“Do you think I’m somehow healthier because I don’t know how to repress? Is it possible that constant fear is the natural state of man and that by living close to my fear I am actually doing something heroic, Murray?”
“Do you feel heroic?”
“Then you probably aren’t.”
Yesterday was a great day. I drove Jack into the city to a children’s museum, and we played and climbed and…well, mostly I chased him. We devoured, in equal parts, a delicious sausage pizza. The wind bit our cheeks as we ran back to the parking garage. And I reveled in moving and playing and driving and inserting my little validated parking ticket in the slot—actions of which I am oddly proud. As I performed them, I was thinking, triumphantly: I’ll never let anxiety stop me from doing what I want to do. I might be nervous or even sobbing while I’m doing those things, but I’ll still do them.
All of my ordinary endeavors yesterday seemed touched with grace. We watched cartoons and went to the grocery store. I made tacos for dinner and cooked up a pot of Maryland crab soup. The pungent Old Bay aroma filled our house.
I was filled with gratitude and with an awareness of the fragility of life.
There was a tragedy in my school community, and everyone has been posting on Facebook about that very thing—fragility. It’s ever-present. I see it in my grandmother as she slips further and further away, and I think of it multiple times a day when my 16-year-old cat with kidney failure leaves puddles of bloody piss anywhere and everywhere. I’m wondering how I can ever make the decision to end the life of an innocent creature. And then there are the panics that leave me reeling, when I can’t reconcile my being with the certainty of my eventual non-being.
I’ve written the word “fragile” across many boxes in my transient adult life. It makes me think of cardboard and markers. It makes me think of Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. (It also makes me think of vanilla pudding, but that’s the whole synaesthesia thing and completely irrelevant.)
I have a history with the word.
Hipsterdouche Ex-Boyfriend had a friend, A. I liked her well enough. She was a writer and artist. Once we went to her tiny apartment and she showed us how she had glued gems onto a mirror from a thrift store, and then she got out a keyboard for me and a guitar for herself (Joe had that mother-fucking mandolin), and the three of us played and sang “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” We probably ate organic kale chips, or some shit, I don’t remember. Anyway, a couple of months later, A. committed suicide. She pilfered pheno-barbitol from Joe’s sister’s house, whose husband took it for seizures, and overdosed.
I was never sure that A. liked me. She had once told Joe that she found me “fragile.” I bristled at the description, and I still do. I know I shook with fear when I climbed the scaffolding at Burning Man, and I know I refused to tackle Angels Landing, the most strenuous and dangerous hike at Zion (not recommended for people with a fear of heights). That’s because climbing to those heights is the physical equivalent of the emotional battle I’ve been fighting my whole life.
If I forget to hold on, I might float away.
Living with anxiety and depression requires a courage and strength that Hipsterdouche Boyfriend was too much of a blind obnoxious ass to recognize. (I don’t like “ass” there. It conjures up pictures of an adorable donkey. The sentence needs something stronger. I’ll get back to you on that.) I’m perplexed that A., whose severe depression eventually killed her, didn’t recognize it. Her death rendered her use of the word “fragile” to describe me sickeningly ironic. I’m ashamed to admit my triumphant thoughts. Fuck your “fragile.” You’re dead, and I’m still kicking.
If mental illness isn’t weakness, and suicide isn’t a cowardly act, and then how can I feel proud of being alive? Maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe I should just feel lucky.
Fragile, fragment, fracture, fraction. Frangere means “to break.” Buddhists say, “The cup is already broken.” When you see a thing, you must see it for all time, in its past and future states. You must see that it is already broken so that you will not cry when it breaks. There is no “fragile,” my friends. We are all already broken.