Thursday, November 19, 2009

Just a Day

Early this morning, just before walking over to a particularly challenging exam for which I've been studying for weeks, I opened my Facebook page to discovered that an internet friend had posted the following quote:

Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing. ~ Cormac McCarthy

I posted a response, to the effect that that was an awful thing to say, and then forced it out of my mind so that I could focus and write steadily for the next three hours.

After lunch, there was a bit more Facebook discussion, which got a little testy and then, relieved to have put my school quarter behind me, I packed up and drove home.

I spent some time talking to the nurse in my doctor's office ~ not great news, but not terrible either.

I thought about how to respond to an email from someone asking how I am. Since we haven't talked in months, I had to conclude that any attempt at a genuine answer is now way beyond my capacity. A reminder that if we don't keep up with people, we lose them.

I stopped at the bookstore to purchase Kay Jamison's Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide. A psychiatrist who herself suffers from bipolar disorder, she is an elegant and brilliant writer ~ but I've been told that this one is a very difficult read for survivors. I may set it aside for a few more months, but in the bookstore I did flip it open to a section on parents. The lifetime of guilt and sadness that awaits me ~ nothing I hadn't already figured out.

And all this time, I was thinking about that stupid quote on Facebook. When I got home, I read a few more of the comments that had been posted and realized that for the others in the dicussion, it was an intellectual exercise. They had found the quote provocative, while I found it repugnant and self-absorbed.

Last week I had dinner with a friend at school who casually remarked that she supposed that it might be suicidal for her to think of taking Greek from Professor So-and-So. I glanced at her and there was a brief flicker of recognition, and then she went on talking.

I wish it were a matter of intellectual debate. I wish it were a matter of casual slang. I wish I had not seen what I have seen, read what I have read, learned what I have learned. (And, given some of the descriptions of bodies and autopsies on the Parents of Suicides mailing list, I have gotten off easily.)

I wish I could be one of those people who sometimes say to me, Oh, we in our family came awfully close to having to deal with what you are faced with. There is an entire universe, filled with black holes and ricocheting meteorites, between "awfully close" and the reality.

Last week, I took one of those internet stress tests ~ you know the kind, that allocates points to life stress events. Under 150 is a good thing, 150-300 reflects increasing health risks, over 300 is not good. My score was 495 and I feel, on the whole, pretty balanced. As I said in response to that email that I didn't know what to do with, "One adapts."

In our case, to life lived in a very different world from the one inhabited by most of the people we encounter.

And not one in which suicide is something to be romanticized or joked about.


Rev SS said...

So sorry. We human beings are so often unaware, uncaring and/or unintentional. I continue to hold you in my prayers.

Karen said...

Because of you I have developed a new sensitivity to all references to suicide. I get angry and reactive now when I hear of it spoken in a cavalier way. I ache for you over what it must feel like, pain on pain, when you hear these remarks. More than any mom can bear without divine intervention. I just want you to know that, dear GG. I pray for you and my heart breaks for you and this note would come wrapped in a very big hug, if it could.

Theresa Williams said...

I really regret that the quote was a source of distress for you. Be well, Robin. Have compassion for the poor souls who do not yet understand.

Sophia said...

I am so sorry that people keep saying such horrible things and not responding to your speaking up....And so impressed that you continue to care for yourself and others by doing so. Please God, you are planting some seeds that will bear fruit some day even if people don't have the integrity to apologize or admit it.

Prayers for the approaching holiday(s).

Carol said...

What Karen said.

Theresa Williams said...

Robin, I notice in your post that mention Jamison. I've been wondering why I should mention it, since this topic is so tender for you still. But I will, since I think it explains a lot about how art is made.

Jamison also wrote a book called Touched With Fire, which is about the artistic temperament. In the book she says: "The fiery aspects of thought and feeling that initially compel the artistic voyage--fierce energy, high mood, and quick intelligence; a sense of the visionary and the grand; a restless and fervish temperament--commonly carry with them the capacity for vastly darker moods, grimmer energies, and, occasionally, bouts of 'madness.'"

In the book Jamison gives creedence to the artistic experience and writes about it with compassion and intelligence. It is from Jamison that I developed a lot of my insight about art and life and the dramatic edges to which the creative life can take you. And that was why I was interested in the quote to begin with.

I am still so sorry that you were distressed, and if I could go back I wouldn't have posted the quote. I don't think the conversation was worth the pain that it caused you. I think I'm equally distressed that you think I would be glib or romantic about suicide. It is a part of our metaphorical understanding of dark and dangerous places, and that was what I meant to explore.

I hope you are well. Blessings to you and your family.