Monday, October 06, 2008

"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you." *

David Foster Wallace committed suicide a couple weeks ago.

I like Wallace well enough - his essay on cruise ships in his collection, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments was sheer brilliance, totally hilarious. I didn't want him to be my boyfriend (like Gina did) but he was a talented writer with a lot of appeal; he definitely had found his niche, and no one should die at the age of 46. Too young, too talented.

So, yeah. Sad. But not like if one of my idols like AS Byatt or David Mitchell had died, or if a writer I think of as a friend had passed away, even from natural causes. But three weeks later, I am still thinking about him. Just about every day, at least once, he crosses my insipid little mind, and I feel sad for him, and confused, and also, overwhelmingly, empathetic. I GET IT.

I am not saying I am suicidal – far from it, actually. (Besides, what sort of mother would kill herself when her children are this small? The guilt alone would deter me. My mom died when I was 28, and I was a wreck then.)

I am tired and often overwhelmed and frequently frustrated. I wish my house was cleaner, and I am sick of cooking chicken and pasta, and pasta and chicken, and more chicken, and more pasta, because those are the only things everyone will eat, and I wish that I had my act together enough to have up baby gates already for my crawling infant, and the patience to follow my three-year-old around with a bottle of Febreze, a handful of rags, MORE clean underwear, and a smile on my face.

I wish I could sit down at my computer and write every day for several hours instead of in snippets and snatched moments throughout the day while the boys fight and the baby fusses and I have to simultaneously engage in pretend dialogue with a shark handpuppet.

I can’t recall the last book I finished – which is extremely sad, and those of you who know me well know this is probably the most disturbing admission I feel I have ever made. I have never ever before in my life not had time to read. I have sneered at mothers who said they didn’t have time to read. “Why,” I would proudly declare, “it’s all I do. I eat, I sleep, I breathe, I read.” Well, not anymore. (And the sleeping isn’t all that consistent either.)

I get migraines consistently, and wake up with a headache probably four days out of seven.

But despite all this, life is ok. Often even more than ok. I have many hours, even days, of happiness and fun and absolute joy with my babies. I don’t hate my husband (most of the time) and sometimes I even like him a bunch. I have several close friends whom I even get to see occasionally, and several reliable and wonderful babysitters, and a fun (if slightly crazy) family. I have my Facebook pals, and my bloggie buddies, and a dear friend several thousand miles away whom I have never met but I love like crazy anyway.

So here’s what upsets me. Yes, Wallace’s death upsets me, and also, the fact that it went largely unremarked except by the literary community. But what sticks with me, and keeps coming back to haunt me, leaving a stone in the pit of my stomach, is Elizabeth Wurtzel’s quote about Wallace’s suicide:

"So here is the miserable truth that those of us who are given to depression are forced to face when David Foster Wallace commits suicide: It didn’t and doesn’t turn out well. There is no happy ending to the story of sorrow if you are born with a predilection for despair. The world is, after all, a coarse and brutal and cruel place. It’s only a matter of how long you can live with it."

Her words display the bare, unvarnished truth for all to see and acknowledge. And it makes me want to lie down on the floor somewhere dark and warm, and cry.
Because it came to me this morning, finally, that these words, even more than Wallace’s actual death, are what has been dogging me. These words, and the truth underlying them, that I indeed was born with a “predilection to despair,” leave me acknowledging that what’s been wrong with me lately can’t just be attributed to lack of sleep and not enough time to myself, although those things certainly contribute. The reason I haven’t wanted to blog or write or read or exercise or really do much of anything is because I am cycling through my zombie phase. As I have done all my life, and as I will continue to do, I presume. And when I am in that place, and realize that’s where I am, I am overcome with both melancholy and exhaustion. Because it doesn’t ever end. It eases, it changes, it ebbs and flows, but it never ever ends. It’s only a matter of how long you can live with it.

*David Foster Wallace


Anonymous said...

I am in that dark and warm place with you and stroking your hair.

And while I agree that some of us are born with a predilection for despair, I disagree with the notion that there can be no happy ending.

Take good care.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you didn't turn comments off for this. That EW quote hit me stone cold. I like to pretend that there's no such thing as a predilection for despair, but it becomes increasingly hard to do so as time goes by and life experiences mount.

How I wish that you didn't have that zombie phase to work through, and please know that there are warm hearts out there, beaming love, strength, and encouragement to get you through.

Be strong, be well.

I wish there was a magic antidote for times as these. Sunshine helps, if you can get it.

p.s. We have altogether FAR too much pasta here too, and we never actually took our baby gates down, even though there is a 3-1/2 yr spread between the two!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you posted about this. It seems impossible to believe you could have all that you have going on and NOT feel that way.

We call it "brooding", as in I come from a family of great brooders. My mother is the Head Brooder and a combo of different prescriptions have given her some peace in her 80's.

None of us should wait that long to find relief, however, and I hope you don't either.

blackbird said...

Though your words may be true I do hope you realize that your circumstances have a great deal to do with your current condition and those things shall pass...I've had sentences like that one stick with me for a long time and then I un-stick them. I give myself permission to respect the truthfulness of them without feeling obligated to live by those words.

Aren't I philosophical tonight?

Suse said...

I totally disagree with that quote. I think many if not most of us humans are born with a predilection for despair - it's what comes with having a brain, and the capacity for compassion and anger and intolerance and frustration and great overwhelming love. But it is NOT a given that it has to end badly, it's just a matter of when.

The others above me said it better I think and BB's words about giving oneself permission to unstick those phrases, are wise.

Sleep deprivation and no time to oneself to finish a meal let alone a thought, are great contributors.

I love you like crazy too and I'm in there with Liz stroking your hair and reading aloud to you while you're too exhausted to read to yourself.


Eleanor said...

Maybe you are reading that part of your story in which the heroine is facing excruciatingly difficult and horrifyingly frightening obstacles.

If you were to stop reading at this point, you'd never actually know the ending.

The trick is to keep turning those pages. The story might have a sad ending, or it might have a happy ending. You just never know.

In the meantime, it looks like you have some wonderful friends who might help you turn those pages until you regain the strength to do so yourself.

With my admiration,

and hope,


nutmeg said...

Hi BB. Good to hear from you too! I hear every single word your saying here - though I may have avoided them for some time ....

I too believe that your "downward sloping hill" has emerged probably more fully due to your current circumstances and it will flatten out and even climb skyward in time - but it is a question of time and of degrees and a feeling that a certain amount of melancholy seems to underpin most of life. Someone who I am talking to at the moment says that a lot of people are suffering some degree of "depression" - it's the lot of us humans ;-)

I don't have the answers - I am trying to find some myself but what I have found and it may sound trite but please - don't be too hard on yourself. Allow yourself to take it easy as possible.

p.s. you may want to investigate the condition "dysthymia" ( - as I think it has a lot of parallels to this "predeliction to despair" and I feel it is quite relevant to how I am and have been for some time too.

I'll be thinking of you ...

Badger said...

Dude, I've said it before and I'll say it again: raising young children is absolutely the hardest thing I have ever done. I would not go back and re-live those infant/toddler/preschool days for ANYTHING.

It gets better. Or it gets different, anyway.

Anonymous said...

i am hesitant to post this. I am approaching next week the first "anniversary" - what a word to use! - of the day the man I most loved took his life. Those words resonate - vibrate - deep within me. I cannot know your despair; I obviously, regretfully, did not know his. But I know mine in the aftermath and it is deep and endless. The legacy is long and wide. The damage is permanent. Try to hold on - as I do. As we all try to do.

Caro said...

I one-hundred percent understand what you mean by the zombie phase. (Been there a lot lately.)

When I'm going through the phase, I keep telling myself it will pass but it doesn't always help much.

And Badger is right about how hard little ones are. While I miss the cuteness of babies, there is so much more I don't miss.

Feel better soon.

Kathy said...

All I can say is I'm worrying about you and thinking about you. Take care of yourself.

Stomper Girl said...

I like Poppalina's take on this; that you may as well hang around because tomorrow might be the day that you feel better. And I also agree with what Blackbird, Suse and Badger said.

Sarah Louise said...

Hmmm. The despair does come and go. And you are my hero--all you mamas are.

And I love love Eleanor's comment.

Thinking of you...SL

KPB said...


artsober said...

If only more show'd the courage to examine without judgement our own core fear's of grief of losing loved one's,or self.
I too walk the edge of the deep valley of darkness of loss, pain & deppression pulling myself out time and time again. I grow weary of the effort; to find renewed strengths from insights in the words of David's & your's BabelBabe.
I honor your tour courage,
Love, Dove & Light