(in response to this letter from H)
I have the spins despite not drinking since last night.
My temples are throbbing.
The anxiety has been bad lately.
My eyes feel like dried out cheese.
My rib cage feels as if there’s a bird inside who’s desperately trying to get the fuck out but can’t so it’s just going ham in there.
I’m just sitting on my couch, typing to you while our four dogs sleep scattered about & the fish tank filter makes a sound like a very slow trickle of piss. Besides that, utter quiet except for the little clack clack clacking of my laptop keyboard. That is all that is happening.
That is all that is happening and yet I feel so afraid of… something? Often I feel afraid of something and have no idea what. Most of the time I feel afraid, which makes me feel like a nutter or a coward, when nothing scary is actually happening.
I am just sitting in my oval chair in my plant room, typing to you while Lena sleeps on the a long thin pillow next to me. She is my witchy little familiar, my constant companion. I am able to leave the house when she is with me. She is my heart beating in another body & it is terrifying to love someone this much. It is all sunshine in here, the plants drinking it up. I occasionally hear a car drive past. That is all that is happening. That is all that is happening and I am in flight mode.
I do talk to my dad. Also sometimes out loud & sometimes in my head. I usually hear a response. I hope it’s not something my brain is just making up as a coping mechanism. I hope it’s real.
Please be real. Please be real. Please be Real.
I want to see him again someday, like you do yours, so fucking badly. “An occasional fleeting moment of pure goodness and love” is a great way to explain how I feel when I hear his voice in my head. For example, while I was typing up that last sentence I heard a voice, not exactly his voice but similar & definitely not my own, say “Oh yeah?”
He was unhappy in his life here a lot of the time, had a hard go of things. I hope he’s found peace & is happier now, even if I can’t call him. Two plus years later and sometimes I have a problem and think, “My dad will know what to do about this, I’m gonna call him.” Then I remember. Then I die a little all over again. I haven’t deleted his number from my phone. I know it belongs to someone else now. I can’t. It would feel like losing him all over again.
It is a thing here, with some people at least – myself included, to make a wish when you see 11:11 on the clock. I always wish for something different because I never remember what I wished for last time. Your letter about wishing “Dad” every time hits me right to the gut. Sometimes I worry that I am feeling more okay after two years and some change than I should be. I worry it makes him, wherever he is, think that he didn’t matter to me as much as he did. He mattered a fuckton. He matters a fuckton. I was always a daddy’s girl. I know he would have wanted us to move forward forward, to not be constantly shadow haunted by grief. Still, the guilt.
I hope he knows Edward & I are happy together and coming up on five years of being married in December. In the card he sent us for our wedding he wrote, “There is nothing more important than having someone to share life with.” The “nothing” was underlined three times. I hope he knows that we bought a house that I am in love with. I hope he understands Lena & my relationship now. I, like you, hope that he is proud of me.
I hope he doesn’t hate the lavender tattoo I got for him too much – which he likely does because he hated tattoos on women. “You’re such a pretty girl, Katie. Why do you do this to yourself?” He’d ask me every time I told him I’d added another one to my collection.
My brother told me something recently that I didn’t know. My dad was going on dates before he died. He wanted someone to share his life with again after my mother so so so so so fucking GODDAMMIT badly – and he did not get that. I didn’t know he was actively dating. I was happy for him when my brother first told me. I was happy until I asked if there had been any second dates. Then I sobbed. No second dates. He died after trying to get people to want to have dinner with him and they all said no. I hate that. I hate that. I hate that. I motherfucking murder-level hate that. They all said no. They all said no & then he died. You are one of the first people I’ve told about this. I feel like I could keen.
I started reading Her Body & Other Parties but I couldn’t really get into it. You’ve inspired me to give it another go. I’m sorry that Little Weirds, well, made you feel weird & very nervous. I feel very very sorry I recommended it to you now.
It is surprising what you find out about a person after they die, isn’t it? I learned that my dad carried all of the letters & photographs I’d ever sent him in his locked briefcase. Even a feather I’d sent him inside of a card. I never knew he was a sentimental man but apparently he was underneath his very logical & practical demeanor. I wish I’d know this about him in real life. I wish I’d sent him more letters & cards. I wish I’d called more. Woulda shoulda coulda. Would have so fucking much, if I had the chance to do it again. Should have & could have done so much fucking better than I did.
The letter & cards gave me peace in a way though. When I went through them I realized I’d written almost everything I wanted him to know already: how much I loved & appreciated him. How lucky I felt to have him as a dad, how I couldn’t wish for a better one. So I don’t have to feel bad about wondering if he knew those things, which helps.
His birthday is is two days and I don’t know how to mark it, what to do for it. It’s so hard to know. It’s so so fucking hard to know what to do for these things.
For a long time I craved the security of having a person & being a wife. I felt it in me like a thirst. Someone, safety, someone, security, someone, stability – things I’d never had before. I wanted it to be legal so it would be hard to leave. I wasn’t afraid Edward would leave. I was afraid I’d have one of my less sane episodes & leave him. So I can be a tad impulsive – who isn’t? I knew I’d regret it very quickly. I wanted to tie myself down. I wanted to be tied down. I wanted to be rooted in something real & secure.
That security & the really really truly having a person who is my person & I am theirs – I found that when I got married. Honestly, I found that with Edward before we were married. What I did not find after our wedding is how to live with myself, the answers to the giant question of “who am I & what is the fucking point of me,” or how to cope with being alone with myself. That was the problem – not the marriage. If I am busy I do fine & am usually happy but if I had a day where nothing is planned or scheduled I get very anxious & my mind starts being a dickwad to me & all of the carrion birds start to circle.
I fell in love with an incredibly good man who happened to love me back. We also, aside from love, like each other as people a fuckton. That too is key. Love isn’t enough to make things last, you have to also like each other after the cocaine-brain infatuation wears off & when the romance isn’t so strong.
It is very important to marry the right person.
It is very important to marry the right person.
There are many right people for any person to marry, but it must be one of them or all hell will break loose quietly at first then very, very loudly.
“Marry the right person” is incredibly obvious but it’s difficult to come up with a more essential and important suggestion than that. I married the right person. It definitely isn’t just a party and a piece of paper, as you know already. I get why “girls like you” are expected to say that though. Were I in a different position or stage in life, I bet I would do the same.
Marriage is great when it is good and sometimes agonizing when it isn’t going well. It will not always be easy – but if you are lucky a lot of the time it will be. The hope is that there are far more great, happy, blissful, content times than ugly ones.
To answer your question: it is not everything but it is definitely definitely not nothing. Not at all.
I don’t know how to explain it well. Love is so hard to write about because it feels like everything becomes a cliche – it feels like almost everything that can be said about good love has been said.
The night after our tiny wedding in our tiny apartment we stuffed ourselves silly with cheap champagne & boatloads of cheap Chinese food. Nothing felt different. Saying, “Oh my husband blah blah blah whatever” felt very strange coming out of my mouth at first. Like it was a foreign word I wasn’t sure I was pronouncing correctly. Five years in, I can tell you it’s not everything but it is a lot. It is a lot. In a good way. For me at least.
I felt so alone when Edward was in medical school. I felt so alone for such a long time. I think that had to do with my depression (strong & very often) than with the actual marriage. We bought a house last summer & Edward is in residency now. That means he officially has an MD after his name & goes to work now instead of classes & gets paid even though resident salaries are stupid low given how much they work & how much they do. I was isolating myself but it was only because I didn’t have the energy to try to make friends.
Have you had trouble making friends now that you are not in university or working a traditional job? It’s been really hard for me. I’ve met people on apps meant for making friends but they’ve all ghosted on me eventually. It makes me wonder if I am a particularly difficult person to be friends with. At the same time, they are on these same apps as I am so they also must have trouble making and keeping friends too, no?
I am so far far away from anyone I grew up with and everyone from college ended up scattered across the globe.
Now I have two friends, plus my two younger sisters who I keep in good solid touch with over the phone. One lives about two hours away from me – we both ended up migrating South. The other lives in the Southwestern US now. She hates the landscape there – all the sand & cacti. I remember loving it so much when we did a roatrip through there with Sam & Lena in the summer of 2017. I felt like the best version of myself in it.
I have my neighbor, Reagan, & I have San who I’ve known since summer 2010. San lives in California but we text/call/video chat & spend many nights staying up (occasionally until the sun rises in my part of the US – he’s two hours behind) watching Killing Eve together via technology witchcraft.
Last week I swear I saw two trains traveling in opposite directions on the same track – each standing on only one wheel like a bicycle. I did not.
It isn’t new years (yet) but I turn thirty in eleven days. I have mixed feelings about it. I never imagined myself at thirty. I think you’ll be able to relate to this – I really didn’t think I’d survive this long. I never thought I would be so happy & lucky at thirty years old – to have all the love & security & little stupid things that make me happy & big giant things that make me happy. I also am sad to say goodbye to my twenties in a way. Mostly it’s because I feel like I was robbed of a lot of that decade. I didn’t get to experience much of it because mental illness took over the wheel quite forcefully there. I don’t know – guess I’ll have to wait, try thirty on for a bit & then see if I have a mental breakdown lmao.
I still do not know how to be alone with myself for more than a few hours. I learned that lesson hard so so so many times this past week. Apparently when I am left alone with myself for too many days my borderline licks its lips and says, “Let’s party, bitches!” It was hellacious. I think I am starting to get back to equilibrium a little bit now.
I have missed so you fucking much.
Hoping to hear from you soon.
Love from across the pond,
(photograph by me of plant room in middle of reorganization, my view while I wrote this letter)