Right before I broke up with Michael the first time, in Wilmington, when I was still who I was then and months before the car wreck that would eject me from that reality and into this wonderland of South Florida, I found myself in a vintage 60s minidress, 4″ purple cork heel sandals, with a library copy of Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More in my lap in a Presbyterian psychologist’s office confessing that I suspected I *might* suffer from depression.
“Do you think about suicide?” she asked.
I had dressed so fashionably because I knew we were going to talk about my thoughts–given, of course, the circumstances–and I had to have a counterpoint. I always dressed up to go to the shrink.
The question reminded me of another time when I was in a psychologist’s office, in marriage counseling, when I was falling apart, ravaged with the blights of alcoholism, and trying to write a play about Alzheimer’s, when the counselor asked me if I thought about dying. I had chosen this counselor because he promised me my husband and I would not have to role play or use puppets to act out our feelings.
“Well?” he prompted me, I guess because I had paused so long before answering, “do you?”
I looked at him, his spectacles and black beard, his casual chinos and hands folded in his lap. No one had ever asked me this before, and, man, had I wanted them to. I’d been thinking about dying the whole time. I mean, I thought about dying constantly, about what a fucking relief it was going to be when I got to get off this ride, but I also remembered confessing at a young age–maybe four? five?–that I wished I was dead, and it alarms people, let me tell you, so I built a well in my mind and that’s where I put all my thoughts like that, but it is hard, very hard, to go through your days when you have to tend a well like that in your mind. So, I answered him as honestly as I could.
“Well,” I said, “I am a writer.”
However, I wasn’t very good at honesty at that point in my life; in fact, I didn’t practice it at all, really, except when I was calling someone out on his or her bad behavior, which I felt like was my responsibility to the universe. I especially avoided honesty if it was going to be an obstacle between myself and whatever it was that I wanted at the time. Not to understate it, but these were grim years.
A lot happened to me between that conversation and the one in which I was wearing platform purple sandals–I had changed in many ways but obviously still needed work–and I knew that I had to tell her the truth since, when I had lied before, the results had been disastrous.
“I do,” I said.
“Like once a month? Seasonally?” And then the exploratory “…daily?”
I didn’t know. Dying was just there, on the to-do list, as it always had been, like “writing a novel,” and at times I considered it more seriously than others, and that relationship with Michael and its attendant bafflements and unanswered pleas for security had made me fantasize about rowing out past the breakers at Johnny Mercer’s Pier and feeding myself to the sharks. Other times, though, I wanted to live forever in the righteous harmony that was the gift of life, and I didn’t know then what I was going through–I could only identify that I didn’t want to be here anymore, that I was miserable in an inconsolable way that seemed an insurmountable, life-long burden–and I had to force myself to reach out to this Presbyterian counselor, over my fear and pride, and pull a few thoughts out of this well and show them to somebody.
“It’s just,” I told her, “you know. Like what the fuck am I doing here? I don’t know the answer to that, so I wish I wasn’t here. I don’t ever remember not having this feeling, so I have no idea if this is normal. It comes and goes and like right now I feel it a lot, and then other times I don’t feel it at all.” I explained to her the basic landscape of my mind for the past 33 years, the highlights of where I think my upbringing put a few dents in my psyche, the marriage, the divorce, the drinking, the recovery, the meditation in which I was running on a collapsing bridge and had to jump at the end onto the edge of cliff and into a man’s arms; when I looked up it was Jesus and he smiled at me and said, “well, then. It looks like you made it.” I told her things about me that I’d admitted to maybe one other person, I debriefed her about the goings-on of my inner world’s reaction to my life’s events, and at the end, she uncrossed her legs, tapped her cheek with her pointer finger, and nodded at me.
“All of it,” I motioned around to the general area of the universe, “I wish I knew why, you know? The point. The point of it all.”
She was very kind, and this was the moment in which she gently explained to me that normal people don’t wonder about the purposes of the universe, that most people just live their lives and are content without growing severely concerned with the point of what they’re doing in a universal context. “They go to work and raise their families or simply do whatever it is that they’re doing. Sure they have emotions and get upset or sad or what have you, but they aren’t plagued by the meaning of life.”
“What?” I said. This concept–that there are people everywhere who don’t dwell on the meaning of life–confused me in the same way that I’m confused by people who don’t like dogs. It makes no sense. It seems unbelievable.
She nodded, the “it’s true, and I’m sorry, but there’s no such thing as Santa” kind of parental-let-down-easy nod with the soft look in her eyes. “Yeah,” she said.
It was a confusing moment, and I didn’t know what to say, so I held up the book I brought. “I also might be co-dependent. According to the list in here, on the inside.”
My heels were so high I’d had to adjust my car seat to accommodate them. I remember commenting to myself on the absurdity of my shoes when I drove myself and my new library book home, mulling over this idea that 1) there were normal people and 2) they did not lose sleep over what they were doing on planet Earth. Wow.
Imagine going your whole life without one existential crisis! I thought. That must be amazing! Imagine, I thought, going most of your life without contemplating your own death.
That, too, must be amazing.
Now, before I go any further, and you are a normal person and you have started to freak out because now you are afraid I may be suicidal or death-obsessed or need an intervention, remember this is a writer’s blog, and I am getting to a greater point here. And it is about dying. Remember I have just been told by my very kind Presbyterian psychologist that I am not normal, that I am a mere three months from a life-altering car accident, and I am in constant prayer about what to do with my life. Hang with me for a second.
“I used to plan my suicide,” I had an old recovered drunk tell me once, “until it dawned on me it would kill me.”
I thought about this comment after the meeting with psychologist. What, then, was going on with me? I prayed about it. I kicked Michael out. I grieved. I wrote. I lost weight.
I didn’t want to die. Not yet. I had told my psychologist I couldn’t because I knew I hadn’t fulfilled my mission yet. I don’t know what I meant by that, but that was the answer I had for her when she asked why I didn’t do it. The thought of death doesn’t scare me; it never has, not the way I see other people losing their shit about it. Somewhere in me I know I’m going back to where I belong, which is why I believe the idea of leaving here, this weirdo construct full of hateful and duplicitous people, seemed more attractive for a lot of years than staying.
In time, I grew to understand that in those almost unbearable moments (or sometimes days, sometimes weeks, sometimes years) that, in a spiritual sense, I was dying. Christ, I die all the time. My life has been one perpetual cycle of dying, of losing, of emerging into a new life, a new circumstance, a new relationship, a new awareness of my relationship to God. I had to die in order to let go of seeing the world as a weirdo construct full of hateful and duplicitous people and being able to live in it in love with the idea that each day is a new, and relative, adventure. It is so trippy to me because, in the darkest of those years, I begged to be shown a different way, and now, years later, here I am, with eyes in my heart as opposed to my sick mind, although we all know I am not entirely free. I asked to be changed, and I was. But not without being destroyed; that is life, to varying degrees. It will be like this until my body goes, and I suppose on some level I have finally accepted the process.
It’s been a while since I’ve been in this blog really telling the truth, but this morning I woke up with the feeling of grief in my heart and I knew I was here again, in the cycle of death, and somewhere there is a part of me that is leaving, some aspect of my character or my soul that is meandering on to the good death, like I learned about the Boa Morte in Brazil. It took me thirty-odd years of living with my mind’s attempts to teach me what my spirit knew–that I would have to die, always be dying–in order to learn what I want to know, which, as you’ve guessed by now, is the meaning of life.
I’m not in Florida because of an existential crisis, or, as my Mom has wondered, a mid-life crisis. I’m in Florida because I died to get here, and I am dying now, but I don’t know which part of me. Here I never question the meaning of life because the meaning of life just is–I have no doubts about the point of it all when I am here writing to you, or I am at the Skunk Ape Center trying to figure out how to translate what the African Grey Congo is communicating with his eyes, and God has put me in a position where there is not one human who gives a shit about my emotional needs because I have a thing or two to learn about relying on the Love that is the meaning of life. I get all that. I don’t mind dying anymore, and the well I used to tend is starting to become something else in the backyard of my mind. What, I don’t know. I wish I could tell you it’s going to be a breathtaking rose garden, but it’s probably going to morph into a missile silo, if I can deduce anything from what I know about myself already.
When I started this blog, in my strange funk, I titled it “David Lee Roth (the Hawaiian Candyman, Adult Sexy Bodacious Bear, and How These Things Make Me Reflect on Spiritual Intimacy” and, for your sake, I wish that had actually been the blog in store, because I have some funny stuff, funnier than this blog, but it just wasn’t in me today. But I will tell you that I was at a party this weekend with people who went to college with this dude who has since become the Hawaiian Candyman (check him out online, delicious coconut candies) and his name, I swear to God, is David Lee Roth. To cheer myself up out of my funk this morning, I started searching online for my cheetah Halloween costume and quickly grew shocked and disgusted that all the good costumes are in girls’ sizes because a woman can’t be shit for Halloween anymore–even a BEAR–unless she’s “naughty bear” or “adult sexy bear” or I even found an “adult sexy bodacious bear,” and that did not cheer me up AT ALL.
That’s when I started reflecting on spiritual intimacy, which, when I get down to it, is all my life is about, in the final analysis, and my adventures here are only my pursuit of the joy of intimacy with God, however you want to define that, “nature” or “language” or whatever, and then the next thing I know I’m inviting you in, beloveds, to the secret parts of my mind because I don’t know how else to reveal that it’s okay to bear your own deaths in life because the meaning of life is love, and when we ask we are drawn closer into it if we are willing to let go.
night night beloveds.