Monday, May 2, 2022

Guest Post: There is Nothing Else

I rarely publish guest posts. When I do they are always written by someone I love who is writing while on the cusp of something. Considering or reacting to a transition of sorts. 

I am kind of addicted to learning from transitions. 

And when someone I love takes the time to share their own version of things, the way they think and feel and worry and hope, particularly during the vulnerable time of a transition, well, I love to listen. 

This guest post, written by my stepdaughter Meagan, is a stunning example of that. On the precipice of adulthood she shares her observations and apprehensions with clarity.  She expresses and explores her thoughts with sincerity, asking us to join her. Asking us, even, to provide answers. 

Originally published on Disabled World, she has given me permission to share the piece here with you. 

Take a journey back in time, to April 20th, 2022, and travel Meagan's thoughts with her - thoughts she will never have for the first time again, in precisely this way. Thoughts she chose to share with us, and share well. 

Perhaps because there is nothing else. 

Silhouette of someone standing by a field



Nothing Else 


Meagan Langtree


Lately I’ve taken to trying to wrap my head around the way the world works. Maybe it’s because I take the first step into adulthood 66 days from today and I can’t help but ask ‘why?’. It doesn’t sadden me, or at least not all the time, but I keep finding myself stuck acknowledging the world as it is, with its horror and delight and passion and cruelty, and desperately trying to be content with it. Is it not traumatising to be human? To have power and freedom but, no, not really, and to know that the path you’re on of school and work and marriage and kids and death is a system set in stone that billions of people before you have already played out? Isn’t it traumatising to continue anyway, knowing that’s the only way you could ever possibly go?

Things only happen once, and they will never happen again. Today is April 20th, 2022, and this is the only April 20th, 2022 there will ever be. The way our history has played out was a roll of the dice every single second and the things we take as facts could easily be thrown on their head if history went even a little bit differently. What would the world be like if instead the British had been murdered by the Indigenous peoples? If we never even lay a single finger on each other at all? The single flap of a butterfly’s wings can set in stone the path of a tornado. How do we cope with this incredible, unstoppable power we hold knowing that our family, friends, and enemies have the same incredible, unstoppable power that we do? Is it worth any less knowing there are billions of people who have that same power too? Do bugs think us ungrateful for crying over a lost child when we so often crush their own without thinking simply because there’s not a thing they can do to stop us? The tears I cry from the stress of a midterm fast approaching pales in comparison to the tears I cried when I realised late one night that my mother doesn’t love me, or instead, that she did love me, but it has always and will always be just half an inch away from enough to try. Are those tears worth any less because of it? 


There’s no answer really, and it’s up to the person who I’ve asked the question to (whoever that may be) to decide when really no answer will ever be truly right. How do you cope knowing that the answer changes depending on who you ask? How, in a world of eight billion people, do you choose who to listen to? How do you cope knowing that who you are now was determined by the people who have hurt you the most? How do you cope knowing not one of the eight billion people on this earth will ever, ever really see you, because no matter how hard they try, information can never be truly accurate once it passes through the selfish filter of the mind? I’m not entirely sure how to live knowing I will never be able to see the world through the thick prison bars of my cones and rods.


My sight is one of the many senses I am so lucky to have, and it has brought me nothing but pain. I have seen the cruel stares of hundreds of my childhood peers, the look on a loved one’s face when I’ve hurt them so purposefully (why, oh why, did I do that?), and I have seen my brother’s knife at my mother’s throat and a three digit number blinking on the teeny tiny screen of my childhood telephone that I just didn’t have the strength to call. And yet, if I had my sight ripped away from me in a freak accident, I know I would surely end it all. It’s so easy to forget that when you look around it isn’t the world you’re seeing but your own projection, and there exists a possibility that we may be surrounded only by poorly rendered video game models of our ‘pets’ and ‘families’ and we would never really know, and it would never really matter. But if that projection were to leave me, I would surely die. Anything is better than nothing. Our minds create such vivid images of beauty in people and sunsets and forests and lakes to keep us alive, because surely we can’t be suffering for nothing, but at the end of the day if your vision fades away, the world goes with it. Blind people have not lost a sense but instead they have broken free of a prison only to find that there exists nothing beyond our own eyes’ interpretation. There is nothing behind the projection, not even poorly rendered video game models. Still, when your vision begins to fade and the doctor breaks the news to you, you cry, because you can no longer ignore the truth; this world does not exist, but it is truly, truly fucking awful. At least before you had something pretty to look at.


I’m lucky I’m not blind. I’m lucky I had only lost my sense of smell and not my hearing or my wealth or my intelligence or my perceived value. I’m lucky my mother still found herself pregnant despite having only one ovary, and I’m lucky I was born well off and healthy and ‘gifted despite being a geriatric pregnancy, and I’m lucky that I had people who loved me even before I existed (when it is easiest to love someone). I am lucky, and oh God I am so, so grateful, and yet I can do nothing but cry. It’s too hard. I’m only a child.

I would wish I was never born at all, but I’m much too selfish for that.

Please don’t misunderstand me: This isn’t to say that the pain I’m experiencing now is caused by the way of the world. I am painfully aware of it whenever I’m not quite distracted enough. No, I cry because I know exactly how the world works, and yet I have no other option but to go along with it. There is nothing else. There is no more zooming out to do, no other path you can walk, no other option. It’s this or it’s nothing. I cry because this is all we have and all we will ever have, and it is so horrible. I cry because I will love and kiss and scream and destroy and feel and it will be nothing but a fraction of a millisecond of a flash in the world. No matter how hard I cry, no one will ever see it, and even if somehow someone could truly understand me, the sun will still rise in the early hours afterwards and the sun through the window will bathe my wooden floor with warmth and I will surely appreciate this as I walk from the bedroom to the world outside in silent mourning for home. Our lives will only be one fraction of a millisecond. I know my feelings mean nothing, and they get me nowhere, and they don't matter, and yet I will keep feeling them every single day for the rest of my life. I simply can’t control myself. Not even the only thing on this earth that belongs to me is even truly mine.

As cold as the world is, if death had not been quite as terrifying, we all would have killed ourselves a while ago. If religion had never existed at all, and hadn’t scared us into procrastinating our death as long as possible out of fear of eternal damnation, how many more millions of people would be hanging from their bedroom ceiling by their necks today? If we as a society knew for sure there was no afterlife, and death was only an infinite sleep, would we feel more comfortable accepting our fate? Maybe the only reason we run from death is the fear that if we die, we will have to keep living, and we can’t risk being born in a life that has even less than we do now. I will run from death with my riches and my talent because even though I’m suffering, at least I don’t have to worry about money. To know that we wake up and breathe and live each day only because we fear the alternative is itself traumatising. Knowing that every single day the universe flips one coin for each and every one of us that decides whether today we will live or die, is traumatic, and it’s a miracle that for the past 6,508 days, my coin has never once predicted death. For this I am grateful. But how long do I have left until my luck runs out? Will I know which kiss will be my last? Would it even matter?

I think of the roman soldiers, the housewives of the 50s, the dictators who slaughtered millions, the homeless people I see by the station, and I wonder; did they cry the same way I do? Did their mother, the only mother they would ever have in all of the six million years we have existed and the thousands more to come, hold them in her arms when they were born and love them the way only this specific mother could love this specific child? Their blood is remnants of the only world outside of suffering we will ever live yet never remember, as it would surely only make us mourn what we once had. How long did those remnants stain the bed sheets before they were cleaned and forgotten?

The people of the past have also cried, and loved, and feared, and screamed, just as I have, and where has it gotten them? Where will I be? 

It is traumatising to know that even though I can’t get this idea out of my head, when I am wronged sometime today or sometime tomorrow or in a month from now, I will still scream and yell and belittle, as if the person in front of me had never felt the way I have when my favourite song comes on the radio and I just can’t help but smile, or felt the same racing heartbeat standing in front of the class to speak, or the warm feeling in my heart when I am surrounded by those I truly love. I will forget. The truth will always slip away from you. Living in a fake world with fake issues is simply much easier to digest.

It is traumatising to know you will forget, and then to do it anyway. I betray myself over and over and over again when I let memories of the heartbreak and sorrow and helplessness I often feel on lonely nights slip away from me in the morning light. I betray the girl who’s terrified of growing older and doesn’t quite understand anything at all and who thinks for a moment that it really would be better if she jumped off a high rooftop to escape the pain of being human. I leave that girl, screaming and sobbing and aching from the inside out, to rot in the prison of yesterday. I have survivor’s guilt each and every day I wake up alive and know that that girl had died yesterday and no one will ever remember her. No matter how much I grieve, or how strong her pain was, I too will forget it all after only a few hours.

The hardest part of it all is knowing that this pain is not my own, and it is something that every single person deals with and has dealt with at some point. I am not special for these thoughts. Even though every moment is its own and special in the way that it will only ever happen once, they are all the same in that every single person alive is suffering. It is April 20th, 2022, and I am suffering. I look forward to tomorrow, and to my 18th birthday party, to my summer vacation in California, my school and my marriage and kids, despite knowing I will be suffering. What else is there to do?


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