the valley of the shadow of death

It’s June. It is twenty days away from the anniversary of a fixed point in time. It is two years ago and it is twenty years ago.

The grief pulls at me and I feel like I am heavily pregnant again, waiting and waiting and waiting for the birth so that I don’t have to hurt like this any more. I had back labor in the week before he was born and I cried because I couldn’t stop myself crying from the pain.

When he was born it took a few days for him to look familiar to me. He was always comforted by my nearness.

When his father left, he had no memories to hide away in his heart for later. I think that this was best; if there was a better time to leave us it was probably then, when we were all still so new.

The earth rotates around the sun unceasingly, turning the years inexorably. There is not enough time, there was not enough of me, I could not help him. You cannot help someone who does not want to be helped.

He left us almost nineteen years after his father did. There was nothing I could do. You cannot help someone who does not want to be helped.

I knew this was coming, years ago. I knew there was a hurricane destroying its way to us, and I ran and I ran and I ran with him and one day I could not outrun it. You cannot run from someone else’s destiny.

He is not dead but my heart hurts as if death took him that day almost two years ago. I dwell in the shadow of that day and I will mourn while the echoes of labor pains grip me. With the strength of my body I brought him to his first breath. That room was so quiet and my memory of it is colored in shades of grey.

Everyone but me was upset when they learned I was pregnant with him. I was always the one who wanted him. I was always there, always steadfast, always standing between him and the oncoming storm, until I couldn’t any more. Each must be free to choose.

I love him, I loved him. You cannot help someone who does not want to be helped.

I will mourn you. I will cry as if you are dead. I will not stop wishing that everything had been different. And I will live, even though there is pain that lives in me.

february 17th journal

hope painted on a rock

I’ve finally started asking for feedback on my death doula services page. I still need a name for the service, but the more important thing is WHAT IS IT and WHO AM I, basically. If anyone out there would like to review it before publishing, pop a comment below or use my contact page to let me know.

This post is going to be a lot of random shit all jumbled up together, hold on to your butts

I am a proud supporter of Autostraddle, and because I’m a supporter I was able to participate in a weekend-only popup Discord server last weekend; and it was so much fun that a bunch of us were scrambling like hell to make new spaces on Discord where we could continue to hang out. A bunch of queer people, hanging out and sending memes and playing video games and sharing recipes and pictures of pets and, basically, enjoying the safety and expansiveness of a space that we so rarely get.

Since I came out of the woodwork a bit more in order to participate as queerly as possible, I shared one of the pages here on this site. So then I updated some of the sidebar widgets here, to reflect not just games I’m playing and books I’m working on finishing, but also podcasts I listen to regularly.

And THEN, a lovely person emailed me asking about death doula services on behalf of a friend, and I realized that I need to get that page up, and eventually a website, which led me to the first paragraph of this post. (I told you it was a mess in here)

Serious talk, though

People in the southern United States are freezing and have no water service — hundreds of thousands of them — and people are dying.

People here on varying visas with varying immigration status are stuck in no-man’s-land because USCIS is doing what looks like fuck-all with processes that are vitally important to many people, some of them really close and important to me. I’ve emailed my reps and an immigration attorney and I’m honestly just trying to keep my chin up so that I can be here and be present for them when they need it.

People are still dying in huge numbers from COVID-19 and its various new strains, and I don’t know how to hold enough of them in my heart without shattering, so instead I am focusing on who I can help right now — who I can support right now — who I can be here for right now. My heart wants to hold the whole world and my spoons level informs me that I cannot do that. I think I might struggle with this for most, if not all, of my life: that I am only able to do as much as I am able to do, not one bit more.

And also

My sleep patterns are so weird. Days are still blurring together, and even journaling every day, where I write the day and date in several places, is not helping me to hold this information in my currently available RAM. Sometimes I can go to sleep and rest all night, and some nights I can’t go to bed until the fingers of first light begin to draw themselves on the sky. I don’t like it but it feels unavoidable. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t, but there are many hills to die on and I’m not choosing this one.

This Mercury Gatorade (inside joke lol) has been wacky and frustrating here and there. I’m supposed to have gotten a call from the local county court about my name change after I sent in the requisite paperwork to one of the government offices involved, and three months later I haven’t heard from them so … what now?? I left a voicemail and hopefully it doesn’t fall into a black hole.

Our eighteen-month-old little person is having so much fun getting bigger and stronger and sillier. His squeaks and exclamations and almost-words are amazingly adorable and when he picks up a 2/3 full gallon of water just to see if he can, the look on his face is priceless.

Wherever you are, I hope you have something to hope for

I am relying on the structure of my days and the collective interdependence of my big family for my doses of hope. There are days when all of us feel like shit, except for maybe the toddler, and we’ve all had to feel our way through to believing that it’s okay to feel like shit for a whole day. Or more.

I hope for you what I hope for myself: moments of peace, however fleeting.

Frodo Baggins: I wish the ring had never come to me, I wish none of this had happened.

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

JRR Tolkien / Peter Jackson; Fellowship of the Ring

january 8th journal

Don't Give Up

I did not write here yesterday because I was recovering from the tweetstorms about the FUCKING COUP that very nearly happened. And today is full of everyone laughing and opining about a certain orange person who has been permanently banned from Twitter.

I’ve had a migraine today and that does make it more difficult to write or to string my thoughts together in a way that makes sense enough to say them aloud. I have, however, been reading a lot of tweets and enjoying everyone’s hot takes. I realize that there are likely to be more of these brutal events in our future, but at least just right now things feel a little bit better.

This week has felt like an entire six months, and I can’t believe I posted about Bean Dad IN THE SAME WEEK as the assault on the Capitol.

I wonder how long it will feel until January 20th arrives, and how many more awful shit things that awful shit people do will have happened.

Today my eleven year old daughter is now my twelve year old daughter. It wasn’t a phone call day, but I’ll talk to her tomorrow. I hope her day was bright and special. When I told her that she’d be staying with her dad for longer than we originally planned, she said she was sad because she wouldn’t be coming home with me, but also happy because she gets more time with her dad. And honestly, that’s what I have wanted for her. To feel a sense of balance and comfort in the position she finds herself: a person navigating a torn-in-half world with parents who split up and who has A Lot of Opinions on a great many things, with an intelligent mind that sometimes just gets completely overloaded and ends up leading to words she can’t take back.

The adrenaline and cortisol of this week, culminating (for me) on Wednesday, means that I’m in pretty rough shape physically and I’m having trouble mentally as well; it’s like a panic attack that hasn’t arrived yet, but you can feel it coming. I hope that I can find some peace that isn’t contingent on every new thing I find out about.

january 6th journal

black lives matter


If you were on Twitter today, you may have noticed that it was a fucking nightmare for most of the afternoon and that only because they were WHITE PEOPLE they didn’t get teargassed, tasered, shot with rubber bullets, beaten with sticks, and/or any other kind of violence you’ve seen at BLM protests.


I’ve taken two doses of my rescue meds (yes, they are prescriptions and things like this are why I have them) and I am trying to be as calm as possible because it’s not like this is the end of this foolishness.

That’s my post for today SEND TWEET.

january 5th journal

dying flower

It’s Tuesday, which is phone call day, so I had a bit of phone time with my soon-to-be-twelve-year-old. And ordered her birthday gifts so that at least some of them will get there by Friday, which is when she turns twelve. TWELVE. I’m getting old!!

There’s a weird sort of disconnect I feel, not having her here — especially not for her birthday — but I know in my bones that this is best for her right now. And if I can enable her to enjoy her time no matter where she is, I think I’ve done a good job at parenting. Also, I ordered chocolate frosting to arrive on her birthday because I can’t get her a cake, but I can still give her a treat.

I listened to an audiobook all the way through earlier this afternoon — The Dispatcher by John Scalzi — and the book in the above Instagram photo is one that I finally picked up and started reading last evening. I have a nice collection of books on death, dying, and grief, since that’s part of my self-assigned homework. And yesterday I finally picked one up and opened it.

One of my friends on Facebook asked me recently (on one of the rare occasions that I’m actually posting anything there) if I had a Patreon. I used to have one, but I closed it when my Work dried up and I needed to go into hibernation so that I could deal with a lot of my grief. I don’t need to ask my friends for money to survive right now, and I recognize that as a privilege I’ve never had up until recently; but my death doula work could be supported through Patreon or something similar. There are so many underserved communities where deathwork is needed, but there’s no access to it because of cost or other factors. This is part of what I am working on understanding better, so that I know what my role should or shouldn’t be. I want to be able to serve the dying and their families no matter their circumstances, and having the resources to do so would be a huge deal.

I’m still thinking it through, to make sure I am looking at it from all angles and to be certain that I am not just asking for money for the sake of asking for money. As a wise friend of mine said to me not too long ago, if a business is only sustainable through owner capital, it’s not sustainable; and it’s worth a look into WHY a person would choose to run a business based entirely on their own ability (or not) to cover all the expenses. Because that’s not sustainable, not really.

What I need to do, really, is find an accountant who can help me think through these things from a logistics perspective. I’m pretty good at squeezing pennies and making grocery shopping my bitch, but larger amounts of money and legal frameworks for them? That is not my field of expertise. And it’s not my comfort zone, either. Anyone who’s grown up in and lived in poverty would have a difficult time dealing with more than they need to survive, and that’s where I find myself when I think about this topic. It makes me feel really uncomfortable and I’m working hard at not sticking my fingers in my ears and yelling LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU until I can manage to change the subject.

If I’m honest with myself, this is part of the reason that I’m struggling to begin to establish a death doula practice: I don’t understand how there are people that can afford a service like that, and how much money a dying person, or their family, is willing to pay in order for there to be support, comfort, hope, and maybe for some loose threads to be tied off neatly before the time comes for them to slip away. I’m not uncomfortable with death. I’m uncomfortable with capitalism, and the way it’s shaped my mind to see everything through a binary lens of how it can be commodified or not. For me, capitalism necessarily includes conflict, and I and my CPTSD try to avoid conflict whenever possible. I would rather take a burden on myself (whether I can actually carry it or not) in exchange for never having money conversations that are actually pretty normal and can happen without the horrifying awkwardness that I assume will contextualize it all.

Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk’s flight
on the empty sky

– the Creation of Ea

Ursula Le Guin, Earthsea

january 4th journal

It’s Monday, and the first day back to school after winter break. My 15-year-old’s school computer had gone completely out of battery and the school-issued modem was also completely out of power, so we put off school start until everything could charge for about a half hour.

In true form, my teenager made some really funny comments as he was doing his work; here’s my favorite from today, which I also posted on twitter:

teenager: there are ten to one hundred quadrillion ants on the planet
me: AUGH

I like to start my weeks on Mondays; Sunday, for me, is still part of the weekend and since I don’t attend any religious services on Sundays, it makes sense to me that Monday starts the week. Even though I don’t have a lot to do right now that might qualify as ‘work,’ having the structure is still helpful.

I read a tweet by @prisonculture, Mariame Kaba, (who is amazing, please follow them if possible) that pointed out that we aren’t going to fix this *waves generally at things* in 2021.

“The United States won’t have COVID under control in 2021 and the population is in no way ready for the implications.”

@prisonculture (click to see the tweet)

Based only on the fucked-up and ridiculous way the vaccines are being rolled out here, I think she is completely right about this. I don’t expect to come out of personal quarantine until probably 2022. I want my children to be safe and I want to be safe and I want the world to be at least safe enough to breathe near others that don’t live in your own house without catching the virus; but I don’t know how we can get to that place. In the meantime, I’ve come to a place of acceptance regarding all the staying-inside that needs to happen now and for the foreseeable future. This is made somewhat easier by already being introverted with chronic illnesses, but I miss things like coffee shops and how the inside of the post office smells and running errands followed by a sandwich at a nearby restaurant.

The world will not be the same post-pandemic as it was in the Before Times, and I am still mentally wrestling with what this means, even just for me as an individual. The way I learned to live my life over the past four decades can’t be how I live in my right now and in my future decades. It’s almost all new, and no matter how accustomed I am at the moment to the various safety measures we’ve taken as a household to keep ourselves safe, I know that I haven’t fully realized yet how I’m going to cope with never doing life the way I did before. It’s almost too complex to get my head around it.

It reminds me of the way I read speculative fiction (like Octavia Butler or Andre Norton) and wonder what it might feel like to be the first people on a terraformed planet and how everything that needs doing will be totally different from anything those people did before, even though they might have practiced doing all those things. It’s an uncomfortable, doubtful feeling. It feels potentially nightmarish, living in a place where you can’t breathe the air or the gravity is different or all your time needs to be taken up with getting potable water with the tech you brought with you. It scares me and I wonder how a person survives something like that. I guess you would just have to keep doing what works and stop doing what doesn’t, and hope that mistakes don’t do huge amounts of harm.


january 3rd journal

Today has been filtered through the lens of the migraine I woke up with and that is still kicking around inside my skull. I went on Twitter and got VERY INVOLVED in the Bean Dad discourse, and the screenshots of my tweet thread on it are on my Instagram and Facebook stories today because holy hell does that guy need to shut the fuck up and do a much better job as a parent.

I hear he’s great at being an anti-semitic Nazi, but I can’t prove that to you because he’s deleted his account. There are screenshots floating around, though, so if you have a Twitter account you can probably find them easily (and I’m sure it’ll be showing up on Facebook as screenshots of tweets with screenshots in them soon enough).

My main beef(s) [beeves??] with his self-congratulatory discourse on Teaching Moments and how he decided to use one to shame his daughter into trying to understand the mechanics inherent in a can opener is that he is abusing her, specifically by neglecting her physical needs (she was hungry), treating her like shit because of a power trip, and actively creating a situation and context for her to develop disordered eating. So, yeah. It made me angry.

That up there is a view from my bedroom because this migraine has kept me from doing much other than trying to be comfortable in my bed so far today. I hope I feel well enough to get out of bed after a bit, so that I can move my joints which are currently pretty sore from all the fucking sitting I’ve had to do lately. Last night I had such an intense MCAS reaction to … something, I still don’t know … that I had to take two extra of my rescue antihistamines and also use a nebulizer and after that I was sore and exhausted.

But I journaled today in my written bullet-style journal, and I’m writing here, and I took a picture of the wintry outside, and I’m not a shit parent like Bean Dad so I think overall this day has more wins than losses in it.

january 2nd journal

I don’t know about you, but two posts two days in a row is NOT NORMAL for me. I’m just going to go with it for as long as it lasts, and if/when I fall off the rotation I won’t hate myself for it.

I just posted this photo to Instagram. It’s dark in my room because it’s after 6pm and even though I have several lamps on, civil twilight was at 5:49pm here so it’s well and truly dark outside. These are my carry-with-me meds, my clean-my-face toiletries, my coffee cup, a bottle of water, and my best and most favorite lotion. In the background you can see a small stack of books that’s been there for months because I am going to “read them soon” hahaha. At least looking at them makes me feel happy.

My second youngest is spending extended parenting time at her dad’s house because … well, because pandemic. It’s not safe for her to go back and forth between houses every two weeks, not for my household or her dad’s household or for her. There’s no easy way to work in a 14-day quarantine for a person who whose life would end up being a constant quarantine sandwiched between every other weekend. My depression has spiked pretty seriously because of the decision to do this, but I have good support in my family and my attorney and I know this is the right thing to do for now.

I’ll call her in a little while for our regular twice-weekly phone call and we’ll talk about random things like what her day’s been like and whether it snowed there today and, if I’m lucky, she’ll go on a tangent and tell me everything she knows about whatever her favorite book or manga series is right now. Neither of us is very good at conversation without a topic, so I try to get on the phone with at least a couple of things I can bring up or talk about. She’ll be twelve in six days and I need to order birthday gifts and it is going to be so weird without her here this year.

Today is Twelfth Night in my tradition, and we are emerging from the dark of these past days since Yule with the hope of seeing more light. Of being more light. It’s a paradox I am still learning, that there can be both darkness and light in me. It is truly an experience of being in the shadows but constantly turning toward what illuminates, reveals, and warms.

It’s almost time, I think, for me to decide how to bring my brand-new baby steps death doula work into the world. There is so much death and so much separation from the dying, even more so than in the Before Times. I am overwhelmed by the sheer pain and need, but in the times I can think about it without being crushed by it, I know that my Work has a time and a place this year. Here’s to figuring it out as I go.

january 1st journal

Hello to the year two thousand twenty-one of the Common Era. To the possibility of safe vaccinations. To the potential of what we can do when we all march, protest, demand, hope together. To using everything I’ve learned about self-care and continuing to improve my practice of loving myself. To being a year older and hopefully a year wiser. To new ways of doing old things.

I can’t help but feel a little foolish for taking up blogging again on the first of the year. I am hopeful that this can be part of my practice, of crawling out of my shell carefully, of more mindfully engaging in the world in ways that are necessary and not for show.

I’d like to take more photos, but right now there’s not a lot of daylight and I’m usually busy taking care of myself and my household responsibilities (like managing the kids’ virtual school) during the bit of daylight we have. Also, it’s Michigan, so it’s too cold for hanging about with the curtains open all the time. AND WE AREN’T PAYING TO HEAT THE OUTDOORS.

Perhaps this time around the sun I can be kinder to myself, not so frustrated when reality doesn’t match my expectations. I’ll be going to regular teletherapy, continuing to knit the first blanket I’m making for myself, browsing small person clothing on the Target website (it’s so much fun to dress a tiny person!!), staying under my bedcovers when I want to, managing the household projects I’ve taken on, and — this is important — increase my belief that naps are a good idea.

fall on me

Sooner or later the lights up above
Will come down in circles and guide me to love
I don’t know what’s right for me
I cannot see straight
I’ve been here too long and I don’t wanna wait for it

Fly like a cannonball straight to my soul
Tear me to pieces and make me feel whole
I’m willing to fight for it
To feel something new
To know what it’s like to be sharing a space with you

Fall on me
With open arms
Fall on me
From where you are
Fall on me
With all your light

lyiric selection from Fall on Me, performed by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera

After my very old-man chair nap this evening, I had the thought that it’s getting to be about time to start doing the Work again, the Work that is for me to do, within the framework of the business that I set down in March and haven’t picked up since; and to change that framework so that it fits what’s needed right now.

It might be that this is a fleeting idea, one that will be forgotten later. It may be a passing thought caused by my bone-deep need to be of service, even though I’ve been running on empty for a long time and am only just beginning to have days that don’t feel completely hopeless.

But since taking a death doula class, and feeling that the light is about to feel dimmer out there since the darkness is gathering itself to spread out and blot it out, I have a weirdly strong belief that there will be ways that we can get through this. They might not be perfect, they might not be what we wanted or planned for, and they might hurt a lot. But there are ways. And if I can stand and hold a candle in the darkness, shielding it from the wind and rain and the dark, for you because you matter — even if it is only for you — then I will.

Hope in the dark might be the only thing I can try to provide. I’ll fall down and I’ll still have days where everything seems desperately awful, but the Light burns within me and I will share it where I can.