Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry and Bright...

Happy Holidays!

Humbug, you say.

I know. I remember. Ouch.

Holidays, this season in particular, can be terrifically hard on people. Even people who hold it together the rest of the year feel the drain, depression and angst of this time of year. Or more so, the let-down after the holidays are over. The "oh... that's it?" of January 2nd.

Thirteen years ago this week my cousin stepped in front of an Amtrak train. According to 'statistics' suicide rates go down, rather than up, at this time of year. But what is a statistic?

Just because the rates go down, doesn't mean someone isn't considering it. My cousin proved that. She was a newlywed, less than 3 months, at the time of her suicide. Doesn't sound like she was the 'standard' suicide, does it?

We weren't close, I'm estranged from what remains of my family, which works for me. But her story still makes me sad. There have been other suicides in my family, but not anyone I knew, this one was my generation and I did know her when we were children. I did attend her wedding. She was a stunning woman, but clearly she was very, very ill.

It gives me pause at this time of year, to remember her. To remember her wedding. To remember her funeral so soon after. Christmas lights and funeral homes. There was a lot of denial at that funeral. It's hard for people to accept that someone they loved took their own life. It's devastating for the survivors.

What's curious is how much more connected to her I felt after her death than ever during her life. Clearly we had far more in common than I knew. And when I was making my own suicide arrangements 2 years ago, not for the first time, but certainly the most serious and methodically well-thought out plans that thankfully got re-routed to the happy place I'm in now, I did think of her. I remembered how stunned everyone was, how shocked, how pained. Yet not once did it concern me.

Oh I was concerned about paperwork, and monetary issues and clean-up of my affairs (which I was doing my best to prep so that it would all flow easily for my inheritors). I was also concerned about the 'discovery'... I worried about the timing, worried that my body would be found in a timely manner so that my pets wouldn't be without food and water for more than a day. That's the sort of thing I worried about.

It never crossed my mind that people would be hurt. Never occurred to me that I might be the source of terrible sorrow to my beloved friends. Funny how I worried about the mundane aftermath, but not the emotional scars I might be inflicting. I know it was because I was too deep into my own pain to think that anyone would even miss me.

In fact, I was certain they'd all be better off with me gone.

My cousin would be 43 now. Who knows what wonderful things she might have done with her life in the last 13 years. Who knows how things might have improved for her if she'd held on a little longer... long enough to get well.

Every day I wake up I think to myself, I have another day. I'm here. I'm alive!

Every single day I wake up grateful for the last 2 years and 2 months of my life.

Every single day I remember - I never, ever have a day go by that I don't feel like the luckiest woman alive simply because I'm here. Because everything is different now. Because I am so lucky.

Christmas. The years leading up to my decision to kill myself were incredibly hard. Christmas was the worst of it. Both my parents dying slowly in nursing homes and hospitals. A horrible relationship with a man who fucked with my head and heart so badly that I didn't know which way was up from one day to the next. Loneliness that was so vast and isolating that it didn't matter how many people were with me, or how good to me they were, I was alone and the dark was all encompassing. And I went through the motions every day, and I made cookies at Christmas, because that's what I do... it's what I've always done. And everything meant nothing. All I wanted was to be gone. To make the hurting stop. To be dead.

I remember standing on the train platform at St. James station on Long Island. That's where the nursing home was, the one where first my mother went... and 2 years later my father. And me, trekking out on that long, lonely train ride. Standing on the platform in the cold waiting for the train back to Manhattan thinking about my cousin. Thinking how simple it would be to just step off the elevated platform just as the train was coming through... and it would all be over and the pain would stop. I can't ride commuter trains any more. Too many bad memories.

I remember hating Christmas. The one holiday that was good in my family. I hated it. It reminded me how alone I was, how much pain I was in, how empty I felt all the time. I was envious of everyone, especially at Christmas. People with families. People with relationships that were not INSANE. People who were happy. People who did not want to die.

I'm better now.

I don't love Christmas the way I used to. Because, well, I'm not a Christian. :) And what I loved about it was the illusion that I had a family. That at this one time of the year there was happiness. I don't need that illusion any more, so the holiday doesn't hold sway the way it used to. But I'm good with it again. I like it. I like having a tree again. I like seeing my friends. I like giving gifts. I like being happy. And I like making cookies. I like looking at the store window displays. I like just 'being'. I'm not doing anything special for Christmas, I'm on my own just hanging, catching up on the reading, playing with the dog (and sometimes the cat), making cookies, writing... and wallowing in the most wonderful feelings. Contentment. Peace, real peace, peace of mind. No envy, no longings for 'what everyone else has' that I do not. Because I have the one thing I cherish most, the thing I wanted passionately to throw away two years ago: I have my life. THAT is the best thing. And it's not an illusion. It's a pretty rockin' gift to have.

Merry Christmas. I wish you peace too!

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