“It’s March, and 2017 already has a body count.”
I overheard my friend say this as I walked into the bathroom at the party last night. “Amen, sister,” I replied, and we held each other for a moment.
Her lover’s memorial was that morning.
He was married, and the relationship was known and approved and everyone was cool. But when we learned he had jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge, she knew his wife’s grief came first. She described how she’d been handling it, and I think she’s doing it with incredible grace and respect. I reminded her that she is allowed to grieve. I invited her to come grieve at my home anytime. It’s a good place to fall apart. It’s safe here.
We all danced the night away. A large dance room, a chill space with a small DJ booth and dance area, and a beautiful quiet room with a waterfall altar. I found myself meditating there several times. The first time I walked in, I saw the six cushions in front of the altar and didn’t think I wanted to sit there. Then, someone got up and I found my way to his seat. In a large dark room, I had one of the six seats in front of the altar. I didn’t feel I deserved it.
The meditation came on powerfully. The amount of pain I carry with me each day revealed itself to me. The amount of strength I use to carry on despite that pain revealed itself to me. Of course I deserve a seat at the altar. Everyone deserves a seat at the altar sometimes. I guess I forgot I’m the Hot Grieving MILF. Remember when I almost gave up the name a few months ago? That was the strength talking. You know the me that is insanely busy, traveling and working and being a good mom to teenagers, one 3,000 miles away at school, working hard at graduate school, and now landing a very promising sales job? That’s the strength. The me that notices the empty chair next to me, that wants to date everyone and no one, that wants to find an easy, process free, it-just-works partner and never wants to be in love again, that still wears his ring 24/7? That’s the pain.
I was on a panel this past week discussing the Safer DIY Spaces coalition that I helped create. I spoke 5th out of 6. All the talks were very technical – how to pass an inspection, how to fill out a special event form, what’s happening with one architects work to change the city code. I stood up, walked to the podium and said:
“I’d like to start by telling you why I created the Safer DIY Spaces coalition, and then I’ll tell you what we do.”
I took a deep breath.
“They say that grief is our birthright. On July 3rd, 2016, I got the call that my partner died in a motorcycle accident. Of all the feelings I experienced, helplessness was one of them. Five months later to the day, my phone started blowing up with what we later learned was the death of 36 people in a warehouse fire at Ghostship, just two miles from my home. I wanted to take that helpless feeling and do something with it. I knew I could make a difference raising money to help those who live in unsafe diy spaces so that this doesn’t happen again.”
My presentation was so different than the others. We had a short Q&A, and no one asked me anything. What happened after the event amazed me. I now have four fiscal sponsorship opportunities to explore. A graduate student getting her pubic policy degree wants to take me to lunch. A woman in a sister organization pulled me asideto talk about the death of her partner six years ago. Lastly, the MC emailed me to say she had been in the Ghostship fire and was grateful for my words.
It is so easy to get distracted by the busy and by the details of life and forget the grief. Push it away, hit the ground running, and if you don’t stop, it can’t find you.
You have to stop. You have to acknowledge the pain. It hasn’t gone anywhere. It may change and you will carry on. But the grief never leaves. It needs to be acknowledged. Last night, I said hello to my grief and let it embrace me. I let my grief and my strength meet each other. Look each other in the eye, and agree to coexist.
I’m grateful for them both.