Love, grief, and Macaroni

I’ve been away from my writing practice for a while. I’d like to say that my days were taken up by diligent work in the archives, a non-stop painting business, and a perfect (nearly perfect, perfectly imperfect, smashingly successful, married as hell) wedding, but this is not quite the case. There were boring days, days when I could’ve used a break to check in with myself or to start a new self-care routine.

I didn’t give up on taking care of myself during my time away. I went to therapy and premarital counseling. I made things. I made friends. What was supposed to be a stressful time, the pre-wedding, was markedly fun and energetic for the most part. But even in my diligence in seeing friends and working through my inner and outer conflicts, something was not right in our home.

As a person who struggles with mental illness, pain is often hard for me to pinpoint and to trust. I described increased anxiety in decision making when I was driving to my doctor last year and she asked pointedly if anything had happened to me recently. I hemmed and hawed and tried to grasp for something, though I initially couldn’t think of anything that had changed. Suddenly I remembered totaling my car, being cut by glass in the front seat of my car – t-boned on a grocery run. Oh right. The pain is coming from the open wound. That is how grief has sat in our home. Some nights I cry too long at something that doesn’t seem to matter, and it isn’t until hours later that I realize that my husband and I are both holding the pain of loss, while holding each other.

A month before the wedding, to the day, we lost our poor sweet Florence. A queen among swine, Florence had lived with cancer for over two years. I always knew that the next time she visited the vet would be her last, but as I threw her in the cat carrier and drove crazed to the emergency vet, I had no time for sadness. It was when I was taken into a room without her that I knew I was about to say goodbye. My constant companion for eight years, my one constant in the tumult of my twenties, gone in a moment. Sam was there and he held me up, the way I have always deserved to be held up but never have been by a partner – but the hole remained.

While the gaping loss in our family continues to feel profound, this wasn’t the only loss in our home. Sam, in the matter of three months, lost two friends far too young, and these deaths echoed off of each other, reminding us of our mortality and the fleetingness of joy, friendship, and life. I heard Sam’s voice crack on the early morning phone call where he learned of Riley’s death after Evan’s, his tone wavering, his vocabulary unlike his usual arsenal. Dude, fuck. No. It was so glaringly apparent in that moment that grief cracks and chips at us and that, though whole, we are not the people we once were.

I still cry for Florence, who went to sleep in my arms one last time in April, and I cried for Evan and Riley, though I didn’t know them, because I saw their lives reflected in good people I love, forever changed. It is hard to reconcile this deep sadness with the joy of our wedding and the new addition of a very bad boy, Mr. Macaroni, to our couch. Some moments, like introducing Sam as my husband, looking at Polaroids of wedding guests, or having a 20-pound cat purring in my arms at three in the morning, are so blissful that time on earth feels boundless, generous, and complete. Other moments, like hearing the a capella vocals of “Blackbird” bouncing off cathedral ceilings, watching a friend cry outside of a bar, or seeing a picture of a person I’ll never get to meet, life feels cruel, unfair, and violent.

The haltingness of the human experience, the ability to feel so much love and safety in the light of another person, and the ability to lose all of that in a moment, is the true completeness of existence. Both the joy and the pain of the past months have stopped my hands on the keyboard, but the marinade may have been worth a piece or two of writing to come. In the end, time away from my writing about self-care was an act of self-preservation and growth. I was giving myself the space to live and to feel deeply, and sometimes that feeling was, I’m bored as fuck and should be writing. Sometimes it was more profound. All of it was part of learning every part of myself.