I don’t know.

I haven’t written in this blog in a long time. And until just a few moments ago, I couldn’t really tell you why. Being busy, not feeling “inspired,” or not having anything to share are not really accurate excuses. I think it’s because I’ve been hiding.

Photo by A. Pagliaricci
Photo by A. Pagliaricci

I didn’t know I was hiding, not at first. But like a shapeless, dark monster that creeps into your dreams, vignetting what seems to be a fairly standard happy image, I had this growing suspicion that something was not quite right with me. It’s been plaguing me for weeks, this sensation that something is about to fall apart, that I’m not truly alive and aware, that any happiness I’ve felt was false. I’ve talked about it at great lengths with my close friends, my therapist, writing about it in my journal. I could articulate it, yes, but at most it was an intellectual diagnosis. It felt like someone dubbing over my own voice in a foreign language. I knew, but I couldn’t touch it. It hadn’t hit me yet, it floated above me, mockingly. I was pretty sure of what I wanted to eat but I had yet to order it and actually ingest it.

Okay, enough metaphors. You get the idea. But for someone who always has to know the answer to everything, this uncertainty has been difficult for me to live with. So I simply didn’t. In the past 3 months since I’ve last posted, I’ve been quite busy. I held a fundraiser party, I went home for the holidays, I finally wrapped principal photography on my film, I started a writers’ group, produced and acted in a new comedy web-sketch, as well as started developing more web-sketches for PITtv. Meanwhile, I’ve continued to work full-time and go out with friends or on dates. I’ve been very busy. I’ve been barely home. I’ve been rarely alone. Because I’m hiding.

When my best friend suddenly died last June, all I wanted was to be alone. Grief was the most isolating experience of my life. I’ve lived quite an individual life so far, but the alone-ness was palpable. I couldn’t be around anyone, I couldn’t smile for anyone or make small talk with anyone. I just wanted to sit outside and listen to our favorite music and cry. Nurse my grief like it was the last drink I’ll ever have. I walked the streets of New York with a bubble around me, protecting me from interaction, from engagement, from life. I just mourned.

So when I finally came out, when the sun’s rays finally actually got to touch my skin again, when I looked up, it felt miraculous. I slowly started to feel inspired again, the need to be productive, to continue living. After a while, I wanted to see other people. I wanted to start working on my projects again. I would never be the same, but I was back. And once I got my footing, I took off running. I filled my schedule and took on new projects and set up meetings and dates and outings and laughed and talked and acted like my old extroverted self again. But I was hiding.

I was hiding because I was afraid of being alone again. If I was alone, then I would think. And if I thought, I would think about Matt. And if I thought about Matt, I feared I would slip back into that dark yet brightly-lit, stark, empty room of despair again. I still am. I’m afraid. I’m afraid to be sad. I’m afraid to let myself continue to grieve. I’m afraid I won’t come out of it again. It’s been 8 months and 17 days since Matt died and I’m not still fully healed. I’m not over it. That’s okay. I’m never going to be over this. People tell you about that deep loss. I know this. But I might not also fully heal from this.

Why do we look at wounds as things that need to heal? I kept trying to become this holier-than-thou totally enlightened wise being in the last several months. How pretentious of me to go on and on about how my best friend’s death changed me? I would wax poetic about death and the meaning of life like I suddenly had all the answers now that I’ve experience such profound, tragic loss. (My friends know exactly what I’m talking about. Thank you for not slapping me, but god somebody please slap me next time.)

That is total bullshit. Okay, not total, but I was missing the point, I see that now. That was me trying to tie everything up neatly with a bow again. That was the same Katie that pretended to give eloquent interviews about world issues to the mirror when she was 9 (okay 15… okay 21… okay fine, last night) but still – I have this need to romanticize everything in my life, to package it neatly and analyze it and understand it all, but the truth is, I really don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know anything at all.

Photo by danabooo
Photo by danabooo

I’m a mess. I’m a flawed, messy, emotional human being. Made of flesh and blood and bones and chemicals and weird shit like that and I’m trying to figure it out desperately like everyone else. I miss my best friend and I still grieve for him but also sometimes I don’t think about him. And yeah, I feel guilty about that too. I don’t always stick to my diet and sometimes I get drunk on weeknights and I date the wrong people and I can be flaky and I don’t call my parents nearly as much as I should. I make snap judgments and I say things sometimes just to get a rise out of people and I get secretly possessive over my food. I have hateful thoughts sometimes and I’m mad at my best friend for dying on me and I miss him so frickin’ much and I worry way too much and I really do want love and children and a family someday. I cry at the drop of a hat and I have dry skin and I don’t like to follow rules and I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m a human. I am not a saint, I am not the Buddha, I will not rise out of this like a glorious wise martyr. I am ugly sometimes, and I have ugly emotions sometimes, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. I’m allowed to be ugly. I’m allowed to be human. I’m allowed to let this wound fester a bit.

This all came to a head while I was listening to the Strangers podcast while at work.  I highly recommend everyone listen to this episode. When I first started researching about grief in the initial months after Matt’s death, I would scoff at those articles about broken hearts. “Who cares about a break-up? I f*cking lost my best friend – he f*cking died! We can’t ever see or talk to each other again because he doesn’t exist on this planet anymore!” But the fact is, a broken heart is a broken heart. Listening to these storytellers talk about their own experiences after a devastating break-up, it echoed exactly what I went through last summer. When Annie McEwen and Lea Thau said that even waking up is hard, realizing that this is the world you live in now, that’s exactly how it felt waking up every day last summer. And in Annie’s story, when the female character mentions just living with her lost love, not being consumed by it but giving it space and just knowing that she has to live with this feeling, without him, every day – it resonated with me.

Like these two women, my heart is broken. And I agree with Annie, I don’t think I’ll ever love the same way again. I don’t think losing Matt is something I’ll ever fully heal from. What Matt and I had was special, our friendship was truly one-of-a-kind. But I don’t think I’m necessarily a better person for having lived through this experience. I am a person. And it has deeply affected me. That’s really all I can say. But like Annie, I am more compassionate than I ever have been, and I’m finally going to start being compassionate with the one person I’ve been hardest on my entire life: yep, myself. Me. I’m going to do that by letting myself have flaws. By letting myself be messy. By letting myself grieve and cry and scream and laugh and dance and drink and eat carbs – and do whatever I need to do.

Death sucks. Break-ups suck. Having your heart ripped from your chest and stomped on really frickin’ blows. And I can’t tell you why. I have no idea why life is so unfair. I don’t know. I really don’t know. And that’s okay.

He was a friend of mine.

Several wonderful, lovely, supportive friends of mine have told me that I should write a blog. I have been very hesitant about doing so, as I am very aware of just how many people have blogs and how narcissistic it seems for me to start one – especially when that blog has no set focus or theme*. And especially when I know that I will not be updating it regularly or on a set schedule. (But I will try) So against my better judgment I bit the bullet, because gosh darn it, I’m a writer and an artist^ and if just one person has a slightly cathartic experience by reading my words, then this blog has served its purpose.

*I have a whole other post I will publish soon about how America’s need to classify everything with one label really irks me.
^I hate calling myself a writer or an artist though, because it seems to reek of pretension, but it’s true. And I’ll also touch on this more in my next entry.

But onto my intended topic. I’ve been wanting to write about this publicly for months, but I’ve also been extremely hesitant to do so. I’ve had no shortage of things to say about the subject – my journals are overflowing with thoughts, rushed scrawls of passion in the margins, on the covers, on post-its, typed into emails never sent, private Google Docs. But those entries are private, a personal non-magical Pensieve, if you will. But I’ve wanted to express publicly what I’ve been going through. Why, I can’t really tell you. In the weeks after I received the news, all I wanted to do was reach out to others who have experienced similar loss. Grief is indeed, such a solitary thing, and I had never felt more alone. So perhaps this entry is for all those who have also lost and are looking for some sort of validation or companionship in the pain that they are feeling. After all, we all want to feel in life that we are not alone, right?

On June 21st, 2014, my best friend died. He was 26. It was unexpected, sudden, and devastating. What I went through this summer, looking back on it, it was overwhelming. Exhausting. Every day, every minute, was one of sadness. I thought of him constantly. Every moment was tinged with the darkest sorrow, like a terribly bleak Instagram filter. Smiling was hard. True interaction was worse. Every conversation or action had the subtext of his death for me. I was angry. I was depressed. I was hysterical.

However, in the past several weeks, I slowly, finally, started to pick up the pieces. I started to go out again. My appetite came back. My drive and productivity came back. I started to live my life more and more each day for me, and not for his memory.

The grief is still there, as is the pain. But now, I struggle with the feeling of detachment to his death.

here's a picture of a metaphoric ocean storm to break up my incredibly long wall of text and keep you interested.
here’s a picture of a metaphoric ocean storm to break up my incredibly long wall of text and keep you interested.

It’s like gravity. We know it exists – one can say, “Yes, there is gravity keeping everything in place.” This statement is true, and you can honestly say it very simply. But then to truly think of gravity as a real concept, one would have to make a concentrated effort to grasp the reality of gravity (the gravity of gravity, perhaps?), how it works, and what it all means. The enormity and power of this really magnificent force that is keeping the stars and planets and humans and animals and bugs and water all in alignment – it’s overwhelming to really conceive in our mortal thoughts.

Just like saying, “My best friend is dead,” is no longer difficult for me. I’ve said it so many times. But to really, truly, conceptualize his death, I have to force myself to really think about it. I close my eyes or look at an empty space, and build him in my mind’s eye. Him, his laugh, his voice, his opinions, his thoughts. His sense of style and clothes. His hair, his smell, his dandruff, his scars, his feet, his shoes, his gait, the way his shoulders sloped. Him – he – the person, has ceased to exist. He has died. Suddenly, unknowingly, without warning. Unfairly. Cruelly. Ripped from this earth. My best friend, the first gay man I ever fell in love with, the one who knew Child Me and Adult Me and loved them both, has died. He is no more. And I will never see him again. I will never get to hang out with him, or drive in a car with him, or sing or go dancing or drink beers with him, or pick him up from his mom’s house ever again. I’m not sure what I believe but even if our souls/energy meet after life, it will be in a different way. The way we lived, coexisted, shared the same air, talked about our dreams, our crushes, ranted about things we hate, people who annoyed us, stressed about our careers, our classes, all of that – is done. Our physical human relationship is over.

My friend, who in high school owned a little plastic rat that became our unofficial mascot, and gave it to his friends for company on their various journeys. Who always put others’ problems before his own. Who, at times, felt angry and lost and hurt and in pain like all other humans, but never showed it. Who got a 1520 on his SATs (back when they were out of 1600) and graduated third in his class in high school. Who studied at Stanford, and in Germany, England, and received two Fulbright scholarships to teach in Turkey. Who loved Oberlin and the progressiveness it fostered. Who was pursuing his doctorate in the very prestigious art history program at University of Chicago. Who never judged anyone and always put himself in other people’s shoes, yet could read someone to filth. Who laughed at everything and played devil’s advocate just for the challenge. Who knew how to make an instant, human, real connection with a stranger and yet still managed to be pretty awkward in an adorable way. Who loved to go out and party but still wanted to grow up and have children and fall in love. Who valued friends and community more than practically everything. Who ate non-discriminately, loving all food and drink, treating each meal and snack as a culinary adventure. Who wrote with a measured voice that could barely contain the excitement that laid in every sentence. Whose passion and enthusiasm was rarely ever matched. Who danced wildly and often and usually alone. Who hated taking photos in public but treasured the memories he had of his loved ones. Who loved to touch and be touched by those he loved, craving intimacy and comfort. Who was in the top of his class and yet had blue hair for most of his senior year of high school. Who loved so fiercely and felt so deeply and had tremendous empathy.

This friend, this person, this man, this extraordinary being – he has died. But even writing these thoughts now, I can feel his presence. He lives on now, like Mufasa, in all of us. It’s true, he will live on now in a different way, as a living memory with all of the many friends, colleagues, family members he’s left behind. And that is comforting, somewhat.

So what do I do now?

That’s what I want to ask. What do I do now? But I know the answer, and he does too. He would say, “Just keep living, Kate.” He would shrug and look at me with those big, beautiful brown eyes, his eyebrows cocked in concern and pain, and he would say, “I’m sorry, Kate. But I’m here. Keep living.”

I still don’t get it. I still can’t believe that he’s really gone. It doesn’t make sense to me. It really feels like a glitch in the Matrix. Something went wrong, someone screwed up. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Really thinking about him gone sometimes feels violent, I can feel the rage bubbling up inside. It feels like someone just tore a chunk of myself away, from my right half. He was a part of me, but strangely, he’s even more a part of me in death than he was in life. Now I breathe him; live him; live for him. But there’s still a loss. It’s like I’ve lost a limb – that limb was a part of me, I have so many memories of that limb – it had scars and moles and hair, and it was a part of me, but now it’s gone. Now the absence of that limb has become a new part of me. I have absorbed the loss and now it’s part of my definition, my story – to be limbless.

The A-type optimist in me wants to end this entry on a positive note, some sort of lesson I’ve learned from all of this that I can pass on to my dear (albeit few) readers. But I sadly don’t have one.

here's another stock picture of a metaphoric sunset to help break up the black/white monotony.
here’s another stock picture of a metaphoric sunset to help break up the black/white monotony.

That isn’t to say I haven’t learned any lessons from this experience, but the lessons I’ve learned are ones that most of  you probably already know. And if you haven’t, you, most unfortunately, will someday. Death is like an awful club with which nobody wants a membership, but we all will eventually. These lessons don’t even seem worth writing out, because I can barely find the words to express them. They can be only felt through experience. With any loss, there is really nothing to say. What do you say to someone who is grieving? “I’m sorry for your loss.” is pretty sufficient, and even though it sounds hallow and inadequate, trust in the knowledge that’s because it is. There is nothing to be said. It sucks. It’s tragic. But death is an inevitable part of life, just like suffering and loss.

But before you go jump off a bridge, take stock in all that you do have. I know that the intense pain I have felt and still feel is only because I love him. As cringe-worthy as this sentiment can be, it is true that now I appreciate having my friend be such an important part of my life. If I didn’t care about him as much as I do, I wouldn’t be in such pain. We hurt because we love. We could go through life, closed-off, never allowing ourselves to love or feel, and in turn, we would really never feel pain. But we would also never feel such joy, such intimacy, such love. Alfred Lord Tennyson was absolutely right. ‘Tis much, much better.

So go forth, humans! Love, and love fully. The pain will come, and it will hurt. Like a cruel ocean, the tides will rise and fall as time goes on. But like all storms, it too shall pass. And so comes Love.

Louis C.K, as always, puts it so eloquently, as does the masterful Charles Grodin.