There’s No Easy Way to Say Goodbye
It’s from my writing room, almost weightlessly standing in the middle of the luxuriant colors of the Highlands of Virginia, that I’m writing to you. I got home a little while ago, after spending most of the last 6 months in my suitcases. It always feels kind of strange yet comforting for me to be back here… Everything is so peaceful, from the deep serenity of the forest to the harmony of the animal kingdom living in its midst, the whole eco-system works in a stillness I have hardly ever been able to experience – if at all. But that I am forever grateful whenever I can contemplate its graceful essence anytime I can spend just enough time to actually care unpacking my suitcase, which I have done yesterday, meaning I might be here for a little while.
I wrote quite a lot in this room, isolated from the rest of the house, from the rest of the world, where I could be alone with myself, surrounded by walls made of long windows, a place designed a hundred years ago for those with a fragile health and prone to illness to get some fresh air in winter, to get some rest whenever needed… It somehow fits me perfectly. From the first moment I visited the house, I knew this place would become my writing room. There are things like that that cannot be explained; you either follow their gentle guidance or you deny their invisible appeal altogether. The magnificent chaos of Tangier taught me that, but it’s only once I started living in the quietness of my current environment that I finally accepted to explore the asymmetrical shape of existence, or at least what it may mean for mine.
I lost a friend last week… Maybe it’s the reason why I feel so grim today. He took his own life. Some say it’s the ultimate act of cowardliness one can do… But to say something like that also means not knowing much about the matters of the heart, the magnitude by which sorrows can take a hold of you. Blessed are those who conquered their own darkness… But there are others, like me, like my friend who lost his battle, who will have to fight all their lives for what looks like a simple balance between light and darkness without capitulating. I heard people say so many times that committing suicide is a lack of love for others, while the reality of those who take that one-way road is often about offering an ultimate gift of peace to those they loved and who were greatly affected by their desperation. A heart is way deeper than what we want to make out of it to convince ourselves of our well-being, which is so often the reason we need to dwell into the absolute as a remedy for our need to define the indefinable. The necessity to understand covers a lot of the fear we have to actually comprehend what we keep denying in our own lives. Ignorance might be bliss, but emotions, may they be real or not, are felt no matter what they are made of.
I grew up in a family affected by mental illness. Before becoming a Christian, my father spent most of his life abusing alcohol to numb the pain, the same way others use pills, sports, entertainment, or possessions to cover their own. I grew up witnessing his profound struggles with depression and desperation. His mother was the same. She died of a broken heart, too young for anyone to die, too miserable for anyone to be. That anguish followed me, it’s a part of me. I know about it. Those close to me know about it. It’s a lonely place to be, filled with implacable paradoxes and indescribable contradictions. It’s like living just a little off focus, not blurred enough for reality to be totally out of reach and just not outlined well enough to actually be part of that reality. And as much as your loved ones want to join in, the only thing you want is for them to be totally excluded from that perpetual sensation of grief, until you completely shut down, as you feel like even your skin produces that mournful scent of emotional torment. It’s subtle, as you are still functioning, still keeping the appearance of slowly getting better, acting for the ones you love to have a relief in their own lives… until you can’t play the part anymore. It is at that moment that you become unreachable, sometimes horrifically to the point of not wanting to feel anything anymore… Life, death, everlasting pain… It doesn’t make much difference in the end, regardless of the so-called experts who theorize about whatever story we are ready to believe to make sense of it all.
I have always found very difficult to let go to that inner intuition. We tend to grow cynical as we witness life unfolding its reality, as we lose faith in our own ability to become the dreams we used to define with so many details and care ever since we were children. It’s as if, at one point, our memories suddenly became the theatre of our own disappointments, filled with more scenes of defeats and failures than clamors of personal and communal joys… As if our souvenirs were only baring images reflecting what we no longer could look back at, what needs to be denied or narratively recomposed, reconstructed, revamped… Some have the incredible strength to do it, but most don’t. But I don’t know what’s the most tragic of the two, if I’m really honest with you…
I first attempted to take my life when I was 16 years old. I felt I had seen enough… It’s my best friend who found me, who saved me. We never really talked about it after. I kept growing up, in what felt like a slow kind of suicide. There are always some moments of clarity, where light shines in too much of a wonderful way to deny even the existence of God, until there’s no light anymore and I am left with only the echoes of my own voice whispering the same funeral hymn in my head. It takes a lot of love to walk with people dealing with constant sorrows… It’s like a never-ending void you try to fill without understanding its nature… And that’s the most terrible thing; accepting your condition, acknowledging the pain is rarely the issue, but that it is more often the shame of being so “weak” and “unfitting” that makes you even more unbearable to your own eyes… Until you accept it. Until you see yourself like someone who’s partially blind. You need to trust what you can’t fully discern. You need to develop new senses to keep going. You need to accept the bruises coming with it, the frustration of your affective defect. You despised the cane, the helping hands, the sympathy, and compassion feels like pity and charity. But acceptance leads you to keep going, hoping it will feel normal one day, that you will find a purpose for it all. You develop a new way to see, an instinct of your own. It doesn’t heal the pain, but it’s enough of an ease to slowly feed that long gone faith in better tomorrows once again…
Yes, one of my friends died, leaving behind more love than he was able to take in with him… The catastrophe would be for us to surrender that love to the temptation of hopelessness such devastation creates within us. Especially with the world presently in turmoil, we’re all confronted to our own measure of disarray, and it too often takes the best out of us, dissolving the faith we had managed to keep for moments of uncertainties such as these… Is love the answer? Why wouldn’t it be? Because it seems so easy to pretend? To fake it through? Knowing we’ve become experts at plagiarizing its forms after being hurt so many times by its unfulfilled promises? But still, we nonetheless want to believe. Otherwise, what is there for any of us to long for? And just like acceptance allows us to see through our own darkness, love allows us to touch and to be touched in return. And I need to believe in its transformative nature, as much as I don’t believe in my ability to see beyond my own confusion in times of sorrowful crisis. I know that acknowledging my need for others, despite how loud the words “weak”, “shameful”, “unfit” might resonate inside my head, exposes me as who I am… It’s true, it’s never easy to say goodbye. But again, I believe that honesty, more than my desire for absolute, is love beyond the mirror of my own faithlessness… Maybe there never was any mirror, after all, only my decision to accept that I can perceive what I may never be able to see… And in that, there is hope and comfort. Always.
Much love always,
PS: If you need to talk, if you feel depressed, lost, or if you are fighting with desperation and hopelessness, please don’t hesitate to reach out, may it be to a friend or a stranger. There’s no need to walk alone in the darkness, whatever the reasons we may have to do so… Trust me… I know!