BTT #51: Near Death Experience

Flint River

Near Death Experience

·
I had once
Watched these cold waters
With the calm
Precision
Of one who had decided
To Sink beneath them.
·
Another
River is flowing
In this bed
From that day
When promises filled pockets
With the weight of stones
·
Walking now
Upon a gray path
On the bank,
Stones just sleep
Beneath the skip of my feet
Glad to dance again
·
Each river
Empties to the sea
Sifting rocks
To soft silt
Lining dark floors of the world
With cold remembrance
·
This Earth flows
Underneath us all
And swallows
Each of us.
Kiss its mouth when it holds you,
But dance until then.
·
– Lona Gynt, January 2019. 
·
This is posted in response to Merril’s prompt at dVerse.  She tasked us with writing about “Time and What If…?”  What if we had done something different at a different time, how would our lives be different?  It is a great prompt, here is the link:
·

Poetics: Time and What If?

Now comes the part when I might ruin the poem and decrease its universality by adding a long biographical narrative – so those of you who think a poem is a naked person that should not be adorned with explanatory narrative, feel free to skip the next part – I understand.

This Shadorma is a reflection on suicidality.  I recall walking along this riverbank near my home about four years ago.  I did not fill alive.  I felt like I needed to be dead, I thought it would have solved so many problems for my family and ended the escalating misery that my gender dysphoria was causing.  I thought of Virginia Wolf, and I handled and counted out some heavy stones that I could put into the five different zipper pockets of my bright blue Jacket.  The river was swollen and swift.

I did think of the pain and problems it would cause my family if I drowned myself.  I was rational enough to construct a calculus that the pain from suicide would be worse for my family that the other pain I was otherwise causing them.  I did not put the stones in my jacket.  I continued walking along the path, but watched the swift waters all along the way.  I love this path and the river and the trees, but was not sure I could ever enjoy them again.

Just a few days ago, on the morning of New Year’s Eve , I was walking along this same path, and thought of how different I felt than on the day I had counted out the stones.  So many things had happened in the intervening years tht would not have happened if I had followed the “what if” of that different time:

  •  I had continued to work with my super-duper (not ironic- she is super-duper)therapist
  • I had begun cross-gender hormone therapy (estrogen)
  • I had made progress on eradicating the self-loathing intrinsic transphobia that I had aimed at myself for decades
  • I had many difficult and wonderful discussions with family members, and I am lucky enough that I have been treated only with kindness by them in my circumstances.
  • I had started writing poetry again and found my friends at dVerse.
  • I had come to feel that God loves and accepts me regardless of the dogmas and doctrines that people use to try to fence the wild tides of Creation.

Many difficulties remain.  Medical transition with the hormones has decreased my suicidal impulsivity and has helped me to feel right with my body, but I have not come to express my gender socially – primarily because of concern about discrimination in my career and possible negative peer reactions directed at my adolescent daughter.  As a result I often still feel like I am living outside of who I really am, and don’t always feel like I am living – but things are so much better than before.

Up to 40 percent of transgender individuals have attempted suicide, far too many have completed it, and the fact that we think about it often is almost seen as a strange and sad little matter-of-course among us as we meet in support groups for each other.  It’s almost (darkly darkly) funny.  The ironic thing is that this danger of self-harm seems to be associated not really with the inherent fact of being transgender, but rather with the feeling of hopelessness and depersonalization that comes first when transgender person sees no hope to be able to transition because of a lack of support in their milieu, and second when the milieu becomes outright hostile when the transitioning actually does happen.  It is not crazy when a transgender person says that they are not crazy, but the rest of world is.  Therefore the clarion:  “Fix Society.”

S.M. Barr has written a fine concise and well referenced summary of the reasons why suicide risk is tragically high in Transgender persons.

http://www.sebastianmitchellbarr.com/blog/2015/10/8/why-are-transgender-people-more-likely-to-attempt-suicide

On this recent 2018 New Year’s Eve, however, I was feeling only calm and joy, and was feeling so glad that I had not acted on the suicidal thoughts that had once been such a prominent part of the dysphoria.  I was amazed that I could have felt such wide differences of emotion on two different days in the exact same spot.  The River is once again swollen after rains, but it only looks beautiful to me now, like a force carrying the dirt and darkness of suffering far away.  I had been a little brave and had donned a pink cap and some ridiculous pink lipstick for the walk.   I was relishing the desire to live in this beautiful world, and by gosh-dern I am going to live.  Competing imperatives may delay my transitioning for a time, but by holding that hope and actual determination in my heart, I actually feel alive and don’t start to die.  I am paradoxically less driven to socially transition when I make no promises that I never will.

Merril’s prompt on “time and what if” has caused reflection.  What if I had died?  I would not be here now with y’all.  We are all going to die, and I am not afraid of it, I will kiss it on the mouth when it comes.  But I am determined not to rush it.  I love the living and the breathing and the dancing that I get to do until then.  I am grateful to be here.  How does the story finish?  Well, I finished my walk, and then I went shopping.  Love y’all.  Be well.  Lona.

Text and Photos by Lona Gynt, All rights Reserved, January 2019.

Pink Me

46 thoughts on “BTT #51: Near Death Experience

  1. The poem sufficed in itself–as it should–to stand by that river still alive and meditating on the grace of surviving through. Next to last stanza is absolutely magnificent, but the dance is resonant and meaningful throughout. What is it that we stand on, how do we proceed, what knowledge of depth keeps our feet dancing in sync with the river … Even so, the autobiographical note is as important and necessary, and the photo you’ve include a perfect lysis to it all, a celebration by that river. In AA I’ve had four sponsees commit suicide before they could surrender enough, the last one a guy I cared for so deeply. Choosing to go early to those dark floors was understandable, but how inconsolable we who loved him were … Anyway, this is THE poem for the challenge.

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    1. Brendan, thank you for the exquisitely thoughtful and incisive response, and for the heart felt therein, I am very grateful. What is it that we stand on? Such an important question, and I think you mentioned it as a grace – is grace a blessing or luck? I don’t really know that there is a difference, for whether I have been specifically blessed by God for some purpose, I know that I don’t deserve it more than others, and if I was just lucky I am saddened by those for whom the wheel landed on a less fortunate set of circumstances. The more I contemplate God, the more I think that we are expected to try to be blessings to each other in order to ameliorate, where we can, the random entropy of the cosmos. So our greatest strength is the strength we derive from and offer to each other. Thinking of my connections to my family has saved me more than once, the fact that my circumstance involves severe dysphoria, but did not disrupt the calculus of rational measures was fortunate, the professional training and opportunities that allow me access to healthcare and therapy is critical, the fact that although not all of my family is zactly supportive, the fact that at least they are all very kind is extraordinary. To have so many cards stacked in my favor and to still have come so close more often than I like to contemplate causes reflection as to how tenuous the whole proposition is for us here. I am grateful for you Brendan, an advocate for honesty and reflection and action in your work, and your willingness to sponsor and help your fellow travelers in AA, this shows tremendous love, the flipside of which can be inconsolable grief for the fallen. I am saddened for the loss, but the ongoing efforts of so many of our fellow humans engenders in me more hope than despair, for which I am also fortunate in my plain dumb luck, of which you are a part, but you are certainly not the dumb part. I enjoyed your characterization of the ridiculous selfie as a lysis – it is liberating to have that there, in that same place. Thank you my friend, it is an honor to both celebrate and grieve here with you.

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      1. Thanks Lona — to celebrate and grieve together is our collective work as poets offering a general thumbs-up or -down to humanity for its errant work of becoming human (which is just the first step in becoming a living citizen of the wider world, which cannot but judge us badly these days … My father was a closeted minister until coming out in midlife — breaking up our family to pursue his identity — and what a road that was, which found greater substance raising stones in the forest than what he could achieve with another man, though he tried. Turning our crosses into awakening worlds, that’s a road our words can surely walk.

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  2. Therisa Godwaldt

    Oh Lona, sometimes, the pain that we bear, being transgender, is a tale, in itself. Yes, I am talking from my own personal experience, on this issue. It’s now, 8 years, since I last attempted to take my own life, I had my prescription drugs all lined up, for my O.D., but couldn’t do it.

    You’re not alone, in this struggle.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hugs, Lona! The poem–of shadorma verses–is wonderful, and those last lines resonate.
    (And now I understand your comment about the drink of river water.) 🙂
    The river path is beautiful. I live near rivers also, and I love to walk beside them.
    Am I right that this is the first time you’ve posted a photo of yourself? Love the pink cap and pink-tinged smile.
    Although the poem stands by itself, the biographical note certainly adds context. The statistics you mention do not surprise me, as I know from my own work that trans individuals also face a high risk of sexual harassment, abuse, and violence. I’m so happy for you that you are in a better place now, but I do wish the world was a better place for you, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Merril, that is the first picture I have posted of me, other than my cartoon pixelated second-life me. But I did wear my Clarke Kente glasses to keep my secret identity 😉
      I am fortunate, I am in a better place, and the world will come along, I have to believe in Dr. Kings long arc of history. This is a wonderful prompt Merril, you reached into my brain again, There I was on Monday walking, thinking what if I had done it back when, knowing how good I feel now, came out to my DAd the day after Christmas, he was kind, but it was tough. I made no promises that I wouldn’t transition, and felt so good about it. Hugs me Merril friend! 💜

      Liked by 1 person

      1. After I made that comment, I was afraid I had overstepped–so no worries, I won’t reveal that you are really Super Woman. 😉 I kind of thought from what you said that you were going to come out to your family. I’m glad your dad was kind. Most likely he was not totally surprised. I’m glad the prompt worked again for you. ❤

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      2. I swear, mother (Queen of the Amazons) must have been totally pranking me when she sent me out into the world with an invisible airplane, I can just hear her chuckling on about it to herself, “That Dianna, always leaving her Armored Bustier and Golden Lasso just lying around anywhere, if only I didn’t have see what she just flumps down around the Parthenon! I know I’ll give her an invisible plane, that way when she loses it at least I won’t have to look at it! (giggles).” Just goes to show, you can be strong enough to lift a rhino and hot enough to stop a train, and still have mommy issues. Invisible plane, what WAS mom thinking? Sheesh! 😉

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  4. The poem is lovely and speaks volumes on its own. There is so much going on our lives that it can be overwhelming at times. I will take the river’s waters and mouth to live and dance away.

    Happy new year!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Grace. If there is music we should keep dancing. Happy New Year to you as well my friend. Since Canadian Thanksgiving is different, do we have the same New Year Day 😏😉?

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  5. Hello Lona – I love the hope that is infused in your words, especially the last two lines. For those of us who have struggled with suicide, your story is a balm for the soul. I am glad you are continuing to dance and write! ❤️ Irma

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    1. I friend of mine suggested that when I legally change my name someday, that Hope would be a good middle name for me. Lona Hope Gynt… I like the sound of it, so I am so glad you hear the hope in the poem. Thank you Irma, and hello also!

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      1. I agree! Hope fits you! Well, at least what I’ve learned about you from your narrative. 😁 Your words also give hope to others. It is a painful yet beautiful process coming into our own and having our outside match our insides. Yet worth it…❤️

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    1. I struggled with whether to include the narrative, I did not want to exert and undue influence on a reader’s personal interaction with the more concentrated poem. But I decided to include it for purposes of documenting some personal history aspects with some clarity. I am glad that the poetic imagery was accurately seen and digested. Happy New Year Bjorn, you and the dVerse crew are all blessings for me.

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    1. Thank you Chandra Lynn, I had intended to write just a narrative about the juxtapositions of the two different days, and then was prompted by Merril to do the poem, and so I really anguished a moment whether to include the narrative, but ultimately I am glad that I did so. I think it is important for poems to try to stand essentially and try to express in words something universal that we don’t have words for, so I feared the narrative would get in the way. Thank you for seeing this. 🙂 And thanks for liking my poem about the soap dispenser. Seeing that you had seen it brought to my mind your lovely pictures from earlier in the summer from Montgomery Civil Rights sites. Do you think they will ever remove “Cradle of the Confederacy” from the seal? I wonder.

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      1. I wonder too. In fact, I have to look through my pics. I don’t think I saw that at all while I was there. Your post reminded me of my trip and the zillions of photos that I must do something with. I started working on a photo essay last summer, but life got in teh way. As for your poetry, you have a strong voice and must continue to write. I hope you’re collecting them for publication and/or submitting them to poetry magazines.

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      2. Thank you. I have submitted a few, but I am a little impatient, and tend to get them on to the blog first, which limits the publications that will accept them. But I will take your encouragement as that gentle little nudge. 🙂

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  6. Oh my dear Lona, how much heavier the river of sorrow would flow had you allowed your burdens to take you down to the bottom. That you chose to explore that near-unbearable painful time in your life in the form of a shadorma speaks of the tension that drove you to the swollen river that day, the loud terse lies reverberating in the mind. But you beat the devil in his own language, promising to kiss death on the mouth when it comes, and I adore the aliveness of this ending, as you go twirling away from the riverbank, stoneless.

    I never thought I’d be one to relate to the “my family would be so much better off without me” thinking, but this past year did show me that hope can depart and Satan is right there with such lies to fill in the vacancy. I’m glad you’re alive, Lona. I’m glad you share your writings and your personality in their entire beautiful complexity. Oh and did you know that your brother reached out and wanted to quote one of my pieces in an Advent sermon he was giving at his church? Thank you for finding value in my writing and therefore, in me. You are a wonderful and courageous human being.

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    1. Thank you My dear Amaya. I was hoping the clicking rhythm of Shadorma would put the feeling less of a Danse Macabre and , rather, et the life spin onward, really was how I felt that morning in contrast to earlier years. Satan, ironically, tempts with false absolutes then accuses pilgrims of being absolutists. The language of hope speaks to seekers and questioners, which is part of what my brother loved in your piece, be humble to question and you can be open to hope. He centered it around the QUESTIONS in the song “what child is this?” With the injunction to seek Him. I am grateful for the pieces you have brought us this year, and the hope that fills vacuums and that we are yet dancing along the Flinty Rivers and above the Winnemuccan Earth.

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  7. Just Barry

    I’m glad you’re still here.

    The poem stands on its own merit, and I’m glad you added your story to it. I have shared similar dark contemplations, so I empathize with your struggles. Keep your head up.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The poem is beautiful even in its sadness. I am glad for the change in tone in the poem (especially since it is reflective of a more hopeful and upbeat you). Thank you for sharing your story. I pray for your peace and happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am GRATEFUL for prayers, I believe they carry a comfort and a power, so I thank God for your prayers on my behalf. Life has beauty in sadness and meaning in suffering, I am grateful for the hope In this world, even if at dark times it seems to be hopeless. Thank you friend.

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