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I read every book I could get my hands on, then I’d research the books the author had read and I’d read all of those.I slept with teachers, with students, with drunks and junkies, men and women, with anyone who had a glint of fire or danger in the corner of their eye. What I no doubt do not need to explain is how dangerous my hunger and subsequent behavior were.That’s a story line we are all trained to understand.
What other people called lies were actually portals to finding my ability to invent stories.
Ten years later, the quality of my suffering took on a different form. Hunger for ideas, hunger for sex, hunger for danger, hunger for risk.
And that doesn’t just matter for my career as a writer, or even for my mental and emotional health as a woman.
It’s also the path I took to learn love, so that when my son came, sun of my life, I was able to give it with abandon and joy.
But I am one of those who is willing to stand up, tell the story out loud, admit that I have carried that profound loss, that birth-death crisis, for more than thirty years now. I haven’t “moved on.” At least not without her — my daughter I mean. I held my swaddled lifeless daughter several times. I let the nurses give me a hot towel “bath” in the bed the second night, which remains on my list of top five most phenomenal physical experiences of my life. It was my sister who brought me back to life, slowly, feeding me bits of saltine crackers to lure me back, and then one day an egg, and eventually, a milkshake. It was my sister who stepped fully clothed into the shower with me when she would hear me sobbing. I went back to college, and I had a part-time job at a daycare center, which in retrospect may have been a tragic error. I told anyone and everyone that she was alive, she was beautiful, such long eyelashes.
Here is the thing I want to say loudest of all: I haven’t transcended anything. I thought I might be dead, but the heated wet towels reminded my skin that I was in fact alive, even if I was deadened. She held me tight like a mother would, and her clothes, I began to feel the texture of her clothes against my skin. Partway through that first year, I did something unethical. I lied about where we were living, I lied about the classes I was barely attending. My daughter’s death was so alive in me it felt like we were two people walking around.All creativity has destruction as its other, just like the beyond beautiful dead infant I held in my arms.What I saw in literary books was a possible path from suffering and self-destruction to self-expression. Twenty years later, the quality of the suffering took shape and form on pages.The Pursuit of Pleasure The Buddha’s diagnosis of human suffering has two parts in which he explains the nature of suffering and the cause of suffering, contained in the First and Second Noble Truth respectively.The First Noble Truth explains the existence of suffering, referring to it with the word duhkha, which encompasses the underlying sense unsatisfactoriness of human experiences and its pervasiveness throughout life.If you are one of those people who has the ability to make it down to the bottom of the ocean, the ability to swim the dark waters without fear, the astonishing ability to move through life’s worst crucibles and not die, then you also have the ability to bring something back to the surface that helps others in a way that they cannot achieve themselves. The mid term for a free online course called Buddhism and Modern Psychology was due today and it consisted on writing an essay, which I decided to share here.The word limit was 800 words and it only required to present an understanding of the first two Noble Truths as the Buddha’s diagnosis for human suffering, state my position of agreement or disagreement with it, and to provide my personal reflection and reasoning to support it.For some of you, this essay could serve as an introduction to part of the core elements of Buddhism which are the Four Noble Truths. I hope you enjoy the reading and I encourage you to share any feedback or criticism.In this sense, to be a misfit means to be willing to dive into the waters of one’s life, swim to the wreckage at the bottom, and bring something back to the surface. When I tell you that literature and writing have saved my life, perhaps you can believe me when I say they came into my body and lodged in the space that my daughter left open. We misfits are the ones with the ability to enter grief.