On the day Donald Trump was elected president, I noticed an extraordinary amount of small important things.
Walking back from buying coffee, I saw a woman sitting cross legged beneath the wide spread of a tree, the yellow of her coat catching against the tree’s webbed branches. I watched as an older couple took hands as they crossed an empty street. Saw a dog pad his tail against the sidewalk in gentle greeting.
I paid more attention than usual to the white lines of paint against the dark wet pavement, the flickering of rain on my windshield, the press of my footsteps, the awareness of presence.
All this because, in my life so far, I have not so much flirted with suicide as recklessly dated her. I have taken her out, let her eat her fill, asked her to sleep next to me in bed at night. Even on good days I can remember the press of her body against mine, the weight of her imprint on a mattress.
This is to say — giving up is something I understand intimately. And so, there in, is the experience of staying. The un-give-up.
And so, on the day that Donald Trump was being elected, I noticed on purpose. I have done this my entire life, and I am certain it is what has saved me. Not just the click of saved moment / movement / sound / feeling, so much as the ability to notice at times when needed most.
Tonight, a green glass jar on my windowsill is leaking light. A small round candle inside of it licks the sides. The sky skims with lightening. My small soft kitten sleeps restlessly on the couch, waking to the sound of thunder only to lift his head, blink, and sleep once more.
Today, I am working on noticing. Working on the un-give-up.
Today, people with more power than me decided things for me. Today, people publically victim blamed and set a precedence for it to continue. Today, I read the list of pre-existing conditions that would deny someone protection and health care coverage and counted at least 3 that I have documented evidence of being diagnosed with. Today, I thought of all the people for whom this news is not just bad, it is debilitating, life changing, life ending.
I am so tired. I am so eager to turn off, to shut down, to stop. The stop sounds so easy. So dramatic, yes. So ultimately damaging for others. But oh — how much easier in this moment. Because there isn’t just the world of hurt, there is also our worlds of hurt, our individual universes in which people have left or hurt us or not loved us enough or loved us too much or some combination of those. All of that has felt big and controlling, as if the flexing hand of those in more power can rid me not just of health care, but of my relationships and friendships and job and stability and hope and help.
What I have learned from dating suicide (and her friends depression, etc.) is that at the place where you want to give up, there are only two choices. Give up (whatever that might mean in that situation), or don’t. I like the gray, have spent most of my life trying to fit in the space between black and white. But with that — there is no 1/2 way. There is just yes, or no. Do, or don’t.
Once, in college, I told a therapist I wanted to die and was going to try if she didn’t help me (please, I said, staring out the thick glass of her window, please, please don’t let me go home). She listened quietly until the clock turned and told me we’d talk about it next week. I walked out of her office, down the stairs to the parking lot, and sat in my car. I remember little because of the state I was in, except that in that moment, I was wildly and excruciatingly aware of the choice I had. Do, or don’t. Leave or stay. I listed the choices.
- Turn the car on.
In that moment, if I had turned on the car, if I had driven out into the world — I would have chosen to leave / do / give up. I know that, still, with a certainty that I almost fear.
Instead, I put my keys in the passenger seat. I opened up the back door of the car, crawled into the backseat, and curled up. I slept and cried and slept and cried, long after the therapist who fucked up drove home for the night. I stayed for 5 hours in that parking lot, in the back of my car, waiting.
And then, when I knew I could, I turned the car on and drove away.
This matters only to say that sometimes, un-giving-up looks like curling up in a car in the dark wet parking lot of your therapist’s office and just waiting. That sometimes, we have 0 answers and the smallest fraction of hope, and still the ability to notice a green glass jar leaking light. How that’s enough, somehow. How just choosing that makes it so.
Dear friends, for tonight, let’s just wait.