Back in my acting days I was a Method Actor. In order to maintain my focus and the character I had to stay in it as much as I could. I remember watching friends and co-stars joking around on stage and I always wished I could participate as wholeheartedly as they did, but if the role was one that I truly believed in, I couldn’t break my concentration without negatively affecting my performance.
The same applies for my writing. I have to feel it. I have to put myself into the moment, the situation, no matter how harrowing, sad, horrific, foreign it may be. I have to get in there, look and walk around, embody the experience. If I can’t feel it, you probably won’t feel it either.
The first prompt of this project was to tell the story I have to tell if I only have 15 minutes left to live. I did just that. I did not take it as a metaphorical challenge. I sat here at my computer. Picked out the three last songs I would want to hear (Lady Gaga’s Edge of Glory, Arcade Fire’s Wake Up, Ani DiFranco and Orchestra’s Both Hands). I wept as I wrote, the tears and snot dripping down my face, I didn’t even take my hands off the keyboard to blow my nose. Those words really were my last 15 minutes on this planet.
The things that came up were a painful indicator of the state of my life.
I finally admitted, to myself and to the world, that all I have wanted for the last 11 years is to die.
That was one of the hardest things I have ever admitted to myself, to anyone. Yes, maybe that should have been a confession saved for the privacy of a therapist’s office, but I don’t have a therapist. Writing is my therapy. And judging from the hugely positive response the post received on and offline, I know it was the right thing to do.
I realised that so many aspects of my life have been dictated by that death wish. I drink too much, I eat things that don’t agree with me, I look in the mirror and hate myself.
This is not the way I want to live.
Actually putting myself into my last 15 moments on this planet helped me see: I WANT TO LIVE.
Not just in some theoretical kind of way. I actually want to be alive, be here, tell my stories, live my life. I don’t want to be dead.
Synchronicitously, I was in the throes of a severe allergic reaction to pork. My stomach was distended, inflamed, I could barely bend over to put my shoes on, walking was painful. I hadn’t eaten a pork steak in about four years and the only reason I did was because I was trying to go back to a high-protein diet that worked for me in my 20’s. That was not the answer.
I have since returned to a simple diet of tofu, beans, veggies and fruit diet, and I feel a world of difference. The last time I was on this kind of diet I returned to my ideal weight in a matter of 2 weeks.
Why didn’t I go straight to this simple diet? Because I had no regard for myself, for what I know about myself, and I didn’t care to even reflect on that aspect of myself. This shell of a body was inconsequential. It could die for all I cared. Death is what I wanted.
As this Emerson project has gone on, I have found myself back in love with steamed tofu and vegetables, and I am in the process of healing the damage that my carelessness with myself has caused — physical, mental, spiritual, emotional.
Sesame seeds with each meal remind me that I am putting life into my body. I WANT TO LIVE. I am so grateful that I can put on my shoes without crying out, thinking my insides would explode. I thank the gods I am not in excruciating, mind-numbing internal pain.
I start to remember what it feels like to be healthy, sober, calmer; to not look at this life as a burden.
This is the myself that I have been missing, so fixated I was on killing myself slowly because I hadn’t the courage to do it all at once.
Today’s writing prompt asks: “If you had one week left to live, would you still be doing what you’re doing now? In what areas of your life are you preparing to live?”
If I had one week to left to live I’d be with my husband and my mother. If my friends could visit me, I would welcome their presence. If they couldn’t, there would be a lot of Skype chats to say goodbye.
If I had one week left to live right now it would be because my death wish finally kicked into reality.
I am so overwhelmed with thanks that I am still here. I am still writing. Still photographing weird and creepy sculptures and waxing poetic about who they are if they’d come to life. Still raging against the injustices perpetrated against women. Still loving my sweet and farty husband. My Edward Scissorhands tattoo will arrive on June 16, 2011.
The difference is now I am nourishing my body with the foods and waters that my 32-year-old self needs, deciding to embrace my life instead of walking around with one foot in the grave. I am remembering I am strong and able to make decisions about the kind of life I want.
I still have a ways to go, but here and now I resolve to do only what makes me come alive.
I have made peace with my death. Now am making peace with my life.
What makes you come alive?