Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday Memories of When This Was Normal

Amy put out a call to all of us who contributed to Shades of Blue: writers on depression, suicide and feeling blue (Fall 2015, Seal Press) asking us to write something about writing our particular 'shades of blue'.

It meant remembering a life that now feels as far away as Mars.

And that was just it.  Writing “Nothing Helps, Except…” brought me back to the decades I spent living on Mars – a barren landscape, barely hospitable that occasionally promised me that life existed there.   It took decades of heart-breaking-open work to heal and then transform my assumption that life was and always would be so bleak.

As I recovered my soul, remembering how it FELT to live like that became a distant memory, not a daily reality.  And, quite frankly, it was nice to forget how waking up to morning was often like crashing through glass at 90 miles an hour.  (While I was drafting “Nothing Helps…” I found in one diary of that time my describing one morning as “I woke up screaming ‘I’m tired of waking up backwards’.”)

On top of stepping back into those long-ago emotional layers, it was daunting to fit a complex and repetitive journey into 3,000 words or less.  Many false starts, lots of Buddhist practice, more false starts, even more Buddhist practice.   Nothing helped.

Then one day, I visited with someone I loved very much who lives on the other side of the world and practices a much different religion.   We were talking about the anthology, when without thinking I blurted out, “Planning my suicide was the only thing that kept me going.  For years."

And that’s when I saw how I had traveled out that brokenness and returned to who I had always been.  The rewriting of the piece still took tons of prayer but once I got through the sadness of how I had lived for so long, I began asking fellow writers, some who barely knew me, to give feedback.  I appreciate their courage and honesty that helped me make the piece even stronger, for I can’t imagine it an easy thing to read how someone lived with such self-hate for so long.

An unexpected benefit came out of all this.  That pain is no longer a memory I held at a distance, but a cherished and respected one.  I wake up every day so happy – happy that I don’t live on Mars; I live on Earth and there’s life here.  Yet, because I reopened those old days, I now also see where that shadow still seeps into my hopes and dreams.

Writing that piece and writing this has strengthened my muscles of gratitude and prayer and each day I take a bigger step back from the ledge and back into my birthright.

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