It’s as hard and time-consuming and soul-flattening as expected. Separating our stuff; packing hers; daily encountering the now vacant spaces all around me that were once crowded by her presence and influence. Logically, I’d expected to face fewer painful memories by removing the things around me that elicited those memories. That maybe by cutting out the physical reminders, I’d have a chance at moving on.

I had no idea the shadows would be worse. The places now where she isn’t, where her stuff isn’t, where her presence isn’t, those places are now somehow alive with memories where previously there simply sat inanimate objects that represented her. With those removed, it’s like the memories suddenly have room to breathe and move. Everywhere I turn I am haunted by the empty, the lack, the absence. The nothing.

To expunge is vital. Eliminate. Erase. To treat as though it never happened. Deep-six.

As much as that’s what’s needed under the circumstances, it’s impossible to carry out from a practicality standpoint. At least for the time-being. I mean, how do you carry on as though someone never happened to you when she’s still paying some of your bills, and when her army family readiness group can’t manage to remove your email address from their mailing list despite having been asked several times? Reading the excitement and anticipation of all those other family members who get to be thrilled now that the half-way point has come and gone, now that it’s even close enough to start counting down the weeks until they’re home…it’s just cruel. I thought I had earned that celebration too, and it would be more tolerable to swallow that I’m no longer part of that if I didn’t keep getting weekly status updates.

No. That’s a lie. It would never be more tolerable to swallow.

It’s kinda like when you’re in high school and everyone is talking about how great the party will be that you’re not invited to. It’s just hateful.

But we’re still too entangled which is what I’m working on solving.


It’s February 1st and today I saw the first crocuses pushing through the slightly snowy mushy earth. Every year I look forward to this day–the first flowers waking up even when there’s still snow on the ground.

I gasped when I saw them surprised by their early arrival. Immediately I grabbed my phone to snap a picture and send it to the one person who would be as happy as I was to see it.

It was a fresh punch to the throat to remember in my excitement over the flowers that she’s no longer tied to the ragged threads of my heart.

It’s just not the same without sharing it with her.

Phipps is Gone

Phipps is gone. I mean, not really. But it’s gone for me. The magic it’s held for me all these years is dead.

I went a few nights ago with friends to enjoy the holiday flowers and lights, but it was just painful. Too many memories.

It was one of our favorite places to go together, especially in the winter–the warmth, the dirt and flower smell, the locally grown, delicious food in the cafe–it was flora therapy for both our souls. I’ve been looking forward to spending plenty of time there through January and February to help ward off the inevitable deep winter depression. To relive, in my imagination until she came home, those many calm and happy moments we had together strolling through the gardens, testing our memories for the names of various plants and flowers, just enjoying the company of someone who shared our mutual love of plants and gardening.

But now it’s poison. This place that was a respite, a safe haven from my various mental and emotional demons, this place that I’ve used to keep me emotionally connected to her while she’s away…it’s turned on me.

Her presence haunted every path. I could hear her voice reminding me of the names of flowers I can never remember. I could see her long fingers stretch out to gently hold still a single blossom for me to inhale. She’d always ask, “Does it sniff good?”

Everything smells sweeter when I share it with her. I learned so much from these visits, not just about plants, but about her, about us, about peace, about the soothing effect nature has on me, about the importance of shared interests and passions.

My love of growing things existed before we were together, and maybe it will continue even now that we’re over. But it really might not. She’s a true nurturer, a true gardener. She brought to life and cultivated this seedling interest I’ve always had, and it’s flourished and grown into a full-fledged life passion under her care and influence. It’s likely to whither and die without the gardener, and I’m honestly willing to let it. I will never enjoy poppies in the spring without her. Who will be excited with me when the first brave crocus or snowdrop (I learned from her that they’re called Galanthus) peeks its tentative greens through the frozen winter ground? I don’t care whether my paw paw trees produce fruit if she’s not here to share it with me. Every plant in my garden will wilt in the shadow of so many painful memories that used to sustain me while she’s been away.

But life will not be returning to my garden this spring because she’s not returning. What’s the point in having a beautiful garden to wander through when I don’t have her to share it with me? It’s just not the same to make rounds through the garden and talk to the plants without her. It doesn’t matter whether they’re in my yard or at Phipps…

…they’re all traitors now.


No Answers

How were we talking about wedding ideas one day, and a week later we’re over? How were we buying a house together one day, and within a month I’m packing all your things and your friend is moving them out? How is this happening? How does someone stop loving that fast? I wish I could.

How could I have known standing on that sidewalk outside the bus that took you away six months ago was the last time you’d kiss me? I’ve been living on the anticipation of your homecoming all this time.

Now there isn’t one. It’s just too cruel.

Thirty Years.

Whatever time is, it’s cruel.

Thirty years. It took thirty years for us to connect and fall in love.

Six years. And we only got six years together.

However foolish it may be, I will wait another thirty years for her.

Even if it meant we’d only get another six years. Or six months. Or six days. 

I will wait. And grow and learn and better myself. I will wait through any amount of time for any amount of time with her again.

That will always be true.

Six Years. Almost.

I don’t know how I am where I am. I don’t know how we’re here. But we’re broken and I’m dying.

Except that I’m not dying, and that’s the worst part.

I wish I would. It would be a relief.

I’m so tired of struggling to live. Striving to survive. Fighting to get through it.

Tired of hearing all the “this too shall pass” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and “time heals all wounds” platitudes.

This too might pass, and that’s my greatest fear and pain–that the love of my life changed her mind and is passing me by.

What doesn’t kill me is a tease. It brings me to the brink and leaves me there gasping for breath and wishing for death.

Time is a voyeur and heals nothing. Time is not active. It merely passes and looks on indifferently while life beats the shit out of me.

My life has been an endless parade of pain and hardship and people who leave. Event after hateful, agonizing event without a break.

I thought she was my karma. I thought she was the universe finally handing me the payout for all my grief.


A few weeks ago, I felt smugly confident I’d get through this winter without the usual self-loathing and morbid dreariness that tends to accompany February. Several factors were in my favor:

I began Weight Watchers just after New Years and have lost seven pounds without much effort, which, as anyone trying to lose weight knows, if you can feel immediate success, the encouragement of that far outweighs the constraints you place on yourself to continue losing.

We had a lovely house guest—Karen—for a week crossing January and February which has to be my favorite part of the winter.

I recently bought several adorable succulent house plants to bring in more naturey greeness which I expected to be a further balm or preventative to my winter blues.

I’ve been taking Vitamin D for general health and wellness and because I know it can help with seasonal depression because you’re not getting that Vitamin D from sunshine. (For the most part, I have noticed a significant improvement in my overall moods since beginning to take it daily.) And I thought the snow was on my side.

I was mostly ok with the relentless snow because it was at least pretty and disguised the muted ochers, grays, and dingy greens of Pittsburgh’s winter landscape. The snow brought a clean, bright contrast to the skeleton trees, and really, for me the view outside my front window and all the photos I saw of the buried city and surrounding towns, filled me with wonder and awe at the spectacle and ferocity of nature. It was breath-taking and wonderful and vicious all at once.

I thought to myself and said to several people that, even though the clean-up of the snow was annoying and a week stuck indoors with my kids drove us all a little batty, I wanted to think of it as positively as possible. My spin on it was that at least February looked pretty and the snow wasn’t likely to melt until March and by that time, Spring would have all but sprung and I’d be well out of danger for my yearly bludgeoning by seasonal disaffectedness…whateverthefuck it is that makes me despise drawing breath while I wait for the sunshine to crack the clouds and find me again.

But I was too smug or too confident or too a few weeks ago because today and for the past several days all I can do is sigh and mope and drag my hang-dog self around the house prodding me to switch the laundry so we can all have underwear tomorrow.

Today I have eaten 12 or 13 Tagalongs, 5 Trefoils, and at least 9 or so Thin Mints (cookies, not boxes—if that were the case I believe I’d be going to have my stomach pumped.) But seriously, who eats that many cookies in a day? Good grief. I felt like if I could just reach that one more cookie, I’d have a reason to let my heart go on beating. Pathetic. It’s unbearably pathetic. And this is the eat-me-up cycle: Inexplicable moroseness, disinterest in all things (excepting perhaps chocolate and Girl Scout cookies), bounded well with a mortar of intolerable self-loathing.

I know this sounds like whining, but it’s not in my head. I mean, the tone of voice isn’t whining. These are simply matters of fact.

I’m dreading going to sleep because I haven’t actually slept well in three weeks thanks to strange and disturbing dreams and perpetual pain in my neck/back/leg—depression with an insomnia chaser; I’m dreading waking up tomorrow feeling the same as I do today; I’m dreading an exam, a paper, and another exam all due next week; I’m sure there’s plenty more I could dread. I know there is. I’m overcome by dread.

Thing is, I know it’s unreasonable. I know there’s no real cause. I know in a few weeks I’ll start to feel my way out of the fog and gloom and will mostly continue on through life…but right now, I feel terminal even though the ickyness feels interminable. Whether or not that makes sense, I know what I mean.

I just want winter to get a move on.

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