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Going Ahead... Left Behind

"This one goes out to the one I love..this one goes out to the one:I left: behind"
~REM

My favorite place on earth is the beach. I have lived near the ocean much of my life and longed for it the rest. When I was thirteen we move inland to Atlanta Georgia. If culture shock had a face it would have be mine at thirteen when we moved to Atlanta from Santa Monica.

Moving to this quintessential Southern American city from the cool hip-haven of endless-summer in the mid-seventies, created a ripping shift in my psyche and it changed me as a person and as a woman, forever. In leaving Santa Monica I left everything I knew and loved. That included my eldest sister and my older brother. Had I known I would never see my brother again, I would have paid more attention to all I was leaving behind.

I remember thinking moving would be cool and somehow, an adventure. We moved to Atlanta in the middle of hurricane Agnes. It lasted a month, in it's wake came an abundance of thunder, lightning and hail. (Never had no hail in SaMo!)
And that very winter we had a weeklong ice storm that left us with no electricity for six days. I remember after our icy imprisonment had thawed our neighbors took us to see "The Poseidon Adventure." (in sense-a-round!)

I had a hard time in school in the South. People used and defended using the "N" word. I was always taught the "N" word was worse than the "F" word. The seventh grade English teacher defended it as "custom". Kids made fun of me in my Vans tennis shoes, lack of makeup and simple hair. There is a saying in the south," the higher the hair the closer to God:and sister this hair is prayin!" (Ok I got that from a drag queen not an seventh grader:but it fits!)

Eighteen months into this already life altering journey, the unthinkable happened. Heartbreak beyond words or measure. Hell on earth. Pain, such deep slicing, plunging pain. The one thing every parent dreads and the Catholic Church condemns. The thing no one is equipped to deal with in any sort of rational manner. When this ship leaves port it takes hostages. As Catholics we are taught," there is no heaven for this "mortal" sin and the soul is banished: forever." We are, by Canon law prescribed, not to mark the grave or honor the dead for a suicide. I still hate guns. It is not from fear it is from pure anger!

When I was born and came home from the hospital my brother Steve took me from my Grandma Lucille and said, "I'll take care of this one." He was eleven when I was born and when Steven said a thing he meant it. He was devoted to me as my sole protector, but he had an "edge". He had a temper. To be honest I cannot imagine a man alive that would not have a temper around my Mother and my sisters. Everyone in our house always had to be right.

I don't remember a particular relationship with my Dad and brother as father and son. No catch or ball games. No handy projects. In the late sixties my Dad had to go to Acapulco to recover a stolen thirty-eight foot sail boat, he took my brother with him to help sail the boat back to Marina Del Ray. My brother was a great sailor. My Dad taught us all to sail. I had sailed with my brother alone around Marina Del Rey; he could handle a boat without fear. We shared some quiet beautiful moments on the ocean.
I still wake up in the morning missing the safety I felt with my brother.

He left the planet and my world became like the black hole of Calcutta. I was alone now. I never felt as safe again. Suicide has this way of tearing the sense of safety from your core. We ponder and scheme about why? What did I miss? Was it my fault? We live in confused torture.
We feel the weight of unbearable guilt.

The proof of the damage came about a year after his death. I had just gotten home from school I was sitting on my Dad's bed talking to my Mom as she laid on her bed resting, eyes closed. I just blurted out, "I know it should have been me:I know God couldn't find me and took Steve:I am the youngest and it should have been me:"
My parents had told me it was an accident and not a suicide.
But I knew and I thought I could have changed his mind.
I thought I was "worth less" than my brother and I should be the one to go.
Worthlessness is the worst feeling.

A couple of weeks ago I got word a friend had decided to leave the planet. And a slingshot of emotion ruptured in my head. The TV/Radio/Film production industry has taken a hit in this economy like every other industry. People are desperate, out of work and out of hope. Many have lost interest in mankind. We are all freaking out about our own lives and our own families. I have heard it more than once in the past week, "don't ask me for anything, I am too overwhelmed." I am even saying it. I feel the fear of not knowing if our family will survive this economic down turn. We have had to modify, modify and then modify again. I hear stories of quiet desperation and loud catastrophe. I have friends who lost homes in the Tea Fire and all their savings in the recent economic crash. I hear stories more about loss than gain. I am myself moved to consider the loss of our home and our life. It is that close. I know times are tough. I know the agony of never having peace of mind from day to day about money. Still, I don't give up. I know what happens when I give up. Everybody loses.
I know what it feels like to be left behind. I never want anyone I love to have to be in that position. The constant confusion being left behind creates. The fear. The depression. Waking up nervous and going to sleep scared.
I never want anyone to have to endure that pain because I gave up. Whatever it is, it will pass. It will resolve, change and maybe even get better.
"That which does not kill us will make us stronger"

My heart aches for my friend who gave up. My heartache for my brother sustains. But in that heartbreak, the heart opens.
The heart breaks open.
If you can stand to sit still in the pain and not medicate or run. You will find moments of peace. Some heavenly whispers of hope.
What are all the sayings:?
(I know these may seem like cheesy anecdotes, but on a hard day, cheesy is how I like it, Mac! Get it? Mac n cheese?:all right already:geeze louise!)
"This too shall pass"
"God help me"
"God find me"
"God make me strong"
"God willing and the creek don't rise"
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace"
"Don't give up five minutes before the miracle"

I want to remember this pain, this precious pain.
It will help me over the next hump.
Knowing that I can keep on:keeping on.

**the lyrics to the REM song "Fire" are not about suicide.
It is a love song about a fire that consumed a beloved venue the Athens band played at early in their career.

***questions/comments: soberspitbath@gmail.com

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