things my best friend’s death is teaching me. [trigger warning: suicide]

I don’t have all the details yet — I’ll find them out when I attend the funeral this weekend — but from what I’ve gathered, I think she may have killed herself.

Notice I did not say commit suicide. That makes her sound like a criminal. No. My best friend did not want to die. She had plans for her future, plans she was excited for. She had hobbies she enjoyed, a family she loved, horses and a homestead, a house being built. Ruby was a victim. A victim of a war she had been fighting against her mind for years.

For days, I’ve been living in a haze of despair, feeling like I could barely see the world in front of me, much less interact with it. Every moment I’ve experienced something she’ll never experience again has felt like a further betrayal . . . I know every single person in her life feels responsible, in some way or another. It tears at my heart to think of how deeply I failed her, how deeply we all failed her. 

Logically, I also know that, for so many people who struggle against mental illness, this is the end result; the true evil, the thing we all should be blaming for Ruby’s death, is this system we live in that doesn’t allow anyone to thrive except white, male, cishet, abled, and neurotypical people. How different would Ruby’s life have ended up, had she been supported the way she deserved to be . . . ?

In all of this mourning, these past days, there are three things I feel I know for sure. Perhaps it’s just my personality . . . but every time I’m going through a deep inner struggle, what keeps me going (and what keeps me from giving into unhealthy coping mechanisms) is putting into words what it is I’m learning from the experience about myself and about life. 

  1. All my life, but especially since I’ve been an adult, I’ve kept everyone and everything I love at arm’s length, never putting all of my heart and soul into anything or anyone for too long, never truly seeing anyone or anything through. I have done it to spare me and others pain, but ironically, doing so has only exacerbated the pain, the loneliness, of myself and others. Maybe if I hadn’t kept Ruby at arm’s length, things would be different. Maybe her life, and my life, would have been different. I don’t want to make that mistake anymore. Down deep in my soul, her death has shifted my priorities; I am not here on earth to keep life at arm’s length, but to live it fully, and to love with all of me.
  2. Ruby spent the last years of her life fighting with all of her heart and soul to be sober, and to be a better person, for herself and for those who love her. She was — and is, because I do not believe we just disappear into nothingness when we die — a fucking warrior. She lost the war, but she won at least a decade’s worth of daily, weekly, and monthly battles. For me to give into my despair-driven desire to drink would be the worst way of dishonoring her. The way to honor her memory best is to do for myself what she tried so hard to do for herself: be sober, and do the inner work needed to thrive.
  3. Even when Ruby was struggling, she always tried to find something to stir her spirit, her smile, her laughter — whether it was the natural world around her, her family, her friends, or just humor in general. The second best way to honor her memory is to enjoy life, and know that when I laugh, she is laughing. And when my spirit soars, hers is soaring as well, because in death we do not disappear, but rather become part of the divine love that makes up the universe. Ruby is within me. 

These past days of grief, I haven’t had my daughter with me; when I found out about Ruby’s passing, I was so blinded with despair that I didn’t feel capable of taking care of Luna, so I had her father’s partner pick her up on her way home from work. But I got Luna back last night, and her father stayed for a while when he did so, and held space for me to talk about Ruby. He empathized, articulating his own heartbreak at his close friend’s death last year. We talked about memories of Ruby from when we lived in Maui, and he got me laughing. 

I’m grateful he did. Because in my days of mourning, I had erected additional walls between myself and everyone else. I couldn’t possibly consider that anyone could understand the way I was feeling. He reminded me that I am not alone in the inner turmoil that comes with the death of a loved one, especially when the loved one is a victim of suicide. And having Luna back reminds me that I had a life before Ruby’s death, and her death has not changed that; even though it often feels cruel that life goes on, it is fruitless to rage against the fact. 

I’m still heartbroken, still grieving . . . but the haze is gone, now. I’ve been laughing and playing with Luna. Eating. Hoopdancing, a little. I’m in mourning, but I’m also keeping in my heart the way I felt when I was with Ruby: fully alive.

I don’t want to keep my loved ones, or life itself, at arm’s length anymore.

I will live fully, and it will be in honor of her. It’s not a comfortable feeling, this paradox of pain and the determination to hope.

But that’s life, isn’t it?

And we bear it as best we can.


silence in mourning.

I haven’t written since the fourth because I’m grieving, and when I’m grieving, words are hard to come by.

One of my best and truest friends, who I’ve known since I was four years old, passed away this week. It was unexpected and heartbreaking and I’ve spent the past three days in a haze of tears and mourning. Her letters are scattered over my floor. I feel like I’m in limbo, waiting to hear about the memorial date, so I can rush to Nevada as soon as I know. 

I was going to visit her in the spring. We were both so excited for it. 

i walk through the valley of my own shadow.

The sky is a cold winter blue; a few smudged lines of peach cloud linger over the forested hill where the sun will soon rise. A mug of yerba mate sends wisps of steam into the quiet room. No one else is awake yet — my favorite time of day. I light a stick of dragon’s blood incense, watch the smoke curl. Remember, like a sped-up flashback of my life, all the times I’ve lit incense.

I think part of healing and integrating our shadows must be dwelling in nostalgia sometimes. I’ve been remembering so much of my past, and marveling at how many people I’ve been; and yet, how little I’ve changed. Remembering the people I’ve hurt, and who has hurt me. Remembering the people I’ve loved, and who have loved me. Remembering how those two kinds of people have so often been the same. 

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Kahlil Gibran, ‘On Joy and Sorrow,’ The Prophet

And yet, when I consider this, I am grateful. 

Grateful that the world is so full of paradox, grateful that I cannot feel one thing without feeling the other, grateful that life is so full of sorrow and joy, and so often at the same time.

Grateful that it is light that casts shadow, and that shadow is what gives life three-dimensional form.

I am grateful for that which has wounded me, because that which has wounded me has also shown me great ecstasy. Love has torn me apart, and made the way for even more love. Agony and despair has shifted my course, but my course has only shifted towards ever more blessings.

And this, more than anything else, is what gives me hope when I dwell on the past and feel anxious of the future: that no matter what agonies await, they will lead to ecstasies. No matter what pains await, they will lead to blessings. 

I am grateful for my Shadow, and for the Shadow of the world. Because it is what makes us real. It is what gives us form. The more we accept, heal, and integrate the Shadow — the more power we hold to dwell again in the natural rhythms of life. 

And life is blessing. And life is challenge. And life is blessing.

Monday Obsessions.

spotify obsessions: what i’ve had on repeat this week

  • Xiuhtezcatl ‘s album Break Free. This extraordinary man is the rapper version of Nahko Bear (who I’ve been a fan of for years). If you like music centered on spiritual activism, you’ll love this artist.
  • Fearless Soul’s playlist Spiritual Workout – Intense Presence EDM Gym Fitness Workout. This playlist alternates between ‘normal’ EDM songs … and Law of Attraction speeches set to EDM music. This playlist is awesome if you want to get a confidence and motivation boost while you do your cardio (or you’re walking to work, which is what I use it for)!
  • alxrnbrdmusic’s playlist Indie/Indie-Folk Compilation – Winter 2018. This playlist is my go-to for staring out the window at the winter rain and wind while a cup of tea warms my hands. 
  • Yaima. A woman with an incredible voice, super-chill songs, and a message of love and personal growth.

bookworm Obsessions: what I’ve been reading this week.

  • So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. A must-read for every single white person who wants to be an effective and non-patronizing ally for black people, indigenous people, and people of color. I learned so much from this book that I hadn’t been aware of before, such as “tone policing” and “the model minority myth.” This book is fantastic for oppressed demographics to read as well, as Oluo provides a lot of suggestions for them to stand up for and care for themselves in a world that is constantly demanding their emotional labor while at the same time mostly ignoring their needs.
  • The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford. Personal growth and self-care does nothing if it’s focused solely on ignoring the dark side of life and bathing yourself in glitter bath bombs. This book is an effective and widely acclaimed course that explains in understandable and relatable ways exactly what our Shadows are, why accepting and integrating our Shadows is some of the most important personal growth work we can do, and provides exercises in every chapter for how to do exactly that. If you’re ready for some real progress in your spiritual path, this is the book for you. Be prepared to cry, to laugh, to discover things about yourself you never knew, and to write pages and pages and pages in your journal.
  • The Brie’s Submission series by Red Phoenix. This is my go-to smut series for when I need something fun instead of serious, but it’s not just a smut series. This series is written by a real submissive, in a real D/S relationship, and serves as a peek into the BDSM and D/S world for people who have only ever experienced vanilla relationships. Phoenix does an extraordinary job with these books — unlike other kinky novels I’ve read, the characters are relatable, with depth and the ability to pull at my heartstrings. The plot is interesting and fun and, at times, heartbreaking. 

film obsessions: what I’ve been watching this week.

  • Netflix stand-up comedy. Iliza’s Elder Millenial got me laughing tears, and Trevor Noah delivers a show that is both hilarious and thought-provoking.
  • The Guernsy Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on Netflix. This movie is both heart-breaking and feel-good. 
  • The CW’s reimagining of Charmed. This new version of Charmed has had mixed reviews, due to its radical differences from the original; however, being the sort of person who likes to watch movies and shows for themselves rather than comparing them to their “originals,” I rather like it. I love that they’ve woven many widely-talked-about modern issues into the new series, including LGBTQ+ issues and #metoo-era subjects like consent and prominent men outed as sexual predators. The fact that the Charmed Ones are women of color is the icing on the cake. My only complaint thus far is that their whitelighter acts much as their authority figure, rather than as a guide; his patronizing quality right from the get-go has gotten on my nerves. Something I loved about the original was how independent and self-sufficient the Charmed Ones were — much of their challenges and strengths were borne out of having to figure it all out themselves (for the most part). 

This is a new weekly series I’ve decided to try out. I hope you enjoyed it, and I look forward to posting again soon!

shadow work.

The universe always guides us back to embracing the totality of ourselves. We attract whomever and whatever we need to mirror back the aspects of ourselves that we’ve forgotten.

Debbie Ford, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers

Maybe there is parts of myself I’ve forgotten,

left like breadcrumbs as I venture into the forests of life —

it’s a wilderness in jeopardy, I don’t know we’ll survive,

and I’m terrified

that nothing I do will ever make a difference, and I just

want my daughter to live, and I want to feel fully alive,

and remember what it’s like to be whole — 

to embody ever shadow and light of my soul; 

regardless of the state of the world, that’s my goal.

I’m hoping maybe in that state of remembrance,

I can make a difference

for the land, for the people, for my daughter,

and I know it starts with me, her mother …

I’m a mirror of the world, I am The Mother. 

The world’s healing starts with my healing,

and my healing starts with the land beneath my feet,

and learning again to sit with my feelings, 

to create poetry from what my heart is thinking,

to love my darkness without judgment like a child,

like my child, named for the moon,

who flows with her own spirit like a dancer flows with a tune.