healing, loss, my book, Things I Have Lost Along The Way

Chicken Bones In The Throat.

November 9, 2012

The things that get lodged in us.

Those that need dislodging like a chicken bone in the throat.

How some things get stuck. And others, not so much. Other things in their own river-like way flow through us and by us and if it weren’t for a photograph we might forget them completely. (My 20’s! Certain men I’ve dated! 7th grade! Books I have loved and forgotten.)

Things that get stuck: certain sentences and the way someone looks at you, the beat of a song whose words have long since vanished, the way it felt to be young, how your father died.

Last night as I was working on my book I called my mom to ask her some questions about my dad and how he died. I wanted to know precisely the cause of death and which drugs he took and exactly how many cigarretes he smoked a day. I wanted the facts as if the facts can turn into something soft and malleable, as if they can change if you hear them enough. They do, don’t they?

I thought my dad died of a heart attack until one day when I was 13 my mom told me that he’d had a stroke. From 13 until last night I’d thought he’d had a stroke. My mom said last night that it was not a stroke at all. Oh, the confusion. How did he die, dammit? I need to know exactly what went down on that night in July, 1983.

So Mom says it was this mouthful of ugly words: Atherosclerotic Coronary Artery Disease.

Which is caused by blockages which can be caused by the unfathomable amount of cigarretes he smoked daily or the speed he took. Same thing Whitney Houston died of.

Then Mom tells me this bit of news which is now forever stuck and will not be dislodged. Ever. She told me that the hospital had told her he had vomited and choked on his own vomit and that was how he died. Offical autoposy said, however, Atherosclerotic Coronary Artery Disease.

I want to unhear this.

Is it possible to do this? I, of all people, should be entitled to this gift with my profound hearing loss. It must be how my friend Emily Rapp felt when the doctors told her that her son Ronan had Tay Sachs Disease and would die.

It’s a mistake! This shouldn’t be! This was an accident. This wasn’t any “meant to be” bulllshit yogis are so fond of saying. The way I see it, this was a f*ck up.

Just whose f*ck up, I am not sure, nor do I want to guess, but it was definitely some kind of mix-up. I mean, choking on vomit and dying? How can this be fair at all? One minute you are in your bed watching an episode of M*A*S*H on tv and the next your are drowing in your own bodily fluids? In what world can this happen?

How can death be that easy when life isn’t? 

To dislodge means to leave a place previously occupied. This is what happens with death.  (I imagine.) You dislodge yourself from your body. And that’s that. If it weren’t for the things that stuck, things like your smell, or rather the smell of an old leather wallet and how it has become your smell, and your sheep’s laugh, that high cackle and how it would run around the room before it landed back in your throat. Other things that stuck: the song You Are My Sunshine keeps you here, maybe not in body but certainly in heart because that’s where the pain is when the song is heard, no matter when or where. That rusty dagger is stuck in the heart since you used to sing that song every night, and maybe that isn’t a bad thing because certainly some things need to get stuck in us or we might forget who we were.

I asked my mom to send me an email with all the facts she could remember being that most of mine are old and broken down having been told so many times since I was eight years old that they lost their functionality sometime around 1990-91.

Another sentence that stuck:

He used up his body.

How can I make that sentence go away? What is behind the sentence is more what I want to go away and that is the reality that my father used up his body in a way that suggested that the novelty of it was over, that the use of it was no longer needed, that in essence it was worth nothing. That it was trash. What else do you think of when you hear those words, which are nothing short of true: he used up his body. Depleted. Bankrupt. Drained. Empty.

So things get stuck in me. Maybe because I am a little bit obsessive. But aren’t we all?

What gets stuck are the things that shock me back into breathing, that slap me in the face until I realize this fact: It could be me.

How easy it is to do really. To let yourself slip.

No, maybe you don’t smoke and maybe you don’t do any drugs but maybe you talk to yourself in such a way that it chips at you day after day until there is nothing left. Until you are used up.

Maybe the things that get stuck are there so we pay closer attention to the facts. Had my father, I doubt he would have killed himself. Oh, you think he didn’t kill himself in some way? Look closer.

I revise my earlier statement about wanting to dislodge these things. I will never be able to unstick these thing and that is fine. You want to know why? Because I am writing a book and my greatest wish is for at the very least a few things to be stuck so I can remember long enough to get them on paper.

Secondly: some things must always be stuck in me so I remember that I am not unfailing. As painful as some things are and as much as we want them to not have happened, they did. They will always have happened.

They existed somewhere in the world, in some space time continuum, and they are some small molecule of us, even if they happened to our ancestors before our birth. The way we react to the world is in drect relation to the stuck things within us.

The way we listen to a song. The way we fall in love. The way we look at our children. If we even have children.

All of it.

The stuck things make us who we are. They help us remember where we have been.

by Jenni Young of course

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  • Reply jamesvincentknowles November 9, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    It takes a LOT of courage to WANT to know the facts. It’s hard work. It’s just like peeing. No one else can do it for you. But as you no doubt are aware or becoming aware, it’s fantasies that do the most harm. Love is an odd thing. It’s not something we find in the material world. Love is spiritual. It’s mystery & truth. Our own clarity is found by our willingness to search for our truth within. When we can’t even trust our own assumptions we begin to learn we maybe ought not assume anything. It’s humbling & gratifying to realize what taking 100% responsibility means. It awakens the self in some very powerful ways. Through the pain, of course. But the joy found there is worth every. bit. of. it.

    Excellent, Jennifer you sweet brave girl~!

    • Reply ManifestYogaJen November 9, 2012 at 6:34 pm

      Your comments means so very much to me. Thank you.

  • Reply Chen Mingi November 9, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Uhhf, powerful writing.
    I can feel your wanting, your questing, your sad longing to be at peace with your Dad’s death.
    Gah, a stuck chicken bone is almost too apt.
    I’m reminded of something by Buddhist nun Pema Chodron about staying with the stuck-ness of things and riding them out. No, not to stay stuck and not to get rid of them (They don’t go away). More, she says, to notice what’s getting us stuck. Then, we can live and breathe through it.
    Thanks for your bold sharing.

  • Reply Sara November 9, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Makes me think of how much I’ve learned about my family since my mother died. All these stories passed along and part of family lore. Then come to find out that me and my siblings were being protected from the truth. Someone thought that would make it easier, and maybe it did.
    But it is like having the rug pulled out from under you. Your memories just become someone else’s story. Or their method of dealing with things they really don’t want to deal with.

  • Reply Erin Terese November 9, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    A family friend of mine died by choking on a Cheeto. We all assumed it was an Oxycontin overdose since he battled with addiction. Maybe it contributed in some way, but ultimately he choked on a Cheeto and died. Often times when someone dies, you ponder your own existence, especially if you were very close. But man, when it seems so avoidable, so simple, something anyone could do, it really get to you. I completely agree things are stuck in us. Somewhere in us, we “know” before we ever find out. Maybe it is part of what fuels your gratitude and zest for life…

    Thank you for sharing. xo

  • Reply Dottie Wagner November 9, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    I have to tell you that I really admire your courage. You just write it all down and put it out there for everyone to see. Every time I read one of your blogs I feel things and want to write things as a response, but rarely do. Maybe there is a fear of sounding weak, risking ridicule, or maybe writing things would make them too real? I don’t know. Maybe part of it is that I don’t verbalize many of my internal thoughts to anyone, so can’t imagine putting them out there for strangers to read. Anyway, you are brave and an incredible inspiration! Thanks!

  • Reply Stephanie Neutze November 9, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Oh Jen! This stirred up something deep within. I’m unable to give these feelings a name or identify the origin, but I feel something strong and intense So much that it stings. I wish I could explain. Thank you for this, for always being so vulnerable and so raw. You inspire so many. Once again, I’m blessed to know you. Love you.

  • Reply barbarapotter November 9, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    So true and so sad and so hard at the same time. Remembering all the things they said in the emergency room as they were trying to save him for those 4 hours. Remembering a few weeks before when he was in the hospital and his doctor telling me “he has the body of an old man” and he was only 38. He used his body up way before it’s time. Such a hard time trying to figure out and to trying to go on. The autopsy said blocked descended arteries on the left side 85% and 90% Atherosclerotic Coronary Artery Disease.. He was only 38 and he had just had a whole workup done and a stress test where he had to wear a monitor for days at home. Had they missed something. Who knows.

    There was the non-stop cigarette smoking each day (at least 4 packs), the drug use and the high-stress type personality. A perfect storm for ending a young life. I wish there was something else I could have told you but you insisted on the truth. It was a very, very hard time and you cannot fix these things for someone else they have to fix it for themselves. If he knew or believed what the results would be I am sure he would have. They did say that Whitney Houston died of the same thing. I know you and your sister missed out on so much growing up. He is up there watching over you both though. Just like his headstone says. That I know.

  • Reply Lydia - El Pynchon November 9, 2012 at 8:11 pm

    “They existed somewhere in the world, in some space time continuum, and they are some small molecule of us, even if they happened to our ancestors before our birth. The way we react to the world is in direct relation to the stuck things within us.”
    So true, dear Jen! This is why I believe in karma – what you describe is basically karma, which includes the assumption of reincarnation. I think this is what yogis mean when they talk about “meant to be”, and “everything happens for a reason”. You are one of the few people searching for a way out of the stuckness/suffering (samsara) by heading bravely into it, heart first! Which is the only way I know of to clear our karma, so, kudos to you, sweetness!

  • Reply Katie D November 9, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    But who gets to decide what sticks, and what goes? Who decided that I would remember the coolness of my grandmother’s skin after she died, but not the way she smelled when she hugged me? Or that I could repeat back all of the harsh criticisms that have been thrown at me, but so little of the praise?

    How do we swap out some of the chicken bones for something better?

    (That’s actually a real question, not a rhetorical one. Would love any insight as I struggle with this all the time. And I have a few chicken bones choking me that I would be thrilled to dislodge).

    Thank you for sharing this….reading this, feeling it, acknowledging it…has made it just a little easier to breathe.

  • Reply annettemackay November 10, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    See, I’m still here. You. Are. A. Writer. And I for one keep reading what you write. I like the way the sensations flow through my being as I read. I get it. And with each getting I seem to accept a piece of myself that I hadn’t noticed before. You put things I feel into words and my conscious self witnesses them, and loves them. Please keep writing, I’ll keep reading, and hand in hand we can become whole.

  • Reply Felice November 11, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    I am gfateful for the tbings you share

  • Reply Shari November 12, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Interesting that you called your mother with the intent of finding out exactly what ended your father’s life and then had a visceral reaction to that knowledge. It was a paradox in that you couldn’t know and unknow. Maybe your Mom was more able to be direct and detailed with you because you are in a healthier place in your life and yourself than you had been in the past. Maybe the conversation doors are wider open between the two of you now. I am usually silent lurker, but know that I am moved by your life story and inspired by your continued growth. It offers hope on days that can be a struggle.

  • Reply Maria November 26, 2012 at 2:51 am

    My dad die in 1986, I was 16. He had appendicitis, and for a whole month he was in a hospital withouth a diagnose. Eventually, he got sicker, a surgeon decided to open, but here is the unstuck facts, he had surgery, and for I do not know why, he had 3 days after a second surgery. He die on the second one. I was away for the first surgery, but present on the second one. I can remember every single detail, how I was dressed, what I eat on that day and even days before, what I dreamed. I can’t remember why he was there for so long without diagnose, why the first surgery didn’t let the doctor see that he was in the brink of a peritonitis. Peritonitis was the ultimate killer, but what happened to him, my mother have re told me many times, but my brain just can’t stick it. I can’t re tell the story, I just can’t.
    On January 8 of this year, the doctor called me to let me know that my liver enzymes got even worst since she started monitoring it 4 month prior. I finally decided to go to the doctor after 7 or 8 years since a doctor had told me that I had liver issues (with the exceptions of my two pregnancies) But only until I was undenaibly filling sick I sat to hear my facts. I have liver damage that sooner than later will take it to a failing point. There was a missiagnosed I just did not follow up ….. I used up my body. I believe that the only thing that stuck with me was fear, and that fear makes may brain just forget. To painful maybe? I don’t know. I never used a drug in my whole life, I drank socially and in a conservative way (may be not that conservative in college years, but nevertheless, not enough to kill my liver) but the way I ignored and felt chiped me in a way until there was nothing left. I don’t think though I did this intentionally.
    I like your writing

  • Reply It all becomes art if you let it… « What I see, what I feel, what I'd like to see… December 9, 2012 at 6:14 am

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