From Galway Kinnell’s poem, “Wait”
Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
Carried you everywhere, up to now?....
Don’t go too early.
Your tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a little while and listen.
A friend of mine sent me this poem the other day and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m in a rush, these days, to get to the end of IT, to hurry up and finally see where IT wants me to go.
Of course, I know the exact coordinates of my destination—at the crossroads of negative integers. Death. There’s the fast moving sort. Hideous images keep plaguing me every time I get into the car. My car, once again, in a telephone pole only this time I don’t walk away, ever. Or the bottle of Lithium emptied into me. Or my wrists opened up for good. But there’s also the slow moving sort. The Eating Disorder which encourages slow starvation, the body finally too tired to carry on.
And then there’s the real fatigue of being Bipolar. For several days now I’ve been waking early, the ugly kind of four a.m. early where my body knows it needs more sleep but my mind won’t shut up. IT’s chatter, babble, and prattle scratch at my insides until finally I get my ass out of bed and do something, anything, some sort of counter-insurgent move. Like doing sit-ups at five. Or walking both dogs for several miles at six. Or painting my foyer at seven. I feel like my daughter acts when she’s had even the smallest sip of soda—wound up, uncontainable, out of my mind. And then I start thinking crazy thoughts, the black, bleak despairing kind.
What I am trying to understand inside this latest (i.e., months long) escalation is what Dr. B. is holding out for me to believe—that even inside this most desperate, most self-negating of times, I can forgive each and every act of self-abuse. There is no limit to grace and forgiveness (though I want to say there must be, there must be for such a shitty, godawful person like me). That I live inside the grace of forgiveness—this then helps me understand that one day I may not have to live under IT’s hand that continues to inflict pain and suffering.
This coming back into myself—because that is what it is, even if, at the present time it feels like an emptying out—is extraordinary. Everything in me says, “You can survive this; you can weather this if only you keep doing what you are doing. All you have to do is keep standing. All you have to do, as the poem says, is Wait.” But then the insurgency says, “What you have to do is convince everyone that you can do this. All you have to do is keep reassuring them that you are somehow better. A sleight-of-hand trick. Make them see what they want to see. No cuts on the forearms? Then she must not be hurting herself. Ssshh. Don’t let on about the purging. That you can hide. Let them marvel at your energy, your persistence, your good humor about it all. Let them think IT has loosened IT’s hold.”
Even though I may be in the fight of my life, in the mucho grande downslide, I can take a step back from it and see all of IT’s abuse—slashing my arms, pounding my head on tile floors and doors, and I may as well be punching myself in the gut for what it feels like throwing up, and oh yeah, add deliberate starvation. Write it all down, see it in the plain text of Times New Roman font. It reads like torture. And I do this to myself. In full view of myself. And I refuse to intervene on my behalf.
But there are the small interventions that are beginning to matter, beginning to retake some of my territory, my body, back from IT. On one arm, Forgiven. On the other, Loved. Words that Dr. B. said I needed to wear. So I wore those words in public the past few days, no caring about the sideways glances I got, not caring if the words drew attention to the scars. I was getting a manicure today, and the nail technician turned my arms over and read the words aloud. It could have been embarrassing. There he was, saying them again and again in his broken English in front of a room full of other women. But then he smiled, picked up the nail file, and said, “Those good words.”