Sometimes you want to give up.
Today might be one of those days, when everything you say and everything you see and everything you think feels wrong, when your skin is two sizes too small but your rib cage feels too big; you’re certainly getting there. Right? Right?
It isn’t that hard to get there. Sometimes the bad reality, the sick thick liminal space where the effort of breathing and the effort it would take to just. not. breathe. anymore. feels like it’s barely a soap bubble away. That your whole life is inside this fragile thing and outside it is the swamp.
Sometimes you can’t remember why you try to keep the swamp from rushing in.
You try not to read the news anymore, try to focus instead on other things than the sex scandal and the refugees and the war. It’s hard to avoid when the latest from Twitter pops up every time you look at your phone, it’s hard to feel anything reasonable is happening when there are children in cages because their parents walked 500 miles to get away from rape gangs and murder, but commenters online call them lawbreakers. It’s hard to think how you feel could even matter when the sky is trying to kill you. And everyone else, it’s not just you. Still, the sky. Trying to kill us all.
It makes it hard to breathe, and you can’t look away.
The sky is beautiful outside your office window. It makes everything seem less real. How can it be? you think, How can it be that a sky so blue with little puffy clouds floating by and a sunlight so clear and springlike even in the midst of thick humid July, How can it be that that sky is trying to kill us? Even if we incited it.
You try to forget. You left the Medical school partly because you thought Education might remind you less of how much of the world is just garbage, every day, garbage out of beautiful things. That seems foolish, now, but at least you get paid a little more. It lets you buy a bigger slice of the garbage.
You can never post this on Facebook, because your wife will read it, and she will be disappointed if she finds out how little you’ve changed. Your friends are also having a worse time than you, and they would probably read it too, and maybe feel bad, and maybe they would try to help, but you can’t let them help, because they have their own damn problems.
Your son probably wouldn’t read it, but that’s better, because he has more problems than anyone. And every problem he has he invented, and he rubs them on himself on purpose.
Well, except for the everyone problems.
Except for the refugees.
Except for the sky.
Some days feel sticky and thick, and you long for the crisp clear days of fall. You wonder if this is the year they announce that fall will no longer come to the Midwest, if this is the year that summer lasts until Christmas and then the polar vortex sets in and there are 40 solid days below zero, Fahrenheit, here in Wisconsin, while Alaska is 40 degrees in January and polar bears mate with grizzly bears to make the dreaded pizzly bear, larger than both. Larger than life and twice as deadly.
You think you remember that they were actually called that, but you can’t muster the will to look it up.
Some days, especially such hot bright July days when you wish it had been raining and you’ve started a fight — not on purpose, never on purpose — started a fight with pretty much everyone you can think of that you’re still talking to, some days when you’ve started a fight with everyone and you can’t handle the tedium of breathing, some of those days you long for winter. In the dark chill quiet of winter you don’t have to sweat in long pants for work: you can be grateful for them. You can wear your too-large suit jackets and hide the roundness of your body. You can pretend you’re more professional than you are.
Longing for winter is like longing for death. You used to regularly long for death, wishing with every. single. solitary. breath. that the next one would never come, but you don’t do that anymore. Living gets to be a habit, after a while, after your twenties. You suppose it’s that way for most people, although you can think of some famous examples to the contrary.
You remember the first time you read an essay by David Foster Wallace, you thought ‘This is a man who committed suicide.’ You weren’t right at the time, but that changed later. It’s the same thing that scares you about some of your own writing, the pieces good enough you don’t always recognize them right away when you read them again. It’s the clarity, and the hopelessness that sometimes spirals into hilarity and sometimes into transcendence and sometimes into more hopelessness. It’s the careful words chosen in haste to tell people things they have neither right nor desire to know. It’s the poetry of a careless thought inserted like a shard of crystal in granite. It’s the thing in the best songs, the sense that the writer was more of a shaper than a creator, that the words flowed out without choice as fast as they could be written down. Sometimes you think you’re writing that piece even as you’re writing it. Sometimes it feels like you’re writing your eulogy.
You feel like your life got put on hold back when you got pregnant. You were 19 years old, and very, very, very suicidal. You spent every day feeling like you didn’t want to exist: you were dating your drug dealer, helping him raise his 7-year-old, barely helping, falling short.
You’re still falling short, except the seven-year-old is your baby you had with your drug dealer, and he’s eighteen.
It’s horrible to look in the mirror and think ‘I have birthed an adult.’ You barely feel like an adult, and your genetic legacy is going to college in the nonexistent fall. You know, on good days, that you may not be ready for him to leave, just as he may not feel ready to leave, but that you’re both as ready as you’re going to be. On bad days, you think about kicking him out, how much easier it would be to not have to try to impart this last chance at wisdom, most of which you never learned.
You hope your kid does better than you did.
You have a friend your age who attempted suicide last year — said a cryptic thank you/goodbye on Facebook and took all her medication. You noticed, your wife went there and woke her up, she’s alive today. She probably would be anyway, but according to your wife she was stone gray when she found her.
Your wife asked her later why she did it. Was she sad?
She said, no, she just woke up one morning and didn’t want to be alive anymore.
I get that, you thought when you heard that.
I get that.