On Saturday, September 23rd, I was sitting in the waiting area of Boston Logan International Airport, ready to be home and thinking. Mostly thinking.
Grief is deep work and I've been embroiled in it. Honestly, I've been embroiled in it pretty deeply since 2016. Sometimes I feel like this work I've been doing, this pain I've been grappling with, this deconstruction I've been plodding through, was somehow to prepare me for some of the deeper tests.
Basically every day since 2/16/22.
It's more than that though.
You understood it was more than that.
My therapist is very good, as I've mentioned, and one thing she keeps asking me is to examine what it is I want.
It seems like a silly question. My brain thinks it's silly.
What do I want?
I want my brother to not be dead. That is what I want.
And yes. Of course. That is what I want.
It's not silly though. The question is real and it's a lot deeper than that. A lot.
Sitting at a really crowded airport, getting ready to fly home and straight into a Tropical Storm seems like a weird time to ponder the meaning of life, but that's where I found myself. So I closed my eyes and cleared my mind as much as I could and focused, really focused, on what it is I want.
Safety is the only word that came to mind.
I want to feel safe.
The reality is, I haven't felt safe for a very long time.
The harder truth is, every time I start to feel safe, or happy, or even just okay? Something horrible happens.
It seems easier to be unsafe. To be constantly on guard. To just be ready, hell, to expect that things will be wrong. That I will fail. That it will all be terrible.
That's what is easier.
I've never been one for doing anything the easy way, but this? This is different. I feel like I've coasted the last year and a half. I've been in a daze. I've not progressed in anything and in some really important, meaningful ways I've regressed.
It's scary. I don't like it.
It's more scary though, to be okay. It's more scary right now to feel safe.
The morning of February 16th, 2022 I woke up feeling fantastic. I was so, so happy that morning and I remember it so vividly because I haven't been that happy since then and also because I feel like...maybe I'm being punished for daring to be happy? Maybe it just can't be okay, not for me.
I had no idea that my brother was suicidal. I didn't see it. I couldn't see it.
Looking back now, it seems almost obvious. I've read the last text he sent me over and over and over. I've memorized every word.
In a lot of pain, but depressed to the point I don't even care anymore.
That was the first part of the last text.
He wasn't okay. He was so, so not okay.
I didn't see it then. He wasn't okay and I didn't see it and even if I had seen it? I don't know if I could have helped him. For that, and for a million other things, maybe I don't deserve to be okay anymore.
I don't know.
I don't blame myself for his death. I know he was really struggling and I know his struggles had very little, if anything, to do with me. A few months before he died he asked me to help with some things that I felt really uncomfortable with and I said I couldn't and explained why. He didn't respond to that, not for a few days, and when he did finally respond it was another topic entirely. I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking he moved on. I know now he hadn't moved on and now I'm wondering, again, if I did the wrong thing.
"Are you okay?"
A man, sitting two seats over from me in the airport is asking me a question, and I honestly had not even realized he was there. I had my eyes closed. I was utterly exhausted, on my way home from a charity walk for suicide awareness. The walk was not physically hard, but emotionally it left me completely drained.
"Yes, I'm fine," I smiled at him so he would know I'm fine. I'm Southern, we do crap like that.
He stared at me, making me regret the smile.
"I'm sorry to bother you," he said. "You just look so much like my sister."
I will be 48 years old in 4 days. I will be older than my brother ever was, and my brain breaks every time I think about it. He's my older brother and he's always supposed to be older than me, and this simply cannot be.
What do I want? Beyond world peace and beyond my family's health and well-being, and all of those other things we say and really mean when we are asked what we want. What do I really, deep in my soul, want?
I want this to not be real.
I want my brother to be here.
I want failure and disappointment to stop feeling normal.
I want to write about something other than how broken I am.
I want to stop being broken. I want what I do to matter. I want to be okay with what currently is and do better with what is to come.
I want to feel safe and, more importantly, I want safe to feel safe again.