Don't Forget the Margins

Tag: storytelling

My Life on a Couch: the fifth

In difficult moments, my body remembers to breath. When the wash of whatever is too much comes, I find myself standing still on a sidewalk somewhere, face to the sun or sitting in my grandmother’s parked car 5 min longer than I’d planned on, head on the steering wheel.

I used to hold my breath. Didn’t even realize I was doing it. The sensation was that of missing time. Entireties of seconds absent from memory. I’d remember those moments eventually. Sudden memories. Aisle 9 of the grocery story, like a punch to the stomach. Or waking up in thick sweat in the middle of the night.

My grandmother told my the other day that every night they move her somewhere else. Somewhere off of Bell Road or Grand Avenue in North Phoenix. She says, “I don’t like it because I never know where I’m going to wake up.” I tell her she is in Tucson and she says she knows. She tells me she knows the difference between her imagination and real life.

From left to right: my mother, my aunt (deceased), my grandmother, my grandmother’s second husband (deceased).

Vascular dementia is the result of brain damage from a stroke. It’s mostly likely why my grandmother has started to walk through worlds despite being sharp in all other ways. There’s not enough oxygen now so she’s missing time. She is so thin now. It’s hard to look at it. How else to say it—there is no other way.

I keep breathing because I can feel a weight want to keep me in bed too. And I’ve spent so much time on my feet over the past many years. I’ve figured out so much and resisted anguish. I’ve kept my neck up. I’ve lived. I’ve been better to people. I haven’t been depressed. My life is full of more adoration, more goodness, more love than ever and my grief is trickling from the most common of sources: heartbreak, dying, the experience of having a body.

I’m finding no amount of reasoning, no amount of sleep or healthful chemical levels or meditation or exercise can ward off some sadness.

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My Life on a Couch, #4

It’s been two months now that I’ve been sleeping in a real bed, though I’m still occupying borrowed space. My friend deployed and I’m staying in her high-ceiling-ed studio with all her stuff. Her bed. Her dishes. “You can stay there but problem is I have furniture,” she tells me. No problem here. All my things live in paper bags.

Still, I’m on a metaphorical couch in all the ways. My grandmother suffered a stroke 4 months ago. The morning before I was going to do stand-up comedy for the first time, they found her on her kitchen floor. I’m driving her car now because she lives in her bed, except it’s not her bed either. She’s living in assisted living here in Tucson. She probably won’t go home again. Hard to imagine life could have so many lives within it. She thought she’d need help someday she told me out of the corner of her half-paralyzed face, “but not this soon, it pisses me off.”

All the days watching her starving these past months. You don’t get real food when you can’t swallow. Just mush. Chicken mush. Broccoli mush. I want to eat everything and I do, especially on days where I witness her hunger. I’m eating for both of us, remembering all the moments I starved my girl body. And for what? I will never do it again.

Home is right behind you.

I’m spun up on uncertainty and remembering moments I can’t take back. I can still see the drop of my last love’s face as I turned away on the busy night avenue. A turned back and a path away from something you walked with for years is kind of like death. I wonder if I’m awake enough for these times. I go to my grandmother every week and I lay my head on her body. I touch her skin and I give back all the massages I tricked her into giving me when I was young(er). My hands have grown so strong I have to be careful not to bruise her.

She is in a bed that is not her own. These things happen all the time—faculties lost from people who could never lose them, who would never lose them. They lose them anyway. People who spend years of their life not needing a damn thing from anyone, one day need everything from everyone.

People we love leave us and we let them or we look away. I’m looking straight at her, my grandmother, and every week I’m scared to go back but I do. I lay my head on her body. She tells me I’m sweet. All my life ’till now I don’t think she knew me.

 

My Life on a Couch #2

Physical objects. I look. I see. What’s missing? Well, so far, my driver’s license and my passport. I’ve been without identification for over a month. I lost my new wallet around my birthday. Before that, before everything changed, I left my wallet on the roof of my car. Pieces of my life in a 100 foot radius on Speedway Boulevard. The passport, still no idea where it went.

A pile of my pieces, on Mt. Graham.

A pile of my pieces, in the Pinaleno Mountains.

I drive my car hoping to not get pulled over for that broken brake light. The passenger’s side floor of my car is a cemetery of kombucha bottles, off brand seltzer cans, and disposable coffee containers. I can hear the bottles clinking every time I turn a corner. God, it’s so annoying. Every time I think I’ll clear them out, my hands are full or I’ve forgotten. That, or another to-go something or other has added itself to the pile.

The clutter is part of the transition. It just is. That’s why I’ve started to add to the pile. While I’m super tempted to clean it right this second because I cringe (CRINGE) at the thought of continuing to leave it, I think I ought to sit with the pieces of my life. So I am.

What’s here? What needs to not be here anymore? How do I position the objects that I own, that I carry with me so that I can maintain this transition?

My Life on a Couch: 1st Edition

From where I sit on my borrowed couch bed right now, I can see most things I own and use on a daily basis. My life and my clothes and my books are all in paper bags. Three, to be exact, with a fourth for dirty laundry that I will clean at my Mom’s house on my way home from camping this weekend. The rest is tucked into a mix of falling apart cardboard and plastic storage bins at my Dad’s manufactured home out on acres in Sahuarita. I got it there by car. My life easily fits in my car. I just turned 27.

After a life shift—the ending of a major relationship—I decided that I’ll stop trying to land. For years of my life, if not its entirety, I’ve been looking for responsibility. For furniture. For a love in the romantic sense. For enough hangers for my dress shirts. For a “job” that pays me well enough to build something in one place. I’ve slept on people’s couches before; or their basements on a gym mat, or in a dining room with sheets for doors, in Portland, when I was 21. It was right after college and I thought “this is temporary and a 2-3 time thing.” It felt that way. But here I am again.

Holly Hall's Famous Friend Couch.

Holly Hall’s Famous Friend Couch. My first late morning.

When I told my friend who is a therapist in Sacramento that I was sleeping on another friend’s couch and that I had no plans to find my own place for a whole year, she said “What an interesting journey. You should write about it.” I guess, in its own way, or in a way I had not yet considered—it is a a journey. Even it if it feels sort of cyclical.

A hipster couch in the PNW.

A hipster couch in the PNW.

Where I am now is like the drier, more southwestern version of the same place I was at 21. Drier in many a sense. And that’s all an oversimplification. I’m not who I was then. For one, I’m not trying to be anywhere else and time feels shorter now. Like I no longer want to puzzle over things I never said out loud. I’d just rather say them. That’s vague. Home is inside me? Too cliche. The truth is that I’m still trying to understand what it means to lean on people and maybe for the first time acknowledging that it’s okay to do so.

 

How to Start Again, and Again.

There’s the concept of the mind as a well, the imagination as a spring: liquid metaphors for the finite and the soon to be dry. It’s about watershed management, isn’t?

That’s why, one month ago, I bought a handful of brass finished, perfectly round, 1/2 inch in diameter magnets from the boutique next to my work. I took them home and put them on top of my desk. When I look at them, sitting there in the limited variety of shapes they make, I remember that I spent 15 dollars on decorative magnets. This feels like faith and tells me that I must be a believer.

This is when watershed management turns into pantomime.  But then of course, it’s never been about anything tangible. It’s belief.

Writing, Obsession.

First of all, the fact that I’m even dealing with the word obsession, is stressing me out. This is not me being obsessed with my writing. This is me writing at my obsessions. Not about. At. This isn’t skimming the surface of old habits, this is going back and holding on tight.

 

obsession

ob·ses·sion

noun.

An idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind.

 

Writing into my hard spots is making me wish I’d never made that pact with myself to stop writing about love and romance.

This was me: In the style of Miranda July’s short story “It Was Romance— Hard Times. Love poem. Break up? Love poem. Relationship. Love poem. Real life. Love poem. Restaurant Job. Love poem. Car Breaks Down. Love Poem. Genocide. Love Poem. Queer Politics. Love Poem. Parent’s Divorce. Love Poem. Decrease in Minimum Wage. Love Poem. Sex Worker’s Rights. Love Poem. Paleo Diet. Love Poem.

At least I knew where I was headed when things went badly. Writing into my body issues, my near constant fragmentation of self, insistence towards using my mind to reason through the unreasonable is like unwinding a yarn ball that’s been sitting in an abandoned wet then dry again then wet again desert shed for 15 years. It may have at one time been your grandmother’s but nature has taken over.