Tag: friendship

Twenty-twenty vision…

Livermore Cemetery, PA // 2020 Copyright Meghan Tutolo

2020, you’re dumped.

If this were middle school and I were 11 again, that’s exactly what I’d say to this year thus far. Here we are. Even with the naive hope that this year might be good, make up for the roller coaster of last year, I can say officially that 2020 is en route to Blowstown. Something like Death, in fact.

No, no… I’m not trying to Emily Dickinson y’all by personifying death, the concept; I’m talking about the tarot card. Number 13 of the major arcana. That Death.

Death is depicted most classically as a skeleton riding a white horse. Often there’s a person or people under that horse with distressed faces—pleading, maybe? It can be interpreted as something like “death comes for all.” It’s more than that, though. While it seems grim and morbid, there’s more depth to the Death card than that.

Rider Waite Tarot - Major Arcana Death XIII

 

I’m not going to lie, though. When I draw this card for myself or others, it’s pretty unnerving. I mean, who wants “Death” to pop up in their spread? The image itself is creepy. But just remember: the Death card is about change, typically an abrupt and sudden change that leads to something new. A transformation of sorts? A death of something? Maybe you didn’t initiate it or plan for it, but sometimes a forced switch of the gears is necessary.

Grim reaper dude here gets a bad rep, for sure, but Death can be a positive card. While change is scary, it’s mostly necessary for growth. So you know, sometimes you have to play the long game? Look at the big picture, as they say.

So… I’m not sure what the Death card means for me personally, but I’ve never been good at dealing with change. Most transformations feel traumatic. The letting go of things is hard—even when what I’m holding to is toxic. I don’t always see it that way. I too often embrace the difficult, the challenging, the things that make me question my own worth. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? Change is something I often have to dare myself into. But here we are, 2020, and already I can say the year has been difficult… eye-opening.

Ok, so I get it. Life is a chaotic culmination of wins and losses. I’ve got all these damn feelings, and so I’m the type that straps in for it for real, ups and downs (for better or worse). It’s not the usual for me, but I got pretty low recently, more than I’d been in a long time. I guess what’s so scary about it was that I forgot how fucking hard it is to get out and up again.

Snowballing. It started with an injury that had me limping and kept me from the gym. Without that physical outlet and the restraints of literally hobbling around, I caved in on myself. The shit piles that appeared were harder to navigate. Sometimes it’s just the timing and quantity of bad things (no matter how small) that can sink you. At some point there, I found it hard to get out of bed, to find the reasons, you know? This is not my typically sads, but it seemed like everywhere I turned, I hit a wall or a rejection or a silence.

Not to be dramatic, but it’s devastating to learn how very alone you are. It’s like that Dorianne Laux poem I like to reference, “After Twelve Days of Rain.” Nothing is really yours. You are no one’s. None of that matters. This realization can be either liberating or ruinous. I thought I knew this truth. had felt it even. But this latest valley made me realize how easy it is to lose—especially when you don’t have a family—and how important genuine human connection is. (And no, I don’t mean Facebook comments or text messages, but the kind of connection that exists without the white screen.)

God, even the word “need” makes me cringe. I mean, who wants to need anyone? My stepmom used to say, “Your dad wouldn’t ask for a bite of a sandwich if he was starving.” I relate. Too much so. And as you can see, this cycle of needing and then shaming oneself for needing is kind of dangerous. Particularly so when you’re at the bottom… when you need a sandwich.

Maybe this was my abrupt and sudden change? My Death card is a wakeup call?

I’m here rambling to try to figure it all out. That’s part of why I write in general: things get too abstract and tangled upstairs. But also, sharing these things feel important too, because someone out there might need to hear it and know they aren’t the only alien floating around in outer space. Before this, I thought I had my people, but you know, maybe not. And that’s okay. It has to be okay. (I’m telling myself this as much as I am telling you.) Our people are out there. We can throw a pity party for eternity and block out all the good and trust no one… or we can hold our hearts hopeful. We’ll only be extra alone if we don’t stay open. We’ll only become “get-off-my-lawn” old and miserable. Can you dig it?

No matter what, I think I will always carry around this burden of “unlovable.” It’s a chain around my neck, the lack of unconditional love, a family, growing up. I now know that’s what my dad felt and what he has passed onto me. My heart breaks for him. Though I didn’t realize this when he was alive, I think some part of healing myself might just heal him too. Is that crazy?

So here I am. Back to the gym (finally), trying to believe, trying to hope, trying to give myself everything I hoped to get from people who loved me. I don’t know how I will feel tomorrow, but this is how I feel today. It’s okay. I’m telling myself this as much as I am telling you.

mt

 

 

Feeling feels in a Post-Truth World

"Sweet Submerged" by Meghan Tutolo
 
 

It’s hard to have feelings.

No, really! I’m not sure if this is new or I’m just taking notice, but why is it that everyone is always trying to shut down everyone else’s emotions (and in turn, their own)? Lately, I’ve been feeling mega-frustrated with this—almost more of a heaviness than the original emotion itself. Does anyone else feel as if they are constantly defending their feelings? And no, I don’t mean in a political way or any conspiracy-crazed way. I’m talking personal stuff: friends, family, coworkers, etc.
 
This isn’t to say I haven’t been guilty of it. Hell, we all have. It’s part of this good-intentioned consoling power we think we must have. As if one might be able to wave his or her hands hands, instill some Should Be Grateful or Bright Side or Silver Lining… all better now. You know what I’m talking about. When’s the last time you DIDN’T hear these responses:
 
“It’ll be ok.”
 
“You have nothing to worry about.”
 
“Don’t be so nervous.”
 
“Oh, here’s 19 reasons why you shouldn’t feel this way.”
 
“Calm down.”

“I think you’re overreacting.”
 
“Don’t cry.”
 
“At least, this other dumb or horrible thing isn’t the case.”
 
No wonder we, as a society, have such a hard time with expressing emotions. We are constantly told to, expected to, asked to, shamed into “getting over it” and being grateful. Maybe if we were actually just allowed to have the feelings—to feel them and express them—we could work on our shit and really truly get over it, instead of just running from it. The catch-up or rebound or whatever has been hitting hard these days. There’s no getting over.
 
You know what I’ve learned to do? Shut my mouth. And it isn’t working for me. I feel empty and disconnected… and when the time comes and the world turns a bit more slowly (I’m usually driving or riding), what has been silenced becomes a monster. It feels like an anvil to the gut.
 
When was the last time someone actually just wanted to join you? Like feel your feels with you? And that’s it? Empathy. No policing, no 14 reasons why you’re wrong to feel the way you feel and no forced gratitude. What if we could just be in it with people? No more crossing our arms and deciding when and how much someone should be feeling? Actual empathy. Actual connection.

Yeah, perhaps some people and situations call for objective reasoning, some advice, some friendly ear flicks to wake up the disillusioned… but first, just let them feel. Listen. Listen. Listen, damnit. No one is wrong for having an emotional reaction, even if you think he or she shouldn’t. You can help he or she process it, if needed. But don’t tell your friends they are wrong or lead them to that conclusion. Why? What is that doing for them or you?
 
I’m going to work on this so hard. In my own need to shut off and run, I have imposed the same on those around me. Coward, I am.
 
 
 
 

The big of it

“You never felt love so big? I love so hard…”

“I guess I just don’t understand. I’m sorry,” she said.

“Let me see. You know how you feel when you look up at the sky? All those stars, the moon, the planets?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s just beyond words. Amazing,” she looked up again in the dark, sighing.

“That’s how I feel when I see you. Every time.”

A certain grief

“I’m not smart. I just know a lot of words,” said the me in my dream.

I come back to this quote so often. It’s rare that I remember direct quotes from my dreams, but when I do, they usually stick for a while. For instance, a dream quote from a few years back that had me scared and paranoid for months. A little boy jumped on my bed in the dark [in Dream Land, of course]: “The devil will be asking for your soul soon.” Whaaaaaa?! I bought my Scion a month later, so I equated this to my Toyota loan. Eek!

But when it comes to smarts and all, I agree with my unconscious admission: I’m not. Some things just don’t sink in, you know? Like that paragraph I have to read three times before I get it.

There are moments, of course, when I feel intelligent—confident about what I’m saying or doing. Mostly it’s in my language or the way I can [sometimes] articulate myself. What I’m saying is: speaking/writing is the only mode in which I feel like I may have an IQ higher than 65. Real talk.

And we can call this moment Exhibit 94, 509. This not sinking in.

As you all might know, life has the tendency—especially as of late—to shit all over me. You, like I, may be thinking: Another bad spot? Really?

I say “spot,” because I hope it’ll pass. I say “hope,” because I’m not certain. I was certain a week and a half ago that my best friend [mother, “favorite” and soul sister] was too busy to text me. I was certain she was wrapped up in work and the everyday bustle of her world, which had become rather stressful as of late. I was certain she’d text her usual “G’nite, madam” or at least send me the Sun and Moon emoji. But she didn’t. For two nights in a row. I was starting to get a little frustrated.
But then I got a call last Thursday at work, 4:12 p.m. She had a heart attack and had been unconscious since late Monday night. With her full heart, childlike curiosity and hard-assed grip on the world, I was certain she would outlive us all. I was certain that with my carelessness, my clumsiness, my incessant need for productivity and the way it outdoes my need to be healthy, my rollercoaster of melancholy and triumph, I’d be the one in the hospital bed prematurely. But it wasn’t me.

After the call, I found myself in the car—rushing and crying and screaming and navigating through Pittsburgh traffic to Allegheny General Hospital. I sat on the Parkway, a standstill, sobbing to the million memories that hit me, a slideshow:


Remember the time you sat by the bay in Cape Cod and watched the sky until early morning, where you cut limes for her rum and refused her another drink at 4 a.m.

The color teal.

Standing atop Mt. Washington at sunset and dancing in the orange light, puffed up by winter coats, knitted scarves and gloves without fingers. 

Singing “You’re so Vain.” 

Remember the glass bottle full of tiny shells from the Dead Sea. 

Watching her watch her Koi swim below. 

The time you mocked her easy lifestyle and told her you’d come visit her even if she lived in a trailer park—even if the time you spent together was playing 500 Rum and eating Chef Boyardee. And to prove it? You brought her a can the next time you came over.

My brain gets the best of me. And since this moment, it hasn’t stopped with the snapshots, the words, the smell of plastic and death in her hospital room. I smell it everywhere. I realize now, more than before, she is everywhere. Maybe it is the fear of forgetting. Like with my dad. The years have come quick and with it, the memories have faded.

For a week, everything was underwater. With the amount of crying I did [both angry-at-the-world and end-of-the-world tears], my eyes were swollen to half-visibility. I was certain I had been emptied of tears. I was certain there was nothing left. I was certain she’d wake up now that her heart was fixed. It was only a matter of time.

For days, her family and I watched her lifeless, but warm, body. We smiled; we cried; we laughed; we prayed; we hushed her grandchildren as they ran around the ICU Waiting Room in an oblivious boredom with Twizzlers. The doctors gave terrible news. The doctors told everyone it “wasn’t looking good.” The doctor told me personally: “She’s very sick.”

So we prayed harder. I painted the picture of all the light in my body leaving mine and entering her. I was certain this would make her wake up, like in a movie.

But she was showing more signs of regression. Her pupils ceased to dilate; she stopped reacting to pain. And her brain, they said, was swelling and there was nothing they could do. She went too long without oxygen causing “irreparable damage” [a phrase I still cannot get out of my head, the way the doctor said it with brown protruding eyes, head down.] I was certain they were mistaken and that the Universe wouldn’t let this happen. It couldn’t. Not to any of us that stood by her bed sobbing and holding her limp hands, to the us that needed her, that could still hear her laughter ringing in our ears, could find pieces of her—like evidence—everywhere.

I picked at beige colored cafeteria food for days trying to imagine tomorrow.

Thank you for reading this. I know it’s “too soon” to write about—a writing instructor would say. But I have to. I want to remember all of it. Even this fresh grief.

I don’t know. I think I’m stupid, maybe. Because it’s been a week since she passed and I’m still waiting to wake up. I’m still trying to bargain with the world like a trade-off. I just don’t want to go on. Maybe I’m stupid. Because I still don’t get it. I’m certain now that I don’t want to.

 

mt