Unwritten: A letter to my first Editor, Ned Vizzini 2008
From: "Ned V"
Hey, sounds like me! I'm headed towards ruin quick. Hope all is well
-------------- Original message ---------
From: "Ned V"
I'm not good, Elyssa. Very depressed. I was such a different person when I knew you. But maybe I will be different soon.
From "Elyssa D:"
God Ned-- I wish we could talk—based upon what I've read (what you've posted on line and through your interviews) it seems as though you are going through all the emotions and emotional chaos that I was experiencing the first year we met back in New York.
Another friend of mine just checked himself into a psych ward after a suicide attempt and I feel so helpless because I care and respect you both so much.
It is funny because I always thought that if I could just finish that damn book I was working on ten years ago—or just finished law school, my PhD. or any number of things—everything would be okay.
It confuses me because you finished your book—rob finished law school- I finished nothing.
A few weeks ago, I "lost my shit" so to speak, came across your interview, and was completely blown away—I used to be the crazy one—now I have my sanity back but nothing else.
having been through several crises myself, I came to believe that when you see someone in crisis, they become so overwhelmed and confused that they do not know what to do first—and how to dig out of the hole they have dug for themselves. I decided that rather than asking, I just try to figure it out and give it to them, no questions asked, no thank you necessary.
How many people have told you, "Call if you there is anything I can do" and when you do call—nothing! Nothing but disappointment and regret. So I have decide never to ask somebody what they need—
Mostly because they don't even know themselves— hen I came to the realization a few weeks ago that my transient existence is so tangential that no one would notice if I never took another breath—I tried to figure out what I needed so that I could give it to myself.
So I started going back through my old journals to see if I could identify the missing element of my life—you know that "thing" that would both make it all go away and make all come together so I could be a whole person again.
That thing is a figment of my imagination. I used to think it was being loved by a man—I had that. That wasn't it.
Then I thought it was having money. I had that. But that wasn't it either.
Then I thought it was health insurance—but no, that was not it either.
Then I thought it would be having that oh-so-critical Ivy League degree. I have that. That still wasn't it.
So obviously, none of those things could have been "it."
The thing I need most, I lost long ago, and that was hope. Perhaps I never really had it at all.
So I guess some things just can't be bought, learned, earned, or acquired.
I think of the long twisted road, and I remember one of my favorite childhood movies, where a girl named Dorothy was so determined to find her way home after a great storm. Disillusioned and distracted, Dorothy would not yield to the many obstacles that had been placed in her way.
Determined to meet the great Wizard, she stayed one path.
Yes, there were detours, obstacles, and the Wicked Witch of the West. Each of these obstacles may have taken her of course, yet she never once lost sight of the road home. She believed in one thing, the Wizard, and his ability to bring her home.
Having great faith and determination, she never strayed far off the path to righteousness. Dorothy had a clearly defined goal, a means to get there, and a bright yellow brick road to guide her. Through her determination and unyielding faith, Dorothy never once doubted that she was on the right path.
In the Wizard of Oz, the yellow brick road may have been the path she was taking, but through her determination and blind faith, she was able to bring others onto the road t enlightenment.
The lion found his courage; the tin man got a heart. The scarecrow got some brains—and even Dorothy got what she needed most.
Dorothy began her journey looking for one thing. She needed to get back to place she began, and find her way home. Dorothy teaches us a valuable lesson, but she was lucky enough to know what it was she so desperately longed for... home.
If all I had to do was click my heals three times and find my way home, well, sadly I would not even know where home is. Yes, they say home is where the heart is, and perhaps that is part of the problem. But for some of us, out childhood homes were not places of happiness and nostalgia. They are places from which we run, searching endlessly for that magical place and can only hope that we have come across a road that is clearly marked to guide us in our destination.
Of course, we know there will be that take us off course, and it will up to us to find our way back.
Unfortunately, there is a certain point when we lose our direction and we lose our faith. As I grew older, I came to realize recognize that my feeling of detachment went far beyond having a dysfunctional childhood a broken family life that even my sister and I never lived in the same house for more than a year or so in the summertime.
So no matter how long I have been in Nashville, in many ways I am, in fact still a stranger. I am a stranger because homeless is a state of mind.
In my mind, I like to think a home is a place of acceptance, shelter, and a place you can find forgiveness, comfort and recognition. For most, going home means to reconnect in a way so that you are reminded that you have something, someone, who will always have your back.
Homer represents more than a structure; it represents a strong foundation that will always be there whenever you need to feel safety and comfort. For me safety is marked by the boundaries that are supposed to keep me safe and protected.
So this is my home. I don't necessarily feel safe here, but I do feel consistent. I do not have to worry that I will be forced to switch schools, neighbors or friends every six months just because my parents could not get it right. What they failed to realize is just how very wrong it really was. Changing schools, changing friends, changing siblings; changing myself just enough each time so that I could fit in. But after 16 years of constant change, I never got the opportunity to find out anything real about myself. Even my name was changed when I moved--- dad called me Liz, and my mother called herself any number of last names as she desperately tried to hold on to her youth, her beauty, and delusional fantasies of entitlement and sacrifice that I think she may actually believe.
I have never had plastic surgery, could not afford it anyway, but what do have is a clear memory, vivid nightmares, and a place of my own. What I also realize, is that until I can live free from fear and dependence, I will never truly be able to know what it feels like to be at home. If home is where the heart is, then homelessness is clearly just a state of mind. And today I have some hope that I might someday no longer feel just as homeless at home. So now I know more than ever, that homelessness is a far more than a concrete structure or family property.
I will always feel a little homeless at home. It is knowing that you are the thing that remains constant—regardless of any dreams I may have, I will never have the constant I would need to get bring a child into this world--- as much I would like to.
I envy those who feel they have so much in their lives that they can trust without any reservation that the world is a loving enough place they want to share with a child. Especially a child of their own. No, my mother told me long, long time ago, that I can never have children. She also told me last year, that I could not have a dog. My own mother does not think I am capable of raising a puppy.
Maybe she's right. She did put her fears into action when she once donated my cat of 14 years to the animal shelter under someone else name so that I truly was left without any ties to the condo I stayed in for a few short months while I tried to come up with a plan to take him and myself far from a place where we could be safe and live free.
I adopted him back from the animal shelter 40 miles out after learning that she had used someone else's name at the agency so I could not find him on my own.
I will not look elsewhere to find the essentials things healthy children receive that in turn makes them healthy adults.
I will never be "healthy" but I do think I wish I could give more than what I have received. I regret never being the kind of "community member", I think I could have been, and I doubt I will get over the sheer humiliation of having to love this way for so many years when I should have been doing so much more.
In having truly been able to do the great things for society that I believe I could, but I can't regret not giving no longer need constant reassurance, recognition, or validation, but I will always question whether things could have been different if only one person had taken the time to show me I was worth it. That I deserved more than what I could actually afford and realize that I do give so much in so many other ways.
The ways that people cannot calculate or see just how badly the ones who received them needed those gifts. It was the little things. It was K, it was D, but above all else, it was me setting goals, the feelings of that my feeling I would never and was no longer subject to bi-annual custody disputes and shifts and us to realize that homelessness is merely a state of mind.
Where would I go? 10 years "down the road" and now, more than ever, I realize I am truly and deeply, "homeless at home."
You see it is not so much that I doubt myself, I just don't trust that people will not do horrible things even if that means doing nothing at all.
I do have much love to give. Actually too much. So much that it often pours out of me in inappropriate sentimentality. I know when I need to keep to myself, and I know when my anxieties starts to make others a little anxious. I know because as I see you react to me be anxious, it only makes me that much worse. It is one of my worst, but at times sometimes, that sensitivity is also at times a wonderful attribute and god given gift.
But should that prevent me from getting out into the world just because other people think I should be don't like me … that's not my job.
I have spent more than half of my life in self-imposed isolation, and the other half wondering how I can be less annoying and high strung so others would want me around. The sad truth is, yes, I am annoying, but also, I am perceptive and very aware.
Sometimes I do it purpose.
I should not have to live in isolation because I have nervous tics or sometimes say the wrong thing. But regardless of what people seem to think about welfare recipients being lazy bums guess what—FUCK you right back. I chose to keep to myself just in case I really am so horrible to be around that my own parents think I would be better off dead.
and the rest is still unwritten...
Elyssa D. Durant, Ed.M. © 2008-2013