I’ve had a lot of experience with death throughout my life. I’m familiar with the feeling of loss and being alone in an instant. I’ve become hardened, maybe a little jaded. How else would I survive, I thought. How could I not become a little cold, a little detached. Another light in my life recently went out. I sat with him as his heart stopped beating and instead of turning away I looked straight into the moment. Because that’s what this all is, just a moment. One long or short moment, one moment here or there. It’s all just a moment. Seemingly insignificant because all it is is meaningful. We are all so fragile. So breakable despite being so solid and real. The moment is so easy to extinguish but so much harder to construct. Life takes. It takes time. It takes work. This one moment of death somehow touched me. It shook me. It broke me. It wasn’t just an idea, a formula. It was real. It was a whole moment of nothing at all. It was knowing that someone else’s moment was gone. We do a lot of things to deal with death but being in the moment with it usually isn’t one of them. I realized in that moment what was lost, what was gone. It’s funny how seeing a moment pass by reminds you to be more in the one right now. Don’t try to escape it, wish or think your way out. Don’t waste your moment because it’s all you have.
Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the difference between being critical of oneself, actions or changes that need to be made and being judgemental. I believe for growth and betterment of ourselves we need to be critical. We need to think about how our thoughts, actions and goals affect our future, and how we are connecting these things with changes we need to make. Too often however we judge ourselves from an emotional bias and become angry, stressed, upset and or give up. Learning to distinguish between these two can create a much less stressful process of growth and change. Be critical. Think critically. Act critically. Do not however attach emotional judgements and labels or put yourself down when trying to change a behavior or process. Accepting our shortcomings and failures while seeing their value is being critical of how we change them in the future. This the difference between staying in the same self defeating loop and breaking free to a new path.
I wanted to start the week off talking about the moment. What moment are you in? Where in space are you living? I recently made the choice to be more aware of how I’m living my life and realized most of my thoughts and therefore energy are either in the past or in the future. I am therefore creating a predictable present. Learning to control my thoughts and my emotions connected to those thoughts has been difficult, to say the least. I am someone who likes control because I often feel like I have none. Trying to become more aware of myself has made me see that I indeed do not have much control over myself only because I haven’t been training my body and mind to stop creating chaos at all times. I like to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Nothing about this process is known or sure. Instead, you’re trying to live solely as much in the unknown as possible. Create the life you want from the present moment. I am always off in a thousand places, as I’m working, driving, shopping. I’m never truly here. Becoming aware of this has been scary. No wonder I live in a state of stress and fear. A quote I often see is “The past is past, let it go” and that is true. I worry most about the past and thus let it create my future and then I wonder why the future is as I predicted. Change your thoughts and change your life has become a cliche notion in the mainstream media in the last few years but it is true. Don’t just change your thoughts, change your attachments and your feelings to those thoughts. If I want to live a different life with different outcomes I have to change how I live right now, I have to be a little uncomfortable all the time. None of this is easy or even satisfying in the moment. It’s frustrating and scary but I think it’s a necessary talk we need to start having since we live in such a fast-paced and futuristic world and thus are missing out on the moments of joy and change we can create right now.
PSA-this post deals with suicide and depression and may not be suitable for everyone.
In light of the two recent celebrity suicides-Kate Spate and now Anthony Bourdain I thought a lot about the past few years and how many celebrities from all artistic genres have committed suicide. These people are our heroes. We look to them for inspiration and want to believe we can be just like them. And it’s this idea-that a great career, talent and passion for something are supposed to sustain everything that gets shattered when we find out one of them has committed suicide.
I myself have struggled with the idea of suicide my whole life for multiple reasons and have attempted it as well. I think once a person allows that thought into their existence as an option it becomes insidious. It affects every aspect of your being and it never really goes away. It hides in the recesses of your mind and you take it down from the shelf when you’re bored, or sad, or think you are just too tired to continue “the fight”.
I am sure I am not alone in this thought. It’s angering and confusing for so many people who have attempted suicide or just thought about it but instead stuck with trying out the whole “living life to the fullest” and trudging through to see other people, these people give up. You hate them because they’re weak, they’re weak for you leaving you (even if you didn’t know them) and they’re weak for not getting help or not trying hard enough because that’s what we always hear-“they just didn’t try hard enough.” But what if they did try hard enough? These famous top of their industry people had every opportunity, everything we are told we need to fix ourselves so what if it just didn’t work? And now you’re scared. Now doubt sets in because you’re trying and you’ve always been told you can’t give up, it’ll get better or in plain terms-you have to struggle through life like everyone else and not be a coward. So now you’re jealous of them. Now you think God, that must be nice to just be able to give up. Sure I’m here trying to spite everyone but that little (or big) piece of me just wants it all to be over and what is the point? If all these famous amazing, inspiring, larger than life artists end up killing themselves…what have you missed…where did you maybe go wrong because none of it adds up.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. We have all heard this but I think it’s insulting. It’s insulting because mental illness is not a temporary problem for many of us. Mental illness is a lifelong battle and seeing people be defeated by it in whatever stage reminds us of that. I AM IN NO WAY ADVOCATING SUICIDE. And I think that needs to be said but I am also saying that to tell people to just keep going or to ignore a huge part of what they are feeling will do more damage and in the long run may actually lead them to what you’re telling them to avoid. Suicide is so simple and yet so complex. The act is simple but the theory, the why, is something we cannot understand. We can empathize because maybe we feel that way too but how could we understand these legends, these heros if even with all of the doors open to them they decided that only one was worth shutting. We need to not only talk about suicide, about mental illness but we need to listen. We need to hear what people are saying even when they are silent.
I was talking to a friend today about a situation that I just can’t seem to completely remove myself from or have removed from me. I said I was aware that my actions often backslid myself into the position I didn’t want to be in and I had two choices: 1. do things how I usually do them, which is to make continual, slow and griding process-up the mountain 3 steps forward 4 steps back or to stop walking completely and just sit with it. Sit with it until it’s gone, until it means nothing, until it means everything. She noted that that is obviously, short-term the much harder option but long-term the less exhaustive option. Sitting with it is what we are least likely to do, we will do anything to avoid having to deal with pain, the suffering, the anguish head-on with no distractions. We live in a culture that does not value the time it takes to do this or the willpower and decisiveness. And that is why I think sitting with it is always the answer.
Fear has become a fascination for me. I’m constantly afraid. Afraid of not fitting in, afraid of fitting in, afraid of never succeeding, afraid of actual success. All this fear keeps me trapped in this tiny cramped bubble of nothing so I’ve started searching for fear. Anything that makes me uncomfortable? Let’s go do it! Let’s talk to the person we’re intimidated by, let’s try something that we know we are going to be judged for (and stick with it for 6-12 months). I don’t choose to look at fear as something negative, it’s really there just trying to keep me safe. It doesn’t realize that we don’t live a thousand years ago and now, staying in is the thing that will kill us not the opposite. I think that’s why so many more people struggle now with fear and change-we have to work against our natural biology to succeed. We no longer live in a world where we have to be physical and go out and the world pushes our boundaries. Our boundaries are here, they live with us in our homes and cars, on our laptops and phones. We don’t have to search any more because we have everything. So now the challenge is, we have to actively search to make ourselves afraid because when we are afraid we’re working, we’re fighting, we’re pushing our boundaries. It’s ironic how things being easier actually makes them harder.
Most people say that regret is a bad thing. I would disagree. Regret is an amazing motivator. If you’ve ever sat with the elderly and asked them what they would have done differently they will give you a list of things they wish they’d spent more time on. Living a regret-free life isn’t just accepting that “it was meant to be” it’s being proactive. That fear of missing out, not taking the chance, not going for what you want should motivate you to want to not look back at sixty, seventy, eighty and say I wish I’d done it differently.
We have one chance to get it right. You can’t get that time back once it’s gone and I can guarantee the fear of failure and the fear of being uncomfortable are so much less than the fear of seeing what could have been.