I made it
I honestly can’t remember the date of the last time I attempted to take my own life.
I’m sure it’s stored away up there in my brain somewhere. Compartmentalized into a box marked “Do Not Open” shoved under eight years-worth of back issues of Vanity Fair. But it is odd to me that I can’t remember it.
Because I’ve always been great at remembering numbers. My first address: 1434 Eaton Avenue. My best friend from grade school’s phone number: 773-6551. My social security number: … just kidding.
But that date isn’t readily available.
And it shouldn’t be, because that part of my life, I’m happy to say, holds no power over me now. No, it’s not unimportant. It’s necessary to mark lows with the highs to track where you’ve been, and I’ve used my story several times over the now more than three years since my last attempt to try to connect with people. To let people know they aren’t alone.
The dates I do remember in no particular order:
12.09.1993: The date I like to call my mother and my “friendiversary” (my birthday)
04.25.2019: The day I met my nieces for the first time.
10.11.2013: The day Kim, S and I went to see Wayne Brady, thus sparking a friendship that’s going on six years
The topic of my last attempt came to mind recently after I saw a production of Marsha Norman’s “night, Mother” at Wolf Pack Theater in Sandy. The play is two-woman, one-act comprising the last night of character Jessie’s life. Jessie, daughter of Thelma, has decided to kill herself. She suffers from epilepsy, has never been able to hold down a job, is divorced, lives with her mother and has just had enough.
Throughout the evening, Jessie prepares the house she shares with her mother as well as her mother for after she’s taken her life. She practically covers the kitchen in Post-It notes, refills her mother’s several candy dishes and stands her ground as her mother tries to fight to keep her alive.
Watching this play was by no stretch of the imagination easy for me, however, as a reviewer, I was able to keep myself somewhat removed from the situation playing out on stage until the last scene where Thelma sobs and wails and bangs on Jessie’s bedroom door, begging her to stay, only to be silenced by the sound of a gunshot.
I’ve been on the other side of that door. I fortunately was always stopped before I could act — the cries of my now ex-fiance usually triggered some maternal instinct in me, which made me prioritize helping him over escaping life.
And for those few moments in time I am exclusively glad to have failed. There’s nothing better to fail at than ending a life worth living, in my opinion.
And it’s because of that belief that one line, above many, really struck me while watching “night, Mother.”
Jessie (played by Serah Pope) and Thelma (played by Karen Kalensky) are sitting at the kitchen table in one of the more subdued scenes of the play. Jessie recounts what she was like as a baby — learning new skills every day, full of life — and what that baby could’ve become.
“I am what became of your child,” Jessie says. “I found an old baby picture of me. And it was somebody else, not me. It was somebody pink and fat who never heard of sick or lonely, somebody who cried and got fed, and reached up and got held and kicked but didn't hurt anybody, and slept whenever she wanted to, just by closing her eyes. Somebody who mainly just laid there and laughed at the colors waving around over her head and chewed on a polka-dot whale and woke up knowing some new trick nearly every day and rolled over and drooled on the sheet and felt your hand pulling my quilt back up over me. That's who I started out and this is who is left. That's what this is about. It's somebody I lost, all right, it's my own self. Who I never was. Or who I tried to be and never got there. Somebody I waited for who never came. And never will. So, see, it doesn't much matter what else happens in the world or in this house, even. I'm what was worth waiting for and I didn't make it. Me … who might have made a difference to me...I'm not going to show up, so there's no reason to stay, except to keep you company, and that's...not reason enough because I'm not...very good company. Am I.”
“I'm what was worth waiting for and I didn't make it.”
While in the context of the play that line was devastating to hear, in the context of my own life I just remember thinking:
“I’m what was worth waiting for … and I DID make it.”
It’s in moments like these that I’m reminded not only of how far I’ve come but that for the simple reason that life begets art that life is especially worth living.
While other theater-goers I heard speak that night noted how the sadness of the play made them happy to be alive and fortunate to never have experienced such a situation, I was happy to be alive because I have experienced such a situation.
So here’s another date for the logs: 07.04.2018: Independence Day — commemoratively for the nation, and personally for me as a strong, independent woman who’d re-realized how fabulous she was all on her damn own.
That’s the date worth remembering. And the woman I am today, and will be tomorrow, was definitely worth waiting for.