In 2016, after experiencing unimaginable personal tragedy, I made a choice to go places and seek experiences. After so much pain and loss I knew I needed to explore spaces I had never ventured before. It didn’t happen all at once, it took me a few months to reach the end of being strong enough to “just move on.” No one is equipped to just move on from suicide; it is like the ultimate psychological blow. It knocks you down, and while you are falling it looks you in the eye and says, “how dare you assume beauty is enough to carry on?”
Carl Jung, Albert Camus, Ernest Becker, and others became my new besties. Each of them grappled with the question, the motivation, the absurd reason for forging ahead in a universe that can feel cold and uncaring. Jung guided me down into the subterranean depth of my psyche and Camus helped me understand where I was and how to walk back up the hill. Becker, well I am not done with him, but I can tell you his words made more sense of this messy thing we call life than anyone in a very long time.
For the first time in my life, I allowed my creative work to dip into the taboo, the dark, the unreconcilable parts of this man and modern culture. After being struck by a motorist, I realized I was enmeshed within a process with the potential to kill me. Death is a sobering pill, and pain, real or imagined, encourages the nervous system to find a new path and wait for the sun to rise.
In 2016, I consciously choose to explore, in the first person, some very difficult and potentially dangerous topics. Topics like stigma, addiction, shame, and invisibility - to name just a few. I grappled with my internal conflicts in ways I never thought possible. I was not given a choice, so I faced the absurd truth folded into the horrible beauty of my life. I asked myself questions which can lead the mind into dark regressive loops and I emerged...changed, not a new man but a whole human. Why I steered this course is less important than what it took to return and heal from a disease highly correlated with addiction, isolation, and suicide.
In the Greek myth, Sisyphus finds a way to face the futility of pushing his rock up the hill only to watch it roll back down. He finds an answer to his absurd predicament.
2016 is gone! I survived it and as 2017 takes shape, I feel the allegory of my own story taking shape in the blinking cursor on the screen, in colors at the end of a paint brush, in video clips, and conversations. I hope you will listen...too many people are dying from addiction...too many people are dying from suicide...too many of us don’t have a clear path back to connection, peace, and joy. People are lost because few of us remember how to talk about who we are when we have nothing to hold on to. Platitudes and psychobabble and self help and hospitals and positive thinking are shutting the system down, and we are all part of the system.
I am still uncertain about telling you this story. Can you set aside internal conflicts long enough to listen? If you listen, can you hear the story without judgement? Instead of holding tight to a need to be right, can we find common ground? For me, this is a mission...to reclaim my own life and in the process point the way for anyone who has become lost in the desert.
...Birds make great sky-circles
of their freedom.
How do they learn it?
They fall, and falling,
they are given wings.
-Rumi translated by Coleman Barks