This blog is, and always will be, primarily a kink blog. That being said, community is an important part of kink and this year has been inundated with loss for many. I thought hard about whether or not to post this, not wanting to change the tone of the blog again, but I’m hoping that doing so will either bring fond memories of someone who passed or a hopeful thought for a way forward. Feel free to keep scrolling if you’re not in search of either.
The last few months have been hard, and I’m very glad to feel nearly out of the woods. I recently went through a calendar I keep of daily activities in case I ever need a look back, and realized it was the first week of the year that I had to amputate my dog's leg. I knew this year had been bad, but it somehow didn't really register how wrought with trauma it was from the very beginning. As the year draws to a close, I’m not sure if it’s the proximity to the end of the year, or the distance from the sources of my grief that has me feeling better, but I will not take that progress for granted. Despite this, there were some recent backslides as some things I’d used to help process by grief wavered, and there was a recent resurgence of the need for answers. As the questions came back, I found myself very prone to tears for several days, and it took a lot of soul-searching and heart-to-hearts to feel sane again. During this short-lived regression, all I could think was, "Don't let yourself become defined by sadness," which was thankfully enough to keep me moving forward.
I don't think many people realize it, but joy is actually a burden. There are people who go most of their lives without experiencing real joy and they are rightly contented in their banality, but once one has felt joy life is woefully bleak in its absence. Those who have felt it recognize its value and as such are very apt to protect it in whatever ways they can, including self-sacrifice. Much of the time this can mean simply feigning stability as others waver, or putting aside your own feelings to make sure others don't wallow in their own, but joy is seldom preserved without cost. I think one of the main reasons I loved Thom as much as I did is he was always a champion of absurdity and joy; never in my life have I met someone as determined to preserve joy as he was. Absurd and magical things happen all the time, but he recognized them instead of taking them for granted, sharing that gleeful view with others. I didn't love him for the joy he brought to the world, I loved him because I knew he cared more about protecting the joy of others than he did for his own - despite the tremendous pain he carried.
When I think about moving forward, about moving on, the only way I can find is to be conscious of the life I want to live - hence my fear of being defined by sadness. It’s such an abstract concept that it can be a little hard to visualize, but I recently realized there is a Thom story I hadn't yet shared with many people that perfectly sums up the life I want to live.
It was the last night I ever got to see Thom, three very short weeks after he let me back into his life. He loved hockey - playing it, watching it, wearing the gear - and that night his team was having a beer bust at a gay sports bar. Naturally I jumped at the opportunity to see him an extra day on top of what I had dubbed “sneaky date night,” even though I always feel a little fish-out-of-water at sports-related things. We hung out with the team for a while, and some friends decided to have people over to their place after the bar. Everyone else either ubered or took public transit, but Thom and I decided to walk. I don't know if he wanted the time with me alone, just wanted to enjoy the beautiful weather, or even if he couldn't afford the extra $2.50 for the train ride because he was so short on cash, but it was Thom. He could have suggested we crab walk there and I would have, just for the excuse to have more time with him.
Along the way we took a lot of alleys because, true to form, we had a beer or two stored in our bag. At one point, we passed a garbage can that was overflowing, with a bag sitting next to it that seemed out of place. Upon closer inspection we found it held an entire tea set, with at least 15-20 different pieces in all, in impeccable condition. We were at a loss as to why someone would discard such fine cuppery, so we decided to take them and went on to the friends' house with the full tea set in hand.
Of course I can't imagine being on the other end of the experience, but if someone I was expecting to walk straight to my house from the bar showed up with a full tea set I would likely be a little perplexed - even as entrenched in madness as I am. Looking back at my time with him, things like this were perfectly Thom: he was so engrossed in Life that he could find magic in a discarded tea set, and he made it his personal mission to share the joy of such absurdity as often as he could.
As the new year draws nigh, I keep coming back to this story. I'm sure it's partly because I really miss Thom and could not think of a more “him” story: a single memory that shows his incredible ability to find joy in the mundane, constantly defy expectations, and always be unapologetically himself. But more so than that, I think I keep dwelling on it because I never realized just how much I truly admired him for these qualities until he was gone. It’s not that I took them for granted, I just never quite isolated them as things that were decidedly him, and certainly did not realize there were aspects of him that could be carried on.
When grieving, it’s easy to think of loss as a hole: time and love gone from your life that you desperately want to fill. If loss is sudden, of course this seems even more stark since all the pain has such a recognizable form, but loss is never a hole. A hole just sits there quietly and can, by most measures, actually be filled. No, loss is more like a dropped torch: something that changes how the world around it looks simply by existing, gone. While the world will never look the same, we can still remember how that torch changed the world and try our best to keep that influence alive.
I've never been a fan of New Year's resolutions, but I think I can get behind trying to set a general course: I want spend the year being the kind of person who, even in his darkest hour, can still see magic in a discarded tea set. I loved Thom and I will always miss him and the perspective he brought to the world, but it’s time I stop trying to fill a hole and start trying to bear a torch.
I hope everyone finds some joy in the upcoming year; you all deserve it after one so trying.