Preparing To Sit Shiva

Update on 6/20: Link was removed around the $4650 mark by the person who started it (A cousin who I am not related to, as I am family from the other side.). I will add in any additional fundraising endeavors, as I know some help *might* be needed. I am waiting to hear back, but might not know anything for a few additional days.

I am sorry for the sudden shift, but this is overwhelming and I’m not okay. I’ve only just been given the news.

In The Face of Trauma: Fatherless Daughter

Last month, my doctor asked if anything specific was triggering me. At the time, I couldn’t think of anything. Until a specific day came, and I broke down in tears for hours. It had been a long time since I’d allowed myself to do that. 😦

The majority of my breakdowns are quiet. Real quiet. As in, no one else ever knows they’re happening or suspects anything. They have no idea what to look for, either. They have no idea you’re struggling, and they say nothing to help you.

These breakdowns started in late 2002 when my father was in the hospital doing an experimental kidney cancer treatment. At the time, it was still a very rare type of cancer that few people had. He had already lost a kidney to cancer ten years prior. The treatment was via IV and he had to spend weeks on end in the hospital. The key side effects were that it could cause heart problems and/or worsen the cancer you already had. It did both. It took a pea sized tumor and turned it into a constant spread, which eventually became bone and brain cancer. One day, as he was leaving a doctor’s appointment, he turned to my brother and said, “Can you go upstairs and let the office know I’m going next door to the emergency room. I think I’m having a heart attack.”

I remember that phone call like it was yesterday. My whole body tenses up because I truly remember every word. My brother was so panicked and freaked out, and he needed me to do everything. He was frozen and upset, and those are normal reactions, but mine were the polar opposite. They still are. I remember speaking to doctors and surgeons, and making last-minute decisions because my father would have died if I hadn’t known what to do.

The reason my father put me in charge of everything is because he knew my reactions would be in correlation with his wishes. He knew I wouldn’t fall apart or be utterly incapable of speech, leave alone making important decisions in the moment. On occasion, I wish he’d thought I was a moron and laid the responsibility elsewhere. I remember someone implying that he’d made these decisions from a selfish place. I don’t feel that was it at all, but do I resent it at times? A little.

No matter how put together you could ever be, and I have always been wise beyond my years, making medical decisions on behalf of someone who is incapacitated is difficult. Even if they’d laid it all out for you, making the verbal calls is not easy. It’s emotionally taxing. Today is fourteen years since he passed away, and I can say this much; I’ve grown, I’ve changed, and I’m a different person. But am I healed? No. I’m scarred.

Interpersonal relationships are extremely difficult to navigate. To this day, I still don’t understand people the way I feel I should. I constantly find myself frustrated and disappointed in people. The more I feel this way, the less I want to interact with anyone, and it probably shows. I just don’t have a lot to offer certain types of people anymore, and I am learning to be okay with that.

After my father’s funeral, I couldn’t get out of bed for almost three months. I had always known he’d die young. I had always known he would not be present to see the celebratory moments in my life, or my brother’s. I knew he was leaving, and I even told him not to do the IV treatment because it would kill him. He told me he had to try, or he’d be sending his children the wrong message regarding how you fight to live. I still disagree with him, and always will. Intuition doesn’t lie, and when he first told me about it, I knew it was the beginning of the end. I just made sure I didn’t say it to my brother, because that would have been wrong, at the time.

All of this knowledge allowed me to write a eulogy which really paid tribute in an honest way. This sense of knowing failed me, though, because it distracted me from the fact that my mother was dying, and didn’t care. That’s a story for another day, but when I compound the mental and emotional trauma on top of the next set of trauma, which was more sudden, I wonder how I get out bed at all. I question myself daily, and far more than anyone else ever could. I legitimately have NO idea why I’m alive. I just don’t see a real purpose to it.

My mother raised two extraordinarily different children (I was easier; my brother tried to break her.). As adults, you can tell we’re siblings by the way we laugh at the same things, in the same way. My brother says I laugh like a villain, and I’ve also been told I have my father’s laugh. You can see us automatically know what the other is thinking by a mere a glance. On bad days, I will say I look exactly like my brother, except that I have hair (He’s going to be SO pissed when he sees this. He only laughed once when I sent him a hilarious photo which made us both laugh for days.), but in reality, that isn’t true. We’re as alike as we are different. He genuinely passes as ethnic, and it takes people a while to see that in me.

I promised myself a long time ago that I would break the sibling curse which I’ve watched plague my family. Some days, I think I’ve done a pretty good job, and other days I feel taken advantage of. On my end, the effort is present. I try. I know my parents and Grandparents can see that. I know I’m not bringing shame down upon them. Or at the very least, I try damn hard not to.

There will always be days when I question how you move past all of this. Not everyone is built the way I am. There are personality types which I will never understand as long as I live. They aren’t passionate about much, so death means very little to them. They don’t place a lot of value on life or the people in their lives, and it’s obvious by the revolving door I see in their relationships. I’m not like that. I have bras older than some people’s friendships, and many still have the tags on them. 😉 I’ve had some of the same friends for over twenty-five years and I don’t usually ditch people out of the blue. I’m loyal and honest to a fault, if nothing else.

The whole point of what I’m trying to say, and failing miserably, is that healing is different for everyone. I stopped talking about this day with my brother because then he’d stop speaking to me for a few months and that’s not conducive to any relationship. My closest friends really don’t care to listen (I get it; you’re busy. I, too, will be busy the next time you want to talk for five hours about anything. Blowing a friend off is NEVER cool, especially when you would flip out if I treated you that way.), and if someone does, they certainly haven’t communicated that to me. That’s fine. Truly. One of the good things about me is that I work a lot of shit out on my own. I’ve had to. So when my doctor tells me, “You show up for 99% of your appointments. You do the work. You’re growing and improving, and working on yourself for yourself. What’s great about you is that I don’t have to explain a lot to you, because you’re already ahead of it. You see it and you self-correct.”, I have to take that as a compliment. Usually I think he’s trying to boost my self-esteem, but then I look at the actual work and realize that yes, I did it by myself. He’s basically complimenting me for being a self-starter, but I would say some of that is my personality and the rest is nature versus nurture. It goes back to being the responsible party for things, to some extent.

If you know someone is strong and smart, most people will automatically worry less about them. I will never forget my mother saying, “I don’t worry about you because you’re strong, you’re smart, you’re intuitive, you work hard, and you’ll always land on your feet. I worry about your brother. He’s smart, he has great work ethic, but he doesn’t have your common sense or street smarts. I really worry about him.” All these years later I can assure her he finally has a modicum of common sense and a different set of street smarts. He’ll figure shit out on his own. Despite feeling like I’ve been an excellent role model, my brother has the personality type that wants to learn the hard way. It drives me insane, but you cannot change the core of most people.

I’ve done my level best to look out for my brother, and my family in general. Not everyone listens to me, so I’ve decided to stop giving advice and focus on myself. I’ve invested in myself a lot over the past year and that will continue into 2022 and beyond. I am taking my business sense and everything I was taught, and aiming for more.

Ladies, it is perfectly okay to want more out of life. It is okay to do things differently. It is okay to do things in your own time and space. It is okay to say no to things you don’t want because you see what you do want, and it’s all well within your reach. Stop letting small people tell you your worth, or that you can only achieve great things by doing it the way they think it should be done. Fuck that attitude! Not everything in life in forever, but your achievements will always be your own. No one can can touch that, so please, don’t let them.

Please speak for yourselves. Speak loudly for those who are afraid, right now, to use their voice. Don’t let situations or people diminish you. Remember who you are at the beginning and end of each day. There will always be days when you don’t want to be strong, because you’re exhausted. Allow yourself to rest, to rejuvenate, and give yourself permission to heal from anything and everything.

Go forth, trauma and all, and make someone proud. Even if it’s your deceased father who probably wouldn’t care that much. But in truth, know that you’re really doing it for yourself. The future truly IS female.

copyright © 2021 by Lisa Marino & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Poison In Lethal Doses®™ is a registered trademark.

Bear With Me

Hi, everyone! I’m having a rough time, and all this while I am working on so much for this site. 😦 I’ve already ruled out that I’m not having a heart attack, but man, everything feels so much worse right now.

Let me be clear; death anniversaries are hard for me. They involve flashbacks and very real feelings, which, no matter how much time has passed, you find you are still working through. Even with the best of support and growth (and a superb mental health practitioner), it is still painful at times, whereas other years you don’t think about it at all. They also involve minimal to zero support.

I tend not to talk about things I have going on because people are too busy talking at me with their own problems, which drives me insane. It’s like, “Can you pause and ask how I’m doing?” I am already establishing huge boundaries and saying, “No.”, more. I’m also saying, “I cannot listen right now.” I’m not going to apologize for that. I cannot be the sounding board for fifty people, and then have no one to turn to myself. That isn’t right, fair, or okay. I am many things; selfish isn’t one of them. I will not ask for support when it should be a given. I will not repeat the same arguments because people are being assholes, either. I have to be here for ME, before I can do it for everyone else in my world. That’s fair and responsible. I wish people understood this, without immediately taking offense and complaining about how I’m not there for them. That is completely untrue, so if someone says that, they are full of crap.

I would love to know what it’s like to have blind support, but I don’t. Be kinder and judge LESS. I need to take care of me right now. I know most of you will understand.

copyright © 2021 by Lisa Marino & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Poison In Lethal Doses®™ is a registered trademark.

Always A Funeral…

If I tallied up all the funerals I have been to, it would be a percentage of over 99%. How many weddings have I been to? Three. Please don’t invite me to anything you don’t truly want me to attend.

Let me clarify that my own family has chosen to exclude me from every wedding, even my first cousins managed to exclude me. If ever I choose to get married, I can do so with less than ten people in attendance. My list currently stands at under ninety people, most of whom are friends of five years or longer; the kind you feel will happily stand up for you and those you will hopefully have for the remainder of your life. The person who stands by your side is ultimately far more important than the numbers, believe me.

Last Monday was a somber affair. I’d never attended a Catholic funeral before. I found is colder and unfeeling, but I suspect part of my newfound emotional detachment had a lot to do with how I viewed it. It’s not about religion, so much as it is about the state of a funeral while we are still actively dealing with Covid.

I know a Jewish funeral backward and forward. I can probably recite it by rote. If you have a good Rabbi, there is a very emotional, spiritual feeling in the air. Even my non-religious/spiritual friends have told me they feel like Jewish funerals are more involved/in touch. In essence, it makes sense I’d feel more connected there.

I remember my father’s funeral very clearly because I gave the eulogy. We are incredibly lucky to have an amazing Rabbi who deeply cares for our family, so even now, over a decade later, speaking to him is heartwarming. He will always leave you with a piece of wisdom, and I never forget his sparks or good deeds. He’s an innately good person. Prior to meeting him, I had never been able to connect with any man/woman of G-d. I found all of them so clinical and uncaring. He is the exception, not the rule.

Funerals are something I’m used to. I shouldn’t be, but I am. I get invited to more of them than any other thing in this world. While that is a strange thing to be invited to, I don’t feel like paying your respects is something you get invited to, or not. It’s something you do. Hopefully for the right reasons.

As the funeral was winding down, the “host” gave me a hug and told me I was a good person. I was taken aback by that statement. I wish more people said positive things through their pain, as opposed to those who shut everyone out. Yet, I did not feel the need to thank anyone who came to my father’s funeral or my mother’s. For me, showing up (if you are able) is a sign of respect. It is not your good deed.

Perhaps I am alone in these thoughts. Perhaps not. But unlike many, I try to show up and be present. I actually try harder than most. Even if it means being the only person who speaks and is fully present.

copyright ©2021 by Lisa Marino and Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

I Know For Certain…

“I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death. They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision we make. Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories.” —Leo Buscaglia

It seems like yesterday. I blinked and the day was here. It has heartbreakingly been ten years since my Uncle died, and I miss him fiercely.

I remember the morning my brother said, “Um, I have something to tell you. You’re going to be upset.” I saw the look on his face and catalogued all of the important people left in my life, and then he said your name. I fell down half a flight of stairs to my feet, and crumbled in disbelief. My brother later admitted he was afraid to tell me at all, but knew if I heard it from anyone else, it would be wrong. He was cringing as he watched my reaction and told me how it happened. I would later hear more, but in the immediate moment, I was numb beyond words.

I miss having a completely devoted family member who always had my back. He always looked out for me, in both large and small ways. Because we looked so much alike, people always thought I was his daughter. Even passing strangers would immediately see us as father and daughter.

He gave me an extremely expensive education (Three separate degrees.); which is something he was not obligated to do in any way, shape, or form. He wanted me to follow my dreams with ZERO debt in the end, and he encouraged me to use my voice and make a difference. He believed in me. The gesture came from a sense of love and honor; he NEVER threw anything in my face or abused our relationship.

He was a friend, a confidant, a partner-in-crime, and he taught me so much about life and how to navigate it by learning from his mistakes. He was enigmatic, loyal, full of wisdom, and always sought to help others. He generously gave his time, attention, and would listen to people talk for hours without saying a word. “It costs nothing to listen to someone and be kind.” He genuinely heard them.

My Grandfather and Uncle were the finest men to ever exist. I’m eternally grateful for his role in my life. Te amo, Zio. I will see you on the other side.

Tracking The Time

The loss of my mother haunts me. How could it not?

I know not everyone has a deep bond with either parent, and others have different scenarios of their family dynamic, which I understand, but my mother was my best friend. I was never embarrassed of her or ashamed of her. I took care of her. I helped her with anything and everything. I paid her bills and kept everything up-to-date. I cooked. I took her to doctor’s appointments. I dropped her off at work, walking her to her desk, and repeated the process at the end of each day. Sometimes, my brother was the one doing that, when he was available. We often dreaded it, but we did not complain. Two failed back surgeries left my mother partially paralyzed, so the extra assistance was necessary. Her biggest fear was falling and being wheelchair bound. 😦

I always question what I could have done to save her. I would have given her the heart out of my own chest. Ultimately, her life was in her own hands and she refused invasive medical treatment. Medical treatment my brother would later receive, and still receives. She gave up and her heart did, too. I don’t think she realized how much heartache and pain she would leave behind. Nor do I think she cared. She was too far gone to care anymore. While I understand that, it’s the polar opposite of how she expected me to be. It’s hard to reconcile the fact that she always wanted me to fight, but wouldn’t do it for herself.

So today, on what would have been her 74th birthday, I tried to do normal things. I’m wearing one of her favorite colors of nail polish in homage to her. I do it every year; I try to find a shade of purple that honors her life and what she left behind. But ultimately, as the day comes to a mental close, I am deeply saddened and feel the loss in every part of my life and heart.

If your parents are still alive and you have a good relationship with them, please realize how blessed you are. Some of us aren’t so lucky.

May you seek sweet Serenity, madre. May time heal, even though right now, it still tracks.

Dirge Without Music

“I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.”
―Edna St. Vincent Millay