Triggers. Memories. A long [non-linear] time ago.
It’s a beautiful morning in Los Angeles, but since last night my head has been stuck in 1999. And I know where my heart is, but pieces of memory are tugging at anything that might be a little loose.
How does someone survive through so much heartache. The NBA draft, the fame, the money, the championships, the wedding to pretend that love makes everything better, the hope that everything will be made better. None of that can make a deep dark sad better. Especially when that sad started at birth. And the world kept trying to crush him, and so he self-medicates though the crushing, through the depression, through everything. And then it becomes too heavy and something makes the sadness stop…for just a second…and that second becomes everything in the world. And it’s okay to be happy for just one second. But that’s only on the outside.
But sometimes that everything ends everything. Those are called accidents. Accidents happen. Sometimes people just want the sadness, the pain, the hurt…. to stop. They don’t want to go away forever, necessarily. They just want everything to stop.
And a lot of us know what that’s like. To want everything to stop. And a lot of us have fallen in love with someone who wanted everything to stop. And who maybe wanted to go away. And some of us know of the pain of that, and of trying to live in your own body and head, while simultaneously trying to fix someone else’s. And I know what those four days of binge happiness is like. There were so many of those important family moments that I missed, so many that I now refer to them all as ‘the lost years.’ I regret not being there for my mom’s hysterectomy, or my sister’s high school graduation. But those lost days of happy, before the debilitating crashes, always made the bad go away — at least for a second or two. And they also made me feel something, in the time of numb. And I’m lucky that I woke up from those ‘happy’ moments and those crashes that towards the end of that chapter in my life had me walking half asleep to the roof of our downtown L.A. loft, looking out at the sunrise over 6th and Los Angeles Street wondering if “this is what living is like.”
And though I went through my share of traumas, grief, loss, abuse — all of it, I had a family, a loving one, and for the most part so did the person that I shared my life with at the time, but when we’re ‘dealing’ with mental illness or certain traumas go ‘undealt’ with, none of that loving family matters. We sometimes surround ourselves with people who are closer to that trauma, who are also broken. We go on feeding each other broken pieces of heart fragments that really don’t add up to a whole. Our interior tries to make sense of those unhealed traumas by replaying them like a record, over and over again, in some sort of way. But while they subconsciously or consciously make our lives worse, they are also situations that can help the pain magically disappear. Momentarily. Until it grows into a monster of something that forces you to make life-altering decisions. For the better or worse. That was the person in my life for a while, he made the pain magically disappear, it was that or he helped me make more pain to numb the other pain. Layers of pain. And then layers of our self-medicating. But I kept trying to know, trying to heal, trying to remember what my therapists would tell me about self-actualization and self-care, and so I’d try out safety, over and over again. A move to Spain, a drive to nowhere. Alaska? “You’re moving to Philadelphia? Place after place. Unsettled, I called it growth. Yet he was always still ‘here,’ and I was still broken, so I’d keep trying to settle — while staying unsettled.
This unsettled, constantly trying to settle, the constantly trying to ‘get better,’ eat better, be stronger, reach for ‘happiness’ without a definition. This constantly trying to improve, is something that when I see in someone breaks me apart. Maybe it’s because I know all too well the unsettled places we fight or run from, those places when we were seven, 12 and that catch up to us when we’re 30 years old. That linger in memories, in our bodies, as pain and as our friend. And I know how we can screw things up and think running fixes everything. But running doesn’t settle, neither does a fix.
I met Lamar Odom in ’99 when I worked at the small management firm his (still present-day) agent was a partner at. I started working there after a tremendously hard time in my life, and that’s when and where I met the person I’d spend the next tumultuous period of my life with. He was an athlete so our conversations at the time were often centered around basketball, Lamar and how his drug use would affect my Clippers. We both knew about his drug use, because working with his agent meant you’d be closer to his circle, and in the know. And the drugs and the misery, and the subsequent spiraling paralleled the life that I would soon be a part of. And Odom will always remind me of that life and the people in it. His life and his particular type of kindness was not different than that of people I used to love, people all of us love at some point, that disappear. Because we can love those people who need love most, from afar, for the sake of our sanity and to save our lives. And I’m learning that those people never do completely disappear.
And right now it’s very hard for me to understand the unsettling pain that lingers after we — the significant others — find the strength to continue after standing on the 8th story ledge wondering if “this is what living is like.” We hope the others continue, with not so many broken heart fragments. And sometimes they do. But there are so many that don’t. And this is more than heartbreaking.
And in the world of professional sports, and their job of putting emotions aside, guys like Ricky Williams and Metta World Peace were lucky to be able to find some authentic comfort through Buddhism, yoga, meditation, and medication, but it wasn’t without controversy or embarrassment. And so many others have a harder time with authentic peace.
Lamar Odom was drafted into the NBA because the angel that was by his side knew he was deserving of another attempt at a chance, the odds were with him and then against him. His coaches gave him chance after chance, because he deserved them. Though he was a good guy, an honorable guy, to his friends, a selfless guy — he never gave himself a chance, and he deserved to. I want to think that if he had grown up with at least one person who made him believe that he deserved the world, things would have been different. But I’m not sure how anyone can survive what the world has given Odom. And Odom did survive what he was given…he always finds a way to pull through. Poor fuckin guy. He’s still here, as I write this, he hasn’t disappeared completely. And hopefully this will be the trigger that can help him find an authentic path to healing, like I and so many of us do find, eventually.