A challenge I often find in telling a story is where to begin.
Here’s the shortest story.
I’ve started “The Postcard Club” for anyone who wants a 4.5″ x 5.5″ postcard of my photography. So this morning I went down to the local post office for stamps to mail out to the January recipients (do you want to be in TPC? Check out https://www.buymeacoffee.com/ridg). As I parked, I saw a Daylight Donuts shop near the post office and walked there first to see what they had to offer.
First walking in, I noticed about 20 men sitting around two tables including three law enforcement officers and no one had masks on or near and they were certainly fewer than 6 feet apart. I knew I’d just keep my mask on and walk away with anything I decided to buy. The shop hours on the front listed a 430 am opening and as I glanced towards the display case, I could tell they had sold a lot of their inventory in the 5 hours since it had opened. Then I noticed a sign above the display case “No Debit or Credit Cards accepted.” I tapped my wallet to confirm it was in my pocket, knowing already that I didn’t have any cash. Nevertheless, the cashier smiled, so walked on to see what kinds of donuts they offered.
If you don’t know already, Daylight Donuts are independently owned and operated stores who receive their flour/dough from Daylight Donuts Flour Company. It’s a light, yeast dough that has consistency from location to location. We first encountered Daylight Donuts at a store in Newton, Kansas called “Druber’s Donuts”.
So I walked forward and the pleasant, lovely woman asked what I’d like and I said, “well I just wanted to see what you have because I realized that I don’t have any cash on me.” We chatted about their varieties, and I mentioned a style we used to get at Druber’s called the “peanut butter” donut. She said, “Oh we have one of those too in a twist, but they don’t stick around for long.” I turned to go and she said, “what kind would you like to take with you?” I reminded her I didn’t have any cash, and she said, “Oh don’t you worry about that.” Handing me one of their specialty knots in a bit of wax paper saying, “You have a nice day, alright?” And I walked out of the shop, snapped a photo of the donut to storefront, and thought, “I think I will have a nice day.” I walked in the 20 degree (F) temps to the post office, got my stamps and came home to find I’d locked the door with the keys inside, but the door hadn’t fully latched, so a simple push got me back inside to sit and write my cards, this story, and send off TPC. Pretty nice overall.
The longer version of the story contains everything above, but starts a bit earlier. TW/CW: suicidal thoughts, suicide, drug use.
I think the first time I considered suicide or wrote about it I was probably 11. Maybe 9. I had recently changed schools (for the second time) and I didn’t really have good friends like at the school I’d left most recently. I was entering the 4th grade.
I had a difficult time on the first day of 3rd grade as I started at this school (Ark. Ave.) in the second grade and on the first day of third grade after making friends through the year, my bestest friends were sitting in a classroom and I proceeded to walk down the hall and I saw them in this room to my left. Excitedly I popped into the room, sat down with them and then the teacher started taking roll. They’re in third grade, I’m in third grade, why would I think there would be another room or another teacher? When my name wasn’t called, I thought nothing of it. Here are my friends and I’m ready to start another school year. But I was then told I was enrolled in another classroom with a different teacher, away from my besties. When I got to 4th grade it was this aloneness all over again.
Maybe my first thoughts were not about suicide per se, but instead how much better the whole world would be if I weren’t around. Everywhere I looked, it seemed like there was no place for me. No place I was welcomed and cherished. Everyone else seemed to fit, but I was a mis-fit. The only person in my family that consistently had space and time for me was my paternal grandfather and when he was diagnosed with cancer and died, I then felt really, deeply, alone in the world. Then I was 11 and I thought about suicide.
These ideations have been a part of my life, thoughts, and living from that time to now. I will go through periods, sometimes months, where removing myself from bed is a genuine struggle. During the most recent National Adoption Awareness Month, I empathized and felt comfort in reading about how other adoptees wrote about suicide (more than adoptees suffer with suicidal tendencies) and their mental health. Jess from “I am Adopted FB” distributed them on social https://www.facebook.com/iamadopted.
As many of you know, I lost my youngest son to suicide 10/2019. I never brought up to him my own wrestling with it. That’s a regret. The emotional weight of discovering my adoption, of growing up in an abusive home, of feeling out-of-place often, of relinquishing my oldest son to adoption (I didn’t know I was adopted when I did), and now compounded with Gabriel’s death, feels like too much. Last week, I told Joan I was ready to be done with this burden, this life. I told her that I wouldn’t until I was finished converting the van at least.
And then this weekend I saw a friend. He guided me through a session where I took a heroic dose of psilocybin (5 mg). I’d seen and heard others talk about this experience like Terence McKenna and Sam Harris (go visit his website and support his social channels if you have space), so I had some intellectual idea about what would happen. I should provide a couple of caveats – 1. psilocybin is illegal in many jurisdictions, so check your local laws (though even where it is legal locally, it is illegal in the US at a federal level) and 2. you should work with a guide, if you decide to do it. To paraphrase Sam, some people have a tenuous hold on reality as is and a heroic dose might snap that anchor irreparably. Not everyone should.
But I did. And I won’t talk much about my experience here now. I can say that it was ecstasy and agony. Ecstasy via classical music interfacing with my visual and tactile senses. Agony in that I experienced losing Gabriel for what felt like lifetimes, again and again. I laughed and cried involuntarily throughout and at one point my friend, Eugene, came into the room and just held my hand. I got to a place of lucidity and emerged from my room to interact with everyone at the house, but I was really still in a different mental space because all time/place/persons conflated into just that space.
All of the world, all of history, and all of eternity were present within the walls of the living room and those gathered. I questioned the meaning of words, of time, of people within my memory, but not currently present. I realize, now, TODAY, that I was still under the affect because I talked about Gabriel as an eternal being, ostensibly arising from me, but really having an existence for all time and having existed before we “provided birth” to him. And I talked about the anguish of losing him and realizing that anyone should lose their mind for an untimely death such as his. But those experiences felt like another reality, another world, maybe another dimension and I was free from that. I sat in light and life with other eternal beings in that moment.
And today I got a free donut. It’s not free-free in that someone paid with time or money, but it was a gift to me. And not only the donut itself, but the grace and love with which it was given, was really the greater gift. And I don’t feel depressed today. I haven’t since the heroic dose this weekend. I don’t think it’s a panacea and it may not last until my end of days, but today I walk lighter and with greater awareness to the beauty of these moments.