Posts tagged ‘Loss’

Light and Truth: Exhibit C

Tom and Daisy

March 9, 2015 at 5:59 pm Leave a comment

Excerpt from “Safe Mode”

Like a tulip shoved under a giant heat lamp, my upper body wilts beneath yet another wave of depression and grief. More than five years have passed since Lisa’s death, but I’ve become increasingly unable to withstand her absence.

I spend the next six hours coding, hoping this attempt to shed the blues (so blue it’s black) may result in productivity. I find myself humming a tune the oldies station hasn’t played in years:

Please lock me away
And don’t allow the day
Here inside, where I hide with my loneliness
I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay

In a world without love

February 12, 2015 at 6:00 pm 1 comment

Light and Truth: Exhibit A

May 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm 1 comment

Excerpt from “Safe Mode”

Professor Heart Attack (not to be confused with Professor Heartache) used to always tell me that the future—and the now (then)—was all about information sharing and social networks. He had a bit of an obsession with Mark Zuckerberg (and, incidentally, with me). He used to tell me things like, “If I were Mark’s father, I’d tell him to marry you.”

It just so happened that I was a freshman at Princeton when Mark Zuckerberg was a freshman at Harvard. (No, I don’t know him personally. I know a handful of people who went to Exeter with him, but whatever. It doesn’t matter.) When I joined Facebook my sophomore (or was it junior?) year in college, back when it was called “The Facebook,” I had no idea what a key role it would play in my undoing.

I used to resent that Professor Heart Attack, more than 30 years my senior and (last time I heard) without a cell phone or personal email account, was so ahead of my time. He was seemingly compassionate, extremely intelligent, not at all attractive, cosmopolitan, wealthy, and—it turns out—deeply insecure and duplicitous. It seemed cruelly ironic that he—of all people—appeared to escape the disaster when most of us had our worlds ripped out from under us.

Of course, he hadn’t anticipated the ultimate irony. Neither had I.

October 19, 2011 at 9:37 pm 6 comments

Death Perception

I’m back in Texas to visit my family and friends, and today would have been Alex’s 25th birthday. They say losing someone gets easier with time, but I am not convinced. Sure, the pain is no longer acute (most of the time), but it seems to have seeped into every fiber of my being. I can feel it within my marrow, in the roots of my teeth, and on the soles of my feet.

When I first learned about death, I remember staying up at night and crying. The thing I struggled to process was the fact that I would probably live to bury my parents. I wanted to die before they did so that I wouldn’t have to endure that kind of loss. I never really thought about losing my brother. 

Almost two years ago, I moved for the first time since Alex passed away. On one hand, it was nice to get out of Portland because it was there that I received the horrible news. On the other hand, he was still alive when I moved there in October 2008. What I am painfully realizing is that every literal and figurative move I make from this point forward will occur without his earthly presence. That’s unsettling to really think about.

My last few visits to Texas didn’t feel as depressing as I had anticipated. It almost seemed like Alex was in summer school or on some fun trip. It felt like he simply never came back from college. Sometimes I caught myself eagerly awaiting his return, but I would inevitably remember that he’s not coming back.

Since the last time I came home, my mom moved from the house we grew up in. Now it’s clear he’s not coming back. I don’t even get my hopes up anymore.

I often feel sorry for myself. Then I feel bad about feeling sorry for myself, and then I feel justified. But sometimes I embrace my sadness. It is here to stay, and it’s an important part of me. At a certain point, the grief becomes so profound that it seems to transform into an empowering, enthusiastic force that propels me upward and forward. Maybe that’s what happens when we die: the agony and injustice and bullshit of this life launch us into a euphoric, boundless ascent.

May 11, 2011 at 4:17 am Leave a comment

Taking Back the Night: A Feminist’s Response to Yale’s DKE Incident

No means yes! Yes means anal!”  chanted the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) fraternity pledge class while marching across the Yale campus last week. This egregiously offensive and threatening speech must be punished, and we need to open up a dialogue about the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses in general and by fraternity members in particular.  While I commend Dean Mary Miller and President Richard Levin for making a public statement condemning DKE’s actions, this should just be a first step in a longterm, comprehensive plan for creating a safer social environment in colleges and universities across the country.

Unfortunately, the DKE incident does not surprise me, and I can no longer remain silent about my experience.  In an ongoing attempt to reclaim my agency (which was, to borrow the words of Billy Joel, “something I’d never lose, something somebody stole”), I share my story and take back the night that fundamentally and almost catastrophically changed my life.

The president of a Yale fraternity raped me when I was an undergraduate.  I didn’t tell anyone about it for over a year because I was in denial about what had happened.  Like so many victims of sexual abuse, I blamed myself.  Shortly after the incident, I became bulimic and extremely self-destructive.  I cried myself to sleep almost every night—and, although I was never suicidal, I had a sincere death wish. Seven years later, I have overcome most of the shame and hurt associated with such a devastating loss of agency, but I continue to suffer.  Writing has really facilitated my ongoing quest to reclaim my autonomy and self-confidence. Below is a post I previously wrote about the incident.  I changed names and immaterial details to preserve anonymity:

I strode along the curb of Prospect Street toward Alpha Nu as he ambled—slightly drunkenly—on my right.  I met Tex, a Bulldog linebacker and president of Alpha Nu, at Josh’s track party that night.  The cross-country team had already had its first race of the season the day before, and I still felt a bit high from performing well.  It was the beginning of September, and fall always seemed to arrive early in New Haven.  The temperature must have dropped 20 degrees since the track party had come and gone, and I started to wish I had worn a jacket.

A black Escalade zoomed by, nearly splashing me with a wave of cold, grimy water.

Tex tugged me away from the road.  “Whoa! Let’s switch places. I’m more than twice your size.  No one’s gonna hurt me, and no one’s gonna hurt you while you’re with me.”  He ran his fingers through his dishwater blond hair, sweaty from dancing, and winked.  We held each other’s clammy hands. “That’s kinda sweet,” I thought.

“You’re big and strong and all, but that doesn’t make you invincible.”  I dropped his hand and softly punched his shoulder.  (This was my attempt at coyness.)  I had a weakness for “teddy bear” guys because they seemed so manly and so eager to protect, but I figured it was too early to let on that I might actually be into him.  I hoped to continue the interesting conversation we had begun at Josh’s apartment, and maybe we would kiss and caress for awhile. I hadn’t had many sexual partners, and I just wanted to date people and to generally take things slowly.

“Well, I promise you’re safe with me.  Besides, we’re almost there.  I apologize in advance for the mess.  I didn’t know I’d be meeting such a lovely lady tonight.” Tex put his arm gently around my waist, pulling me closer to him.

But Tex didn’t keep his promise—and, although he apologized for the bite marks in an email the next day, he never said he was sorry for all that transpired later that night.

I wish I could truly take back that September night, but I will never forget what happened.  When I talked about it with some close girlfriends, two of them admitted they had also been raped at Yale.  Both friends chose not to report the events because they didn’t think anyone would believe them.

In light of this, I don’t think hate speech like DKE’s chant should be protected by the First Amendment.  When one form of expression is so abhorrent and so offensive that it chills the expression and threatens the emotional well-being of others, the government should be able to impose liability.  Not only did some of DKE’s members deeply offend many students, but they also voiced support for a culture of sexual violence.  The young men who chanted and/or incited such hateful speech should, at the very least, be suspended.  They have assaulted the vibrant, tolerant marketplace of ideas that should thrive at all institutions of higher education. Through hate speech, these men supported heinous mentality and behavior, casting a pall over the Yale campus and beyond.

I am symbolically taking back the night that had taken so much from me.  Although I’ll never forget what happened, its effects continue to fade into a seemingly distant past.  I hope we all take a moment to consider the individual and societal ramifications of sexual abuse and hate speech and how we can learn from this recent assault on intellectual freedom, social progress, and humanity.

October 21, 2010 at 11:31 pm 3 comments

Goodbye for Now, Boyfriend

I just found out that our beloved cat, Boyfriend, died yesterday.  He was at least 12, but we’ll never know his exact age because he just started coming by our house one day and eventually decided to stay.  He was blind in one eye and had a cute little birthmark on his lip.  Boyfriend was a pacifist, a diplomat, and a master snuggler.

It’s been over a decade since I lost a pet and less than two years since Alex died, so Boyfriend’s death is really difficult for me.  I like to think I’ll see him again, though, and I find solace in that hope.

When asked whether animals have souls and could experience an afterlife, author and veterinarian James Herriot replied, “If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans. You’ve nothing to worry about there.”

Cats really are just little people in fur coats.

September 9, 2010 at 11:48 pm Leave a comment

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