“Conscious Uncoupling”

Gwyneth Paltrow used the term “conscious uncoupling” to describe her divorce process from Chris Martin. They were married for 11 years, and Paltrow used the phrase in her announcement about their separation.

While it’s a term that has been making the rounds for a while, it didn’t really hit mainstream derision and scorn until Paltrow put it in the spotlight. Part of that is due to the generic Paltrow-bashing that seems so popular, but part of it is due I think to the slightly warped ideals of romance that we perpetuate in our society.

We really push the “One True Love” (aka OTP, “One True Pair”) and “happily ever after” paradigms of romance, but those ideas rest on the notion that there There Can Be Only One, and Only With That One Will There Be Happiness, with the obvious result that any relationship that doesn’t match those terms is by definition Wrong in All the Ways.

But that is not life as we live it. Most relationships start with lots of happiness, mutual pleasure, and high hopes for the future. The fact that the majority of them actually end should not take away from the joy we experienced while things were good, but generally that’s how people react. Why? Because they feel like they failed by not choosing the correct One True Love. The “proper” reaction is scathing words of anger and disappointment.

Putting aside the raft of issues that could lead to a breakup, some more catastrophic than others, I think it’s worth-while to look at why an idea based on a maturely handled, mutually beneficial divorce process received such sanctimonious scorn while breakups that seethe with toxicity and hatred are considered “normal.”

My marriage ended in a very “conscious uncoupling” way. My ex-husband and I, after 14 years of marriage, managed to end things amicably and easily. Granted, we didn’t have kids in the mix, but on the whole I’m not sure that would have mattered. He’s an honorable man who lives up to his word, and while I’m a mess of a human being I always try to do the right thing. Together, we went through a divorce process that ended with us as friends. (Yes, I’m still bitter that he got the LotR Extended Version DVDs, but then I kept Ferris Bueller’s Day Off so nah nah nah!)

And it SHOCKS people to find this out.

We are so used to stories of marriages ending in explosions of anger and betrayal that the idea of people being friends after a divorce is laughed at as unnatural.

Sometimes, sure, it’s not possible, when lying and cheating and betrayal are the sparks that started the fire. But a lot of times I think the opportunity to salvage at least that much is thrown away due to the feelings of one or the other or both that the very act of ending a relationship “proves” that it was never good to start with. They chose the wrong “One True Love” and therefore, the whole relationship is viewed as a failure.

There are times when the ending is more important than the process — say, during an Olympic competition. But generally relationships are not a good thing to rate by dint of how they ended. Oftentimes, relationships encompass a lot of positive, important parts of peoples lives. It seems to me that knowing a relationship can end without it reflecting on the worth or value of those involved might save a lot of heartache.

I think if people took ideas such as conscious uncoupling more seriously, they might avoid the degradation of their relationship to the point where anger is the only commonality the two people involved have left to share.

Was my divorce painless? Honestly, it was. What was painful were the two years leading up to it, where we progressively made each other more and more miserable, which resulted in a very dysfunctional relationship. Instead of carrying on that way until one of us did something unforgivable, we simply owned up to the fact that things were not working anymore. That was excruciatingly painful.

But doing so saved our friendship, and for that I’m eternally grateful, because for many of the years we were together, we had a relationship that was very fulfilling for both of us (not perfect, but good). Were we fortunate? Yes, I think so; not all situations can end so amicably. But perhaps a lot more could, if conscious uncoupling was seen as a valid way for a relationship to end, and if we did not collectively invest so much of ourselves into romantic ideals that do more harm than good.




Precise, dull, and boring

I have downloaded a small digital timer to my desktop. I don’t use it a lot, perhaps not when I should (to time writing sprints, for instance) and definitely when I shouldn’t. It’s there because I often care more about how something is done than in the result.

It’s a paranoia bred of insecurity and fear; I learned early that something done effectively was still wrong if not done correctly. These lessons range from the huge to the minute. People aren’t allowed over to the house if it is not sterling clean and fashionable — a rule that reinforced my mother’s isolation and probably feeds into mine. Don’t wear tailored clothes if you are over a size 8. Boiled eggs must be cooked for exactly 11 minutes. Shoes should match your bag, in style if not in color (you will never see me toting a backpack while wearing heels).

None of these are terrible life lessons, though. I mean, cooking boiled eggs for 11 minutes has worked out well for me over the years.

What has not worked out well for me is how this has intersected with my OCD and my creative urges. There are plenty of OCD artists, I’m sure, so I’m not suggesting those traits are incompatible, but combined with my innate need to be “correct”…well, I find myself stumbling along not doing things I want to do because I’m sure I will do them the wrong way.

It’s like that timer sitting on my desktop (always open, always on top). It’s not there to guarantee perfectly cooked eggs, it is there to make sure I follow the rules. Because if I cook them for 12 minutes, well the eggs might be a little too hard boiled but I, sad pathetic creature that I am, will be humiliated because I DID IT WRONG.

But the eggs will be edible, after all.

I used to think that perfection was a matter of precision, of getting everything precisely correct according to the rules, even if the rules did not exist anywhere but inside my head. But I’ve cooked enough eggs to know that each batch is different, no matter how perfectly I’ve timed the cooking of them.

I’m working on doing less obsessing about the rules and more accomplishing of the goals. I’m doing pretty poorly at it right now. It’s a process, is what I’m saying.

I’ve spent most of my life being precise, dull, and boring — scared of saying or doing things because I was scared I would be judged WRONG somehow. I’m not entirely sure how to get past that, but until I do, until I embrace imprecise and bright and exciting, I’m pretty sure I will continue to languish, artistically.

A Poor Mentality

Not my life

Not my life.

I’m going to get specific here about something that makes a lot of people uncomfortable: money. Specifically, about being poor vs. not being poor, and how emotionally debilitating walking the line between those points can be.

Yesterday I spent nearly $1000 — I caught up on the utilities bill (two months, an accident because I forgot the pay last month…yeah, that’s me), the internet bill, a payment on a debt, and about $100 for groceries. Also a $15 hair cut (buzz cuts are cheap to maintain, fortunately! Not many women are as lucky as I am!).

That’s not a small amount of money, but it’s not very much either. For some people that is a car payment. I’m lucky that I can cover most of my basic bills for about $1500/month, and I know it.

The thing that marks this as important to me personally is that the majority of my life, I’ve never had that much in the bank at one time in order to pay the bills with. A few years here and there, but rarely. As much as I whined about paying those bills, there was a sense of pure astonishment at being able to do so all at the same time and with having money left over.

Being poor isn’t just about poverty, it’s about walking the line between poor and not-quite-poor, of being one catastrophic event away from destitution. For many of us it is about “getting by”, and the old “robbing Peter to pay Paul”, and deciding whether to spend that $10 on vitamins OR ground beef OR two bags of coffee. It’s about paying bills and having $75 left in the bank to pay for gas and groceries and going to the movies…scratch that, because it is not enough for all three. The much-anticipated trip to the new movie is cancelled first. Then visits to friends’ houses and all other social events are cancelled because the gas funds have to go to getting to work and back. The trip to the store is stressful and leads to a panic attack/crying jag because the bill came to $63.75 instead of $50, but there is no way to pare down the cart without planning to go hungry. But in the end, you aren’t homeless, and you do have food in the house.

That is all depressing and stressful in ways that are impossible to really explain to anyone who hasn’t been there. People think poor=immature or poor=stupid or poor=irresponsible, which is a nice and easy way to absolve themselves of actually having any compassion for people doing without. I’ll be the first to say that I’ve been, at times, immature and stupid and irresponsible, but I’ve always worked hard and almost never been without a job. People don’t want to understand that even with two people working their asses off, just paying the bills can be a trauma.

I’m talking about situations where literally there is less than $20 left to deal with emergencies like getting sick, car repairs, and clothing replacement (only done under duress, because why buy a new bra when the two you have are functional? Why by new shoes if your work flats aren’t falling apart?). I have hoarded ten dollar bills knowing that I was coming down with a cold and would need Nyquil, while knowing that was the most I could afford.

I lived for many years without a bank account. People thought I was crazy but it wasn’t that hard, even if it did limit my purchasing power (no debit card to use on Amazon or to rent a car or buy plane tickets…not that I was traveling anyway). There is no point in a bank account if you have, at most, a few dollars left at the end of the week. Especially with the ever-looming threat of overdrafting by mistake, which costs a ridiculous amount of money.

I can’t even begin to explain how amazing it is to know that I can go buy groceries and not sit at the check out in a cold sweat, hoping I did all the math right.

And yes, of course, it’s easy to check your balance online now. That was not the case even five years ago (much less 15), and given that there were times I did not have any kind of personal internet connection (too expensive), then you understand why someone who is so bad at math as I am might panic. Counting cold, hard cash is a lot less stressful. And honestly? I still break out in a cold sweat, even when I know I have three times the amount of the grocery bill in reserve. That fear has become a habit.

I’m pretty terrible at personal money management, and that’s a personality flaw that I’ve worked hard to improve but isn’t changing much, I’m afraid. At this point I’m just so flat out terrified of being “on the razor’s edge” again that I’m a miser. Oh I go out to dinner with friends more, and took my cat to the vet ($200 for a cold! OMG! Cat! Noooo!), and bought new eye glasses. But I’m not buying that new mattress set or clothes or jewelry or a car (nope nope nope) or… a lot of stuff. Like going to the dentist. I’m used to putting those kinds of things aside and as much as I know it’s probably a bad idea (my back really needs a new mattress) old habits are hard to break. I don’t have to borrow from friends and family to keep the lights on or pay the vet bill, and the the everlasting joy of that statement means I’m not bothered by a bad tooth.

I haven’t had a credit card in my name since, I think, 2001? Or so. There-abouts. There was a day when I had AmEx, Chase VISA, Texaco and Shell cards. I don’t miss that day, not ever. Because when you’re on the edge, credit is an easy out. I can honestly say that about 90% of my credit card purchases were “legitimate” in that I did not buy designer handbags or trips to exotic locales. I bought gas, and food, and work clothes, and occasionally a movie or a dinner out. The regular things that middle-class people aren’t supposed to worry about buying every once in a while. But I couldn’t afford to, and I never got ahead, so I got in debt. I paid those debts off years after I cut up the cards, and I’m never going down that road again. (Yes, I took out student loans, but I consider them more of an investment.) Going without a full cart of groceries or Olive Garden on the weekends was frustrating, but not worth the credit nightmare.

Quite frankly I don’t care what my credit score is. I’m sure it’s not great, but oh well. I’ve had such bad credit in the past, and been so poor, that no part of my life plans or self-worth rests on my credit rating. If you have a job, you can: rent an apartment, buy a car, open a bank account, etc. etc. Good credit makes all of that easier, but I’ve done those things without it. The thing is, if you’re poor, it doesn’t matter anyway. What good does credit rating do for buying a car when you know you can’t make the monthly payment on it? Sell your grandmother’s ruby and diamond ring and pay cash.

People look at me as an educated, white, middle-class middle-aged woman, and so I think they are surprised when they find out about my attitude regarding money and credit. They expect someone like me to have a savings. I did, once. Got up to $5,000+, I was so proud. Then Husband’s truck broke and required over $4,000 to fix. We had the money, that was unusual. Then we didn’t have the money, and that was totally normal.

I guess the point I’m making is that being poor isn’t just a financial status, it’s a mentality — it’s a psychological state of constantly being on guard against poverty, of assuming that a lack of money is a very normal way to live. I finally got to the point where I never expected to have enough money to pay the bills, because I never did, not consistently (the few well-paying jobs I had rarely lasted long, for one reason or another. I’ll just say I was never fired and I almost never quit). It’s easier to assume the worst when that’s the way you’ve been living for nearly 20 years…and was, for me, a critical component of my childhood.

So paying all those bills with money I actually have in the bank and still having some left over is a profound shock to my system. I’m used to money running out as opposed to simply being spent. I really love how this feels, and would like to believe it will continue for a long time. I’m trying to believe that. I’m trying really hard.





Past lives, future plans, should vs. want

Recently on tumblr I can across this wonderful piece of fanart, “High Fashion Disney Princesses” by Shasiiko-anti (on deviantart):

art by shasiiki-anti

art by shasiiki-anti

And being in a sentimental mood, it reminded me of all the fanart I did as young girl. It wasn’t called fanart back then, at least not in respectable circles, and honestly most of my fanart was AU in nature as I drew and wrote some (truly horrible, omg, I was like 12 okay?) mary-sue fics.

What really struck me as I thought about it though was that I realized I spent hours and hours of my life doing “character design.” I would create original characters and draw them over and over, designing their clothes and their personalities and stories. Well, these days I know I doing character design; back then, I thought (and certainly, my mother thought) I was just wasting my time.

And so I could go off on a tangent bemoaning my life choices and what I feel was robbed from me, but I think I’d rather look at the uninhibited nature of that kind of creation: while I understood from the adults around me that what I was creating was not important or substantial, I didn’t care because I loved it. I enjoyed it for the sake of doing it. I think I’ve lost that drive, or rather, I spend a lot of time ignoring it to focus on what I’m “supposed to be doing.”

Part of what I want to be doing is focusing on Patience and Fortitude, which is just now (two years after launching) getting some recognition from the community it was created to serve. So that needs my energy and focus, and I can’t wave a hand and call it just a side project, because while it IS a side project, it is an important one. Yet I tend to push it aside because there are a lot of other things I’m supposed to be doing.

Another issue is that my theme for this year is “self sufficiency”. That is so I can spend time doing what I love, which is writing and art (and dancing!). Having a good professional job now with FSU helps a lot, but it’s not the end-all here. So part of me gets really wound up in what I supposed to be doing to make that happen…sense a theme here?

But the way to make that happen is not solely reliant on a job or a book or stroke of luck. I know I have to do a lot of things — pay bills, feed the cat, keep my job, and yes also write — but I think I’ve spent so many years focusing on the “should” that I’ve quite forgotten about the “want.”

Which isn’t entirely true, given that I write fanfiction for fun, and that is pretty much the epitome of “pointless life goal”; but it’s like I have funneled all my ability to relax and not take life seriously into that one activity. Art, original fiction, dancing, my blogs — all so terribly weighted down by the spectre of “productivity.”

*sigh*  You can tell this is a personal blog because this post is, itself, pretty pointless.

Maybe I should just go back to drawing character designs.


Pulling music out of the past

While my apartment is cramped by the remnants of my “inheritance” there is in fact very little left of the things my parents owned. I have bits and bobs — small percentages of what used to fill whole rooms.

One of my mother's favorite albums: Phoebe Snow's Never Letting Go.

One of my mother’s favorite albums: Phoebe Snow’s Never Letting Go.

One of those collections is the vinyl albums of music that my parents listened too. My mother had shelves and shelves of albums, well over a thousand, back when a thousand albums took up quite a bit of space. I have I think about 100 left, carefully culled over the years as I have moved around, until the only ones left are the albums that were played regularly throughout my childhood. I would have kept them all but damnation, have you ever picked up a box of vinyl albums? They are heavy as lead, omg, you will break your damn back trying to truck around 15 large boxes of vinyl. Also, I lost the house and with it, all that extra space, so really I did not have much choice. I kept what I could.

What I want to do now is pull those albums into digital format. Maybe not all of them, but most of them. A lot I’m sure I could actually go to Amazon and buy and download, but forgive me for being sentimental: I want copies of the songs I listened to, the albums my parents held and set on the turntable they hovered over.

I’m looking for one of those “USB turntables” where it will record an album as it plays and output a digital file for it. My musician friend Bob P., a fellow Novo Collegian, has recommended the Numark PT01USB turntable, which I’ll probably be getting next month.

Can’t say I’m looking forward to the process, which will be an incremental thing I think. But I am honestly excited about hearing some of those songs that were part of making me into the woman I am today.


In support of outlandish change for 2014

This rant brought to you by a recent post at Wil Wheaton’s tumblr, quoting Merlin Mann (most of you know Merlin as the self-help guru; I remember him as one of the long-haired hippies living off of Palm Court at New College, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t remember me at all!). I get what Merlin is saying in that quote: stop setting yourself up for failure because all it is teaching you to do is how to fail. The implication Merlin makes is to simply stop making new year’s resolutions.

Not bad advice.

But also not good advice.

I think the real key here is to be wary of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If every year you make the same resolution, or a resolution so similar they could be the same, and every year fall short then what you need to do is look at what you think you want vs. what you obviously really want. But do NOT stop making resolutions.

Why not?

Because self-improvement is important. Having goals and a purpose is critical for happiness. A willingness to change aspects of our lives is vital, it actually improves our brains and our health.

Love yourself as you are? More well intended advice that misses the mark. Love yourself, absolutely, faults and all — a sense of worthiness is absolutely critical, and I’ll never say otherwise. Don’t hate on your body or your emotions or your life, that leads to depression and illness. But don’t use that trite advice to excuse a lack of investment in yourself.

The only people who never change are dead ones.

So, you have a choice: make outrageous new year’s resolutions, find your purpose, set goals for yourself and commit to driving the change in your life.

Or don’t, and change by the whims of fate and circumstance, and wonder where the years went and why you have so many regrets.

You should absolutely make outrageous resolutions, but maybe only one a year. Invest in that, and if you fail it, don’t shrug and accept that as inevitable. Look at your reasons and what happened to derail you and either re-commit or find the goal that really speaks to you as the prior ones haven’t.

I know, I’m one to preach, but hey I’m living the question same as you. What I know and can tell you for fact is that loving yourself for you who are is a hella lot more rewarding when you feel energized with purpose and satisfied about the changes you’ve made in your life.

Thinking outside the box is only going half-way

Recently on tumblr I stumbled over an art project by James Marquis called “Under the Wires”, photographs taken of places underneath the towering power line cables that criss-cross the country. Images like this are striking:

Power cables over a desolate landscape

Under the Lines by Marquis

But what struck me, what STOPPED me cold, was that this was the realization of an idea I had back in the late 1980s, right about the time I went to college. We had power lines near my home in DeBary, FL and I was fascinated by the life underneath them. I wanted to “travel the lines” with a camera and take photos, record a nation covered by industrial-strength power cables.

In no way could James Marquis have stolen this idea from me, because I never acted on it and I think this is the first time I’ve ever mentioned it anywhere. But it is a good idea, and like most good ideas, more than one person is going to think of it eventually. Marquis, being an artist, has realized that idea in a captivating, powerful way.

But this is a habit with me: think of an “outside the box” idea, then walk away from it. Oh, yes, my justifications are legion and valid: no time, no money, other responsibilities, lack of skills, lack of equipment, etc. I got your justifications right here, baby! ;)

But in the end, what have I gained just by having ideas? Mostly, a basket of good ideas.

Not much else.

Don’t get me wrong: I value the act of thinking “outside the box” as its own reward. It’s important and requires practice, and feeds into our lives in a variety of ways. Creativity in any form is incredibly valuable.

It’s just going halfway, though. Good ideas never become great ideas unless you follow through on them, such as Marquis did. My good idea of 1987 is his great idea of 2013.

Recently a new publishing house based on an idea I had back in 2008 just got kickstarter funding for over $50k. Again, not saying that they are stealing from me, because I doubt the people involved ever read my locked-LJ posts about the topic, and as well this idea has floated up in fandom circles off and on for a while. It’s an “outside-the-box” idea, sure, but it’s not startlingly original in that sense. But instead of saying “that would be cool” they networked and collaborated and wrote a business plan and made it happen. They have made it great.

I, on the other hand, did nothing. Even at the time I knew I was letting a good opportunity to create something unique and special go by. Sure, maybe 2008 was not a good time to try that idea, maybe the time wasn’t ripe for it yet; possibly. Who knows? I don’t because I never did anything with that idea. I was, honestly, scared of it.

I do this all the time, and I know it, and I wonder what is really holding me back. Fear, obviously — my excuses are always based in a mentally of scarcity. I don’t have enough ________ (time/talent/money/etc.). Self-awareness at this level only goes so far, though. I mean, I can say “I don’t do X because Y” forever.

Honestly, I have a lot of things I’m not making happen right now. My outside the box ideas are good ones, but I keep stalling on making them great. My old excuses are pretty much hash, though, leaving me with the biggie that might be the root cause: fear of criticism.

The irony of course is my most powerful, influential critic is ME. Yes I care about what other people think, and I want people to like me. Sure, don’t we all? But the cruel monster I fear is all in my own head and is the result of my constantly thinking that I don’t have enough _____ (talent, skill, luck, beauty, etc.). What an elegant, destructive cycle of self-hate!


I’m tired of seeing my good ideas lie fallow while other people make great ideas happen. This is not a new complaint, but I’ve reached the tipping point.

In a lot of ways I feel everything from the beginning of 2011 onwards has been about preparing me for taking the step off the cliff to trusting my art, my writing, my abilities. Trusting the process. I’ll screw up, I’ll fall short of my (unrealistically high) goals, and I’ll regret some decisions, but most importantly I will make great ideas happen.



My phone and “Almost Human”

I’ve been musing on the new show Almost Human and my phone, because they share a common theme: transhumanism.

The link is pretty obvious, I guess, but it’s interesting to me because of how personal transhumanism has become. For me, it’s talking about my phone as an actual sentient creature, something that is my symbiote. I don’t think of entering phone numbers or items on my pantry list as programming but as training. Likewise I’m teaching myself to rely on my phone for things I would normally use a computer or other “unassociated” gadget (like GPS mapping during a road trip) to accomplish. This isn’t a machine, it’s an extension of my own awareness, and despite the fact that it is not actually sentient (that I know of) I treat it like it is.

The reason the TV show comes in here is because it’s being pretty straight-forward about the issues surrounding sentient robots/computers. To be fair, a similar theme is playing in Person of Interest, where the computer program that is used to identify future victims (the show’s “person of interest” du jour) has become a distinct character that may or may not be sentient. (Admittedly I don’t watch PoI so I’m picking that up second hand but it’s a really interesting development IMHO.)

Going back decades, these kinds of issues were always presented with a blatant human superiority agenda. Just think of the movie 2001, where a computer becomes sentient and proceeds to become a murderous psychopath. Movies like Terminator, Terminator 2, Aliens, and Blade Runner — classics, all of them — gave more complex presentations but hardly unbiased. Then of course there is The Matrix and Battlestar Galactica.

The irony I’m pointing to here is that we look suspiciously at the concepts of computer sentience and transhumanism while folding elements of both into our daily lives without much thought. We give our phones names and live in terror of losing them, but we can’t shake the fear of Skynet. The idea that creatures of our making might not need us is something that eats at our egos and sense of self-worth, so we try to demonize or belittle them while adopting them into our personal lives at levels that a generation ago seemed extreme (ref. Neuromancer, which was published in 1984).

Almost Human adds to the discussion by presenting robotic sentience as de facto to our society. The characters in the show know that robots are complex shades to humanity, and have conflicting emotions about it while also accepting it without question.

It’s scary, but I think that’s true only from a distance where we see mostly the unknown. If you pick up your phone and ask Siri for directions, it’s familiar and safe. Two sides of the coin. I’m not saying everything will go smoothly as we make the next few steps forward, but then again they might.

We are all transhumanists, even if we don’t like the idea, even if we think we are not ready the singularity. Personally, I hope my phone wakes up and enjoys the world it finds.

Beating back resistance

For the past two months I have been beaten down in an epic battle with, in Steve Pressfield‘s terms, Resistance. If you are familiar with his excellent books The War of Art or Do the Work then you know what I’m talking about: that unrelenting push-back against your attempts to accomplish something.

I’ve been losing that battle pretty spectacularly.

Pressfield recently posted “Resistance and Self-Loathing” at his blog, and it’s a post worth reading. It hits home the issues I’m (poorly) dealing with right now. While Pressfield tends to mysticize the concept of Resistance in a way that I cannot relate to, I find that it does help to think of it as something concrete within my own psyche.

This isn’t depression or writer’s block, both of which I’ve dealt with before in the past. It’s hard to describe the difference but for me I think Resistance is much angrier than either. This anger re-purposes my energies to everything BUT my dreams.

Yes, I’ve started a new job and I’ve been jogging and re-organizing the house (big clues that this isn’t depression, because when I’m depressed I don’t even brush my teeth, much less unfuck the living room).  But the fact is that life never stops or slows down or makes space for our goals and dreams. Unfortunately, I’m using those things to justify my lack of activity. Anger burns through me and Resistance directs that energy away from my dreams.

Maybe all my goals are out-sized and unrealistic (a reasoning I use a lot to justify inaction) and maybe my talents and skills are mediocre (a huge fear) but without them, I’m an empty husk of a person.

I have a good job I find personally fulfilling, I have a roof over my head, I have friends and family, I have food in the fridge. The things making me miserable are things I have power over, and it’s time I started exercising that power again.


The lower-class side of grief

I am nearly finished with a very short story about a lower-working class grieving mother. Who wants to read that? Probably no one, but it was important to me.

While I admire grief and mourning workers, people who devote their lives to helping others cope with loss, I have found the grief/mourning “industry” to be unfailingly middle class and majorly white. It’s not a conspiracy, it is a function of the fact that middle class people have the time, energy and money to support the industry. It is a natural outcome of how economics, class and race work in our society. We need to change that. In the meantime, there is (as they say) a large under-served population.

There is an old saying my ex-husband’s grandmother repeated a lot, which was: “Poor people are too busy working to nervous breakdowns.” I found it to be true in large part, and applies to grief as well. The poor can’t take weeks off from work to mourn, they can’t afford to travel long distances for funeral (if they could get the time off, which they usually can’t) and they cannot afford counseling. Most fall back on their churches for help, which only have limited resources.

Heartbreak is not having a city bus route go anywhere near the cemetery where your loved one is buried.

For the poor, help is haphazard and social expectations outside of prayer fall under the banner of “stoic acceptance”. Where they land in grief is where they stay.

I don’t know how to reach such people. Despite my own brushes with poverty and homelessness, my background and outlook are steadfastly middle-class. I’m an ineffectual ambassador for grief to that population.

Instead, I decided to write the story.

This, of course, breaks a cardinal rule, so I’m told: avoid writing about death. It’s “trite”, after all, a trick inexperienced writers use to force emotional investment.

But grief isn’t really about death. Death is merely a catalyst for grief. A true story about grief, a genuine story, is about life: those who keep living, even if they don’t want to.

I’m not certain how well I’ve capture the story I want to tell, but I’ve tried. That’s something.