I spent most of yesterday trying to write a piece about suicide.
That’s not surprising. Suicide was in the news last week. Kate Spade committed suicide. Anthony Bourdain did, too, and just in case anyone wanted to pretend that this was unusual behavior, the Centers for Disease Control released a report stating that suicide rates are up in forty-nine of our fifty (kinda sorta) United States. 57.6% in North Dakota. More than 30% in 24 other states.
It’s also not unusual for me to write about suicide. For the past nine years, suicidal thoughts have been part of my life’s routine. Because the possibility of suicide is so often there, I talk about it a lot. It’s part of who I am. Besides, I don’t think we talk about it enough.
So, that’s what I sat down to do yesterday. Talk about suicide.
But I couldn’t.
I couldn’t because the words wouldn’t come. I couldn’t because the stories weren’t making sense.
I couldn’t because I started thinking about suicide.
Maybe it was because I was trying to write about suicide or maybe it was just because it was 2:45 on a hot Saturday afternoon in June. I’ve spent nine years with these thoughts and, honest to god, I’m not really sure what the triggers are. I’ll be leading a meeting or hanging out with my mula bandha in downward dog and I’ll hear a whisper. “Psst. What do you say? Today? How about you kill yourself today?” Or I’ll get up to get another slice at friend’s pizza party and my feet and ankles will turn to wet cement.
Suicide just shows up. Unannounced. Like a forgotten trick from Grindr.
Sometimes I’m ok with that. After nine years, thinking about suicide no longer shocks or scares me. I’m used to the thoughts. So far, they’ve always gone away. Should the day come when they don’t, when they prevail, well that’s just how the last lines of my life will be written. I don’t think Death cares. Either way, it’ll get what it came for.
But yesterday I wasn’t ok with thinking about suicide.
Yesterday it sucked. Big time.
Because until yesterday, things had been going really well.
Really, really well. For about two months.
But then they weren’t.
Right in the middle of a beautiful day, an exquisite chapter, a light and joy-filled moment, suicide roared in.
And that sucked.
It sucked the rest of the day.
It sucked when I turned my laptop off, realizing that it was pointless to try and write.
It sucked at dinner with good friends when thoughts about suicide kept me from fully pulling chair up to the table.
It sucked on the way home when my partner wondered if my distance was related to something he had done.
It sucked when I slumped on the couch next to our dog and couldn’t feel his compassion as he looked at me with worry and put his paw on my leg.
But, what can you do?
I’ve learned that it doesn’t work to try to punch my way out of the darkness or frantically search for a light switch. Suicide is a smart, formidable and persistent foe.
Instead, I just go with the flow.
I just go through whatever is in front of me. Noting whatever is there, even if I can’t feel it. Trying to be grateful for everything, even the parts that suck.
I just try to stay alive, until the thoughts recede and some semblance of light returns.
I just try to make it til morning.
Which I did This time, at least.
When I opened my eyes this morning, I could feel the sun’s light and warmth. I could taste my coffee, hear the birds.
And, by gods and goddesses, I could smell the roses. I know that’s a tired old cliche of a statement, but I tell ya, if you could have been in our backyard this morning, smelling the roses from this bush and that one, well you would have known why someone first said it.
“Come out here where the roses have opened, let soul and world meet.” Rumi said that. As always, I think he was on to something.
So, too, are the Zen Buddhists who suggest that there is a fragrance to love. That it is the mysterious and not quite describable fragrance of love, more than any physical attraction or legal commitment, that joins lovers.
I smelled that fragrance in our roses this morning.
To me, it is the fragrance not only of love, but also of life.
And I am alive. At least as of this writing.
And I am here.
To write these words.
Words that would not come to me yesterday, but are here today. Along with the fragrance of life.