What’s it like to be me right now?
Well, right now I find myself feeling a little weak in the belly…a little light in the head with a little heat behind my eyes. Sometimes this is my body telling me I’m nervous. Sometimes knowing I’m nervous let’s me know that I feel like I’m taking a risk and something is at stake. Right now, I don’t know what’s at stake, but I am starting a new adventure with this podcast.
This project has come from a deep desire to be more “out,” more transparent about who I am, who I’ve been, the things that have informed my lens…For years I’ve been questioning my fears about being honest about the personal growth work I’ve been up to, and inspired by others in my sphere branching out into the unknown territory of allowing themselves to be known. I’m excited to finally find myself feeling ready for that undertaking…the call having recently lurched forward from a quiet desire into something more like an imperative… and yet I notice I am shaky….
A few weeks ago I got a call from an ex. She said she had some news that I would experience as bad news. She said she had decided to move forward with her transition, and I knew what she meant. She wasn’t telling me she had a terminal illness. She was letting me know that her intention was to take her own life. She was at peace with it, and she’d told a selective few in her inner circle. I wasn’t exactly in her inner circle, but she was letting me know out of respect.
I don’t know why exactly, but I understood that part as well. See, she wasn’t just an ex. She was the first person I ever met who reminded me of myself. That probably sounds weird. I should say that in those days and the ones before it, I had been the kind of person to whom people quite often would say “I like you, you’re just like me.” Most of the time, I’d have no idea what they were talking about.
Not so with X. If I closed my eyes and listened to her, she was the voice inside my head, the one I’d been trying to meet on the outside for over a decade at that point. Turns out she seemed to have felt the same way…so we had tried, the both of us, to love the girl in the inside mirror. It had been a shit show, but we had given it our all.
And now, over a decade later, she was calling to let me know that she had lost her bout with hope. Actually, it hadn’t been just a bout, it had been a war. And now, her highest sense of herself was telling her it was time to let go. She felt the meat of her entire being was scar tissue. She’d gotten a glimpse at the inner work she felt she would have to do to attempt to heal that tissue, and had decided she wasn’t in the mood to do it. She was bowing out of life, and her expectation was to become something greater than a living being. She didn’t expect other living beings to understand that, but she was moving on either way.
For some reason I did understand that too…It sounded an awful lot like the conversations that happen in my mind when hope feels like a lie and the vacuum left to replace it crushes my chest and sends pangs of glass shooting from my heart throughout my veins. See, as of right now, it’s only be 1,353 days since I found out I wasn’t going to kill myself. I guess that’s a coming out of sorts. It feels dangerous to admit that to whoever is tuning in here, but I’ve found that facts are less dangerous than secrets sometimes…and the fact is 1,353 days is not long enough to have forgotten those voices…though in my case, it is long enough to have learned to respect them.
I respect their ability to suck up reality, to suspend time, to leave me floating in a dark hole where life’s stronghold becomes a joke. I now know that those voices, terrifying as they may be, are really there to alert me to the fact that I am in deep pain. I have learned to respect them enough to listen. I have learned to respect myself enough to do something about it. I have learned to trust myself enough to know that I can. I have learned to appreciate exertion enough to endure the pangs of glass shooting through my veins. I have even learned to see my ability to experience my own pain as an expression of grace.
All of this feels miraculous to say out loud. Miracles take on different shapes for different people. These truths have become my miracles, my refuge. They come on the other side of the better part of 3 years of trying to learn to face my trauma, trying to get to know where it lives in my mind and my body, trying to understand and come to terms with its consequences, and trying to claim the life that has my name stamped on it in spite of what that life has asked me to endure.
Since learning that I was not going to kill myself (that’s a story for another episode I suppose), I have learned that life longs for me…that it always has…life loves me like the grandmother whose name I carry. Life desires me like a hungry lover. I sometimes wonder if I would have lived my “so far” years differently if I had known these things…if I had been able to perceive life loving me as it does…clinging to me as it has…I get embarrassed that I missed that for so long. Then I remind myself, I was working on other necessary things, like surviving, like reclaiming a sense of sovereignty, like understanding suffering, and even learning unconditional love.
I was indeed learning suffering. I endured it. I devoured it. I’m metabolizing it, and now working on a new curriculum of acceptance, surrender, curiosity, and most alarmingly, joy (can you imagine?)!
And yet, the X in the mirror is saying the opposite. She’s saying there’s nothing left for her. She’s saying her greater destiny is beyond her body. I can certainly relate to that, but I have to admit, I hate that our “mirror” makes her feel so far away. I hate that I can’t find the words to save her…to remind her that whatever reality she thinks there is in the “beyond the body” could be just as present right now. I want to respect her, but I also want to convince her. Instead I find myself secretly panicking. Listening. Fumbling.
I called the hotline to try to find out what a responsible response to all this would be…both for her and for me. How do I, as someone who for a number of good reasons, is vulnerable to suicidal ideation, walk into this space in a caring way while still holding on to what has become my commitment to living? And in that, what is useful to a person who has determined they are ready to end their own life? The hotline told me to listen…so I tried…the hotline told me she was in danger…they told me to intervene…so I tried that as well….and the hotline told me if she was certain she wanted to take her own life, all I could really do was buy her some time…the only hopeful point being that sometimes time is enough.
Since this podcast is a space for transparency, I’ll admit that lingering parts of the old me felt jealous of her certainty, of her surrender…but there were radiant parts of timeless me who was relieved to feel life clinging to me, holding my hand, warming me, letting me know it was indeed my friend.
Life does not feel good to me because it is easy (it is not), or because I am lucky (that’s certainly debatable and relative and all that jazz). Life feels like a true companion now because it does not lie. I know now that if I choose to look at it square in the eye now and now and now again, it will reveal it’s undulating rawness to me, and the sobriety I find in that is about the only thing I know I can trust.
It feels like life itself has become my most intimate companion. Even if those aren’t the right words for it, I want desperately to transmit the meaning feeding those words to the X in the mirror, but I’m so scared I can’t reach her. Instead, I’ll just send out the signal for anyone able to receive it. I don’t know what life really is, but it is at the very least the sum of what’s happening right now, and now and now again…and if now really is no more threatening than another fucking growth opportunity, then I say, bring it.