A Wilderness Maintained By My Own Hands

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<a href=”https://pixabay.com/photos/hills-landscape-mist-smoke-forest-889131/">Image</a> by <a href=”https://pixabay.com/users/skeeze-272447/">skeeze</a> on Pixabay

Someone told me recently that I should throw away the suicide note I wrote on Christmas Day 2018. I wrote it on the back of a picture of my Dad so that’s somewhat of a hard sell.

A friend came over to my apartment last week to help me clean because I was too debilitated to move. When she came across the picture, I begged to the high heavens that she wouldn’t ask meabout it. She didn’t. It was just a picture of my Dad she saw, not the cry for help.

Most know the sugarcoated story of that night in December. When my phone sat in silence all day, watching episodes of the Golden Girls, falling asleep between Blanche’s euphemisms and Dorothy’s attitude. My apartment didn’t have heat. Our furnace broke weeks prior. And even though others offered to house me, I refused. I accepted the cold as penance. I just quit a job off of emotional impulse. There had to be retribution for that. Hence layers of clothing and tears that warmed my face.

I sat in my room and cried like I wished I did when I found out that my Dad died. I didn’t cry when that happened. Biggest regret in the world. That and leaving him to die in the hospital by himself. I remember him saying that he didn’t want me to see him like that. I should have ignored him for once. I never could.

God made me a punk. I wasn’t going to go through with it. But the note exists. That was a first. Like I said, I still have it. The last time I tried to kill myself was years ago. I sank into a bathtub. I don’t keep the note because I think it’ll come in handy one day but rather because it’s an example of the bottom. You can’t get any low than that.

I did.

So low that even in full transparency, I still can’t talk about it. In my mind, what happened corroborates every negative thought or idea anyone has of me. That validation of my trashiness. Justification as to why you don’t deal with me anymore. So much that I don’t want forgiveness. You’re right to feel what you think about me. I won’t even argue against it. You’re right.

So I accepted my exile. Isaiah and Hosea reading me for filth. We told you, Sis. You were told but you didn’t listen. Look where you are.

Gutted, out of it. Without any energy to give. I don’t have it for myself. I used to burn myself out to appear as if I was okay. Burning a wick that doesn’t exist. And I crashed. Hard.

I’ve been absent. By choice. I’ve been distant. By choice. I haven’t been in church or around God’s people. By choice. I put myself here. I took the wrong exit by choice. I got lost in the trees, mesmerized by its beauty and planted myself. My roots are growing fast. By choice. God didn’t put my here, at least I don’t think. Actually, since I haven’t desired God for weeks, I can’t discern what God is doing right now.

I do know that writing is my therapy, my way of speaking to God. Of accepting the things that I can’t change. If I don’t write it, I’m not acknowledging my behavior. God knows me but do I? I know myself enough to know that I hate the person that I am right now. I’m the worst iteration of myself even as I am surrounded by who and what would make me the best version of me. I’m fighting progression. I’m languishing in complacency. I’m that crippled man sitting next to Bethesda. I’m watching everyone jump in front of me.

But yet as I sit here unable to move, I still hope that Jesus can see me. But faith without works is dead. I have to ask Jesus first.

I read in 2 Corinthians that God works through our weaknesses. I guess that’s why I’m releasing the bullshit I’ve caused — the hurt and harm I’ve done to myself and others — into the universe. So something can be done with it. Because I’m carrying it with me and it’s heavy. And the weight I’ve carried killed me. Cardiac arrest full of shame, guilt, bad decisions, loss, pride, anger, conceitedness, denial.

I’ve alienated people and they’ve returned the favor. So I’m in my wilderness. Pruning the trees of my own sin. Crying out enough for God to hear me but no one else. The trees are falling but no one is around to hear it. Because I don’t want them to be.

I love distance. I love being alone. I thought about my past dalliances as an alcoholic, drinking to numb every emotion I no longer wanted to feel. I started that trend when my Dad was in the hospital. I knew to find a bar not that far from where he laid up, tied to every machine imaginable. I numbed myself to the sounds of U Street’s Blackness and the Whiteness of downtown Bethesda. Reconciliation at its best.

But you can hide. Here I can’t. Crazy enough I drank the most when I first moved here. I didn’t have people watching me like they do now. The conviction I feel getting caught buying a bottle of anything is enough for me to not start drinking. I haven’t drank since December. Thought about it. The only thing holding me back is the thought of having to justify the behavior. Even though I swear to you that I don’t care.

That caring part is the Holy Spirit, perhaps. It’s what pushes me to write this. Because even though I want to be alone in my own wilderness, to tend to its animals that threaten to eat me, to survive off of its nutrients even if they are poisonous and can kill me, to move swift enough to be shot and killed by violence I can’t see, to become feral, to be that wolf, to continue as a scavenger, I reach out to be found. To find that road, that familiar stranger that always finds me and urges me to go home.

Truth is, I don’t know what home is anymore. Or if I even have one to go back to. I’ve been in silence for months, not sure if anything will welcome me like they did in the past.

There’s that moment in the wilderness when the Devil will test me. Part of me is ready to fail. Part of me knows I will fail. I’m jumping off the ledge hoping to be caught by angels. I’m turning rocks to bread instead of believing that all I need is God’s nourishment. As I write this, I realize that I haven’t jumped off of that cliff or buttered those rocks. I reached out to people I never have before because even as I walk the peaks and valleys of this wilderness, I pushed myself to operate on faith alone. To lean not on my own understanding. For once.

There could be a man in this bed but it’s empty. I fall asleep to Saturday Night Live. There could be bottles all over the place but there are none. There are two liquor stores within five blocks of me and wine across the street. Options are present but I can’t do it. That conviction didn’t exist when I operated from a space of being alone. But in a weird twist, as I force my own self into a space of loneliness, I can’t do what I used to do. Maybe I do see the road from here.

Memoirist in spirit and in truth. Christian essayist when both the spirit and truth move me. email: crjtwrites[at]gmail.com

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