A Special Day, On Laughing Alone, and A Failed Suicide Memoir

“Now that was a special day,” I told myself out loud. These days my self-talk is often audible. I need to voice it out. I need to have an audible conversation: over coffee, over books … and these days it means a conversation with myself.

But that was a special day. It kicked off with a call from a friend in Milan, followed by a series of email exchange with another in Hamilton. Many hours later, chats with a friend in Singapore and another one in Fukuoka wrapped up the day. Even among my birthdays, 2020’s was special one: I was reminded of the many friends in my life, people with whom I had spent countless hours chatting over coffee, exploring cities and museums, sharing common interests … and how life had suddenly come to a screeching halt.

I know I’m not alone. We now find ourselves in this uneasy situation that we might remember as “that lost year of 2020” …. After so many months, I feel like my body, my sensibility, my psyche are handling this situation differently.

It was a moment of realization when watching The Good Doctor, I repeatedly laughed, but I was laughing alone. No one else watching with me understood what was even funny. I’ve got things in my head that I can’t even share because people around me just don’t get it.

A couple of times, I pulled myself to share with friends how I’m taking all these things. Sometimes I got a good response, but rarely. Rather than listening, people are just so eager to give advice. Endlessly. More surprisingly, I found out that even those with professional qualifications in this area are not much better in lending their ears to listen.

This is a season of rediscovery and one way I’m rediscovering myself is what books give me comfort in that season. This past week, it’s remarkably a new book The Boy Between, a mother-and-son joint memoir on the son’s failed attempt at suicide. It strangely provides a muted depth and calm that I need in this season. From the moment I received the email from Amazon promoting this book, I was hooked. It has not been disappointing thus far.

It has not been an easy season, and for me a big part of it is for the challenge of finding locals with whom I can just sit down and share a cup of coffee (even virtually), or laugh at the same joke, or just share a common appreciation on some book. That was why that day was so special: in lockdowns, these distant connections ironically remind me of the closeness I share with these friends. I’m honestly still figuring out what to do with my local relationships, but this is a self-reminder to cultivate what precious friendships I have in so many other places on earth. I thank God for these precious friends.