Again, trigger warning. The following contains a discussion of suicide. If you yourself are dealing with suicidal desire please, I beg you, call someone, a friend, a family member. You won’t be bothering or burdening them, I swear it. If that seems like too much right now then call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. I swear they help.
You can always tell a cheap New Age self-help movement by its emphasis on “Visualizing Your Successful Future.” It asks you to imagine when you’ve moved up three pay grades and can finally get that company lease and other sleazy middle-class marginalia that has nothing to do with who you actually might someday become.
I might be a little bitter with all this forward thinking stuff because I suck at imagining the future. I can imagine a complex beehive type dystopia where each person is genetically mutated to fit somewhere on a new food chain of differing hominids, but five years from now? Hell no. You could tell me I’d find ruby shoes and end up in Oz and I wouldn’t doubt you.
Like all things with me, this isn’t due to lack of imagination or work ethic (I like to think), but because, since I was seven years old my future plans were suicide. I am not being hyperbolic. I spent a grand total of twenty something hours anxiously thinking about how I could hurt or kill myself between 5th grade’s fall ball and spring baseball. It mostly amounted to dropping a rock on my foot. Or walking into the pond near my Connecticut family house with a rock. Or dropping a rock from my top bunk bed onto my head. I was hung up on rocks, and as inappropriate as it seems to laugh here, it always makes me smile. I was a bright kid who made up colorful worlds. The best I could do was drop rocks on things? But, as I’ve gotten older and more knowledgeable in adult ways, the scenarios have become more complex and feelings have gotten stronger.
There’s a pattern. There’s two general time’s I start thinking suicide (please forgive my casual use, but I’ve lived with the proclivity for suicide for so long, thought about it so much, lived through it, wrestled with the fucking thing that it’s not scary to me anymore… in certain situations. It’s scary when I start to desire it, when it feels comfortable. Somehow I still get flustered when I hear someone casually remark “I’ll kill myself if I have to—fill with inane complaint”[i]). I start thinking of suicide when I feel bored, purposeless and when there’s a transition, say for example, driving home from my VT digs for a week to sit in my house only to drive back to life as a graduate student.
I can tell you that I spent my Friday night buying a bunch of crap (actually graphic novels, so it was pretty awesome stuff, but you get the picture) on Amazon to assure myself I wouldn’t crash my car on the way to Burlington. I had to dangle a carrot in front of my nose so as not to purposefully drive off the road.
The thing is I’m not sure this desire actually comes from a dislike of Burlington, VT or a special love for my house in CT. I think these tensions are built into my changes. I think I’ve been so afraid of being hurt for so long that my immediate thought has been to head it off at the pass because no one can hurt me if I’m dead. I think I’m at the point where this is not useful anymore because the one thing I’m most afraid of hurting me is myself. Through involuntary practice (were talking starting around seven) I’ve used suicide as a way out and now I’m afraid it’s the only a through.
But that’s not true, is it. Every morning is a reminder that that isn’t true. Actually every ticking second is proof to me that my future is not suicide, if only because of the basest fact: I’m not committing it. Not now, not this next second, or the one after, or again, the second that is now.
This might seem small but there’s a deep reclamation in it for me. It allows me some small feeling of control, and a very strange metaphor for life at large.
In Infinite Jest one of the struggling heroes of the story, Don Gately, tells himself,
Any one second: he remembered: the thought of feeling like he’d be feeling this second for 60 more of these seconds—he couldn’t deal. He could not f—-ing deal. He had to build a wall around each second just to take it. The whole first two weeks of it are telescoped in his memory down into like one second—less: the space between two heartbeats. A breath and a second, the pause and gather between each cramp. An endless Now stretching its gull-wings out on either side of his heartbeat. And he’d never before or since felt so excruciatingly alive. Living in the Present between pulses.
To parrot Wallace further, it’s hard to be present and alive, for me especially, but enough of this type of unspoken faith gets me between crossroads and through them and into whatever the fuck the future holds.
[i] I think my comes from the fact that I know that person has not suffered as I have. I don’t say this in any kind of sanctimonious manner, but rather, to point out that it would be easy for me to be righteously indignant all the time. Think of all the jokes about suicide: the biggest losers are the people who can’t even kill themselves etc. This stuff bothers me but I know I would just start to pity myself if I was angry over it all the time. And sometimes I do get angry and self-pitying about the whole thing, but then that’s followed by shame because who am I to say what suffering really is? And what if everyone I meet really is suffering worse than I am and the starving children, the starving children in Africa and gratefulness and… It just turns into a fucking mess.