In one of my favorite movies, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey attempts suicide on a Christmas Eve when all seems hopeless. He jumps off a bridge into a near freezing river, only to be saved by an angel. After the angel shows George how his life mattered to those around him (by showing what would have happened to them had he never lived), George is resurrected into his old life with all of its messiness and heartache only to realize that no matter what, his life is filled with wonder.
Not so much for Ron Currie, the protagonist in Ron Currie Jr.’s latest novel Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles. I’m spoiling nothing for you by telling you that Ron Currie attempts suicide in the book. He tells you the same from the get go, even though you won’t get to the actual attempt until well past the halfway mark.
What Ron discovers after his own self-resurrection is not that life is filled with wonder but that it remains flawed and the pain that brought him to his breaking point, still exists, much like a craving for nicotine is returned when one removes the patch that is supposed to take that craving away.
Basically, there is no cure for pain. There is no cure for grief. There is no cure for heartache. The only thing one can do is put one foot in front of the other and get through it. Getting through it might mean that you take yourself away from those people who love you. It might mean that you self-medicate. You might create a vision for the future based on the singularity. In this vision you give as a gift to yourself a world in which we are all machines and grief no longer exists. Death is no more.
Or it might mean that you don’t believe yourself capable of living through the pain and so you do whatever it takes to get yourself out of it.
You might even write a book about pain and your process of grief. That book might be a fictional memoir or a memoiresque piece of fiction. In that book you might find a cross hatch of grief and heartache. A smear of regret. A smudge of self-loathing. You might find yourself rewriting your life as you believed it happened: Your sex always ended in orgasm. Or you might tell the truth: you believe you failed your dying father when he needed you most. Ultimately, the love story you might think you’re telling–the one about the one who got away–is really about how you raised yourself up from the dead and managed to model yourself after your father–war veteran, witnesser of horrors untold–who kept hoping to witness the cherry blossoms in the trees he planted even though he knew he’d die before spring ever came.
In the end, you can decide to live. Stick that nicotine patch back on. Listen for the bell ringing on the Christmas tree. Watch for the blossoms.