A short excerpt from my soon to be released book Everything I Do Not Know and the story of how I came to write it.
I wake up alone in a bed made for two in our all white apartment full of carefully curated stacks of books his and mine that precisely capture all the ways our lives so perfectly intersect. Desperate questions erupt: what do you do that I cannot know about? why don’t you want to leave your shoes beside mine inside our front door and slide into this bed? who is she and how can I be her? I call and call until there is no more ringing only a long loud beep and silence I cry and rage and then I lay paralysed. Hours before the sun will rise I run out of questions run out of anger and run out of tears how good it would be I think to feel something. Rushing in slow motion I slip out of our house just a shadow I am not me. I get in my car turn the key in the ignition put on my seatbelt then take it off again and start to drive away. At the end of our street is the restaurant where he works the place I last saw him there is nobody there. I pull out onto the highway no music no maps no destination in mind just driving away from this. As the lights ahead turn to orange I do not slow down as they turn to red I close my eyes and push my foot toward the floor . . . . . . . . . But there is nothing no sudden impact just my hands on the wheel steady hum of the tyres on the road below. I try again and again but just like the other nights I remain here in this body here in this life until the first light of day arrives like a siren calling me home.
Now I hardly recognise that girl who tried so hard to make a home for herself in so many not quite right places. Who couldn’t imagine that it did not have to be that way. I hardly recognise her yet I know she is me when I am lost.
At university I found myself in a lecture theatre, studying a course to become certified in suicide prevention as part of my psychology undergraduate. In the lecture notes laid out before me were the criteria for assessing a person's risk - have they been having suicidal thoughts/ideation? Have they been engaging in any suicidal behaviours? Any attempted suicides? Under a list of suicidal behaviours I read the words: Intentionally dangerous driving (e.g. driving through red lights). In an instant, the way I viewed myself was transformed, as I recalled countless nights years before when a pervasive sense of hopelessness had led me to do just that. I had never viewed that chapter of my life as 'suicidal'. I never sought any professional help and I told almost no one. It was just a way to escape myself for a moment and as I learned through that course, it is far more common than most of us realise. As I wrestled with the idea of being 'one of them' - the people from the textbook - the immensity of the stigma surrounding suicide became a heavy burden. We live in an era of increasing mental health awareness but there is an undeniably negative discourse that still surrounds suicide and all that comes with it. I wondered if I would ever be able to tell anyone. Would anybody trust me if they knew? Would I be forever tarnished as a liability? Stupid? Selfish? Would it hurt the people I love to know that I had not spoken up at the time? It also felt like a pretty pathetic and insignificant attempt (if that's what it was), relative to to other people's experiences. Eventually, what became more important than what others thought of me, was the realisation that something significant had changed within me between then and now. I couldn't imagine being that person again, I knew my body was the same but the mind and spirit of the person who did that was completely foreign to me. So I decided it was important for me to share, as best I could, what happened between there and here, in the hope that it might at the very least shine a light on a conversation too long ignored, and at the very most, save a life. So, the seed of this book arrived in the form of the story I share below, and what is now Everything I Do Not Know soon began to bloom. Everything I Do Not Know invites us to enquire into what it might mean to find faith outside of our preconceived ideas of what that looks or feels like. At a time when more Australians than ever are experiencing disconnection and loneliness to the point of despair, it calls us to become curious about the ways we've turned away from faith and placed ourselves firmly inside a modern illusion of knowing everything about everything. Unsurprisingly, Everything I Do Not Know is not providing answers or claiming any kind of expert status. Rather, it urges us to become interested in, and even hopeful about, the things we don't know. It inspires a gentle, collective remembering of the beauty in the unknowable – a reverence for the mystery of life and this human experience – and invites us to listen inwardly for the quiet revelation of the answers to life’s deepest questions.