Written in April, ‘Love Notes to Ghosts’

Today, I am seeing ghosts.

Waking to the blurred face of a man I can’t quite recognize.
Hearing footsteps and a long breath behind me as I walk down Scarth st.
But, turning to see no one.
Then every ageing downtown crazy holding doors open for me this morning.

I am struck by that feeling of proximity.
Ache heavy like the weight of a warm body heavy on my chest.

I’m thinking that the hologram of a man watching me wake had a beard like one my dad grew once, when I was around 6, right after he broke his hip.

I’m remembering the sound of his scowl in the wind, the sound of his sigh.

And with them, come memories of his smokers laugh, his story telling voice,
his groan when interupted from the newspaper, a ramble, or a nap.

As I heard the wind sighing this morning on Scarth I was about to say,
“Hi dad. I can hear you.”

But instead just smiled silently the way I have been for two days thinking,
“So I guess you heard!? I got into to art school!”

I think of how he was always so adament about university because he’d never gone.
I think of him at my age, of the life he lived before I met him.
I think of his friends telling me he would be so proud.

I think of 35 year old gossip and when C said,
“Your dad was a pretty big deal, wasn’t he?”
While we drank tea on my couch this Tuesday,
and I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant by it.

Shrugging and saying only,
“Yeah, I guess so. Mr. Charisma, my father.”
meant sort of as a joke but also an impulse.
(now hoping he wouldn’t be insulted by this comment, he was a “big deal” based on tallent and kindness and important work in the arts, as well as charm)

C didn’t respond so I continued on a little jokingly about what I know of his love life before my mother, about the woman he was dating when he met her.

Then saying that sometimes C reminds me of him,
just in little snapshots like the back of his head, his shoulders in that jean shirt,
his scowls and sighs and story telling voice.

But, most do after all.
Thinking that if I added up all of the men I love, then picked and chose, I could compile the personality traits and physical feautures of my father:

From my friends the charming up-and-comers,
to the unshaven slender men wearing hand me downs that haunt bus stops,
to every dirty artist I’ve wanted for a minute or a year.

And then, sometimes everything can remind me of him.
Little bits and pieces spark up from everyday life.
From the sound of a drum circle or the smell of pot.
From making snow forts and spagetti and pancakes shaped like cats,
to every one of his many friends, to anyone with a kind hand and a passion for cooking, music, art, gardening, performing and/or people,

they are all him to me.
Today, I am seeing ghosts, but only slightly more than usual.

Hi dad, I can hear you.
I love you, thanks for the visit.

Sitting on the rooftop of the pub and,

unable to think about anything,
except how easily it is that we could die.

and that,
yesterday,
or what was today,
in another world,
while I was sitting on a rooftop drinking bottled beers,
named ‘dead guy’
my dad would be turning 61 years old.

but not in this universe,
not in my world,
where I am a singular pro-noun,
sitting on rooftops.

and remembering that lately,
I’ve been so sad.
and
angry,
without a knowledge of why.

and,
without a knowing of why lately,
I have never remembered these such landmarks,
until they’ve passed me by.

happy birthday dad.

Time Traveling

December has been an intense month for me.

It marks the sixth year since my dad died of brain cancer.

So strange how time passes, but in an instant can fold in on itself. I’ve felt so far from that time while also unbearably near. Suffering from  physical and emotional pain so all encompassing I felt like I’d time travelled.

Flashbacks, heartaches, headaches.
Days where I couldn’t stop crying for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Days where I was fine one minute and hyperventilating the next.

I started to call it ‘death aches’.

Like my insides could rip through me at any time. Like not being able to look in the mirror because my face reminds me of his. Like I didn’t have the ability to hold myself in this present world. Like nothing, my sanity included, was safe.

December has been kind of scary for me in that way.

Feeling like I’m “closer to the crazy” (than usual).

I’ve forgotten if last year was like this.
I was completely caught off guard by the effect the anniversary would have on me.
It’s like I’d somehow forgotten how much grief can hurt.

Karen (my art therapist, and friend) says that my body remembers. That we live in cycles, that the time lapsing-seasonal-triggers make a lot of sense.

After working with her this fall, I feel like I may be more self aware. I’m closer to raw, but I’m also closer to strength. I am quicker to identify the things I’m feeling, more trusting in asking for help and being honest with myself. The pain may be just as awful as it was then, but I am quicker to bounce back, I’m learning what helps and what doesn’t.

After having so many in my life and especially this month, I’ve sort of developed a system to battle breakdowns:

1. Call a friend.

– In my experience, I will often spiral quickly into completely irrational thoughts if I’m alone for too long in breakdown world. The sooner I surrender my despair to someone who can reassure me that I’ll be okay, the sooner I can feel like myself again.

Also, sometimes it’s enough just to have a conversation about every day mundane things, or say nothing and just be held by someone.

Note. My friends are incredibly supportive and open. (thank you thank you thank you!)

2. Write about it.

-When I can see my thoughts and emotions on the page, outside of my mind, cut and paste-able, re-visit-able and safe, than I can begin to let them go. I can accept what they were and my helplessness begins to disperse. When I’m creating from my emotions and experiences than I can more easily accept their purpose.

Note. I don’t usually read back (usually at least) until I’m in a new head space.

3. Look/read through old journal/sketchbooks from a similar crisis or time of year.

-Shortly after my dads death, when I was deepest in my depression, I used the image of the person I wanted to be to guide me (and I still do this). I knew what direction I wanted to go in, but didn’t know how to get there. So when in doubt, I would ask myself what I thought she would do, sort of like my own made-up-fairy-godmother. Now, looking back on the self that had the strength to live through those things, is incredibly comforting.

I feel like my past and future selves are considerably wiser than my present moment-living-experiencing self, if that makes sense.

Here are some of my favorite pages (of no specific theme) found while looking through old journals.