Social media is a strange landscape, and my desire to share and my ability to open myself ebbs and flows. In anger or other moments of strong feeling, I fling myself into the arena. In moments of dissociation, in the quiet and suffocating spaces of depression and fear and anxiety, to reach out is almost impossible. There are no words for un-being. Our language describes what is. How do I explain the sort of non-space I live in when feeling becomes a survival threat?
This year, my brain divorced itself from conscious feeling sometime between the night of the 10th and morning on the 11th. I got up and thought, “Talia dies today, so what.”
It’s not so-what, although at the moment only my intellect (and not my heart) is available to tell you so. I’m reminded of a case study I read for class this week: a 16-year-old girl who was beaten and abused by her stepfather throughout her childhood, who told the details of her maltreatment without affect, and then laughed. We protect ourselves from what we believe will kill us. If the feeling is too painful, we turn off. That’s how we live through trauma.
I’m not sure what compels me to write this evening. I finished reading The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, that’s certainly a part of it (maybe even all). It’s a good book. A fantastic book, I would say. I continue to be soothed (and stirred) by reading about my own feelings, my own experiences (or similar ones) told in the context of other people’s lives.
Without understanding my own reasoning, I want to share the words I wrote to our dear family friends two years ago (well, just over two years ago), before Talia died all the way:
“I thought of calling you yesterday, when I was preoccupied with questions about Talia’s soul: where is it? Can it remain intact at this time? Do we need to release her body immediately so that her soul can be at peace? Does the entirety of a person live in the brain? If so (to the last question), Talia is woefully incomplete. That is a tragedy I don’t like to contemplate–that she could be reduced to the ragged patchwork of her brain. It is nicer to think of the soul as an immutable thing, but I still can’t fathom where she is right now.
I am angry, I am empty, I am full, I don’t have words. Most of the time I don’t have complete or lasting feelings–I’m protecting myself from the abyss that must inevitably swamp me, biding my time and communing with Talia’s body, which is so unchanged that I cannot hold reality as I look on her. I don’t know if she hears me. I don’t know if she feels me. But it is good to smell her and hold her.
I want to unplug her, wash her curls, dress her in something dignified and bring her home. I am scared for my parents. I am worried for Abi and Tsion. I am glad to be held specifically in someone’s thoughts.”
Here we are, the day after her final death, and I am still suspended in nothingness. People have been sending their condolences, which is lovely and thoughtful and sweet. But I’m so far away the well-wishes don’t penetrate, it’s like they’re meant for someone else. I’m fine, I don’t need them, I’m nothing, I’m nothing, I’m nothing…