Written on September 16th, 2003 – Based on a conversation with a friend (referred to in this post as ‘you’).
I think my failing, my utter failing, is my tendency to feel as much as I can, whether it is pain or joy. I have often plumbed the utter depths of despair, but you have not often seen me like that, and nor has anyone else. It is at times like that I withdraw. Remember how I used to disappear. Remember how I used to leave.
You want to know what pain is. What is pain for me?
Pain is feeling so wretched that I am almost racked in two. It is feeling so much that I almost cease to breathe. I drown in my pain. I embrace it completely and let it utterly engulf me; it will not let me cry out, and when it has me it will not let me escape; not until I have felt as much as I can feel; not until it wrings every hope and life and happiness out of me.
You want to know if I have often felt this. This despair.
In my life I have felt it several times. To clatter to the floor in pieces and to remake myself. It is almost impossible. And each time I remake myself I am – different. Stronger, of course, but also more – hollow. It takes a lot out of me. That is a given.
What triggers my despair, you ask? Big things for a given definition of big? Small things for a given definition of small?
No, it is not small. Not ever small. The loss of someone, or to discover that one is not loved like one thought one was, or to lose a child, or to see someone die, or when one is cheated on. There is no trigger, but when it comes, one knows. No time for a deep breath before the plunge. No time at all.
You are sorry for my despair. I can see it in your eyes. You are sorry because you love me.
You say that my despair is not so crushing that it would debilitate me in the long term. You say that while I may appear fragile, you are no longer afraid that I will break.
No. I come back. I recreate myself. You see, despite everything that’s happened, I believe in hope and love. I dream of a future where I belong. I do not think every man is bad or wicked. I know I will have a child. I believe in hope and happiness, and I know that it will find me. It will not stay with me forever but it will come and go, and despair may stay away and not visit so often.
You say that is a complicated thought to which you have no immediate response.
Is it a complicated thought because it is raw?
No, you say. It is complicated because it intimidates you.
Why does it intimidate you?
Because it accepts the horrors of life and anticipates them. Do most people not deny the impending horror and go numb when it comes, that they may then come through unscathed?
You say that what frightens you about me is my tendency to embrace everything. That, you say, is a dangerous trait.
I do not know how to be anyone else.
You call me your phoenix.
And a phoenix is a disturbing bird, for it is far removed from ordinary human experience.
As am I, perhaps.
Author’s notes: I had this conversation about ten years ago. Today I was trawling through my LiveJournal archives and I found this conversation. I wanted to share it here.
There are some marked differences between me then and me now, but there are some marked similarities as well. I am no longer so fascinated by my pain. I think it’s because I am now officially a depressive; I am from time to time, anyway. When I read that post today I shake my head because I can see the signs. However I was not diagnosed for three more years.
I grew up in the past ten years. I am no longer that emo, if you like. I no longer feel the need to embrace and seek out something that has a tendency to happen whenever it happens. I just let life come to me now. In some ways I would rather leave some things alone, and in the absence of my leaving them alone, I want to examine how I feel and write about it, often in the third person. I no longer feel the desire to ‘belong’, which I now interpret as ‘fit in’. I have embraced my uniqueness now, and although I still sometimes long for that elusive ‘normal life’, I am for the most part very happy to be me. I am very happy to be the square peg that can never be labelled.
In terms of similarities, well, I still recreate myself. I still lack bitterness, despite, or perhaps even because, of all the things I’ve seen and experienced and lived. I believe in love and hope and all that jazz. I believe that everyone is capable of goodness. I would rather look for the good in people. I still embrace everything with everything I’ve got.
I no longer believe that I will have a child.