the title of this post is the title of Paul Neilans book of a almost similar name “Apathy and other small victories”. It’s one of my favorite books. dark humor, and satire fill it’s pages to the brim, and i’d like to think this is what i aim this post to be-
i’ve more or less, for what seems like forever, have had this silent dance with grief. and although inaudible, each footstep, as graceful as it was, was haunting.
before my memories were indefinitely cemented, my first memory (although fragmented) was of my grandma getting in a taxi in front of the apartments where I lived, and waving goodbye. in her little old lady jacket. although the validity of this can be argued between my mother and I, who claims one or the other — but whatever. anytime I see anybody old in a jacket where they seem to be extremely cozy and content, it reminds me of this one moment. whether or not that brings joy or unearths unnerving memories is completely at random.
it was dusky that day- and it has been ever since. (i, a small toddler, was sobbing uncontrollably). the next few years I barely remember anything. it’s as if the grief of my grandmother leaving took years off my memory. for me, at least–memory and life are two variables, distinctly apart but invariably and contiguously interlinked.
i felt as though the grief was temporarily absolved with remnants of other areas of my life that acted as a band-aid. the environment was too wet. too harsh– the band aid kept falling off. the wound never really got better- i just learned to live with it.
i do remember playing video games with my dad, who would then leave for a stretch period of time, then return. it was something that brought me happiness, temporarily. this random man just laughing with me, showing me how to do things, where a small version of me could enjoy watching them. i was learning- and it felt like a team project. as competitive as i was–(still am), everytime it was my turn i would expend a lot of energy trying to beat the game, namely mario.
i’d continue playing video games with him– like a ritual. a ritual that’s sole goal was to be the ibuprofen in human form. just a dosage of it so i’d forget what the root cause of whatever i was taking ibuprofen for, was. i didn’t question it. at this point, the idea of coming and going seemed normal. but, what it was doing to me was erasing memories and moments, of me. it was taking away my life.
my grandmother has alzheimers. tulita, barely remembers a thing. she’s still alive, but barely.
at what cost? sometimes she’ll blurt out a series of events that happen and from one moment to the next, those memories turn into incoherent strands of spanish that connect themselves with little to no context. it doesn’t make sense, not only literally, but figuratively. like, why?
i’ve always wondered how family members were able to keep talking to her. for me, it’s one of the most terrifying things -perhaps because i see myself in her sometimes. perhaps, it’s because of what i remember from her. whatever the reason, i try to keep my memories close. one of my nightmares is being caught in the chaos of the illness and not being able to remember. i want to be able to answer questions to my grandchildren’s children. i want to be around to remember for them. as a vessel into the past that exists to them.
I distinctly remember certain areas of my life, then just absence of thought shortly thereafter. this has been the precedent ever since- nothing has taken priority of trying to remember what is happening to me as it’s happening. i’ve lost control of trying to take things as they come, and i’m still feeling the remnants of what ive lost, and continue to lose to this day. sometimes as the cause of what has happened to me. the process of healing and trying to interpret my grief has become a task so daunting, that i’ve been putting off writing about this for years.
sometimes, i’ll feel okay, and then as quickly as it comes, it dissipates– the monstrosity of life takes over. it’s chaotic when the waves of grief get together in droves, and seem to drown you in your own tears. i once wrote:
‘i know, as morbid as it sounds, that i know i’m healing when i choke on the salt my eyes make.’
I think- that’s where it started.
recently, one of my close friends brought to my attention how one of my other friends passed away. i’ve to this point, have made a point and refused any and all contact and information to anything or anyone that was close to me (in terms of them passing away) particularly for the fact that my brain would create a subatomic multiverse of a million transmogrifying reasons explaining why. it was one of unhealthy, (continues to be) ways that i dealt with this.
i’ve had too many family members leave my life, too many friends dying. too many remnants of what i was connected to, pass away, or simply fade into the darkness. i’ve come to the conclusion that if i were to delve deep into the reasons of why, that i’d just hurt myself even more. part of that comes from my father.
his propensity to wade himself back and forth into my life at his discretion, regardless of any outlying factors has given me an elevated state of cynicism. cynicism turned almost-paranoia.
it has also unfairly given people who were close to me and passed away some sort of unwavering disconnect. for the fear of being hurt, or finding out more of the ‘why’ – i’ve knowingly stayed away from any information that may have been useful in finding out why. it was my method of protecting myself and keeping my inner voice ‘quiet’. whether or not they passed away from a regular, more socially ‘acceptable’, yet still unfortunate death (physical illness, accident) opposed to the more socially “unacceptable” form (suicide -which is in result to illness, but to spare the introduction of another topic you shouldn’t be ignorant about, i won’t delve further) – or drugs, gang/police violence, prison etc.
i’ve publically only grieved about kobe bryant. i felt the stigma was uplifted to grieve about someone because of the figure that he was. especially to me. in the absence of so many people that were paramount to the molding of my being, a young boy would look to someone that lived their life in highlights and interview soundbites that were filled with genuinity, confidence, and just overall stellar attitude that would soon be marketed and trademarked as ‘mamba mentality’
i think i needed that. i don’t think i have ever properly grieved before.
i remember my mother telling be the man of the house when my father wasnt around. although i had no example.
i remember being told that things happen for a reason. although i never knew those reasons.
i remember being told by a school dean that i needed serious therapy, and my mother brushing it off. i remember agreeing with her. men need to be stronger than their emotions.
i remember being told to stop crying in class by a teacher after finding out that my friend had been a victim of suicide.
i also remember the face of (what seemed like) disgust by my mother when she picked me up from school because i couldn’t function from the news of my friend
i remember handling the venting of my friends to me about their own mental battles with grief being more helpful than the ones i provided myself. sometimes i even feel like i’m grieving myself posthumously. i miss who i wished i was. who i wanted to be in moments of weakness.
i remember carrying this luggage with me into each newer facet and phase of my life. as damning as this few decades of time have been to me, i still find myself trying to evade these nostalgic pockets of time filled to the brim with grief. so, ever so often i contemptuously drink from it’s inundating chalice to keep it from drowning this very safeguarded temple i enshroud myself in. the exact temple that’ll crush me once the walls and it’s foundations are soaked in blood.
so as safe as i think i am, i am actively avoiding a scenario that’ll fuel what i perceive as protection. for while i’m in a boat during a storm, there is no fish underneath to feed me, for they have fled. and no fresh water, as those rivers have run dry.
the list of things that i grieve and have grieved about vary.
my dog max.
my bird, ‘bird’
one notable instance, happens to be recently where my aunt talked about my dog dying. who is still alive.
i steadily and absolutely scolded her telling her how would she like it if someone told someone she loves they were going to die “soon”. NAMELY MY GRANDMOTHER, HER MOTHER, who is close to a century year old.
while the example was heavy, it needed to be said. my grieving process or a process that i might have to endure in the future isn’t something i toy about or just toss around in regular conversation. it is a private and very tedious but necessary process. and bringing it up casually is without a doubt one of the most insanely insensitive things you can do in a world that is already thoughtless with one instruction to the next.
i’m learning to grieve ‘better’
to let myself feel. to understand why i feel the way that i do, and to process the inner workings of my heart.
to not constantly- as a first and last resort, internalize all the grief and emotional instability into the seemingly impermeable temple of masculinity i was forced to create as a child.
i hope to create a safe-haven for myself for when i ultimately feel the need to grieve. for the child version of me that still exists, looking to emotionally insulate themselves in a zone where they could properly govern themselves and the inhabitants that also have to deal with the same processes that dictate your life as you do.
even as i type this, i have to learn to grieve living family members that were never there for me in the way that i needed them to be. i have to grieve certain versions of me. certain individuals that played the preeminent role in the timeline of cristian’s life.
hopefully, for all intents and purposes, i can create a safe-haven for the intricacies of human grief. planning discrete distractions for when my crying spells magically appear. start a new tradition based off the loss of my creations. hoping to steer clear of reawakening the swarming colossal of grief. hopefully, instead of avoiding, i can reminisce, as in a serene trance, where my focuses are more present-minded and real, rather than a fluttering chaos of what-ifs and the broken timeline of my past-lives.
hopefully, through all of this grief, and all of this pain
i can find other small victories.
One thought on “grief, and other small victories.”
It’s wonderful, mind-blowing, how through writing, and reading, strangers suddenly seem like people you have known for years. Maybe in this grief, apathy, there’s hope for other small victories. Beautiful written ✨