baroque in grief

My response to crisis at this point is to become grim and practical. Go and scrub something, or Organize. Kick into analytical mode. Fix stuff. Figure stuff out.  I need to be that way, at this point.

I’m thinking of how my dad, when faced with sobbing grief, pain, and near-madness, will quietly natter on about the tiny particulars of some Civil War battlefield, with digression upon digression. It may seem on some level like a disconnect of empathy, but it isn’t. It offers a practical strategy: to become interested in something outside your own emotions.  The baroque is a strategy to deal with difficulty.

So, if I seem callous for not responding to my friend Jo’s situation, just keep in mind I need my own protective armor.   It is too hard to talk about other than privately. Plus, I don’t want anything I say to hurt her; though I realize the absence of saying anything is painful as well. It’s like when people get mad; you can’t get  madder or sadder in response and then expect them to take care of you. Same with Jo, it’s not the time for her to worry about  my feelings or take care of me. It’s enough that she go have some contact with her mom who may or may not be dying and her dad who is also not doing so well.  I think of my own times when I was sick and utterly desperate and also a bit unhinged mentally/emotionally. It’s not like my own family, other than Minnie who was awesome, flew out to help me or make some kind of contact. I gave up on expecting anything from them; which is more painful than death, because when people die you think Oh if only we had had that conversation and they understood; or there might have been a chance; or you can blame Death’s cruelty in various bizarrely comforting ways.  When people are still alive and fail to come through, or cut you off from family completely… I wished they were dead sometimes, thinking it would be easier than the on-purpose rejection. Then I grew up and realized I was not forever a child in relation to them that they had a duty to take care of, no matter how they might have fallen down on the job in the past.I’ll feel sad when they die, but I think I’ll think more of the living and if I really feel sad for them it will be for what they missed out on, in life, by being assholes, and for whatever ways life fucked them over and it wasn’t their fault and they were trapped; and for whatever other loss it is to them not to live anymore. In short… sad in the ways I feel said for the infinite dead piled up all around us at every moment in the past and future. They are way more than my experience of them and more than my memory.

But even aside from that:

If I were Inanna descending into the underworld (and I certainly have been, often enough) at this point in my life… perhaps a function of age as I rush forward longing for cronemudgeonitude… Well, if I were Inanna descending into the underworld right now I would not be at Erishkegal’s side saying "Oh your insides! Oh your insides!" I’d be all like, "Damn, girl, let’s vacuum this place, and open the blinds… you should drink some hot soup… let’s go to the beach. By the way let me tell you about this fascinating book I just read… and don’t you love my new armwarmers?"   

Instead I’m more like… Hmmm, underworld. Been there, done that, no time. Think I’ll head on up to steal the laws from the Patriarch and build my city. 


Anyway, tonight we hung out, looked at blogs while eating pizza, folded laundry, and then Jo went to pack for the trip. Manny and I compared cell phones – and made our phones laugh at each other – I coveted Eliz’s tshirt, hot pink with racing stripes – tried it on – she said that Ms. Jane could counter-bid for a lease on the shirt. Ms. Jane finally got there – and where was the shirt?  We searched all the drawers.  Manny suggested I  might be trying to steal it. And then I realized I was still wearing it, I swear by accident!  Under my two other shirts and over my tank-top bra.  Ms. Jane won the auction by promising to take Eliz. to the movies, but mostly by looking cuter than me in the shirt.  While she does (as she claimed) have a better rack than me, it’s also that I’m wearing that super-t sport bra tank top which mashes my boobs completely flat against my chest.  Jo had some really good things to say about positivity, and practical stuff she learned from group therapy at the Psych Ward Day Camp, like that will can’t control feelings but will can control thoughts and patterns of thoughts can then influence feelings and one’s basic brain chemistry which in a synergistic way becomes control of feelings eventually.  I can get behind that and agree wholeheartedly.  Many, many practical techniques, mostly powerful metaphors like this, were helpful to me when I was in tons of incest-survivor therapy, years ago. And they will help Jo too, of all people, especially her, because she has an immensely powerful mind very useful for making reality happen.

Even though I don’t have the hot pink shirt with the racing stripes, there is hope, people.

Rook can tell I’m upset, and I wish he couldn’t, because he’s being all nice to me and it makes me nearly crack, which… I don’t want to.

The first person to drippily say "Oh, dear Badger, take care of yourSELF" gets a slap in the face with a wet codfish.

I will now go have a bath and read a book. I’d like some port… Hmmm.. I could go buy some fancy port at the Hole right now if I hurry.

Related posts

22 Responses to “baroque in grief”

  1. Jo

    I wondered what was up. I know it’s hard to know what to say or whatever, but most of the time I’m so in denial that I am not in hell as I suppose would be more appropriate. Having your company is immensely soothing. I don’t care what you say or do or etc, seriously, it’s just knowing you my friend and your intelligent oddity and twitchy joy that is alive, alive alive.

  2. e

    “Oh dear badger, take care of yourSELF.”
    there, now it’s safe for the rest of you, and she can’t reach my face way over here, anyway.:> (er, how big is your codfish, anyway…) badger, you could never seem callous. you are right there in the midst of it all, and a calm center is very important. keeping on keeping on is the order of this weekend. denial may usually be a bad thing, but not in times of crisis, it’s like shock. there will be time for all manner of things later.
    callous. geesh. still, don’t forget to take care of yourSELF…

  3. e


  4. e


  5. elswhere

    Honestly, that’s just what I’d want from a friend if I were falling apart, or trying desperately not to. When people try to get me to emote under those circumstances it just makes me irritated. Usually when it’s like that I’m spending every ounce of energy trying to keep up some facade of normal and having someone all drippily go “Oh, your insides!” makes it worse.

  6. Anonymous

    I’m a lurker who has become “hooked” on these writings of your and Jo’s lives (I read her blog too) but I want to say that it’s not just simple voyeurism on my part– both of you are so bright and reading about your trials and tribulations has been very enlightening and actually quite amazing.
    I’m not commenting today to review your blogs but because I wanted to come out of lurkhood and say that I think your “practical’ approach is very wise. I have never had a crisis like Jo’s but we have ALL had times in our lives when things were overwhelming or disturbing. When that happens, I think it’s so soothing and good when we’re lucky enough to have a friend or family member who can just be sensible and practical and address the basics of life,like you do — it’s the strongest way to say: “Life goes on”, which is a message that is most important in the middle of chaos or confusion.
    And it addresses authentic need — we are all physical bodies after all. Mental health is fortified by better physical health.
    Your approach is good nursing — it really is — and if you ask me, I’ve always found nurses to be the real healers, not doctors(just my opinion!).
    Best, best wishes for all concerned… A reader

  7. bunny

    *dodging codfish* (Why codfish? Got something against carp?) Seriously, when crap hits the fan, we need our grim-and-practical friends. Heck, that’s how I cope at first, then find a private corner to unhinge.
    We all have our ways to Deal. Whatever works is what works. What counts is that love is love regardless of the different ways it gets expressed, and it is very clear how much you love your friend.
    And I can certainly say one will never go broke underestimating the ability of certain subsets of humanity to understand, to empathize and to be there when needed. It’s like explanations and communications bounce off their ears, land in the toilet and are immediately flushed. Wish it could be different. For you, and for countless of the rest of us. But I remind myself that “when you are blind, you are blind, and when you can’t see, you can’t see.” Truly, they cannot see. What an utter shame it is.

  8. Iris

    You are so wise and interesting, Bunny, what an utter shame it is that you don’t elaborate on a blog of your own.

  9. bunny

    We each have our way of looking at the world and I leave it at that.

  10. badgerbag

    Oh for goodness sake. “Love is love regardless of how it is expressed” , I think not. Since plenty of asinine and harmful things are done (and said) for the sake of what someone defines as love. There is no way to judge love and what it means to people except by their words and especially actions. Thinking otherwise keeps people in bad situations all because they are “loved”.
    As usual I am annoyed by bunny’s bizarrely waffle-headed, sentimental, insinuating, drippy response to complexity. She reminds me of the neurotic Aunt in “Understood Betsy” who is always projecting her own fears and need to be cared for and protected onto other people; and as soon as Betsy goes off to live on the farm with her other family she learns how not to be so annoying because other people expect her to churn the butter and be interested in kittens and figure out how to steer the wagon team by pulling on the reins without telling her what to do all the time, or sympathizing with her “fears”. It is patronizing, it’s projection of your own needs into other people, it’s clueless boundary crossing – and what’s with the bible quotes – In short, please fuck right off my blog, bunny… You may count me in with the blind who cannot see, and the rude who cannot love, because I think you’re a world class twit and am not at all afraid to say so.
    *puts wet codfish back in holster*

  11. bunny

    And I’m a Republican too!
    (Might as well be shot for a sheep as a lamb.)
    Badger, honestly I don’t know what you are so twanged about. Jo is happy with me on her blog (I emailed her and asked her) so I will go right ahead and keep posting there. I bear you no ill will,but I obviously trigger the crap out of you so will leave you alone.

  12. minnie

    hahahaha heeeheeee hooot tooot

  13. Iris

    I’m with Minnie here.

  14. Jo

    I’m just completely in the dark here. What?!
    Wait, don’t explain. I probably don’t want to know.

  15. badgerbag

    Of course I must be spoken of with gentle, noble pity as being “triggered” , more annoying therapy-speak, which boils down to seeing the human mind as a mechanism reacting without will or control to the external environment.
    No. I am not “triggered”… The exercise of critical thinking, judgement, and will are important to me, and as a person with agency, I evaluated bunny’s “contributions”. And don’t like them. Bunny’s favorite thing to do is to deny other people’s will and agency while petting them with sympathy and syrup.
    In fact I just took a few minutes to look her up and within 10 minutes of googling found that she is a notorious metafilter irritant who brings up her bipolarness in totally unrelated contexts. Seeing that made me feel even more firmly rooted in “get the fuck away from me.” For example in a thread on some people who have 16 children and don’t let them have any contact with the “outside world”, she asserts her right as a bipolar person to have control over her reproduction….unlike in Communist China… Which has what to do witih it? And then onwards into the bible and how her son is in the Air Force and therefore she is a success as a mother despite bipolarness to which “sidhedevil” responded:

    Great. More bipolar, self-important, sententious, judgmental, cherry-pickin’-Bible-texts-to-bolster-their-own-prejudices Air Force officers. Just what our country needs.
    Because as bad as a huge public flameout on the Internet might be, it’s a hell of a lot worse when someone has a huge flameout in a Stealth fighter.
    Jesus loves you, konolia, but He’s a lot nicer than I am.

    Then there was the weird-ass commentary about the hurricane and flood — apparently it happened because the world is full of sin. Oh really now? How INteresting. I’m sure it’s all part of “our” (your) Lord’s plan. Anyway… that bit about suffering exists because sin exists… just about my least favorite thing ever.
    It weirds me out that so many of y’all have said things like “That chick bunny bothers me, In fact I hate her with a white-hot flaming passion…. But I wouldn’t want to be rude or make her feel unwelcome or ganged-up on.” Oh really? Why not? The more you don’t like someone, the more you have to “protect” them from your dislike and the more you bend over backwards to “welcome” them? What for? Isn’t that dishonest? Aren’t you withholding information, not only from that person who is, in fact, unwelcome, but from the rest of your community who also might be so annoyed that THEY feel unwelcome and go away? Because that’s what happens in blogland and in real life; the sensible people drop out of groups because they think they’re alone in being alienated by the hijacking of a conversation by fuckwits.

  16. bunny

    Well, since you went to all the trouble:
    Go back to Metafilter and look for Konolia. That is who I am now. The bunnyfire stuff was when I was unstable on meds.
    Oh, I see you already did. But I have tons of friends over on metafilter(and you might as well go check on metachat while you are at it, I’m konolia over there too.)
    Badger, you don’t have to like me. I won’t lie and say it doesn’t bother me. It hurts my feelings, and I do have feelings. But I am not surprised by it.
    I have purposely not mentioned my Christianity or my Republicanism or any of that when I commented on Jo’s blog. All I am interested in is being a support to her. I AM bipolar, (repeat for emphasis) I AM bipolar,and there are times when my internet writing affects that. And if that makes a bunch of you folks not like me, well, you are within your rights. I know that many of you hold widely divergent life views from me. But I am not over here to stir that with a stick.
    I like to frequent blogs written by all types of people. I don’t like being an isolationist who only surrounds herself with cookie-cutter replicas of herself. If that makes me weird, bring on the codfish.
    I don’t want to fight. Let’s simply agree to be polite.
    And please, please let’s leave Jo out of this. I think that is one thing we can truly agree on.
    And let me state for the record, that I will not quit posting on Jo’s blog unless she asks me or if you all make it too uncomfortable for HER. Again, I emailed her several days ago and she assured me I was helpful to her.
    Oh, one more thing. Badger, I had read a bit of your archives (not a bunch since I have schoolwork up the wazoo) and I know you had some really negative experiences on the topic of mental health treatment. (that in your case was not necessary.) So did I , back in the day, which made it very problematic when I finally had to face my own problems in middle age. I know you are not happy with anything Jo is going thru now (and with that first pdoc giving her an AD, arrrgh!)…well, you are a very intelligent woman. Please try to understand that sometimes we have to go thru a very imperfect system to get the health care necessary-but if I or if Jo didn’t pursue it we could be dead. Nobody wants that (For Jo, anyway. Heh.) If I assume facts not in evidence, please forgive me.
    And rereading my first post upthread and your response to it, I think what I wrote and what you read were two different things. My fault-I was tired and did not communicate effectively. Plus, no Bible quote. Just a quote from myself. Which I suppose one could think looked like a Bible quote but it wasn’t one.
    Okay-if any of you want to blast me, blast away at Unless you want Jo to see it, which I don’t recommend. I promise I’ll read it, if that matters.

  17. minnie


  18. GraceD

    Badger, your research on “bunny” is fucking chilling and I’m grateful you have outed this person for the stalker she is.
    “bunny”, you have no interest in Jo beyond her diagnosis. I think you’re gleeful you found someone to join your By Golly, We’re BiPolar Club. Statements such as “Okay-if any of you want to blast me, blast away at Unless you want Jo to see it, which I don’t recommend.” are not only presumptuous but downright creepy. You are clearly an exhibitionist who needs to let everyone know what you know.
    Folks tell me that I’m one of the nicer folks on the web. I believe in civility online and off. But that doesn’t mean I won’t step in if I smell danger, and you, “bunny”, stink of major trouble. Therefore, I’m not asking you but telling you to butt out of Jo’s community. Stay away. Stop sending her emails. Stay off Jo’s blog.

  19. bunny

    Grace, with all due respect, Jo is not a child and it is her blog, not yours. And let me just say that Badger’s research is a bit onesided.
    Can everybody just calm down? Sheesh.

  20. Jo Spanglemonkey

  21. badgerbag

    Just for the record…
    a) I do not reject bunny for being a Republican or a Christian, and in fact didn’t know she was either until I bothered to look her up.
    b) However, being all opposite of me doesn’t absolve anyone from being an annoying halfwit or make them immune to being called on their bullshit.
    c) I also never said anything about Jo and bunny or Jo’s blog. It is quite telling that bunny tries to make it all about that. No. Actually what I did say was for her to shut up on HERE. Which… again tellingly… she hasn’t.

  22. Ms. Jane

    Badger – I didn’t mean to imply that you didn’t also have a nice rack! ;-)

Leave a Reply