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 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 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.

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.