Content Warning: attempted suicide
Getting dressed this morning, all I could think about were the thirteen things in my ToDoist list, and the brief warm spell. I decided to capitalize on the warmth. I pulled a dress out of the closet, threw on some tights, – who really shaves in January? – added a scarf, and headed off to work. About half way through my commute I looked down to notice that aside from the red scarf, which was already feeling too warm, I’d dressed myself in all black. Thinking back to a weekend conversation with Ouiser and the growing anxiety and tension I’ve felt all week, I know what drew me to this ensemble.
While I wouldn’t know about it until January 13th, it was two years ago today that life as I knew it unraveled. As he told me later, my ex-husband abruptly left work with the intention of going home to commit suicide. Fortunately, he decided he couldn’t do that to the dogs. He finally told me all of this when I came home from work the next day. I got him to the hospital, and, while it was the final undoing of our marriage, at least he is still here, still struggling, and hopefully recovering. Many of my friends, whose lives have been touched by the suicide of a friend or family member, are not so lucky. Now, in January, as my tension builds and I begin to jump when the phone rings, or notice that I am imagining an order of operations for when the phone call comes, I try to remember that it is a blessing that the man I once loved, and will always care for deeply, lives. I try to concentrate on work, not the internal war over whether or not to text in order to check-in. When we parted, I set a boundary. Given the way that he had isolated himself, I said I would continue to be his friend. I would respond when he reached out, but he would have to reach out. Generally, I am good at maintaining that boundary, except in January.
Today, to distract myself from the text I wanted to send, I reached out to a friend “The no-good anniversary days don’t get any easier do they?” Our conversation led to another, later, January no-good anniversary. A third shadowed my mind, and helped fill my eyes. Eventually, I had to change the subject before I cried at work. We need a word for these days. Anniversary doesn’t work. Anniversaries are too often meant to mark celebrations.
The word must describe the way these days mark and haunt us, even the lucky ones.
The word must also encompass the way these days mark and haunt the celebrations around them. The way birthdays and holidays become infused with a grief and melancholy, never again an uncomplicated celebration.
The word must capture the way these days are never one day. The way the tension builds as your mind and body prepare for the worst. The way the grief lingers.
The word must connote the way these days can never be forgotten. They will not let themselves go unnoticed.
Is there a word that can do all that? Can we make it?
I put a lot of faith in words. Books have always been my friends. Writing has been my outlet. I teach writing because I want students to understand the power of words. Still, I don’t know. I don’t have the word(s) for this. Maybe it is too much to ask.