Yesterday I realized that I had been an addict for most of my life.
I was an exuberant junkie and without my “fix,’’ life was just life—possibly not even worth living.
The thought of living a life that was not worth living was enough to be the impetus for more than just a soul suicide.
I was born with a love for life, a contagious twinkle in my eye and a passion that made every moment golden. But things happen and life wasn’t always so smooth and flowing. That twinkle died, and it became a challenge to get out of bed in the morning to make the school bus.
I retreated, sunk inward and wondered if I would ever find a way out. It was a miracle that I didn’t stumble upon the masquerade of psychedelic cocktails or deaden my already numb senses with the bottle.
Instead, I wrote poems—dark, melancholic poems of loneliness and despair, of life and death.
One day, I had an epiphany. I was sitting in class in the eighth grade. The teacher asked, ‘’Who wants to present their book report first?’’ Last had always seemed to be the safest place to be, but I had begun to notice a pattern: the longer I hesitated, the greater the anaesthetic rush of paralysing, fearful thoughts.
But it was more than that: the longer I waited, the more time my mind overtook my presence, suffocating me until there was no more, nothing but a faint gasp. Humility, shame and total embarrassment overtook my entire being, and I would freeze, staring blindly out into a room full of judges.
That was my reality until that day, in the eighth grade, when my teacher asked, ‘’Who wants to be first?’’
It all happened in slow motion. I saw my arm raising to the heavens, then standing in front of a room full of students, hearing my voice present Charlotte’s Web with clarity and confidence.
Adrenaline raced through my veins and sparked an inner fire of determination and strength. Fear and doubt had no time to kick in. I had tricked my mind by acting more quickly than it had, so it became the homeopathic remedy to conquering an entire multitude of emotions.
I instantaneously learned that I could manifest any mundane, boring moment into one of ecstatic joy. But most of all, I had tricked myself into actually believing that life was ultimately fantastic all the time. I deliberately injected exultation into every second of life so I could stay high; for me, being high was the only way to fly through life.
When life ebbed, I met it with an additional fix, an even larger dose of happiness than before and let the high take me to that place of jubilation. I mastered fear by acting before it had time to overwhelm and paralyse me. I no longer sat in the corner at a party of unknown guests but confidently presented myself before loneliness could settle in.
I started multiple businesses because I signed the lease before doubt kicked in and was always the first to jump off the cliff into the unknown icy waters below before I would sh*t my pants.
Act quickly before you think and fear and doubt remain at bay.
Don’t forget to smile, and repeat ‘’I am Happy.’’
But as we all know, all addictions do catch up with us and send us crashing down, way down. I was exhausted from getting ahead of life, being more deceitful than my mind. I couldn’t do it anymore; I was too tired. When I hit rock bottom, the questions began to pour in. Did I need this addiction to get me through the day, to get me through this life? It was my ‘’happy fix’’ and made this life worth living.
It made it more than what it was.
I slipped into a state of despair and watched the emotions creep back in like ebony ink oozing its way into the cylinder of my Bic pen. I felt overwhelmed as the dark side shadowed my light.
I was doomed.
There was fear, there was doubt, there was insecurity and there was death. I was too tired to fight back, too tired to take a fix. There was no other way but to allow life to be just what it was, a natural pulse of darkness and lightness.
Day after day, night after night, I shivered in fear as I went cold turkey and took life as it came with the glorious moments and those from hell. From off in the corner, I witnessed each minute with a soft focus of acceptance. There is nothing wrong with being happy, damn, we all want it so desperately. Although, when we paste it on everything and ignore the fact that life is also full of drab banalities, and we are full of drab banalities, we reinforce the happiness high and can no longer function when the humdrum seeps in.
One evening, just after dinner my son was washing the dishes and so nonchalantly told me of a close schoolmate of his that was suffering from depression. I sat on the couch, in a muffled cloud of despair, my book in hand, and listened while holding back the tears.
He shared with me his simple truth that he had shared with his suffering friend:
‘’The problem with us—us humans—is that we are constantly trying to give life a meaning, endlessly searching, making it something that it is not. We are running after a fantasy life that we have constructed in the farthest corners of our mind. But what if life didn’t have any meaning at all? What if life was just life? Could we accept each moment and what that moment has to offer us instead of fighting so hard to make it something that it is not. Could we just let go and be grateful?’’
As nonchalantly as he shared this pearl of existential wisdom with me, he dried the last dish, came over, kissed me on the cheek, and said, ‘’I love you, mom, sleep well.’’
Author: Jessica Magnin
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Donnie Nunley at Flickr