Tag Archives: courage

This Life And Us

This life and us. Are we not all doing the same, simply trying to be ourselves?

We face a journey: through stubbornness and restless autumnal change; the disguised fears and dark days of winter; guilt and impatience for the dawn of spring; and onward, to the hopeful first flight of our hearts in summer.

Then, perhaps, to soar above the storms and to faint stars beyond the seasons of our life. It is there that we may find our eventual rest: in the arms of the universe.

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THE SILENT KILLER

What’s the Western world’s biggest killer of men aged under fifty?

It may come as a shock to know that it’s suicide; the most taboo of subjects and a guaranteed conversation-killer at any dinner party.

My closer friends will know I’ve struggled this past year with chronic depression. What they don’t know is how close I have come to being another ‘Under 50’ statistic on the Home Office chalkboards.

I cannot tell you what actual suicide is like, though I can share what it is like to stand on the edge of reason: a soul-shattering mix of pain, anger, fear, and helplessness.

This I know from experience: I’ve stood at the end of Brighton Pier with bricks in my pockets, propelled to end it all and escape from a relationship littered with infidelity and at times extreme violence towards me. I can still smell the sea and feel the wind in my face as I stared in to the black water all those years ago.

It’s a thought and feeling that has haunted me many times, perhaps an imprint of when I was very young and a family member contemplated the same sad way to end things. They, however, also showed me courage and how to live and love life, despite all of their own troubles, of which there many. For that I am truly thankful.

I have come very close at times to putting my feelings in to action. But I have been blessed by a mixture of luck, the Samaritans and some very good friends that I’ve been able to talk to openly and saved myself from losing my will to live.

We all live on a knife-edge more than we might like to admit. Loves, marriages, hopes and dreams fail us and it’s a miracle that any of us struggle through, usually feeling alone, no matter how much love we actually have around us. This, sadly, is the cursed blessing of life. A life where our doubts can too easily crowd us and block the view of the sunlit path we are meant to tread.

To quote from a well-known song, “the sword of time will pierce our skin, it doesn’t hurt when it begins, but as it works its way in the pain begins and it grins…”

One myth I can dispel immediately is that suicide is a coward’s way out. In my own experiences it takes a strange sort of extraordinary courage to contemplate and plan. As much strength is required to end one’s life as it is to live in this beautiful, troubled life.

Nor is suicide painless, or at least as I can tell from researching all the popular methods. There are not many deaths that are pain free. There’s no free ride in ending it all.

To plan a suicide takes preparation, a strange coldness and calm. It’s not something to be rushed and likely botched.

After my research on the subject, you don’t want to get it wrong. Remarkably, even a gunshot point blank to the head is only ninety percent effective; poisoning by overdose is a distant runner in the league tables with the odds of 42:1 against you actually meeting your maker.  Drowning is meant to be the least painful way to go, though is equally as unreliable statistically. Jumping is popular, but far from guaranteed. If you do jump, make sure it’s from a very great height and you hit the ground head-first. The results otherwise will lead to a very messy clean up and you still being alive…

Failure leads to all sorts of horrific and life-debilitating conditions. Even the best-planned suicide has odds one would be silly to take. And yet, in the dark nights and days that follow we can still be drawn to making the ultimate gesture of failure, as though in a silent movie where our mouths move, but no words are heard.

There are many factors that will bring one to the edge of life. It’s a horrifically horrible place to be, on that point I will be frank. There is no quick suicide. The feelings that lead one to that dark place are like a slow torturous death in itself.

One’s spirit, our sense of living, slowly fades and it’s a death of a thousand cuts. Each tiny cut of hurt, pain, anger, hopelessness and the wrongs done to one in one’s life bite viciously over and over. Each one igniting neurons in the brain that curse one with only the one door marked exit from our anguish.

At this point I must say if you are considering suicide, then get help. Ring the Samaritans, a friend or even talk to a stranger. Any kind of help.  The subject is such a taboo that it’s hard to know how many of us have ever considered taking our lives. I suspect many more than we might expect. If you have considered ending it all, then take all my praise and love that you are still here with us. You have my deepest heartfelt admiration for making it through.

Until recently, even in psychiatric circles the word ‘suicide’ was never used. Even now the doctors will refer to it as ‘self-harm’ or how to ‘keep oneself safe’.  This blanket refusal to mutter the word feels like superstition, as though not mentioning the act will somehow prevent it.

Centuries of our Christian roots has counted suicide as a mortal sin, grieving God’s heart and spurning the blessing of life that we have been given. The contradiction of this and how appallingly humans treat each other is not lost on me.

Whatever one’s religious beliefs, I am torn with accepting on one part that if I killed myself I would be discarding the great blessing of being alive. And my life is filled with very many great blessings. On the other I have seen how thin the veil is between life and death.

My spiritual insights and beliefs perversely can urge me onwards to the hope of stopping the ride and reconnecting with the universe, free of my own human pain.

Not being afraid of death, indeed welcoming it in, changes how one experiences the life that comes from knowing one can walk away from life’s troubles: everything feels more immediate. I now value each moment, each blessing, no matter how insignificant it might once have seemed.

Through my facing suicide square on and staring it out, sometimes so close to death I can feel its breath, comes my escape from the torments, and a chance to be able choose live on.

Significantly and unexpectedly, at the moment when I am about to accept death’s sweet kiss, is when love has come to me: an overwhelming and searing love for my family, my friends and those who have touched my life in some, any, small way.

Yes, love: a deep and powerful sense of immediate connectedness to everything and everyone whilst feeling utterly alone; a moment when the universe stands still and silent; on the edge of everything with wavering feet and unable to jump in to the unknown.

Whilst I must admit to not having the courage at times to carry on living for myself, I have found a remarkable courage to care enough for others to remain here with you. Though I cannot always love myself, I have huge love for my family and friends. This has been my saviour on more than a few occasions.

I count my experiences as a blessing beyond measure. I am still here and if in my darkest moments I can feel even the slightest breeze of love upon my face, then there is hope.

Perhaps with more discussion about our fears, our closeness to death we will all feel a little more love, a little more connected, less alone and suicide will no longer be the silent killer.

For myself I cannot tell what the future will bring; I suspect I will be haunted by the closeness of death for some time yet. But where there is life there is hope and where there is hope there is faith in the future.

And that is a very marvellous feeling indeed.

Footnote: some data references from http://lostallhope.com/suicide-statistics – conservatively over 20 million people worldwide attempt suicide each year.

The Rainbow Roller Coaster

I have many euphoric moments in my life: from the wild rides bouncing through country lanes with a best friend, acid house playing a 303 bassline and a smile wider than the River Wye on my face, to quieter moments at dawn or the middle of the night, standing still and letting the universe touch my soul.

I have quite extraordinary encounters, such as the a clown I met in the middle of a Nevada desert and our connection as we exchanged gifts: he gave me home-made pistachio ice-cream from his bicycle and I made him an ice-cold Martini Vesper.

These are the sort of tales that illustrate my life. A life filled with colour.

I am very, very blessed by my experiences and the people I know well or merely by smiles glimpsed in the watching crowd on my roller coaster ride of life; such as that desert, bike-riding clown perhaps, whose name I will never remember.

Yet, like so many of us, I still find my soul too many times tormented by human fears: those times when each step feels like a slow walk on fiery coals. A walk through fire without the cheers and shouts of a crowd to support me on what might otherwise be painless strides. My gut twists in awkward agony and I wonder wherefore my angels have forsaken me.

I am a Gemini. My life is filled with contrast. This is a fate I reach for with open arms: I see the patterns and feel the smiling sunshine on my face as much as I wake, sweaty with fear, in the middle of the lonely night wondering if I will live until the light breaks timidly through my windows.

There is an exquisite beauty in living such a life. I cannot imagine another. And the truth I struggle with is that I would not have it any other way.

It is what must be. And it must be accepted.

Through recent months I have learned a little of the art of what I call ‘self-responsibility’. This is owning and acceptance for everything (and I mean everything) that happens to me and all that I feel: from the blissful to the torturous.

All of it.

This does not mean that I am to blame for things that go awry or castigate myself for my mistakes. I just know I do my best and accept what happens as being just that: what happens. I know I am responsible for my feelings, in whatever place they may be at any particular time.

Perhaps, most importantly, I know that in taking responsibility for everything, I actually have a choice in everything, including that most wayward of human living: my feelings.

I have been blessed to find long periods where I see the good, the positive, the love that is all around as well as pained by only seeing that which is not.

I have the power to choose which I see and experience in any moment, even if my human nature fails me time and time again in this regard.  I have learned that while the answers to life and how to live to it are really very simple, this does not mean that they are very easy to do.

Far from it. This life is a challenge and the wonder of it and why I struggle with it, stumble and fight-  at times desperately – to hold on to it always amazes me.

So what now, on this knife-edge of existence?  Between the connection of all things loved, to love and be loved in return and or the other side of inky blackness, of loneliness, of failure and despair?

I do not know.

What I do know is that the struggle each day with the fear of failure is worth the moments of when life blesses one with joy. To know that even in the grey veil of rain, one may see a rainbow. Perhaps even be so lucky, as I have (twice now, here in the countryside), to be at that rainbow’s end; and to have one’s entire world experienced for a moment through a veil of multi-coloured glory.

There is no answer except HOPE: this being the knowledge that in those dark and lonely moments, we have faith in something better, glorious and amazing.

Perhaps in this modern age we have too much association with hope being nothing but a consolation prize, rather than embracing it and giving it the respect and care it deserves. To have hope is to have everything: to responsibly accept what happens, without blame or guilt, and have faith that when things don’t go right there WILL be better days.

A friend once told me at the end of one of my many magical parties, when one person had got too drunk and cast a slight shadow over proceedings: “If there wasn’t someone to spoil things then there wouldn’t be all the good people making it all such fun.”

So in my contrasted life, I take solace that the days when things don’t go right, it means that there will be those when everything does… to embrace the ups and downs, the twists and turns and to remember, always remember, the words of the late and gifted comedian, Bill Hicks:

“Remember folks, it is all just a ride. It’s just a ride.”

Here at The Tower another day dawns and I for one am running again, if nervously, towards the entrance of the roller coaster of life for another turn.

Simple Faith

Many think of ‘faith’ as the underlying belief in an all-powerful entity, intelligent design or some form of religion.

But what if faith is just  the simple trust in the blessings of life, even (or especially) when it feels like there are none?

Or what of the faith that, in their hearts, our fellow man is doing their best, even if that best doesn’t seem like it; and they unwittingly hurt us in their own painful struggle for survival?

Perhaps we need nothing more than the courage to trust in our own innate kindness and compassion so that we can then see this reflected back in our own lives and existence?

What and how then would the world be if we all realised this?

Maybe then we may reach a place of heavenly peace on earth.

It’s not about religion. It’s about being who we really are, despite everything and despite the pain that the sometimes cursed blessing of our existence bestows upon us.

Then, finally,. we may see ourselves as the angels we all are inside, walking this earth in human form.