A Conversation With Death: Vignetted.

I wrote this to answer a question on Quora. I enjoyed writing it so much that I needed to include it in my blog. The original can be found here. Enjoy.

~*~*~


“So, what will it be this time, love?”

I sigh. “This is a predicament.”

“You knew the whole time, love, somewhere inside you. If you think of it now, you know it’s true. It is all here for you. You chose to not look. You always do.”

My fingers rest on the edge of the tea cup in front of me as I stare out the window. I am absorbing what they just said, and it is taking me a minute.

I chose not to see, they said.

The sky has changed colour two hundred and sixty three times since I’ve been sitting here. I have been counting them without even thinking about it, a roll call of shades. Azure, fuchsia, eggplant, rose, coral, marigold, chartreuse, forest, deepening to an inky black before lightening back to a turquoise, garnet, slate, fire…

When did the sky start changing colours? I seemed to recall it only being variations of one shade, at one point in time.

There is a shift in the air that suggests a door opening or closing in the near vicinity, but I can’t take my eyes off the changing sky to see where the door is, or if anyone else has entered this place. I might lose count.

I get the sense that they are sitting with me, at this antique, gnarled-looking table. Every time I glance over to where the oversized chair is opposite me, competing in age with the table between us, they fade around the edges so I cannot quite make out their identifiable features so I know what I am looking at. I know there is someone there, though. It is like my eyes will not focus enough on them to really see them.

I can feel them, though. I can feel their breath on my hand, resting on the table next to the tea cup, where my other hand’s fingers play with the edges. I feel tiny prickles on my skin. It doesn’t hurt, it just feels mildly tingly. I want to move away from it, but also toward it. I can feel something graze me periodically, brushing my cheek, the back of my neck, the edge of my elbow, curl around my ankle, like a wisp of air that has lost it’s way from the rest of a wind.

How long have I been sitting here, sipping earl grey out of this beautiful china? The cup was large enough for a good sized cup of tea, but felt feathery fragile in my hands. It has a beautiful pattern on the sides of it that moves a little so the details are hard to focus on, kind of like them. It provoked me to touch the edges of it, making sure I was caring for it while holding it and drinking for it; showing it affection, even.

I don’t actually know if a minute has passed. It could have been an hour, or maybe a year. I could have been sitting here with my index finger tracing the edge of a china cup for a decade. Maybe it’s been millennia.

I chose not to see, they said.

The cushion on the matching chair under me is soft. My hips don’t hurt at all. Usually, if I’ve been sitting in the same position for a while, my right hip starts to protest a little. Now that I’m thinking about my physicality, I take note of the fact that my hip isn’t hurting. I uncross my legs, resetting my posture, and cross them the other way. My right foot curls around the back of my opposite calf, the muscles of my legs tightening against each other.

I remember reading somewhere that if you cross your legs too much, the veins on them struggle and become visible, creating spiderweb designs on thighs that a lot of women crinkle their noses at the prospects of having. I can’t remember not having those tiny visible blue lines here and there on my legs, or if they started appearing at a point, or if they’ve always been.

Maybe I’ve always been sitting here.

“If I chose to see, what would happen if I looked? How many times have there been, can you tell me that, at least?” I asked.

“You always choose blindness. You’re all the same, when it comes to that. You look away.”

“Everyone?”

“Well, not everyone. Most.”

“Okay. What now, then?”

“Now, you get to choose to look and never go back, or leave me.”

“But, I’m not done with living. I’m not ready.”

“I know, love. I didn’t expect this one, of them all, to change your mind.”

“It was pretty good, this time.”

“You say that every time, love.”

“This one seemed particularly good.”

“How do you know? Do you remember the others?”

I thought about this for another two hundred years, at least.

“No. I dream about them, though. I have seen glimpses of others in my dreams. Tiny vignettes into the rest, and the vignettes fade very quickly upon waking. They feel subliminal in my unconsciousness, like interlopers.”

“You can see them all if you look, but that means you will not go back again.”

Tears were standing in my eyes.

“You cry every time, too, love.”

“I just, I cannot imagine not going back. There’s too much to do, and see. Have you been there lately? It’s beautiful.”

“You do not have any idea how many times those words have passed over your perfect lips, love. I know. You tell me all about your time, every one.”

My hand suddenly tightens around the tea cup, crushing it. The cup was so delicate that it turned into dust in my palm.

“I have to go back.”

“I know you do, love. I’ll be here, waiting, when you’re done. We will see each other again, and you can decide that time if you are ready to look.”

“I’m sorry.” Why am I apologizing to Death? I feel remorse, suddenly, for abandoning them. “Will you be sad if I go?”

“Oh, no. I can wait. I have been waiting for you forever, and will continue to do so.”

“That’s sweet.” I squint at them, trying to see who I am speaking with. They are familiar, and alien, all at once. They look like no one, and every single being I have every laid eyes on. “You’ve been with me the whole time, yes? Thank you. I appreciate your patience with my leaving, and your being here when I come back.”

“How can you say that? You never remember the other times.”

“… I suppose that’s true. I will miss you.” I know this is an empty statement, because according to them, I don’t remember each time I am here. That must be infuriating, I thought for a moment, and then I remember that Death has to be the most patient, and can only keep me when I want to be kept.

“I appreciate the sentiment.”

“I feel compelled to go, though.”

“I know, love. Go. I can wait.”

“You’re perfect.”

I could not see the expression on Death’s face, but I want to say they were smiling.

“You have no idea.”

~*~*~

What I Mean When I Say Toxic Non-Monogamy Culture.

This piece is in response to a short list of aspects of monogamous relationships that can be toxic (link is dead, I will try to find it again).  Some of these are mirrors of the points in the list of toxic monogamy cultural norms, and some of them are very different. All of this is in my opinion, and probably has a philosophically anarchistic slant to them. They are accompanied by commentary on why the idea in question is toxic. Enjoy.

What I Mean When I Say Toxic Non-Monogamy Culture

~Jealousy is an indicator of the wrong-doing of the partner of the person feeling jealous

Jealousy is a word often used in non-monogamous discourse as a weapon. It is accusatory, as well as it is shamed. I think jealousy can be a catch-all term for bad feelings we have related to the other relationships close people to us are in, and starts within ourselves as a marker for things we need to think about regarding our personal development and that of our relationship integrity.

~A sufficiently intense love is enough to overcome any practical disagreements over needs, insecurities or other relationships

This is a fallacy. Sometimes, people are incompatible and that just becomes more and more likely the more people are added to the equation. Unless everyone has their shit together, it’s not going to function in a way that supports everyone involved, let alone manage to squeak by without anyone getting really steamrolled.

~Relationships are for getting your needs met, so if you aren’t getting a need met in one relationship, another with whomever will do

People are not need-fulfillment pegs to shove into the holes in your heart, y’all. Trying to find people with your specific “need” (let’s face it, we’re talking about wants) in mind first is not paying homage to the dynamism of human beings.

~Love is limitless, which means that you can have as many relationships as you want

Time is limited, and so is energy. While it is prudent, always, to consider whether the amount of time you have to offer someone lines up with the amount that they would like to have with you, it is also advisable to take a look at the assumption that time spent in each other’s physical company is the be-all-end-all demonstration of care.

~Commitment assumes exclusivity of aspects of relationships

Commitment is in the agreements, not the exclusivity. It is also a bit of a fallacy, as people’s minds can change about what they want to be doing, and then weigh the value of the relationship agreement against the desired change at any time, and it serves us to foster safe renegotiation in order to promote autonomy in our relationships.

~Marriage and children limit how non-monogamous someone is, or what they have available to other people

While children become a top priority in the lives of parents, this does not negate or cancel out the importance of their relationships to them, and how they engage with the people they care about. It can mean some finagling of schedules, but that can be easily managed when everyone is understanding and accepting of children’s needs being of high importance.

~Your insecurities are your partner’s responsibility to tip-toe around and never your responsibility to work on

This is precisely in conflict with why lots of people choose non-monogamy for their lives: the challenge, the growth, and the stretching capacity of their hearts and minds. Without a careful examination of self-motives and self-governance, non-monogamous relationships will crash and burn more often than not. Ignorance of self-work is a disservice to yourself, and to the people you care about. Asking for help with self-work is great, but it is still ultimately your responsibility.

~Your value to a partner is directly proportional to the amount of time and energy they spend on you, and it is in zero-sum competition with everything else they value in life

As previously mentioned, it is also advisable to take a look at the assumption that time spent in each other’s physical company is the be-all-end-all demonstration of care. This is simply not always true, and can be a showstopper if an inherent need for time, or lack thereof, is mismatched. There are lots of different ways to show care, but they need to be negotiated and desirable for all parties involved.

~Being of value to a partner should always make up a large chunk of how you value yourself

This one has been a trip-wire for me for years, and I am happy to say that I may finally be getting out of some very self-destructive habits around how much my friends and partners experience of me shapes my reality about who I am. While constructively critical feedback from loved ones is a help to anyone’s personal growth, boundaries around how another person defines your behaviour, and how your inherent character can be separate from their perceptions of your behaviour, is so important for self-sustainability.

Dear Chelsey: A Letter to My Previous Self.

Dear Chelsey,

Hello. I know, I’m surprised too. We have read lots of time-travel lo-fantasy, and we always wondered what we would be like when we were older.

Here I am. We made it this far, and we’re aging okay, despite our best efforts to self-destruct. Lucky us. It is a good thing we’ve eaten pretty well over the years, even with all the other toxicity we’ve subjected ourselves to. Hopefully we quit smoking soon enough, and have curbed our inebriation choices to a livable frequency and quantity. I’ll get back on that yoga train soon, I promise. This winter was really tough on us, so we’re being gentle and introducing a self-care regimen slowly.

I am pleased to be able to offer you some insight. I hate to say it, because this may come across as “I’m so glad I’m not you”. But I’m really glad that I am not even a moment younger than I currently am, and look forward to being older and having more experiences to draw from. They really knew what they were talking about when they said, “wait until you’re older”, or “listen to your elders”, or whatever other anecdotal advice some older person tried to give you over the years that you probably took with a grain of salt. Salt is a very important grain to take, but it helps to listen too, and we didn’t know that then, as most younger people overlook. We’re getting a better grip now, thankfully, and finally. It is so hard to listen to advice when we’re young and wilful.

We are going to be thirty-five this year, if you can believe it. That’s a third of a lifetime, done. Half, if we’re feeling not as optimistic. I tend to lean on the optimism end of the spectrum, or I try.

You’ve been through a lot, already, haven’t you? I’m pretty sure you were reeling from the things you had been through by the age of twelve, let alone where I am at thirty-four. I assure you, at each of the junctures I am going to acknowledge you at, you were tired. I think we’ve probably been tired our whole lives, and because we didn’t know any different, we just kept plugging along, kept trying, kept telling ourselves we were lucky it wasn’t worse. Now, I have learned about things like trauma-bonding, codependency, and how bad the things you have been through were. We used to talk ourselves out of that. We laugh when we’re nervous, and when we’re scared, because we want it to not be as bad as it is, or are trying to make light of our own struggle.

We gaslit ourselves for years because that was the way others taught us to treat ourselves by treating us as such. We know better now, but slip up from time to time and try not to be too hard on ourselves when we do.

It’s okay that the things that happened to us were bad, even if they weren’t as bad as some of the other things other people have suffered. It’s okay to have been hurt, and to have been unlucky in some cases, and to feel that. We are lucky in a lot of ways and have a lot of privileges, but those do not mitigate the hurt we have been subject to, and glossing over those hurts isn’t helping you move through them, so let’s stop that together, okay?

I’m going to go over some things that have happened, and are going to happen to you, and what I think would have helped you if I had known these things when they happened to me. I will refer to your age at the time of the event, or the instance, so we can keep straight what we’re talking about. That should help this be less confusing.

There may be an overarching theme to the information I am going to give you, but we will see if that emerges while I compile this letter. Who knows, this might even narrow down to one succinct piece of advice.

Let’s start early.

When the girls in your early elementary classes are not being kind to you, don’t worry about it. You’re a curious, communicative, amicable being; you want to talk to everyone, and have done since you gained the ability to speak. Your parents let you run wild at parties and other social spaces, and you made friends with everyone. This is not the way school is going to work for you, and it’s not really anyone’s fault. A bunch of kids are mashed together, coming from differences they don’t understand yet, and they can be mean, unfortunately. These girls are only going to be around you for a couple more years, and then you will find different friends that are nicer and much more supportive. They are probably just trying to work out if they have any power, just like you. There are differences between you and them that have to do with things you don’t understand yet, like class privilege. It doesn’t feel okay at the time; the rejection is palpable, and what you don’t yet understand is that you fall in love with girls. Their disinterest is more hurt-filled than you, or they, understand, because all the Disney movies show girls falling in love with boys. Try not to let this silence you. Keep being yourself, and don’t change so they like you. They are not going to like you anyway if they don’t want to, and they are not a representative set of how women can be in your life. Further, stand with the people those girls are mean to besides yourself. Those are your allies, and you will remember them until you’re me.

Your dad is going to go away for a little bit and you’re going to have to move house when you’re still quite young, at seven. It is not your fault, even though your words were an integral part of how this came to pass so suddenly. This is for the best, and he is just doing what he needs to do to be happy. He will be an amazing father because he is a happy man. He met his soulmate; she is going to be a wonderful support system for you later, so trust him. He will be back, and he will be a really solid parent for you, as will she. They will mitigate a lot of the damage done to you by others in your childhood life, and set you up with some of the skills you will need to navigate hardship. Through this, and through their examples of survival, you will learn profound resilience.

Your mum getting sick, diagnosed when you’re ten, is going to impact a lot of things in your life. She doesn’t mean to be angry at everything all the time. She can’t really help it. She wasn’t socialized to be able to deal with how angry she is at her circumstances very well, and is very resentful of how, now, she must rely on others to take care of her quite a lot. The betrayal she feels by your dad is going to go on for a long time, because it’s a tangible thing to blame. Try not to take that personally, or feel the need to defend him. It will just turn her anger on you, and that’s not really all that helpful. She sees him in you, and can’t not see him when she’s really mad. She mixes this up with all her anger about her illness, and it just compounds and fills her with vitriol. She has been dealt a hard hand, and can’t help but lash out at the closest people: her children. She can’t handle the injustice of it all, at times. Her body is failing her and she’s livid about it, but that doesn’t mean she gets to treat you badly.

You can leave, and you will. When you are ready.

Speaking of Mum, she is going to betray you.

Be ready, my dear. This is going to shape parts of your character, and be a shadow within your personality for the rest of your life.

This thing that is going to happen is going to shape a lot of how you engage with people, unfortunately. Let it wash over you; she is not the way all women are. Try not to let that betrayal shape your perspective of women in general, because you will have strong, supportive ones in your life much later, and you will love them very deeply, as they will you. Trust them, even though the first one to influence you was not trustworthy, as it turned out. I know it will be hard, because the imprinting that occurred with this betrayal is going to be a mountain to overcome, but you can do it. Women will be some of the greatest loves of your life, so start climbing that mountain. It will be so worth it.

Now, let us talk about your relationships with men.

Your first sexual experience with a male person should have been much, much later than it was. It’s not your fault; he’s a broken human, and he didn’t know not to touch children, for some reason.

Oh honey, I’m so, so sorry.

You need to be tough, and at the first sign that he may touch you, scream and tell someone immediately. He will start with just an escalation of affection, which feels really weird but you’re eleven, so you don’t know how to process it.

Stop him.

It will get worse, and he will keep going, keep touching you, escalate the sexual nature of the contact until you stop him. This is horrifically unfair, because you are eleven and no child should have to learn how to fight a grown man’s sexual advances off of them at that age, but you will have to fight him off. You will have to snap him out of the drunken haze that has allowed him to think this is acceptable. Tell people who are safe, and you will know who is safe deep in your heart, until someone listens and helps you. Don’t listen to your mum this time; don’t let her silence you. She is internalizing the responsibility of his actions, and she’s afraid of him, and what he will do if she tries to get him to leave. She doesn’t know how to get him to leave, or if she would be okay if he left, so she acts out of fear and tries to shove what happened down and away, tries to make it disappear.

She demands of you that same burial. She demands that you forget it happened, and ignore it.

Don’t erase yourself.

Tell your friends’ mums, or your dad and stepmum, or both. Just don’t be quiet. The silence will eat away at your soul worse than the impact of the assault itself. It will erode your personality, change you permanently, though not irreparably, but that will take years. I know; four years of quiet almost kills you until you are not quiet anymore, and you find support and retribution. You are so brave, and that bravery saves your life, even if you didn’t realize it at the time.

She does not understand what the silence, the suppression, and the lack of advocation by her, for you, is going to do to you. Years later, she will say so. She will not verbalize any understanding of what happened for you before she dies. Your peace with her will have to be made within yourself, without her.

Yeah, I know. This world is like, really fucked up sometimes.

Go to counselling. Even when you think you feel better, keep going. The days you think to yourself “I think I’m okay today. I wonder what there is to talk about?” will be the best sessions. Those sessions really get into your emotional process, and what you need to be healthy and safe. Keep going.

When your “friend” offers you that bag of drugs in trade for a money loan, think about what you are doing. This decision will evaporate a year of your life, at least, and turn you into someone you don’t recognize. Those particular drugs are the sort that erode a part of you that determines morality. You need that part, so stop using as soon as you can. You will come out of it okay when you’re ready, and you have the strength to overcome this particular bout of addiction, as you will overcome many, but your dad will age about twenty years watching you do this and he really needs that lifetime bandwidth.

When that charming boy you met in a drug-fuelled, or alcohol-fuelled, haze wants you to go to that party with him, or that bar, or his house in that cab, consider your options. Please, don’t listen to him. He doesn’t care enough about you and he will show it time and time again with his actions. Watch him, don’t listen to his words, and believe what you know in your heart to be true about him from watching his actions. He doesn’t see you. You are merely a shade, subtle, in his hero story. This is not good enough.

This particular piece of advice was offered without age or timeline, because it happens so many times, I cannot count them all.

Your dad is amazing. This means you trust men to support you emotionally and take care of you when you are too wrecked to take care of yourself, and they will not meet that bar more than most of the time. Approaching your relationships with men with some skepticism as to their ability to meet you where you are at is very prudent, and you will be alright regardless. You will survive them all, and you will leave them all on your own volition, because you should and you will know when to get out. They aren’t good enough. Whether they become such later is irrelevant, because the damage they are doing to you in their negligence is not worth it.

In fact, This is a key tenet to be mindful of: watch what people do. Don’t listen to what they say all the time. They will tell you stories with their actions, and those are so much truer than the words they say. Watch for the people who do exactly what they say, and keep those close to you.

Have sex with men if you want to, but be sure to check in with yourself and confirm that you actually want to. Do it for you, not because they want you to, or you think they will like you more if you do. They won’t. They’re taking your life-force from you if you’re not into it, and you need that to survive. You could be reliving past trauma by engaging in sexual situations you don’t one hundred percent want to be doing, and that’s hurting you more than you know. You are sensitive, particularly about sexual things, as a result of your history. Stay on top of using protection, and if they have a problem with that, leave. You will get lucky, but there’s no such thing as too cautious. This will fail once, and particularly devastatingly, but again, you are lucky: you live in a country that has legal and safe abortion access. You catch it early, and it is like it never happened.

Your body needs to carry you through your life; treat it with reverence.

It will take you until the time of this letter being written by me, by future you, for you to realize the trauma you have subjected yourself to by having sex with people you aren’t completely into. This will happen over and over again for years. You will have lots of great sex; you will be very into a lot of the people you are intimate with, but there will be as many, if not more people that you’re not. You are a sex-positive person, and this will conflate with your desire, which will lead to a lot of situations that are more “I guess, because I should be into this” than “fuck yes”. “I guess” isn’t consent. The people you were having sex with should have known based on your body language, your intoxication, your hesitancy prior to their coercion, but they went ahead with it anyway. That’s on them, so don’t beat yourself up about this. You are responsible for yourself, but you are also only fifty percent responsible for the interactions you have with others. You are also a conventionally attractive woman, so people are going to chase you. Your boundaries have been historically shaky, so it’s no wonder that sometimes, particularly manipulative and toxic people get in close with you. You get better and better at dealing with this every single day, and I am hopeful that I will continue into the future to get even better.

Here is something very important about that, something that I wish I had known so much sooner than ago:

People getting close to you and your not seeing their negative impact on you until it’s too late is absolutely not your fault.

How other people push you, push your soft spots to see where the weaknesses are, how they covertly cross boundaries in order to get what they want, how they don’t check in, how they take what they can extract from you, how they steamroll over you: that is entirely on them.

People who prioritize egalitarianism, and who care about you, will not do this to you.

You’re not going to find your people until you are in your thirties. Your social nature, the way you easily get close to people and the way you are always growing and changing will lead to you cycling through a lot of social circles through your teens, twenties, and beyond. You will manage to keep a few people for the duration of those years, but most of them will come and go. In your mid-thirties, you will still see some churn, but there will be a core network that challenges you, and nourishes you. The people who are close then will value everything you are, and you won’t have to change or try to muffle any aspect of yourself with them. You will be valued for your headstrong, intense nature and the depth and ease with how you feel. Let that shine, and they’ll be able to see you in the dark. The people who want to take advantage of you will not even try anymore because you will terrify them. They will back away from your fire, as well they should, because you will incinerate them if they get too close. Too often over the course of your life you have been made small and quiet by others, and not only was that an assault on your state of being and your psyche, it was unjust.

You are valuable, and so are your thoughts and feelings.

A thread seems to have emerged, as we both suspected it might. Alongside that of “watch what people do, and see if it lines up with the words they say”, the other is “don’t let people silence you”.

Don’t snuff yourself out your fire. Do not be quiet. Deafen them all with the sound of your voice. Do it to protect yourself and to support people who are struggling in your community.

Be as emphatic as you love, with all of your heart.

Much love to you,

Chelsey

On Marriage: A Non-Possessive Ceremony.

My longer-term partner (recently to include nesting) and I decided to elope. We have been connected to each other for almost four years, and moved in together in October. Upon the finalization of her separation from the person she had been living with prior, we simply didn’t see that there was anything else to do but whisk our parents away to a pretty notorious-for-elopements resort in a beautiful area on Vancouver Island, and “make it official”. We bought cute black outfits, I did both our hair, and we got married on a bluff overlooking the Pacific ocean on a beautiful and much to my dismay, rain-free, day.

Now, when I say “make it official”, I mean we decided to formally acknowledge, with both of our parents there to witness, that we intended to do our lives in parallel for the foreseeable future, and hopefully until we’re old people. There are perks to being married legally, like access to health benefits, but there is also a pretty indisputable sense of intention. I am interested to see how our conflict resolution goes down the tubes and is subsequently rebuilt in the next year or so, because I think we both have a sense of permanence in each other’s lives, but now more-so. We might speak a little sharper or more freely now that our pesky abandonment issues are checked a little.

Before looking at the practical benefits, though, we chose to do this in a legal sense because of politics. We are both queer people, have had every opportunity to blend into heteronormative privilege, and have done so previously. We are both very tired of that and the erasure that comes along with it. We also love each other a great deal and intend to be old ladies together. With that in mind, we felt pretty okay about making this move toward an bureaucratic commitment. It means we get to occupy the marriage institution as visible queer people, which we both think is pretty important. We have a lot of issues with erasure as bisexual people, both presenting as relatively femme, and would rather be erased into lesbianism than straightness, since it seems we are forced to choose. Hopefully with more people talking about this openly, there will be less erasure.

I lean more toward relationship anarchy because I actively politicize my relationship choices. My partner isn’t into choosing a label for her leanings. Needless to say, we’re both extremely non-monogamous. We prioritize each other’s agency over our garbage bad feelings, and are good communicators. We always want to be supportive of each other’s relationships, and strive for that first. We talk about hierarchies. We know that in choosing to marry each other, we are presenting as supportive of a structural hierarchy within our personal relationships where each other is at the top of the pyramid. This is not a structure we wish to perpetuate if one or both of us wants to introduce others as significant to us. We think a lot about this, and hope that other people we care about are aware that they are as important, or can be. If she decided to go live with someone else for a while, I would accept that. I don’t think we would separate our union. I think she would just go do that for a while, maybe forever if she likes it, and we would still be very important to each other and supportive of each other. Since we don’t intend to have children, this is pretty much the only thing that shows up as something we don’t currently have immediately available to other partners: cohabitation. That being said, I would argue that has as much to do with the insane state of Vancouver’s housing market as it does with the fact that our roommate is amazing and we both love living with her, as it does with the fact that we love living together.

So, with all that said, I have included here our ceremony. I wrote most of it, under my partner’s watchful eye, and I think it is good if you are looking to shed some of the possessive wording that usually comes with standard marriage ceremonies. We included some language stemming from Buddhism (my partner practices). I drew inspiration for the ring exchange from the meaning behind why engineers wear an iron ring. The wikipedia about that can be found here. I hope it is helpful to anyone who is struggling to find some bare-bones suggestions of a starting point in writing their own ceremony.

~*~*~

Commissioner: Welcome Everyone. We have gathered here today to rejoice and celebrate the love and commitment two people exhibit; *name* and *name* have decided to choose a path together, to share in some of life’s incredible moments, and to assist in making each other’s dreams, realities.

Before going further, I wish to acknowledge the ancestral, traditional and unceded Aboriginal territories of the *insert first nations band specifications for your region*, and in particular, the *insert specific band name* on whose territory we stand.

This marriage is being created through equality, mutual respect, and love. *name* and *name* bring with them the experiences which drew them together, and their dedication to their personal growth. They bring the intentions of their hearts as a treasure to be shared, and they bring with them the ability to view the world, themselves, and each other with patience, liberty, and a loving sense of humour.

Legally required wording to be married, repeated after the commissioner by both parties:

I solemnly swear that I know of no lawful reason why I, *name* should not be joined in marriage to *name*, and I ask those present to witness as I take them r to be my lawfully wedded wife/husband/person.

Commissioner: Will you please turn to face each other as you share your vows.

*VOWS* (We wrote our own, and it was very nice. We spoke about what we were going to do to support each other and defend each other’s agency, Our eyes managed to stay relatively dry.)

Commissioner: Rings, please. Your wedding rings are a symbol of your intentions toward one another. There is three of them to remind you that your selves, each other, and your connection are all of importance to both of you. Let these rings always remind you both that you are choosing every day to be part of something you both care deeply about: understanding that just as we are a mystery to ourselves, each other person is also a mystery to us. These rings symbolize a pledge to be curious, to seek to understand yourselves, each other, and all living beings, to examine your own minds continually and to regard all the mysteries of life with curiosity and joy.

You can each repeat after me, and place the rings on each other’s hands as you do:

“I am giving you this ring as a reminder of the ethics we are associating with our relationship: that we are committed to supporting and engineering what each of us wants, together and as individuals. We are architects.”

*time taken for signing things*

You may now kiss, if you want to. Congratulations.

~*~*~

On Depression, and Grieving.

When my alarm goes off in the morning, I’m stunned. I wonder if I even slept. I must have, because I remember the dreams. I remember imagery representing conflict and struggle, my subconscious throwing uncomfortable situations I cannot escape from and spectres of real people that my brain has made up for me to confront, or wrangle myself away from. I dream of emotional violence, and physical transgressions: subtly escalating conundrums that I allow to unfold until I can’t anymore because they’re too fucked up and I can’t tolerate them. I have to get out. I wake when I reach the point of needing to get out. My voice doesn’t exist in these dreams. It is when I say “no”, or scream, or throw a flurry of protesting language about what is happening to me that I awaken.

I never get to say my piece.

Getting out of bed every day is like trying to chip away at cement that holds me in place, under the pile of blankets. I lay in bed for as long as I possibly can without being late, letting my alarm go off repeatedly, and usually end up late anyway as a result of staring in the mirror or standing in the shower thinking too long.

I suppose I’ll shower. I can’t remember whether I’m supposed to wash my hair today or tomorrow, so I’ll do it now I guess. Putting on some eyeliner is a good idea, right? Maybe it will help me not look so tired. Or look like I tried.

Eating is work, but I get hungry so I do it. I better drink a coffee so I don’t get a headache later, but if I don’t it doesn’t really matter. Headaches are fine. I try to drink as much water as I can over the course of the day, because I think maybe that is helpful, I don’t know. I rely on a routine to tell me whether I’ve taken care of myself or not; a mental check-list of the things I seem to remember wanting to do every day to help me function.

I go to do whatever i’m supposed to be doing, working or some other thing, putting one foot in front of the other because that’s how walking happens, and that’s how I get there. I think while I walk; I try to convince myself that I can get through the day, as a kind of mantra as I pick my way through busier areas littered with pedestrians or quieter side streets. When I interact with strangers, I try to plaster a smile on my face that is, by some feat of inner strength, is reaching my eyes. I succeed sometimes, and know I do when people don’t ask if I’m okay.

I don’t want to answer them. I’m bad at lying.

I try to make sure I don’t cancel too many of my plans to see friends, because I know I need to be with people socially in order to get energy. I seem to remember that working, before.

Making keystrokes is like moving through mud, my fingers struggling to form the words across my laptop screen. The swirling thoughts in my head have to go somewhere else, though. The list of unwritten projects has grown to the point where I may never run out of ideas.

I experience relief that I love to write, because if every one of these thoughts had to stay inside my head, I might die.

Sometimes I wish I could draw. The things that spring into existence in my head might better be served with a physical representation, but I, for whatever reason, haven’t put time into learning how to accurately represent imagery. Words do okay, though. They have to.

If I could draw what the last several months has been like, I would draw a vast post-apocalyptic wasteland. The sun barely cuts through the smog, casting a red-brown hue on every shape, forming elongated shadows across barren terrain dotted with structural ruin. Dumpster fires, piles of garbage, abandoned shells of what used to be homes and gardens. The land here is scorched from some sort of war. Burnt soil, scattered with large burlap sacks full of salt to make sure that once the earth has stopped burning, there’s salt to put down.

Nothing grows here. The salt is to make sure of it.

I’m sitting on a pile of broken bricks in the middle of all this wreckage. My hair is thin, falling out, the pieces of it that hit the ground turn into ashes. My fingers are stained with soot from sifting around the dirt to try to put out the fires. My nails are cracking. My shoulders are hunched over, a bit shaky. It’s hard to sit up straight when there’s nothing inside me to hold my form up. The colour has escaped my eyes, and in them is nothing. Vacancy. I’ve lost the ability to look up; I have the sense that if I could just look at the horizon, I might see something that feels like light or hope. My neck simply won’t allow my eyes to lift enough to look. I’m staring down at the ground in front of me, at my own hands, barely able to keep my eyes from squinting shut and just not looking at anything at all but the blackness on the inside of my eyelids. I smell burning. Rubber, paper, oil, all the burning smells are on the air like a chorus of voices. Breathing is shallow and laboured. I can see wisps of my tiny little breaths curl out of my nose with my exhales after i’ve taken a tiny little breath, off the edges of my lips. The tendrils of air disappear quickly, barely real. I cannot even tell if I still need to breathe. Do my lungs want to? Do I need oxygen? Is there any? It is very cold here, which is unexpected because there are fires everywhere.

Everything is burning.

Get the salt ready.

My fingers are curled around a small spade, and there’s a bag of salt sitting next to me. My hands vibrate from the strain as I shove my little tool into the sack, barely able to lift and shake the salt on the ground around me. I haven’t cried about any of it of weeks, which is surprising because normally i’m quite prone to tears. I blink, and somehow a few more of my tears collect in the waterline, waiting to go in the bag of salt, with the rest of them.

Those were the last ones. They are all gone. I’ve been crying into bags and sitting here, waiting for the tears to turn into the salt that I’ve been spreading around, making sure nothing grows anymore.

Off on the horizon is the monster that Ruined Everything. It is a projection, a shade. I can’t see what it looks like, only that the whole place looks like this because of it. I can feel it; It is angry at me for letting it exist. It is laughing at me for allowing it to do such a phenomenal job of destroying everything. It can’t believe I’ve allowed this to happen, and at the same time, it is shaming me because of course I did.

It knew I would.

I can feel its smoke-like claws rest on the back of my neck, scratching around the edges of my throat. If I move, it pokes me a little. Somehow it is far in the distance breaking things, but also right here, on me, making sure I don’t fight.

It is my worst enemy, my bully, my critic, my oppressor, the shackles that hold me down and back. It hates everything I do; It tells me I’m bad at writing, that I shouldn’t bother, no one cares. It tells me I will lose everything I’ve worked towards because I deserve to, and because I’m a failure. I’m not good enough. It promises me that soon, my business will fail because I’m not that good at my job anyway. It tells me the people that love me will soon see what’s wrong with me, and leave. It tells me that people who don’t meet me where I’m at are better off, and I’’m to be blamed for that. It tells me I’m not worth it. It whispers terrible judgements and accusations about my heart, my priorities, my intelligence, my appearance, my intentions, and as I write these words down It is chastising me, asking me what the point of writing this is. It’s asking me why I think anyone would ever want to read it. It scoffs at my attempts at catharsis, at relief. It tells me I am wasting my time if I think any of this will do any good, or serve anyone, including me.

It’s me.

The shade is me; it speaks to me the way I speak to myself.

I am familiar with it; my brain, for the purpose of this description, assumes it’s a part of me. I am, after all, creating this reality with every keystroke. The letters form the words that spring this projection into existence. I’m choosing them, and choosing the perspective.

Everything is different from what it was six months ago. I have a new house with new cohabitants, I have new plans, new projects. I am curating spaces that are important to me. I have welcomed some people closer to my heart, and distanced myself from others. I have seen beautiful art, eaten delicious food, drank a fair amount of scotch. I laughed about things, cried about them, made jokes, enjoyed company, argued, discussed, worked, played, slept, had amazing sex, fallen in love, fallen further in love anew, stood up for myself, stood up for things that I think are important, been devastated at the world news, marched, supported people, received support. I have felt treasured, betrayed, advocated for, totally abandoned, understood, judged, free, trapped, heard, ignored, appreciated, taken for granted, seen, underestimated, humanized and objectified.

I have felt profound, passionate, soul-shattering love.

The representation of time during which amazing things have happened as dystopian, in this case, is the shade. It has to be. I can’t be the shadow of myself as I feel I have become.

I have to still be in here.

There is something resting on my neck, though. It has one talon-like set of fingers grazing me, sharp some moments and fading away into whispers the next. The other is wrapped tightly around my heart.