I was asked by my therapist recently who my support system is. I stared blankly at her for a good 12 seconds, not because I don’t know what a supper system is but because I don’t have one. I have no family and one parent whose depth of conversation usually involves my dogs and work. I know plenty of people but have no good friends ( I had several childhood and close friends but we are no longer in contact). I’ve heard the saying we can get used to anything but hadn’t truly grasped how real that was for me. I am alone. Not out of choice but out of circumstance. Truly alone. And I’m so used to this I barely noticed it. I could say support isn’t really necessary, look how far I’ve made it. Look how strong I am but that would be false. I am in fact so without support that I am paying someone to be there for me (insert laughter, because I find humor in everything). I pride myself on being able to outlast anyone and live through anything but I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. We need support, friendships, relationships to go. To learn. When all you have is yourself you become a different kind of tough and it’s not always for the best but it’s because you have no other choice.
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.
This post may stray from my normal reflections and advice but I felt I needed to put it down in words. Two days ago I had to euthanize one of my two dogs. His name was Sterling. He lived every day purely in love with life his best friend Ronan and me. No matter what I did or said he loved me. We went through tremendous ups and downs while I had him. He taught me about intentions. He taught me about never regretting. He taught me about letting go. He taught me I should be better, kinder and more patient and I wish I had been. Putting him to rest was one of the hardest and most painful decisions I’ve ever made and although it was the right decision I do not think a part of that will ever leave me although I hope to let go of my regrets. I am heartbroken without this amazing little being who changed my life and made me feel less alone every day. I know he is finally at peace and for that I am grateful. I wish his time in this world had been different, better and more what he deserved but I walk away from this knowing I did the best I could and although I feel I let him down I try to move on the way he did-with love and joy living entirely in the moment. We should all be so lucky to be around an animal who forgives our weaknesses and faults and loves us unconditionally. If enlightenment means living only for the moment with an open heart and forgetting all else then dogs are the enlightened beings. I took his little heart for granted and realized I take so much for granted on a daily basis. We truly are here and then we are gone and no one really will notice that void so we need to do something, make something count while we inhabit this space and time. If you want a paradigm for how to live your life, live it like a dog does. Live it with nothing but honesty, gratefulness, happiness forgetting all your yesterdays and thinking today is all your tomorrows.
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.
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.
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.