The editing page reminds me that I began this draft on 08/30/18, and true to my sputtering fashion, The-Two-Year-Mark has come and pass, and here we finally are.
When Amanda left us, an overwhelming sense of needing to do better, immediately floored me. In some sense, I failed her. Fact is, the many mistakes I made in our relationship are not to blame for her suicide, but that doesn’t absolve me of what I handled incorrectly. The slate is not wiped clean with her gone.
I was never naïve enough to think if I’d altered my behavior or thinking significantly, or say– sufficiently– I could have altered the course of what followed. Still I wished I could have done some things differently. To me, the day Amanda ended her own life was an expiration date invisible to the rest of us who carried on living. We just couldn’t see the line we’d be forced to cross because we had the luxury of spending very little time contemplating The Great & Terrible End in general. Amanda used to press things very urgently, constantly, which I chalked up to her mania and it would drive me right to my spiel of her needing professional help. And there we would leave things, sometimes not so amicably, without me ever realizing the deeper, irrevocable harm that mania would one day lead to. So obviously, if I could have a do-over, I would have done many things differently, whether or not it changed what happened next.
But all that is moot. As far as the two of us sisters are concerned, the slate is wiped clean with her gone.
I had to only look and try to really see who I had left, and what I can still do, and how to do that better. The month after Amanda’s suicide, I took over my dad’s care. He changed medication many times and landed in the hospital once in our first year together, but for the past year has been greatly improved and stable. He has his own space (about two blocks down the street from me), which Mini graciously helped decorate. My dad helps me meal prep, reads, runs errands with me. He sings and travels. He teases my mom and listens to her winding tales.
My mom continues to work abroad part of the year. Truthfully, I struggled with supporting her in this for a long time. When we first emigrated from Taiwan, my mom chose to travel between countries then too. Being young, it made me feel like I was not enough. I was not enough to keep her around, not enough for her to be a mom to. I had little comprehension of her as her own person with her own ambition and drive, her own desires and needs. I had little patience even for what the family as a whole needed, and I just felt not chosen. Those same feelings resurfaced this time around as well, compounded by the loss of Amanda and the helplessness I felt caring for my dad that whole first year. But I kept in therapy to learn to work on myself and stay out of her process.
Then there’s Mini. My home remains open to her at all times, and in fact she has spent two winter and two summer breaks with me in the last two years. We were also able to visit Amanda in LA together on the day of the two-year anniversary of her death. We chat almost daily, and I sneak in mushy letters with her presents. But of course it never feels like enough. When it comes to Mini, I only ever wish for more. She is growing up so fast; I feel like I can’t absorb it all fast enough. I wish we had more time for every stage of her. I constantly wonder what more I could give her, or how I could be more available and more present. It’s not enough but it’s what we’ve got, so I cherish it.
Outside of family, about a year after Amanda died, I thought scrupulously about all the women I grew up with over the years. I reached out to some who were brilliant, caring and very kind to me when I was reckless and thoughtless. I kept my message simple: I appreciated them; I celebrated them; and I would do my best to support them. I wanted to make sure that if they ever felt so utterly alone that they would consider ending it all, they might remember that I would be there. It never need be more than a phone call or a text. Realistically I understand that while suicidal, people often find it impossible to ask for or accept help. But as a just in case, I wanted to broadcast my readiness to show up. After what happened with Amanda, I couldn’t imagine ever again being silent and still while people suffered not knowing they might have someone to turn to.
As soon as I lost Amanda, I was overwhelmed with a singular sense of purpose. To my therapist, I repeated called myself the facilitator (dorky, yes). It was just my process. I knew that people I love were hurting, that they were thrust into truly traumatic pain, and that I wouldn’t even be able to begin to understand what they were going through. I just wanted to do anything they would allow me to do to be of assistance. I spent many hours in therapy obsessing over all the things I thought might or might not happen and what I should or should not do. I learned this was what the pain I felt looked like. This was how I was going to cope. I got to know myself better, and I learned to communicate honestly and openly, better.
I have the freedom and resources to pursue everything I’ve been able to do in the last two years, in largest part because of my incredible, loving and supportive fiancé. He has been put through everything I’d been through, plus many bizarre and dark turns my mind took throughout this time. Knowing that he’s with me has made me braver and stronger. Because of him, I had the perspective that death and loss happens to everyone, and the fortitude to turn my process into a productive and positive one. I’ve discovered that the grief and hurt I felt from Amanda’s life ending was not world ending. It is rather, world creating. Very quickly, I shed a lot of lack of clarity or knowing in my life. The uniquely important pursuits came into focus immediately, and more than two years later, I continue to work at what matters the most deeply to me. Sure, I’m still slow as a snail, especially compared to the whirlwind that was my sister, but that’s me and I’m good with that now.
So now I say, happy 2019 and many more!