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Excerpt from Glue God: Essays (and Tips) for Repairing a Broken Self

Saturday 2/4/23

Still, I couldn’t find anything that had happened to anyone else like what had happened to me on a rocky coast thirty miles north of Boston. Not even for starters.

I felt like a freak. I felt like the biggest loser there had ever been. I felt like a mistake. Someone who shouldn’t be alive. Not in this world. I hoped I’d fare better in a different one if I ever got there. I thought that maybe that’s what killing myself was. Would be. Made practical sense as.

I considered that ending my life—which might not have been the same as my overall existence—was no different than getting in a car and driving from one location to the next, except instead of motoring from Boston to Rockport, it was a trip from this mortal plane to a plane that is anything but. You just had to get yourself there.

And maybe I was erring by sitting in the parking lot, so to speak, the keys in my hand rather the ignition, crying with my head against the wheel, when all I conceivably had to do was put the damn thing in drive and go.

I had always thought of myself as brave. In the future, after my reassembly, I came to know what courage really is. It wasn’t as I had thought of it on my own, nor understood it from the manner and perspective in which it was presented in movies and stories, especially the movies and stories that were primarily meant to be about courage itself.

They were wrong. I was wrong. They were wrong because they were really about other things—getting the girl, being swashbuckling, the take at the box office, the easily recognized tropes of the plot that made you think, “Gee, I like this kind of thing,” largely because you envision yourself as a similar hero, if you had to be. The level was attainable. A lot of bars are set lower than we think, but treated as though they're these impossible summits way up in the sky.

I was wrong in part because I never looked and questioned what courage was hard enough. Acceptance without inspection isn't really acceptance. It's assumption. It's hands off, where—and when—the laying on of hands, and the most intense use of eyes, is paramount.

In the vetting, there is clarity. There is the thing itself. And it is only through these measures that we begin to understand what courage, in truth, really is.

There’s nothing status quo about courage, nor is it merely there. You happened to have it, and others don’t always. That’s incorrect. Nor is courage a tool that one uses as one uses a flashlight, or a tire jack; you need ‘em when you need ‘em. Otherwise, the one is consigned to the space beneath the kitchen sink, the other the trunk of the vehicle.

That’s not how courage works. It wasn’t anything you felt. It isn’t anything you feel. It was something you embodied. That you embody. It was something you were. You didn’t have it—you were it. You are it. You need to be it. Or there is no courage. And then there is no you. Here, or anywhere.

One throws the keys aside. One locates the road. One walks it. One may talk as one walks, but the walking is everything. That is courage.


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