What the f*ck are you looking at?

How I Spent My Summer (Hint: in a Basement With 12 Severed Heads, Some Soul-Crushing Grief, and Not Much Else.)


Don’t worry – this is not going to be some Cheryl Strayed-style gag me with how hot and awesome I think I am and how every thing I ever fucked up was actually someone else’s fault  account of hard-won redemption and triumph over the very grief that leveled me. It’s just not – there’s no redemption in sight, and certainly no triumph. I’ve spent the past 3 months in some stranger’s basement, for fuck’s sake – not to mention that said basement’s every vertical surface is covered with the heads, skins, pelts, and antlers of things he’s personally killed for, I assume, fun. Said basement has no internet or cable. Said basement has no kitchen. Aside from the whole “being indoors” thing, it’s camping. I’m lucky to have it, as I had nowhere else to go with my 5 pets – and grateful in a way that I keep needing to remind myself to be. Like, I am grateful not to be homeless. Which is not a small thing, but still. No fucking cable?

So, this might sound obvious, but: you should never move immediately after the sudden loss of a parent (You’re welcome.). Especially when you weren’t planning to move and therefore have no fucking idea of where to go next or what to do when you get there. While selling my house to the guy who came out of nowhere and just *asked* if he could buy it seemed like a good idea at the time, I can tell you in hindsight that this was a seriously fucked-up thing to do. I did it because that’s what I do – I leave. That’s how I handle pain, how I’ve ALWAYS handled pain – I cut and run and never look back; and not in a theoretical or emotional way which would allow me to stay conveniently stationed in my home whilst doing the cutting and running. Nope. I fucking RELOCATE. Sell houses I just bought and move across the country to places I’ve never been and where I know no one. I start over, thinking the pain won’t come with me or that it will somehow be less awful if the scenery around it is different. And this time it just dropped in my lap. It was the Universe clearly telling me, once again, to haul ass away from the sadness. Right? *The Things We Tell Ourselves.*

Since 9/11/01, I have moved 13 times. Next month will make it 14 times. In 12 years. It does not take a genius to determine that this pervasive discontent with my surroundings is merely a reflection of the chaos that exists within me on a cellular level and the bloody, beefy lasagna of scar tissue over my heart from a life touched by far too much death. Illness, financial ruin, betrayal, relationship flame-outs: these things all hurt, too, and yes – I have fled from those as well, many times over. But it’s the death that really gets you.

If there’s anything I should have learned from losing 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 1 uncle, 2 godparents, 13 close friends and 1 boyfriend (all but the grandparents were sudden. The phone calls and news stories that I will never have the luxury of forgetting.), it’s that there’s no going around grief. You have to go through it. Much like the Thieves’ Forest in The Princess Bride: while it would be really, really nice to take the scenic belt loop around that shit and avoid the flame bursts, lightning sand, and ROUSs that you’re pretty sure are going to kill you, make no mistake: that plan has its own set of perils. Better to risk the Fire Swamp with its well-documented dangers and just get the fuck to the other side.

Which brings me back to the basement: the Belly of the Grief Beast. My own personal Fire Swamp. Even though I got here technically by “running away again,” I knew that this time, leaving was not going to be enough. So I came here intending to take the summer off from all the things I’d normally do to distract myself from the pain of losing my mother. What I didn’t realize was that there were far many more of those things than I even realized, and that I couldn’t do any of them even if I wanted to. Aside from the obvious distractions like work, parties, committees, boys, booze, opiates, clubs, sports – I suddenly found myself with no kitchen, where I have always sought comfort – traveling, through food,  to other worlds (i.e. away from my own) without ever leaving the house. No internet, where I might spend vast, empty hours of time-suckage on Facebook or numbing out to teen vampire marathons on Netflix. No bathtub, where I’d surely be spending evenings luxuriating with books and wine and the occasional inappropriate jet usage. There’s no shopping nearby, and friends here are few and far between. (In my experience, friends typically don’t handle your grief well, anyway. They liked you the way you were, and you’re not that way anymore. It’s inconvenient for them, the fact that your entire world has caved in on you.) So I don’t see much of anyone at all. I stopped playing roller derby. Although I still skate often, I skate alone. I eat alone. I walk alone. I go to the beach alone, if I go at all. I even stopped sexting with the adorable, too-young boy – not because it wasn’t tons of fun, but because it was. I am going THROUGH it, goddammit, not around. I am in self-imposed exile in some dude’s basement with the looming specter of my dead mother and the heads of a dozen murdered animals to remind me why I’m here and what I need to do. Which is cry. Cry so hard that I choke on my own sobs and fight for breath through a gullet near-strangled by the sadness. Rage. Rest. Talk to people who are not there anymore. Forgive them. Forgive God. Forgive myself.

Through it. Not around.

Next month I will move to another beautiful home in another beautiful town where I will know no one. I will start over as I always do. And while I like to think that This Time will be different because I’ve forced myself to feel the pain fully, I don’t know that it will. While I like to imagine that the unbearable darkness of the Basement Days will ready me for a life better lived in the light, I don’t know that it will. While I like to dream that this experience will finally turn me into someone who believes that the things that don’t kill you make you stronger instead of someone who believes that those things chip away at you little by little until there’s almost nothing left, I don’t know that it will.  But I do know that when I leave here, the worst will be behind me, and that I will have survived it, again. I will cook and skate and see friends and laugh and shop and watch movies and mastur-bathe because those things should be for the living, not just for avoiding the dead. I will try my hardest to stay in one place, no matter what happens – because I will know that running doesn’t fix it.

Through it, not around. And from now on, not away.

Wish me luck.

September 1, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. You ARE a survivor. You are my survivor. There is light ahead of you once you are out of the basement. I like you as you are. Sad, happy, depressed, in mourning, healthy, whatever. Take your time, surface when you are ready. So much love for you.

    Comment by Trixie Timebomb | September 1, 2013 | Reply

    • Love you too, my Trixiegirl. In it together <3

      Comment by Marie | September 2, 2013 | Reply

  2. Good luck! I’m not in a basement full of death but I’m walking through it, not around it, too.

    Comment by Spilling Ink | September 1, 2013 | Reply

    • Wishing you strength for your journey through…<3

      Comment by Marie | September 2, 2013 | Reply

  3. Such a powerful piece of writing that I am struggling to find words sufficient enough to ‘comment’ and yet feel that not to would be tremendously cowardly in the face of such brutal gut-wrenching honesty. I wish you not only luck, but continued strength and ultimately want you to have an inner-piece that is ill using you so unfairly. (I’m sure a cooler/geekier woman than me could add an appropriate symbol at this point but you will need to use your imagination on this one…)

    Comment by Jeanie | September 1, 2013 | Reply

    • Aww, thank you, love. Your kind words mean a lot. And I can only imagine that you are the perfect blend of cool and geeky if you found your way here! xo

      Comment by Marie | September 2, 2013 | Reply

  4. ‘ill using’= eluding

    Comment by Jeanie | September 1, 2013 | Reply

    • Ha! Freaking autocorrect.

      Comment by Marie | September 2, 2013 | Reply

  5. so very glad to discover your blog. your talent and grace in using the written word builds me up and makes me believe i am ready for today. stuffed dead animals are curious. you must have more than strength to sleep in a basement full of them. you are your own good luck, your mom is still with you, don’t make her worry about you.

    Comment by lauraz | September 2, 2013 | Reply

    • Laura dear, you are so right. If my mom had any idea how sad I’ve been she’d come back to life just to kick her own ass for making me sad. I’m ok these days – out of the basement and only tending to live creatures. Thank you <3

      Comment by Marie | October 7, 2013 | Reply

  6. Jesus that was a great post. Your honesty is inspiring and refreshing. My heart goes out to you right now. You are so brave. You will get through this. (mastur-bathe….freakin’ genius. Even in a serious post you always make me laugh!)

    Comment by bethteliho | September 2, 2013 | Reply

    • Aww, thanks dolly. I’m not really brave at all – not with this stuff, anyway. I’ll let a bitch take me out on skates any day of the week, but when it comes to heart-pain, I live in fear of “the next time.” But If I fooled you, that’s awesome! Big hugs <3

      Comment by Marie | October 7, 2013 | Reply

  7. There’s something horrifying but weirdly relieving about falling in to that intense pain instead of hiding it. I hope you move out of the dungeon soon. I found there was a strange place where agony and joy coexisted, spending the morning howling on the floor in pain then finding myself wandering about in the sunlight dazed and somehow feeling… ? happiness? before the bleakness came back. I kind of just surrendered to it, went wherever my heart took me. That seemed to help. x

    Comment by sarahkreece | September 3, 2013 | Reply

    • Wow, dear. It does help. That’s kind of where I am now – I moved out of the dungeon a week ago, and in the madness of moving there is both sadness and joy; finding old family treasures that can either drop me to my knees with sorrow or bring on a fit og giggles with remembering. And hope for better days ahead, which is something I’ve not had in a long time. Thank you, love. xx

      Comment by Marie | October 7, 2013 | Reply

  8. You don’t need luck girl. You need cable. Thanks for sharing this crazy difficult time in your life. It can only get better from here. Or worse. 🙂

    Comment by spacurious | November 23, 2013 | Reply

  9. I know I am a little late in the game to commenting on this post but only recently discovered your blog via a friend’s FB page. Your honesty is refreshing and observations spot on. I too am an orphan going through and this post and the one regarding your mother’s death really hit home. My mom died 3 years ago and although the looming abject grief is gone their are still tear inducing moments although mostly fleeting. I try to honor her by living my life as she lived hers, by making the most of each and every day.
    My condolences on the loss of your mother and I hope that if not through you are making it through. There is light at the end of the tunnel and no, it is not an oncoming train and if it is not actual sunlight it is at least a flashlight to help guide you through.
    Please know that even more than a year later your blog continues to help people.

    Comment by Lnschneids | December 24, 2014 | Reply

    • Wow. I needed this today. If reading my blog made you feel less alone, you can be sure that your note has made me feel less alone. Endless thank-yous for that, and for reminding me that the sadness does ease itself eventually. Our losses are all different and yet all the same. Best to you. xoxo

      Comment by Marie | December 24, 2014 | Reply

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