*Spoiler Alert: if you have not seen Interstellar you should not read this. Major spoilers ahead.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
- Dylan Thomas
It is hard to describe what it is like to not have a dad. I’ve had about twenty-years to find the words but still come up short. My attempts to articulate it often go sour and leave me angry or bitter. Or just straight-up furious at God. I generally avoid the topic, not because I can’t say the words “my dad is dead,” but because of the follow-up question that is asked 75% of the time after the obligatory “oh, I’m so sorry,” comment:
How did he die?
While I don’t discount the absolute and utter tragedy and heart-break of things like car accidents and cancer and heart attacks, I assume those things might be easier to spit out when someone asks the question.
Heroin overdose – this answer, however, the truth, doesn’t roll off the tongue so smoothly.
I saw the film Interstellar a couple weeks ago and like a dagger to the gut, it pierced me and opened me up and exposed my insides in a way that felt as cruel as it did cathartic. It reminded me of my father and his untimely death. And for the final thirty-minutes of the movie, tears streamed down my face and onto the denim of my blue jeans. The last ten minutes of the film were the most difficult. As Matthew McConaughey’s character uses the gravity in a portal to communicate with his daughter in the past, it was a struggle for me to keep my composure. The father-daughter bond being illustrated in everything from the film’s writing to it’s cinematography and music is humanized and brought to life in such a profound, organic and palpable way that for me it felt like something had reached inside my chest and embedded itself within the very beating of my heart. It was a physical and spiritual and emotional experience, and a sensation that felt subtly familiar but far too ethereal and abstract to be immediately accessible or able to be reduced into verbal explanation.
But I figured out what it was that got me on the drive home.
Throughout the movie, “Murph Cooper,” Matthew McConaughey’s daughter, describes a “ghost” that follows her and communicates with her by way of pushing books off of a bookshelf and in other cryptic ways that she can not make sense of immediately. It is not a bad ghost and therefore, she never shows any sort of fear toward it’s presence. We learn at the end of the film that for grown-up Murph, convinced that she will never see her dad again after decades have passed since his venture into space to help “save his family and the whole of the human species,” that this ghost that has been communicating with her is her dad.
Her father was her ghost all along.
“I was your ghost, Murph!” McConaughey tells his daughter.
That’s when I knew my eyes wouldn’t be dry for a while inside the theater. That one line – those five words – pulsed through the whole of my body and brought to surface more feeling and emotion about my dad and the limited memory I have of him than I knew existed. I felt it in my pores and in the air inflating my lungs. And it made sense to me. All of it. The movie and the themes it was communicating and why they were important. Particularly, for a girl in her twenties who has not called a man by the name “dad” since pre-school.
All my life I have sensed the ghost of my father. But this isn’t something I tell people or have ever really talked about. Ever. Who would take me seriously? Beyond just feeling sorry for me, why would anyone care? Furthermore, my dad died from a drug overdose and besides his life as a skilled fisherman and carpenter, he was a big-time drug dealer and devoted gang member with a criminal past. I get angry sometimes when I think about it because he had a choice. He could have chosen his children over getting high. But he didn’t. There’s nothing noble or romantic about that. As I get older, though, I’m starting to let go of that anger. Because I sense him more now than I did as a child. I sense his spirit with me in small, strange ways that perhaps, I never would have admitted to or talked about if I had not seen Interstellar. I also sense him in humongous, unimaginably complex ways that even my best prose would do no justice in describing.
There are days when I can feel him everywhere, thickly, potently pressing into my life in what you might say is a desperate attempt to puncture the surface of my reality to let me know: he’s not really gone. He never really left me. For a moment I cling to that and take comfort in it. But then I remember that that’s a lie. He did leave. He’s not on earth anymore. And it’s because of the choices he made that were at their core, selfish, that I don’t have a dad to call on Father’s day and had no father figure to tell me I was beautiful and worthy as a little girl.
After seeing Interstellar I realized that I should probably try to let that anger and bitterness go. I don’t have to hear it from anyone to know that my dad loved me more than anything. I don’t have to hear stories about it from my mother to know that my dad adored me and would have given up his own life in a millisecond to ensure I was happy and safe. His addiction never changed that fact. It never changed his love for me. And for all of these years, I wonder if that is what his ghost wants to communicate to me most: that the way he died doesn’t change or take away from how deeply and truly he loved me. It doesn’t take away from that love at all. I was his baby girl.
I am his baby girl.
Neither time nor death can change that. Because love is transcendent, as Interstellar so beautifully illustrates. Love is as concrete as a rock and as colossal as a comet moving through the cosmos, yet it can’t be measured or quantified or reduced into anything less than what it is — an unseen force that propels and pulls us far greater than gravity ever could — a force that defies time and its inevitable passing.
Love doesn’t let us go. It sticks to us and stays in the very fabric of our being even in our best attempts to obliterate it.
Love is the constant that conquers the giant that is “time” as we know it as humans. And in that, one could say that we never really lose the people we love. They stay with us because they are bound to us by this force that is greater than any other on earth.
So while his death may not be easy to talk about or make sense of, I am learning that the way he died and the time that has passed since doesn’t change anything about the father-daughter bond that will forever exist between me and my dad. Just as it did for Murph and Cooper in Interstellar.
It could be the way a breeze kisses my cheek on the beach on a sultry, sticky summer day, or a Led Zeppelin song on the radio in the morning, or the way something makes me laugh and forget about all of the bad things in the world — I feel my dad’s ghost in ways that are as slight as a lingering smell and as large as the starry black sky on a cloudless night. And in all of these ways, I do think he’s communicating something to me — something that can ultimately be summed as: love. Unchangeable. Constant. Immeasurable. The unconquerable force that will forever bind me to him — the man who fathered me and left the earth too soon, but who’s ghost has not and will not let me go. Because love, neither confined nor defined by time, simply won’t allow it.
Interstellar forced me to confront the vastness of the void in my longing for my dad. But I can take comfort in knowing that the love that my father has for me is still here. And while I may not be able to see or touch it, if this film taught me anything, it is that sometimes it is the things that can’t be seen or touched that transcend and matter most on our journey from this dimension into the next.
Yesterday was a bad day. My mind did the thing that it does sometimes and betrayed and polluted me with toxic thoughts and worries. This left me feeling wasted, in a puddle of my own tears, gasping for air and gripping for any semblance of hope against the high seas raging in my head.
Not cool, brain. This is not cool. Just stop it, okay? I quietly commanded, with a proverbial finger pointed at my cranium.
Can you give me a break just this once? Can you be on my side right now, please? I continued.
My head did not heed my command. The tears continued as the pain and desperation and sadness made themselves a cup of hot cocoa and got cozy under the covers in my head and chose to stay. Though they were anything but welcome. That’s one of the vicious beasts of mental illness – we don’t welcome what it brings or allow it to be comfortable most of the time but it overpowers us and makes it’s own choices, leaving us – the host – left to clean up the mess of it’s consequences.
I have bad days more often than I have good days. And while I wish I was the sort of person who could sit here and tell you that it is the opposite – that would be a lie and lies aren’t good for us.
I do a fairly decent job at powering through the bad days. My survival has depended on it. But there are days, or moments, hours, and minutes, that are far worse than those that have come before and exhaust every mental muscle I use to try and kick, punch, and beat it away.
Yesterday was one of those days.
After coming off the high of visiting with good friends from back where I grew up in Florida who came to visit, I was lonely. Then I was angry for being lonely. And then I felt sad and scared and lost. It was as if my anxiety crept in with a microphone and began announcing how hopeless, doomed and broken I am as a woman and I wasn’t given a choice whether or not to believe it. I was forced to believe it.
Or so I thought.
To cope I decided to watch Youtube clips from American Beauty and Forrest Gump which wasn’t very smart of me considering the totally depressing (yet strangely beautiful and perfect) endings of both of these films. This did not help my tears. It only brought more. But I needed to let the tears fall. I needed to feel it, not dodge or dance around it. That’s how heartache and pain and inner turmoil are overcome: by feeling them, first. Everything else is secondary. The feeling of our feelings is what matters because unless we feel them in their entirety, how can we know how to move forward? How can we not give up? Because the truth is, the fear of facing our feelings while we run from them is far more lethal than the feelings themselves.
The feeling I needed to face most yesterday was the acceptance of the fact that I am a product of my pain. We all are. Whether we want to believe it or not. We are bound to our stories and we can’t escape them.
I am a product of a fatherless childhood and an abusive home. You know how long it has taken me to accept that?
Years. Long, tiring years.
But here’s the kicker, and what makes life juicy despite this fact: I don’t have to let pain and bad things define my story in any other way but than how it makes me infinitely more strong and brave and beautifully broken than I would be if I had never been inflicted with the scars that I wear. Confronting the pain of mental illness and abuse and the ensuing emptiness and distrust of people is what gives me momentum to stay brave. It is what powers my will to keep going. ‘Cause you know what? I’ve already made it this far. I have not given up. Even yesterday with my head soaked with the salty warmth of what felt like ten thousand tears – I did not give up. And that counts for something, even if all that “something” is is that I allowed myself to feel what was the most painful to feel. Abandonment. Loneliness. Hopelessness. Spiritual disillusionment. Resentment. Despair. Brokenness.
All that ugly stuff that the world wants us to stuff into dark corners and hiding places so it’s not seen or felt or known by others.
We have to feel it.
We have to let it flow through us even when it stings like peroxide on an open wound.
We have to own it.
Because it is ours.
And it, more-so than the events that occur, is what makes our story the epic that we never knew it could be – the epic that it is. All that is asked of us is just a little more courage. Right here, right now. A little more courage and holding on.
That is victory. And you know what bad days hate most? When we believe there can be victory despite them.
Until next time…
~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer ~
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.
Every season Chris Harrison says it, and every season, I roll my eyes at the sound of the very obviously desperate-to-make-people-believe-he’s-right-this-time tone in his voice.
If you’re a veteran fan of ABC’s The Bachelor/ Bachelorette franchise than you know the phrase well.
“This season is like nothing you’ve ever seen before…”
98% of the time Harrison says this it’s false. Every season is almost always littered with the same tired, predictable drama that you can only expect when you throw 20+ desperate singles who waver between okay-looking-enough-for-reality-TV and Courtney Robertson in a mansion in L.A. to compete for fame, err, I mean, someone’s hand in marriage with unlimited amounts of booze on deck 24/7.
In terms of “crazy” – we have seen it all on this show.
Or have we?
This week’s episode of The Bachelor, starring Andi Dorfman’s darling reject, farmer Chris Soules from Iowa, successfully flipped the script in a way that no other Bachelor/ Bachelorette moment or season has – so much so that it had me seriously wondering: is this really happening? On television?
Now, it really takes a lot to make me uncomfortable. Whether in real-life or in the media I consume. I’m a case worker. Decoding and discerning bizarre behavior is to me what coffee is for a barista: it’s what I work with. But then last night happened.
Enter: Ashley Satler from Brooklyn, NY.
Occupation: Hair-Stylist. (Supposedly.)
The moment everything changed: In the first episode we see Ashley confuse a pomegranate for an onion and ramble on and on about it in a way that was not entirely disturbing, but subtly comical enough to think: hey, she’s weird and weird is fun.
But then this week’s episode aired. The girls go on a zombie-killing-adventure with paintball guns and Ashley doesn’t understand the rules of the game and questions whether she is supposed to shoot the other girls or the zombies. Really. She doesn’t understand.
Until she does understand. So much so that while the other girls are having fun and frolicking around in tank tops, high off the “I’m on television in my daisy dukes with a paintball gun right now!” endorphins, she literally walks peacefully through the zombies like Moses parting the Red Sea and starts shooting at the ones already on the ground, defeated, in a manner that is not so much “oh, she’s playful and daring!” but rather “oh crap, this girl may be dangerous. For real.”
And it only gets worse from there.
Really, tragically worse.
After Ashley’s unnecessarily aggressive hunt for more zombies to shoot she begins saying things that literally make zero sense, have no context, and indicate that she might not be okay/ stable/ sober?
We don’t really know.
After walking around looking for more already-dead zombie-actors to fire at with her paintball gun, she says she “feels like she’s in the Mesa Verde.”
Red flag #1.
Then she says she thinks the rose might go to an angel. And makes hardly coherent remarks about “losing the world, gaining the world, and losing your soul.” (No context provided.)
She then finds Chris and asks him to explore with her. I breathed a sigh of relief at this scene because I thought maybe, she was just acting bizarrely for the cameras while waiting for Chris’s undivided attention so she could go back to not acting like she was secretly chasing Valium with shots of Jameson during commercial breaks.
But things got weirder.
She references the “Mesa Verde” again and asks if they’re walking through a “dome.” Chris seems disturbed but not entirely spooked just yet. Chris is pulled aside to be interviewed by producers about the date and Ashley decides to interupt this right as Chris exclaims: She seems like a great girl really, I just, I don’t know if this has gotten to her, I don’t know what’s going on. I feel bad.
Ashley comes up to him and he asks her if she’s okay, and she says, “Yeah, of course…your leather smells really great.” Again, he asks, “Are you holding up okay?” Her reply: “No, I don’t even know what you’re asking me.”
Cue twilight zone theme song.
Seconds later, Chris picks up where he left off being interviewed and Ashley then gets on her hands and knees and begins to talk to a cat. Producers step in and take Ashley back to the house to put her to bed.
There is another scene in which we see the other girls reacting to Ashley who has just reappeared after wandering off. “I heard the truth,” Ashley says. “What truth?” the girls ask. “That’s how I feel like, boom. Boom like the truth.” “Oh God,” she replies, looking tired and entirely out of it, but also scarily very serious.
So what’s the issue here?
The issue is that unless Ashley was, A) drunk (doubtful since she wasn’t seen drinking much at all), B) putting on an act for press/ attention, or C) coaxed into acting crazy by the producers to boost ratings, than it is more than obvious that she needs serious, professional help and that what she doesn’t need is millions of people watching her mentally unravel/ breakdown on screen. She should not have been on screen at all. She needed to be psychologically evaluated and assessed for assurance that she is healthy and stable and okay enough to continue on the show, ya know, BECAUSE CHRIS DECIDED TO GIVE HER A ROSE AND KEEP HER ON. Despite the red flags, despite getting on all fours to talk to a cat, despite her disturbing interruption of his interview, he decides to keep her. This is what makes me think the producers may have been behind it. How could he be okay with giving her a rose? If he cared for her he would have understood that she needed to go home and rest and receive some medical attention rather than oh, I don’t know…BEING ON A TV SHOW.
The only exceptions to this would be if Chris had a talk with Ashley that wasn’t aired or if he genuinely feels something and she makes it to the final few episodes. We know Chris is a nice guy, a total gentleman, but if he kept her around because he felt bad for her mental state, well then, he’s blinded by his own ignorance. If he could not discern that there was something very seriously wrong that needed to be seriously addressed, and not in the context of reality television, than shame on the producers of the show for not pointing it out to him or doing the right thing and sending Ashley home or to a doctor and cutting the footage of her that was aired on Monday that will no doubt haunt her for the rest of her life. (Unless this was scripted or Ashley doesn’t care.)
I get that this is “just a TV show.” We shouldn’t take TV shows that seriously. Especially ones that revolve around one person dating 25-30 people at once to find “the one.” Ashley willingly signed up for this, too. And we’ve seen “crazy” people before on The Bachelor. (Kalon, Tierra, Erica Rose). But after re-watching footage from Monday’s episode, the questions remain for me: did the Bachelor go too far? Is Ashley being exploited for mental illness? Substance abuse? Is it ethical to air this footage? I guess I will have to wait until the next episode to unequivocally decide for myself because of that small chance that she was inebriated and cognizant of what she was doing while getting inebriated or set up to act the way she did. But if those things don’t end up being true and Ashley is in need of serious help that she is not getting in the producer’s favor of having her on to humiliate herself and become pegged as “the crazy Bachelor girl” then perhaps this time around, Chris Harrison is right. This season will definitely be like “nothing like we’ve ever seen before.” But at the expense of someone’s mental health, is it really worth it?
The obvious answer is “no,” but if The Bachelor/ Bachelorette franchise has taught us anything, it is that when it comes to ratings, there’s no telling how low this show is willing to go.
“And still, after all this time, the Sun has never said to the earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with love like that. It lights up the sky.”
A great, good, glorious afternoon to you, beloved readers & friends.
I have been thinking a lot about love this week.
Real, organic, unconditional, life-giving, life-altering & entirely consuming Love. In basic, elementary terms, here are some of my thoughts (and some photographs from a recent afternoon spent playing and exploring at Shaw’s Cove in Laguna Beach.)
- There is so much truth to the saying that “we must first love ourselves before we can love another.” This is so brutally and painfully accurate. I thank the pains of my own personal relationships in my adulthood for highlighting this for me. Though I do lament that I am 27-years-old and have only just begun learning what it means and looks like to love myself. Oh what a journey I have ahead of me…a beautiful, blustery journey brimming with hope and discovery and the shedding of many tears.
- Love is costly. It demands everything of us, including our devotion to do the work required to sustain and feed it, even when all we want is to run fast and far away from it.
- Love can hurt just as intensely as it can heal the human heart. What we do with the hurt and how we allow the healing to change, alter, and deliver us is entirely our choice.
- There are few wounds in life that sting for as long and as relentlessly as that of unrequited love. But from that wound, wisdom is born and a deeper understanding of the human experience is bestowed upon us.
- How we Love others is often a reflection of how we were loved (or not loved) as children. Understanding this is paramount to the process of growth and self-acceptance and finding inner peace.
- Love is the beginning and the end, the force that holds it all together in invisible ways that can’t be seen with our human eyes, but can only be felt with the heart and discerned with the soul. Most of us deserve to be loved more than we think. One of life’s greatest tragedies lies in the stories of those who never opened themselves up to love themselves enough to let in the light of the love of others. My prayer and posture of hope is that that does not become of me. One day at a time. One moment at a time. Always.
May your love be the kind of love that lights up the sky.
Until next time…
“You know what the first rule of flying is? Love. You can learn all the math in the ’verse, but take a boat in the air that you don’t love… she’ll shake you off, just as sure as the turnin’ of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tell you she’s hurting before she keels… makes her a home.”