Monday, September 30, 2013

Facebook Relationship Statuses After Death

Blake "Was in a relationship with Briana Wagner."

Blake's Facebook profile has been in what they call a "memorialized state" since right after he passed away. It wasn't until recently, however, that I noticed that with this new state came a change in his relationship status. Since I spotted it, I've read that sentence probably 100 times. The insertion of that infuriating three letter word filled me with more anger than was justifiable, but felt like a stab in the heart nonetheless.


I checked my profile to see if it made the same switch. Nope. Mine still proudly displays "In a relationship with Blake," not was. I honestly don't mind my Facebook still saying "In a relationship" because I don't want anyone to think I'm single anyway. I'm not single. I'm not ready for anyone to consider me single either. The present tense for me feels very fitting and accurate.

I know it may seem ridiculous to analyze my relationship with Blake in terms of something as trivial as Facebook, but I think it creates an interesting parallel for how things actually are. By the very nature of death, Blake's relationship with me is in the past. He is no longer alive so he cannot currently be in a relationship with anyone. Even though it hurts to see "was" connected to his relationship with me, I do understand that it makes sense. As for me, a living, breathing person, I am able to still presently be in a relationship. Although the "with whom" part of the relationship is questionable to some people, I am still currently in a relationship regardless.

The crazy part is that the dynamic of the nebulous "with whom" is actually accounted for too. If I ask a friend who isn't Facebook friends with Blake to look at my relationship status, it only says "In a relationship." Period. Blake Norvell no longer exists to them. So although my relationship is still present tense, his name is not there anymore to anyone other than me and the people who were friends with him before he died. 

I don't know if the people at Facebook purposefully thought all of this through, but the accuracy of how the memorialized state of Blake's Facebook changed our relationship statuses is chilling. Not only does it reflect the duality of being both past and present tense for him and me, but it also demonstrates how different people outside of our relationship view it. While some people know him and know our connection remains, others see me as simply in a relationship, trying to hold on to something that isn't there anymore.

At least when I look at my status it says exactly how I feel. Briana Wagner is "In a relationship with Blake." That is what really matters.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Not Ready to Move On

Back in April, Blake and I attended the wedding of one of my best friends from high school. Last night, as she and her husband were watching the reception video, she noticed that the videographer caught some moments of Blake and me dancing together. She recorded these shots with her phone and sent them to me in a text.

Today, I uploaded the clips to my computer so I could watch them again. The first moment I paused at was when Blake and I locked eyes. The way I looked at him can't be described as anything other than pure love. I know in that moment I was looking into his eyes thinking about how incredibly lucky I was to be dancing with him.

The second time I paused was at the point when I nestled into his shoulder and his hand came up to hold the back of my head. I started thinking about how good it must have felt to be held so lovingly like that. I wished with my whole heart that I could remember exactly what that felt like. As I replayed these clips, I began to wonder if I'd ever feel that in love, safe, and comfortable with anyone else ever again.

I closed my laptop and started wailing. My eyes filled so completely with tears that I couldn't see anymore. My mouth audibly struggled to take in air while it released moans of discomfort. Each hand grasped the opposite shoulder trying to hold onto myself as tight as possible. I ended up rocking back and forth, shaking and squeezing harder. I tucked my head into the crevice of my crossed arms as I continued to cry. At least all balled up like that my shrieks were muffled. I hoped that my neighbors were out like normal people enjoying their Saturday night. I hoped no one had to suffer through hearing such a soul shattering sound.

As this response subsided and I started to regain my composure, I was caught off guard by the intensity of my reaction. I had watched those clips earlier today and smiled with a quick, happy well of tears in my eyes. Why did re-watching them this time lead to a breakdown?

I tried to answer this question by thinking about the moments I chose to pause for and figuring out how they made me feel. In the first one I looked at Blake in a way that I can't imagine looking at anyone else. In the second, I was held in a way that makes me nauseous just thinking about anyone besides Blake holding me. After analyzing that, I think the reason I started freaking out was because I am realizing that I may not want to be with anyone else for a really long time.

I know that no one means to put pressure on me, but every once in a while people say insensitive things that make me feel awful about my "progress." It may be as harmless as saying, "When you're in your next relationship..." or as overt as, "I know a guy that I want you to meet. I think you'd really like him." I understand these people are only trying to help, but is it that awful that I'm still in love with Blake? That the thought of another man's interest or touch feels akin to a brutal attack? That I'd rather be alone than even entertain the idea of letting another man into my life?

Today marks four months since Blake passed away. For me, four months might as well be yesterday. In my heart Blake is still my boyfriend. I wish that wasn't considered weird or sad or pathetic by people who have no way of understanding what this feels like. I guess I just have to let them judge me. All I can do is have confidence that I'm doing what I need to be doing at a pace that feels right to me.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Be Fazed

Who started the lie that it's better for us all to pretend?

Who decided that if you walk through life unfazed it shows your superiority over others who don't? That prohibiting things from affecting you is proof that you are above them. That a cool, calm demeanor in the face of adversity is the ultimate sign of strength?

Who tricked us into believing that we should edit our lives to make them look as pretty as possible? That you should spend your energy on maintaining an image. That if you can project the facade of stability and success then that is what really matters.

Who lead us to believe that what we feel should be controlled? That simply deciding to be happy is the key to happiness. That emotions can be categorized as "good" and "bad." That those feelings deemed "bad" should be confined only to the quiet tears on your pillow at night. Or maybe not even your pillow should hear them. Maybe you shouldn't feel anything at all.

Who convinced us that this is a kind of life worth living?

We are the who.

We are the who that started the lie,
decided every day to believe it,
tricked ourselves into living by it,
and denied ourselves the right
to be ourselves.

I want to be fazed.
I want to go through life feeling anything and everything that comes my way.

I want to appreciate the support of my friends and family because I know how destabilizing it is to feel alone. I want to fully understand the power and the preciousness of love because I've felt the heartbreak of having it taken from me. I want to cherish my life with everything I have because I know how painfully fragile it is. I want to reach the highest highs and the lowest lows and acknowledge them both for their inherent value.

A life lived unfazed is not a life I want. When life inevitably knocks me down, I will cry. I will allow myself to feel defeated, unwanted, exhausted, disgusted, disgusting, angry, anxious, alone, afraid. I will feel all of those feelings with the same respect and dignity that is afforded to more socially acceptable emotions. Because we are the who that decides what's socially acceptable anyway. We are the who that can decide it's better for us not to pretend anymore.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Hindsight is 20/20

There was a pivotal moment from the last day Blake and I were together that I always think about.

It was the last morning of our Memorial Day week together. As we were talking, Blake started nodding in and out of consciousness. At first he was alert and texting someone, but then his body slowly melted into his phone; his fingers frozen mid-movement. I yelled "BLAKE!" He stirred and then immediately went back to texting like nothing had happened.

I didn't want to brush off such absurd behavior so I questioned, "Why are you falling asleep like that?" He shot me a look that instantly had me thinking that I needed to back down or this would escalate quickly. Blake explained defensively that I knew he hadn't slept much the past two nights because of all the stress he was under. He assured me that I would be falling asleep too if I was him. He asked what exactly I was trying to accuse him of anyway? Was I trying to say he was on drugs or something?

"No..." I thought to myself that I actually hadn't been trying to say that at all, but since he mentioned it so defensively maybe I should have been. But instead I told my brain that what Blake said made sense. He was rattled by upcoming challenges and the fact that I was leaving for a whole month. This was keeping him up all night and had him worrying himself sick. Blake must have been sleep deprived. This was just his body shutting down. Besides, I thought to myself, he already went to rehab and recovered. I didn't want to ruin our last hours together so I just apologized and gave him a kiss.

When I get to the end of replaying this moment, my mind sweeps me up into a different fantasy. In this new version I've concocted out of pain, sadness, horror, guilt, whatever you want to call it, our conversation doesn't stop where it did.

When he questions me "Are you trying to say I'm on drugs or something?" I silently walk over to where he's sitting on the couch. Without a word, I sit on his lap and wrap my arms around him. When I start to squeeze him tightly I notice that his breathing becomes a little shallower and he chokes up. Before I know it he's crying, harder than I've ever seen him cry. It's like the floodgates of his heart burst open and all the sadness he's been damming up can finally rush out. Without a single word we have the conversation he'd been meaning to broach with me for months.

I like this alternative ending better because it gives me hope that he was always just moments away from letting me in on his addiction. But inevitably I pass from thinking that to feeling horribly upset at myself for never uncovering the pain that was clearly right under the surface. Maybe I was so caught up in myself that I never thought to question deeper about what was going on with him. Maybe all it would have taken is one knowing hug to help him understand that I would always love him no matter what. That he had no secret too dark for me to handle. That there was no burden I wasn't willing to help him carry.

I get lost in that for a while, allowing myself to think I could have saved him. I push it further and start thinking that if I would have cared just a little bit more, he'd still be alive.

But that's when I stop myself. Although now I know that "nodding off" is an effect of heroin use, at the time I had no idea that the two were even connected. Now I know that Blake was using, but at the time I had no idea that the state he was in at the end of his final weekend had anything to do with drugs. I can fantasize all I want about how I could've gotten him to open up and come clean to me in that moment, but in that moment I had no idea there was anything he needed to come clean about!


I hope that in writing about this moment, discussing my fantasy, and absolving myself from blame that I have set myself free from it. Although this memory will probably still float through my mind from time to time, I need to remember that hindsight is 20/20. I see that moment with a completely different pair of eyes than I saw it through the first time. For this reason, I can't compare what I did and what I now believe I could have done, should have done. It's not fair to torture myself that way, so I won't.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Insomnia of Grief (A Poem)

The dark between the hours
2 AM and 5 AM
is a little bit colder.
The minutes in those hours
somehow can feel longer.
The silence:

This time of night is reserved
for unfortunate people
whose minds are rejecting rest.
With hands rubbing weary eyes
that are refusing to shut.
With loud hearts:

Their thoughts hold unchecked power
mixing sleep deprivation
with unfathomable hurt.
They are burdened completely
with ugly truths and fears.
Their struggle:

The only hope that exists
flickers in and out of view
fighting to stay in focus.
Deficient sleep or morning
is the only promise.
A new day:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"How Are You?"

After “Hi,” most conversations start with “How are you?” When I was taught manners and social etiquette, it was engrained in me that this was the normal follow up when greeting someone. But I’ve noticed that “How are you?” is generally an empty question. It’s brushed off with a simple “Good, you?” “Good” and then the actual conversation begins. In my experience, an answer besides “ok” or “fine” or “good” interrupts this rushed formality and is seen as almost a hindrance to the progression of the interaction. So “How are you?” has become less about wondering how exactly someone is doing and more about being polite.

As anyone going through grief or a trauma knows, “How are you?” switches from a harmless social formality to a daunting inquisition. From the moment the question is posed, a battle starts in my mind. Should I actually tell them how I am? Do they really want to know? No. I know they don’t, I’ve been down this road before. I can’t possibly burden them with the truth anymore. They’ll start to cry, or worse, they’ll know how crazy I am. No, I can’t possibly tell them. So by default I always settle this internal conflict by answering, “I’m ok, you?”

I’m not bringing this up because I wish “How are you?” was really an invitation for me to pour my heart out to anyone who greets me this way. Honestly, it would probably be uncomfortable for both of us and a waste of time. Not everyone wants or needs to know exactly how I am all the time, even if they ask. What I’ve realized, however, is that in a world where asking “How are you?” is nothing more than a formality, it’s important to have a few friends who’s “How are yous” aren’t just the precursor to a conversation, they ARE the conversation.

Although this blog has been a space for me to share things that I wouldn’t necessarily admit out loud, it isn’t a substitute for the support gained through human interaction. The most helpful thing for me has been finding people who won’t be scared by my responses to “How are you?” Friends and family who can be the sounding board for my darkest thoughts and deepest fears and still look at me the same way afterward. People who understand that sometimes how I am is all I need to talk about until I’ve gotten to the very bottom of these feelings and released them completely. These are the people who ask "How are you?" and actually mean it.

As long as I have those few, invaluable people in my life, answering "I'm ok, you?" to everyone else isn't a lie.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Resentment and Communication

I lashed out today. I didn't realize I still harbored anger towards a particular person in Blake's life until it bubbled inside of me and reached a boiling point. I could have talked it out with someone else or processed it on my own, but instead this rage drove me to send a message to him. In my message I didn't place any blame, but I did express my resentment for his connection to Blake's death and how he's chosen to handle things in the aftermath.

I know that everyone is dealing with Blake's death in their own way. Maybe retreating and cutting ties is what he needs to do to heal. I may be mistaken in interpreting his silence and disengagement as him not caring. It's possible that he cares so deeply that he can't find the words to express it. He may be hurting even more than I am. Maybe talking to me about everything that transpired could send him to an even darker place, a place he's not strong enough to go right now. I can't possibly know what's going on in his head and in his heart.

I'm starting to realize that the extent to which I am willing and able to express my feelings is rare. It's unusual for people to not only have the ability to pinpoint their exact feelings, but also communicate them clearly. I can't expect the same level of self-awareness from others, nor do I have the right to demand it. I'm realizing more and more that I need to put my own desire to talk things out into perspective. Maybe that's what I need, but not everyone else operates that way.

Although the message was written in anger, I don't regret sending it. I stand behind everything I said to him and authentically feel everything I wrote. My realization, however, was that I needed to be less demanding of his communication and more respectful of his need to process things in his own time.

After I finished writing this blog entry, I sent him one final message:
"I don't expect you to respond to any of that, I just want you to think about it. Maybe one day when you're ready we can have a conversation about it. I'm still really hurt and it would help me a lot to be able to talk to you. Not now, but whenever you're ready."

So as I process what went down an hour ago, I am reminding myself that things will work out in the end. Maybe years from now when the pain isn't as fresh, he will be able to talk to me about everything that happened. Or maybe, years from now I will be at peace with Blake's death to a point that hearing from this friend or not won't change anything for me. I hope one day we can both be in a place where we can have this conversation. And if not, I hope one day I can be in a place where I don't need to.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Happy Birthday, My Love

As I woke up this morning I couldn't help but think about how different this day would have been. Instead of visiting Blake's grave, I would've planned a birthday party with him. This day would have reminded me of how lucky I was to be dating Blake instead of just highlighting his absence and the hole it's left in my heart.

Blake's mom, grandmother, and I made our first visit of the day early in the morning. As we pulled up to his plot, a flood of memories from his funeral rushed through my brain. I remember it vividly as if it happened three and a half days ago, not three and a half months. I thought about the huge school bus of his friends, the embrace of his family, and the rose I was given to leave over his heart. What a draining and unforgettable day. 

When we got to his grave, one of Blake's best friends was already there visiting him. Before he left, he helped us dig a trench around Blake's headstone so that I could sprinkle his gift in it. I brought him sand, shells, and sea glass. Blake loved the beach, especially the beaches of San Diego. We always planned that I would move there for graduate school and then he would move there to meet me as soon as he could. San Diego was always our dream so I've struggled with the unfairness of how I am able to live it and he can't. These gifts became my way of bringing the beach to him and letting him be a part of that life.

After talking with Blake's mom about the beautiful symbolism of the gift, we decided that I should bring bits of the beach from down my street to give him every time I come to visit. This would remind both of us that I have the privilege and honor of living our dream for both him and me. 

Blake's mom and grandmother left me for a while so that I could have time alone with Blake and they could go visit his grandfather. I laid a towel down and sat staring at his picture. I felt the over 100 degree heat, the slight and oh-so-necessary breeze, and a great deal of "so now what?"

I heard Blake's voice in my head urging me to say something, anything! "Hello, it's my birthday why aren't you telling me how much you love me and how great I am?" But I couldn't. I just sat there, frozen, wondering why this was so awkward for me. I looked at the trees, the sky, the other headstones next to his. Who were his neighbors? Were they nice? Is he friends with them? His voice again, "Hello! Focus on ME!

I looked down at the sand, shells, and blue glass I gave to him. I sat there blankly staring at it for what seemed like hours. Then suddenly, one of the dark blue pieces caught my eye. I picked it up and noticed that it was almost heart shaped. I rubbed it between my fingers and started to close my eyes. I squeezed it tightly in the palm of my hand and brought it up to my heart. 

I'm not even sure what I said to Blake in my mind, but I instantly knew it was the right thing to say. I felt calm and at peace as I took a second look at the glass. It was a weird kind of heart shape that reminded me of the chubby, circular heart on his headstone. I decided to rest the glass on top of it to see how it matched up. It was the perfect size. 

When Blake's mom and grandmother came back I told them about the heart shaped glass. His mom immediately said that I needed to find some super glue so the blue heart could become a permanent part of his headstone. At that moment, hearing her say that filled my heart so completely with love that I felt like I could burst. What an honor. I have always felt accepted by his family, but this was on another level. Here was this gorgeous, expensive headstone and she thought enough of me to encourage me to stick a random piece of glass on it. I don't think I can ever express how much that gesture meant to me. 

I went back two more times today, once with three more of Blake's best friends and again with his whole family. Neither time was about seeing and talking to Blake again, but rather to be around the people who loved him. The love they were emitting made me feel good. Experiencing their love for him made me feel like everything was going to be ok, we would get through this together.

Tonight ended with a family dinner at Blake's sister's house. The people were perfect, the food was delicious, but I was silently a mess. I looked at these wonderful people and thought, with complete amazement, about the lengths they went to to make me feel included and cared for. These strangers had become my family and it was all because of Blake. But the most essential link to our relationship wasn't with us tonight. He was supposed to be sitting right next to me squeezing my hand excitedly because his family and I got along so well. The way I fit in seamlessly almost made me feel worse. To have developed such a strong bond with them that he would never witness was a reality too sad to believe.

Blake's birthday was hard, but we got through it. I felt such a range of emotions throughout the day, but the one constant was the love I felt from his friends and family. Never once did I feel alone on a day that could've otherwise emphasized my loneliness.  I realize more and more every day how truly lucky I am to love and be loved by so many wonderful people. And it's days like today that make me feel even more blessed to have the new friends and family Blake brought into my life. Although this love will never replace Blake's, it helps sooth that hole in my heart.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bargaining Each Morning

Most mornings I wake up feeling empty, hollow, defeated. You'd think that by now these feelings wouldn't come as such a shock anymore, but every time they hit me with excruciating force. Like a stack of weights, each negative emotion is piled onto my yielding chest. You're lonely. You're desolate. You're devastated. You're lost. The force of such a load pins me down. How can I lift my body from this bed? How can I get up when I'm battling against the weight of the world?

Every morning I am faced with a choice: do I give in to these feelings or do I fight against them? I would like to boast about my bravery and say I choose to battle with honor. That I find the strength within me to grasp onto these bricks of oppressing emotions and throw them off of my chest. That it is my conscious decision to stop them from holding me back, weighing me down, crushing my spirit. But I am not built with such admirable courage. I am not that brave.

Instead, I get myself up by bargaining. I talk to these bricks. I tell them that if they allow me to get up, fulfill my daily obligations, I will let them stay in my heart. I will carry them around with me if they can shrink just enough so that I can lift my body. They oblige because they believe this is a good deal. They are aware that if I really wanted to, I could hoist them off of me. I could leave them behind entirely and face my day without their strain. But I believe that I am not that strong. This belief alone makes me susceptible to their torment.

However, I soothe myself with the reminder that at least I am trying. Instead of making deals with these heavy emotions I could just let them squish me. I could give up entirely and allow them to hold me down with such a force that leaving my bed would be impossible. But I don't. Even by lessening them enough so that I can get up shows my power. Maybe I'm not at a point where I've internalized the full potential of my courage and strength, but this is evidence that it exists.

The loneliness, desolation, devastation, and loss are weights inside of my heart. They make me question my ability to get up and face the day and whether or not it's even worth it to try. But they are only with me because I allow them to be.  I must remember that no matter how brave they are, I am braver. No matter how strong they are, I am stronger. One day I will realize this fully and these weights will cease to exist. Once I allow myself to believe in the force of my own power, they won't stand a chance. But for now, I will give them permission to stay with me. For now, but not forever.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Visiting Blake's Grave

Although each 23rd is difficult (we would've been together for another month as a couple) and each 28th floods me with memories (the date he passed away), I think September 21st marks a different, possibly harder milestone. Blake's birthday is on Saturday. He would've been turning 26.

I couldn't be more grateful that his birthday happens to fall on a weekend this year. Without having to miss any school, I am going to leave immediately after class tomorrow and drive to Arizona. I am staying at his parents house and spending the entire weekend with his family. I can't imagine being able to spend it anywhere else with anyone else.

Blake's headstone was recently put in place, just in time for his birthday. On Saturday I am going to visit him in the cemetery for the first time since his funeral. How do I feel about this? Terrified, honestly.

What do you do when you visit the grave of someone you love and miss so much it hurts? 
Do I go with other people so I have someone to hold me or by myself so we can talk in private?
Do I talk to him out loud or in my mind?
Do I avoid stepping on the dirt he is buried under out of respect or do I allow myself to collapse on top of him?
Do I look at the picture on the headstone, the grass beneath it, or at the sky?
Do I try to act strong so I don't scare the other people around me?
Do I allot myself a certain amount of time so I don't end up staying there all day?

These are the questions I can't stop myself from anxiously posing in my head. I know that whatever I do will be fine, but that doesn't prevent me from wondering anyway. I just hope more than anything I feel him with me. As long as he's there, it doesn't matter what I do.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Imagining You

When I reconstruct you in my mind I start with your feet. You somehow always managed to leave the house in your smelly, worn-out Ugg slippers. I remember on our first date to the Suns game I called you out for wearing them. You bragged that you could get away with wearing them anywhere because they looked like regular shoes. They didn't. When you misplaced them for a while, I can't say I was too worried. When you found them again you were thrilled.

Then I see your jeans. You had more jeans than anyone I know, male or female. I remember walking into your closet for the first time and seeing stacks and stacks of them. To me they all looked identical, but you had a reason why each of them was necessary and unique. Some even had ridiculous designs on their back pockets. You laughed with me about them, but you secretly still thought they were cool. You loved how nice things made you feel fancy.

I prefer to picture you in one of your shirts that I have now. Each shirt I link to a specific memory we have with you in it. This time I'm picturing you in the grey and navy blue stripped long sleeve hoodie. I don't even think we have any pictures of you wearing it because you gave it to me after I visited for the first time. You basically soaked it in your cologne so that when I left to go back to California, at least I could sleep with your scent.

I could absolutely never forget your smile. I'd say it haunts me, but only in the very best sense of the word. When I close my eyes, I see it very clearly. After you died everyone seemed to comment about your "infectious smile." What a funny word to use, "infectious." To me it made it sound like some communicable disease. In a way though, it was. Whenever I was annoyed at you, all you had to do was turn up the corners of your incredible lips. You'd start to bare your teeth and your smile would get me. How could I look at your smile and not smile myself?

Oh God, your hair. I will forever look at that yellow Got2B hairspray and think of how meticulously you styled your hair. You loved looking good in a way I never related to. You took so much pride in your hair and getting it just right. Your friends told me that in rehab they made you wear a beanie. The staff didn't like you putting such an emphasis on your hair. It always looked good though, I'll give you that.

When I reconstruct you, I'm only able to get the most general aspects of your physical appearance. I produce a very surface level image of you in my mind. And that scares me. All I can conjure up is your clothes, hair, and smile? What about the eyes that looked through me straight to my soul? The laugh that made my whole body feel warm? A voice that instantly made me feel like I was loved, adored, and at home?

Imagining you is not an endeavor I like to start. It becomes about your slippers, jeans, shirt, and hair. It becomes about the physical aspects of you that I will never get to experience again. Although being able to picture these parts of you makes me feel a little better, they aren't the parts of you that I need.

I want to protect you as you were to me. I want to hold on to how magnetically attracted to you I was. I want to preserve every sweet compliment I remember you giving me. I want to embed the sense of belonging I felt into my heart so I will forever remember how it feels to be part of someone else.

I am going to urge myself to stop reconstructing the image of you in my mind. All it does is frustrate me. Instead, I will focus on how you made me feel. The intangibles about you that made you who you were and who you'll always be to me.

If I tap into my heart, I can remember how it feels to have your love. I can recall how it feels to give you mine. That's what I need to commit to memory. That's the image of you I'll always have with me.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Preoccupation with Death

I’m so hyper aware of mortality now that I scare myself sometimes.

When I see pictures of people I know with their friends, their families, their boyfriends, I imagine what would happen if they died. I wonder how their lives would change. I wonder how they would cope.

I think about how happy they look. They’re smiling so big, hugging so tightly, laughing so hard. I think about these moments that they’ve captured and imagine them turning into precious memories. I envision those pictures becoming the ones they weep over, show people, put in a frames next to their beds. 

Do they ever think about the fact that their loved ones might not always be there? That the pictures they shared could potentially be their last?

No, probably not.

They’re very lucky then. What a luxury it would be to not have to think about death.

I really miss the days when I viewed death as an abstract concept. Something that only concerned the elderly, the ones who had lived complete lives. It didn’t make their passing any less upsetting, but there was some comfort in knowing that their “time had come.” Death was just a final stage at the end of a full life. Unfortunately, I don't think about death like that anymore. 

It's scary to know that at any moment something could happen and a person you relied on, loved, adored, looked up to, took for granted, could no longer be there. And that's it. All you're left with is the pictures you took and the memories you shared. No chance to right wrongs or say the things left unsaid. 

I guess in a strange, twisted way it's not necessarily a terrible thing to be aware of mortality. Death is, in fact, the only certainty in life. Although there is a fine line between awareness and obsession, I think an understanding of the fragility of life is healthy.

When I see pictures of me with my friends, my family, my boyfriend, I imagine what would happen if they died. I wonder how my life would change. I wonder how I would cope.

I think about how happy we look. We’re smiling so big, hugging so tightly, laughing so hard. I think about these moments that we've captured in a picture and imagine them turning into precious memories. I envision that picture becoming the one I weep over, show people, put in a frame next to my bed. 

Do I ever think about the fact that my loved ones might not always be there? That the picture we shared could potentially be our last?

Yes, now I do.

I think I'm very lucky in a way. It's a luxury to reflect on the wonderful people in my life, why I appreciate them as people, how truly important they are to me. 

I wish my mind didn't preoccupy itself with thoughts of death, but it does. It's scary, but I'm learning to push myself to see the positives in it. Maybe I will think twice about holding grudges, be more willing to say I'm sorry, forgive, give compliments, give myself completely and whole heartedly to those I love. If I'm aware of mortality, I am aware that nothing lasts forever. What's important is not to wish for that to change, but to appreciate what you have while you still have it. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Meet Me in Between

I came across a quote that really resonated with me. "You know that place between sleep and awake? The place where you can still remember dreaming? That's where I will always love you. That's where I will be waiting."

The final two sentences hit me especially hard,"That's where I will always love you. That's where I will be waiting."

Last night when I read this quote and reread those last two sentences again, and again, and again, I started to believe it was a direct message from Blake. My dreams are where he's always going to love me. That's where he's waiting for me.

I was so excited to drift off to sleep. I just knew he was going to be sitting on the clouds of my dreams saving a spot for me right next to him. Through my dreams I was going to be able to see his face, hear his voice, kiss him, be held by him. In that state between sleep and awake, we could be together.

When my alarm jolted me awake this morning I realized immediately that I didn't have my date with Blake. I felt defeated. Why hadn't he met me? I was waiting for him and he stood me up.

Why is he abandoning me?

The abnormally gloomy San Diego skies matched my mood. I let each grey cloud serve as a reflection of the storm brewing in my mind. He's gone. Thunder. He's never coming back. Lighting. He's slipping further away each day. Wind. And I have to accept it. Rain drops.

As I was ruminating, I decided to reread the quote again. Only this time, instead of concentrating on the last two sentences, the other two sentences popped out and shifted my focus. "You know that place between sleep and awake? The place where you can still remember dreaming?"

In my initial reading of this, I took it quite literally. I imagined myself in the state, lucid dreaming, right before I wake up and have some volition over and memory of my dreams. This made me believe that the rest of the quote meant that I would be connected to Blake and loved by him there. That's why I was so disappointed when I awoke this morning and discovered the he hadn't been waiting for me there after all.

But maybe I was wrong to interpret the message literally. The place between sleep and awake could mean something besides the obvious. It could be a space that exists between reality and unfathomable hope.

Maybe I can meet Blake in a meditative place within my heart that allows me to connect to real things not seen by the eye, felt by the skin, or understood by logic. In this place, unbound by the constraints of facts but not too outlandish to be possible, he will wait for me. That's where he'll always love me.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


I had a paper due today for one of the counseling classes in my grad program. The assignment was to write about a time of hardship and resiliency in our lives. Tonight, we had to read our papers aloud to each other.

This was mine (some of the parts have been taken and modified from earlier blog entires):

When people are deeply in love, they sometimes tell each other dramatic and romantic things like “I could never live without you.” Although a cliché like that sounds over the top, somehow love makes you say it with such conviction, like you were the first two people on earth to declare that to each other. When I said I could never live without Blake it was with complete sincerity. But now, even though I meant what I said with every fiber of my being, here I am living without him

In college, my boyfriend Blake was in an accident where he was injured and subsequently prescribed the painkiller OxyContin. Due to the extremely addictive nature of this drug, he got hooked. This addiction to painkillers eventually lead him to experiment with heroin, which is actually a cheaper, more accessible drug derived from the same source. Blake overdosed on heroin three months ago. The entire time we dated I knew nothing about his heroin addiction. He somehow managed to keep it completely hidden from me until the day he died.

I went through, and am still going through, a million emotions in coping with both finding out about my boyfriend’s double life and mourning him at the same time. The thing about lies is that just one has the power to breed contagious doubt about all other truths. Finding out about his hidden drug use initiated an overwhelming insecurity about whether a relationship I felt so proud of was just a product of my imagination. How could someone who actually cared about me keep such a huge secret? Were any of his feelings real? Did I know him at all? And then there are also the feelings of guilt for not being able to help him and confusion in wondering why he never let me.

But above all there has been an overwhelming sadness for the loss of my love and best friend. When I was with Blake, I felt like I could say anything, do anything, be anything. Anything and everything seemed possible because of him and how he made me feel. When he died, that was all taken away from me without warning and without any chance of getting it back. It was, and still is, devastating.

In the aftermath, the hardest thing in coping with such a tragedy has been feeling so torn to pieces on the inside, but looking normal on the outside. I almost wish I had an illness, broken bone, scar, something so it’s more obvious that I am not ok. If this were something physical, people could actually watch as I heal and know by looking at me that I'm still recovering. It's not like I want any of these physical maladies to elicit sympathy from others, I just want them to know that I'm not the same. I'm not normal. I'm not entirely myself.

But what is normal? Who am I anyway? These are things that I have begun to ask myself.  In order to manage what happened and look towards the future, I have given myself the permission to analyze anything I need to question, reflect on whatever I want to process, and feel any emotion that decides to grip my heart. I’ve done all of this through writing. 

I created a blog after a friend told me that reading how I explore my grief might be helpful for those who loved Blake, people who have gone through something similar, and most importantly, me. By opening myself up this way, so publicly and unapologetically, I have made my internal pain visible. Not only am I able to release what’s swirling around inside my mind, but I can also share my recovery with whoever wants to read it.  Whenever I feel like the pain is weighing me down or I can’t focus because it’s clouding my thoughts, I take out my laptop and allow it all to flow through my fingers. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m writing about until the entry is done. Then, I can read my message and discover new things about myself: who I am, what I value, and how I feel. Giving myself space to write has become both cathartic and essential to my well-being.

At the point when I first created the blog, I decided that this tragedy could either become a pain buried in the depths of my heart or a scar that blends into the landscape of my skin. It was my choice. I chose to wear the hurt openly because I couldn’t burden my heart with the weight of a secret. I realize, however, that I need to get to a place where I acknowledge this experience as part who I am without letting it define me. This is something I continue to navigate every day.

Through my journey of resiliency, I am beginning to realize that telling Blake “I could never live without you” wasn’t actually a lie. I’m not living without him because Blake has become a part of me. If I truly believe that I carry him with me wherever I go, I feel strong. Of course it's devastating to know he will never physically be with me again, this blow is lessened when I realize that I never have to say goodbye completely. He can be the reassurance in my head that whispers words of confidence, the pulse in my heart that beats with pride, and the air that fills my lungs and leaves me with a sense of calm. I don’t have to live without him because our love continues to shape who I am every day.