Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Reasons to Live List

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine tried to kill himself.

I talked to him yesterday, and have found myself grappling with a whole plethora of feelings that I am only beginning to sort through. Initially, when I suspected that he might have tried suicide – this is not the first time – I was scared and worried for him. Second came a strange detachment that I can only attribute to a lot of working on the idea that I do not actually have the ability to save anyone else and that whatever choice anyone makes in their life has nothing to do with me: his suicide attempt happened around me, not to me. This may sound incredibly callous, but it’s really true: it is not my job to save or help anyone, especially someone who has decided not to help themselves.

I may know that to be true on some growing level of awareness that I have been cultivating after years of thinking it was my job to fix, rescue and otherwise take care of people, whether they wanted it or not, but there’s another piece to this that I am only just coming to realize that has made his suicide attempt that much scarier for me: I am a highly suggestible person.

It is for this reason that it took me so long to finally step out of a system that was not working for me in the States; it is why I have agonized about quitting jobs that I hated and didn’t serve me; it is why I have tried so hard to convince others that I have a right to make my own choices while everyone most likely stood around thinking, “Jesus, Morgan, we get it, just GO already.”

I have been missing a level of defense: the one that sifts through the messages coming at me and decides which ones to let through. When I say I am suggestible, I mean that my first step until recently has been to believe whatever anyone else tells me and try it out, feel guilty about why it doesn’t work for me, cry to others about how I’ve failed, and then finally let it go before it occurs to me that if I had just asked myself about whether whatever scam or belief or system would work for me in the first place, I might have saved myself some effort and some heartache.

It costs me a lot to stop these ideas from coming in. I shy away from conflict because of the emotional energy it takes out of me to defend my position, and even if you manage to get me riled up, it is actually because I am getting more and more desperately in need to protect my OWN ideas FOR ME, not because I am going trying to get you to agree with me.

Basically, for the most part I think that life is a wonderful, magical existence, and when I surround myself with people who feel the same, I can see the wonder in anything. When someone immersed in negativity comes along, I find myself stuck on two levels: one, I am fighting a need to help them or fix them, and two, I am trying my best to keep their ideas and feelings from becoming my own. It’s sort of like trying to yell at someone casting seeds of doubt in front of you, without realizing that their ears are plugged and moving out of the way may be a better defense.

Let me be clear: I am NOT suicidal, but I can feel my friend’s pain. Certainly not to the depth and extent that he can, but there is a ball of anxiety and fear and sadness in my chest that has absolutely nothing to do with how I see the world, who I am or what I am experiencing. In the past, this ball would have caused me to empathize with him to the point of detriment; I would have been unable to separate these feelings from my own, and been unable to hear my own voice at all.  Instead, I would have continued to fight with him, trying to change his point of view to better match my own, not to save him, actually, but to save me from starting to internalize his feelings.

This is how it has always felt, until now.

Now, there is a new part of me that I have only recently discovered, and invisible audience, she is PISSED.

This new part of me is not the still-quiet inner voice that whispers what I want and need in my life to be happy. No, this is a mama-bear type woman with the mouth of a trucker on her, big fists, a wide stance and a tattoo on her very large bicep that says, “Don’t you mother fuckin’ FUCK with me.” She doesn’t give a lick what anyone thinks, and her only job is to take care of that still weak-voiced part of me that has found herself unable to be heard over the din of everyone else’s needs. She stands up in the middle of a room full of mild-mannered people and bellows, “Shut the FUCK. UP. Little one’s got somethin’ to say; first person to talk gets their face rearranged for free.” (I have been watching Deadwood lately, and I like to think she’s a lot like Calamity Jane.)
And they all sit there, stunned, as my timid inner child swallows several times and whispers that she wants a glass of water, please.
And Bertha – shall we call her Bertha? – takes those kind eyes and patient gaze off the child, turns her face to stone and barks, “What, are you all fuckin’ DEAF? Get the girl some WATER.”

Bertha has emerged lately as my protector. She’s the one that helped me rewrite the rules that I now live by. She’s the one that helps me look at situations, like a nervous solicitor trying to sell his wares, and decide whether or not I want what he’s selling, whether I want her to kindly escort him out, or if I want her to throw him into the manure pile where he belongs.

I talked to my friend yesterday, and at first found myself where I usually am: trying to argue with him – and ultimately, with myself – about why he should want to live and what this life might still have to offer him. At 4 a.m., though, Bertha woke me up, pissed as all get out at the pain I was feeling on his behalf.

“Fuck that shit,” she said. “You want to LIVE. We both know it. Make a list of why. It will help you reconnect with yourself and put his feelings down.”

It’s hard to admit how susceptible I am to others’ thoughts and feelings; it feels like an admission of failure that I haven’t been able to figure this out already, or that I haven’t built up stronger walls to protect myself from this before. However, beating myself up from what I haven’t learned yet is a fruitless task. (“DAMN STRAIGHT,” says Bertha.) So instead, invisible audience, I’m going to write a list of all the reasons that I adore my life and would miss it if it were taken away from me, and then I would appreciate it if you added your own reasons to it, either in the comments here or on the Facebook post, to remind me of all the reasons there are to continue to experience this beautiful, magical existence that I believe in, and that Bertha is helping me protect.

Love and living loudly kisses,

The Reasons to Live List 

(in absolutely no particular order)

Being loved and loving in return
Sunsets and sunrises
Swimming in freezing cold fresh water
Hikes to mountaintops to see the view
Scuba diving
Delicious meals
New food concoctions that become necessary dietary staples
Goat cheese
Writing by hand with a big thick pen
Falling in love
First kisses
Pretty much all kisses
Mind-blowing sex
Oral sex
Huge deep hugs that say, “Put it down. I can carry it for awhile.”
Laying out under the stars
The smell of a freshly showered man
Getting off a plane in somewhere new
Meeting new people who really see who you are
Emails and video recordings from friends
Shared introspection
Intelligent conversations
Work that stretches your abilities and teaches you something new
People who stretch your abilities and teach you something new
The smell of snow coming
The smell of baked earth
The smell of fall mornings, right before sunrise
Sunny days on a ski hill
Skinny dipping
A really good book that you don’t want to end
Being rewarded for vulnerability with new, deeper intimate relationships
Soul-touching poetry
Dark German beer
Cuddling with a cat
Squished-faced dogs
Sitting in an empty bathtub fully dressed with three of your friends, drinking way too much champagne
Laughing until your face and your sides hurt
Crying until you’ve cried out all of the pain into a lake of tears around you
Music that makes you dance and sing out loud
Road trips
Getting stoned and working your way through a whole pan of dark chocolate brownies while laughing over absolutely nothing
Outdoor concerts
Skiing moguls until your legs collapse under you
River floats (and THE Riverfloat)
Sitting on front porches with friends
Potlucks with friends
Christmas and Thanksgiving prime rib, slathered and cooked in kosher salt until there’s a wonderful crispy crust on it
Children’s laughter
Cold white wine on a hot day
Staggering natural beauty
Human connection
Having crushes
Completing a well-done task
Unspoken understanding
Books, movies and theater that touch your heart
Fresh-picked apples
Honey lavender chevre
Coconut oil
Holding hands
Learning something new
Thunder storms
Lightning bugs
Bike rides