Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Permission to Choose

I glanced over my shoulder as I said it, as if to hide from my soul.  And yet, I said it anyway.  Without handing her the gun, I quietly gave her my answer, offering an inch of permission to kill herself.  It was a subtle question, laden with cutting tears and decades of sorrow.  Under weary eyes, she begged, “Don’t you think after so long there just comes a point when it’s enough? I just don’t see things getting any better and all I want to do is be done.  You know, when living isn’t working and dying is the best solution?”

I paused as I ran through the ‘right’ answers.  I brushed by the therapist pep talks and recovery promises.  I flipped through the party lines of “Hang in there” and “Good things are just around the bend”.  I lingered at sentiments of finding gratitude and beauty in the simple, but knew that the moment they slipped from my lips, I’d join the ranks of Everyone else.  Everyone else who bustled with misunderstanding, minimizing, shoving platitudes of joy down a throat that tasted no sweetness. They meant well with motivational quotes and glass-half full instructions, and in the absence of any band-aid large enough, they really were offering all that was left.  But I also knew that urges to stop and smell the roses serve to deepen desperation when flowers fall stale and sunshine burns. 

So I gave the answer attached with leeway, an admission of not knowing what’s best for her or what the right solution is.  I said that it was her life, and maybe it was ok to close the book, and yes, I knew what it felt like to have drained your cup of life and simply want to give up.   There was a piece of my answer that was a challenge – a hope that perhaps with the permission to choose, with the power to end her life, she would choose to own it instead.  Rather than wasting breath trying to convince her to breathe, sometimes lending the rope to hang you ends up as a life raft.  But also, it was an admission of my powerlessness; the knowledge that there was absolutely nothing I could say, no point I could make, no hope I could point to that would erase the clouds from her eyes.  And I wasn’t lying.  I do believe that it is her life, and I don’t know the answers and I don’t know how to balance constant tears with the hope of tomorrow. There’s also this other truth that lurks in my throat, a reality of guilt and pain that would be left in her wake, a scar slashed upon her left-behind loved ones.

It’s her next question that sticks in my pocket and sheds murmurs along the next days.  “Are you glad that your life was saved two years ago?” “Yes” – without pausing.  And then I stop.  It’s been pantries of sickness and jars of pain, fear lining the shelves with anxiety.  If I had to catalogue amounts of time laughing versus time worrying, or add up tears over joy, maybe my answer would have to change.  And I start to feel the panic creeping in until I remember the secret. 

The secret is that joy weighs more than suffering, and moments of connection make up for days of struggle.  The secret is that you can’t itemize a life, slicing a soul to determine its worth.  The secret is that I would put up with the craziness for the laughter, knowing that tears today don’t wash away carefree yesterdays.  And as trite as it would sound, it is the little things for me.  I inhale lazy afternoons at the park and use gardenia scents as my pep talks.  Small doses of newness spread light in dusty corners and excitement of a dream carries me past the common frustrations. 

Yes there’s a lot of time spent in the mud, and at any given moment, I might be blinded by the darkness.  Yes, there are things I’d like to change about my life and things I hope are in store.  Yes I still worry and get overwhelmed, angry and hopeless.  But still I don’t ponder giving up anyway.  I don’t wish for sudden death or ponder ways to surrender without hurting those I love.  I wouldn’t trade in all of the heartache because there are too many moments of happiness, too much hope, and too many roots that I’ve planted that I find joy in their sprouts.  I don’t wish for death, and all I want to tell her is just hold on...just hold on because you never know what smile will catch you off guard or what blessing lands on your shoulder.  It’s trite and cliche. 

But my final answer will always be this: Choose Life. 

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