In addition to the conference planning --

[Which, hi, btw:

Yikes. And I know all/most of you understand why planning an event like this is stressful, but in case you're all like "what's the big deal," I will just say it's kind of like trying to plan a wedding for 700 people that lasts two-and-a-half days. 3 receptions, 4 meals, 2 breaks, 150 speakers, 30 sponsors, swag bags, brochures, signage, shuttles...]

-- and my birthday shenanigans, which were awesome --

--Ish and I flew out to the East Coast for a few days to finally bury my father.

Because you know and I know that that is just how life goes. Just when you think it can't get any busier or more challenging, you find yourself going from a crazy, eleventeen-hour workday rush to a silent island off the coast of Maine.

Just, whisk!

[Like this post. I start a typical entry about conference planning, and next thing you know I'm discussing my dad's death.]

Almost as if from out of nowhere I was suddenly surrounded by family and friends I don't see nearly enough. On an island. Without paved roads. Where water is rationed, and the atmosphere is saltwater fresh and misty and you can't always tell if the hum is coming from insects in the woods or motorboats on the ocean. There seems to be more sky there, too. More air to breathe.

I haven't been to the island since the 4th of July weekend five years ago. When we buried my mom.


There is lots to say about it all, and I don't really have the energy or skill to do it in one post, or even a specific series. It'll just come out, I think.

Because how do you write about a parental burial that I mean, it was. Fun.

And oh, the closure. It's been over a year since he died and I thought I had a pretty damn good handle on my grieving. I had no idea how good it could feel to cry again, a lot. To relive the stories and jokes in a pseudo-ceremonious way that didn't involve wearing black or seating arrangements or casseroles. Instead we had a sunset and booze, games and laughter, and a damn fine grill.

It was fantastic to do something like that, a year later. The services when he died were everything they should have been, and, rightly so, they were cloaked in grief.

This was something else.

* * *

Forgive me. I never write like this, and I know it might come out all funny. But I believe what I'm about to write, and I have never told a soul.

Something small and black formed inside me. It started when my parents lost their house and moved to New Hampshire, and nothing was ever, ever the same again.

I felt it, this black thing, starting to grow when my mom got sick. Like my own kind of cancer. Black and scary and vile. Fear, regret, preparatory grieving. Stoicism, even. A horrid, bilious blackness, forming in the depths of me, my stomach, my soul.

No, I never write like this.

My marriage fell apart and my mom got sicker and sicker and my dad had less money and there was less and less to hold on to. There was no safety anywhere. I knew it was going to be bad.

And it was bad. The black, I think it is despair.

Things got better.

But the black stayed, because I knew it wasn't over. Me and my sisters were working hard to find our ways, and doing okay. And Dad, too. He recouped some and moved and found a new love and his footing. Almost.

But when he started getting sicker, I knew the black would stay until the end. His end. It had never completely gone away.

He died, and the black just sat there.

You know the feeling, the fear you feel in the pit of your stomach when you realize something is awry. I have had that pit, buried inside and constantly churning, for years. I actually believe that it has made me sick, too. My weight has clung to me and I to it because it -- maybe literally -- provides a cushion between the black hole and me.

In some ways, I have moved and done things and been alive and energetic and positive. But I have had this weight inside me, too, making me not work right.

I have not been depressed (not as we know it and understand it today, at least). But I believe that this black ball of despair -- growing, sitting, churning, whatever it has been doing in my core -- has wreaked havoc on my body chemistry. In the last several years, I have felt stuck. Slow. Immobilized. As though my body has been in a constant state of just maintaining itself.

As though I've been living with a severe injury that could not heal completely.

Except, slowly, that's been changing. Just in the last few months, the black has been receding. I have heard people say, "You seem happy." And I have not heard that a long, long time.

This weekend, unexpectedly, I found closure. And discovered that the black has gone.


  1. It's a good thing the black has moved on. Always a great step towards making your life even more wonderful than some of the things in it.

    I'm also glad to hear that your memorial service, burial and birthday were enjoyable and cathartic. *hugs*

  2. Hi, I'm brand new to your blog. And I just wanted to say that this post about blackness was incredible. I work with the pediatric oncology population and their families. I have had lots of moms and dads try to describe the feelings that they experience when their child has cancer and I have never quite been able to get the jumble of emotions that goes on. (I mean, I will never totally get it unless I become a parent whose child has cancer, I know that.) Your words desribed perfectly what I have tried to feel with them.

    Thank you for so eloquently describing that most horrible and complex bundle of emotions that lives in people who are in a constant state of the unknown that is grief.

    I will continue to read your blog and wish for you continued 'color' in your days.

  3. I know that black thing, very very well. It attacked me at age 21, when my best friend died after a horrific year long battle with cancer. It grew worse when my OTHER best friend (how does that happen?!), at 22, was diagnosed with cancer. And at age 23, when my boss/mentor/friend died of cancer, it almost took me down.

    I spent the next three years tyring to kill the black -- I tried to eat enough to kill it. Drink enough to kill it. Smoke enough to kill it...Shop enough to kill it... and all that happened is that i got really fat and really depressed, became a chain smoker, and accrued $40K in credit card debt.

    And then, finally, on my 26th birthday, I started to fight back... and now, 4 years, 75 lbs, and hundreds-of-dollars-saved-in-not-buying cigarettes, and $25K paid off in debt... the black is gone, and what is left is the ability to FEEL again.

    And it feels really damn good.

    Congratulations and welcome back. :-)


  4. This was beautiful, Kristy. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Bravo, my dear. This was a fantastic post. I hope to soon regain the rainbow bright colors in my life. :)

  6. What you describe *was* depression. Not necessarily of the variety that requires pharmacological relief, but it was a type of depression. I spent most of my 20s and early 30s under the spell of something similar to what you describe. Even happy moments always had a dark undercurrent of despair.

    But it is past. Woo-hoo! You may discover that having survived depression gives you a new perspective on sadness. It's the reverse of the undercurrent of despair, where even in sad moments, you'll know that this particular moment isn't so bad, because you've survived worse. I now experience low moments with a promise and expectation of joy because I know it will pass and I'll be happy again.

    Enjoy your life.



  7. beautiful post, and a teary one on this end. love you.

    - cuznate

  8. Wow, you described that so well. Thanks for going out on a limb and sharing. And I island off the coast in Maine is good for taking the black away.

    Your conference sounds awesome...maybe I'll make it next year!


  9. Wow. This one has me speechless. And we know how rare that is. So happy to hear your black is gone.

  10. So bummed I missed your birthday, glad it was wonderful. And, I'm so very sorry about the loss of your parents, and your having to watch them suffer with illness. So glad you're doing better now!

  11. Thankfully, I haven't had the terribly sad experiences that have brought the same feelings to my life, but I have been living with "a very dark gray" for a long time and your post made me stop to think about it and give it a name. Thanks for another moment of clarity.

  12. A psychic once told me that I carried extra weight because I am very sinsitive to the outside world and the dark forces it contains that the weight served as a buffer between my soul and the cold hard world. And that I needed to strengthen my soul through meditation and after that I would not have the same need to carry the extra weight.

    It may sound like bullshit, but once I started meditating, my energy soared and with that the weight fell off, and I felt amazing. Then I met a scumbag and had a baby, and I am back to fat again. I need to work on that, and getting rid of my own black that I carry.

    Love you and thanks for posting something, I know you are busy and all but day-um, I look forward to your posts and it blows to not have a new one for so long! Kisses!

  13. I love the last sentence. I was sitting here, reading, worrying, thinking to myself that I wish there was something that I (random lurker and sometimes commenter) could do. And then I read "This weekend, unexpectedly, I found closure. And discovered that the black has gone." And I wanted to jump for joy. The black is something that always manages to find its way into my heart and soul at moments that I least expect it. It's almost always when I'm doing something that suddenly reminds me of the people that I love the most who I lost the earliest.

    Anyways... I am so glad that you got to go get a bit of closure and have a good time along the way. I'd like to think that a memorial for me would be exactly how y'all did it for your dad.

  14. I love this post, I know you say its a departure from how you usually write, but its really not. It is truthful, eloquent and real and that is how you write. Great big loving hugs to you. I am so glad that the despair is gone. I lived with horrible anxiety and fear for years and after I filed for divorce it has lifted. I am no longer taking responsiblity for anyone but myself.


  15. I too had that black in my gut. It started at the age of 7 and lasted until I was 29. At one point I had to ask myself if that black was just a part of me, my personality so to speak. How could someone be depressed for 22 years? But with the lifting of that feeling I do see that it really was external to me and that I do not have to carry it everyday. I'm never really sure it is gone. But for you, I'm glad yours is.


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