I penned the following essay a few years ago:
Sharon emailed me today. She was full of praise for an essay I read her. She told me told me how cool it was that I let her laugh at how twisted it was, and she thought, that’s my great friend, she’s genius and such a beautiful mess. I wrote her back to thank her, not just for the praise, although she’s one of those friends from whom it means the most, but for giving me the name of my book.
I couldn’t have described my life more perfectly. There have been times when things were a real fucking mess. (See my essays on Grease, the nuthouse, et al.) But there have also been moments of exquisite beauty, and I’ll write about those, too. Sitting on a rooftop in Greece drinking ouzo with Manjeet, the full moon so close we could…(I refuse to finish that sentence with “touch it,” its just so cliché, albeit really, really accurate.) Laying in bed one night and thinking how I’d been waiting for my “moment” in life—the one that would redeem all of my suffering—and asking, what if this is it? What if this is the moment? And looking over at my beautiful dog sleeping in his bed and answering, if this is the moment, it’s enough.
It was only last year that I fully took on my life. To the outside observer, I really lived: traveled, moved cross-country, was a risk taker. But I knew the truth. I was a ghost. Half in and half out of this life. I’ve lived through some really dark times, and always I took it as a given that I could choose to check out anytime I needed to. I don’t mean “check out” as a euphemism for ignoring something, ie: “My fiancé always checks out when I talk about the bridesmaids’ dresses.” I mean check out.
In high school it served a purpose. The only way I could get myself to go was by counting all the pain pills I had leftover from a couple of surgeries. They were my insurance policy. If things got any worse, I could come home and end it. As I look back on it now, I realize it gave me a feeling of power. This one thing, during an incredibly turbulent time, I could control. And nothing—not my mother, my sister, or the kids at school—could trump it. Royal-fucking-pain-pill-Flush, baby. I was waiting for my moment to go all in.
But last year I realized something. I’m getting too old to take comfort in my potential. It was always my solace growing up. You’ll see, I’ll do great things and you’ll realize you should have been nicer to me. I was just deep, not crazy. But where were these great works of art, these accolades, these fuck yous to my former peers? (Inferiors)
I really got that as long I had a half-assed commitment to Life, Life would have a half-assed commitment to me. And really, I’m a whole-assed kind of girl. I searched for something I could connect to, something I could be fully committed to. Not my family or friends. I love them dearly, but relationships evolve, change, and sometimes disappear. Not an event in the future, nor a goal to keep me hungry, but never satisfied. And let’s face it: my F.U. goal wasn’t exactly working anyway…
After weeks of crying, meditating, questioning…I got my answer one night as I lay in bed, one hand over my heart. I thought, what if I just commit to follow this heart for as long as it beats? Because I will never be me again. I will never have this face: with it’s crooked nose and what-color-are-they-today eyes; this body: with its flexibility and tendency to illness and injury; this life. This beautiful, beautiful, mess of a life.
Which is why last week, while I cried for two hours for no reason I knew, kneeling on my dirty pergot, head to the floor, wailing and raw, I never thought of checking out. Not literally or figuratively. It was the most honest thing I did that day, and I’m really, really glad I was here to experience it.