The Courage to Open the Suitcase
Updated: Dec 4, 2018
Sunday Content #46
A year ago, when A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise was on the verge of publishing, I don't know what I thought this year was going to be. I thought all sorts of stuff would happen that hasn't. Likewise I didn't predict many amazing things that have come to pass. Having the book out has been unexpectedly hard in ways I didn't foresee and also amazing beyond imagination.
Particularly I have been surprised and struck by the people — strangers — who've gone out of their way this year to write me to tell me what AKOMP has meant to them. These messages have come steadily, a steady drip. A few messages come a week, sometimes a few in a day. They come from people with lived experience, and people with family in the mental health system, and people who do jobs relating to these issues. Very frankly, sometimes they keep me afloat.
Like the other morning, I had sunk, and this shot me back to the surface:
Or this message, which came recently:
This fall I received an email from a man about his brother "a disabled veteran living with schizophrenia," whom he described as "a center of our lives. Your piece is sensitive and recognizes the person behind the diagnosis. It meant much to me personally."
Or another email I received, one that came during what for me was a very tough weekend:
My father, diagnosed bi-polar, was writing a book. He had all his material arranged around on shelves he had built in the basement. When I helped my parents move to a retirement community - he died there not long after from complications of depression - I gathered all his book things in order from around the room and put them in a suitcase. That was 1991. I have never opened that suitcase, though I have often thought of working on his book for him. Maybe your book will give me the courage to open the suitcase.
AKOMP readers will recall I didn't have the courage to open the proverbial suitcase — not right away anyway. In a sense, the book is the story of me getting the confidence to open it, and then reckoning with what I found inside. In my case I opened a drawer with an envelope. I found the courage only gradually and only because, I think, of a mix of curiosity, and the power of Bob's messages themselves.
So as I finish up this first year of AKOMP''s existence on this here planet earth, I want to say thank you to my readers. Thanks to those of you who've taken the time to write. If you're not the writing type, that's chill too. I am not the writing type myself.
But I cannot tell you what a thrill it is that Bob's story really seems to be reaching the people it needs to reach. After my final event a few weekends ago at the Miami Book Fair, I went down to the pool. I ordered a hamburger. I looked up, as happens sometimes, at the sky and thought about Bob. Palms overhead fluttered in the wind. I said a few thoughts in mind to Bob, in case he is listening. I thanked him as ever for the gift he's given me, how he's utterly changed my life. And now how his story is hopefully, even in a small part, changing the real world.
Riding to the airport, my driver asked why I was in town, and asked about the book, and said she's going to buy a copy for herself and her friend. She asked if Bob was still alive. I told her he is not. "Ah, he watches from upstairs," she said, and I said sometimes I suspect so. I gave her a guitar pick and she said she plays guitar. Honestly one of the best parts of my year has been handing people guitar picks and watching them remember that they or someone they know is a musician. That alone, I think, Bob would have found cool.
My big news is I got a puppy. His name is Saturn and he's perfect:
And he's best friends one of my cats:
p.s. The AKOMP paperbacks are printing soon and I'll be announcing some live dates. Excited to share more.
p.p.s. I don't participate in the Global Yule Conspiracy myself (I try to hibernate during the last few weeks of the year, avoid public spaces else I hear music, etc.), but if you participate in that or other year-end gift-giving type holidays, might I encourage you to give the gift of AKOMP. Remember it's an audiobook too!
p.p.p.s. If you want a free, glow-in-the-dark AKOMP guitar pick, write mirraculas at gmail dot com and my assistant Alex will send you one :)
p.p.p.p.s. For Not Thanksgiving, amongst many other things, I improvised a vegetarian slab pie that was rad as hell; it had mushrooms, leeks, collards, and gruyere. If you like pie, try making a pie like that. (Here's an essay I wrote about baking pie)
p.p.p.p.p.s. I filed a big piece the other day and ever since basically all I do is watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and figure out how to keep the puppy from eating my entire house. It's fun.
p.p.p.p.p.p.s. Sarah Smarsh's Heartland is an important book all Americans should read
p.p.p.p.p.p.p.s. Many of the things said during this conversation interested me greatly, but Ta-Nehisi Coates' thoughts about writing at the end especially resonated so much