A matter of life and death:
Suicide is not a joke to me. It’s obviously a sensitive subject for a lot of people, but we tend to say things like, “This makes me want to shoot myself,” or “I’d rather jump out of a window,” or we push our fingers into the shape of a gun and point them against our heads as a symbol for, “Wow I’m bored” or “This sucks.”
Every time I see someone do this, my heart sinks a little.
I just finished reading The Pact by Jodi Picoult. I owned this book, apparently, but I held off on reading it for a long time because I didn’t know what it was about and it just looked like a typical 1990s paperback that you’d find in the bottom of a library bin. No offense, cover designers. When I did learn what the book was about – a girl who appears to have committed suicide in the presence of her boyfriend – I decided I was not ready to read it. I did read it, eventually, though. And I’d recommend it, I guess, but that story and this time of year brings me to a very painful subject.
There are two people who used to be in my life, but no longer are because they killed themselves. They took their own lives. This is all I really care to say about their deaths, but I’m happy to talk about their lives and who they were and how each of these people impacted me both while they were living and now that they’re gone.
I think about life a lot. And I don’t necessarily mean in a philosophical meaning-of-life kind of way, I mean in a wow, living and breathing and sensing is really a wonderful and magical thing. It’s a weird thought, but I know that just about every person I’ve ever met is sensing right now. Just about every person I’ve ever known is still breathing. Deep soothing breaths, long exaggerated sighs, gentle shallow absent breaths, gasps for air between belly laughs… just breathing… that’s life.
Life is fragile. I’ve known that ever sense I could grasp the concept of a car squishing a human, a baby drowning in a bathtub, or a grown man choking on a slice of bread. With it being so fragile, so cherished, so careful, why would you pull it out of you? I’m not going to try to answer that question. Instead, I want to think about what it means to me to be alive. And I don’t want to take my life for-granted.
I think some people want to lead a rich but simple life. They want to love their family and follow traditions and do their duties and die quietly in their beds one night in their geriatric slumber. I’m not one of those people. And then there are people who want to live their days on the edge, and make decisions in the heat of the moment, and sometimes disregard their conscience or their community or their health for the thrill of the experience because sometimes really living means getting as close to death as possible. I’m not one of those people, either.
I’m still figuring out who I am and who I want to be, truthfully, but I know that I want to change things. I feel for children who grow up in a community that can not offer a credible public education. I feel for people who can not afford health care. I feel for the animals who are subjected to horrible treatment in factory farms. I feel for the people who are abused and neglected and for the children who are deemed “unadoptable” in the United States of America. I feel for disabled adults who are treated as incompetent members of society. I feel for the thousands of suffering, starving, people. Humans. Like the rest of us. I feel for them, and I just want everyone to understand each other.
I want to change things and I want to change myself. I want to explore the world. I want to challenge myself to do things that I’m afraid of because it is for the greater good. I want to open eyes and hold hands of people who never wanted to touch each other. I want to be loud enough to be heard, and brave enough to make a difference. And I want to laugh a lot. And bake a lot. And paint a lot of pottery.
I want to live for as long as I can. And when I do die, I want the world to know that I lived.