So I leave tomorrow. People keep asking me, “Oh, are you excited?”
And for the first time, I answer, “No.” I shake my head and exhale a kind of half-laugh, the well-isn’t-that-some-crazy-shit half-laugh we do when we don’t know what else to do, how else to respond than to shake our heads at the mystery of things.
I’m not excited. But what is the emotion I feel? I’ve been trying to describe it, name it, say it. It feels big, like a bubble being blown up in me. It’s not panic, but it’s black like panic—panic minus the lightning streaks? “Sadness,” I answered to one person, but then I realized that that wasn’t right either. It’s another emotion, a nameless emotion, that’s twinged with sadness—only on the very edges, but those edges are all I know, all I can feel. And even that I can’t be sure of.
Yet the pain of withdrawal is unique and special, even precious (although you probably don’t think so now). In a sense, the experience is you, a part of you which has been trying to surface for a long time. You have been avoiding or postponing this pain for a long time now, but you have never been able to lastingly outrun it. You need to go through withdrawal in order to become a whole person. You need to meet yourself. Behind the terror of what you fear, withdrawal contains the seeds of your personal wholeness. It must be experienced for you to realize, or make real, the potential for you and your life which has been stored there for so long.
This is a trip I’ve been wanting to take for a long time. This is a story I’ve been carrying in me, mostly without knowing I was carrying it, except in moments when I would see it suddenly: a flash of lightning on a black night, when the landscape of it laid out before me, terrifyingly bare—what was always around me, surrounding me, but that I couldn’t see, wouldn’t let myself see. And it would scare me and I wouldn’t have words for it, because I haven’t ever had words for it.
Only it wasn’t the lightning, the sudden moments of seeing, that were scary; it was the black.
But I’m not feeling scared, not anymore at least. I suppose it’s a stillness I’m feeling, a monumental stillness, burned on the edges with a sadness. For what? For leaving my life. Not that I don’t want to go, but that I suspect some piece of me won’t be coming back. And while it’s been painful—so painful I didn’t really know it, until I let the lightning reveal how painful it really was—that black has been with me a long time.
With all the pain and ache of the early going, with all the difficult and dangerous challenges to our new sobriety which we had faced, and throughout all the gut-wrenching we had undergone over our crisis of personal identity and meaning, we somehow knew that we would miss this period once it was behind us. Amidst all the difficulties and uncertainties, a simple intimacy had come into being for us: we had met ourselves and found ourselves worthy.
We’d been talking about childhood, how Lynda doesn’t much remember hers. She was struggling to get some lost detail right; she turned to me and asked, “I dunno, do you believe in hypnotism?”
I paused. Without knowing quite where it was coming from, I answered, “I believe we look at things when we’re ready to look at them.”
So, I guess I must be ready.