It feels as if my hands and feet and jaw are pierced with hooks and strung with piano wire, and these wires pierce their hearts, so that no matter what I do or utter, I make them bleed. The more I struggle, the more I rend their flesh. There is no making things right. There is no making things whole.
Suicide is a tempting lie, and like other lies I’ve cradled in my palms—one more drink and you’ll forget; seduce her and then you will be truly known—it is a bold lie that dares me to believe it in spite of itself.
A soul-splitting lie is like a novel, it demands that we suspend belief in the world of sharp corners and gravity. And God save us, God damn us, sometimes we suspend belief.
Center-frayed. Do you know that feeling? You are bound to people who need you and people who want things from you and people who believe they are entitled to a piece of you. When enough of them sink teeth into your hide or heart and pull in their separate directions, it is the center that gives, the center of you.
You get worn and center-frayed, and you don’t know how much more you can bear before you crumple or snap, before you uncage a scream that you may not be able to cram back into your belly once it rages free in the stifled air about your head.
Some days the center of me wears thin, and I have come to believe in miracles because I have watched myself get out of bed, even as I whimper aloud: “I can’t do this.”
Maybe depression is the lie.
I can do this. I do get out of bed. I have gotten out of bed almost every godforsaken morning I wake to feel the gray nesting in my bones. I have defied the gray and risen from bed in spite of my own protests and I have not exited this life and if that isn’t a miracle then show me one, show me one in this age when science explains everything but the reason we grasp this life that science is hell-bent on extending.
It’s this goddamned pride, I tell myself.
The gray pours into my pores because I dandle this idol of my self, this precious vision of accomplishments and eminence and meaning. I nurse this narcissism and the world gives me bills I can barely pay, and stories I can’t sell, and this body that betrays me. The gray pours in because I am certain that I am entitled to something more than this, and what a detestable thing to believe, when this broken earth bears mothers so malnourished they haven’t the strength to swat flies from their shallow-breathing babies.
It’s this love, I offer myself.
My boys are twelve, ten, eight, and five, and my girl is whatever age they assign you on the other side of the veil, but I call them all my babies because I am sentimental, because my sentimentality completes my portrait of self-loathing.
The thing I can scarcely bear is the pain I feel radiating from them in waves, the pain of a mother in one house and a father in another and the knowing that they will never again wake on Christmas day in a home that holds both parents. I have wounded them and by living apart from their mother I wound them every day.
It is this love, I whisper to myself, that makes me wake in darkness and groan.
Maybe people kill themselves because they are selfish and maybe because they are deluded and maybe just because it is the last way they know to be the center of attention. Maybe they do it because the thought of one more dark wakeful night, and one more gray morning, is more than they think they can bear. Maybe they do it because they can’t imagine making this life good again.
These days I pray a simple prayer. I pray that God will make it good despite me. This is where I am, I say to him. Some people are worse, most are better, but this is where I am. Help me live a good life from this day on. Help me.
I don’t know about other people who whimper when the day demands they enter it, but for me the dread is not of what lies ahead, it’s what I leave behind. I’ll wager there are no amnesiac suicides. It’s our memories that condemn us. It’s our memories that crush us.
This is where I am. What lies in front of me is this day, and it can be good in spite of me. Maybe even because of me. If I made those days behind me bad, after all, that can only mean that I might have made them good. And that means that I have, by the grace of God, all I need to make this day good.
This is, I whisper to God, where I am. Help me live a good life from this day on. Help me.
Art above: Agnes Martin, Falling Blue, 1963.