I tend to be an upbeat person. My friends and family would probably agree. But around the end of 2020 and in early 2021, I experienced a personal loss that felt like all the grief I’ve ever had piled up in one big and painful heap. I don’t ever remember feeling so sad and depressed as I did then. I would have upsetting dreams, only to wake up and be reminded that what had been haunting me in my sleep matched my actual reality.
I was on the other side of the planet from most of my friends and family. The emotional outlet that kept me any semblance of being “together” was long walks along a cold and ethereal Scandinavian seashore, doing my best to come back into my life with each step I took. Sometimes I would call friends who would try to comfort and soothe me as best they could, and sometimes my companion was the ocean tides pulsing alongside the path I walked. I would also keep up my daily word art (@oshrihakak on IG), which helped me process the sense of loss I was feeling. Even with the loving and supportive efforts of many friends and family, I still had a heightened sense of abandonment as a huge part of my world was crumbling.
At some point during one of these walks when I was feeling particularly heavy, lonely, bitter, and sad, the concept behind the book I would write called Stay Alive came to me as a seed of inspiration planted by the splashing waves. It made me laugh and lightened my heart.
There is something about art being able to hold everything that has incredible powers of transformative and healing alchemy. Art– in all its forms– can hold sorrow and heaviness alongside a childlike lightness, and allow some of our heaviness to transition into lightness, bit by bit. I find that there is nothing like opening my own heart and mind and letting what needs to come out, come out.
The reality is, so many people are deeply hurting these days. I believe that humanity needs as many outlets (ie. people opening up their creative wells) as we can muster in order to release this pain we are holding. It is a collective job stepped into by individuals willing to take the risk of being intimately vulnerable.
I shared that book idea, which then had felt like just a whim, with a dear friend of mine. For the first time, they told me that they had attempted to take their own life during high school and that they felt it was actually a really worthwhile project and could be helpful to people. So I moved forward with it.
I reached out to an artist who I had followed for a while (Andrea Ceballos García, @andreakushisha on IG) and she really resonated with the words that had come through me for Stay Alive. I was in wonder and gratitude at the images that she then created for the book. Within a few months (by late Spring of 2022, or about a year and a half after those long, cold walks through the fog), we had the book printed and published. It felt so good to be able to hold it in my hands, a creation that reflects my own processing and desire to keep going, that I hope can be a vessel to encourage others to do the same amidst the turmoil they may be facing.
Three people in my sphere have taken their own lives in the last couple of years and I wish I could have shared my own reflections and love with them before they made irreversible decisions, or better yet I wish I could have been an ear to guide their own sparks into breathing and flourishing. But as a dear friend once shared with me, “Should have done’s, can become should do now’s.” So I’m sharing now. If you are feeling pain, you are sensitive (and have managed to move through the gazillion ways the world offers us to numb out). And if you’re sensitive, you’re aware. And if you’re aware, it means you have a perspective that can help you touch reality in a way that you can actually relieve some of our collective human sufferings.
You are feeling, and that means the world needs you here. To breathe with it, to walk with it, to create out of it.