The Curse That is a Gift That is a Curse That is a Gift That is a

If a person intends to kill herself, you will not know.

A suicidal person serious about her intentions will kill herself, finished. No warning. No phone call. No tweet. No Facebook status. No blog post.

She may leave behind a suicide note. She may snail mail thirteen cassette tapes to thirteen people explaining how they contributed to her death, which is a dirty rotten trick, if you ask me, and selfish, but suicide is selfish, vindictive even.

Fantasies are not so much selfish as self-indulgent. Suicide attempts are a cry for help. Suicide fantasies are self indulgent. Melodrama adds a gauzy-gold sheen.

Misery is a cinch. Misery takes zero effort. You slip your feet into misery like a pair of old slippers. There. Misery is contagious. Misery loves company. Misery brings everyone down. Happiness is difficult. Happiness requires monumental effort. Conscious effort. You don’t slip your feet into happiness like a pair of old slippers because you misplaced those slippers eons ago and have to hunt for them now.

Where are my goddamn slippers?

I know a lot of miserable people. Especially in literature. Especially among writers. When I was in college, one of my writing mentors said writers wrote because they were dissatisfied with life, and I embraced that philosophy.

I am dissatisfied with life.

Ghandi said be the change you want to see in the world.

As a writer, I have addressed many of the things I see as wrong in the world.

(Misogyny, homophobia, racism, poverty, sexual assault, sexual molestation, rape, child abuse, narcissism, the patriarchy, capitalism, greed.)

On

and

on

and

on.

For years, I have believed I would change the world three ways.

1.) Cultivate and nurture a kind and thoughtful son.

2.) Cultivate and nurture kind and thoughtful students.

3.) Cultivate and nurture the most emotionally honest prose possible.

All three my legacy, my immortality wish, the change I want to see in the world.

(Psychology term, “generativity.”)

My ex used to say he never worried about anything he could not control, which I decided explained why everything he wrote felt superficial, easy? I urged him to dig deeper. He suggested I dug too deep and ought to spend less time with pain and suffering. He was satisfied. Content. The world, he agreed as a straight White male, was his oyster. Neither of us were “right” in regards to our approach to artistic expression. But I could get as shitty about his lack of suffering as he could about the every looming presence of mine. We often came off as feeling superior to one another.

I am grand because I suffer.

I am grand because I do not.

The world gets off on suffering. Yours. Mine. Ours. We got off watching Jesus pay for our sins. The First Great Spectacle of Suffering. Live. See it here.

Cry.

Cringe.

Swoon.

Sin.

Jesus saved you.

Elizabeth Wurtzel suggested while we cannot chose what happens to us, we can chose how we feel about it. Philosophers believe all suffering is self imposed.

We choose to suffer.

Did Jesus choose to nail himself to a cross? To cook in barbecue-level heat and bleed while the vultures, I mean human spectators, congregated below to gawk, forks in hand? Open for debate. Anyway, just a story, an allegory, right? Point is, someone does something terrible to you. External force. You choose how to respond. Internal force.

You might choose victimhood. You might choose advocacy.

You might chose kindness, forgiveness. You might choose cruelty, vengeance.

We know which Jesus chose.

I saw a picture of Kurt Cobain the other day. Someone had photoshopped angel wings on his back. Cobain once said, “Thank you for the pain. I need it for my art.”

Imagine we could return Kurt Cobain to his daughter—happy, healthy, and whole—but in exchange, we had to erase every angst-riddled word he ever wrote, every song, every piece of art, his band, Nirvana, the entire “grunge movement.” Would you?

Imagine we could return Sylvia Plath to her daughters—happy, healthy, and whole—but in exchange we had to erase The Bell Jar, every last word of poetry, “Sow,” “Daddy,” and “Lady Lazarus,” her entire poetic legacy. Would you?

Were these two people great artists because they were miserable, or were they miserable because they were great artists? How paramount is suffering to art?

Suffering, we get off on it.

A poet friend once told she refused to speak with a therapist because there went her entire body of work. In graduate school, one of my mentors asked, “If it doesn’t hurt, why are you writing it?” Ehud Havazelet made us imagine we had done terrible things, the worst things imaginable, then write those things down. Imagine them. Transcribe them. Confront them. Hurt. At the time, the worst thing I could imagine doing was hitting my son. That was the least good time I ever had as a writer. Just the thought.

It hurt. The picture I composed for myself, hitting my son, lashing out at my baby. Through imagination, I had an experience that led to self-discovery, but also emotional empathy, and along with that, enlightenment. What is personal, even imagined, becomes universal, which is the gift of art.

But maybe I am elevating the experience.

Romanticizing art.

You could change Cobain’s quote around.

“Thank you for the art. I need it for my pain.”

Last night, I entertained an elaborate fantasy then woke thinking, “My life sucks,” to which I reached for a spiral bound notebook I now store under my pillow then began to journal all the reasons why my life does not suck, and for this moment, it does not.

 

“We are human. Unlike other creatures, we live in narrative. We are conscious. If you make up the right story, it will be so. I feel that if something is happening to me, it must be a good thing, so cancer must be a blessing. 

I am like that. I am excited to be alive.”

Elizabeth Wurtzel

 

 

The Edge

Then there was the time we hiked to Liberty Cap. We had water and sunshine. Red dirt and cactus. Wildflowers. Bushes to pee behind. He often reached behind him to keep me from falling on my ass. Later, at a plateau, we sat side-by-side, a practical distance from the edge. We had a breeze. We had the view. We had the moment. We held hands.

That was before New Year’s Eve.

The ball dropped.

Along with that practical distance.

I Love You

Last summer, the man I was in love with drew me a flow chart.

One line represented him. The other line represented me.

His line rose or fell a bit, nothing dramatic, what you might call “stoic and steady.”

My line spiked and dipped, spiked and dipped, spiked and dipped. All over the place.

What you might call “dramatic, erratic, crazy.”

*****

When a woman’s ovaries stop producing a hormone known as “estrogen,” she may experience any and all of the following.

Depression.

Irritability.

“Mood swings.” In other words, moments of elation followed by crying jags followed by fits of rage. Good times. No joke, actually.

*****

Here is the truth.

I am a sensitive person. I am a writer. I am a sponge. I also spend a lot of time in my head. Create narratives. Fill-in-the-blanks. Small to big picture. I imagine multiple sides to any story. Empathize with a wide array of people. Nothing is black-and-white. Or simple.

******

I have, in the past, taken medication for anxiety and depression. I have, in the past, spoken with a shrink. I did this because I didn’t know how to feel about my son’s father.

My therapist suggested I write him a letter. Then send it.

This letter required me to put myself in his place. This letter involved an apology. I had given birth to a child I wanted. He didn’t want to become a father. As a result, he felt helpless. Angry. Resentful. Scared. I was sorry I had done that to him.

*****

Over the years, I have taken several “personality” and/or “color” tests designed to reveal how I approach the world. Last summer, I took another, this time with the purpose of revealing my approach to teaching. Blue? Green? Orange? Yellow?

I was an equal split. Blue. Green. Emotional. Practical.

*****

I blamed the mood swings and fatigue on stress. Mainly professional and financial.

I blamed the stress on me.

I am the kind of person, I think, push through. I am the kind of person, I think, you can fix this. I am the kind of person, I think, what? You’re going to QUIT now, you wimp?

The man I was in love with insisted happiness was a state of mind. You are what you think. Happiness is all in your attitude and perspective. I agree.

*****

As a woman, you hit fifty, and you know.

This world fetishizes youth and demonizes aging.

You are past your prime. Hope you are in a safe and secure place. Hope you have your shit together. A game plan. A life partner who has got your back and loves you.

******

One morning, I woke and didn’t give a shit about anything.

No energy.

No motivation.

Nothing.

All I could do was cry.

I showed up at my doctor’s office who asked, “How are you?”

I cried. And cried. And cried.

He suggested I might be menopausal.

I got a hold of myself, wiped my face and sniffled, then said, “I thought I was crazy.”

*****

I quit a job I loved around the time I broke up with a man I loved. Major life changes. I felt alone. Heartbroken. Terrified. Insecure. Overwhelmed.  Just very alone.

*****

The blood test reveals where you are on the menopausal scale. I scored “23.”

Pretty high, actually.

My doctor prescribed 0.5 mg of Estradiol, generic for Estrace, which is estrogen, which my ovaries have stopped pumping into my body. Three weeks after I started the estrogen, I felt better. Three months later, I almost feel normal again.

*****

Speaking with a shrink feels like squeezing pus out of a wound. Like flushing a toilet backwards. Messy. Scary. I am writing letters to someone else now.

*****

In addition to teaching this semester, I am also taking a philosophy class called, “The Examined Life.” We started Tuesday with a discussion about “Mindfulness.”

What is that? Mainly, four things.

1.) Living in the here-and-now.

2.) One thing at a time.

3.) Remaining open.

4.) Suspending judgement.

*****

My goal  is to take it easier on myself. No one is tougher on me than me. I am cruel to myself, actually, and I know where this comes from. I have a picture.

*****

See?

No one has ever apologized to this girl.

Give her a hug, hold her hand, have her back.

Say, I love you.