It Gets Harder

hole
Excerpt from “Surviving the Death of a Sibling” by TJ Wray

They weren’t lying, it does get harder. The longer it goes on, the more I miss him. The more incredible I find it that he will never buy me another goofy talking birthday card. He will never slip me the same stupid $50 I slip him for holidays. He’ll never play Santa and hand me a present again, insisting that I open the big ones first, in hopes all my “good” presents will be gone, and I will be opening towels while he’s opening electronics.

He is not here and he’s never going to be here again. Do you have any idea what that means? The enormity of it? I just don’t see how you can. When someone so essential goes from existence to non-existence, the mind blinks. It can’t help but blink.

Death. I did not understand you. I did not even conceive of your scope. I wish I never had to.

This is just not something you can explain to someone who hasn’t gone through it, not with any words in the world. The hollow, tight feeling in your throat, from words and tears that want to come screaming out and can’t. The heavy aching boulder of blackness that sits in your stomach and reminds you that your person has gone away. That things are wrong, so wrong.

I can’t fix it for myself, not at all, and I certainly can’t fix it for my mom. There is nothing I can give her, buy her, tell her, do for her to help. There is no filling this hole in with words or stories or love or hugs or anything else I have to give. I can give my whole self, but I will never be him, so I will never be enough.

I want to lie on the floor at work with the door closed and the lights out and cry. I want to stare out the window and watch deadlines come and go and tell everyone how meaningless they are because my brother, the brother I had for 42 years of my life, is dead now, and he got cancer and it killed him – so what do you want, again, really? Knowing that things like this can happen to people who are protected by your love, what is it you need from me? Spreadsheets? Maps? Budgets? Flyers and postcards, verbiage for emails, oh my god who would ever, ever care.

There is a hole in me and it will never be filled, not the way it was, not by anyone. It will always be there. And I reject that idea, that idea that I can be so permanently changed against my will – just as vehemently as I reject the idea that he ever got sick in the first place. I still don’t even believe he has cancer. To me, that’s still not a thing that I can accept, that cancer touched my brother. That was two and a half years of denial right there, and then before I could even really accept that he was sick, he was dead. Dead. Dead of like, nothing, as far as I could determine, because he was FINE. To me he was always fine. Always going to be fine. My mom had faith that if she got him to every doctor’s appointment on time, if she gave him every dose of medication, if she followed all the instructions to the letter, she could save him. If she obeyed the medical machinery, who was at best guessing, she would be OK, he would be OK.

I didn’t have that kind of faith. I don’t think doctors have any clue what’s going on, you know that. I was sure he’d be OK because he was my brother. He was my big brother, and so he was inherently protected from the evils of the world. I do not know if I can impress upon you just how deeply I held that belief – I didn’t know it myself until it was proved false. And even after his death, I kept finding myself wanting to tell people, everyone, strangers, people I met in lines, people I knew, people walking on sidewalks. “My brother died.”

It was so unlike me, this compulsion, and I didn’t act on it, only saying it to people I knew very well. Sometimes over and over “my brother died.” I didn’t understand why I was doing it, why I wanted to do it, until this week when I realized what I was doing.

I was looking for a referee.

But there is no to whom I can appeal this decision, no one who will laugh and scoff and say “Oh that’s bullshit!” and wave a hand and fix it. No matter how clearly I am aware that this is WRONG, it is still true. It is wrong, but it is true.

And I think of all the mothers, all the sisters, and the women out there mourning the dead, each one feeling pain like mine, loss like mine, and I wonder how the world can function. I wonder how things can possibly go on with this much pain in the world.

I have read that there are more than one hundred deaths every minute. 6,390 deaths per hour. 153,000 deaths per day. 56.0 million deaths per year. Most of those people are mourned by someone, if they’re lucky they’re mourned by many. So many people touched by, lost to grief—constantly battered and stunned by it, but we speak of it so little. It seems that “How is your grief progressing? Are you able to go on today?” should be as common, if not more so, than inquiries after people’s general health, sleeping habits and diet. But we don’t do that. We don’t ask. We pretend there is no grieving, when so many of us are caught up in it. That can’t be right. 

Anyway, it gets harder. They said, these books, that it would get harder, and it does. Every minute is a minute he’s not in, a minute further from the world I shared with him, and every minute takes me further away from him. It gets harder.

The sound of her wings.
The sound of her wings.

I Buy Things: Late August Edition

Buying things soothes my fractured soul. Here are some of the things I’ve picked up in the last week or so to take my mind off of all the other things.

Moss! I found this Smith & Hawken moss (vase filler, they call it) on clearance at Target for $6 instead of $20. This will be making an appearance in several of my Halloween tableaux, I am sure. No idea why I love moss so very much.
Moss! I found this Smith & Hawken moss (vase filler, they call it) on clearance at Target for $6 instead of $20. This will be making an appearance in several of my Halloween tableaux, I am sure. No idea why I love moss so very much.
Also from Target, this Pixi cream shadow stick in a deep sparkly grey for $5.40 and some clear No. 7 brow gel. Reviews to come later.
Also from Target, this Pixi cream shadow stick in a deep sparkly grey for $5.40 and some clear No. 7 brow gel. Reviews to come later.
Super sparkly (but kinda tight on me) bracelet from ASOS. I love this thing, it reminds me of a similar bracelet I had when I was little, which I used as a collar on the neck of my favorite stuffed bunny. This little gem can still be yours for the low, low price of $5.80! Click the image to take you there.
Super sparkly (but kinda tight on me) bracelet from ASOS. I love this thing, it reminds me of a similar bracelet I had when I was little, which I used as a collar on the neck of my favorite stuffed bunny. This little gem can still be yours for the low, low price of $5.80! Click the image to take you there.
Also still on sale, this cutie stretch flower pom pom hat, also from ASOS.
Also still on sale, this cutie stretch flower pom pom hat, also from ASOS.
Not quite sure about this Bauble, but I am wearing it today and may get used to it - a $12 deal of the day bargain from Bauble Bar.
Not quite sure about this Bauble, but I am wearing it today and may get used to it – a $12 deal of the day bargain from Bauble Bar. This was the Pave Geo Hand Chain, and it’s no longer available.

It’s been a variety of things in the last few weeks. Baubles, makeup, home decor, just anything I can use to feel better for a minute basically.  As I’ve said before, as far as coping mechanisms go, I think it’s one of the more harmless.

Hope your day has some joy.

Random Thoughts and Questions on Promoting PR Samples

Yeah... but no.
$50 a bottle? Yeah… but no.

I took a break from reading a lot of blogs in the last six weeks or so, and then last week I started again – this meant that I had a backlog to get through, and was skimming a lot of the posts unless they were talking about a product I was really interested in. One thing stood out as I was reading though – so many bloggers were raving about crazy expensive items. $200 mirrors, $70 cleansing balms, $50 nail polishes. (Seriously $50 nail polish.) Their reviews were a combination of fawning excitement and claims that these expensive things are truly superior products. And they had one thing in common – the note at the bottom of the post that the item in question was sent to them for review as a PR sample.

Now, in the makeup/beauty blogger world, there are a few different categories of posts:

  • Self-bought items that the blogger reviews.
  • PR Samples sent for free, that the blogger reviews. No cash changes hands, but the blogger does receive the item free of charge, and the implication is that if the reviews are favorable, more free products will be forthcoming.
  • Paid/Sponsored reviews in which the blogger gets paid to promote a certain item.

Paid/sponsored reviews are almost universally reviled. There are some exceptions, when someone is paid to rave about something that they are already a fan of, or when they’re paid to rave about something, then have a contest to give away that item – those are more palatable to most. But the PR sample thing – that’s just accepted, from what I see. The blogger usually claims “Some of these items are PR samples, but my reviews are honest and always my own.” or something to that effect.

I understand that people believe that they can offer an unbiased review of a PR sample, in fact I have seen several great bloggers (Emily Noel comes to mind) do precisely that. But the problem for me begins when the item being brought to us is something so luxurious or overpriced that the blogger most probably would not have purchased the item on their own. I mean, I would imagine it’s hard not to rave about some ultra-luxury item that’s been sent to you free of change – luxury products are typically lovely, and a pleasure to use. But when I buy an expensive item, I tend to be more critical of it because of the investment I’ve made. I have a clearer head about the thing, and I expect truly superior performance. You can’t have that kind of keen eye when you’ve just been handed something – you don’t have any investment in it, it’s much easier to please you when your brain knows you got the item for nothing.

Presenting a luxury item to your readers/viewers because it’s been sent to you is really not the full picture, is it? When you review a $200 mirror, review a $40 mirror alongside it. When you have a $50 nail polish that you claim is beautiful, wear it side by side with a $5 drugstore polish for a week and tell us which performs better. When you review a $70 cleansing balm and rave about its adorable packaging and lovely scent, tell us what other items in your collection it compares to, and offer items at various price points.

I don’t think a review of a free luxury item can ever be totally unbiased, no matter what the reviewer believes, or how hard they try. If someone sent me a $700 handbag of course I would think it was beautiful, that’s just human nature. But you’re not doing a service to your readers and viewers when your feed is filled with your promotion of luxury brands that they (and probably you) cannot afford. Even a note at the end – “Hey this is item, while gorgeous, is $xxxx – and I am not sure I would pay that much for it.” would go a long way to re-establishing some credibility and letting readers know that a blogger is not just a shill for anyone who showers them in fancy-pants products.

What do you think? Do reviews of luxury items given without comparison to more reasonably-priced alternatives make you less trustful of the blogger? Would you prefer a more well-rounded review with dupes/alternatives? Do you think it’s possible to be entirely unbiased when given a super-luxury product free?

Let me know in the comments.

Kat Von D “Sexier” vs. Urban Decay “Jilted”

Had a chance to road-test two similar lipsticks lately, with a clear winner, and thought I would share my experience with you all.

I recently purchased one of the new Kat Von D “Studded Kiss” lipsticks, in the color “Sexier.” $21 Described as an “iridescent fluorescent pink” it was really gorgeous in-store. However, the formula on these is really lacking. It applied patchy and dry, tugging at the lips. The color is gorgeous, although the iridescent shimmer is completely lost in translation, and this reads as matte on the lips. 

Kat Von D Studded Kiss in "Sexier" $21
Kat Von D Studded Kiss in “Sexier” $21

Immediately after eating though, the color wore off/faded and got even more patchy. This was really one of the worst, if not the worst, high-end lipsticks I’ve ever tried.

About an hour after application.
About an hour after application.

You might not be able to see it here, but there was really no way to get this to apply well and stay I tried with lip liner, without, with balm, without, with lip primer and without, nothing worked. I ended up returning it.

Still on the hunt for an iridescent pink, I ordered UD’s “Jilted” $22 described as “deep fuchsia shimmer w/blue shift” it really does live up to that description, even on the lips. 

Urban Decay Jilted
Urban Decay Jilted

The color stays true even after eating/drinking, and is really creamy and opaque, feeling nice on the lips. I tried to get close to a window so you could see the iridescence here. I really like it. (By the way, the Dr. Brandt “Pores No More” mattifying primer sample I got in my ipsy bag? Fail! I am so oily today. Much more so than I would be without it.)

Anyway, the clear winner here is Urban Decay Revolution formula. I’ve read a lot of other reviews of the new Kat Von D formula, and depending on the color, most people think they’re kind of a hot mess.

Hope my experience was helpful for you, and let me know in the comments if you have any questions.

I See People

This week I’ve seen my physician and my counselor, today a financial planner. Both my doctors seem to think I am doing well under the circumstances, whatever that means. I am so very resilient and strong, you know.

Most of the physical problems that I am having are probably (as I thought) stress related, but I might also have an ulcer, so that’s fun to consider. Going for some more tests in the coming weeks, and not making any med changes for now – unless the headaches start to become full-blown migraines that last overnight I don’t want to add another medication into the mix.

My doctor was explaining to me some things about dying from meningitis that are really concerning to me. Without going into too much detail, there’s a possibility that there was some medical negligence that contributed to my brother’s sudden death. We do not want that to be true, because if it’s true I think my mom and I will both feel that we contributed by not stopping it – but we have requested all of his medical records and will be meeting with some doctors to determine exactly what happened to him. Not knowing how exactly or why exactly he died is its own special kind of torment.

I am trying to go on the best I can. The days all seem very long and pointless, the afternoons are the worst. In the morning, at least, I have to get up, get dressed, go someplace. In the afternoon I know that soon I will have a whole evening to fill, and most of it will be filled with crying, going over things in my mind—even though the outcome never differs—and trying to figure out what to eat, and what I can get my mom to eat.

My mom does her best, I know, but sometimes she says some pretty hurtful things to me. I know she’s in pain, I am trying to not let it bother me. Everything is so different now.

I am planning things, things for the future, things that will keep me occupied and happy. I am trying to talk to people about how I feel, when appropriate, and take joy in things that are beautiful and happy, when I see them. Soon it will be Halloween, my favorite season and holiday. I am buying decorations, planning events. I have to love the life I have, I have to make it a thing I can enjoy.

If we find that there was negligence related to my brother’s death, that if we had protested harder about his release from the hospital he might still be here with us, I honestly don’t know what I will do. I can’t imagine living with that, knowing that people who should have known better allowed this to happen. Obviously I didn’t know better – I thought it was strange, but I trusted the doctors. They had not been wrong before. If we misplaced our trust in them and it killed my brother… I really don’t know what I will do.

It’s been a month and three days. All I want to do is call him and hear him tell me some boring story. But I never will again.

Better Moods Through Shopping

ASOS is still having their summer clearance, now up to 75% off. I had a few things in my “save” list, mostly not on sale, but I did finally get one long-coveted skirt that was too cheap to pass up, and a handful of adorable cheap accessories. Please to observe my whimsical fripperies:

I could no longer resist the ASOS CURVE Exclusive Pleated Midi Skirt In Lace ($73.52) NOW $21.28
I could no longer resist the ASOS CURVE Exclusive Pleated Midi Skirt In Lace ($73.52) NOW $21.28. 

So cute!

image4xl

Then I hit up the accessories page (sort: low to high) and saw what I could see.

How about some New Look Sparkle Stone Stretch Bracelet ($19.33) NOW $5.80?
How about some New Look Sparkle Stone Stretch Bracelet ($19.33) NOW $5.80?

Yes, I thought so

I had a bracelet like this when I was little, for play, and I lost it. Been looking for another ever since.
I had a bracelet like this when I was little, for play, and I lost it. Been looking for another ever since.

Then how about this adorableness?

ASOS Rose Headband ($9.67 0 NOW $5.80
ASOS Rose Headband ($9.67 ) NOW $5.80

Could not be any cuter if it tried.

So perf!
So perf!

I was not 100% sure about these

Monki Raychel Chain Earrings ($11.61) NOW $3.87
Monki Raychel Chain Earrings ($11.61) NOW $3.87

But lord, for $3.87?

Worth a try.
Worth a try.

Shall I not look dapper, charming and adorable this fall in this little number?

River Island 3D Flower Pom Pom Beanie ($23.22) NOW $8.71
River Island 3D Flower Pom Pom Beanie ($23.22) NOW $8.71

And lastly, this pretty little bit has been on and off my wish list for months, but finally hit the price point where it became a must-have.

ASOS Beanie With Veil And Bow Detail ($23.22) NOW $9.67
ASOS Beanie With Veil And Bow Detail ($23.22) NOW $9.67

Can I just repeat how excited I am that all the styles right now are so girly and fancy and over the top? I want face veils on my beanies! I want rhinestones for daytime! I am so in on all this!

Anyway, entire order was like $55 with free 2-day shipping. This deal cannot be beat with a stick. Go get you some, if you need a pick me up or just something cute.

Here's where I weigh in.