Saturday, November 5, 2016

The room is cold and white and clinical.

This is not how this was supposed to go.

I am sitting on a hard, plastic mattress, staring at a blank wall while a nurse pokes and prods and hooks me up to machines.

I was supposed to be graduating.

The nurse places a small cup filled with pills in my shaky hands.

I was supposed to be finally walking that stage, diploma in hand, after seven long years. 

I tilt my head back and toss back the pills.

I was supposed to go on to grad school and become a professional artist.

The nurse hands me a thin white blanket because I can't stop shivering, dear god, I can't stop shivering.

No, this is not how this was supposed to go.


I am curled up on the mattress now, apathetic and cold and worn-down. I do not want to move / to be / to exist. I want nothingness to engulf me, darkness to weigh down heavy over me like a blanket.

The grief comes in waves: one minute I am breathing and the next, the ache in my chest has become suffocating.

And I can't decide what hurts more: that fact that I am not graduating after all this time, or that I did not actually love what I was doing?


She sets a plate full of food in front of me.

"I'm not hungry," I tell her, "I"m full up on sadness. There's no room in there for food."

"Food is life," she says.

I push the plate away.

I do not want life, painful and terrifying life, therefore I do not want food.


It's been two weeks filled with nurses and blood draws and above-average hospital food and something is stirring inside me and I want to shove it back down, down, down, and make it go away. It is a feeling that comes around when I sing, when I write, and when I create: a feeling in my bones of scraping up against something bigger than myself.   And I am afraid of it, afraid to be connected to life again. But I want - need - to keep singing and writing and creating. Something, something I don't quite understand is burning in my bones and it won't let go of me.

It feels like - I am scared to even say the word - hope? But I am terrified of it, of what it might mean to not be dying, to be fully present to my life. Death has always been my escape hatch, my "if things get bad enough" back up plan. Hope is too fragile, too unsteady, too fleeting to hold onto. Death seems safer. Hope: the word tastes foreign in my mouth, like it doesn't belong in this malnourished, scarred up body. I know hopelessness like the back of my hand.  But hope? No - no - I can't feel this / won't feel this / can't let myself go there. 


I broke down the other night as the sadness pulled me under, and the overwhelming sense of loss was more than I could bear. I wanted to call off this "getting well" thing, say no thank you, I'm done here, this is too hard and there's no way on earth that I'm going to make it out of this alive, much less happy and healthy. So the question becomes: to feel or not to feel? To face loss and be brave and move forward or run away as fast as I can? Life or death? They say things are rarely black and white but this feels like an exception to the rule. This tension is where I live, somewhere between the polarities: needing to sing / write / create - which anchors me firmly in LIFE, and a desperate longing to sink into hopelessness. And I don't want to face things: despite what anyone says, I am not brave, I am a coward, wanting more than anything to pretend that none of this exists. I have no idea what a life beyond my limited vision of the future could even look like. I am almost ready to give up right here, wave my white flag of surrender.


I am in my room, alone for a few short moments, and I try it -  it's been so long. No one hears me, I sing so softly that it's barely above a whisper 

Way down South the Mississippi calls my name

That's all I sing - I don't attempt more for fear of being heard. But it is enough: a Deep Breath in my lungs, a steady pulse in my veins. And I am being pulled against myself, against my own mind, back to life, whether I like it or not. Maybe it's survival instinct kicking in, that my body is rebelling against my brain, or maybe, that Thing that I brush up against when I create, that spark of Otherness in my bones, is stronger than I realized. Somewhere in the midst of all this heaviness, I think I want to give that spark a little bit of space to breathe and see what happens.