Yesterday, February 11, my dear friend would have been 35, had he not left us 8 years ago. I managed not to think about it in any sad way all day long, just in context of being terribly grateful for our short, intense friendship. Once I tried to sleep, all I could feel was loss.
Like most people, I’ve lost quite a handful of people at this point in my life. My grandmother who got me interested in painting and art, the childhood mentor who encouraged my writing and my love for detective novels (just to name a couple). The loss of a collaborator had ramifications that I still feel today. He’s been gone 8 years and I still get the same sharp pain in my chest when I finish something and feel as if I have no one to show it to, no one that will understand the heartbeat of it.
Over the few years of our friendship, there were daily debates, all night calls to discuss Radiohead and how it’s like and unlike Classical Music and Art, trips to the Albright Knox Museum in Buffalo where I learned appreciation for Modern Art, poems that flew back and forth, songs sung over the crappy pre-skype video services or phones propped up by the guitar. We both used to write for this online community/blog thing, and from the first few interactions, I’d write my post knowing that he’d read it and get it and still tell me what could be better about it… I would post knowing that if no one else read it (and people did, it was a vibrant little community), he would read it and since he was my Gentle Reader, it didn’t matter to me if anyone else did. From the moment we connected via AIM (yes it was that long ago) there was constant feedback, revision, collaboration and camaraderie.
I read a quote on Tumblr last night, it said:
“One day, whether you
you will stumble upon
someone who will start a fire in you that cannot die.
However, the saddest,
most awful truth
you will ever come to find —
is they are not always with whom we spend our lives.”
-Beau Taplin from Hunting Season
It took me years to force myself to start to do things that mattered to me creatively after he died. I knew it would piss him off, just stopping, but my grief was a tidal wave that would flatten me when I least expected it. And I had lost my Reader, why did it matter if I made anything?
I had never needed that before, I spend most of my life just making things as it pleased me, or writing songs for a bigger audience. I don’t know why the second I found my creative twin soul I couldn’t do without him.
I finally just started forcing myself. Just knowing that I would be sad and it would suck, and that maybe I was just doing it for me. It helped a bit. Therapy helped a bit. Prayer helped a bit. Doing The Thing helped in various amounts. But I didn’t get over it until I inundated my creative world with the permeating sense of impermanence.
The thing about grief is that I think it needs to be expressed, and we don’t always get to choose what that looks like. Until I started writing and painting and drawing my grief, until I started to be completely bored and frustrated by loss, I just couldn’t get past it. I thought chin up, make myself Do, make myself Carry On and it would lessen. But time doesn’t heal some things, really. I don’t know if it is healthy for other people, I don’t know if it was healthy for me. However, for me the only way I have found is through it.
It’s a strange thing, setting foot outside the door of my inner creative mind, and to express it these days, sort of without a net. Although, the gift of having loved someone is that I do hear my grandmother’s voice, my mentor’s voice, my gentle reader for good or for grief, in every scrap I release to the wind.