06 June 2017

Feel Good Lost: Oscillation

The week after the funeral, I return to my creaky apartment in the city. 



And I go crazy. 


I do everything people say you will do, but it happens fast and moves like a flip book. I move through the stages of grief moment to moment: anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance. Bargaining, denial, anger, acceptance. He died, I should have known. It's ok, I'll get him back. Over and over. I change the channels on the TV,  I put on a different perfume. I buy two candles at $40 each and I alternate the scents in my room. I want to feel good. I want anything to feel good. I think to myself that I will pay any amount of money to feel good again. Anything. 

I become obsessed with religion, but I can't really bring myself to go anywhere with it. I think: I'll wear a burqa and hold e-meters, let you record my secrets. I'll dress in white robes and I'll go down to the river. I'll roll my eyes into the back of my head and speak in tongues as a crowd cheers me on. Hold my head under water. Give me a carpet, I'll pray five times a day. On my hands and knees until the skin rubs raw. I won't eat for a month, I'll give up pork, beef. I won't drink wine, I won't listen to loud music. I will travel to the dusty road in Alabama where the devil sits with his guitar and I'll trade him my soul. He'll draw it like a thread from my lungs. I think over and over how can I bring you back, how can I just bring you back. If you just showed me I could do it. I feel alone in every room I go into. 

I think often that I am too young for this. That I am not ready. I want a different life. Give it back, I will do anything. I'll believe in anything. 

***


I spend a lot of time googling celebrities who lost their parents in their twenties--not when they were kids, when they were in their twenties. That part matters. I keep a list on my phone: Gwyneth Paltrow, Tig Notaro, Casey Wilson. My mother makes me swear on the day that the Chicago Tribune posted pictures of the crash that I will never look. I promise her, so I look at Princess Diana's instead. I study them while I'm at work, I pull them up while I'm in the bathroom. Before I go to bed. I read that her heart moved from one side of her chest to the other. I don't know how my father actually died and I break down and cry about this hourly. The hours turn into days and then into weeks. I think on loop how did you die though? Why didn't I just ask someone the night of? How can I ever know? How can I find the bravery to just ask? 

***

I have more anger than I think my body can handle (though I know now that your body can handle it all). Everything I thought I couldn't live through, I have lived. Somehow. You could too.

I feel sick with rage. I eat terrible food and my stomach hurts both sharp and dull. I take so many pills to sleep that my mom tells me it's not addiction she feared, but that I would fall and hurt myself. The next night I hit my head on a door knob. I wake up in the morning achy-necked and cold. I realize I cannot die in her lifetime. I feel anger that I have lost that too and think that I should be allowed to die whenever I please. But I cannot. I can never die, never grow old. I slow down with the pills. 

A man asks me for change on the street as I leave my fancy building downtown. It is my third day back at work. As I shake my head and tuck my neck into my wool collar he yells after me and asks why I am ignoring him. I think of turning around and unleashing my burning rage on him like a storm out of my fingers. I want to tear the potted plants from the concrete planters that dot the scene around us. I want to smash the car windows. I want to cause chaos on this perfectly manicured street. I see myself screaming my father was killed two weeks ago! I am not ignoring you, I am fucking broken! I am a rocket hurtling towards the moon. I am a nuclear war. I am Hiroshima. I am the word shattered.

I tuck a strand of my nicely highlighted hair behind my ear and walk on. I think of the cliche I have heard time and time again: "Everyone is fighting their own hard battle". I look up and down Michigan Avenue and I think that mine must be the hardest, but I catch myself and pull away from that thought. No good has ever come from comparing one grief to another's unknown. 


***


A boy who is dead is in the news and I read his story every chance I get. He drank too much at a frat party and fell down the stairs. His parents are suing 18 of his frat brothers for his death. For treating him as though he were drunk and not someone who had been critically injured in a fall. I think about the need to punish others; to sue. In lieu of your own pain. I can see how that would be a logical outlet: burn others and keep your heart at a simmer. Crush the world for crushing you. Take away other people's children because they were there for when yours was taken. I can feel it. I could look his parents in the eye. 

I ask my mom if there were any amount of money in the world that would make her feel better and she gives me the answer I expected. I think of what it would be like to have millions, to never need to work again. But there is no fantasy to be had because all I really want is for my dad not to be dead. Money cannot buy life, it can't actually buy that much at all. Not the good stuff anyway. I wish I could call the boy's parents and tell them to just work on their hearts. I think that at the end of the day they will still need to look in the mirror. They'll think that their faces look different too, I bet.


***


I am broken and living in the same moments. I relive them on a loop. I watch it from my eyes, from my brother's, from the police's. My mother tells me that they had all sat quietly until she heard our car in the driveway. She actually thought to herself wait until you see my daughter. It will be like a movie now. 

I see myself holding my mother protectively in the center of our living room, my eyes are dark and wild and they shoot like darts from man to man. I roar. 


WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED


I am shaking and violent. I want to scare them. I want everyone in the room to be so scared of me that they undo this. That they turn to each other and give the signal to turn back the clock; we are not the family to mess with. I have never experienced such anger in my life. How dare they come to my home and look at me, look at my mother. I feel dangerous. I cradle my mother, our roles exchanging seamlessly. 

The men bend their bald heads, their eyes unable to meet mine. The coroner steps forward. He is the smallest one of the bunch. I think that these must be the police who wrote the reports, who found my dad. The small one is the guy who gets woken up. He knows what to do with dead bodies. With dead dads. 

"Well," he says quietly. "Your father was killed in a car accident around midnight. A single car accident. He drove off the road into a pole. When the paramedics arrived they felt a pulse, but it was very light and only for a moment."

I am tightening my face and I stare so hard at him he takes a step back. I can hear the boys coming in from outside. I have forgotten there are people in the world besides my mom and dad. My mom lets go of me and runs to my brother. And then I am no longer coiled and dangerous - I am just a girl standing in a room full of police. I am just someone in a home that is no longer her home. The priest comes up behind me and hands me a laminated card with a picture of Jesus in a glittery crown of thorns on it. 

"It's non-denominational," he says. 


***


I have nowhere to put my anger. It sits in my stomach like a tumor. Like something that should be cut from me by a team of doctors. I do not want anyone to feel good and I think that all the time. I write an Instagram post about it and I tell everyone to call their parents, but I admit it's just myself who I wish had called her parents and told them...him that I loved him. That I really, truly loved him. That I wasn't mad about the small things anymore. That I had never been mad at all. That all I feel is love. 

I think that I want to write a blog series called "Feel Good Lost". I want to feel good and I want to be someone who wants others to feel it too. I think that if I ever wrote a book I'd call it "Cold Room Mountain Top". I guess it sort of sounds like three different Murakami books I didn't finish, but talk about like I did. I think of my life now as a path up a mountain and I thought that right away, the night of. In that living room with all the police and the priest and the card with Jesus. It all fell away and I just saw a mountain that reached high above the clouds. I told everyone about that image in my eulogy, while I pulled at my black tights and wiped my tears onto my palms. 

"My dad would tell me there was nowhere to go but up," I told the crowd. "He'd say, 'Lisa, you just got to keep climbing.'" 

So I do. I climb up a little every day. I go to work. I talk to my friends. I read here and there. But I think that what I'm climbing to is just a cold room. I don't think there's anything that great to be found. I'll climb to it though and when I get there I guess I'll climb down. Or climb somewhere else. 

All these metaphors are dumb, they are just all I have. 







31 May 2017

Feel Good Lost: The Night Of


I don't know where to start. I have a crater of words, but somehow a lifetime of explaining myself and feelings in notebooks and on computer screens has failed; nothing has weight. There seem to be no ways in which I can capture the pain or the shock that I have lived with now for two months and a week. 

On March 18th at about 10:10 pm my father, Jim Horan, was killed in a car accident. Nothing bigger or smaller than that. Simple and quiet it almost seems. Simple and quiet I think of it now. 

About three hours later, a group of police officers, a coroner and a priest approached our home and woke my mother up with the news that her husband was dead. One sentence after asking to all be let in. She told them it couldn't be true, but they quietly handed her his cell phone and his wallet. 

He drove right off the road. He had a pulse, but only for a moment. Do you have children? Anyone you can call?

She told them she did, but that her children were children. 

How old are they she was asked. She told them our ages. They aren't children, they are adults. Call them.

My phone erupted me out of sleep at 1:30 am. I saw my mother's face on my iPhone screen and answered the phone screaming, "Mom?!" Knowing it was too late to call about anything other than death. I answered the phone and lived my last seconds in my old life. 

It's dad. He's dead. He was killed in a car accident. You need to get your brother and come home.

And then the world exploded. Lights were on, screaming and screaming. I screamed so much my cat ran out of the room and had diarrhea in his litter box. Ben stared at the walls, at me. I stare at my clothes, at my face. I see myself sitting up in the bed, I see myself from across the room. But it doesn't feel like a dream at all. In fact it feels almost familiar; like I knew it would happen. As if the phone call was too shocking to actually shock me. It was not a nightmare, it was my waking life and I knew everything instantly. 

We stand around for a few minutes and then my brother calls. His voice is deep and calm. I cannot imagine mine, but we are only on the phone for seconds. I tell him Ben and I will walk over, somehow plans are made that Ben will drive. Ben cleans off the cat and I put on socks and a bra. My hands are vibrating and my skin is hot. We look frantically around our apartment what do we bring, what do we do? There is nothing. We learn a first small lesson that nothing is needed. 

We have to go, I tell him and we run out of the house. It's a quiet Saturday night. My mind replays my mother's words over and over and Ben and I dig our fingers into each other's palms. I probably murmur some sort of no's or ask him if this is real life, but nothing was really said. The streets are empty and glowing with golden lamp posts as we quietly turn corners. I feel bigger than the world, like I had been shot full with electric bolts. I think to myself that I could walk anywhere I wanted to right then. I could walk forever and ever and never tire. 

That thought does not live long though because a final turn brings us to my younger brother's street and down two blocks I see him standing, pacing in circles. And then it hits like the wave everyone says comes for you, but grief is a wave and it came and it push me down to the cement, down through the world, through the core and I was melted and then reformed and then pulled through an ocean, through land, through the sky and then back to the spot where I had started with every part of me broken and rebuilt, not a version of myself was the same. I had been swallowed, I was over. 

We start running and then we are all together and the two of them hug me into them so hard I actually think that my nose might break, but I say nothing and we all stand together in the night without one word. Three friends who the night before had smoked cigarettes and seen our favorite band play on St. Patrick's Day. Who had drank until the sun rose and slept until noon the next day. We had a life before. We had things that we did and loved. My brother hands my husband his keys and we get into the car. Everyone breathes. We turn off the radio and the heat and hit every red light. 

My mind becomes something I can no longer control. It begins to move without my consent, it starts to ask questions, to remember things. I am a child in a swimming pool, I can taste the chlorine. I am asking my dad questions and he is sparkling at me. I am older and playing catch in the sandy sun. My dad throws very hard, he wants me to be the best. He always wants me to be the best. I remember emailing him my poems in college and him leaving me a voicemail telling me it was the best writing he'd read all year and I had never received a bigger compliment. I think maybe it won't be so bad. I think I'll do a grief group. We'll all do grief groups. But my heart sinks and sinks like heavy rocks that I cannot hold. 

As we turn off the highway and begin the descent to our hometown I begin to scream, does anyone know where this happened? Is it here?? Will we see it?

I bury my head between my legs, not able to look around me. There are trees and poles and somehow I know that he has hit a pole. I don't know how I could have known; it might have been said to me during one of the phone calls though no one can remember for sure. Or maybe I did just know. Things that lay between my life before and my life now are weightless and uncertain. There is nothing I can trust. My mind thinks so many things- it goes everywhere in the world in those last few minutes, picking up speed as my body begins to recognize the curves of the road. It reaches every memory, it opens drawers and flips over tables. I think of everything, I think of my life, I squeeze my eyes as tightly as I can and I wish so deeply that this is not true, could I just turn back the clock a few hours, could I just go back in time and then we are in front of our home and there are police cars. I throw open the door of the car and the boys begin to shout, but I am off across the lawn running as fast as I can and then I am at the front door and I open it to a room full of men and then it happens. Then it is real. 

I bring the wave.


29 January 2017

Recommendation: TV Shows I'm Watching

I love TV. I love movies and books too, but in this golden age of television, I'm watching what feels like everything. I could (and probably will) write a hundred posts about the shows I'm watching or would recommend, but I have to start somewhere. Here a few of my current recommendations:

Man Seeking Woman



Okay, Man Seeking Woman is probably my favorite hidden gem currently. In fact, I have had a couple friends take me up on the recommendation and they also loved it. In a nut shell, it's a show about a man trying to navigate the perils of modern dating. But it's complete absurdist humor. Every episode begins with a somewhat relatable dating issue and then whimsically shifts into another world while all the characters maintain 'oh well' sorts of attitudes about it. 

In the first episode, Josh our protagonist, goes to his recent ex-girlfriend's house for a party only to realize she is dating Hitler. His friends shrug off his "sketchy reputation" and when John begins to protest they hit him back with, "you're just mad he's dating Maggie!" It's so funny and quirky and each episode is great. There's nothing quite like this on TV right now. 

Rick and Morty



I am a lifelong non-cartoon watcher. Not "The Simpsons", not "Futurama". Not "South Park". Every friend I have ever had has tried to get me to watch any number of animated shows and I have simply been uninterested. Ben convinced me to watch "Rick and Morty" and I'm so glad I did. It's done by the amazing Dan Harmon and has the same surprising depth and truth as his "Community" and his podcast. It's dark and witty and adventurous and is written to perfection. 

The Night Of



Oh, this show. It hurts to even see these actors in other roles, I was so affected by their performances in this one.

This 8 episode-miniseries came out a little while ago and I watched it when it was live and am still feeling it. It's a whodunit, it's a crime, it's a very human story. Probably one of the darkest shows I've ever seen, but incredibly powerful storytelling.

It's about a college student named Nas who has one night out after a lifetime of good, Muslim-boy behavior, and wakes up to find an actual horror. It's not so much of a whodunit (though it in a small way is), but more of a character piece about the lawyers and prosecutors and family that are involved. It's different than other crime shows I've seen because it's artistic and deeply real to what being arrested and accused in America looks like.

Honorable mentions:
Bob's Burgers- Ben tells me I'm like "all the female characters combined". OK???
The Bachelor- because I am a garbage person
The OA- Not sure how I feel about this. Watch it and tell me how you feel. 


What are you watching? Let me know!

16 January 2017

Cream Stuffed Donuts on a Sunday


Vanilla, chocolate and blueberry cream. Also a sassy, emotionally witholding kitten




Our breakfast nook featuring art by my brother Bob


Penny is a talented chef and always eager to help in the kitchen.



mask by glossier


endless coffee and watering my air plant


while we worked on our donuts I had a real breakfast: cooked eggs, toast with strawberry jam and a fish oil vitamin


ben's breakfast had a little bit more oomf


we followed this donut recipe. We've never made donuts before and minus the smoky apartment, they turned out pretty well!


we used this recipe to make the cream. We didn't realize we needed to refrigerate so long so we made some whipped cream (literally whipped cream in our mixer) and folded it into the cream to make it a little fluffier. 



Overall, I'd give this Sunday an 8.5. We tried to watch The Killing, but after seven episodes gave up. The story went on for eternity and we didn't realize there were so many episodes. 

I've been dipping my toes into A Series of Unfortunate Events (one of my favorite book series from childhood), but will probably try and savor it for as long as possible. 

So far though the show reminds me one of my all-time favorites Pushing Daisies. If you've never seen it, it is gentle and sweet and whimsical. It's one of those shows that make large problems seem small and easy to solve and you lose yourself in the cheeriness of it all. It only last two season and I don't know where you can find it, but it's worth the $30 to just buy on iTunes I PROMISE. 
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