I’ve had to make some of the most important decisions of my life recently. A few weeks ago I saw a boat run aground on the shore of Jericho Beach and I felt an intense shift in my life. I can’t quite explain what I felt because I have no method of comparison. I was spatially aware of this boat in a way I have never been about anything else. The things I’ve been feeling lately are not familiar to me. It’s hard to write about something so abstract as a feeling. Roland Barthes says: “To try to write love is to confront the muck of language: that region of hysteria where language is both too much and too little, excessive and impoverished,” and while I pine over words that will accurately describe acute things like this, I have to agree with him here. But I need to try anyway.
Yesterday I saw the same boat again, only this time it was gutted; everything inside of it was taken out and strewn along the beach. Everything in my life is changing and ending. It all looks very wrong but feels so right, somehow. I haven’t been able to talk to anyone about what exactly is going on with me and I try and fail to write about it eloquently just as I’m doing now. I have to say something though. Last week I started noticing birds I’d never seen before. I haven’t slept for more than four hours a night in two months. When I do sleep, I am plagued by the most visceral nightmares of my life. I am functioning surprisingly well in spite of this. I feel like I know myself more than ever, there’s a calm clarity that rests inside of me all the time and makes me think I’m either entirely intuitive or completely nuts. The latter is a second guess, it’s something I’m afraid of but it doesn’t seem true. This clarity is one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced because it is pushing me to abandon everything I know.
My wife and I have split up. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life. The life that we built together was beautiful, whole and full of love. We hardly ever fought and she was and remains to be my best friend. Choosing to leave a relationship that felt so much like what people search their whole lives for felt completely illogical. No one understands why we have decided to part ways. It’s not something I can explain nor feel it’s necessary to. There are a lot of things I can’t write here. There are truths that have revealed themselves to me recently about what I want in my life and it has completely broken open everything. The things I want don’t match what she wants. We love each other too much to take from each other the possibility of a life that we both need. The suffering is poignant but I have to trust that the results are good. The amount of loss and change in my life is dizzying, there’s nothing good to hold onto, the only thing I have is this unshakeable knowing.
Once you stop lying to yourself about something you can never tell yourself that lie again. You can’t unknow something once it is known. I’m tired of running away from the things that I know are true. Sometimes, we have to break ourselves wide open and we have to do the hardest, and scariest and most nonsensical thing because we know, somehow, that it’s what’s right. We tend to run toward what is familiar and comfortable because as humans, we crave safety. Every bone in my body is pushing me in a direction that looks potentially unsafe but there’s something in me that knows it’s right and I can’t ignore it.
A few months ago I set out on a research goal. I’d been working around the clock on this project and the synchronicities started piling up until I couldn’t ignore them anymore. I remember feeling so strongly that this experience was bringing me where I needed to go. I got to know myself so deeply through this process and I started to notice things about my life that I’d never noticed before. I started to see myself in a completely different way. There are parts of myself that I have unlocked, they are scary and real and I can’t go back to a reality where I’m unaware of them. To really, truly know oneself we have to break open, we have to face all of the terrible things that have happened, we have to air out every cabinet and unlock every window. The price of this is a profound period of chaos.
What I am experiencing is so abstract that it has forced me so far outside of myself that I don’t recognize a single thing about my life, the only thing I see is a version of me that I have always needed. Facing ourselves is hard work. It’s possibly the hardest work we will ever do. I am a contemplative and solitary person. I spend a lot of time alone writing, thinking and meditating. Because of this, I have a hard time ignoring myself, even when I want to. Because of this, I’m someone who is incredibly in touch with their intuition. I don’t take shortcuts when it comes to knowing myself. I try to face every feeling as it comes up. I am lucky to understand myself in these ways but this connection with myself has led me to such a life-altering crossroads that I can no longer feel the ground and that is so scary. I am looking desperately for something to cling to. It’s hard to stay alive when everything feels scary and uncertain, when you’re leaving behind everything that was safe, when the pull is toward the unknown and there’s no sure thing to run home to anymore.
When people hear about my mental health struggles, they assume that I hate myself. I don’t, not at all. When I look in the mirror, I see a person who I love very much. Suicide sometimes feels like a self-protective mechanism when this life feels like too much. Right now, it feels like too much. I have spent the last three years processing trauma that I thought I could never face. I had a PTSD flashback that lasted two whole months, I stopped eating for six months and was catatonic. I pushed through everything until I got to the other side and now that I am here, being made to leave everything behind, it feels a lot like a shitty deal. When you have complex trauma, it’s hard to trust yourself. When you have a knowing this strong, it’s impossible to ignore it. The tension and the conflict inside of me about doing something that, on paper, looks reckless has pushed me to nearly end my life. But I realize what I actually want is to be alive. I want a life that I don’t have and I have had to strip away every piece of the life I do have in order to find that. This is the scariest thing that I have ever had to do. But I don’t feel like I have a choice. In order to do the things that I need to do, I have to invent new ways of being brave.
I keep writing poems about walking through a small circle. That’s the only way I can describe this feeling. I can’t see the edges, the space is confined and unknowable, but I know I have to go through it to get to something greater. I am lucky, there are things I know and understand about myself as unshakeable truths. The world makes me doubt myself all the time but my intuition has yet to lead me astray. Typically, the path ahead is clear, this time all I have is this blind faith. I believe that I am heading in the right direction even as the life I have known and so carefully built with someone I love crumbles down around me. After the boat, I saw a mud hen in the park. I’d never seen one in this specific spot before. Mud hens are known for creating new worlds. I felt supremely cared for.
If you’re reading this and you feel any of this too, I will walk to the ends of the earth to help you come to some sort of grounded conclusion. I’m already headed there. We can find it together. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that nothing is set in stone, nothing is certain and sometimes what we need doesn’t match what we think we should need. Sometimes, something entirely unexpected comes into our lives and makes us question everything. I believe we have to listen to this. If our lives get broken open in this way, we have to let them break. Life is so much about love and the price of love is grief. In spite of this, I want to love as much as I can and I don’t ever want it to pass me by. I’m too afraid of regret. I strongly believe that nothing happens by accident. All we have is this moment, and all we can do is allow ourselves access to the truth.
It’s confusing to feel both so alive and so ready to be dead. The crossroads I am faced with is a choice between a love that is terrifying and a life that is safe. No one copes well with change, and being afraid has never been something I cope well with. Frankly, I would rather not have to jump off this ledge with no evidence besides my intuition that the ground beneath me is soft. But, everything in my life is so full of synchronicity and symbolism, every moment is lined with more evidence that somehow, this empty and endless horizon is the place I need to run toward.
I don’t want this to become a treatise on signifiers and the order of things, but the scariest part of everything happening for me internally is knowing that I am extraordinarily ill. It would be a lie if I said I haven’t questioned my sanity deeply but I come to the same conclusion every time: I feel more lucid than I ever have. There haven’t been any other times in my life where I have felt a deep and still “knowing” about the direction I’m headed. In spite of this, the direction is so objectively nonsensical that I can only trust it with abandon. I have free will but every bone in my body is pushing me toward a specific end. Trusting an instinct is hard when you’ve experienced trauma. And mental illness can certainly make you gaslight yourself, but I can’t turn around now that I’ve begun heading in this direction.
Right now, in this life I know that I’m experiencing something entirely solitary. This is something between myself and me only. Yesterday I made the biggest decision of my life staring out at Bowen Island, a small tugboat went by just as the finality of my decision hit me concretely. I saw a little finch in the trees and the fog was hugging the mountains in a reassuring way that I could feel. I want to be less cryptic but there are parts of this that are too personal to me. I’m going home to Belfast this summer with absolutely nothing and the thought makes me crazy with fear but the reality is like it’s already happened. Everything in my life has always revolved around Belfast. Growing up, my dad loved Belfast more than his own family, he passed that on to me. In chasing my dad’s love, my heart moved to Belfast and I have never stopped pining for the land that my entire family lineage called home. Ever since I can remember, this is what I knew I needed and the small circle is finally wide enough for me to crawl through.