpected ways. Because it could be any of us. Any time.

The thought of despair crosses my mind in those times, and I think about trying to protect myself from life; but I don’t do that. Nearly every time I’ve gotten behind the wheel since Anton Yelchin passed away, especially in inclement weather, I think about whether or not that might be the time I’m destined to go.

And then I stuff down the anxiety and keep moving forward. ‘Cause I got shit to do and people to love, and when my time inevitably comes, I don’t want to have wasted too much of it worrying.

You know….I lost my original point along the way for this post, but I do like where it ended up. I was going to say that for some people these losses hit so hard that they truly are in mourning. Real people with real feelings are suffering a tremendous loss in Carrie Fisher because of what she meant to them and how she helped them cope in a sometimes very scary world.

I saw it when David Bowie passed, as well as Prince, and to an extent Alan Rickman as well. Those deaths did not affect me in monumental ways, but I saw how many people were devastated as they reminisced on social media what these larger-than-life icons meant in their very real, comparatively less gargantuan lives.

My husband was a drug addict who suffered from severe mental illness and chronic physical pain that forced him to put his life at risk every day by either taking opioid medication so he could cope with living or suffer so intolerably he’d wish for death. I wonder how he might have reacted to this news. I’m certain he would have been devastated – far more than I, because he’d have seen her as a kindred spirit in some ways.

My experiences influence my reaction, as others’ experiences influence theirs. A little kindness has not, to my knowledge, ever killed anybody. Perhaps now is not the time to pick fights in the posts where people are sharing their pain about a loss that means something very personal to them.

Can you help me? (Or: Why I’ll never allow a television in my bedroom again)

It’s not surprising that he’s crept into my thoughts more during the past week. I learned how to Christmas with him in my life. Doesn’t help that google likes to remind me what happened “on this day” X years ago. Anything more than 3 years usually includes memories of the time that my label was “wife.”

This morning, as I have been for nearly all the mornings during this holiday break, I woke up way too early. The light coming from outside my bedroom window was still dark enough that I couldn’t find my phone on the bed without feeling around for it.

In the process, my hand found the handle of my vibrator. I’d fallen asleep last night before making use of it. I thought perhaps a nice, slow morning orgasm would relax me enough into another hour of sleep.

I peeled off my underwear and pulled the sheet up over my shoulders to keep the chill out before I got started. As I do, I let my mind wander through the Greatest Hits – the handful of fantasy situations I imagine when I’m just trying to get straight to the orgasm without so much meandering along the way.

I lightly grazed my hand over the sheet and felt the little jolt of sensation when it traveled over my pert nipples. I smiled, thinking about recent events that involved my nipples and my lover’s warm kiss.

But then, it happened. The sound of my own voice, in my head…

Can you help me?

Instantly my mind shifted from this happy place by remembering her. The she that was me before he died.

“Can you help me?” as I lay in bed beside my loving husband with my vibrator pressed up against my clit and his hands clutching the video game controller.

The orgasm evading me as I tried to call up the feelings of being desired while he focused all his attention on smoking pot, taking Ambien, and watching documentaries.

“Can you help me?” I’d ask in my small voice, laced with yearning and unmet hunger and the wanting of the slightest bit of attention.

And he would sigh. Hold the controller with one hand while reaching over to grope my breasts with the other.

With my eyes closed, I could pretend he was actually looking at me while he did it.

The orgasm would come. I’d drop the vibrator. And, without a word, he’d pick the controller back up and carry on with his game, or the documentary, or the bong hit I’d interrupted with my request.

Can you help me?

It dawned on me, not for the first time – but for the first time in a long time, that for nearly three years, that was the entirety of my sex life. That was how we “did it.” That was as much as I could get in terms of active participation from my husband in my orgasm.

It pained him, by the way. He knew that he wasn’t giving me what I needed. He knew I wanted more, and more often. But tired. Pain. Depressed. High. Busy.

There was always some excuse to mask the complete lack of desire he had – not just for me, but for anything. The drugs and the pain killed it all.

The best he could muster was a healthy grope on one of my breasts. It was really all he could do for me.

I flashed back into my present tense. I set the vibrator down. I was never going to get there thinking of that. I went back and read some of my texts from yesterday evening from my lover. That’s not my life anymore. She is not me anymore.

But yeah, for a few minutes this morning, I felt really, really sorry for her.

Wipe the Glass (Happy Birthday, Tony.)

He’d have been 55 today. I didn’t want it to affect me, but I can’t pretend it didn’t. It’s a really strange combination of emotions – knowing that I’m happier and healthier now, knowing that I’ve found love again and pulled my life back together and survived an incredible loss.

And still feeling off on his birthday.

This would have been the birthday that I’d have broken the bank to get us a reservation at the French Laundry in Napa. It was a lifelong goal of his to eat there one day. I tried for this 50th birthday, but I missed the window of opportunity for a reservation and there wasn’t a chance in hell I could get it, so we’d decided to do it for his 55th.

Maybe one day I’ll still get a chance to eat there. At the very least, I have Thomas Keller’s cookbook somewhere in the garage (the gift my parents got him for his 50th). Now that I’m a fancypants home chef, I’ll dig that sucker out and make something.

So, I’m digging into these emotions, because I think if I can shed some light on them, I can overcome them. I mean, it’s not like I’m overcome with grief that he’s gone. Like I said, my life is better now. There is love again, and not just for the guy but for some really great people he’s brought into my life by association.

I’m gonna take a minute away from this whole thing to share some gratitude for my metamours. They’re both really wonderful, really unique people an I’m very, very grateful for them. I had a really rough night last night, fraught with nightmares and sleeplessness, and this morning wasn’t entirely pleasant, and one of my metamours came through and 1) made it feel safe for me to be honest, and 2) said exactly what I needed said to make me feel better. I’m really, really grateful for our growing friendship. The other one is her own brand of fantastic and has made me feel comfortable and welcome since day two of this relationship. I say day two because he forgot to introduce us to each other on day one.

Anyway, back to the other thing. Right. Guilt. What I’m getting at is that the reason I think I keep crying this week is that I feel guilt for moving on. Not surface guilt; like, rationally I know I have no reason to feel anything of the sort. But deep, deep, down there’s this sense that if I didn’t feel something on this day it would mean i’m a callous, unfeeling, cold-hearted bitch.

So I look at the date on the calendar and I furrow my brow because I’m happy and …what does that make me?

If I were you and you were me and you asked me this question, I could be completely rational about it and tell you that you’re crazy. Of COURSE you deserve this happiness. Of COURSE you’ll feel something on his birthday. Of COURSE being happy doesn’t make you an evil cold-hearted bitch.

And I can tell myself that, too.

When chatting with my metamour this morning I came up with an analogy for how this feels. So, if you’re in a glass-enclosed shower, the glass fogs up with steam. When I pick my emotions apart and tell myself there’s nothing to feel badly about, it’s like I’ve taken my hand and wiped a large swath of clarity. I can see the world clearly through the glass. But slowly, very slowly, the steam starts to fog it up again.

I have to keep wiping at the emotional fog collecting in my brain.

There’s more to it than just Tony’s birthday, there’s other stuff going on that has nothing to do with Tony. Work stresses. Family stresses. Distances from people I care about.

Life is awesome, but just ’cause it’s awesome doesn’t mean there aren’t days when the awesome isn’t front and center.

I was trying to think of a way to commemorate Tony’s birthday this morning. It was hard. I thought about asking people to donate one item of clutter …you know that thing that “might be useful one day” to someone who might use ittoday. Tony was a hoarder and I can tell you that after he died, a great many people benefited from the mountains of clothing and kitchen supplies and furniture and canned food that he collected.

I thought about asking people to reach out to friends or loved ones who struggle with depression or anxiety and saying “hey. You matter.” Tony suffered from both of these, and chronic pain. There were days when he didn’t want to live and lost himself in video games and ice cream to get by.

I thought about asking people to embrace something bizarre or do something weird today. Tony loved the bizarre, obscure, and perverse.

I thought about suggesting people show kindness to someone in need today. Tony always did. If it were his last dollar, he’d give it to someone needier than he.

But, this morning on facebook all I asked people to do was to find a reason to celebrate. Have a treat. Blow out a candle. Find a reason to feel good.

‘Cause he’d have been 55 today on Friday the 13th. And despite all his troubles, he was a good man who loved me. There is nothing wrong with celebrating that.

wipes the glass

I Dream of Poly

I had a strange dream last night. Well, I had more than one dream, but the one I had as I was waking up this morning….it was strange.

It was the first time I’d encountered Tony in a dream since his death that wasn’t laced with fear, angst, anger, or disappointment.

I was at an awards show, like the Golden Globes or something, because they were handing out awards for TV and film. I was sitting in the audience with my current partner. I knew Tony had been nominated, and he was there somewhere.

(This is also the first dream I’ve had with Tony still being alive and my not knowing he’d passed away).

I saw someone I knew and went over to say hello during a break in the production. She’s a Fetlifer. I sat with her for a bit while another Fetlifer was on stage making a speech.

Then they announced the nominees for Best Television Writing. This was Tony’s category. I went back to sit with my partner. Tony was wandering around somewhere. He was up against strong competition, but when the winner was announced, it was him!

I was so proud and happy! I guess the awards were running late because they weren’t giving them out on stage anymore. They were having all the winners in the TV category receive their trophies and take photos in the back of the auditorium so the show could continue.. I spotted Tony in the crowd, turned toward my partner and said “I’m gonna go congratulate my husband,” and he smiled and said “Of course!” and kissed me.

I went to find Tony. There were a lot of people congratulating him, but when he spotted me he….

This is where the dream gets weird.

He was happy.

He hugged me and held me and he was excited and proud and it was all the things Tony hadn’t been in YEARS. In the dream I remember I was so happy to see him this way.

They wanted to take photos of the winners and I offered to step aside. I hadn’t done any of the writing. “No, you’re getting in the picture with me,” he said. “I may have done all the writing, but you did everything else I was responsible for. You were there for me, you took care of me, and you put up with me while I was solely focused on this script. You’re as much a part of it as I am.”

I couldn’t believe it. It was like all the negativity, depression, and selfishness had drained away leaving behind the man I’d originally fallen in love with. The man I thought I’d been marrying. I thought this, in the dream, as I felt his large frame drape his arm around me and I smiled for the cameras.

The flashbulbs were still going off as I stirred from this dream, feeling loved and appreciated by my now dead husband.

And understanding, maybe for the first time, what it’s like to love more than one person at the same time.

On Breaking

I’ve written about the idea of being “broken” before. Now that I’ve got my storytelling mojo back, I don’t write as many poems as I used to (also HVN told me my poems suck, and I haven’t written one since). But “I will not break” is still one of my favorite writings.

In one of the angry posts I wrote (and subsequently deleted) a few weeks ago after I let rage get the best of me, I wrote something along the lines of “Every time one of you writes about wanting to break someone, I laugh at you.”

It went on to say “Fuck you. I won’t break.”

Like I said, I was angry. I sorted out the source of my anger, addressed it, and moved on to a kinder, gentler phi.

Earlier today I wrote about the only beating that ever made me cry. Was it the beating or the meaning behind it that brought forth those tears? I’d guess it has more to do with the latter. I loved him. Even as he was leaving me, he loved me. Hell, he was “doing it for my own good,” something I knew to be true then and still fought against.

By the end of those ten smacks with the cheeseboard I was a sniffling, bawling, wretched mess of a woman. In fact, I’d regressed to girl, and I clung to him, physically then, and emotionally over the next several months.

But I wasn’t broken. It wasn’t the worst I’d ever endured.

Try telling an 86 year-old woman that her son, the last surviving member of her nuclear family, didn’t wake up that morning. Try being the wife who had to stay strong that day for the sake of his teenage daughter, who was with me that morning and endured the whole ordeal by my side.

I’ll take 50 wooden paddles to the ass over ever having to experience that morning again.

I couldn’t call red that day. I couldn’t say a word and end that nightmare.

But with you, future partner, I can.

And that’s why you can’t break me. Not without violating my trust in the ugliest and most despicable of ways.

You want me to cry? I’ll tell you the secret. The only way you’ll get the tearful sobbing mess of a girl that’s clinging to your thighs as you stand above her with all the power:

Love me.