Who knew suicide is so damn hard?

Who knew suicide is so damn hard?

And life support is so damn loud. I awoke from my coma in a room filled with me and my machines. I don’t know how many, but we barely fit. I lost count of the tubes at 20. There was a nurse’s strike, so I got my very own anesthesiologist as my personal nurse. I was in the cardiac care section of ICU; me and my machines. As I came to I remember thinking the airplanes were loud. And why was I so close to them? Maybe it was the machines. Maybe it was the blood pumping through me. The first voice I heard was a doctor telling someone, “She’s a lost cause.” I said, “Fuck you.” Good for me. Finally… some gumption. Although, with the breathing tube in me and the fact that I was not yet officially out of my fugue state, I believe it came out in a whisper as , “uchrgg.” A whisper no one heard.

The story of my life; my cries went unheard. And I continued to live in a world of duplicity and fear, not yet knowing there would be salvation.

Never Love You Less – Cannot Love You More

When my son first told me he no longer believed in G-d I thought it was normal adolescent stuff. He was almost 13 and after all when I was that age I questioned G-d all the time. What I forgot was that I wasn’t normal and neither is my son. And 13 isn’t necessarily the time young boys arrive at “what’s it all about Hermann Hesse?”

Maybe, in addition to other things, Manhattan kids are smarter and more savvy, but I had dropped the ball. I was so busy trying to smooth the rough edges I forgot that sometimes it’s all about the rough edges. So my son got more anxious and more depressed. He made some foolish and even dangerous choices.  And I was forced to confront the reality that my son was in danger.

Only a year before he had cried to me, “How can I believe in G-d? He didn’t answer my prayers!” His prayers were not selfish ones. He had prayed for a mother suffering and in pain. He had prayed for medical miracles. He did not tell me, but I knew he also prayed that his birth father would, if not love him, at least want to look in his eyes and know him. Selfish? Not really. Essential, I would say. He mourned important loses in his life and as a sensitive soul did not feel prepared to cushion the blows that fell upon him.  Mostly, he championed a mother who suffered and the ache in his soul searching for surcease. We talked about G-d in abstractions as well as absolutes. I told him he himself could not be the most powerful thing in his life. He had to concede some power to the beauty of nature, or the energy that gifted us to each other, or even the grace that gave me the strength to face my own trials and ultimately heal.

I thought we were making progress. Then came Newtown, and unending school lockdowns and drills, bad influences at school, and social media where he shared his thoughts with strangers.   I knew his Facebook account, but knew nothing of tumbler, twitter, ask.fm. Suddenly, HE was the stranger and I had to become an investigative reporter.

I then had to admit something his father and I had really known all along. Our son feels a dark burden. So I assured him, “Son, we will never love you less, and cannot love you more.” I told him, “The only thing we wish for you is to feel safe, and to feel comfortable in your own skin. Whatever your burden, whenever you are ready to share it, please know that nothing you say or do will ever  shock or embarrass us. You can never cause us shame.  Your father and I, our love, our home – our FAMILY – we are your safety net. This is your absolute haven. If you know nothing else, please know that.”

In those moments I know he believes me. But he does not yet believe in himself. All we can do is continue to create a safe, true and honest place. Create an environment that is constant and consistent and one that will allow him to share what is in his heart; and one that will allow him to come out – to himself, to his parents, to anyone else – as the true man he is. Only then will I know that he finally accepts that who he is is not only loved and accepted, but truly beautiful inside and out.

 

The (shock) Value of Performance Art

My junior year in college I dressed for Halloween in a skimpy black bathing suit (more of an invitation than a suit) and had my entire body painted. A mountain scene here, a bull’s eye there. My face was a lion and I had a golden afro. I wore a full length burgundy sheep skin coat and FMPs. I then went with a male friend as his guest to the Young Republican Club’s Halloween Bash. Yes, they called it a bash. When I removed my coat many a Patricia Nixon got the vapors and many Dicks (Nixon, that is) stood to attention. My friend ended up having to relinquish his membership. But we had a blast. More important, I learned the shock value of performance art.

Life Lessons

I never really “got” Herman’s Hermits – until one magical day when they played Westbury Music Fair. It was a few years past their prime and Peter Noone had longer, lighter, flyaway hair. A pre-cursor to Farrah. He wore a gender bending paisley velvet pant suit. I was in the 1st row and OMG did I need a drool cup. I was prepubescent and he was gorgeous. I dreamt of him that night. Not much later I saw Judy Garland in what became her farewell tour – also at Westbury – and wouldn’t you know it, she wore the same exact Peter Noone pantsuit! I only found the juxtaposition humorous in hindsight – and with distance. In the moment I was inexorably sad. Here was a woman I’d loved all of my life fading away and begging for approval. I’d expected so much, was so eager to see her. She showed up late and was nothing of what I’d expected, but in a much sadder way than Peter Noone was nothing of what I’d expected. Together, they were life lessons about celebrity and expectations.

Girl Crush

My sisters and I were supposed to model Halloween costumes on The Today Show when I was 5 years old. I was less excited about the gig than about spending time with the most exciting woman in the world; “Aunt” Barbara” was worldly and smart, clever and shrewd, sexy and delightful… Not that I’d put it into those words at that age. What I could have told you was that she was the first woman I ever saw play chess. There she was, Uncle Lee’s inamorata (soon to be wife), impossibly chic and beautiful, reclining on a chaise by the pool. She’d move a chess piece almost casually (or so it seemed to me) as she spoke about worldly things like politics, business, news. And then she blew my mind by taking the time to explain her strategy to a painfully shy girl. She was also the first feminist I ever met, although I didn’t realize it at the time. And I was smitten. Growing up, watching my chess teacher take on the world always gave me a thrill.