How To Be Alive

09/16/2011

I write every day now. It’s too much and I know that but I’m too directionless to write my novel, too empathetic to just keep one blog. I write everywhere; words on napkins in sharpie ink, on computer screens and cell phones, in notebooks and journals and on paper plates. I write and I feel alive and it’s more than I can handle sometimes. I feel it all,I realize. I feel too much.

It’s the euphoria of life, I realize, that has made me so vocal. This time last year, I lived in the suburban sprawl. I sat outside and smoked cigarettes and I was dust in the spotlight, just kind of floating. I thought I was in love then and I was positive that I could win. If I could prove myself, I just knew I could win because he loved me once and if he had before, he would again. But the story is sad and when I recant it in my mind, I wonder why I’m still trying. I am remarkable, I surmise. I am strong and I am brave and I have had my heart broken in irreparable ways. There are cracks in my veins and tourniquets ’round ventricles. Yet when I fall asleep at night, it’s the hope of a dream that I think about. I loved once and maybe I can again. But, of course, that was before. Before, however, I was ignorant. It is a horrible thing to love something that death can touch. I did once, many years ago, but the loss of a parent is so very different from losing the person you want to marry one day and in the months since I stopped planning out my suicide in intricate, ornate detail, I have learned more about life and human nature than I did in the 26 years that proceeded it. Read the rest of this entry »

My dad had the habit of listening to the same cd over and over again. It was inherited, I think, as I am a chronic repeat listener of the same one lp ad nausea whenever I get a new favorite band. It drove my dad nuts when I did it yet he subjected me to the same thing for as long as I can remember. Sometimes, these cds were boss (Like Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black). Othertimes, not so much (Why did I buy him a Barenaked Ladies album for Christmas in 6th grade? Why?). One such of these albums was Sam’s Town by the Killers. I remember how the Killers used to be good and I remember how awesome Hot Fuss was when it first came out but by the time Sam’s Town hit, I grew weary of Brandon Flowers’s cocky attitude and dissing of Franz Ferdinand as my loyalties did and always will lie with Alex Kapranos. Aside from a few track, Sam’s Town never clicked with me and I dreaded getting in the car with my dad. Now, however, it’s different.

It’s summer and I’m walking down the street in the rich part of town at ten in the morning. The houses here are towers with multiple balconies and heated floorboards. I don’t belong here in my scuffed boots, with my hair still knotted from the shenanigans of the night before but I’m earning my keep this week by walking a white fluffball dog named Lola. I have my headphones on and since I stopped being so devastatingly sad, I haven’t cried. In fact, I’ve done everything but cry as my lust for life turned into weeks on end of partying. I justify it with the logic that, as I’m entering my late twenties, I won’t be able to rage anymore. Not like I used to. So I might as well give my mid-twenties one last hurrah while they’re still here, clinging to me like the dirt and sweat and liquor of summertime’s disappearing.

Suddenly, my iPod plays a song I haven’t heard in years and I recognize it immediately: The closing track of Sam’s Town and my eyes burn.

Each lyric from “Exitlude” is heartwrenchingly apt, from the opening lines (Regrettably, time’s come to send you on your way) to the sentiments of the chorus (We hope you enjoyed your stay; It’s good to have you with us, even if it’s just for the day) and even the eerie inclusion of the word “daddy”, making it so perfect for my life that I’m pretty sure Brandon Flowers wrote the song specifically for me, as if he knew that I’d need it one day.

It’d been so long since I’d cried that it felt foreign; it felt like I’d forgotten how. I gasped and I sobbed and it was how I used to spend my days in the ‘before’, when I lived in that transitional time before ‘after’, when I hadn’t yet figured out how to live again. Only now, the tears were different. I wasn’t sad. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t even desperately want my dad here. I’ve accepted the fact that he’s gone. People die. It happens all the time. It just sucks when it happens to you.

It’s strange to cry for a skeleton from your past when you’ve made peace with the its role in your life. Before, I cried that my dad would never get to be at my wedding. Granted, before my dad had died, I’d never given much though to marriage. It wasn’t until after he died that I realized everything I’d robbed him of: He’d never get to tell me how dumb I was when I told him I was engaged; he never got to complain about making the drive to Iowa when I told him I wanted to get married in a barn; he never got to disapprove of the name I chose for the grandkid he never got to fall in love with; and he never got to see me grow up into this super strong pixie sized Amazon warrior I’m becoming. But it’s all about perspective. My dad died and I fell asleep for a few months and when I woke up, I was an adult.

We had some good times when he was here though. 

I fell in love with a band. They were sweat soaked rock and roll and after I saw them, I couldn’t bring myself to listen to any music that wasn’t theirs.

It’d been a week since I’d been home, going straight from vacation to Barnstormer, to sleep in guest houses and beach front cottages and on the floor of the living room of both my best friend and favorite local musician. I’m awake and alive and I’m drinking and smiling and wandering in fields and sitting on couches and kissing a new boy and it’s all electricity and suddenly, I live a life that isn’t mine – Cut off from my closest friends one day, making new best pals the next – and it’s a dream in which I play the part of the girl I used to be, before this sadness overtook my life and I realize – I’m not playing the part. I’m her again.

I’m finally at home after days of suitcase living turned into a week and my bathroom is in disarray. I have unpacking to do and a bedroom to rearrange. Get at it. And I do.

Since I’ve moved in, I’ve used my computer exclusively for music and let my record player, a hand me down from my dad, languish. Today, however, I needed it. I opened the cd tray to put in Strike Hard, Young Diamond, a burned copy from my best friend as I was too busy drinking and flirting away my Barnstormer to actually exchange goods for money. To my surprise, there’s already a disc in the faux-fifties all-purpose media player’s black plastic hull. I realize immediately what it is: The last cd my dad listened to in this record player. It was his, after all. It lived in his “man cave” and he used it fairly often. The day he helped me move in to my house in Ann Arbor, he brought it to me. He died a little over a month later. I regard the silver cd-r with wonder and nostalgia, a smile creeping across my face: This cd is the last gift I will ever get from my dad. I lift it up and look at the writing. In multicolored sharpie are words I’d scrolled on its surface some eight years prior and I remember. It’s a mix of Christmas songs I made for my dad when I was nineteen. We listened to it driving to the suburbs in the snow on the 25th, going to visit my grandma in the nursing home.

He’d always given me shit, the way dads are prone to do. My taste in music was never up to spec for him (I recant this to my best friend and she laughs. “Your taste in music is bad? Yours? Having good taste is what you do!” and it’s true.) but this testament, this one last tangible piece of my dead father, is proof that… My dad recognized my good taste in indie rock. And that approval was all I ever wanted from him.

It was worse than I let on, worse than I told anyone. It was worse than I even suspected it could ever become, the thoughts of suicide creeping up from behind me. I could see it from my periphery, the fog of sadness surrounding my line of vision until everything I used to be was enveloped in gray. Days passed in minutes, weeks in hours. He only died in February, how could it be four and a half months already? I laid in bed and couldn’t move, couldn’t cry. I laughed callously at my own pathetic nature, remembering when I longed to stave off tears for the duration of a whole day. You see, I’d assume that when the tears dissipated, they’d be replaced by a newfound sense of wholeness. Instead, they were replaced by a constant darkness, even on the bright days with my best friends beside me.

The depression was a rock slide that began the day of my dad’s wedding and didn’t let up until I was a heap of emaciated bones, laying on the carpet of my freshly cleaned room (Wasn’t a clean room supposed to make me feel less cluttered as well…?), thinking of ways I could gracefully kill myself without scarring my friends, my family, the people I work for. You see, I’d planned it all out: I had to be a nanny for at least another year and a half but after my obligation to the kids was done, I’d be free to die if I so chose, if my desire for death was stronger than my now non-existent lust for life. But a year and a half? With the next week seeming barely manageable, how could I be expected to make it a year and a half? To me, time was unfathomable. (Wasn’t I just fighting with my dad about what nylons to wear to his wedding? Wasn’t I just getting ready for his funeral? Wasn’t I just telling my ex-boyfriend how I never wanted to see him again? Wasn’t I just being comforted by my estranged former best friend, as I sobbed about how badly I wanted to fix things, fix everything?)

I slept restlessly until four p.m. every day, getting high to dull the bright lights and jagged colors of sobriety. At first, the drugs made life tolerable. Soon, however, they became necessary for me to function. Once so social, so vibrant, I was now reduced to a silent statue of the girl I used to be, and the only times I left my house were the times that I knew if I stayed home, alone, I’d do something drastic and regrettable. Even though I longed for death, the ember inside of me still remembered the heat of its extinguished flame and oh, how it wanted that back.

Internally, my narrative was split in two and I tried to logic with myself, to interject my false truths into the most comforting of sentences: I know you want your old life back, Amber. I know that’s all you want. But… You can’t have it. Ever. And you don’t want this life. So where does that leave us? What do we have now?

I didn’t love anyone. I couldn’t stand the idea of being touched. All my old anxieties and disorders came back to me like old friends – And the fact that I had so few friends these days made my bulimia, o.c.d., social anxiety, and fear of physical intimacy all the more appealing to keep close.

So when I left the house that day, I expected a day just like any other – I’d be there but not present, always staring at people with the blank, emotionless eyes of a girl behind the frosted glass of sadness that kept her from connecting with anyone. Instead, however, I found life waiting for me outside. I woke up from my hibernation and all my friends were here and they all loved me and they were all so happy to have me back. And that’s when I let it go – The pain, the sadness, the constant desire to die. I let it go. And ever since, it’s been gone. Suddenly, the world is Technicolor again. I can talk with freedom. And the sense of clarity I have about my sense of self is enormous. For the first time in twenty-seven years, I know who I am. And it ends up, I’m kind of a lovely person.