Dearest EXPLORE Reader,
I’m particularly frustrated tonight with this little letter.
I’ve talked about it a few times on this page, but the act of writing can be a real struggle when you literally have no confines as it relates to the subject matter. Writing an article about ANYTHING is not easy to do because (at least for me) I want the confinement of a particular topic and this column doesn’t have that. I’ve covered everything imaginable up to and including the death of my brother, dogs that ran away, hippies in Luckenbach and every other subject you could dream up. Nothing has been off limits and it’s good for my soul. Though it does frustrate me from time to time.
I just wrote a pretty epic column about suicide. Well, I wrote it a few days ago, but as is my custom, I like to write things and then come back to it a few days later and see how I’m feeling about it. I hated it. I think that it would have scared my mom, so I hit delete. I wrote it about suicide, but no, I’m not suicidal. It was just about the compassion I have for those that take the ride on that particular roller coaster and the insanity of emotions that can lead people to that place. It was about how I never felt suicidal, but I did get to a point where I said “I’m not gonna do it, but I can see why people do” and about how much that freaking scared the life out of me.
I hope you know how much guts it takes sometimes when I write about things like this, because let me assure you, it’s not easy. Laying yourself bare about the deepest, darkest thoughts in your soul and then publishing it for your entire hometown to read is not easy, to say the least. I get friends that see me at the Duck and will say “Hey man, you doing ok?” and I can see in their eyes that it’s not the surface question, but rather, is one that comes from concern over some twisted stuff that I’m sure I published in this letter. I both love that, and hate it. We aren’t honest with ourselves sometimes, and we sure as hell aren’t honest with those in our lives that follow along, and when we do get honest, people get freaked out. Authentic people scare people, and that’s weird as hell. But that’s something for another Publisher’s letter.
I really was just trying to actually take you, dear reader, from the depths of pain and despair…to happiness. Yup, happiness. An article about suicide that actually talked about happiness.
So after writing it, and giving it the mandatory 3-day marinating phase, I re-read it and enjoyed the message, but figured that it was too close to the line of “Hey man, you doing ok?” type questions. So in the deleted items it went. And now I’m frustrated. So I went for a walk. It’s a particularly pretty night, and the moon is giant in the sky and I enjoyed listening to the sound of my sandals slapping the sidewalk and the cool air and just being upright. And I walked around my silly little neighborhood and I kicked a rock at my inability to say what I want without freaking people out, and I miss some important people in my life tonight, and I really just want to grab my son and go fishing but I can’t seem to find the time, so I threw a really fun pity-party and finally sat at the end of my street on the sidewalk by the drainage ditch.
I sat in a drainage ditch and threw a rock at nothing and stared up at the moon and said “Hi” to some guy walking a couple of weiner dogs. And I was pissed because I couldn’t make sense of the jumbled words in my head and I couldn’t seem to put them into the proper formation to get my point across without freaking people out, and then I was tired of people being freaked out about authenticity and so I just stewed on the whole deal.
What I wanted to explain was that God tells us that He won’t give us more than we can handle, but I questioned why people take the leap off the cliff. It obviously was too much for them, so where is the line in the sand? In the journey of life, and the trials that we experience, there are times when we can take no more, yet some survive and some don’t. If God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, what’s the explanation for those that don’t survive?
The deep ponderings of a guy sitting on a sidewalk in a drainage ditch.
Life can be ugly. VERY ugly. Every single one of us have had seasons that were simply awful. Death. Divorce. Money. Health. Children. Relationships. Life can take the things that seem the most stable, and shake it until all your parts break. In going through these things, the trauma can drive a person to literally start counting how many ladder rungs are involved with climbing the Boerne water tower. But as all things are temporary, most recognize that the leap from the tower would be a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but the temptation to find peace can become a constant whisper in the back of one’s mind.
But then some people really do it. Are they weaker? Are they simply more easily overwhelmed? Did they just want the reason? I suppose that nobody knows the answers except for those people. Well, and God. But it’s heartbreaking nonetheless.
I have a friend that in the past 10 years has had her husband vanish in the dark of the night and never return, leaving her to raise 4 children. She lost the house. She lost her job. She then had a health issue that was pretty intense and involved her in a coma for a couple of months. In the midst of this, she sat on the edge of her bed and put a shotgun under her chin. Luckily she didn’t act on it, but her fingers still tremble when talking about it.
The fun part about that story is that her money is still a mess, her health is still not well, and she’s still living in some low-rent housing…but she’s HAPPY. We meet at Bum’s for lunch now and again, and she has a fire in her eyes and she laughs way too loud, and old timers glare at us when we make too much noise. But we also hug, and tell stories, and I leave her with a light heart and a big smile.
She got dangerously close to climbing the water tower, and in the last moments, chose not to do so. After figuring she was worth more dead than alive, she thankfully chose life and the world is a little better for that decision.
But why would one person do it, and one person choose not to?
No matter how much time I’ve spent on this question, I really can’t find an answer that satisfies me. Faith. Family. Strength. Fear. Resolve. Despair. They all equally become part of the equation, and each is unique to us all. One might be stronger than another for me, and then different for you. But there are only two conclusions, and as I wandered under the streetlights in my neighborhood, the world seems small when you drill things down to the simple question of “life or death. Which will it be?”.
As I’ve rambled through this, you can see that this one is a tough topic to talk about without depressing everyone around you, myself included. I guess the more I consider it, the more thankful I am to just be here tonight. Yeah, my therapist told me once, “Ok, so you’re not suicidal but you can see the edge of the cliff. Let’s walk together in a little different direction for a while” and I’m thankful for that advice. And I’m thankful for my friend that chose life, and I’m thankful for every one of you out there that might have caught a whiff of this issue in your own life, whether for you or a loved one.
Remember I said that my friend was now HAPPY? After my own walk through this journey, I’d like to report that I’m also much happier. I suppose I’ve been happier, and maybe life has been easier, but I can see that the drapes are slowly opening and letting in some sunshine. I suppose that perhaps when you can see death, you cherish life far more.
Brothers and sisters, if these silly letters ever convey anything to you, it’s just that we’re all a mess. Yeah, some of us put on perfect smiles and wear the perfect clothes but oftentimes, those are the folks that are the biggest messes. Look around you at lunch today. Every single person there is struggling with something in their lives, and some of them are even mapping out a Friday afternoon trip up the Boerne water tower.
Maybe if we all took late evening strolls around the neighborhood and considered our own appreciation for life, we’d appreciate other’s lives and our shared universal struggles.
Welcome to May. As the temps rise and the sun shines bright, may you EXPLORE everything you can possibly explore, may you laugh, may you cry, and may you sit on a curb in your neighborhood and just appreciate watching life just happen all around you.
Benjamin D. Schooley