Day 295 - Something to Live For...
I spent the day yesterday thinking about my friend. How beautiful, wonderful and amazing she is. How much she is loved and adored by so many. How none of that mattered on Friday night when she attempted to end her life. In a brief, yet life changing moment, she decided that there was nothing left to live for and swallowed a handful of pills. The incongruence between her actual life and her feelings about her life were so disparate. There she was standing in a kitchen in a nice house, surrounded by people who love her and she couldn’t experience it. She couldn’t feel it in that moment.
This made me think about all the times in my own life where I have failed to be truly, deeply grateful for all that I have and those that love me. I have never tried to take my own life (well, if you don’t count the years of abusive, alcoholic drinking) but I have thought about it. I have considered my options and, luckily, I have always found something worth living for in my evaluation.
She is going to have a long road of recovery ahead of her. She has a lot to sort through. She does have an amazing team of friends and family that love her and support her and will be there for her...if she will let them.
Another friend of mine posted the following on Facebook this morning and it was such a fortuitous post because it so related to what I have been dealing with since Friday night. This came as such a good reminder to me and about how to attempt to help my friend who I suspect is going to have some very different ideas about what Friday meant.
“Viktor Frankl, one of the great psychiatrists of the twentieth century, survived the death camps of Nazi Germany. His little book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is one of those life-changing books that everyone should read.
Frankl once told the story of a woman who called him in the middle of the night to calmly inform him she was about to commit suicide. Frankl kept her on the phone and talked her through her depression, giving her reason after reason to carry on living. Finally she promised she would not take her life, and she kept her word.
When they later met, Frankl asked which reason had persuaded her to live?
"None of them", she told him.
What then influenced her to go on living, he pressed?
Her answer was simple, it was Frankl’s willingness to listen to her in the middle of the night. A world in which there was someone ready to listen to another's pain seemed to her a world in which it was worthwhile to live.
Often, it is not the brilliant argument that makes the difference. Sometimes the small act of listening is the greatest gift we can give.”
What is most poignant in this story for me is that despite being the middle of the night, Frankl gave the woman his time and attention. He didn’t put her off until the next day or insist that she make an appointment. He knew that she needed help right then and he gave it to her. He gave her all he had but what really mattered in the end was that he simply gave her his now and attention. That is what changed the woman’s mind to end her life. Not any of his suggestions, or brilliant psychiatry. It was his willing to give of himself to another human being that made the difference. It was his humanness that saved her life.
I believe that the woman in this story was a pretty exceptional person as well because I am not sure the average person on the edge would be able to see this most basic truth, that a world where we show up for each other is a world worth living in. I am sure she went on with her life and lived with purpose. Well, at least that is how I am writing the end of that story.
But the whole tale shows me in a poignant way how much it means to simply be there and go the rounds with someone who is teetering on the brink. They may reject everything you suggest. They may get angry with you. They may say hateful things. They may discount everything but in the final analysis, your willingness to go the distance with them could make a difference. What you are really doing by going the rounds is providing an undercurrent of what to live for...whether they stay on this side of the dirt will be dependent upon whether or not they can see that a world where someone keeps showing up for you and cares whether you are alive or dead is a good reason to stick around.
I don’t know what my friend will do today. I don’t know whether she will be willing to make some changes. I don’t know whether she will feel the love that surrounds her. I don’t know whether she will find a reason to live and live differently...because it really isn’t a life when you are thinking or even joking about ending it all the time. I don’t know what is going to happen.
But I know that I am going to show her that I am here. I am wiling to help. I love her and I will go the rounds with her as I have since I met her. I am going to do my part to show her that there is a lot to live for and love does surround. I pray that she can hear it, feel it and really experience it because if she can’t, I fear that we will revisit this whole ordeal again, and again and again. I pray that isn’t the case for all of us.
For me today, there is a lot to live for. I couldn’t list them all if I took the rest of the day. But I have one that takes priority over everything else...
I know why I am here. I know that I have a purpose to my life. I see all the beings that depend upon me, love me and I have a why to my life. Today, it is to show up for her and be a friend. That is my why today. Hell that may even be my why every day...my purpose is to show up and do my best even when my best sucks. My purpose is to be of service to others even when I don’t feel like it or want to or really even care to. I got a second chance once upon a time and it created in me a debt that I can never repay. So I try to pay it forward every day. And that is my why, the place I can always return to when I forget what the hell I am doing here and everything seems to be falling apart, I am here so that there is someone to show up when the phone rings. It really isn’t any more complicated than that.
And because I have the why to my life, it makes the how easier. The how gets muddy and fractured and grindy. But I always know why I am here. I am here to be of service to others. I don’t have to do it perfectly or well or even really want to but I am completely and utterly convinced that that is the purpose of my life.
What is your why? And if you don’t know, are you willing to go looking? I hope so. I hope you take the time to find out why you are here and I hope it makes the how better.