(Note to gracious reader: This was written July 26. Lately, these are not going up on the day I write them, but on the day I feel like giving them a half hour of extra attention)
I learned a lot in the last few days. I decided, when the depression came to visit me this time that I would invite it to stay. It was an unusual decision for me. Normally I’ll do anything not to feel it. As my therapist helped me to see, the sadness has been an authority for my work in community art and group dynamics. As in my work was in reaction to the sadness. It was a way to cope with it, to be distracted from it and sometimes to transform it. But as it descended this time (does it descend? Hold on. Let me feel into that for a moment. No, it wells upwards. It starts under my collar bones, and then tightens into my chest, and then clenches my jaw and then comes pouring out of my eyes) and I began to cry uncontrollably, like I did in April as you remember, after I wrote To Hatch a Plan, and I felt the cycle coming, I also noticed that there was a split second place where I was able to notice it coming up, and then the story coming for it. And so I could tell that the sadness and the story are not necessarily attached to each other. That much I had when I saw the therapist on Friday we thought together about what it might mean to just feel it. Luckily I had also been talking to Shams (as always) and had been tracking its uprising, because it turned out to be a weekend like none other I have ever experienced.
My therapist is a wise man. I feel very grateful to work with him. He is an expert in dialectical behaviour therapy, which means he is highly skilled and willing to work with narcissism, bipolar, borderline anything with overwhelming emotions. He is a wonderfully stable presence. And, what I also really appreciate is that he is a seminarian and a devout Catholic (not that I am, but my maternal grandparents were). So, he has that mystical presence and that understanding of the entanglement of soul and psyche, self and spirit that I require in order to try to tell him the truth. I say try because I find, like in all areas of my life, that the line between what is true and what is not is very hard to distinguish. It’s not a question of lying (though I do that, too, sometimes) but more a question of the perception of the transformations of matter. Dreaming, for example. So I try to tell the truth but I often find myself performing a little for him because I respect him so highly. And I don’t always want him to see my brokenness. It comes through sometimes and I’m grateful when it does, because he helps me to integrate. He helped with the vampire, and now he is helping me with the sadness.
So, we talked about sadness as the authority for my work. And we talked about Michael’s death, because it was with me, but like I said before it was more inspiring than painful, because I could feel the light just pulsing through me from his emission. Anyway, I think I wrote some of this before. It’s funny how a whole hour can pass because I don’t recall what we said in that hour. But in the end what I decided was this, to try to feel it. To try to let it come in from the dark. And to be grateful for the work it has done in my life to build the beautiful life I’m living. Oh yes, I remember also the realization that after these deep bouts of sadness there is often a big creative event. He said that Jesus would go out into the desert, or into solitude and after that there would be miracles. I don’t mind when he talks about Jesus because he is sharply intelligent and he does it in a way that allows it to seem like a teaching story. Sometimes the tone of the word Jesus is enough to make my heart pound. He asked me why I wouldn’t just let myself feel the sadness and I told him that I feared it would be endless.
And so I entered the desert. It wasn’t like I was fasting or anything. I just let the sadness in. I was eating, but I was having a lot of trouble sleeping. A lot. It was a few days before Friday that it started. And then there was this other thing that kept pressing in. It was the story of the friend I loved. I had just switched after the big expression and realization that it wasn’t what I wanted. But I never grieved. And there were stories of my dad, also handed down stories of my grandfathers. They were sailing together a bit, all these narratives. But mostly I didn’t think anything, and just wept and wept endlessly, and smoked and wept. I walked from room to room. It would lift a little and maybe I would read for a little while, or it would become stark and sharp and I would have insights. Saturday is a blur of tears. Just pouring out tears. I was correct in my fear. They were endless. Soaking my bed. Soaking my couch. I called my friends. The Beatbox, the Voice. I tried to talk to Bright Ears, but he was too busy. It’s funny how he gets most of my attention and gives me the least. It’s not that funny. Actually in my state of fragility it stung quite a lot. And as the hours passed it began to strike a kind of overwrought chord. But I spoke with the Beatbox late at night while he was on our favorite island with all our friends and it helped a lot. I think I slept a little that night.
From Thursday the suicidal ideation had started, and on Saturday it was extremely intense. Constant thinking about it. Late, late on Saturday I got into two patterns. On one I started looking up ways to do it, and decided that painkillers would be the way. I kept thinking that if I did this people would know how much pain I was in, which is so embarrassing to admit. And on the other side I looked up the hotline and started dialing a few times, but I didn’t want to hear a stranger’s voice at all. I think I slept an hour that night. Maybe almost two. I woke up already in tears. They were solid throughout the day. I spoke with the Beatbox and the Voice again. They both helped a lot. But before that I spent the morning thinking about suicide. Not ideating and imagining, but actually applying strong thought.
And I came to five realizations of which I think I only remembered four: a) there is no guarantee that suicide would end my sadness. I have seen ghosts. It is clear that the pain can continue b) there is no reason to think that death is soothing or softening like sleep c) it would cause an enormous amount of karma. My grandfather already killed himself. We are all in the shadow of that. There is no reason to accrue that kind of family debt d) my community would be devastated, my mother, my brother, my friends, my little nieces and nephews. It would cause too much harm and while I can’t remember e) last night my brother added this: someone has to find you. Oh! I just remembered it. I made myself picture and physically go through the actual act, and realized e) my survival instinct would never have let me take the pills. So, by the morning I knew that I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it. But it left me wondering how I would stop the pain. And I thought about just disappearing, just not going to camp, not getting on the plane, not working anymore, going somewhere and living by begging and living outside. And it was interesting because the suicidal thoughts were actually causing panic, but the thought of disappearing gave me a sense of peace. I was having these thoughts on Monday morning. Sunday was all part of the suicide thoughts and the call with the Beatbox that was so helpful. I felt so loved, and I also could feel how lonely I am. How much I wish for a family and a partner. This life is so good, but I know that a lot of this sadness has this root in the desire for deep intimacy. I know also that my grandmothers have wished for freedom, and here it is. Karma, you see. The dreams of the ancestors. Which is why it is so important to be careful what I am wishing for. Sigh. But I think that when we wish for things to be different we don’t realize what we are doing, that the act creates little rifts. It comes back to that idea from Michael’s talk, that when you try to cross the stream of your life it wounds the heart. So with me, too, I know that my work is to quit with wishing and just to be in what is.
And then I went to see the therapist again. Oh, wait that conversation with the Beatbox was Monday morning. Sorry. The time is all confused because it wasn’t moving, it was pooling for three days. I was both before and after.
And I was ready. I realized that my sadness is me. It is an important part of my creativity, my connectedness, that it connects me to the world on many levels. On the level of relationship, on the level of transience of beingness, on the level of nature and the intimacy of prey and predator. I realized that my sadness does not want to end. It wants a life. It is the sadness of my ancestors. It has never had a life. I realized that all of my drawings come directly from my sadness, with each one when it comes the gestures of the lines come. I knew that before, but I did not realize how central it is to my work. And the therapist helped me see that it could be part of my role, part of my work, just to feel. To feel without story, and to feel with story. And I know when I look at my history that it is true, I have always had so much feeling, so much emotion, and so much sadness. And I have fought it. And I have fought for it. But now I am ready to just let it in the door, and let it sit in the house of my heart and see what it would like and what it needs and what it will become.
And then the little miracle happened. That night after a second day of a second promise I was waiting to talk to my friend. And when his reply was sharp and dismissive I slipped down, down down down very far down. But then I remembered my mission, and I let it wash over me. I began to sleep, at last. I slept most of the day. I did the little bits of packing and cleaning that needed to be done so I could get on the plane I’m on right now, but mostly I slept. I slept and cried. And when I cried I kept saying to myself, it’s okay. You are welcome. It’s okay to be sad. And it was different. It would lift and come back. As if it was playing. It was painful, but interesting.
At a certain point, not too far into the morning, after four hours of weeping and smoking, I did it. I blocked all access of that person I love so much. I blocked their access to me. And then a few hours later I opened a channel for a moment and let them know in as kind a way as I could that I needed this. I didn’t know why I did it, or how. I have been so nourished by the connection, or so I thought. But about three hours later it lifted. It lifted. The sadness. By the end of the day I was starting to realize what had happened. That I had been leaking so much emotional energy, not actually into the friendship but into the idea of it that I had created a wound in my heart. I was trying to cross the stream. My emotional accountability, my ability to hold my sadness and let it have space in my life required this kind of boundary.
The next morning was today. And I woke up today feeling FREE. Liberated. Open. Glad. The sadness was there too. I felt (and feel) whole. From not checking, not looking, not waiting, on the phone. The phone! The algorithmic hell. It’s not the friendship that is the problem, it is the mediation by the platforms. So that’s where I am so far in the story. Eleven minutes left so here we go:
A red van throngs towards me, or so it looked on such a long, long prairie road. I’m on the side of the road. My friends are gone. It is a decision I made and I don’t know how it happened, but I know that the thrushing back and forth of voices, getting hotter, getting louder, then getting hissy soft and vicious and then finally getting slowed down by the side of the road and stopping. And me frozen there in the front seat, feeling them glowering behind. And then Marc says beside me. If you really think you’re right then get out now. I shrugged but I was suddenly scared and not angry at all. Of course I’m right I said. It’s your destiny that kills you, not your decisions. It had started as one of our philosophical things, which it’s true almost always end up with someone getting pretty badly hurt but usually not in the way that maybe I was about to get hurt. You’ve made a lot of stupid decisions, he said. We all have. And we’ve paid for them all. Hardly, I said. Sometimes you pay for things you haven’t done. Sometimes bad shit just happens. It’s not like that. It’s not like if you do something you immediately have to account for it. Decisions, he said. Not actions. They’re the same, I said. Then get the hell out, he said and though it was soft it was so loud. Wait, said Nabila. I turned around. You can’t take any money. Otherwise you aren’t really going to have to trust whatever comes, are you? I had thought she was going to save me. The thing is, with us, there is no going back. You pick a side of one of these things and you just have to stick to it. I remember when Pasco shot himself in the shoulder, right? I mean, this is the problem with philosophy. So I did it. And now here it comes, the Red Van. It slows, of course, but makes me jump out of the way a little first, and in the dust I see inside that there are two men. One of them jumps out, if you take the middle, he said. I had no choice. And I was suddenly confused about who to pray to. This is the problem with comparative religions. I dropped my wallet, empty of everything but my student card, and got in.
Only 2700 today, but that’s okay. I’m glad to be alive.