Thirty-one years ago, I failed. It was the most beautiful failure I have ever managed to pull off, and that’s saying a lot because, well, I’ve failed quite a few times since then.
I was young, and lost, and depressed. I attempted suicide, and I failed. I’m not sure if I truly wanted to die, but I didn’t want to live. I was emotionally immature, and ill-equipped to deal with the chaos and dysfunction of my home life.
Following my failed attempt I was admitted to an inpatient facility. I remember being disappointed because I didn’t die, but happy I was going somewhere other than where I lived at the time. I also remember being afraid, not of the facility or the counselors, but the other teenaged patients. I never felt like I fit in and although I had friends, I didn’t connect on a deep level with any of them.
I was checked into a shared room, but the other bed was empty when I arrived. I had been at the facility for a few days and can remember waking up early one morning because they were placing another girl in my room. She was angry and trying to explain to the counselor that she shouldn’t be at the facility. I watched the scene quietly from my bed. When the counselor left the room, she sat on her bed facing me and introduced herself. A hundred questions followed, which I answered without elaborating, then she proceeded to tell me her story.
Fe was the first person I had ever met that I could relate to or that I felt could relate to me. She had an exotic beauty about her; she was outgoing, outspoken, and real. She seemed fearless and never hesitated to ask for exactly what she wanted; she was everything I wanted to be – everything I thought I was not. But she was also broken in the same places I was broken, and if you’ve ever been broken, you know the most powerful feeling is being able to identify with someone who is broken the same as you.
Fe and I would stay awake well past ‘lights-out’ talking about life, sharing stories of our past, hopes for our futures, and plotting; we became BFF’s almost overnight. We were rebels. Well, Fe was the rebel, but I was able to borrow courage when in her presence. We would sneak contraband into our room and to us, back then, that consisted of candy and new notebooks from the facility classroom. Fe ran the place and being with her made me feel like I ran the place too. In reality, and looking back now, we didn’t run much aside from our mouths, but we sure thought we did.
We spent Christmas inpatient, and although there were rules against anything from the ‘outside’ being brought in, they allowed my grandma to sneak in a small Christmas tree. The little tree sat atop a dresser in our room with a strand of blinking lights and a few ornaments. I loved staring at the lights at night while listening to Fe talk.
I left before Fe and leaving her was horrible. For a while I’d felt normal, I felt like I was loved and understood; Fe had a way of making me feel like I was somebody special. We talked on the phone a few times after I left; the facility allowed her to call me, but after a few months she went home, and we never talked or saw each other again.
I never forgot about Fe and most years at Christmas time I think of her and wonder if she made it, if she’s still running things, and if she ever thinks of me. However, it has been many years since I’ve thought about my failure, or the pain I felt leading up to my attempt. I’ve never thought about what would have changed or never been if I hadn’t failed.
Six months ago, on August 13, 2016, my Pops was successful; he died by suicide. What followed was painful, confusing, and lonely. It still is. I’ve been treading water for six months; sometimes praying I wouldn’t drown, and other times praying I would. I’ve spent a lot of time writing, and reflecting on Pops life, and my own. During the 2016 Christmas season, as I was putting up our tree, I thought about Fe, and I thought about my failure. For the first time in thirty-one years, I considered all the things that would have been different today if I hadn’t failed.
There would be four children who would call someone else mom, I imagine they would be entirely different, and I wouldn’t have had the experience of being their mom. I wouldn’t have been able to hold gram’s hand as she was leaving this world or hear the stories she waited to share until we knew her time was short. I wouldn’t have learned the lessons my Pops taught me, and I wouldn’t have the precious memories I have of Pops and my children together. And, this list could go on, and on.
I’ve failed at a lot of things in life. I fear failure but don’t fear it enough not to take chances. I beat myself up for missing the mark or making mistakes that lead to failure. I try to learn from my failures, but sometimes I need to fail a few times before the lesson sinks in enough to take hold. I’m not sure if failing at suicide taught me a lesson back then, but meeting Fe did – it taught me that I wasn’t alone.
It wasn’t until I experienced the pain of losing a loved one to suicide that I considered what would have happened if I hadn’t failed. The pain I would have caused, and all I would have missed.
After thinking about that time for a few weeks I knew I had to track her down, I had to find Fe. I had to know if her broken parts healed the way mine had, and I needed to share my new broken pieces with the only person I had ever felt understood my type of brokenness. One of the amazing things about modern-day and social media is the ability to find people. A Facebook search produced results; she was the top of the list when I input her maiden name in my search bar. Thankfully she has a hyphenated last name, and there she was, her smiling face captured in a profile picture.
After writing and deleting it several times, I finally hit the send button on a private message and held my breath. I had no idea if she’d want to reconnect or if she’d prefer to leave that part of her past in the past. I hoped she would respond, and I waited. A few days went by with no response, and I doubted my decision to contact her. I didn’t want to open old wounds, I didn’t want to remind her of a painful time, and the worst was wondering if she just didn’t remember me. Then it happened – she answered. I could feel her excitement through the words on my computer screen.
We talked on the phone and filled each other in with a short version of the last thirty-plus years of each other’s lives. We got our calendars out and planned a day to get together in person. Fe still lives in her hometown, and I live an hour away. The soonest date we both had open was a week and a half away, but it had been thirty-one years so what was another ten days?
I drove down to Fe’s house today and smiled the whole way – I think it’s the longest I’ve felt joy since losing my Pops. We sat in her backyard drinking coffee and talking then visited the farm where she works. We walked through rows and rows of sunflowers, talking like teenage girls; we literally picked up exactly where we left off thirty-one years ago. We shared our broken pieces again, older and wiser now, but still as fragile as we were back then in some ways. We talked about love, and loss, and loyalty. I picked flowers for my Pops, and I could feel him smiling down, proud of me for being vulnerable and open to allowing someone inside where the real pain hides. With her, I don’t worry about being judged, and I don’t worry about being misunderstood. The broken pieces we have in common, those pieces we shared with each other when we were girls – they bonded us for life.
Thank God for broken pieces and beautiful failure.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please reach out, someone is always listening. You are not alone. You matter – you and all of your broken pieces.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255.
#brokenpieces #failure #suicide #suicideawareness #friendship #loyalty #transferofpain
© R.J. Belle and Transfer Of Pain, 2017