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So I think I'm ready to call it quits with Lakshmi.

Our relationship has always been characterised by me listening to her complain. She's basically a sweet person with a difficult row to hoe, so this hasn't been too onerous. She's been very thoughtful and generous over the years and I have good memories of laughing and sharing food with her. But lately it feels like the balance has shifted permanently. If you'd asked me before this year, I'd have put the ratio at like 70/30 bitching/niceness. Today it felt like 99/1.

What happened was this: I had a bad night and overslept, and then struggled to make it into work. My hope had been to slip in quietly. But that was dashed when I arrived at the door of the workspace and saw Lakshmi there with one of my direct reports. She's dropped by completely unannounced and then tried to see me, thus drawing attention to my absence. She was just leaving; another minute and I'd've dodged her completely.

I had to approve timesheets before the deadline so I begged her indulgence for a moment. She stood over me while I sent the approvals. I asked if she'd like to sit, but she begged off, saying she was "in a hurry". Not so much of a hurry, however, that she couldn't bend my ear for fifteen minutes out in the hallway while I hardly got a word in edgewise.

The last time I heard from her was two months ago when she lost her job. She called me at work to complain and ask for my help finding a new position. The time before that was when she declined the invitation to Monshu's memorial back in March. And before that...I couldn't tell you. The most recent e-mail I have is from three years ago when she was moving back to town and wanted my help finding an apartment in Rogers Park.

Generally, if I run into someone who knew Monshu and who I haven't seen since his death, the very first thing they do is offer condolences. It doesn't matter if they've conveyed them already via phone, letter, or e-mail. She didn't even mention him. She just started in recounting her woes. After a few minutes, I fell completely silent. Several minutes more, and I stopped even trying to look sympathetic; I just stared at her stony-faced. She was not deterred. Finally I couldn't wait for her to stop talking and leave.

Yes, looking for work sucks. Yes, it's particularly difficult when you're middle-aged and female. But this was a degree of self-centredness I just wasn't prepared for. Plus I was in a shitty mood to start with from the lack of sleep and something else that happened as I was struggling to get ready this morning.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of Monshu's aborted homecoming. I say "aborted" because while it started well, things got progressively worse until he was readmitted with an infection. My mother told me later that he'd started to go septic and could easily have died then rather than three months later. Serendipitously, friends invited me to join them at King Spa and I spent most of the day there. But I needed a little bag to carry some necessities and the only halfway-decent one left the cat hasn't pissed on is one Monshu used to use. I dumped out the contents on the coffee table and told myself I'd deal with them later.

This morning, alongside the gloves, sunglasses, and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, I noticed a couple of printed sheets of paper. One was a list of bp readings. The other was a detailed fourteen-day summary of the Old Man's diet and ailments. I looked at the dates and they were for the two weeks before his doctor's appointment in March of the last year. Yes, that appointment: the one that resulted in him being admitted and scheduled for an operation two weeks later.

Maybe if I weren't feeling so fragile, I'd be more inclined toward forgiveness. But this is still my Year of Being Selfish and if there are people who can't or won't understand that, then I simply don't need them in my life. As she was leaving, Lakshmi vowed to keep me posted on her job search. She needn't have bothered.
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So a funny thing happened after Turtle and Turtlewife went on vacation last March: They dropped out of my life. It was so completely unexpected that it took me months to realise what had happened. Planning the memorial sent me into a funk from which I'm still recovering. I started to find myself reaching out less to others, and while that concerned me, I also realised that if there were ever a time in my life for those who love me to step up, this was it, and as bad as isolating myself was pushing myself too hard was worse.

The first real moment of reckoning came when Monshu's birthday rolled around. Despite the fact that they'd been integral to celebrating it last year and must've had some idea how difficult it would be for me, I heard nothing. A few days later when Turtle wished me Happy IML. That at least opened a few days' negotiations for a dinner date, but those came to naught and we pushed off making plans until later.

I still thought they'd get in touch again, so when they didn't, my abandonment anxiety began to kick in. I began to wonder if I'd done something to push them away. Or I'd exhausted them with demands and they still weren't recovered from that. Or if maybe, all this time, they'd really just been Monshu's friends and put up with me because we were a package deal.

Now instead of longing for a meeting I began to dread one. Either they'd have to bring up how I'd offended or disappointed them and I'd be forced to deal with that or I'd have to bring up how they'd upset and disappointed me by not being there when I really could have used their support and neither prospect was the least bit attractive. So I kicked the can again, figuring that if my birthday went by unacknowledged, then we really were done.

My birthday came up. I got a "Happy Birthday" from Turtle on FB, nothing more.

So I was really not expecting to or prepared for getting a message from her a couple nights ago. The occasion was the death of a former colleague of both her and Monshu. The memorial service is this weekend. Since it's way out in the burbs, she offered me a ride. I'd already manage to cadge one from someone else, the friend who'd delivered a eulogy at Monshu's service and first informed me of their colleague's death. That gave me an excuse to decline and I took it.

I wrestled with the decision, though. On the one hand, it's finally an opportunity for reconciliation. On the other, it means that in addition to dealing with the loss of another friend of Monshu's--someone who came through for him when even his family let him down--now I've got this on my plate at the same time. Because she'll be there and we'll talk, so I've got to deal with this anyway.

It's so hard to work out when to allow yourself to be vulnerable and when to walk away. Do I want them in my life? Yes--but not if they're just going to vanish from it for six months at a time when just going through the motions of living my life requires a constant act of will. Clearly, I need to communicate that, but how to do it in a way that doesn't sound accusatory?

I wanted to say something similar to Eyefield when he flaked out on me and I wimped out, even with the stakes so much lower than they are here. I really can't afford to lose more friends and few friends have come through for me more in the last few years than these two. But one of my biggest mistakes over the years has been building up expectations of people based on their past behaviour. Sometimes people move on, regardless of whether you try to move with them or not.
Jul. 19th, 2017 09:58 am

Dreamlike

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I don't know what's happening to my sleep. It's no longer that I can't drop off or that I wake up and can't fall back to sleep again. I used to wake up for the first time around 4 a.m.; now I'm just as likely to sleep through until 5, 5:30, or even later. But it isn't good sleep. I force myself to get up at 7 to start my routine when all I can think about is going back to bed. I take micronaps in the afternoon now, sometimes in a meeting, sometimes on my commute home, and sometimes I slip off to Periodicals for a bit.

One direct consequence of this is more dreaming. Mostly it's the typical jumble of work and travel anxiety or strange vacation and living arrangements, but last night's was a bit different. I don't even remember exactly what Monshu and were doing together, but I 'woke up' from that and I was in a conversation pit with longtime friends like [personal profile] keyne and [profile] kcatalyst who were hatching a mad plan to head out and drive down or catch a redeye to a place called "Kindred City" for some demo or other. But I was thinking of the dream and fighting back tears, so I begged off much to everyone's disappointment.

And then I woke up for real. And for the umpteenth time it hit me that he's gone, that he's never coming back, and that these snatches of dream are the only real taste I'll have any more of what it felt like to have his constant active presence in my life. And before long, I was really fighting back tears and asking myself why the hell do I have to go into work oh right there's an event today that I helped planned and share responsibility for making succeed.

I've gotten used to the constantly drowsiness--I was already used to it this time last year--and it only really bothers me when I notice myself doing something I never remember doing before, like colliding with a doorframe or smacking my hand on something I always would have noticed and avoided. I also struggle to remember names and facts and references in a way I didn't used to before, but that could just be part of the natural process of growing old and forgetful.
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A very nice chat with [personal profile] mlr yesterday evening reminded me that, despite my slothfulness, I still have readers (and that there still are things in my life worth reading about). I'm glad I decided to call, since I'd been in a crappy and depressing mood up to that point.

As usual, it's a mix of causes. One is the weather, which is so sticky and nasty that it inclines me towards torpor. I'm still avoiding turning on the AC which means that most of time I'm home I'm hiding in the lower level. Given that the balance of my time there is spent sleeping, it generally works out, but I'm not making good meals or keeping up with chores or going out for walks or cultivating any of the other healthy habits that help keep my emotional keel upright.

I'm also still not sleeping well, for reasons that are probably as complex as they are intractable. Last night I had a zinger of a medical anxiety dream which began with me locating a large swelling on my inner thigh and squeezing it until a syringe popped out. [N.B.: The first visible sign of Monshu's cancer was a tumour on his groin.] I was at work, so I was just going to wrap it in an old rag, toss it, and return to my desk, but I felt woozy and realised it had been long enough since I'd lost it inside of me to cause an infection and I needed to get to the hospital in case I was going septic.

Pondering this the next morning, I figured out something else that's been bringing me down: I'm terrified of having a hospital experience like Monshu's without anyone to take care of me like I took care of him. Yes, I have friends, but friends have lives. Is there any one of them who would put theirs on hold to manage mine? Sure, if this happened tomorrow, my mother would drop everything and come, but she's pushing three-quarters of a century.

I think this helps explain why I'm so disappointed in Turtle and Turtle's Wife. The latter joked a couple times earlier in the year about being a "friendly stalker", but the only time I've heard from her in the last four months is two weeks ago when I took the initiative and texted her for help with a friend whose husband was entring hospice under conditions all too reminiscent of last December. (There's yet another reason to be bummed out now.) This is the woman that I trusted so much that I suggested giving her POMA, who insisted that I call her "family" and not a "friend". I guess maybe she meant "family" in the sense of "someone you see mainly at holidays and mostly forget about the rest of the year"?

At this point, I've pretty much convinced myself I'm going to get anal cancer and die a horrible lingering death. I try to imagine how the GWO had the strength to hold out as long as he did and I can't.
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Yesterday featured an upsetting e-mail from one of my oldest pals among the GLB. He goes back even further with Monshu (who taught him high school English) and I should have known something was up when he and his husband missed the memorial, but we've seen so little of them since they located out in the burbs. Even they were ambushed by how quickly the cancer has progressed so even if we'd been in better touch I might not have had much time to prepare myself.

The idea of someone my age going into hospice care is upsetting. The idea of someone losing their spouse to cancer is upsetting. The two together--devastating. You older queers who lived through the AIDS epidemic: How did you do it?

They wanted advice on hospice, which caused me to sift through my recollections to come up with things they might not know to ask or consider, and that left me pretty wrecked by the end of the night despite finding time for some cinematic escapism. (Really irritated to hear Eric Tsang dubbed over with someone who sounds nothing at all like him.) In particular, one time two years ago when Monshu apologised for being too much of a bother made me regret again for the nth occasion every time I made him feel like he was imposing on me.

So it was a bad night's sleep and when I awoke I had a text from another old pal asking, essentially, "Can I drop a bombshell on you, too?" Is "no" really an option in that situation? On the one hand, I'm glad to hear he's finally in NA and dealing with his shit, but the fact that I was one of the half-dozen or so people he chose to confide in creates a feeling of obligation I'm not at all comfortable with. He keeps asking if I have questions and my only real question at the moment is, "What's the least I can do for you without ending up disappointed in myself?"
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May. 25th, 2017 12:00 pm

One down

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The verdict is in on the first of Monshu's birthdays without Monshu this century and it's, "Not as bad as feared". Things looked grim at the start: My plans with Mozhu had fallen through and I couldn't really think of anyone else I wanted to be with. Willing volunteers would have been plentiful, but it's difficult bearing these occasions with someone who doesn't really understand what you're going through--which is nearly everyone. There are all sorts of loss in this world, but losing a spouse isn't quite like any of them. Take the intersection of that with number of people I know who knew Monshu and the pool is tiny indeed.

I'd already decided to comment-whore by posting a picture to FB of an orchid in bloom that Monshu had given me. I've kept it alive ten of the last eighteen years without his help but I'd never gotten it to bloom before. It eventually racked up enough Likes to get Mom to backhandedly say, "I didn't realize you had so many friends."

But in terms of mood, things only began to look up a bit at lunch, when I hitched my wagon to a group of guys at work who have a weekly stammtisch at the Irish pub in town. Two of them have been working here as long as me, and though we're not close, there's a rapport there. One of them joined us late and the second thing (after ordering, natch) he did was turn to me and say, "Happy birthday, by the way." Then we all toasted Monshu and after that began the usual inventory of everything the Library is doing wrong.

But work had to end sometime, and even though I stayed an extra hour to make up for the longer lunch, I eventually had to face the dilemma of having nowhere to go but home. Part of me was still hoping to hear from Turtle or Turtlewife, who have both been mysteriously absent from my life for the past couple months. Instead, I heard from a recent trick who I had a snarky response all planned for for blowing me off but didn't feel up to using.

Fortunately, that was the point at which I decided to stop brooding on my own troubles and think of someone else for a change. Namely, my father, who's in a bad place right now. I'm feeling some guilt for not doing much of anything to help (despite the fact that it's the last thing anyone expects from me right now), especially now that my brother is down there with him. So I texted Bunj and we made plans to chat on the phone later.

With that in mind, I no longer dreaded going home. I figured I'd have just enough time to throw together dinner and putter a bit before he called. I had leftover udon in the fridge so I decided to heat that up (eventually taking the noodles out of the broth to fry them because they were too waterlogged otherwise) and stuff some izarizushi--one of Monshu's favourite dishes, something he asked for whenever I got sushi--for an appetiser.

When we talked, we talked for over an hour. I commiserated with him about Dad--it's sad seeing your own father become one of those irascible old guys who alienates everyone, not to mention a little frightening--and reminded him that he was there as much to reassure Dad's wife (who's in acute rehab) and our sister (on vacation in Florida) as to do anything directly beneficial for Dad himself. But then we got on to other things--his job, my job, my mild depression, travelling. There was a time when I thought we might never have these kinds of chats again, and I really missed them.

Mom called while we were on the phone (almost the precise moment when Bunj called, in fact) and I managed to keep our call brief. She told me she's "trying as hard as I can to be good" so that she won't cause us additional trouble right now, which made me laugh. It was all a good reminder that, when the grief starts to get overwhelming, withdrawing is not the answer.
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Mar. 16th, 2017 04:53 pm

97 days

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Two days until the memorial service and things are falling into place, I guess. I picked up a serviceable guest book at the local bookstore before checking on the souvenirs, which are looking terrific. One of my coworkers has been super generous with his time and his design skills. (He may also be a little sweet on me, but I'm doing my best not to take advantage of that.) This evening I pick up the dry cleaning, eat some leftovers, and then sit down to wrestle with the scanner. Instead of a projector and screen, I'm going to have a couple electronic frames. [livejournal.com profile] lhn made a special trip up last weekend just to help me figure them out.

I've practiced my speech once and it came together well enough that I don't want to risk overdoing it. I think I just need to practice reading the texts I'm quoting aloud and then tighten up my remarks in accordance with GT's advice. He'll be speaking as well, which is great because his good vibe is always infectious. I'm over being bummed that no one from [livejournal.com profile] monshu's early days will be there, nor have they sent any contributions. I'd considered having a separate ceremony out in the Bay Area anyway and maybe I still will. Or fuckit, they're on their own when it comes to memorialising him.
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Feb. 20th, 2017 03:05 pm

Unbalanced

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Two things lately have disturbed my nascent equilibrium. The first is the death of the husband of an acquaintance in the bear/leather community. We were mostly Fakebook friends, though we did run into each other at Touché occasionally. It was on FB that he posted about rushing his husband to the same hospital where [livejournal.com profile] monshu had known client cachet and I even briefly considered meeting him there. Instead, I took a nap and awoke to a tearful video of him explaining that they were unable to revive him. Two days later, they held his memorial at the Leather Archives and Museum, which I attended. I can safely say that it was unlike any other I've been to.

The same day he died, [livejournal.com profile] aadroma inducted his widower and me into the online support group he's been a part of for a while now. (It's almost three years since [livejournal.com profile] nytemarewulf went and died on him.) At first, I was feeling I didn't have much in common with the other members, most of whom lost their partners suddenly and are having trouble letting go. [livejournal.com profile] monshu's illness gave me plenty of time to get used to the idea of being without him, though--as I told my newly-widowed pal--nothing like death to point up the difference between notional and experiential knowledge. But if so, I found myself getting sniffly almost daily.

I'm willing to blame that mostly on having to plan [livejournal.com profile] monshu's memorial service. I guess that's why you do these things, because it makes the tragedy concrete in a way other chats and conversations don't. Given how much I hate event planning, I've been less anxious about the whole thing then I feared. But I'm still losing sleep, even with no fewer than three professional event planners volunteering their time and advice. Diego even came to the restaurant with me to chat with the staff and scope it out, and his approval did a lot to calm me.

The one consolation is that I don't have to do this on a tight budget. [livejournal.com profile] monshu left more than enough to cover all his funeral expenses. I could even do something much more grandiose if I wanted (I briefly considered hiring a boat big enough to host the whole affair), but that wasn't his style. Better to keep it modest and have more left to donate to good causes (like the organisation we adopted our cat from). What it does mean, though, that if snags appear, I can throw money to cover them, and that's a huge load off my mind.
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At lunchtime today, I was musing on what it means for me to identify as "single" again. For me, it's not tightly linked with living alone, since I haven't been single since 1993 but I've spent less than half that time cohabiting (depending how you reckon last year). It also doesn't correlate for me with being "unmarried" since I was only ever married for a little over two years. (In fact, Nuphy spent more of our time in a relationship together married to someone else than [livejournal.com profile] monshu did married to me.) I also don't associate it with non-monogamy, since none of my relationships have been sexually exclusive. (Technically, my relationship with [livejournal.com profile] monshu was closed for about half its duration, but de facto we still played around together and apart.)

In my mind, when I think "single", I think "actively looking for a relationship", which is interesting because most of my single friends aren't. By that definition, I'm still not "single". I'm "widowed", i.e. "not ready yet". This is someplace I've never been before, not since first acknowledging I was gay at 17, and I've yet to determine what it means. For the foreseeable, I'm still living alone in the place I bought and furnished together with my husband. I haven't rearranged anything; his stuff is still everywhere. So it may well take getting my own place again for me to really feel "single". His name is still on the accounts, which are all my responsibility. I still get calls for him, some of which are really calls for me. (I have an appointment now with "his" TIAA advisor, since his assets are now my assets.)

I sometimes find myself talking about "his" things before stopping and reminding myself that, legally, nothing is his any more, since non-persons can't own anything. Regardless how we acquired anything, it's mine. My art, my website, my clothes, etc. What I hear when I say that "his" stuff is now "mine" is that it is now my responsibility. Wherever it ends up--discarded, sold on eBay, given to friends, etc.--that will be because of some decision I made (even if that decision is telling someone else to sort through it for me). Nothing will take care of itself.

That's really what "being single" means: having to take care of everything yourself.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
This is my first Valentine's Day in a long long while without [livejournal.com profile] monshu and I'm trying to figure out if I give a shit.

I mean, of course I miss not having him here. But we were sort of deliberately unromantic about Valentine's Day. Early on, we probably got each other chocolates and what-not, but those were the days when we'd do that kind of thing spontaneously anyhow. After a while, we figured out all we really wanted was to go out to a nice restaurant that wasn't too crowded. Last year it was La Reina del Sur. Two years before that[*], it was Massouleh.

So I'm kinda on the fence about what to do today. Staying home alone I might become maudlin, but going out alone would be worse and going out with a friend would feel odd. A friend from the gaming group said he'd host something, but he's busy until 8 and I don't know that anyone else is planning on coming, making it odd again. So right now I'm leaning toward staying home, eating leftovers, and watching a movie.

If I end up miserable, then I guess I've learned what not to do next year.



[*] The less said about Valentine's the intervening year, the better.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
In my dreams, [livejournal.com profile] monshu is always dead. Or I should say "has died". A couple weeks ago, I dreamt that I found him sitting up in a corner of the kitchen, frail and wrapped in a blanket, and I wondered how to break it to him that he couldn't keep on using that body since we'd cremated it. Last night was more positive: he had the robust physique of the days before the NET. It occurred to me while coming downstairs to find him lying supine on a cot or window seat on the landing of the grand staircase where he'd slept the previous night, that he could have died again after coming back to life, so I was joyful to find him alive and kicking. I had a question about what had been going through his mind during the last moments before he died that I was anxious to ask, but I discovered the timing was inopportune: he'd just finished wanking. Maybe there was an exception last week, when I dreamt we were making a return visit to a skerry in Scotland. I don't remember being particularly conscious of him being restored to life then, but I woke up with the notion in my head of saving a handful of his ashes to toss into Kilbrannan Sound.
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Jan. 23rd, 2017 03:17 pm

Dipping

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Although it was a weekend with definite high points, it was a little rough overall. I started out pleasantly surprised with the quality of meals I was putting together for myself--what were you worried about, eating well isn't that hard! But now the initial enthusiasm has waned and I'm back to going days without seeing a real vegetable. I told myself I would do a big shopping this weekend and prepare some good ingredients (like vegetable broth concentrate for soups and such) and none of that happened. Yesterday was all cookies, canned food, and leftovers. Needless to say, I didn't do any work on financials either, apart from a brief look to see if my online draughts had gone through. And no repairs or deep cleaning either. At least laundry got done. And I didn't spend the entire time at home.

Saturday, in fact, I was out most of the day. Not at the Women's March--I couldn't deal with the thought of that kind of crowd scene. But I honoured a previous commitment to meet up with [livejournal.com profile] mollpeartree and [livejournal.com profile] princeofcairo on Devon for dosas at Mysore and a game night put together by Hildy, which I felt obligated to be at since I'd previously tried to recruit him for one at my place. It helped that it was gorgeous weather to boot. I walked the twenty minutes to Hildy's and ran into two acquaintances in the neighbourhood just back from the rally and flush with enthusiasm. It was infectious and I was so brimming with happiness I had trouble falling asleep.

All of that disappeared overnight. I woke up to a grey day and struggle to find reasons to get out of bed. Usually I have to play an evocative tune if I want to get my tears flowing for [livejournal.com profile] monshu. Not Sunday--just musing on his absence was enough. I moped around the house, not bothering to clean up until I was ready to go to bed. (I hate the feeling of being dirty in clean sheets.) I plugged my phone in to recharge and forgot about it, not seeing for hours that my sister had called nor calling her back even when I did notice. I ignored my e-mail, missing a chance to get together with one of my most persistently generous friends.

Is that was depression feels like?

So, yeah, maybe reality is finally starting to bite. I'm not sure how to respond except by continuing what I'm already doing--trying to set things up with friends when I feel high and forcing myself to follow through when I get low again. This week, I have gaming and a dinner out with the Scoutmaster, who I haven't seen in a couple years at this point. And then the opera on Saturday, and maybe dumplings for Chinese New Year. Meanwhile, I have a bad conscience about not starting to arrange the memorial service or cleaning up the financial mess, both of which will bite me in the ass if I don't do something soon. Wish I cared as much about not letting myself down as I did about not letting my man down.
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Jan. 19th, 2017 04:27 pm

Unlocked

muckefuck: (zhongkui)
For those of you who don't know, one of my immediate responses to [livejournal.com profile] monshu's death was to have all my hair cut off[*]. It was something I'd decided I'd do over a year ago and never told anyone about it. I was tempted to do it right after they took his body away, but that seemed melodramatic, so I waited for the morning of our trip to the funeral home in case I needed to hand over my locks then. (They were burned with him.)

People's reactions have been interesting to say the least. My aunt asked me if he loved my long hair and when I told her, "No, he never cared for it," she (drunkenly) called me a "sick bastard". At work, the Dean surmised immediately what my motivation was. Others have been foggier. It's been amusing to see how long it's taken some people it even register the change. Many are quick to add, "It looks good," and it can be hard to gauge their sincerity. Not so with one of my coworkers who can hardly stop talking about how much better she likes my hair short.

One unexpected benefit is that I know immediately from their reaction whether I've seen someone face-to-face since the Old Man died or not, which helps me prepare myself for either breaking the news or receiving their sympathy or both. Yesterday a coworker from the fifth floor said, "I'd heard about the hair, but I hadn't seen you yet." And then, "I don't really have the words." "Whatever words you have are fine," I told him--and meant it. It's become painfully apparent to me how tongue-tied this makes a lot of people. Everyone's afraid of "saying the wrong thing", but they correctly assume that saying nothing would be worse.

I'll admit to being sick of hearing some phrases in particular. (Who came up with "sorry for your loss" anyway? I'm not out some book value on my investments; my fucking husband died on me. He's not ever coming back.) But I try to "listen past" them and hear the underlying intention. And as long as that's sincere (and there's only one person so far whose sincerity I doubt enough not to want any condolences from them), it doesn't matter much how they express themselves.


[*] If you've never met me in person: I hadn't had a proper haircut since 1987, only trims.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
This weekend was not as successful as the one before. It would've been helpful if I'd had more advanced warning that we'd be off Monday. Then I might've been able to put together plans to leave town for the weekend. (I have invitations to come crash any number of places right now.) There were several people I'd considered getting in touch with, but I put off arrangements and in the end didn't make any. Saturday was basically a wasted day of sitting around playing solitaire and making only desultory attempts at dealing with household. Sunday was more successful in this regard.

It helped that I knew I'd be meeting Fig for dinner. I didn't get any shopping done but I did make it to the hardware store. He left the venue up to me so I chose Dak, thinking we might hit the Anvil after. But he had a notion of checking out the Glenwood. I'd never been on an ordinary Sunday evening so I wasn't sure what to expect. (Answer: Deadsville.) He thought Social looked too straight, so we ended up walking all the way to Touché for the dreary end to their beer bust. Not that it mattered much, as we got into a deep conversation of Life After [livejournal.com profile] monshu.

I confessed that, on some level, the persistence of this state of affairs hasn't sunk in. I still wake in the morning thinking maybe I'll have found my way back to right timestream, the one where my husband is still alive and Cheeto Hitler isn't about the take over the reins of power. Then I lie there in the dark trying to think of good reasons to get up despite the true horror of my reality. Thank my stars for the cat is all I can say. Annoying as his whining is, it does help ground me.

"You have a harsh inner voice," Fig told me as I related repeating to myself, "[livejournal.com profile] monshu is dead. You will never be able to say anything to him ever again and he will never speak to you ever again." But I've got to get that message through my thick skull somehow. I still find myself thinking, "Oh, I can't wait to tell him..." or "I need to ask him...". I guess like any other inappropriate thought, it will gradually become less frequent until I stop thinking it altogether.

Fig wanted to get home and I wanted to putz some more and fit in some reading, so we made it an early night. I had made tentative plans with [livejournal.com profile] clintswan's old roomie for Monday. He was supposed to get in touch when he got back to town, but to no one's surprise he didn't. (After I learned how flaky he was, I gave him about a 1-in-8 chance of actually coming through. Maybe that was optimistic.) Still, the threat provided enough external motivation that a couple more surfaces got cleared--notably the dining room table, which had been wearing the same crumbs since Hogmanay.

[livejournal.com profile] innerdoggie gave me an excuse to leave the house Sunday and I took it. The whole way down to Montrose to meet her for lunch, I reflected on the irony: If there was a day in the weekend to be a homebody, this--cold, grey, rainy--was it. Instead we squeezed into a corner of the café at the art centre with all our sopping gear and I tried my best to be good company even though my heart wasn't in it. (Sometimes you wonder who is really doing the favour and who is benefitting; maybe in the end the distinction is meaningless.) On the way back, I picked up some eats from Middle Eastern Bakery and had ample opportunity to curse the sluggishness of the Clark bus.

Then that night I slept badly. Not sure why. The coffee in the pie? Taking my allopurinal too late? Looking for songs to make me cry when I should've been reading about foolish Russian aristocrats? My dreams are fantasies; even if the Old Man isn't alive in them, they're always lively. I'm surrounded by people--family, friends--and there's lots going on. Not like the waking world, where every bit of positive stimulation is the result of me making an active effort to seek it out.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
So much in the last couple weeks, where do I start? I wish I'd had the energy to update regularly. I'm sure a day-to-day account of navigating my grief would have been useful to me later. Because, you know, it's not like this will be the only time I do this and the mind forgets unpleasant details so easily.

One thing that's increasingly clear to me is not just how ill-equipped we are to deal with grief but how bad most people are at dealing with someone who's dealing with grief. And there's a copious literature on the first of these but I'm not sure there's much of anything on the latter. I sometimes feel like I'm taking notes for a manual on What Not to Do When Someone You Love Loses Someone They Love and on Monday I gave my sister an overview of the salient points.

Up until just before then, it had been an uncommonly good day. Sure, I still had my cold and there was cleanup to do from Hogmanay, but not so much that I couldn't ignore it and run to the spa to meet up with an old college friend. Getting reacquainted with her after nearly 25 years was fascinating and she was thrilled when I showed interest in "meeting her people". And her people--her tax attorney husband and actress daughter--were fascinating, too. The whole experience was very affirming.

Then I got home and found my refrigerator--still full of leftovers from Sunday--at 66°F and the prospect of having to throw everything out and replace it depressed me so much I just plopped in front of the computer to listen to moody music and play solitaire. I knew I needed to vent, so I called Nuphy, but he wasn't available. So I called my most reliable friend in the world: my sister.

As we talked, I got more and more worked up about things. It's not just the fridge--or the dead rat I found when I got back from St Louis, or the water in the lower level the day before I was supposed to leave. It's not even really the apartment as such. It's the thought of having to face everything an adult has to manage by myself. Yes, Sis can listen. But at the end of the day, I'm the one with the kitchen full of spoiling food. If I called upon one of my better friends to come over and help, they probably would. But fundamentally it's not their problem. For them, it's a charitable act. They are free to peace out at any time--and with quite legitimate reasons. Only [livejournal.com profile] monshu made me the promise that whatever my problems were they were his problems, too, and he would stick by my side until we solved them.

And from there we got on the raw subject of what I needed from my family when I went down for Christmas and what I didn't get. I needed to Feel the Love like I'd never felt it before. I needed to be taken care of. I needed someone attentive enough that they could sense what I needed without the burden always being on me to ask. I got some of that. There was one point, for instance, where after I'd been weeping quietly in my room for nearly an hour, e. decided to check on me, saw the state I was in, and offered to help me finish wrapping presents. But acts like that stand out against a background of relative indifference.

Like I said, I get that people don't know what to do. This is one of those live-altering experiences that you can't understand without having been through. I'm waking up to the mortifying realisation of how I've failed friends and family in the past when they were forced to endure something like this. That's why I accepted what was offered and immediately began trying to forgive them for doing so little. For not even bringing up [livejournal.com profile] monshu once in conversation (and eagerly changing the subject the one time I brought him up). For "giving me time" when what I needed was comfort. For, basically, not being spouses to someone they'd never agreed to marry.

Talking to other widows makes this easier--while at the same time making it only more clear how widespread the need is for advice. Before Sunday's get-together, my friend Mozhu described having almost exactly the same experience the Christmas after her husband died. My friend group is cleaving into those who Get It and those who don't--often despite their best intentions--and this isn't a new thing. Terminal illness is its own life-changing experience and even being there for Nuphy didn't prepare me for what it was like when it was my partner and not just my ex. His daughter was the responsible party then. I was the good friend with the luxury of leaving when I "needed" to because, at the end of the day, it was "not my problem".
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Last week I made a vow to meet everyone's responses to [livejournal.com profile] monshu's death with a spirit of generosity and I've done a pretty good job of keeping it. Not yesterday, however. Near lunchtime I suspected La Vache was making an attempt to wish me sympathy so I spent the rest of the day dodging her. At Chicago, she basically tried to get the Old Man fired, encouraging a disgruntled employee to bring a complaint against him and just generally being a dick to him (and later me, when we started associating). I'm sure he'd forgiven her for this--he was letting go of all his old grievances as he felt death approaching--but I'm not him and I couldn't imagine hearing her offer condolences without saying something cutting like "One thing I've always admired about you is your chutzpah" or even just a nonplussed "Really?"

So I fled and ended up at another bank informing another indifferent functionary about his death. But where Friday's employee covered up his indifference with good customer service, Monday's was careless and inept, drawing increasingly curt responses and even admonitions from me. I think it's the first time someone has offered me a business card and I made no show of taking it in order to be polite. (For all I know, it's still lying their on his desk where he dropped it.) There was a loud, cranky old man in the neighbouring cubicle and I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

Fortunately, [livejournal.com profile] bunj is in my corner. Despite a Bavarian Totencold, he and e. stopped by in the evening to pick up a death certificate so he could file the will first thing today. He tried going to a branch of bank #1 to wind things up, but they wanted not only the affidavit and the certificate but also a copy of the will and he didn't have one with him. I don't know why I'm so impatient. There's plenty of money in the joint account to handle known expenses for the coming month it will take to have the assets transferred to me but it's just a messy state of affairs having no control over his funds and I don't like it.

I made the wrong call by deciding I didn't need any lorazepam to fall asleep last night so I stumbled through today and blew off my afternoon meeting. I guess I should be consuming the slack people are extending me at work while it lasts. So far, I've been resisting the urge to respond to the umpteenth expression of sympathy with a novel response like a cheery "All's well that ends well!" I guess it helps that today I heard mostly from people who I have nothing against and who really have been through some shit so there's a weight to their words I don't find in everyone's. Always is interesting, btw, who comes through in these moments and who doesn't. I have a growing stack of condolence cards on my desk now and they're nearly all from colleagues I wouldn't have expected.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
It's hard to say how I'm feeling these days. I've been telling people that either I'm still deep in denial about [livejournal.com profile] monshu's death or I've been preparing for this day for so long now that some of the work of grieving and moving on is already done. Over the past eight months, he was home for a scant three weeks, so it's not unusual that he's not there now. I'd built up a routine around living alone and it hasn't much altered except that without the daily trips to whatever stupid place he was staying I have a lot more time. But everyone wants to take me out for meals so I'm still eating out a lot (just not paying as much) and the cat's feeding schedule is still chaotic. And though I'm not actively managing his care day-to-day any more, there's still insurance nonsense to deal with and all the usual household administration to which has been added the bureaucratic machinery of processing a decease. So I'm as busy as always, just not with the same things.

I'm not numb; I still get pleasure from most of life. Yesterday I attended a friend's annual Christmas tea and collected my duty of hugs, then met up with another friend who showed me the delights of King Spa in Niles. I still cry a little every day, but generally only a little and only when I'm forcing myself by listening to a lugubrious post-punk ballad I know will produce a few tears. I curse the cat by day and cuddle him at night and people call me and I usually answer and sometimes I'm a dick to them but I try not to be.

One thing this is making clear is that my fear of rejection makes it difficult for me to ask for help. But my friends are need to feel they're helping me. So there's a lot of mutual benefit to be extracted from the situation if I can only figure out how to go about it. I'm trying. [livejournal.com profile] bunj is coming by tonight to pick up paperwork so he can file the will tomorrow, [livejournal.com profile] lhn is coming by Wednesday to sort out our computer files, and half the gay couple across the street is driving me down to St Louis on Thursday. But none of the food people kept offering to cook for us has materialised and I'm not going to ask; my friends aren't GrubHub. Besides, knowing me, I'd just end up tossing most of it anyway.

I was worried about being surrounded by associations but for right now they're comforting rather than distressing. I do get sad when I think about how much effort we put into building our household, i.e. all the decisions about furnishings, glassware, art--the whole trousseau necessary for living the good bourgeois life we'd been conditioned to expect. We worked so hard to make a harmonious whole but it feels like too much for a singleton to drag from apartment to apartment, so I'll have weeks of whittling to do (over the course of months, since it will be emotionally exhausting work). I have fantasies of stowing it all and going abroad for a few years which I'm sure will come to nothing; maybe there are adventures still awaiting me but I don't think that's one of them.
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
[livejournal.com profile] monshu passed away at home late in the evening of December 9th. Because it took about an hour-and-a-half for the nurse to arrive to certify him, his death date will officially be December 10th. But you know the truth.

Because he is peerless, my friend [livejournal.com profile] bitterlawngnome has posted a tribute to [livejournal.com profile] monshu in his own journal using photographs from our one-and-only meeting in Toronto in 2011. The occasion was the Old Man's 65th birthday. At the time we expected him to live well past 70, but fate makes a mockery of all our plans.

When I realised he was not going to begin breathing again, I fell into a state of disbelief. When the nurse came and held a stethoscope to his chest, I told her, "I'm just waiting for you to confirm he's not in a coma or something." (NB: Corpses don't cool off as quickly as you might think.) When she shook her head, I felt an immense relief. At times, the stress of the last eight months has been barely tolerable. Every time I wished it would end, it occurred to me that there was only one way for that to happen, and I concluded that was worse.

I've spent most of the last couple days chattering away with people, mostly [livejournal.com profile] monshu's sister and niece who are in town until Tuesday. Less than an hour each day has been devoted to ugly crying. I figure that's a ratio I can keep up almost indefinitely, as long as I keep picking the right songs to listen to. Thursday we cremate him, assuming there are no snags in the process. I'll wait for better weather to scatter him. The one-hundredth day after his death will be March 19th (which is coincidentally the feast of St Joseph, his patron saint), and that seems as good a day as any.

This coming week will be for attending to the details, tidying up my mess of an apartment, and reconnecting with the many many friends who I've seen too briefly if at all over the past year. Or maybe I'll just spend half of every day lying in bed listening to Siouxsie Sioux and Magnetic Fields. Who the hell's going to stop me?
muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Since I wasn't under enough stress because of the whole insurance mess (still no word on what they'll pay for, but the caseworker says they can bill Medicare if they have to, so at least we won't be on the hook), this is the weekend Stepmom decided to come up for her granddaughters' swim meet and she insisted (in the nicest way) on seeing [livejournal.com profile] monshu. All of which is great, but she brought Dad along, too. (At least I convinced Mom to stay at home for another week.) I think it's probably for that reason alone that when I asked the Old Man this morning, "Would you prefer I were here for their visit?" he nodded yes. So much for getting a half day of work in.

Dad is losing it. There have been hints for years, but now we're getting to the point where it must be obvious even to those who don't know him well. Just during the hour together in [livejournal.com profile] monshu's room, he gave several nonsensical replies, told the same story about falling over twice (having completely forgotten he'd told it already yesterday evening), and answered questions that weren't directed at him. We've always suspected (based on the fate of the previous generation) that if he lived long enough, he'd fall prey to Alzheimer's. We just hoped it wouldn't hit for a while yet.

He's also looking more feeble. More like, well, a man in his 70s who's spent some time in the hospital recently. It's an exaggeration to say--as his wife does--that he has "no gait", but he certainly doesn't have the confident stride that I imitated without realising as a teenager. Our time together was fine--I told my stepmom about a Venezuelan restaurant near work and she drove us up there for lunch. Mostly she and I talked, but Dad made contributions at times. Still, the days when he and I would go on cross-country adventures seem behind us now.

***

Chatting with my stepmom is always a pleasure--she's still as with it as always. I was looking forward to telling her about my conversation with the director of "the Jewish place", as she began referring to the nursing home I visited yesterday after I told her there was a sukkah on the doorstep. He was a shmoozer straight from central casting. The secretary had shown me into a meeting room to wait while he disentangled himself and no sooner had we made introductions when he turned to her and said, "Did you get this man something to drink?" Then back to me to say, "I need to get someone new in the front office, someone who's not so rude to visitors. It's been, what, 19 years and I still haven't found anyone."

He was called away twice to deal with other matters and kept joking about paying me for our time. "You can take it off the first bill," I told him. He engaged in some mildly sexist banter with the staff and patients as we strode through the narrow corridors. He remarked on my surname and joke that he learned to speak German by copping a Colonel Klink accent on his Yiddish. I told my joke about the Jewish boy who takes German for an easy A and then makes the mistake of saying "Shabbes" when asked to recite the days of the week, which led to a discussion of the etymology of Samstag.

All in all, he seems like a mentsh and it looks like a good place. I do worry that [livejournal.com profile] monshu needs more medical care than they're used to dispensing. Really, if there physical therapy were more intense, the best thing for the Old Man would probably be just staying where he's at until he's strong enough to head home, but no way the beancounters are going to approve that.
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muckefuck: (zhongkui)
Still trying to strike that elusive balance between my responsibilities and my sanity. I declared Saturday my "day off", which practically speaking meant that from about four thirty in the afternoon until ten a.m. the next morning, I did nothing for the household or for my husband. After dinner and the opera with Nuphy, I rode the Blue Line for the first time in at least two years to join up with a pal's pub crawl. Unfortunately, a simple glance at the CTA map was not enough to orient me in a neighbourhood I've been to all of once in full daylight so I ended up going off in entirely the wrong direction and tracing a nice little box bounded by Sacramento and Fullerton before almost literally running into my quarry outside a bougie club on Milwaukee. On the way, I was nearly run down crossing the street and then tackled by an aggressive hound and began to get the feeling the neighbourhood had it in for me.

So I missed the first two stops, but still managed to visit (in sequence) The Whistler, Spilt Milk, Estereo, Las Flores, and Billy Sunday. Somehow, I managed to have only one drink (a Manhattan variant called a "Yellowpoint") at the first location. At Spilt Milk, I still felt a bit woozy, so I waited, but Estereo had nothing I wanted, Las Flores was no longer serving alcohol (yet checked our IDs anyway), and by the time we reached the last stop it was nearly two a.m. and I was done. I cabbed it home and spent the remaining seven hours of mad time asleep. As a result, I was remarkably well-rested Sunday and more-or-less up to the challenges of finished what I hadn't done Saturday.

Right now, the big uncertainty is: Where will he be tomorrow? Our insurer has only approved his stay at the acute facility through today and they think it's super helpful to wait until the last minute to tell you whether they've decided to approve the doctor's request to extend. If we can't stay there, then it's probably back to the mediocre subacute facility where he languished through the month of August. We tried looking at smaller and more highly-rated places, but they can't afford his cancer drugs. I looked at another better-rated facility in the same network, but it only seemed more run-down and less conveniently located.

That, of course, makes planning for the weekend a mess, since it's entirely possible they could renew him just through Saturday. Stepmom is coming up so we've got tentative plans for Sunday. I'd like to fit in a visit to Pilsen, but I'm not sure if it's better to do it with her or with Fig, who's got a slate of days off and wanted to get together. Friday is supposed to be a celebration of JB's retirement as well as a friend's Halloween bash. Mom suggested coming up this weekend and I gave her a flat-out "no" since I could only think of ways it would raise my stress level and none that would reduce it, but she doesn't want to put it off too long and run into her annual condo meeting.

Speaking of which, ours is a little over a month, which is a huge relief because it means the B-team we put in place actually stepped up and organised something. Hopefully they'll agree to be our A-team when the time comes because this is one kettle I can't keep my eye on right now. It's already enough that I'm saddled with all the landscaping (a plea for others to pitch in with leaf cleanup naturally sank without an echo) without having to fret about the administrative chaos and tight financial straits we're in.

Ugh. Where the fuck are my apple cider donuts?

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