There is something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while here, but haven’t. It isn’t about being gluten-free and it has nothing to do with food. I’m still figuring this whole thing out and learning when to censor myself, which I’m certain I still do far too often. I don’t know if my writing about these things here will help anyone or change anything, but I know that I feel a need to share these thoughts. So I’m not going to second guess myself right now. Please be advised that the subject matter I’m going to be speaking about is sensitive and may be difficult for some people to read.
On Saturday morning, as Chris and I were having a post-breakfast discussion about what to do with the beautiful day in front of us, a man jumped from the balcony of an apartment several floors higher than ours. We saw him fall past our window, heard his body hit the ground. Shocked and unsure of what had just happened, I ran out onto our balcony, looked down, and I saw him. After calling 911, we decided to get out of the house for the day and try to take our minds off of things. By the time we got home, the police tape was gone and it was as though nothing had happened. I’m sure there are people in our building who don’t even know. I can still see it though. I can still hear it.
This past fall, I learned that someone with whom I had gone to high school had taken their life. I only have this information through word of mouth, so I won’t go into any detail out of respect for this individual and the families. I will say that it was surprising and, despite the fact that we had never been especially close, the loss was deeply felt. This person was bright and beautiful and wonderful, and every time I think of them I am saddened by the life now missing from this world.
Last summer, my paternal grandfather shot and killed himself. We weren’t close. As a matter of fact, he wasn’t largely a part of my life. He was an abusive father and husband, dishonest and greedy in his professional life, and when my father tried to reconcile with him in later years those traits came shining right through his old and feeble exterior for my brother and me to see. But as awful as he may have been in his life, he was still my grandfather. I was horrified by the news.
I never understood until this past year how huge the effects of one person taking their life can be. That’s not the thing I most want to talk about, though. I don’t want to talk at length about how my grandfather has irreparably changed my family history and the family history of my children, how I’m going to have to explain to them one day who their great-grandfather was and how he passed away. I don’t want to talk about how reckless it was to jump from a high-rise in a residential area with small children and families, how someone else could have gotten hurt (or worse), or even how seriously it affected those of us who witnessed it. What I really want to talk about is something that has hit me increasingly harder every time a suicide has touched my life. It may seem like a good solution, but it is a permanent one. Once you make that decision, you can never, ever take it back.
And before anyone says to me that you can’t understand it until you’re going through that kind of pain, that you can’t really understand that desire unless you’ve been there—I have. Those used to be my words: you don’t understand, you won’t, you can’t unless you’ve been there. To be honest, I think more of us have been “there,” in varying degrees, at some point in our lives than would care to admit. Of course, not everyone makes attempts and not all attempts are such bold ones. But the thoughts, that feeling of not wanting to take even one more breath, that the pain tearing your insides into pieces is insurmountable, that there is no possible way that the issues in your life can be overcome or that any day could ever be good again—those are all feelings that many of us have had or are experiencing right now.
In all those desperate moments in my life and through some very dark years, somehow I never committed to removing myself from of it all. Because of that, I can look back to those times and say to myself, “See? There were good days ahead. Right then, with every last ounce of yourself, you believed there wouldn’t be. But see now? You are alive and you are happy.” I am glad I am here to say that to myself.
Sometimes it takes something big to shake your world view. I didn’t need all three of these events to change my mind about suicide, but they have all touched my life irrevocably. I (along with many others) have been affected in a way that I never asked for or expected. Some of it will take a while to deal with and it is difficult that some of these things are now among my memories.
On the other hand, knowing these things, having them as part of my life, has taught me something about the way I want to live. I intend to take these happy seconds of my life and store them as reminders. If that sort of darkness ever creeps back inside of me, I can look into it and know that there will be light again. It may not be tomorrow, it may not be next week, or even next month, but it will come again. That’s the thing about life—if you choose to live it, there are always more days, more opportunities for happiness. Making the other choice is a permanent one. It is forever and everything–the good, the bad, the difficult, the wonderful–that could have existed in your life never will.
I can’t help but think about the upcoming wedding and the expanse of days ahead. I look at the loving, supportive man that I’ve chosen to be my husband, that has chosen me to be his wife, and I feel so grateful that I made the decision to live into this. It wasn’t always easy getting here, but I have a beautiful, full life. I wake up every morning and I can breathe and I can move and I am alive.
I want to celebrate life.
My hope is that all of you reading will take a moment today and celebrate the life inside of you and around you as well. Fill your lungs with air. Stretch your legs long down the sidewalk. Stand and feel the sun on your face, the wind on your neck, the ground beneath your feet. Find the happiness in your life, however big or small, and hold onto it. Impress it into yourself, put it somewhere safe so that you can call upon it the next time that everything begins to feel impossible. Life is fragile and incredible and it’s amazing that we all get to be a part of it. It can be all too easy to forget that.