This morning I received word that a friend of mine ended his life this past weekend. He was not a close friend, but someone I had shared powerful experiences with and knew well enough to love, trust, respect, and enjoy.
When I heard, I found a photo of him, smiling ear to ear in that brilliant, youthful, boundless way that I remember in all our time together, and stared into it for a long time.
Of course, the pain was there. In clear eyes, it usually is. The smile was so real and so full that the whole tragedy of the world was woven into it. I don't believe that one can be truly open and full of love without feeling the staggering violence and madness of this world.
How one integrates that violence and madness is a life-and-death reality, especially now, while the world is tearing apart at the seams to reweave itself anew.
I wasn't close enough to know the depths of his struggle, and he presented as a healer. He was a teacher, a coach, a guide, a facilitator. He was tending the growing wounds in his being by tending to the wounds in others. But his wounds weren't getting the attention they needed, apparently.
Tending the other is not actually a way to heal the self when the self needs care at so deep a level. And turning towards the self when there is that much pain can be terrifying, too much, too horrible, too bleak to consider for the one who has that caliber of pain moving within them, so frequently they don't.
What can we do?
The journey to that place is long and there have probably been many cries for help that went unanswered or insufficiently answered, either within the person themselves and/or by the people and the world around them before the final, irrevocable step was taken. If we only see it at the end when the blade is already on the table or the breath is already stilled, I don't think there is much we can do.
Can we learn to see the burgeoning of that magnitude of suffering at an early enough stage that that particularly definitive step of suicide is not already in the room?
We live in a world in which the capacity to truly behold the magnitude of this kind of suffering and meet it with heart and soul has been assiduously eradicated from our collective life at the same time that the pressures that catalyze this kind of desperation and misery continue to grow and grow. Not only that, people hide it really well. We are very good at "putting our game face on."
I believe we have the capacity to behold each other at this much deeper level, we just have to choose to develop and exercise it. And I believe that our lives depend on it.
It's a very real situation.
In the saccharine context of the modern western world, where we are subtly or overtly shamed if we're not young, rich, beautiful, happy, socially important, and "living the dream life," most people won't even admit that they're hurting at that level. It's embarrassing. It's a personal failure. It's a shortcoming of character. And the most terrifying thought of all is that nobody cares anyway.
"Other people are fine, what's wrong with me? Maybe if I just had more sex, drove a nicer car, made more money, travelled to more exotic locations, if I were cooler or more beautiful, had a more important life purpose, if I actually mattered I would feel better. The world is utterly fucked anyway, and I don't want to try anymore, I don't want to stay. It's too much."
So many things.
But then frequently if someone does admit that pain is there and ask for help, there is not sufficient support for them: the system doesn't prioritize real support in this place, and people are busy. Therapists are expensive, especially if you don't have insurance, and lots of people don't. Ordinary people don't have time to help. People don't realize the kind of help that is needed or know how to give it. People don't know how to be with grief. People don't know how to sit with pain without trying to change it to make themselves feel better. People don't want to be with that kind of suffering because it brings their own suffering too close to the surface. People don't realize how serious it might be.
So many things.
I am wondering, in this moment, as my own invitation to lean in to Life on the human level more deeply becomes more and more clear, how to love more fully and see more clearly the people around me so that no one around me starts to walk down that road without being noticed and offered a hand of loving support on their journey.
Beloveds, love and care are the most important things we can bring to each other right now.
I told a friend of mine about the suicide this morning and she said "These times are not for the weak."
I said "These times are hard on the strong."
Please, let's not judge ourselves or each other for struggling. Let's just see how we can help.
I don't consider my friend to be weak. I see that he had pain he couldn't carry alone and that he didn't have the help and support that he needed to learn how to put down what he could and carry the rest in a different way so that he could breathe and more fully inhabit that bright-as-the-sky-at-dawn smile of his.
I wish I had known so that I could have offered to help him learn a new way, even if it led to the same place. Who am I to say what destiny lives in a person? But I wish I had had the opportunity to love him more deeply and support him on his path.
Beloveds, love and care are truly the greatest gifts we have to give to each other. Let's pay attention to each other a little more deeply. Let's learn to ask if the other is ok. We don't have to be all in-your-face about it, but we can step a little closer and feel each other a little more closely.
It just may prove to be an opportunity to remind someone of the brilliance of spring when they feel buried in the cold weight of a bleak winter.
Sending out deep love and blessings to all.