09 August 2015

12 years ago

Today I've been all tender and raw. Heart achy and wistful. I've battled with Della, feeling powerless and ineffectual. A camperkid barfed after dinner , triggering my anxiety. And I was wondering why the hell everything was feeling so off, so hard, so acutely uncomfortable. Della went to campfire so I'm alone and not working in this moment. So I went outside, lay on the ground and looked at the clouds, the trees, the late evening sunlight filtering through. Birds and insects and sky and light and the smell of late summer and grass and dust and earth and suddenly I realized that this is the week that Jeff killed himself. It was this light this sky these sounds these smells that accompanied that early shock and grief. In fact, it was on a Sunday.  So hurrah for visceral memory. And hello tenderness. Of course you're here. And why does compassion feel understandable now and not available to my impatient self an hour ago?  Reasons give us permission to be where we are. The "because" that brings understanding switches impatience to love. I wish I could flip that switch more easily with myself and others when the Because remains less clear, or unknown or unknowable. But today, hello grief. Hello raw tenderness. Hello discomfort. Hello compassion. Hello impatience. Hello love.

11 June 2015

My real books just came.

My books, my real books just came. Not the proofs. Not proof #2 or #3 or #4.
Holy shit people, my book is on Amazon.

This, for me, is beyond huge. Getting this work out into the world feels crucial, and yet, getting it out into the world means telling my story out loud.
Funny thing about this: folks say YAY! what's your book about?
and I choke.
I am happy. I am sad. I am complicated and complex. This is a heart wrenching and yet cathartic and healing thing to do, to offer, to expose.

So. I am being gentle with myself, and hoping that the book finds its way into the hands that need it, and that my words, my journey, somehow offer solace to someone else.

A Field Guide to Grief: If you’ve lost your partner to suicide
Available now in paperback, or Kindle
by Kate Johnson
Losing a partner or spouse to suicide is shattering. This small book speaks directly to the survivor, starting from the beginning of the grief journey. Offering compassion and acknowledgment, survival tools and suggestions, these are kind and wise words from someone who’s been there.
 “if you have lost a partner to suicide, you will find a new friend named kate in these pages. out of the hard-won wisdom of her own loss, she offers you this field guide. a field guide, truly, as the pages feel like a field… breathable, open, + paradoxically peaceful. the rhythm of it all works beautifully between the ebb of uncluttered white space + flow of helpful words… a needed + good book for anyone walking through this heart-rending loss.” –rachel awes, psychologist, author, + art playgroundist rachelawes.com

“…a lovely resource for folks who are fresh into big pain. I’ll be happy to recommend this [book] to my clients.” –Dr. Martha Jo Atkins honors the deeply spiritual experience of death by providing compassionate witness to the dying, and support for healing transformation to the bereaved. marthaatkins.com
My note to you: This is a difficult book. A sad book. A real book informed by love and understanding that in grief, there is no time to sift through case studies and anecdotes. I get right down to the core. It is about acute grief and navigating the immediate experience of loss. It is about living with grief and living with loss and the loss of identity. It is about self protection and permission. It is about survival. My own experience was one of breath-by-breath choices, to keep moving forward, to not lose myself, to choose to heal and go on, over and over and over again. If you need this book, I am so sorry. But if you need this book, I am so glad you have found your way here,  and I hope beyond hope that my words offer you solace.
If you are not in grief and want to support me by buying a book, please do (and thank you!). Please consider donating it to an organization or individual who works with folks in acute grief. A funeral home, for example… I could have used this book the second day if not the first. Someone else may too.

16 March 2015

unexpected tenderness

Ok-- so-- first, the hair loss. Ratios of my thyroid levels indicate something wacky between the whole Make T3! call to action by the TSH and the T3 levels themselves.  So, selenium as a facilitator and we shall see. I am not optimistic my hair will grow back, but that's what hats are for.

In the meantime, so much else has happened that it is hard to even get riled up about it.

I had my first mammogram call back, after my first mammogram in 4 years. I had a lump last year, followed by an ultrasound, followed by an all clear and the lump vanishing. But I had never had a call back on a mammogram before.

I'll start this by saying, I'm ok. The reading was ok- and I go back in 6 months. But here is what I wrote while I waited:
I'm in the waiting room at radiology. Waiting waiting for a call-back mammogram. I am thinking if all of the waiting rooms. All of the waiting. The fluorescent lights. The linoleum floor. The cold air and scratchy cotton. I am thinking about turning points, decision points, change of plan points. I am thinking about love and connection and feel an unexpectedly tender love for my body.

Now, I have not felt much tenderness toward my body, ever.
It has caused me untold grief with colitis, acne, the whitest skin on the planet, bruises, bulges, infertility, the birth saga with uncooperative cervix then c section... anxiety, hair loss, blah blah blah blah blah....
it has always been it. not me. it.
a separate container for my Self to ambulate in, to use the sensors with great gratitude, but also a separateness, often hostile, or annoying, or shameful.

Suddenly, in the harsh light of that waiting room, I cradled myself in my arms, truly whole maybe for the first time ever. A surprise integration. Suffused with love. And I have a feeling of wholeness that is different now. I'm getting to know it. But the love and tenderness and gratitude are profound.

And, in other breast related news, we weaned. Not in any way I would have wanted. In fact, I don't think I can even talk about it.
I bought a beautiful bra to celebrate the parts of this worth celebrating (there are plenty, I know).
I don't want anyone to say "About Damned Time!"-- just don't.
You can't say anything I have not already thought or heard or worried about.
Here we are, finally, totally not baby led, or toddler led, or pre-schooler-led. Good lord, left to her, we'd nurse until the cows come home, and since we have no cows, that is a long, long time.

Now we're moving on to addressing the sleep deprivation in all of us, and trying not to make things worse by trying to make them better. Not succeeding yet. Della, in fact, is asleep right this very moment having huffed off into the other room when my beloved mom touched some toy she wasn't supposed to. So Della stormed off, lay down, and conked out.  11am.
Life, love, the pursuit of sleep.
We are in the midst of it.

16 January 2015

on hair loss and vanity

well now... I was not imagining it: My hair has been falling out. Lots of it. Enough so I can now see my scalp easily from the top, through what is left. and I have a near bald patch the size of my palm in the back (aided, of course by a cowlick that just opens up the whole area to cold wind, and vanity has kicked in, and I am horrified.

I saw the doctor. I am getting bloodwork. I suspect thyroid. Any positive stories out there to share with me? I will learn to crochet beanies if I must, but damn.

I'd love to hear powerful stories of regrowth.

The metaphor is not lost on me.

31 December 2014

the space in between

where have I been
busy, yes,
moving, yes
and being
and trying to find my way.
minimal childcare and the new old house and art shows and client work and managing my own ongoing grief work and anxiety.

i asked my new therapist about the grief, the why now, the what the hell, the why, the why, the why
and she said that grief does not have a time table.
it is not about calendars
it is about when you are strong enough

strong enough to come apart
strong enough to weather the storms, I guess. bend, not break. or break and mend. or break and make patterns with the pieces and call it art.

so this has been hard, strangely and unexpectedly.

grief and shame and oh
just so much of that.

and a vulnerability, raw, perpetual, just below the joy.

so I find myself laughing
I find myself
I am painting a little but not as much as I need to (4 shows in 2015!)
not as much as I need to for me

still finding my way into my new identity as  Kate.
not Engineer.
or Director.
or Scientist.
or Professional.

just, Kate.

I told my sister today, light can't get in if there are no cracks.
I hold my hands open, a bowl, to welcome the light.

wishing on you all, and us all, peace and fullness and hope and laughter, health and wellness and humor and moments of bliss. i send you big love.