“I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfix-able was totally fixable – except for having just jumped.”
— Ken Baldwin. Golden Gate Bridge jump survivor.
I want to clarify something if you don’t know or are too overconfident to admit it. We are all vulnerable and are not invincible, impregnable, or indestructible when it comes to the “demons” that infiltrate our barriers. That’s why it’s so important that we look out for one another!
I read Ken’s quote above and immediately thought of two things: the scene from “It’s a Wonderful Life” where Clarence the guardian angel saved George Bailey from jumping off the bridge to end his life by jumping off it first. Clarence knew that George would forget about his own perceived, overwhelming troubles and instinctively think of someone else’s and jump in the water to save Clarence. It makes me think if we can still think of others even when we can’t connect with ourselves anymore, then maybe things aren’t as dire as we perceive.
The second is a lawsuit I was involved in about a patient in a psych ward on the eighth floor of a hospital who saw a window accidentally left open. The patient was in the psych unit after being admitted as a threat to himself and predictably saw the window open, raced down the hallway from his room, and dove head first out of it. I always wondered if the patient momentarily felt free like Superman thinking he could fly through the air until he realized he couldn’t as he closed in on the ground floor. I don’t say this out of jest by any means because the “poor” man survived with injuries too numerous to detail and I saw his hospital records which were quite dramatic because of their severity. These stories make me think about what could have been the final trigger that took someone so tired of living in a certain manner, to not wanting to live at all!
Here’s a troubling concept I’m throwing out there for your consideration knowing that I don’t have an answer. When people make the final choice to extinguish their existence on this earth, do they see those moment as acts of “courage”, “cowardess”, “control”, or “surrender”. I just wonder if people feel that when they succumb to the belief they no longer have any power over the uncertainty of life, they can have the ultimate control over the eventuality of death. Again I don’t know but I certainly am familiar with certain levels of despair where the phrases “maybe I’d be doing the world a favor if …”, “maybe the world would be better off without me”, or “maybe it would be better if I was never born (George Bailey)”, are just not abstract sentiments uttered just for dramatic effect. It’s best to never take such sentiments too lightly because the distance between words, consideration, formulation, and action is too imprecise to disregard. Again it bears repeating that we REALLY have to look out for one another because I shutter thinking about the potential consequences if we don’t! Oh and by the way for those who use those phrases haphazardly for dramatic exercise or attention, please DON’T, because it scares the crap out of those who care about you, it loses its meaning over time, and there are those truly suffering who deserve that attention.
I stored this quote a while back and it’s relevance seems appropriate for this writing. “The weeds keep multiplying in our garden, which is our mind ruled by fear. Rip them out and call them by name.” There were times leading up to my injury when I was more familiar with some perceived demons than I wanted to be. Just being honest and rest assured that after the last year of reflection and reevaluation, I’m nowhere near those times and only recall them to remind me of the fact I’m really where I want to be.
So maybe you wonder what happened to those “demons”, or “goblins”, or whatever you want to call them that introduced themselves along my pathways. They’re still around but I no longer fear them with any measure of intensity because I keep them where I can see them and confront them when necessary. By no means is this due to some new pact I forged with “Christianity” (although the results may be the same) because it’s simpler than that and in the end, I am just enjoying my life with my “Christian”, and Deb, and Jason, a hell of a lot more! If I had any suggestions through all this which may be worthless to some people, it seems better to stop running from whatever demons that terrify us, keep them close enough to monitor, and forge a manageable coexistence with the ones we can’t change. It just feels like things seem less formidable and frightening when they’re within our reach.
If in doubt, let the basic foundation of your soul communicate loudly with your heart and mind, and let it guide you. Let them overshadow and speak louder than those demons because no matter how they present themselves, they should not be allowed to act as our “gospel”. Remember the goodness in our soul wherever it exists guides us, our demons no matter how perceived lead us astray and as owners of our existence, we CAN control their influence and it takes more work at times to exercise that power. If you’re still confused, ask for help and if no ones available at the moment, I’m always around if you want someone to talk to.
Here’s something I wrote awhile back waiting for the right topic to use it so I think I’ll share it now. After a closer exchange with the concept of death that I’d like, I really don’t fear it that much anymore, only the manner and who’ll have to be around that may be affected by it – if that makes sense. It’s a demon I’m aware of so I keep it close to me so that I can benefit from its presence. It keeps me driven in how I approach each day and the steps I take managing those 1,440 minutes afforded to me.
I know that if I saw someone like Ken ready to jump off a bridge or that patient running to an open window, I’d do everything in my power to save them because those are situations where my instinctive decision would be obvious. But I talked to my sons about these story’s trying to impress upon them to be more alert to the subtleties of sadness we see in people we come across each day because we just don’t know the depth or complexities behind that sadness. I truly am behind the mindset that the “gold standard” of our existence is to be kind to ourselves first and by consequence and extension, to each other. Really how hard is it to just share a simple and genuine smile or “how are you” to make someone’s day better, even if momentarily, than do nothing when the opportunity calls for it and make it worse? Really how hard is it, or do we just make it that way sometimes? In the end, we have to keep an eye on each other because it shouldn’t take someone standing on a bridge or flying out a window to grab our attention!
I’ll leave you with this quotation because when overwhelmed, slow down, breathe, and “find a place inside where there’s joy and the joy will burn out the pain.” Joseph Campbell. I’ll be keeping my eyes open just in case, trust me.