I check into the website Grief Speaks Out everyday, looking for expressions that reflect my own experience since Lenore died. I find reflections there which are informative and helpful and descriptive of some of my own feelings and thoughts. It’s a very useful, thoughtful, compassionate, helpful website – and in some cases I suspect it even saves lives. That being said, there is at least one thing it cannot do. It cannot provide a roadmap for the griever. In the end, every grieving person walks a path that is unique. And it leads to a larger perspective that is equally unique.
The day Lenore died her loss and my grief appeared in a shattering explosion and was nothing like what my previous speculations about what it would be like. It consumed me. That’s what an explosion does. The aftermath was pieces and numbness, of living in a totality involving only grief and loss and mourning. It was inchoate emotional pain and unmanageable mental chaos. My world view blew up, the basic root of my life paradigm vanished, the matrix of my own understanding broke down into senseless chaos. My spirit broke.
As time goes on for me I’ve realized that grief is just one part of my experience. The shattered pieces of my paradigm and my understanding have come back together in a new configuration, informed by new, critical information; Lenore is not here with me in this life. She is in me, she still speaks to me and I to her, I can imagine her presence with me. Yet she is not here anymore. She is somewhere else. My perspective has had to be rearranged to accommodate this new, massive fact.
In moments of reflection I wonder why I have the impulse to share with others what is my uniquely personal experience when everyone has their own in play. Near as I can tell it’s simply because I am human and therefore self-involved. I don’t want to be thought of poorly by others, I want to be understood by others. I would rather not hurt others if possible. If things go the wrong way in these matters, my chances of survival go down.
If I remove my selfishness from the perspective, then why am I writing this at all, and why would I share it? People think what they will of me. I have no power over that. People understand in their own way and their understanding is informed by their personal perspective, and I have no power over that. People can get hurt whether I mean to hurt them or not, that’s up to them and not me, it’s a manifestation of their own unique perspective. I have no power over that.
Yet also because I am human I am more than just an individual – I am also communal. I’m social by human nature, part of a collective. That collective is also selfish because it’s human, but its needs are different. It wants to know what its members have encountered and use that information to survive. So I have an innate desire to inform the collective of any useful information I have acquired which might be useful for that ongoing mutually selfish desire to survive.
Survive! It’s the commandment so universally assumed that even God did not feel compelled to tell Moses to chisel it in stone: “Thou shalt survive.” It’s written in the bio-code that stretches all the way back in history to the first living cell. It’s still, even in the most recently evolved part of the human brain, the primary purpose we put the prefrontal cortex to use for. Survival.
Why is loss and bereavement nearly universally regarded as a thing human beings pass through on their way to more life, to survival? The assumption proves itself true in all but a few cases. Grief, loss, bereavement – it’s something human beings pass through, live with, bear with, suffer with – and survive with. They go on, recover, reorganize, rebuild. It’s assumed. It’s fact. Options need not apply. Start as far away as you want, but when you drill down to the foundation that’s where you’re going to end up. You survive. It’s an unquestionable underlying basic assumption of human existence.
But what if we take the unrecognized, underlying basic assumption in all that and throw it out the window? Declare it crap, and start putting everything back together without assuming that survival is the be-all and end-all fundamental focus upon which all human purpose is based? We assume that under all circumstances, at all times, the first critical requirement of the individual and the human collective is to survive.
In a place where everything dies.
Even if you’re walking dead, even if your mind tells you it’s time to go, even if your heart is full and your life completed and you have become useless to yourself in the attainment and conclusion of your reason for being, even if everything ahead is dénouement, a slow slide into deterioration and eventual death – still you are required to live because even in that condition your simple presence can still be used by others to fulfill their needs.
The purpose of this thing I’m writing right now, telling it like it is for me, is about describing how survival could not always the best way to go. Survival is an option if you’re consciously aware of it as such. And it could be not the best option in certain circumstances, including mine.
I know, I know, this sounds suspiciously like a long, slow, tedious rationale for suicide, and already the more sensitive and perceptive readers among you, having detected that possibility, are forming up responses from your own perspective if that proves to be the case. A body of information is already in play, gently but firmly opposed to my view of survival as an option, putting harder weapons on alert for self defense in case this proves to be heresy or an attack on the fundament of basic beliefs and instincts. Will I need to be marginalized, explained by my condition and circumstances, my thoughts rationalized until safely reduced to a comfortable perspective?
Or wait. Has that already happened? Upon rereading this I realize I’ve already said what I came here to say, and the reactions by my readers are already in play. I could explicate further, but the essence is there. I could stop right now.
Yet if the explication isn’t as full and developed as I hoped it would be when I set out to write this thing, one thing remains to be said out loud.
Yes, I’m a potential suicide. But a slow one. I am aware of the joy life still offers me, aware of the others I can still serve with my experience and gained wisdoms and simple presence. I’m still aware of how wonderful and magic and full life is. I still laugh, dance, listen to music, think, feel, move, have places to go and things to do, people I love, people who love me and care about me. I still know the unexpected amazing development is just around the corner, waiting to delight and engage me in something new and unforeseeable and wonderful.
The thing is, I don’t hope for any of that any more. I don’t not hope – I just don’t hope for those things anymore. I don’t have a driving desire burning deep inside me to have them. I don’t need them in the sense of filling a void, removing a lack in my life. I’ve had them. I’ve been there, I’ve done all that. It’s been enough. And the context I gained them in, my life with Lenore, is perfect. I have no need of a different one. I’m happy with what I’ve had, and with what I have from it now. I’ve had enough. I’m done.
I’ve come to that place where all truth is only a matter of perspective. It’s all relative, even what we sense about the universe behind the curtain of consciousness. Even the sense we have of the eternal nature of the stars and earth and natural life is a result of interpretation rather than fact. It’s an illusion of vanity, a manifestation of our separated individual identities. It’s all pretty great when we live within it and find our way there, but in the end it is still a limited place to exist within. Exhaust its possibilities, master it, and it becomes superfluous. It becomes time to move on, to explore further, to discover what’s on the other side of the curtain.
I think it would be ok to die today, but I’m not going to get all inspired and enthusiastic and energetic about it. I also think it would be ok to kill myself today – but ditto. All I know right now is that when the time for me to die comes, whether naturally or by suicide, it will be the right time.
It will be the right time. That’s all I want people to remember about my dying. It was time, it was the right time. The rest, hopefully, will be about my living, about the wonderful, beautiful, full, hard, strange, amazing, loving, thoughtful, interesting, fulfilling, completed life I had, and how it all came to fruition and completion in the life Lenore and I shared together.