Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On Suicide

A character in the first book of Between Families faces suicide. The scenes and descriptions are somewhat autobiographical and based on when I was 17 and attempted suicide. There has never been something so important to have failed at. I literally have never learned more from a failure than from that one.

That said, I know how I felt at the time and it was such a deep and profound vacuum of sadness that did not allow a single moment of joy in. Each moment was interminable, keen and cruel, and it was impossible to tolerate time. Suicide sounded like a relief from that endless black pit that swallowed up my everything. My depression was situational, not chronic. I have never experienced another bout like it. I was young and didn't have the same concept of time then that I do now. I didn't know how to hold on and wait and that things would get better. I just didn't know.

But I am fortunate in that the depression I experienced was due to things going on in my life. It was situational. I do not have chemical imbalances that make depression an ongoing struggle. I do not know that repetitive cycle of pain and hopelessness.

I don't know what it was to be Robin Williams or the other couple of folks I've known who have been successful at suicide. I imagine if they felt the way I did, much less many times over, or in greater depths of darkness, or with neural pathways permanently damaged by substances, unable to feel joy in a profound way, I hope their suffering from that is over. Surviving that feeling for any period of time is brave. Do not call those who attempt or commit suicide, cowards. They are surviving through insurmountable challenges and the fact they try at all, is a testament to the human spirit. They survived and managed to touch your heart despite a depth of darkness plaguing them that we cannot imagine. They deserve respite from that and respect for trying even if they helped entropy along before the rest of us were ready for it. I wish for no more successes in the nasty business of suicide; I hope you will tell me if you feel the pull of darkness. I hope respite can be found through other means. But my opinion on your sadness is not helpful. My heart is. I hope my prayers are. More than anything, you have my compassion.


My family is attempting to move from one house to another and then still another. It's a complicated process and not in the least less complicated for the age of my kids. Their ages mean that you set a pile in the corner of things to go to the thrift store and then another pile in another corner of things you're waiting to find all the pieces to and there are four more piles like these in every room. And ten minutes later, there are new piles that are of plastic pieces your three year old thinks make great new weapons, and choking hazards held by your 19 month old. They disassemble your piles and toward the end you find yourself putting more and more items into the recycle bin, more things go to the thrift store instead of being stored or sold. In that vein, these are notes I've found scribbled around. I'm recycling them, but first reprinting them here. I've written so many notes on ideas to myself over the years, it's time to let most of them go. I trust ideas will keep coming and hopefully an occasional lump of time to follow up on them. Without further ado:
Gypsy Weasel
An old woman nurses comfortably,
sitting cross legged in a square in Prague.
Milk's gone but baby's happy,
pacified on history.
He doesn't know he's poor,
and grimy, narrowly cushioned
by age
from the cold hard cobblestones.
It is a creaky comfort;...
it cracks and groans
lactose sugar water
sweet as snow on a sunny day,
with weasels sneaking from Lodgepole to Aspen,
conspiring with the gypsies to steal my lunch.
Both not understanding,
incredulous that I,
wouldn't offer a baby everything
when I have so much.
Not seeing it as stealing,
anymore than I see not giving
as not offering up what I have
to the mouth of a toothless babe
who is comforted only by the old lady weasel
her tit shriveled and dry
under the old town clock.
(A note I wrote when I left the residential treatment center where I used to work.)
When I arrived, I swept the light of excitement into the room.
Plans were made, some executed.
Successes of the mind... trials of the spirit
took place in every class I held.
We wrote our hopes into existence, fought our fears with chalk and
words words words
were everywhere.
In that place, we faced things together, candor and jokes our daily bread.
And now that I am gone,
the jokes, like drawings hanging in the window fade.
The outline of a heart holds strong while the others fade to yellows.
As colors fade and memories too, the love holds strong, the love that was every joke
every smile I ever sent you.
Color and light dissipate, the love more abstract, always there
tucked in the corners of books and cracks of walls.
Love is still there.