Guide to grieving

I wrote this in October but never posted it. I had the idea it wasn’t ready but it looks fine to me. How can a guide to something unknown ever be perfect? It seems odd that it is in the present tense. That was then, this is now. I am leaving it as is. It is a moment for me to have new compassion for myself.

There is also the way I feel now, which is way less dominated by the grief of this loss. It is not gone. Everything below is still familiar, even daily. But it has lost its intensity. The moments come and go with less cortisol.

Maybe it worked! This has served as a guide to my own process. I have been conscious of which bit I was working on, what was a bit done, and what was next.

There is of course a lot more to this but it is time to press publish. I hope you find some value in it.

From the pit

Damn this hurts.

It’s also really annoying. I want to get on with my life. Right now I can’t. All I feel is waves of pain and loss. All I can do is be in that and do the grieving the best I know how. Which is mostly fumbling in the dark. But I want to do get it done. I know this is self-contradictory. Sitting in the hole is how you get out of it. But I want to get out faster. So I am writing down what I know so I have some kind of guide for myself. Maybe a map where I can plot progress. And maybe so someone else might find this useful. Getting out of an impossibly deep pit. Good luck with that. Maybe I am just crying aloud on the internet.

Torn attachments

It feels like there are pieces of my body connecting me to my lost loved one. Some of them also connect to other people, things and places. I feel as if my nervous system extends outside my body. The big nerve to her is torn off at the other end, raw and bleeding. The three-way ones are attached to so many things. Our local favourite bar, the restaurant, all the streets, my house, my own damn bed, her house, songs, food, memories, hopes, the garden we were growing together, alerts on my phone, a gate latch, a treasurer’s report… things jump me everywhere I go. For each there is a nerve torn or tearing off and bleeding at the end where she was. All still attached to me. I feel the tearing. There is a sort of phantom limb where it feels like she is still there. But she is not. Just the raw bleeding. It keeps happening. It keeps hurting. Until the pain fills my life.

What the hell do I do about this?

I want to tear the ties off me so they stop hurting. Especially the big one. Of course I don’t as well. I want to stay tied. But I know I have to let go. Not to the things around me. I want to keep those for myself. Just the hanging torn bits. Gotta be gentle tho. Gentle with me. Maybe bathe the wounds, dress them with soothing balm. Trust that the severed ties will heal back towards me. How do I do that?

I don’t know what to do. Except sit in the not knowing. Damn that old thing.

And I can claw something else together.

Go in to get through, with love and not all alone

Here is the first unpleasant task. I know the only way out is in. This means I have to face the loss. Bring to mind one attachment at a time. Feel them tearing off. As much as I can face. And in the presence of kindness – my own at the least. And in relationship at least some of the time.

The other day I made a list of all the attaching things I could think of. Got photos and made a collage on a timeline. Used post-its for the things I did not have photos for. Cried the tears.

Cry the tears. Sit in the pit. Some of it has to be done alone. Sometimes saying it aloud…

She isn’t coming back. I want her to but she’s not. It hurts like hell. Ow, ow, ow. I want her here telling me she cares and values this and is willing to work for it and she’s not and she’s not going to. I know that…

But that is not enough by itself. I don’t leave myself in the hole.

You poor bastard. You really love this one. And she’s gone. I know you feel this, Dan. And I am here with you. You have not lost me. I am with you and I’m sticking with you. I love you, Dan.

Over and over again.

The neuropsyches think we work a bit like computers and pain is kind of written to our memories. Rather than just over-writing it, though, the reckon write better things like compassion in the same place. That way the pain and love are connected so that next time you feel pain, love is right there. I think this might be the mechanism for what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

The problem is that the pain events are intense, and the love events are kind of tiny. Plus jungle brain counts pain lot more than love. So you need lots of repetitions.

There are some great self-compassion meditations out there.


Ooh, I really don’t recommend this one. EKR says you have to go through it but I think she means it is likely to happen. I can’t see how it helps. Trying to pretend she’s coming back. Waiting by the phone. Checking the phone when it tings. Eugh.

Oh. Hang on. Maybe I do know how it works. It makes you face the loss and disappointment again and again. That’s why I don’t advise it. Feels nice for a second and then chucks you in the pit.

Reasonable respite

Sometimes, these moments are provided by a little bit of denial. I am all for this. Denial is a friend who dispenses pain to you in doses that you can manage. I am so so glad of the moments of respite.

Sit on my lovely couch. Listen to soothing music. Play ukulele and sing sad songs. Try to find some food that seems appetising. And not associated. Maybe watch some tele with love in it. See a movie. Have fun with friends. Laughter is good.

I know how to do these things but are they working on the ties? They seem like avoidance. I love respite but I want progress too. Maybe slowly the moments might actually be real signs of progress. Acceptance.


Should have put this one earlier. You can use this for emergency respite. It is not a bad idea to use it all the time, too. Singing. Being with yourself. I recently started a morning meditation practice. Just googled some simple instructions and followed them. Seems to help. Breathing practice is good cos then I can do it better the rest of the time. Breathing and bringing my attention back to me. Return to the breath. Return to me. I am with me. I am alive. Gently dismiss this, dismiss that.

Re-paving my paths

This one starts slowly with the three-way attachments. A quiet moment with the trigger object, person or idea.

Making a coffee. This is me making a coffee. Coffee is a thing in the world. This is my coffee-making gear. That coffee is for me. I am making it for me. This association between coffee and her. Yes, I know that is there. This in the here and now is also here for me.

Gradually, one by one I am over-writing all the associations with new ones that are all mine.

The key to this is repetition: I do this hundreds of times a day.

I sing this little song as I ride around on my bike.

This is for me.
It’s all for me.
This is pretty good.
I am happy.

I have moments when I think of my actions as towards some to shared vision. I replace those thoughts with this one:

My intention. My cause.

As I get good at this, I might start thinking of it as getting on with my life. God knows I need to do that.

Listing bad things you lost

This one might be a bit cynical. I am not much motivated for it, anyway. Maybe further down the track it will look more interesting. There are some upsides to this, you know Dan. What about you dodged a bullet there?

Right now it is just I know you get ordinary not perfect. I chose this one. Chose to say yes. Chose to not dwell on the areas of poor fit. That is a taking a bit of releasing.

Appreciating the wonderful things

This idea comes from the gratefulness that the neuropsyches want us practising. What if I thought about some of the wonderful moments we had together. The great feelings. The love we shared. The rituals. The holidays. And was thankful for them. Noticed how wonderful they were with gratitude and appreciation. Maybe even saying out loud wow, that was so lovely, I am so glad I had that moment in my life.

You are probably thinking what I’m thinking. Fuck that. What a stupid idea. And how can I possibly expect myself to achieve it when right next to all of those lovely memories is the loss, the tearing knowledge that they can never be repeated or built on to create more lovely moments. But what if I could get myself to a strong enough place to do this. Then I would have good feelings flowing around me not the bad ones I have now. I would be warming up to gain not loss. I might get some oxytocin.

Maybe to get ready for this one, I’ll start with gratitude for things that are mine alone. Then I’ll try some things I still have from the relationship – like the lovely cufflinks that she made me. And work my way up to a cherished memory.

Holding her in the light

My dear late friend Julian Carver suggested this one to me when I was grieving an earlier loss. I am really not ready to do it. I know how and have even tried for brief moments. It is way too hard. But I know it will help. It is a Quaker idea where you hold someone in your heart wishing them well. A bit like praying for them I suppose. I am not a great one for magically helping someone by thinking about them but I don’t rule it out.

The point here is the difference it would make for me. To do this, first I must warm myself up to a sense of abundance, generosity and strength. And then act on that with the good wishes. Feel positive towards myself and positive towards her. Somehow I know that would push the good strong feelings into my cells.

But nope. Can’t get there for now. Maybe the previous step would make this one easier.

Let’s be friends

This one has crossed my mind. I suspect it is available. It has worked well for me in the past. We even did some grieving of the lost relationship together. But that parting was mutual. Right now the asymmetry makes this impossible for me. To have the one I love right in front of me but not returning that love. While we get on with ordinary things and I do not cry and double over in agony. No thank you. Fuck that.

Remembering Jane

Jane Spears was my partner ten years ago today, when she suddenly died. Today, as I navigate the ending of the third major relationship of my life, I cannot help reflecting on my search for love. I am grateful to my former self for documenting my first year of grieving for Jane. Reading that helps. I can return to it any time. I think what might help now is to reflect a little on Jane herself. But how can I do that, other than in the context of my relationship with her?

When she died, Jane and I had been together for just over two years, but we’d known each other for much longer than that. When I arrived in Dunedin in 1975, my parents joined the Goethe Society, where they met the parents of Struan Little, with whom I became friends. Struan and I did a bit of tramping, often with Mark Williamson. Jane was Struan’s girlfriend. Through Struan Jane I met a bunch of people from Logan Park High School. It was the first time I had ever felt I was in my social milieu. Jane and I got to know each other enough to become friends. Then my family left Dunedin for Whanganui. Jane and I maintained a prolific correspondence by mail. We both kept the letters.

My re-introduction with Jane was when she retrieved my most embarrassingly teenagerish quotes from these letters (they’re in Carry Me Home), in response to my exploratory email in 2003. There was little doubt I had found the right person. Our correspondence resumed.

Taking Jane’s privacy into my own hands, I will share some moments from her subsequent emails to me.

2 May 2003 2:18:42 pm NZST

You still do it – use my name all the time. I still like it.

I was hoping you would not turn out to be the kind of person who keeps letters for 23+ years and then quotes them back, because I’m appalled/fascinated at the idea of confronting who and how I was then. Not that I’m any nicer now, I guess, but I think I’m better at pretending to be.

An early bio:

2 May 2003 5:52:07 pm NZST

I’m a childless spinster living in solitary squalor with my black cat and my teapot collection.

I work at Whitireia Community Polytechnic  – Student Services Manager. My main thing is tertiary teaching and learning skills, but last year the vicissitudes of restructuring took me away from staff development, left me with learning skills and gave me responsibility for the Counsellor, Nurse, Doctor and Student Financial Advisor instead. I’m plotting a reversal.

Stuff I do: rearrange my teapot collection, yoga, indoor netball, boogie boarding (well I say that but I hardly ever actually do it), film, rabid reading, and social eating and drinking things. Skiing is crap up here.

Music of the moment: Nine Inch Nails, Salmonella Dub, Placebo, Ben Folds Five, Cowboy Junkies, Epsilon Blue, The Black Seeds, Jeff Buckley, Strawpeople and lots of experiments – Wellington Public Library has an excellent CD collection.

Jane sent me this photo of her. A selfie, as I recall, taken in the mirror of the public loos in Cheviot.

Jane3By the 3rd of July 2003, we had still not met up yet, but in an odd way things had developed a little already. If you read nothing else, read the Eligibility Assessment Form I received.

Then we did meet, and so began the dance. I will never tire of Jane’s writing.

I got a sense of the atmospheric pressure from your message, but had to give the glass a good rap to see whether it was rising.  As you noted, our subsequent correspondence and meeting saw the needle shoot up towards clear skies and sunny weather.  What is unclear to me though, is why I am so interested in the forecast.  What is the event being planned – a walk in the woods, a picnic, a garden party, or the full-scale return to Eden?

That’s a rhetorical question, but it cannot have escaped your notice that you live in Christchurch and I live in Wellington.  You didn’t mention owning a private jet and I don’t have so much as a microlight licence.  So picking up where we left off with the star-crossed thing is a possibility, but that has only two outcomes that I know of: 1. the dramatic and tragic death of one or other of the protagonists, preferably both; or 2. someone (usually both) gets bored and ‘loses touch’.

When I got the chance to meet up with you I was open to possibilities but determined about one thing.  My modus operandi is still to cut the chase pretty short and go straight to the slaughter, but having been turned down by you twice, I resolved not to risk a third attempt.  Anyway, you might have turned out to be 22 stone and leprotic.  Now I’m thinking I should have just gone for the boxed set (a pleasingly ambiguous turn of phrase) and either confirmed my suspicion that you only ever admired my intellect, or got whatever it is/was out of my system – finished the business.

I don’t know what happens next. D’you?

Of course, I had no idea that I had turned her down twice! What followed seemed to do alright despite the distance between us. Here is an invitation I received: Serenity in Spinsterworld (you may recognise the design style of the Listener at that time).

Jane also visited Christchurch.

28331155_2857a35ee9_oIn November 2003, Jane scheduled a party to introduce me to her Wellington friends. The invitation was phrased Now you know.

Things progressed fairly quickly from there. In a huge decision, Jane called off plans for major alterations to Fort Jeypore, her house in Berhampore. Over summer, we went on a road trip with Elsie and Ed, visiting my family in Auckland, and my old mates in Tokomaru Bay. We began by watching Tombstone together (an activity claimed by Ed to be required of all my new girlfriends). And for Jane’s treat we all saw one of the LOTR movies at the Embassy.

Here we are opening Christmas presents at my Dad’s place.


In Auckland, I think Jane got on quite well with Janet.


In February, Jane and I took a road trip around the South Island. We visited Christopher and Barbara in Purakaunui.



Here is a response to a BBQ that I had constructed. If you know me, you’ll know this BBQ. If you don’t, this will put you in the picture.

I think that I will never do
A deed as glorious as you,
Have in the span of two short days
Achieved and placed before my gaze

Now princes, kings and noblemen
Will flock to see it once – again
Lit from within by jealous fire
The object of their great desire

And seeing it will fan the flame
That all the ocean cannot tame
And each in his own way will learn
The feel of envy?s searing burn

I know that I have never seen
Quite such an elegant machine
Glowing, lambent, made anew
A f*ckin kickass barbecue!

Later in 2004, Jane moved to Christchurch and took up residence at Camp Keswick, before we moved into Durham Castle together. We had many wonderful times there.

Here are some moments from the reading of Lysistrata,


in which Jane cast most of my friends.


Here is Jane at Christmas, I think.


We went to Sydney.


We sat up in bed.


Despite some bumps, Jane and Elsie got on quite well.


Jane even endured a visit to the A&P show.


Of course, Zosie shared our lives.


And you know how it ends.

The bit that gets me is the death notice that Elsie and Ed wrote.










Brush with Love #2

I’ve got the muse now.

I’m angry. I’m angry that I can’t write about my search for love here. I’m angry that my search for love is so hard. I’m angry that I’m sad. Another disappointment. Well, I’m going to write about it here. What is this damn blog about, if it isn’t my way of making sense of the world. The weird public private diary that can be read by the people referred to in it, if they have Internet access, and they’re not dead.

I thought I’d have to write fiction. I thought I’d be able to, as a way of expressing some of the things in me. And I’m doing that, slowly. But this is first. It’s my outlet. My way of expressing myself when there is too much to hold in, or when I don’t know what the hell it is and need to make sense out of it.

I always come to some sort of resolution and I know I’ll do that here but let’s not jump ahead.

Did I say that people have asked me if I’ve had therapy since Jane died? Well they have and I haven’t. I nearly did but she died. My therapist, that is. Jenny Rockel. She was a wise and hearted woman.

And so this, you, me, blogging is my therapy now. You don’t like it, you don’t read it. You probably don’t anyway. But I do and that’s why I write it. Straight out of me into me just like this. Heh, heh.

But can I blog my search for love? I’ll start with why not.

1. I am grieving my loss of Jane. It is too early for me to be looking for love. Either I’m not nearly ready for it, or worse, I’ve prematurely expunged Jane from my consciousness. And even if neither of those are true, it’s insensitive towards Jane’s family for me to change the subject here from my loss of her to my subsequent exploits. I can find a new lover, a new partner or love of my life even. They can not find a new daughter, sister, cousin, or niece.

2. The love interest in question may be reading, or may read this in advance of becoming one and think ‘not if I’m gonna be his next blog post subject’. I have been asked not to blog particular particulars.

3. You might think I’m pathetic or bad. The future’s a long time and stuff sticks on the internet. You could be a prospective employer, lover, business partner or customer. You could be a PI, the police or a dirt-digging publicist for some competitor of mine. You could be me reading and cringing. You could be any one of my exes reassuring yourself as to the virtue of being over me.

Well, nah to all three of you.

I can keep this confidential. Some people will know who is being referred to but that’s probably because they know anyway. I’m not going to put things here that are excessively pathetic. They’re there but the whole point of doing this is that they’re not as pathetic as they seem. They get made into some process of discovery, some cycle of decay and renewal. And Jane, and Jane’s family, you are real to me and here with me at each step in my process of saying goodbye, and of having you, Jane in me somewhere to stay. So far, each brush with love that I’ve had has pushed me a step further in my grieving process. Maybe this can do something like that for you.

So that’s the blogging. Now for the love. The love glimpsed, grasped and shimmeringly lost. That’s how it seems anyway. If you’d asked me three days ago, I would have said found. Ask me tomorrow and I don’t know what you’ll hear. Two weeks this time. Better than the one, last time. Maybe it will be four and then eight the next times. Maybe it would be better that I don’t do love at all so that I can focus on my business and get the garage tidied. I don’t know and that is the whole thing about all this, the unknown.

The good news is that I have not fallen apart. In fact, I’ve felt good almost the whole time with this one. I’ve had moments of sadness, and short moments of fear, but on the whole I’ve enjoyed a good time being in the moment with this new, old, lovely woman. That was the thing, the first thing that attracted me to her: being attracted to her. It’s not so often that I’ve had the experience of attraction to a woman and actually ended up with her. Very rare, actually. Of course, there’s no great sample size. Four in the last twenty years.

The surprise was that ***** quickly turned out to be able to meet me, emotionally, even to challenge me to stretch in some ways that I liked a lot. And when Jane came, which she did, ***** was right with herself and with me. I had my own moments, of course. It has been the week of the putting up of Jane’s headstone in Cromwell Cemetery. There was the moment when I imagined that ***** had died in the next room. And the moment when the two of us lay in the bed in which Jane did die and I told the story and cried some tears and ***** cried some tears, too. Like I would have wished her to and I said so, that I was moved that she did and she said that was no big deal, the minimum I should expect from a close person. Maybe I was projecting an idealised empathetic companion or rolling in the expectation of abandonment. I don’t think so. I like that.

And I like that I am ok with doing this, being with a new lover and enjoying that. Jane, you were there, but you let me do it. I think we are getting on in a new way around this just now.

She is a great playmate, *****. We did some very nice going out and stopping in together. And then there is the *****ness of *****. I just like her.

All that yumminess has come to a stop now. I don’t know if it will start again. I would like to but at the same time I know that ***** is looking for someone who I really don’t think I am. And a bit vice versa. For me, I’d keep going and enjoying saying “yes” and being in the moment, without thinking too much about the future. Be in there for the loving, learning and fun. I know that that is only sustainable while it has two willing participants. We are not twenty anything any more and what may be doesn’t come as easily. I met someone recently who said that men in their fifties tended not to prefer serial monogamy to committed relationships. Am I there already? I think not. I know that committed relationship is right for me but I am in no hurry. I know that it is right for me to be in the moment, to enjoy love and to say yes. To learn about reality and how it isn’t dreams. And to keep what is valuable, what I believe in, close to me.

It’s all a bit unresolved at the moment. I’m writing this at least partly because of a conversation that I want to be having with ***** but am not having. I’ve left the messages that I’m going to, for now. ****licious, I wish you’d call me.


If you knew her, you know that Jane kept diaries. Some were private, page-a-day journals. Accounts of her life, a bit like this blog perhaps. I sent years of them to Con, but not ’76 and ’77, yet. They are to go to Con, of course, as the Spears Family Archivist. I’m just not quite ready to part with them, especially the one that Jane was reading to me from, this time last year; the one with the pink post-it tabs for the ‘occurrences’. But the one open in front of me today is of the week-per-two-page-spread type that Jane also kept. I think this is a pretty well-known fact as she received three or four as gifts for both Christmases that we were together for. Each time, one was chosen to have the annual events transposed into it from its predecessor. Events that I use ‘recurring events’ in my electronic diary for, and that Jane may well have migrated to the same medium, enthusiastic user of her CPL iPAQ that she was. Birthdays of family and friends, wedding anniversaries (of both the still-together, and the not), anniversaries of overseas trips commenced and concluded (always noting the year and, if Jane herself was not among them, the participants), the anniversaries of the births and deaths of all her cats (their names mostly beginning with ‘Z’), anniversaries of deaths, acquisitions of properties; the anniversaries of our first meeting in 1976 (2 Nov), and in 2003, the first email I sent to Jane (30 April), our first dinner together in Christchurch (27 June), and our weekend at Rough Creek Lodge in Arthur’s Pass (22-25 Aug) and the day Jane shifted to Christchurch in 2004 (9 April). I’m still to blog all that. But the first half of Jane’s 2005 diary (an Escher one ~ who gave her that?) has liberal sprinklings of day to day and week to week happenings, cycles and trivia. There are departures and returns for holidays (eg Bannockburn Jan 8-12 and Sydney 2-6 April), day trips (eg Tumbledown Bay 14 Jan and Ashely Gorge the day after), movies watched (the source of the incriminating list), sports, social events, book club meetings, rehearsals and uni lectures attended, undergoings of surgery by our friends, collectings of my children, usually Elsie, from various locations, goings out for dinner, a play reading (Lysistrata, April 25, AZAC day) and the day that Jane “took seconds of sausage” (Thu 28 Apr).

I’ve kept this diary open on a shelf in (our/the/)my bedroom since then. Initially , I paid attention to the annually recurring events (mostly in black). This year, I watched the one-offs from ’05 (mostly in blue), and more recently, their abrupt disappearance at the end of July.

On this night, one year ago, Jane and I were enjoying our last evening together. Listening to the “Be Good Tanyas”, as I am now, alone. Though so many have been torn away, the fibres of our relationship, our love that had only just (@#$%ing) begun, remain stretched from my flesh to the woman who wrote those diary entries. It just is. I don’t think I could do anything about it, even if I wanted to. One year on, I sit bolt upright and think “NO! That’s wrong. That hasn’t happened. Not that.” There is no panic, only knowing that it is not possible that Jane is dead. And then the creeping incursion of “actually, …” begins to battle my denial.

As I read my account of the events of a year ago, I want to protest at the use of “Jane” to refer to Jane’s body. I suppose that is progress in the process of acceptance. I know it wasn’t “Jane’s body”, tho. She wasn’t dead. She still isn’t. Circular darned process on this planet.

Of course, there are many circumambulations still to be completed. I know that. This is how you do them, acknowledging anniversaries and stuff.

What Not to Say to Someone When they’re Dead

Janey,… Jane Spears, Jane Kirk Spears, who lived with me in this house, who spent that nice evening with me in this room, before I changed it all about, whose books are on the bookshelf, getting a little dusty (i’m sorry) and whose photos still leap with life, and whose words still ring clear in my ears, who (correction) lives with me in this house, … Jane? What am I going to do with you?

Fact is, that for practical purposes, you are useless to me as a partner. You don’t (nodding to Jack Lasenby) do a hands turn around the place, you don’t answer when I talk to you and you are no fun in bed.

Oh, yeah, no-one said that this whole business had any practical purpose but I’m back at “whatever the purpose of this is, it better be good”. And could somebody please enlighten me as to what that is?? Oh hang on, I had something… Jane came into my life to teach me that I could love and could be loved. That I could, after being scared nearly out of going ahead with it, let myself get close to someone, to be vulnerable with them, to let myself feel the love flowing all around and let myself be seen like that with the actual person. OK, I’m getting that, and then she left to… for me to learn…. ? Oh, hang on. There was something about feeling all this and not dieing myself. Kind of “what doesn’t kill you…” but really, there’s a pretty liberal dose of benefit of the doubt, there.

So I had a reasonable string of good months, Feb and March, evidenced by the lack of woe posts here (that pain muse). Ha! Such fun at the ANZPA conference, returning with such zest for life. Thought it was acceptance. Turned out it was denial. Merest provocation and I was right back in despair, peppered excessively with anger.

I know this isn’t a linear process. It’s navigating once more the thin film between holding on and letting go, with a new clarity on the impossibility of them both.

You might, you could easily say that all this “Jane, you…” is textbook “holding on”; acting exactly if Jane isn’t gone at all, because that’s what it feels like. That’s what I want! But, the inner-home-shrink in me knows that the misery concomitant with this drills the psyche closer to the seat of the pain, inexplicably but inexorably cleaning out the pus and grit from the seat of the wound and allowing it to knit gradually with tender tissue. Holding on, I am unwittingly letting go.

And I attempted letting go. Carried on a little as if nothing had happened. Ah right. I found where that gets me, even when, damn, it was acceptance, I had done dastardly yards of dankness. I was enjoying deserved enjoyment. And yet, slam in my face. Smack at the beginning of the grieving process. First day all over again, and again.

It’s eleven months and one day since that day, Jane Spears. Since I half woke while you gasped your last. And then whole woke with your body dead but you still alive inside me, as you are now. Sure, you are a little faded, and you haven’t aged. How could you, would you have. Oh, ok. How our lives together would be today. How you could walk in the door right now.

I really don’t know whether or how to say this, Jane but at some point, I’m going to be, you know, moving on a little in my life. I’ve already pretty much written off my own lame-arsed-ness or worse, deprivation assumption as the cause of this (Lloyd, tho I loved your email and yes I will definitely do that luck-cursing, raging at the world drinking session with you!), so it’s kind of, Jane, somehow would you, could I let you, want you to, just a little bit move on out of my life, perhaps die properly, like you were actually dead and not just pretending?

Back in the Forest

Unfortunately, May pretty much sucked for me. I spent it grieving. Roadkill. Unable or refusing to recognise any progress. Let’s see what June brings.

After a hell of a good cry, the other day, I had a couple of good days and then, back into misery. One day, not long ago, I felt the desparateness of my need to be loved rise up inside me until it reached the top of my head and started spilling over. I felt like screaming at the phone to ring. Screaming at the world to love me, not leave me where I was, not knowing.

Hello? Anybody fancy starting a relationship with this guy?

I know that the love has to come from me. That the love has to flow into my heart as the sadness flows out. I know I have that love but I am witholding it. Why should I have to do all the loving? Why do I have to do this alone? Where is the someone to take me in their arms and hold me until I know I will be alright? I don’t want to do that for myself. I am angry that I have to. I would rather try to ignore it. Keep going with my life. Tell it to FUCK OFF. If you are going to keep dumping me in the shit, then fuck you. Smash. Smash. Smash. I will smash this fucking forest as my legs melt off and my arms turn to butter.

Even this stupid regressive drama, I have to do by myself, and on the stupid internet. Actually, it’s probably better that I don’t embarrass myself by letting anyone know about it.

Just forgetting about my dear and loving friends, for a moment, that is.

Julia reckons that I create my life the way I want it. That I (my version) created abandonment by women: my mother (and her abandonments before that), Mary-Anne, Jane, Chicky Babe, my former therapist (Jenny Rockel who just died, right when I was thinking I’d give her a call) and Elsie. It is certainly true that I get pretty knocked about by some of these things. Am I indulging in this? Recoiling in self-pity and self-protection? Whimpering, helplessly? Or is it that I have the courage to feel the pain and face the not knowing of being in this darkness? (And the knowledge of my heart and the fire that burns there?)

I know, I know. I _am_ doing progress with this, just by writing like I am. But I don’t want to, you hear? I don’t want to be single and enjoy that, do some more dating. To bring myself fully to parenting, to my work, to having fun, being social, creative, learning, making this house lovely, travelling and being active and healthy. I don’t …

I know a little about the abandoner that I am. I have the role. I also, know about the abandoner who I am not. Yes, I get moments of loyalty-fatigue like the next person but who I am in this world is the one who does not abandon. Not myself, not my children, friends, family, or (with certain limits) my partner. But the me bit, this is a step in my learning about that.

It is, and always was going to be a step in my grieving for Jane. I have felt more anger (A) and despair (D) in this last month than I have for a long time. My first brush with love – actually not the first but the first halfway decent one. First the being in it tipped me into grieving, then the being out of it tipped me right into the pit again. Ach, well. One more small step forward. A few more litres of tears I don’t need to shed any more. A reminder of just how unfinished, or anything like it, this process is.

Incident on the Road of Love

I am bumping along the dirt road of love, dragged like the cans towed from a bridal car. I am launched into a shallow arc through the air. Intoxicated by the speed of the car, I forget how it started and enjoy the flight.

Landing grazes me in several places as I skid to a halt.

I bathe my torn skin gently with cotton wool and saline, but in each place the skin lifts with the cotton wool revealing gaping wounds, seeping with thick pus.

Lying, as the day dims, I notice my friends, denizens of the hedgerows, begin to emerge. They lie gently beside me, hold a hand, lay light coverings or let me be reflected in their eyes.

Pain Spectroscopy

I wish I’d made this up but the idea came from email as spectroscopy, quite cool in itself. Ed tells me that spectroscopy is the analysis of light frequency to determine molecular structure. You go layer by layer, identifying the number of electrons in each. As a metaphor for this, it stands up.

I know from experience that the only way out is in. Now, again almost overwhelmed with pain, I return to this. Yes, it’s analysis but to do it probes the recesses. It’s a journey of sense-making and feeling, somehow groping forward. Basically, it’s pissing me off feeling this much pain and being so disabled from my daily life by it. I just want to give it the flick.

I indulged, today in pathetic recourse to “are you sure?”. She is. As if I hadn’t known that, I had been “waiting by the phone”, badly. Like a ventriloquist’s dummy, I was tipped into a new trough of lamentation. Jeezers, I am thinking, there’s gotta be something more to this than I realise. I mean, she’s a nice chick but we were holding hands, snuggling up a little.

OK, it’s the prism. But first, notice the alternating pattern between the layers.

1: Conscious, real person: No Playmate

I can’t call her Chicky Babe any more. How’s “L”? We’re not talking magazine here but biking or sitting around, dinner, brunch (she doesn’t do breakfast, apparently), picnic, lingeringly shopping for nice clothes, aromatic delicacies or absolute crap, skipping or scuttling about playing body games, fossicking, doing movies, domestically hanging curtains or fridge doors, music, art, architecture and garden-fancying. All that ordinary nice stuff. Some of it not so ordinary for me. Ok what? L being haughty, dismissive and presumptuous with me. Issuing orders in monosyllables. Chatting online to other blokes for the first five minutes after I arrive. Whoah, we are very close to my ‘ok’ boundary here.. but are we? Somehow, I know that it’s just play and when real stuff goes down, she’ll be there, pretty solid. And when it does, she is. Noticing how easy L is with herself and with people. Meeting Simon and being out about letting go being “on show”. Different way of doing it from me. With substance.

Feeling an electric sensation touching her skin.

Layer 1: no real person whom I like and have much easy fun with.

2: Unconscious, imagined person: No Partner

My unconscious, of course notices about three basic things: woman, friendly, around a lot and goes “latch”. A “live-in lover”. Someone to check in with at the end of each day, stretch out with, get up with, share intimate spaces of the house, comment on decor, share utensils with. No run-up.

Why would there be? A person whom i like and who is giving me attention. Who doesn’t like that? Actually, I know this “pattern” quite well, having had a decent selection of good fits, in my time.

Gotta query rejection here. Call me naive (or narcissistic) but I don’t think this is too bad a case of it. I’d know.

Layer 2: no match with the imagined missing person silhouette.

3: Conscious, real person: No Jane

It’s simple, really. L matches missing person mould but missing person mould is plastic, it’s been deformed, shaped by Jane. My whole life has. I can’t put a twisty tie around a cellophane breadcrumbs bag without her being right here with me.

C’mon, it’s been nine months, can I start having my life back? C’mon, it’s only been nine months, man, what do you expect? Amazing, Dan, only nine months and you’re giving it a go again! Do you know how sick i am of this little chat? I am and I’m not. I know you are here with me, Jane Spears. But what do I do with you, here like this but not? Damn, it’s like you get all the benefit from it, and all the power, and you don’t even exist.

L said she didn’t want to be the first one after Jane. Good call, Honey.

Layer 3: just who do you think i am?

4: Unconscious, imagined person, absent

This excerpt from (I think it’s a draft of the) script of the legendary movie Tombstone has it that, in a bedroom of the Hooker Ranch, Wyatt Earp says to Doc Holliday:

What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?


A man like Ringo’s got a great Empty hole right through the Middle of him and no matter what He does he can’t ever fill it. He Can’t kill enough or steal enough Or inflict enough pain to ever Fill it. And it drives him mad. Sick mad. Cold and dirty.


So what does he want?


What does he want? He wants revenge.


Revenge? For what?

[Doc looks at him, a look of purest sadness in his sunken eyes.]


Being born.

Abandonment, loss, lack. Stone-hugging. It’s not just childhood wounds, it’s the the war, and the war before that. Can’t escape this shit.

Layer 4: live with it.

Carry Me Home

Perhaps I shouldn’t be thinking about new love. Perhaps I shouldn’t have tried to find love in the first place. Perhaps I shouldn’t have listened to Ryan Adams and Emmylou Harris sing “Sweet Carolina” 17 times today and tried to sing it myself 27 times.

I looked in Jane’s diary today. Not a private one, just the dates one that she transcribed from year to year. April 30 has:

email #1 (2003)

The legend goes that I was sitting at home at Keswick St, 6 weeks out of my previous relationship thinking “must stay single… must stay single… i wonder whatever happened to… ” when I googled Jane and emailed her (I still have it, of course):

Subject: long shot
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 22:54:07 +1200
From: Dan Randow
To: :
Hi Jane,

Found your email address while googling old friends.

If you happen to be the Jane Spears from Dunedin, tramping, correspondence and other adventures that I warmly recall, I’d be gladto hear from you.


Dan von Randow

You better have the next bit of this little story.

A day passed. Then half of another day passed. And then, sitting in what’s now our cup’o’tea room at Kenton Chambers, I received:

Subject: long shot hits target
Date: Fri, 02 May 2003 12:16:33 +1200
From: J Spears
To: D Randow

Would that be the same Dan von Randow who once wrote:

“I’m sure we’ll meet again and when we do, I’m going to slaughter you…” (4.3.80)

“And I also know that we will meet again many times and at one of those times I’m going to gouge out a piece of your character and stomp it intodirt.” (2.4.80)

“It doesn’t mean that much to me to mean that much to you – Neil Young (10.6.80)

“I’ll tell you everything I’ve learned. Show you. Sometime.” (26.11.80)

“P.P.S. I’ll never forget you Jane”

And you haven’t. But don’t worry – I don’t expect you to keep your other promises!

By my calculations, it’s 23+ years since we last met. I have been waiting for the karma to kick in, so I am delighted that it has.


We had both kept our old letters. I have quite a decent set now.

This morning, about three years later, I woke up in my bed. After a while, I opened my eyes and looked across a pillow to a gap and noticed it. I closed my eyes and imagined a naked woman. Not with my eyes, with my hands. The feel of her flesh under my fingers. Her arm, ribs, abdomen, hips, yielding softly to the track of my touch … Initially, her face belonged to someone imagined from either the future or the past (i can’t remember). Then she seemed too cool. Not springy. My eyes were open and she (her body anyway) was blue, grey. 60 or 70 kg. Well built (as in the report from the Pathologist who did the autopsy).

So, here now. Jane has been dead for nearly nine months. Insight into male psyche (mine, at least): my first thoughts that I was free to ‘play the field’ occurred the day that Jane died. I could put it down to denial. I carried on.

Being in the relationship with Jane was my dream come true. It was luxurious. We used to hold each other, gently, look into each other’s eyes and then gently draw each other into a new embrace. Exhaling to new eye contact, with a little levity, we would joke about our mutual indulgence. “Could we get any smugger?” was the joke. As if “smugger” was an illicit substance.

It was not all like that, tho. I will never forget the helplessness of the painful moments. Jane felt helpless, too. She couldn’t tell me what her concern was without getting a negative response from me. She was already turning herself through hoops to be gentle with me (or, to conform with my ‘criteria for communication’). Her style in conflict, after all, as she made plain to me up front was pugilistic. For all of that, tho, when the tension was high, my inner being seemed raw at all edges. I wanted to listen, to somehow let in how the world was for her. But any small edge on her way of letting me in on it jagged at me. I wanted her to see that I was for what she wanted and not just critical of her way of getting it across. I wanted her to love me, not to see me as bad. But i didn’t want to prostrate myself, to be assailed without saying that that was my experience. It is old, easy and perilous for me to do that. Like this, we wound each other into a frenzy of increasing agony.

We could get out, eventually with declarations of goodwill. Entering the full terror of the situation and finding a way through it had still to come for us. But it was early days. And we had journeyed to unknown places together from the start.

That I will some day enter a relationship with someone who is as willing to say yes to me, and to whom I am as willing to say yes.

When Jane died, she left rather a gap.

I grieve. You know cos u read it here. I know cos I feel it. The new bit for this account is how i have expresssed that grief in a search for another, and how that search has also been, gradually, the resumption of an old search for love. So the vacant positions are Jane’s and the vacant position made possible by Jane’s departure. It is not clear which I have been seeking to fill. It is clear that my search has been an expression of longing, of all my loverness with this phantom lover, a waxwork looking exactly like Jane but catatonic, to whom i keep relating but who does not respond. Will someone step into that waxwork, be Jane and respond to me?

Will someone enter that other vacancy? Maybe. But what is their guarantee I will not pressgang/project them into the first? Maybe, hearing the romantic tale, they’ll secretly quite like the idea. Maybe I’d even quite like that. Even in the supposedly really vacant slot, whoever steps in is going to have their ear filled with tears before delicate tongue traces, or at least right afterwards. What a mess.

Maybe, tho I over-estimate the grieving-for-Jane element in this heartache that i feel. Maybe it’s old yearning, perhaps for those universals, the unwitholding breast, the womb itself, being a single-celled organism (union with god).

Dear Walter said “hunger is not pathological” yesterday.

And I know that for all of this stuff, and whomever I become involved with, no matter at what level, this drama is enacted in all my relationships. Sometimes, much of the time, repetitively, but, when there are moments to be conscious of it with others, that is the deep magic of relationship happening: two willing participants in collaborative exploration of the unknown, both within and in relationship.

So, towards the unknown…

Statistics to be believed, my heart will keep beating until I am too expensive for any public health system. I’ll play “Heartbreaker” another 1,000 times. I’ll sing “Sweet Carolina” 100 times. Could my next partner please sing like Emmylou?

I recall that Jane liked Ryan Adams:

Oh my sweet Carolina
What compels me to go?
Oh my sweet disposition
May you one day carry me home.

And now I know that I like Sheryl Crow:

No one said it would be easy
No one said it’d be this hard
No one said it would be easy
No one thought we’d come this far
Oh, and look, we’ve come this far