Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Recovering Myself

Our lives are filled with turning points. I don't mean marriages or home purchases or graduations, any of the official markers of transition, but rather moments when something without us causes something within us to shift and we know that one era has come to a definite end. We all have that.

It will be no surprise to any of you to learn that I recently experienced just such a turning point. It will likely surprise all of you that the turning point in question was not my October 20 suicide attempt. No, the real threshold moment for me came three weeks earlier.

The date was October 7, 2013.

Thomas and I spent most of that day hauling boxes from the awful yellow farm house that had been my prison for more than a year and a half to the beautiful new Mountain State home where my parents had determined to start anew. I'd only seen this place in photographs, never been, and when I stepped through the front door I found in the house's beauty such stark contrast with the squalor I'd endured that my heart leapt into my throat.

Relief coursed over my shoulders like a warm waterfall, and it was only then, as the onerous weight was washed away from me, that I realized how heavy the burden had been. That farm house had robbed me of heirlooms, of my dignity, of my happiness, of my sanity. I decided that moment that I would never live in it again.

"I'm staying here tonight," I told Thomas. "Do you want to stay with me?"

"Dude," he replied. "Yes."

My mother Marie, who before my recent self-inflicted brush with death was, to put it mildly, not an understanding parent, took immediate issue with this. I can't remember the litany of ridiculousness she recited: we'd eat all the food in the house; we'd shower until we ran the well dry; we'd sleep in her bedroom despite the total lack of furniture. Whatever it was, it wasn't worth listening to. And when she at last agreed to let me bunk in the house I was paying to live in, on condition that I get up in the morning and leave with her at seven, something in me snapped.

"Trying to get you to do anything--anything at all, just things normal people do--is like asking for gold," I spat. "And you know what? I'd rather sleep in my fucking car!"

So I did.

I drove back to that farm house, back to that terrible place where I no longer lived, and I spent a miserable night crouched in the back seat of my seventeen-year-old Oldsmobile. It was one of the most empowering things I've ever done.

I woke up the next morning, drove to a cafe, and surveyed the date on the national newspaper with quiet joy.

Thank God, I thought. Thank God.

It seems astonishing to describe my suicide in anything but the most horrible terms, but it was, for all its tragedy, part of a larger narrative that is quite positive. It was part of my larger assertion over my own life. I took that assertion to an extreme place in a desperate moment, but the assertion itself is something that's been long overdue.

So when I woke up from the coma, when the drugs wore off but before I could get through a morning without crying, I remembered October 7. And I remembered October 20. And I remembered that what happened to me belonged to me.

That first week home I got out a piece of paper and wrote down four points:

I. Public relations
II. Journalism
III. Publishing
IV. History

Beneath each I made an extensive list of contacts and strategies, and then I dove in with a vengeance. I considered everything, from grad school to HTML classes to editorial assistant positions to municipal media relations management, all within the context of the four broad categories and all approached on a systematic and realistic basis.

Before my suicide--"You basically died in the ambulance," my mother later told me--I'd gotten so locked in to the tunnel vision of the job search that I'd closed myself off to things like additional schooling or internships. But now, with my family behind me and the knowledge that opportunity can come from anywhere, I approached my mission with an open mind.

What I learned? The bigger your door, the more people will come knocking.

It wasn't long before I found myself in Marble City interviewing for an internship position with a public relations and public policy company.

"We are actually having someone in our communications department leave to accept a job in Misty City," the supervisor told me. "And there is the possibility that there could be a hiring opportunity at the end of this. What most concerns me about you, though, is that you have prior experience. If you came on with us, it wouldn't be at a very senior level. Is that a problem?"

"No. I want the chance to start at the bottom."

I was selected for the role the next day.

So in January I'm moving, at least part time, to the Goldlands so that I can make the commute two days a week to Marble City. Pirate Ninja, an old friend from college, lives in a single-family home there with six Christian men who voted unanimously to let me stay with them.

"No matter what," he told me. "You're in."

No matter what, I'm in.

I'm going to learn all I can about this position. I'm going to pour my heart into my work, and I'm going to do everything within my power to win this job. I will do it. And if I don't, then I'll take the experience on my resume and go somewhere else, and then somewhere else, and then somewhere else, until something opens. I'll do whatever I have to.

On October 20 I accidentally survived. Now I'm determined to live.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Maple Tree

Maybe I'm just not as strong as I thought as I was. I seemed to bounce back so fast, to the point that I even made a few off-color jokes about it. I smiled. I laughed. I was energized. But beneath it all I'd feel these moments of welling terror, of panic.

What is going to happen to me? How can this be real?

I'm in disbelief that I am who I am. I hate myself a little. And a part of me wants to do it again. But damn it, I have resolved not to think that way, and I'm going to keep the promise I made when I came out of the hospital to give this life of mine the good college try.

Oh, my God. How has this really happened? How did I become this thing?

I looked out my bedroom window several days ago to see a maple tree, resplendent with autumn glory as its leaves glowed golden-red in the setting sun. This morning, seemingly out of nowhere, the tree was almost bare and suddenly ugly. I thought that it would be irredeemably sad but for the fact that it will one day come to life again. Spring can only be so many months after Fall.

The maple tree is weeping now
Its red and amber tears
It sheds its little stars of grief
They make a bed of fear

The tree has lost what made it whole
Its shining emerald hands
That time and nature one day stole
Have fallen in the stands

The wind that's whirling through its holes
Screams like a mournful wail
The branches empty, brown, and dead
Bow low as if to fail

The tree holds on with stubborn roots
And though it's hung with doom
It stands high hoping one day that
It once again might bloom