“ I starved to death in 1916. … Logically I was dead; a man can’t live on dry grass. Actually I went on breathing.”
— Nero Wolfe (Over My Dead Body)
“I worry about you. About you doing something stupid and permanent.”
“Have I given you reason to worry about me?”
“A thousand things.”
I didn’t tell her that I knew where her mind had been, that I could smell her sadness, feel her desperation like movement of the air. That when she was near, I could practically taste the danger she seemed to be in. There wasn’t time, and I didn’t have the words to articulate it without sounding ridiculous.
Because we’ve all been there, right?
For about a year and a half, I toyed with the idea of a post called “On the Subject of my Impending Suicide.” Wherein I would explain that I wasn’t planning anything, but that some days it felt inevitable. It kept coming up as an idea, as a thought, as a backup if everything else went wrong and I had no other recourse. It’s good to have a plan, even one that requires you to end your own life. I couldn’t come up with anything that seemed right, that wouldn’t be too painful. Also, I absolutely didn’t want to fuck it up. The last thing I wanted was to have an “attempt” to explain. I also didn’t want to do it in such a way that it gave the message “See what you made me do.” Because I was going to do it on my own, for me.
I got a captcha one day that has stuck with me for whatever reason.
I remember it because A) the idea of hiring out your self-destruction seemed like a turn on the old irony wheel and B) I knew people who had done/were doing it. You may remember that in September of 2009, I posted some photographs of a place called Flat Rock. I was visiting that town for what I had decided was the last time. I was there for the funeral of my cousin, who had engaged in his own Hired Self-Destruction. That sounds nicer than saying “He killed himself in a way that was indirect enough that people wouldn’t accuse him of committing suicide.” Because that’s what Craig did, let us not bullshit ourselves. He had hit rock bottom, and there was no one to help him out, or he wasn’t able to ask for help, or… whatever. He packed on about 100 pounds to what had already been pushing 300. When he was laid to rest, they didn’t cross his arms over his chest because his limbs literally couldn’t be made to sit like that.
This was just about the apex of bad times. You might remember if you were there. A couple of months later, a relationship fell apart, we had to move to pokey little apartment, and we were feeling a little bereft. Friends who would have helped lived too far away, people who lived nearby fell away from us in droves. Syd did not react to the situation well, and some members of her family reacted by saying “Quit being such a selfish little bitch and let me score points of your depression! Can’t you see your suicidal state of mind is ALL ABOUT ME?” I have few good things to say about certain people, and I won’t spoil a cheerful post like this by going into that. Suffice to say, I had to help her carry the load. When you tell someone you’re not going to leave them alone, and you’re not going to let them kill themselves, you’ve got to stand by that or what are you?
I think Syd helped me carry my load, but I felt like I was doing most of it on my own. That’s probably my warped perspective, because I didn’t even really have my parents to talk to and she can at least sort of talk to her mother and father about certain things. Not everything, but some things. I couldn’t talk to anyone about anything. My parents were going through… they had their own bullshit to deal with. I’d always been the emotional booster anyway, everyone came to me with their issues, and I would either help them solve those problems or distract them.
I felt on my own in a way I’d never felt alone. Not as lonely as those last six months with Syd and Holly. We weren’t lonely, not like that, and Fancy willing we will never feel that lonely again. I’d gotten used to being internal from the time I was a child. Living in a house of tension had prepared me, doing it with twice the people ready to explode made steel out of the iron.
Internal. I’d spent some time simply sitting and looking at the internet, saying nothing, doing little, making myself small and inoffensive. Hard way to live, but it was one that didn’t seem to break any rules. Syd’s suicidal thoughts kept coming to my mind, that she had plans and ideas, and knew what to do. I’d had no idea, just a vague wish for it all to be over.
And then Hol left, and I knew if I did anything dramatic it would look like I was trying to blame Hol, which isn’t what it was about. I just wanted things not to be the way they were. I didn’t want to feel the emptiness I had felt. I never felt fear, or sadness, or shame, just nothing. As the Rockbiter said “A hole would have been something, this was nothing.”
I came to a conclusion. This has to end. Either with the death of the body, or the death of this existence. One way or another, this has to end. Syd had come to the same conclusion, although we never articulated it in such a fashion. Neither of us chose the first route, and we concentrated on the second.
Syd got the lap-band operation. That was hard, painful, and a complete and utter change in the eating habits she’d formerly known. If anyone wants to call it an easy way out, I will gleefully puke up half eaten Arby’s in their car so they can share in the joy I felt. They can slurp on clear broth for a month, then extend the thrill of actually having broth that was cloudy! OOOOO! You can’t actually see the cats through the soup anymore. That was no more easy than going on a starvation diet is easy, or suddenly having to avoid anything with gluten is easy. It was hard, and it was painful, and we’re still going through it. But we’re doing it together, and we’re going to get there. She has had to destroy the person she was, in order to become the person she is becoming.
I got a job. Because we had only one car, if I was working when Syd would be at work, I had to walk. Two Miles. Rain, heat, sun, cold, snow, wind, monkeys, custard… I walked to work and got there on time. Syd would get me on her way home and I’d take my lunch break taking her home and coming back. If I was working in the morning, I would drive Syd to work, come home, get my lunch, drive to work, work eight hours, drive home, pet the cats, drive to Syd’s work, pick her up, bring her home, cook dinner, and try to come up with the energy to explain to people why I didn’t seem to be writing anything anymore.
If you want to talk about a period of Hired Self-Destruction, then that was is. Physically, I was in torment. Mentally, I was pretty badly depressed and I had no patience for the bullshit that dealing with people brought upon me. I had to bend my will toward the idea of patience, to dealing with people without hitting them. I had to work harder in that year and a half than I’d ever worked. Remember, I was still holding up Syd a lot of the time, or at least felt like I was. And I was cooking every day, or trying to. I was destroying myself, and I was basically employing my employer for the task.
And then the clouds actually broke. Later than I thought they would, but THEY DID BREAK is the important part. I thought they’d break with my second store, but that place was in a neighborhood that was as close as it could be to the ghetto while still being patrolled by the police. For a while there, I felt like I was piled on more than ever. I had a feeling my Self-Destruction was going to be a complete job. But that was actually a good thing. It caused me to do something I hadn’t thought about before. It caused me to prove I could take the extra weight. If I could strive through this morass, then I could do anything… right? I grew stronger, and it was then that I’d realized how weak I’d been, how dependent. But here was the thing, I could take the weight.
And then we got the car, and then the I heard about the new store opening, and I started to make a plan. And it was about that time I realized what had happened. I’d basically completed the Self-Destruction project and had somewhere along the line begun the rebuilding process. Making a plan was a sure sign that one is done being destroyed and that one is ready to build again. I got the car, I got the job, I got some shoes so I can go running, I’m going to buy some dumbbells, and I’ve got plans to make some art again. The shoes and the pass to Stony Creek were step 3, and I’ve got 7 more steps to go as far as I can figure. I’m making progress though. I am moving forward. We’re going to be okay again… or at last. I can’t tell yet.
Stephen Fry made an admission recently, that he’d attempted suicide last year, and it got me thinking about this. It got me thinking because I feel like I did commit suicide. I killed the person I had been, I just went on breathing like Nero Wolfe, and that gave me enough time to build up this person I’m becoming. Sort of building on the ruins, but still… building. I had to go through this period though, just to manage to get through.
Hired Self-Destruction. Sweet Fancy’s Mousey, that’s a stupid phrase.