Meet Ryan. He struggles with alcohol, anger, and a vague pain over the right side of his ribcage underneath his breast. Ryan is childhood friend of mine, little brother to one of my dearest friends. Tragedy hit their family not once but twice with their father dying of colorectal cancer when Ryan was five years old and their mother dying from intestinal cancer while he was just a vulnerable nineteen. Ryan had little family following this with even less support.
Constantly dealing with internalized grief, he masked his pain through a lifestyle of smoking and drinking. Darkness consumed his soul and took him on a ruthless ride until, one day; he decided it was time to stop. He called and as soon as I heard his request for help, the nostalgia hit my heart as if I’d been waiting my entire life for him to utter these words. I carefully told him to write a letter to his deceased mother, in order for him to begin to gain some sort of closure, followed by a visit with myself at my studio.
He did, and as we talked I could see that this invisible anger had wound and lodged itself right into his liver. This right-sided vague pain was holding memories of grief and sadness captive with a fine layer of rage dusting the top of these twisting emotions. Ryan saw the value of releasing these generational, emotionally charged patterns but was unsure how he could possibly surrender and let this desire for peace swallow him whole.
I encouraged him to read his letter out loud, and as I sat before him my emotions were shattered. I listened to one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry that had ever hit my soul, and instantly knew that his words were the words of all the victims that have ever walked this earth. His pen to paper was a vital force that I knew could reach so many lives.
This letter is for anyone who lost a mother whether she was alive or not. It’s for that sweet stoic spirit inside of you that’s yearning to stop the inner chaos. I think this letter will resound to each and every one of you, regardless of your situation. There’s a little bit of Ryan in all of us, and I’m thrilled to be able to share this with you and hopefully help you heal as well.
Here I sit; cut wide-open, palms to the wind, vulnerable to this world. A place that I have never been comfortable in. The words I speak are plastic and they cut my lips as I spew them onto this page. But, it is time for change. It is time for resolution. It is time to find inner-peace. It is time I tell you the truth. I’ve hated you, I’ve loved you, I’ve missed you. But, I’ve never left you.
Your ghost has manifested itself as pain trapped beneath my right rib cage clawing at my organs, begging me to forgive you, poisoning my insides with your sadness. But, this all holds purpose. Without this manifestation I would have had no chance, no recourse. I would have just continued to sleep through life. Your death will save me from passing this sadness and anger on to my children. It stops here, with me.
I remember one summer day, around 10 years old, I was in the garage fixing my bike.
An unfamiliar wave of emotion came over me. As if your ancient emotion, passed down through your lineage, knew it was time. I felt sick to my stomach. I now recognize that as fear and anger. Then, I had a tense feeling in my chest, Sadness had arrived. I walked through the backyard towards the house and the colors of the sky started to fade to a fuzzy almost grey-like appearance. I walked inside, looking for answers. My needy cries bounced off of the walls and echoed back into my earholes. No one was home. I opened the front door to a world of grey and sat on our stoop eyeing the world with a feeling I now know as melancholy. I shed a tear and quickly wiped it away. Fearing someone would take my new found friend from me. Little did I know that you had been passing down doses of generational grief for years. A little cancer here, just a touch of sadness there. That grief only grew stronger as I got older. I loved my friend, Sadness. It was mine to keep.
You were my first love. You were my first heartbreak. You were the first woman to lie to me. You told me everything would be okay. And then you left. Since then I haven’t been able to trust women. I’ve loved many women but the looming fear of desertion caused me to be emotionally unavailable, sexually bi polar and unable to maintain any resemblance of a healthy, loving relationship. These women poured their hearts out for me and at times I just didn’t care. I would have gladly traded their tears on my shoulder for a pint of whiskey and a cloud of cigarette smoke. Their departure was imminent. A lesson learned at an early age. Why fight it? I accepted sadness and anger into my body washing it down with a seemingly endless stream of hurt, using it as fuel to write, to “love”, to fight. I didn’t stand a chance. Nor did I want one. I wanted to die. Everyday. For 16 years.
Most of my twenties I led a life of excess, not endowed with life or spirit. Emotionally burning those that loved me to the ground. Drunkenly stomping on their ashes, pissing on our love, spitting like a venomous snake on our possible future. Then, questioning why they left me. And the vicious cycle fueled by alcohol, self-doubt, sadness, anger and fear reigned supreme for far too long. I didn’t know why I felt these feelings. Just that I did.
From an early age your neurotic need to control everything gripped one hand around my throat the other covering my eyes. Never allowing me to breathe in the beautiful air of this world, the colors, the here, the now. Never allowing me to be present. Plan this, prepare for this, don’t do this, do this. Constantly watching the hands of a clock spinning as life passed me by. Ultimately developing a clone of yourself so that you could have more control. More control in a world of chaos. More of an illusion dictated by societal constructs.
I was successful in my career yet I felt empty. I hit a wall. I had achieved everything that I had wanted. Or so I thought. I started questioning everything. Then, my world came apart. An epic collapse of sorts. The illusions were shattered. For the next couple of years following my 30th birthday I started to take writing seriously. I started to feel the effects of alcohol. I was numb from head to toe. I had given up on any thought of happiness and peace. I allowed the darkness to take over. I was gone. Like so many others in this world.
In the summer of 2014 I fell madly in love with a young girl name Harley. We were inseparable. Hopelessly, irretrievably in love. We had never felt a love like that before. The night was our time. Classical music played and we drank fine whiskey and smoked cigarettes. We shared intimate secrets with each other, we read books, we wrote and the world around us started to brighten with our joined darkness at the core. I started to see colors again. I could feel her emotions and I could see her energy. She was my all and I was as happy as a man of my depression could be. I had finally found “happiness”. But, something was still missing. I started to question everything again and the colors around us started to fade back to grey. That feeling of fear and desertion started to set in. I could feel her pulling away from me and I knew I was pulling away from her.
Knowing that I still loved her I thought we needed a fresh start. A way to find ourselves. I was looking at life to fix us. But, the answer was right there, in our eyes. Our love never needed anything more than our presence. Something I never learned from you. We drove across country to New York. I planned everything down to the minute never allowing us to enjoy the experience or each other. When we arrived to New York, there was a glimmer in the sky. I thought “this is exactly what we needed”. But, like any “quick-fix”; the feeling was fleeting. I started to spiral out of control. Drinking heavier than I had ever. Blacking-out became routine and that familiar feeling of melancholy took over. Harley, with a heavy-heart, started to improve. She stopped drinking and started to take her healthy lifestyle to the next level. This only drove me further away. I felt like nothing mattered. I wasn’t wrong. I was just mis-guided by my own feeble mind.
One night, on the verge of a blackout; I lied down in the shower. Staring up at the water falling onto my face as if the world was crying for me. I was done. I did not want to go on. I was truly ready to leave this world. I saw your face and I cried for what seemed like an eternity. This world…had broken me. I woke up to an empty bed. Harley was sleeping on the couch, bags packed. I asked her to come lay with me. I could see in her eyes that she was heartbroken. She was done. I shed a tear with the weight of all of my sadness and yours. With that; I convinced her to come back to California with me. But, it was too late.
The son that you knew, died in that shower that night. In hindsight; I was done with the world of sadness and darkness. I was and am ready to stop asking questions and start acting. I have a life-long journey of patience ahead of me and I am learning to find peace with the world and that life will happen as it may. I can only be present and allow myself to feel these ancient emotions and invisible wounds, painfully sober, newly-healthy and without a soulmate. There is no control, only the illusion of control. The time is now. The place is here. All that matters is love.
If only I could have learned that from you.
I miss you, Mom
-Ryan James Carson