Harriman State Park (9.16.16-9.17.16)

Starting off at the Tuxedo, NY train station

 

Lake Skenonto

 

Harvest moon rising

 

Harvest moon and reflection off of Lake Skenonto

 

Lake Skenonto at dawn

 

The southern shore of Lake Skenonto looking northeast

 

 

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Reading List

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Currently reading:

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo


 

Have read: 

Scattered Poems by Jack Kerouac 12.16

Book of Haikus by Jack Kerouac 12.16

When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön 11.16 – 12.16

Buddhist Scriptures 11.16

The Paradiso by Dante Alighieri * 11.16

The Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri * 10.16 – 11.16

The Inferno by Dante Alighieri * 10.16

The Plays of Anton Chekhov translated by Paul Schimdt 10.16

The Epic of Gilgamesh * 10.16

Master and Man and Other Stories by Leo Tolstoy 9.16 – 10.16

The Heights of Macchu Picchu by Pablo Neruda 9.16

The Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons by John Wesley Powell 9.16

Big Sur by Jack Kerouac 9.16 *

Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck 8.16 – 9.16 *

Buddhism for Beginners by Thubten Chodron 8.16

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini 8.16

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri 8.16

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol 7.16 – 8.16

On the Road by Jack Kerouac 7.16 *

Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy 7.16

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 7.16

The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio 6.16 – 7.16 *

Turning Confusion into Clarity: A Guide to the Foundation Practices of Tibetan Buddhism by Yongey Mingyur 5.16 – 6.16

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami 4.16 – 5.16

How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life by H.H. XIV Dalai Lama 3.16 – 4.16 *

Good Blonde & Others by Jack Kerouac 2.16 – 3.16 *

A Man of the People by Chinua Achebe 2.16

Justine by Marquis de Sade 1.16 – 2.16

The Dhammapada  by Anonymous 1.16

Colorless Tsukur Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami 1.16

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath 12.15 – 1.16

Against Equality: Queer Revolution, Not Mere Inclusion edited by Ryan Conrad 12.15

Tibetan Book of the Dead by Padmasambhava 11.15 – 12.15

The Autobiography of Malcolm X  by Malcolm X 11.15

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess 10.15 – 11.15

Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out edited by Lorraine Hutchins 10.15

Haruko/Love Poems by June Jordan 9.15 – 10.15

Call It Wonder: An Odyssey of Love, Sex, Spirit, and Travel by Kate Evans 9.15

The Art of the Poetic Line by James Longenbach 7.15 *

Ariel: The Restored Edition by Sylvia Plath 7.15

The Captain’s Verses by Pablo Neruda 6.15 – 7.15

She of the Mountains by Vivek Shraya 6.15

Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution by Shiri Eisner 6.15

The Scripture of the Golden Eternity by Jack Kerouac 6.15

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis 5.15 – 6.15

The Paradiso by Dante Alighieri 5.15 *

The Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri 4.15 – 5.15 *

The Inferno by Dante Alighieri 4.15 *

Residence on Earth by Pablo Neruda 4.15

Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men edited by Robyn Ochs 3.15 -4.15

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien 2.15 – 3.15

The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekov  2.15

Jack’s Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac edited by Barry Gifford 2.15

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy 12.14 – 2.15

Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat 12.14

La Vita Nuova by Dante Alighieri 12.14

Poet in New York by Frederico Garcia Lorca 12.14

Full Woman, Fleshy Apple, Hot Moon: Selected Poems by Pablo Neruda 11.14 – 12.14

Mexico City Blues: 242 Choruses by Jack Kerouac 11.14

Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda 11.14

Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg 10.14 – 11.14 *

The Chameleon Couch: Poems by Yusef Komunyakaa 10.14

Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980-2002 by Sharon Olds 10.14 *

Book of Blues  by Jack Kerouac 9.14 – 10.14

Oil! by Upton Sinclair 8.14 – 9.14 *

Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh 8.14

East of Eden by John Steinbeck 7.14 – 8.14 *

Lolita by Vladamir Nabokov 6.14 – 7.14

The Blacker the Berry by Thurman Wallace 6.14

Cane by Jean Toomer 6.14

The Haunted Life and Other Writings by Jack Kerouac 6.14

Orlando Furioso: Part One by Ludivico Ariosto 5.14-6.14 *

Great Dialogues of Plato by Plato 5.14

The Town and the City by Jack Kerouac 4.14 – 5.14

Social and Political Philosophy: Readings from Plato to Gandhi edited by John Somerville 4.14

The Russian Revolution/Leninism or Marxism? by Rosa Luxemburg 4.14

Washington Square by Henry James 3.14 – 4.14

On the Road by Jack Kerouac 3.14 *

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin 3.14

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin 2.14 – 3.14

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver 1.14 – 2.14

Walden and Other Writings by Henry David Thoreau 1.14 *

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky 12.13 – 1.14

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez 12.13

Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947 – 1954 by Jack Kerouac 12.13

The 120 Days of Sodom and Other Writings by Marquis de Sade 11.13 – 12.13

The Paradiso by Dante Alighieri 10.13 – 11.13 *

The Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri 10.13 *

The Inferno by Dante Alighieri 10.13 *

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft 9.13 – 10.13

The Beats: A Graphic History by Harvey Pekar 8.13

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin 7.13 – 8.13

The Mist by Stephen King 6.13 – 7.13

The Book of Martyrdom and Artifice: First Journals and Poems: 1937 – 1952 by Allen Ginsberg 6.13

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway 5.13 – 6.13

Neruda & Vallejo: Selected Poems by Pablo Neruda and Cesar Vallejo 5.13

Satori in Paris by Jack Kerouac 5.13 *

Big Sur by Jack Kerouac 4.13 – 5.13 *

Book of Dreams by Jack Kerouac 4.13

The Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac 3.13 – 4.13 *

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac 3.13 *

Lonesome Traveler by Jack Kerouac 3.13 *

Tristessa by Jack Kerouac 2.13 *

The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac 2.13 *

Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac 12.12 – 2.13 *

On the Road by Jack Kerouac 12.12 *

Vanity of Douloz by Jack Kerouac 11.12 – 12.12 *

Visions of Gerard by Jack Kerouac 11.12 *

Maggie Cassidy by Jack Kerouac 11.12 *

Dr. Sax by Jack Kerouac 11.12

The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maughm 9.12 – 11.12


 

Above is the list of books I have been reading since I started keeping track of them in late 2012. Books marked with an asterisk * signify that I have re-read those books having first read them prior to keeping track of what books I have read. I make a point of trying to read On the Road by Jack Kerouac and The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri at least once a calendar year.

Living With Suicide

Suicide Awareness Ribbon

The strangest thing about me is that I am suicidal at most times. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t contemplate suicide. It’s almost like a schizophrenic voice that whispers suicide. It sits in the back of my mind and reminds me of how the most mundane and banal actions could be fatal. Am I waiting for a subway train? Jump in front of the train when it comes into the station. Am I out for a walk? Walk towards a bridge and jump off of it. Am I having trouble getting to sleep? Drink a lot of alcohol and take a handful of my sleeping medications. Sometimes that voice hibernates and won’t bother me for hours or even days but most of the time, it’s there.

This is what living with suicide is like.

The ironic thing is that I’m afraid of dying. I have contemplated death in a myriad of ways, not just concerning death as a verb, but what it is, means, does, is like, what happens afterwards, and how it feels. It’s only the last contemplation, how it feels, which truly frightens me.

I’m not a superstitious person. In fact, I tend to disparage superstition and I would categorize blind faith as a superstition. I cannot not nor will not believe in Heaven and Hell. I cannot nor will not throw to the wayside all of the scientific advances made during human history, especially since the time of Galileo. But discrediting any belief in Heaven and Hell is not some sort of rationalization I am seeking in order to justify suicide. On the contrary, I know my body will decompose and return to the earth and in few billion years the elements and atoms which constituted my body will return to a star, our sun. The energy which is my soul, self, atman, etc. will go on as well. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed and that is scientific law. The Buddhist in me wants to believe (using general faith and not blind faith) that my soul will enter a new body once I die in this one but my opposition towards superstition stymies my complete embrace of transmigration; however, transmigration makes more sense to me than Heaven and Hell due to the conservation of energy, hence not a total disregard for the superstition of transmigration. These are the contemplations I ruminate on that have helped displace any fear of death and what happens afterwards.

The pain of death and dying is the contemplation I fear the most and is part of the reason I am still alive (it can go without saying family, friends, and different types of therapy and medications constitute other parts of my being alive). No matter what way I contemplate suicide, there is always a pain involved. This is my greatest blessing as well as my greatest curse. It is at this thought, the thought of feeling pain while dying, which has kept my suicide at bay but it also means I am almost always living on the precipice of suicide for a majority of my life.

I was formally diagnosed with major depressive disorder in 1993, when I was thirteen. My mother recently disclosed to me that doctors had seen signs of depression in me as young as the age of four. That would have been in 1984. It’s now 2016 and I’m 36 years old and I still suffer from it. I also suffer from issues with anxiety, paranoia, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Dealing with all of those diagnoses is extremely tiring. It is when that exhaustion gets to an incredibly high level that my suicidal thoughts then become suicidal plans. But, again, it’s not because I want to die per se, it’s because my brain is broken and it’s exhausting fighting my own brain. I’ve often tried to convey this feeling like so: If there’s something in a person’s body that doesn’t work properly or is harming the body as a whole (think appendix, cancer, etc.) then doctors remove it; however, my problem, the thing that isn’t working correctly and is harming my body, is my brain and if it’s removed, I die. And that is what all of this boils down to.

When I was 13, I attempted suicide twice. When I was 14, I attempted it again. When I was 26, I was suicidal as well as when I was 34, 35, and 36. I go through severe depressive episodes and some of them are so terrible that suicide becomes a real option so I can alleviate the exhaustion of fighting my own brain every day. The last of these episodes occurred in late July of 2016 but it was different from previous depressive episodes. During that last episode, suicide became as real to me as it did when I was 13 and 14. The difference between this episode and those two older episodes was that I, at the urging of my sister, checked myself into the hospital.

I spent 18 days in the psychiatric unit of New York-Presbyterian Hospital and during my stay, I was given ample time to contemplate and reflect. I was on suicide watch (called one-to-one in the hospital) and all I did was look for ways to attempt my goal of suicide. But as time wore on and therapy commenced and medications were administered, my suicidal thoughts and plans came to the forefront and I became hyper-aware of their existence and how damaging they are and how they dictated my life. It was during my last week or so of being in the hospital that my constant suicidal voice ceased.

It is such a relief to no longer be subjected to the constant barrage of suicidal thoughts. It is a peace I’m not sure I have ever known but I feel it is a fragile peace. I am under no illusions thinking I am cured of my mental health issues. I think about succumbing to another depressive episode. I constantly tell people I am doing well, I am doing better, but I am still ill. I am still depressed. More importantly, I tell myself these same words. But even in illness there is life to live and that thought has been the most significant shift in my outlook. I know I am susceptible to depressive episodes and suicidal thoughts but I no longer want to go through the days surviving them. What I want is to live, even if I have to live with them. The shift in verb usage from surviving to living has made all the difference in my life.


 

If you or a loved one is suicidal, get help.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

or go to your nearest Emergency Room or call 911


 

-Matthew A. Sandusky

9.2.2016