Again, at the precipice. Some part of me must love it, considering how much time I spend here. This place of mind and body where time mostly stops and all notions of progress are undone. It’s the place from which I didn’t finish two master’s degrees, the place from which I leave businesses and communities. It’s the place from which I broke my marriage. I clear the area and protect what I can. Disasters loom.
Depression is what I used to call it, a too-simple pseudo-diagnostic that was nevertheless a sort of relief and license for getting nothing measurable done. It is a trough—but also a precipice. Outwardly, I feel low. Inwardly, somewhere near my bones, chaos is erupting. This deadened surface is, in fact, a highly polished containment field. I make no sudden movements. I put away the credit cards and don’t get behind the wheel. Every gesture will be rash. Damage will be done but (with luck) only the kind that can be undone.
When whatever lurks deep flashes too fast to the surface, behavior gets bent. Absent words or images—absent the possibility of an understanding audience—what longs for symbolic expression gets written in the flesh.
Skin is not the only surface we use to inscribe our identities. My persistent fat is a story of the struggle that circulates continuously in my blood and nerves. The mind of my body has its own strategies and sometimes seems to have had enough of me. Then, to satisfy the craving for change, the best tactic seems to be: unloose the body itself. Time to go. Time to move on. An action that is by nature unfathomable, even when the polite suicide leaves an explanation behind.
At this precipice, my self-doubt so far takes hold, even as it unleashes empathy for those who go. Their suffering is by definition beyond bearing. Whatever the inexpressible “it,” it is too much. Too much becomes a hole with its own gravity. It calls. It swallows some of us.
Impossible to know how it works out for those who go. But there is the suffering left behind, the aftermath that is not at all “after” but present, if not accounted for. The legacy to loved ones and acquaintances is the unthinkable possibility, their minds and bodies now imprinted with the shape of that hole.
At this precipice I’ve learned to wait. It can feel pathological, this attentive inability to move. But it’s a vast improvement over sinking into thick silence or sizzling in the bright lights of compulsive distraction. I sit on this edge in a sort of humming drift, humming and groaning, listening for myself and the escaping word.
Postscript: A few weeks later, I come across these lines in Susan Sontag’s The Volcano Lover: “He waited for a clarifying wind. And torpor hardened over everything, like the lava stream. He looked into the hole, and like any hole it said, Jump.”