So I think we all understand by now, that all the Mayans were planning to do was “buy new calendars”, right? Good.
Welcome to 2013, dear readers. There is so much I’d like to write about. In brief, 2012 meant for me: the start of a new business with a good-hearted hard-working colleague, new art forms expanded and improved upon, a lot of detritus cleared from neglected corners, friends having lovely healthy babies, competitions entered (some won, some merely qualified), and volunteer opportunities beyond my wildest dreams. Sadly, it also meant some promises broken, some friendships lost, some fears realized and some trauma inflicted; the worst of it all, being the death of my long-time friend and soul-sister Carrye Michelle Floyd, also known to the world as Fugue Satori, or if you knew her as long as I did, Raven.
That was back near the end of June, and friends and medical professionals alike agree that I can’t move on without processing her death. It’s very difficult, not least because it was sudden, she had just turned 30, and on the other side of the world in Seattle, but because the toxicology report proved inconclusive as to cause of death. The only verdict was “not any kind of overdose”. Her breath simply ceased, her heart simply stopped. It took weeks for us to get news, and there was worry that it was suicide, and arguments over her mental well-being at the time.
The past couple of years had not been kind to her, emotionally or physiologically; she was in recovery from addiction, eating disorders and serious injury from physical assaults and an automobile accident. But she remained resolute, doing her best to seek help and to help herself, and pursue making music and the life she wanted. She was set to come visit me here in New Zealand, hoping to make a fresh start; she was partway through the approval process for a working holiday visa when her body was found.
I haven’t lost many people that close to me before. Michelle and I first met when we were in our late teens: two barely-legal barking-mad Depeche Mode fangirls who were newly interested in former DM member Alan Wilder’s solo career as Recoil. I have in my possession a VHS tape (yes, that old) with footage of her at the tiny “convention” held in a fellow friend and fan’s apartment in Reno, NV; I’ve just converted it to a file on my computer and will be watching it as soon as I can handle it. That year was the beginning of a long and storied friendship, one of the most supportive and authentic I’ve ever known despite being maintained largely through online presence, as well as an intense fandom that left enough of an impact on Alan Wilder himself that he posted a Facebook tribute to Michelle when news of her passing spread across the site.
It may be cliche to say you can’t believe someone could be gone when they were “so full of life”, but Michelle always was. She burned brightly and fiercely in her time on this earth, words and music spilling forth like live coals from a brazier. All the same, she never felt fully of this earth, posting photos of Saturn and distant nebulae like wistful travelers scouting vacation spots. Her silence now echoes loudly through the hearts of those who knew her, and those who loved her best feel a vein has been ripped out, like a cable from deep beneath the ocean floor, leaving a vast rushing chasm and muddied waters in its wake.
If you’re wondering why the sudden descent into overwrought poetry, well, I can’t think of more lucid ways to describe Michelle in words. In the year prior we were promising to see each other in the flesh again, exchanging love tokens like Victorian romantic friends. We even dedicated pieces of art to one another; I painted a portrait of her which went up for auction at a local exhibition to support LGBT community events (I had the honor of being interviewed about it, as well), and in turn she wrote a song for me, one of many she made available on Bandcamp. How many people can say they had a friendship like that, and how many more years of loving collaboration could we have had, were it not for her untimely death?
I’ve spent the past six months reconnecting with her ex-husband and other mutual friends. We were all deeply affected and have endeavored to support one another, and to honor Michelle and her life as best as we can. I think a chapbook or some similar tribute is in order; if we were blue-skying, a foundation to raise awareness and support for adults with eating disorders, as that was an issue she dealt with late in life that she found little help for, or funding for women’s refuge in Oklahoma, where she not only received little help but shocking amounts of victim blame and abuse. But at the very least, she would want her music and her poetry out there in the world, and I think the world would be better for it.
2013 is yet unwritten, but I have made tentative plans. My husband and I are in our third year of expatriation from the US, and are discussing what kind of family we want to build. We’ve already contributed to the future in our own way, by donating some of his sperm to a long-time female friend of his who has a wife and one lovely daughter, and she’s now expecting a second next month. It’s pretty exciting, especially for him; he likens it to somewhere between expecting a daughter and expecting a niece, the latter of which is how we will officially relate to the wee one, once all the paperwork is finished. I’ve had one or two people ask if I’m “okay with it”, and I don’t see why not; if anything, we got to confirm my husband’s fertility ahead of time, plus I’m getting to observe what it’s like for someone else to carry his offspring to term. I’m nothing if not pragmatic!
I’ve made at least one New Year’s resolution, and that’s to buy or swap only secondhand clothing for the entire year, with an exception for underwear because I am perhaps a wee bit squeamish about that aspect of recycling (New With Tags on eBay counts as secondhand, though. Why not?).
Nothing else is really set in stone, apart from staying with the body art business and hopefully publishing the novel I wrote back in NaNoWriMo 2011 (yeah, I know). I’ve been using social media less often to help me focus on my real-time life and projects. The internet is, obviously, a great source of distraction, and sadly I abused it a lot over the course of 2012 trying to distract myself from doing things, especially from dealing with the pain of bereavement in the last few months.
But life is short, and unpredictable, as I can no longer deny, so I will choke back fear and hesitation, and proceed on the strength of my hopes and dreams as Michelle would have done. I don’t presume to know what awaits us on the other side of death, but I know at least now that she’s free from pain and doubt, and like the Buddha would wish for similar freedom from suffering for everyone on Earth. Her memory will live on, and while I’ll miss her and probably have to blog-weep about her repeatedly, having known such goodness and courage and love gives me hope for humanity and the future.