a confessional digression

Please. Don’t switch off my mind by attempting to straighten me out. Listen and understand, and when you feel contempt don’t express it, at least not verbally, at least not to me.

Sarah Kane, 4.48 Psychosis

Last night, I watched the silver floods encroaching, another dawn I could not delay, another figure beside me, drenched in brine, immersed in the stygian shoreline of my bed. My limbs all tangled in his hands, eyes as wide and as empty as the harbor, not speaking, barely breathing, just awake. The rain fell like glass, splintering against the windows: English spring swept past the curtains to croon against the edges of my skin. In my shrine to inertia, self-effacement, inundation, I sang myself silently, at long last, to sleep.

This city has settled into the contours of my soul, has gutted the body I entrusted to its keeping. I know all of its intricacies, the dark architecture of its desire. I know its need to categorize, glamorize, idealize the misery of the human mind, to watch its spectacular collapse without interference. This respite is condemned to its own solitude, subjected to the whims of the horrific and achingly wonderful history it retains.

I adore and abhor my own feral half-life. Insurrectionary cultures and radical ideologies lend themselves to this spectacle of difference, this specter of indifference, this paradox that prevails here. To be violent and reckless and insolent is less frightening than trying to stay healthy and sane. How many of us are ‘mad geniuses,’ and how many the wayward products of troubled homes: still subconsciously childlike, in need of the guidance we never received, facing the consequences of adulthood as we must? 

If I were to lay my own heart bare, at this moment, even I am not sure what I would find. There is still so much that I do not understand.

But what do I have left to be afraid of? I used to fear the loneliness of being left. I don’t have to be afraid of that anymore because I have been left. I have been left over and over again. Of course, I wish some parts of me had not been killed off quite so quickly. Those were some of the best and most tender ways of feeling that I still knew. I was never supposed to be like this: I was supposed to be normal. But when you are dissected and lied to and always so goddamn confused–you learn to sharpen your edges. Where they hurt the most, you leave them jagged. You allow the others to wound themselves against you, to break like ships against the face of a cliff–that cliff they were so sure you were always on the edge of.

I knew the choice I was making last spring. I knew what the consequences would be if my trust proved ill-founded. And it did. So I lost the faint hope that I had salvaged so lovingly, that had sustained me for so long. No part of that remains inside of me now.

In the summer, I told my therapist that I would die for my friends, that they were the family I had never had. By early winter, I had to look her in the eye and explain that no, no they do not talk to me anymore, not because of what I did, but because of what I am, because they have finally come to know me, and they have come to know that they cannot love me. Not with my nightmares and my episodic terrors and my horribly wounded mind. I have no one now.

So I stopped caring so much. I learned to just fade away. I compare my life to what it once was, what it has been, when I loved viciously, when there was something left to save. Where I once knew madness and joy, now I only have this body. I have blood and enamel. I have fragments of a family. I have a place at university. I have a prognosis. I have my language. I have a promise I cannot break. These things are all that I am. Everything else is transient at best. My history is a grave: it is best left undisturbed. All the same, I keep my ear to the ground.

I am getting healthier, but health does not feel robust, or vivacious, or restorative. Mostly, it lives in the quiet acts of endurance that I practice, and practice, and must not forsake. It is strange not to suffer. It is strange not to know the loss. Health feels like growing older, warier, more indifferent. Sometimes it feels like solitude and solemnity. Sometimes it feels like nothing at all.

Even at my best, my most sincerely content, I still feel that irrevocable distance between myself and the exterior world. I see all of the people who are not me, those harbingers of lived existence, and I am not like them, but I want to be. Their lives are written in a language I can scarcely decipher, my entire existence is an act of translation with which I can barely keep pace.

So yes, sometimes I am still strange, and sometimes I still frighten myself. But more often I am deeply and utterly and unconsciously in love with the world around me. Because I am lucky. I am lucky to have been abandoned, I am lucky that it has been so hard. Every day has become a refinement of, an engagement with, the conscious art of loving myself. How many others can say the same? 

Once, I was a universe that could not keep its shape. I was a nebulous dreamscape of scorched flesh, and bleeding wrists, and vague, unparalleled yearning. I was filled with that aching need to be formed into something new. Now I am nothing but a purpose and a vow. I have yielded gently to some simple, starless life. You could not bring me back now if you wanted to. And I could not love you again if I tried.

And there was no pain.
The wind

was cleansing the bones.
They stood forth silver and necessary.
It was not my body, not a woman’s body, it was the body of us all.
It walked out of the light.

Anne CarsonThe Glass Essay