[ink]m train by patti smith


I am drawn to stories about grief. As the years go by and I learn to live with mine, I find it comforting to wrap myself in the grief of others, fictional or otherwise. It’s a way to lessen the isolation that grief strands us in.

How is it that we never completely comprehend our love for someone until they’re gone?

With M Train, Patti Smith explores the themes of love, loss and grief in her life. Mainly the loss of her husband, Fred Sonic Smith at the age of 45. It’s a book presented as a series of dreams, memories, travels and the hazy area in between them all. Smith is a consummate poet and her memoirs always read as an extension of that, ephemeral and enigmatic.

It’s not so easy writing about nothing.

Like Just Kids before it, M Train’s text is juxtaposed with personal photographs of Smith’s. These are more powerful for the fact they are frequently not of people, but of inanimate objects that belong to artists and writers that inspire her. They create a subtle set dressing that tells us more about Smith than her words alone could.

Nothing can be truly replicated. Not a love, not a jewel, not a single line.

This is one of those books that should not be talked about too much in hard and concrete terms. It strips it of some of it’s magic. It’s often heart wrenching, but more often hopeful. I’m sure I will wrap myself in it’s words more than once. Perhaps it will not be all at once. Perhaps I will choose a chapter here and passage there, but there is too much beauty here to not be revisited.

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[life]down a rabbit hole…

There has been a lot of discussions about suicide in relation to pop culture lately. Shows like 13 Reasons Why have sparked a conversation on how we portray suicide and depression. Real life incidents like the death of Chris Cornell have created a dialogue about what to do if someone you know is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.

In the midst of these conversations something that comes up a lot is the concept of tunnel vision to the point that there doesn’t seem to be any other options. It’s an apt description, but in my experience it doesn’t even begin to cover it.

My experience is this: I am a chronic depressive and I have seriously attempted to take my own life multiple times. So when these conversations happen, they are remarkably close to my heart. Here’s the thing with my depression: Much like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, I tumble down depression holes. Obviously they are not full of color and whimsy, but they are as impossible to climb out of as Alice’s.

I know that people who have never been there don’t understand how someone could reach the point where they feel like the only option is to end it all. Obviously every single person has their own reasons for it, but for me it was always exhaustion. It is exhausting to wake up every day and force yourself to be functional when nothing feels worth it. Depression is not a constant state. It has waves of intensity. When it is on a wave of high intensity and you still have to go to school or work or take care of a small person, it is so fucking exhausting. Combined with the fact that for all the posts about how doors are always open, when those same people ask you how you are chances are they don’t really want to know the extent of hopelessness and apathy you’re dealing with today. We are trained by society that being sad is a burden and rude. So you have the choice of either being a burden or somehow finding the energy to fake being “okay” and “normal”. Frequently this is all in our heads, but I can almost guarantee that even people with good intentions are not prepared for the scope of the full emotions of someone with depression. It tends to express itself in empty platitudes and cliches about how loved you are and how there is always another way. Which leads us back to not wanting to be rude by not telling you how unhelpful it is to hear the same things repeated ad nauseum for most of our lives.

Here’s the thing: Words and platitiudes probably aren’t going to help. Asking what you can do to help is probably not going to help. Saying you are always only a phone call away is probably not going to help. Honestly, nothing you can do is going to help sometimes. Understand though that we who struggle with this are not always going to be able to approach you or tell you how you can help.

The honest answer to how to help is this: Be there. Be there when it’s difficult to be there. Show up with coffee, tea or the drink of your friend’s choice. If they seem more tired than normal, make them a casserole that they can throw in the oven to heat up and feed the family. Show up at their house and say it’s such a nice day you thought you’d go hang out at the park and ask them if they would like to come (or would they like you to take their small person and give them a break)Text them stupid and funny stories even if you don’t always hear back right away. If you show up and they don’t seem to have energy to interact, offer to hang out and watch Netflix. We notice all these things. Maybe it doesn’t seem like it. We don’t expect you to be there, but if decide you want to be don’t put the pressure on us to figure out how you should be there.

Again, I clearly don’t speak for every depressed and suicidal person. We are all walks of life and all shades of different just like anyone else with any illness. This post is clumsy and awkward and probably badly gets any point I was trying to make across since it’s all over the place, but there are a lot of thoughts that have been all over the place so there probably wasn’t much help for it.

I also promise the next blog post will be back on track with the pop culture things. I mean basically I write about that to avoid writing about things like this anyway.