Where the F are you?

Hey Soulmate,

I gave a TEDx talk a week ago in Phoenix! It is a super vulnerable, rock bottom to recovery kind of talk about addiction to work and external validation. It is also about the time I was hijacked by my soul and rerouted toward a sense of inner fulfillment. The internet will soon be the judge. When I got home I felt a little high and speedy and then I started a swift and humbling descent. Something was brewing. I started to feel agitated, hungry, and horny. I found myself back on Tinder, Hinge, and OkCupid, judging and swiping away. I ate a giant Cinnabon. I don’t eat Cinnabons. Three days later I went to see my therapist and surprised myself by bursting into tears talking about you.

A new waving of longing was moving through. Longing for you. The return of this longing made me realize that I have been without it for the first time in my entire life these past six months. I was floating in a space of fulfillment and faith that I would find you. I was free.  So when the wave of longing came through I judged it. “Oh no, not again, no more longing.” I thought I beat it. It became clear that the particles making up this wave of longing are all the rad, life moments spent without you. I’m sitting Shiva for all the memories we could have shared. For example, I would have liked for you to have been there in the audience when I gave my TEDx talk reminding me that if I peed myself and burst into tears your love would remain same-same. I grieve every missed New Year’s Eve, my best friends’ weddings, and waking up with you in the middle of the Serengeti on a crazy, awesome Safari in Tanzania. I grieve all the moments I could have been touched by you. I grieve all the “yous” you have been as you stretched into manhood. And the weddings of your best friends’ and siblings and possibly their first born. Most of all, I grieve the relationship you would have had with my father. He would have breathed a deep sigh of relief to see me loved by you. I grieve the marriage he will never witness and the speech he will never give.

This longing is sweet and animal and only knows longing. I know it well and in all its forms. Right now it is about you but it is just the aching, empty space that follows any desire. I think, next to death, it a universal human experience. I can’t beat it when the wave comes through and instead of distracting myself with real or virtual sugar and judging it, I want to harness it. According to Einstein, “Feeling and longing are the motive behavior behind all human endeavor and human creations.” So even though I can’t wait for us to project things each other and realize it and make-up and have tons of sex, I’ll lean into this longing and see where it takes me.

Miss you.

Bristol

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Where the F are you?

Body Slammed By Grief

Hey Soulmate,

Two years ago today, my father David died peacefully in his living room in Washington. I wish you could have met him. I have no doubt you would have loved him. He had pink rosy cheeks, loved to dissect movies, read all the ancient mystics, and oozed loving. Get this, I was sleeping on a couch next to his bed on one of his last few nights and he shot straight up and said, “What era is it? And what are we working on?” I smiled what felt like a past-lives knowing smile and said, “we are working on you going to sleep.” “I can do that,” he said simply and lay back down.

Scan 14

His death was beautiful and horrible. There was some mini-scientist who took over my consciousness with her little lab coat and strategic, emotional distance. I observed every detail with utter fascination, keeping written notes of the things he would say and mental notes of the steps his body was taking to shut down. The body knows how to die. He was lying on his back in the hospital bed that hospice provided nestled between his craftsman lamp and a small Christmas tree. He hadn’t spoken in days. His eyes would open wide every now and then and stare straight up. He looked amazed. Amazed and like he was trying to make sense of it. Exactly 24 hours before his body took its’ last breath, he made a long exhale and the entire color of his body changed. It was a remarkable shift. Some part of me was sure his soul had just left his body. I kept looking up hoping I would see some evidence or feel something undeniable. I reached for his hand and touched his forehead. His skin was clammy, scaly, and colder. His color had changed drastically from a warm taupe to a stark pale, off-white, yellow with shades of blue and purple. It felt like an undeniable fact that my Dad was no longer in this dying body. His body exhaled for the last time around 4:30am the next morning. A young body of 64 that had been sacked by colon Cancer. (Sidenote: Soulmate, It isn’t telling that we use war terminology to describe a cell that replicates neutrally. The war seems so obviously in our head.)

After writing all this I have this awkward, uncomfortable feeling that I should try to make you feel better. Like, this is depressing to read so I should apologize or make a joke. I want to sex up my grief for you. Ha. But because you are you, you will get it. I won’t need to apologize when the little grief waves come through. You and I both know it isn’t contagious or terminal and if people wish to avoid me while I am in it I get it, no one signs up for pain. (Unless you are a masochist, which is super confusing for me.)

The stages of grief everyone talks about weren’t linear for me. I am new to “feeling my feelings” so it has really been an experiment. Once my mini-scientist retired it was time for the little girl part of me, the POW still in shock, to come out of hiding. For the first few months, the anger, denial, and despair happened simultaneously. ‘Cry your tears’, was my most favorite saying. It gave me permission to feel. Grief behaved like a shroud that hung around my mind and chest consistently. Time became moments outside the bed and inside the bed. It was like my whole life went down an octave. In the first year I remember forgetting he was dead and then remembering and then forgetting again. As though in sync with some emotional moon, the tide of grief would rise from time to time and the judgement of ego would rise to stop it.  “Alright, that is enough. Enough feeling. Come on back to work. Snap out of it.” Crazy how counter-productive the ego can be. My grief tended to build up and then get pressurized by the judgement and suddenly I am drunkenly making out in an attempt to feel “connected” or I am sick, body slammed to the ground by my grief. “Sit the fuck down,” it demanded. I am learning to listen. It is amazing anything gets done when people are dying all the time.

The second year was a bit more graceful. The waves of grief had gotten smaller, less frequent, and the shroud was lifting. Today, in my Grinberg Method Therapy session, the therapist asked me to fully allow my grief without getting lost in my mind about it. Ha. She had me push my fist into her hands as hard as I could. The feeling was familiar. It was aggressive, short tempered, annoyed and powerful. “This pushing”, she said, “is what you have been doing to your pain, or sadness, or grief. Think of these emotions as energy given to you by your Father. You have a choice. You can choose to move with it, harness it, or fight against it.” It was in that moment that I realized the unconscious story playing in the background of my mind. My grief must be as BIG as my love to truly honor my father. And the idea of letting it move through or letting it go, somehow meant I was letting him go or being a bad daughter. “If you push against your pain for too long you begin to get neurotic”, she said. I had gotten neurotic. When I finally stopped pushing against her and let my body fully relax, I felt a wave of relief sweep through. My hands and my feet tingled and tears rolled effortlessly out of my eyes. Today, I’m done fighting and that feels good.

– Bristol Baughan

Body Slammed By Grief