[Warning: the beginning of this post contains emotional content unrelated to our continuing love story. If you’re just here for Part the Third and have no wish to hear emotional rambling from Yours Truly, skip down to the part below the cartoon. If you missed the first part it is here and the second part is here.]
Before I get started on the next chapter of our love story, I just want to give all of you a giant thank you. Writing these stories is very cathartic and healing for me. However, the process is very bittersweet and draining. Spending time rediscovering these old memories and stories is joyous, but the fact that I can’t hold her or be held by her or – well, the loss becomes more present after I leave the writing bubble. Doing this takes a lot out of me. But the response and support you all have given me throughout has made a real and tangible difference.
When Julienne died, I no longer had a purpose. I don’t mean that I had purpose as someone who took care of her as a person with cancer; I had purpose for the first time in my life the day we got together. My purpose was to be with this amazing person, to support her and her visions and dreams while getting support from her, to see every day and share it with her. After she was gone, I had nothing. I wanted to be able to write this story, all of it. I wanted to collect all of her writings on cancer, published and unpublished, and put them together so another young person afflicted by it could find it twenty years from now and see that they aren’t alone and gain a tiny bit of comfort. I wanted to do those things. But I had no idea if I was capable of doing it in a way that was good enough for her, the way she deserves them to be.
Meeting Julienne was a test of sorts. Could I tell this story in such a way that wasn’t just depressing, or boring, or cloyingly syrupy sweet? In short, could I tell it in a way Julienne would have liked to read? I’m grateful that I can say that I think it is good enough (barely – it should be better, but perfection wouldn’t be good enough). Your support has convinced me that it is. This week, I rediscovered my purpose in life, and that is to keep moving through it by telling her story, our story. She always said that if a blog post or Instagram story helped one person – just one – going through something, then the effort was worth it. I hope this helps someone today, and tomorrow, and ten years from now, and forever. I’m going to finish this, the whole thing from its fairytale beginning to its fairytale ending, as openly and honestly as I can, with all of the beauty and ugliness of love and cancer and life that I can put forth.
Thank you for helping me find my purpose. I love you.
This is a continuation of the post Meeting Julienne. It will make more sense if you read that first, but I’m not your supervisor. Unless I am and you’re reading this, in which case I really hope you aren’t reading this during work. I’m going to write this as if you read the other one, so any confusion is all your own fault.
Some cliffhanger, huh?
I hope it was as unsatisfying and frustrating an end as it felt to both me and Julienne at the time. Now imagine me waiting a year to post the second part of the story.
The other day I was talking to my wife about my struggles with writing. I wanted to submit some short stories for a publication but I was having trouble coming up with things to write about. She asked me a very sensible question: “What do you want to say to the world?” I thought about it, and only one answer came to mind then, and I still don’t have a better one:
I feel drained, hollowed out. Not all the time, of course, but it’s my default state now. Some days are good, some days are bad, but the common thread through all of them is a bone-deep exhaustion. Not exactly the kind of thing that a reader is dying to pore over. There’s good reason for it, of course, just like there’s a good reason for the depression, the feelings of powerlessness, the nagging question of whether life’s mundane responsibilities like paying bills and worrying about a credit score is worth it due to an occasionally overwhelming existential crisis that’s part and parcel of our every day.
My birthday was a few weeks ago, and I got some cool shit. I got to TOUCH AN OTTER’S PAW AND NOSE. I got a fire hook/marshmallow roaster that looks LIKE A FREAKING RAPIER. I got a mandolin that’s over a hundred years old because MY WIFE KNOWS I LIKE TO PRETEND TO BE A BARD. It was a good birthday, I’m sayin’.
But the greatest gift of them all was a song. It was a song my wife wrote for me, and she recorded it, and played it for me, and I cried like a baby. Derenemyn is the name we gave our home. It means Hill of Oaks in Elvish. We’re nerds. It is a song about us and our time together. I wanted to share it with the world, so here it is. The lyrics are below. (She also wanted me to apologize on her behalf for the shitty midi instruments. I will not. I love it.)
The Song of Derenemyn
Once before and long ago
A brave young man was made to know
A year of joy and bitter woe
In his loving of a maiden
He met her at an olden fair
With whipping wit and golden hair
Like magic, she did him ensnare,
This maid of Derenemyn
A year went by, and still he yearned
And when the fair at last returned
He told her how his heart had burned
For the maid of Derenemyn
In summer sweet, they planned to wed
They laid in groves as marriage beds
As fairies light around them tread
Midsummer’s joy proclaimin’
And yet one day, the maid grew ill
He held her, but it worsened still
He eased her and he tried to will
The balm of Derenemyn
But fear and tears and furrowed brows
Could not keep them from their sacred vows
So Summer’s beauty once more roused
And they wed on Derenemyn
Though Summer is not made to last
And yellow took the green of grass
So Autumn made the leaves of brass
And set the hills aflamin’
And as it did, they tried to find
A cure to ease her troubled mind
And leave this sickness soon behind
And return to Derenemyn
Though the crisp of air filled her heart with song
She knew the journey would be long
But with him, she knew where she belonged
To him, on Derenemyn
The bitter chill whipped in the air
The leaves turned brown and the oaks were bare
So he built a fire beside her chair
As the dark of winter came in
She struggled all the day and night
Her body weary from the fight
And all joy vanished from her sight
All joy but Derenemyn
So the hailing oak threw his arms up high
And touched his hand to the silver sky
And the snow came falling by and by
On the side of Derenemyn
As all things come and all things go
Like summer and like melting snow
So spring with creeping green did grow
The forest’s soul reclaimin’
And so her weary body healed
And spring in her was soon revealed
Her eyes glowed like the greenest field
In her home of Derenemyn
And they danced and laughed and they sang once more
Twice happy as they were before
And loved each other ever more
In the woods of Derenemyn
Once before and long ago
All things did come, and then did go
But lucky few will come to know
The joy of Derenemyn.
This is the short story I wrote for my wife for Valentine’s Day. As I’ve said previously, it’s the first story I wrote after 4 years or so, and it was the first thing I needed to write in a very long time. She inspires me every day, and I wanted to share with her a little glimpse of how she is in my imagination. This is a small part of her, and since people asked to see it and she said it was okay, I’m sharing it here.
Also, the drawing is a sketch I made of Spaniel Day Lewis for the Valentine’s Day before this one, and since he also graces this story, I thought I’d share it, too. I’d illustrate the whole thing if I could, but I sadly lack that talent.
Once there was a girl who lived in a house that was down a hill and up a hill away from the woods. The girl loved the woods very much, and was often found there, exploring the hidden places and listening to the music of the trees. She was very bright and imaginative and kind and clever, and a million other wonderful things besides, but most of all she was brave. She felt no fear under the boughs and amidst the brush, even when the shadows lengthened, because she loved the forest near her home. There were always adventures to be had there, and she would run or skip or stalk or sit quietly, however the mood struck her, as a branch became a wizard’s staff or a wind-borne blossom sprouted fairy wings or all the birds gathered to sing her a lullaby.
The original intent for this post was very different. It was entitled “5 Things That Make Me Mind-Numbingly Furious” and I was planning on writing it because I was in a foul mood for a variety of reasons. I felt tired and petulant and my inner child was drumming his heels on the floor and screaming at the top of his lungs about how life was unfair and throwing breakfast around and the rest of the conclave that makes up the ownership of my brain wanted to beat the living shit out of him, although they were on the verge of conceding that life really is pretty goddamn unfair and the wailing toddler was making a lot of sense and maybe the only solution was to lash out at everyone and everything and maybe mix in a little turd-throwing and so on until one part of my brain was like “Hey, let’s write a blog post about shit that makes us honest-to-fucking-god pissed, not fake pissed” and the rest of me was like “good idea” and so I wrote the preamble and was about to list the things when I stopped and realized that maybe, just maybe, thinking about things that actually make me mad would probably do the opposite thing of making me less mad and only more mad and it probably wouldn’t be funny so my Inner Adult finally put his coffee cup down, told everyone to shut the fuck up, table the blog idea, and just fucking think about something else before Inner Adult took Inner Gaggle of Whiners to the woodshed and tanned some asses.
Side note: If you want to wake up angry, watch “Too Big to Fail” just before going to bed. It’ll take an effort to resist waking up, getting into your car, driving to New York, and indiscriminately driving up and down the sidewalk on Wall Street in an attempt to rid the world of “bankers” one thump-reverse-thump-drive-thump-reverse-for-good-measure-thump-and-what-the-hell-one-last-time-thump-reverse-better-be-sure-thump at a time. Or maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, short story more succinctly put – I didn’t write that post.
Instead, it was suggested by a nightingale near-and-dear to me that instead of frothy anger blog, try writing “5 Things That Make Me Smile-Til-My-Face-Hurts Happy”. After blinking several times as my brain tried to process the concept of “happy” mixed with “my blog” I decided to give it a shot. So here we go – 5 things that make me happy as shit on a day where I’d normally rant about the inconsistency of hotel waffles.
I know, I know – this is new to me too.
Warning: This post is probably as personal and serious as I’m likely to get on here. It won’t be very funny. It will, however, be genuine. You been warned.
Father’s Day is coming up. For many people, it’s a day to give their father a suitably crappy gift and give the old man a hug. I see a lot of ads and sales and heart-warming hey-ain’t-Dad-great stories and I think that’s pretty cool. For a lot of other people, Father’s Day means not much at all. There’s a load of deadbeat dads, kids who don’t have their fathers in their lives, dads who abandoned their kids and whatnot. For some, Father’s Day is a reminder of someone who abused and terrified them. Not such a great place to be.
Now that I’m sitting down to type this, I’ve realized that I have no idea who this review would be for. If you played Mass Effects 1 and 2 and loved them, then you don’t need my encouragement. If you played them and hated them, it doesn’t matter what I have to say, because (mild spoiler) Mass Effect 3 is a lot like the first two. And if you have never played Mass Effect at all, then I wouldn’t recommend starting with ME3. Buy the first one and play it. If you liked it, play the second. If you liked that, buy this one. But maybe you’ve played the first 2, liked them, and didn’t know if this one would be any good. Maybe you’re scared. Understandable. I was apprehensive in the extreme. Already this year I’d played a game I was really looking forward to, only to find cruel, bitter disappointment. Maybe it would happen again.
Well, after 30 or so hours of multiplayer, then playing from 6pm to 3 am Tuesday, then 10 am to 2 am on Wednesday, then 11 am to 10 pm Thursday, I can give you my opinion of the game. It’s only one guy’s opinion. Maybe you will disagree. But here is my eleven-word review:
HOLY FUCK THIS IS THE GREATEST GAME I HAVE EVER PLAYED.
I haven’t gotten a chance to watch The Walking Dead yet, but I plan on doing so soon and posting my heartfelt and warm fuzzy feelings about it. So in the meantime, I’ll just spew some random things circulating around my head on this lovely Valentine’s Day.
I don’t believe in any kind of god. That probably comes as no surprise to anyone who reads my blog even semi-regularly, because I’ve indicated as such multiple times. I’m not ashamed of that fact. Being an atheist and saying so isn’t a big deal to me. On the other hand, I’m not one of those people who make atheism a religion and insists on preaching about the power of nonbelief and how ludicrous religions are and hypocritical and blah blah blah. I don’t honestly give a flying fuck what you or anyone else believes in. And like the Golden Rule, I’d just like the same in return. I don’t want to talk about religion or debate it, although I can. I have no interest. It’s the same thing with discussions about politics: there is not one thing I can say to a believer that will make them change their minds, and there is nothing one of them can say to me that will change my mind. So what’s the point? People who get off on debating that shit in person or on Facebook or Twitter and feel the need to fire slings and arrows at The Other Side constantly are really fucking tedious. I believe the Washington Redskins are the greatest organization in the history of the NFL. That doesn’t mean I’m gonna proselytize about that every day.
Anyway, what got me thinking about this was a recent article on Slate about how atheists are treated, particularly in the Bible Belt, and comparing it to closeted people so afraid of persecution from the community that they dare not come out of the closet. It’s mostly personal anecdotes and study results, including the 2006 University of Minnesota study on the perception of atheism. Ever since I read it, it’s percolated in the back of my brain. I mean, nothing in it was new to me, and I don’t experience the same kind of shunning from my neighbors that the people in the article describe – I don’t talk to my neighbors anyway, because the geographical oddity that resulted in us all deciding to live in the same area is a flimsy basis for me to put in the effort to talk about mulch and the weather – but I’ve found myself thinking about it off and on ever since.