Attempt suicide once– just once– and people never get over it. Attempt suicide eight or more times and people really never get over it. No matter how many years pass since the last one. No matter how many happy children you raise in the meantime. No matter that you’re happy and stable and married and a recently converted Mormon, for God’s sake.
If that counts as taking the Lord’s name in vain, I’m pretty sure I just broke one of the commandments.
Anytime I ask someone to talk on a weeknight, that is always the reaction I get: is everything okay? Is this an emergency? Do you need help?
And tonight I realized it is always going to be the reaction I get. People are always going to have trouble reconciling my past with who I am today. People are always going to see me as little more than someone that once upon a time attempted suicide. Not everyone, but mostly– even the people that didn’t know me back then. Next Halloween I don’t even have to bother with a costume; just drop the S word enough times and that will scare the shit out of people plenty.
For anyone who might be listening: everything is okay. It is not an emergency. I may need help in a mild and ordinary way, but I won’t be dead by my own hand tomorrow morning. I’m not the scared and helpless child I once was. And even then I hoped and I wished and I dreamed that someone would have the courage to say “no” to me, and when someone finally did, I celebrated like there were all the tomorrows.
I’ve grown since the time I was fifteen. In my emergencies, I call one person only. When that one person isn’t available, I get to a place where I won’t do anything stupid and I sit on my butt and I eat cookies and I wait until he is. And unless you are sixty some years old, male, and living in Georgia, that one person ain’t you. I call the one person that I know has the experience and the lack of fear to handle me in crisis mode. Trust me; you don’t. My crazy goes way deep.
The thing is, my life never gets to that point anymore. Part of the reason people react with so much fear is due to my history. The other part is that we are so completely unaccostomed to asking for help before it is too late. I don’t let my life slide that far out of reach anymore.
Today we got to slightly moody and PMSing, and I didn’t even let that fester. My method of coping went as such:
After I sent out a plethora of texts and got several, “Are you okay”s in response, I called that old man in Georgia anyway, even though I was okay, even though it wasn’t an emergency, just because I felt like hearing his voice. It felt good. For years and years people went out of their way to ensure that I stayed alive from one day to the next, but once I was solidly, firmly, and very much permanently alive, people really didn’t give a shit. They didn’t want anything to do with me past that. Just insist that I live, that living is a good thing (though no one could ever tell me why), and then leave me to wrangle with the life I was left with.
This old man in Georgia– maybe he has poor taste, or something– but he enjoyed talking to me even though I was okay, even though it wasn’t an emergency. Just because I am alive and I wanted to hear his voice. And, oh baby. That’s how living becomes worth it.
My subsequent plan of action was to listen to the Killers just loud enough to guarentee some hearing loss by the time I get to age sixty something, while pumping away on a stationary bike for a half hour.
“YOU SIT THERE IN YOUR HEARTACHE
WAITING ON SOME BEAUTIFUL BOY TO
TO SAVE YOU FROM YOUR OLD WAYS”
Did you know the lead singer of the Killers is Mormon? Is, was. I don’t know. I remember listening to “Smile Like You Mean It” for the first time in my best friend’s bedroom seven years ago and pressing repeat over and over and over again, as if simply hearing the words could instill the ability in myself.
Every time back then I wasn’t okay and it was an emergency and that best friend never learned to tell me “no” and I never learned to tell her that it was okay to say “no” and we didn’t stay best friends much longer.
People are either happy or unhappy. Decide who you want to spend your time with, when and how much. Assume we’ll be alive and ready for the show.