By John Lee Pendall
“I wish there was a treaty we could sign
I do not care who takes this bloody hill
I’m angry and I’m tired all the time
I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine”
This is gonna be a rough article to read.
But, maybe you know where I’m coming from and won’t feel so alone…
I, I just don’t know anymore. Maybe this six-month winter is getting to me. I live in Illinois, so we’re used to the climate being relatively uninhabitable thanks to one extreme or another, but this is ridiculous.
I’ve been thinking about suicide again. Now, don’t get your panties in a bunch, and don’t get your panties in a bunch for me asking you to not get your panties in a bunch.
You know one reason why people kill themselves? Because we don’t feel like we can talk about it without getting locked up or shut down.
People go ape-shit when you say that you’re pondering the merits of suicide. It’s like you just walked in and took a dump on their family heirloom. But, you know what? Family heirlooms are stupid.
I want to die. There it is. Right now, at this very moment, I don’t want to be alive anymore. I can’t speak for the moments to come, but I can definitely give voice to this one. I can also speak for the moments that brought me to this one; death wishes have long memories. People think that suicide is illogical, that those that kill themselves do so because they are blinded by emotion. That’s not always the case. There can be a cold logic to suicide. It’s pattern recognition: my past was x so my future is going to be x as well. A person doesn’t just randomly decide to kill themselves—it’s the repetition that gets you.
Whether it be repetitive events, emotions, or thoughts; it’s the cycles and underlying themes. We don’t just suddenly realize one day that life isn’t worth living; it takes several years for life to feel that way.
So, you can talk to people with suicidal tendencies, because they aren’t necessarily whacked out. If you believe the psychology textbooks, they might be even more grounded than the general population. Optimists live longer, but pessimists are more realistic. When the going gets tough, it’s a pessimist that you want in your corner; not some flower-pressing softy. Pessimists are honest, and they aren’t afraid of your demons.
People’s demons are my passion. The only thing I’ve ever truly craved in life is that connection, that intimacy of someone being comfortable enough to be broken with me. But no one ever is, everyone has some kind of barrier. I just want to see one other person, to touch and be touched by one other heart. It can’t just be me. Like any good Catholic (he says ironically), I crave communion.
And then there’s the contradiction: the me I want to be and the me I am. I wish I could be myself again, who I was when I was a boy, before everything happened. When I could cuddle up to mom unabashed. When I could comfort and be comforted without self-consciousness. I wish I could be different, that I could change. But aloofness is a habit in itself. I wish… that I could change.
Now there’s this distance between me and the ones I love the most. I can’t cry with them anymore, I can’t speak. If I could show myself to them and the world in general, it wouldn’t even be a person standing before them, it’d be an incomprehensible flood of the full spectrum of humanity. The hypocrite, longing for intimacy that he himself can’t fully express—how can I expect it of anyone else? If I took down my barriers, perhaps others would take down theirs.
But, when I do let others in, they’re burdened by my shadows. They want to eradicate them rather than accept them. I’d just like for someone to be able to hold my grief, to behold it without flinching. People don’t want to be sad, and sad people make others sad. So, we just tuck the sadness away and only take it out at bedtime.
Unlike anger, sorrow is a lonely emotion. Most people would rather be punched in the face than see someone weep.
There was a customer sobbing at work the other night. She was talking with someone on her phone, and after that she just sat down on a bench and sobbed. Then she holed up in a restroom and sobbed some more. We all commented on it among ourselves, but no one did anything, no one asked her if she was alright—not even me. We kept tabs on her and watched from a distance. The me I want to be would’ve approached her.
Sometimes we feel trapped in our own lives, have you ever felt that way? It’s like you can see it all so clearly but just can’t break the cycles, as if life is less volitional than we thought and more akin to taking a trip on an automated monorail. You see yourself doing, thinking, and feeling all this stupid crap, and you just wonder, “Why? Why am I like this? I didn’t want things to turn out like this, I didn’t want any of this.”
But wanting to be some other version of ourselves is a suicidal urge as well. Because, to actualize those changes, I would have to die. The man I am couldn’t continue, because I am at the root of all my troubles. I’m the common denominator. Everything about me would have to change, I’d have to experience a kind of living death in which I make a hard-fork in life and am suddenly “born again” like some kind of Christian. I would have to leave behind everything that I am, because, like Leonard Cohen said, “The poison enters into everything.”
Yet, when we get down to it, I have no idea who I am. Everyone else is able to describe me far better than I can; they’re able to backtrack my actions to some kind of definitive John. I only see the inside, which is nebulous and undefined. God, how I’ve always yearned for a sense of self, a place, a purpose. That’s why I initially got into various religions and philosophies. I wanted someone to tell me who I was. But, none of them could, not even Buddhism. I think I’ve always felt that if I could just figure out who I was, that I could better direct my life. I’d know the script then, ya see. I’d know my role in all of this. Of course, that’s a naive belief, but it’s unreasonable to think that reason can somehow make us more reasonable.
People who want to die think about these sorts of things, the things in this article. You don’t have to worry about me though—I live for my loved ones, so I’ll never kill myself. Not directly, anyway. Though my coping mechanisms have proven to be somewhat less than skillful. The most heartbreaking part is that, eventually, people stop nagging you to take care of yourself. That means they’ve lost hope, they’ve given up in trying to stand between you and you. And as the years go by, you turn ever so slowly away from the world. You fade and wither. You stop nurturing friendships. You stop cleaning your room.
We think that that light can live forever, you know, that spark we sometimes see in people. To see it dim is tragic; to be the one in which it dims is, well, there’s no word for it. But is there a way? Or is the idea that I could somehow transcend this the utmost hubris? I’m nothing special, after all. How many others have failed before me, and who mourns for each fallen leaf? Looking back, I can almost see the man I could’ve been. Can I be him, or will he be ever elusive? And love, that sweetest of life enhancers, will it ever find its way into me without searing my flesh? I need my missing piece, my other half. My companion.
There are some people we meet who can finish our thoughts. Not in a fill-in-the-blank kinda way, but people who can conclude our narratives. They’re like the last word that puts to rest a decade-long unidirectional inner monologue. The word is, “Stop.” Ah, to just stop. The cycle disrupted, the monorail shaken off-track. With dreams and fears mutually abandoned, life rushes in to live itself. Unbidden and masterless, the world turns.
Why would we be any different? Ice can melt with a little heat. Outside, the sky is cloaked, and the wind is bitter. But the trees are budding. Squinting, I can almost make out the winter’s edge. Or is it a memory? Maybe’s ghost, whistling free in a cemetery of certainties. Doubt: the force that keeps me from both living and dying.
I know that spring will come—will I be ready for it? I guess we’ll see.
If you need someone to talk to, please get help. There are people to talk to here: Lifeline
Editor: Dana Gornall
Were you moved by this post? You might also want to read:
- A Buddhist Stuck in the Wheel: Can We Be Buddhists without Leaving Home? - July 19, 2021
- Perspective and Morality: Sometimes It’s all Relative - July 13, 2021
- Death of A Question Mark: Living Without Understanding - June 29, 2021