There comes a time in all of our lives, when we are faced with a life altering choice. Which story do we tell? Do we choose to end our stories in acts of quiet desperation? Or, do we choose life to write more chapters? Either path we choose is fraught with anxiety…for we can expose our vulnerabilities and our fears, use our voices to shout to the world, and possibly be silenced or worse…unheard. Or, we can disguise our fears and worries in a landscape that portrays paradise…until…until…one dark night the pain erupts with such force, that in quiet desperation, all rational thought disappears, and we choose death.
Several days ago, our expat neighbor committed suicide. He chose to end his story. It reminds me that life is fragile. His tragic death shook me up and made me doubt everything I once believed and question the very foundation of who I am.
When word spread in our community that he had committed suicide, it left me with profound fear. What does one say in a time like this? How does one respond to a deeply sorrowful act of quiet desperation? Is suicide an act of courage or cowardice? And, who is next?
When our lives are a tangled mess, how do we decide which direction to go among the unexpected twists and turns? Life is undeniably complicated. Tragedy, disappointments, and crisis exists in all of our lives. Yet, why does one person choose life and another person choose death?
Since his tragic death, I’ve run the gamut of emotions. In four years, we have had four friends commit suicide…all males…all deaths by hanging. Why did they end their stories so abruptly? I feel like I’ve come to the end of a mystery novel without any resolution. I want to say, “Hey, wait a minute…this story isn’t finished.” It’s like climbing a twisted stairway to nowhere.
Garbage exists in paradise. We can try to hide it, but inevitably, the beauty of life will be blurred and obscured. We can run away, we can try to escape…but eventually it will overtake our desperate efforts of denial. When that happens, do we choose to end our stories, instead of writing more chapters?
The path to living a vulnerable life and making friends with our pain and sorrows is not an easy one. It is one small step at a time…for a lifetime. It may leave us breathless and exhausted. At a crossroad, overcome with intense pain, we walk a fine line between choosing life or death.
Is suicide and act of courage or cowardice? I’ve thought about that a lot recently. Abraham Maslow describes depression as a lack of needs. The hierarchy starts with basic needs, and ends with self-actualization. Maslow wanted to understand what motivates people. I believe that we are motivated to meet certain needs. When one need is fulfilled, we move up the hierarchy to fulfill the next one.
However, if one never moves beyond the need for acceptance, love, and belonging, severe depression can set in, making it impossible to see alternatives and consequences of choices. So, is suicide an act of courage or cowardice? Pondering the act of suicide, I wonder if there is any rational thought that takes place at that time when one chooses death. Without rational thought, does suicide becomes an act of escape from hopelessness and suffering?
We are all the authors of our own stories. We can decide the direction our stories will go, even with all the bumps and sorrows along our rocky paths. I believe that we all walk that fine line at one time or another. Is suicide the last act of quiet desperation? Does it take courage to end the story unresolved? Does one commit suicide because his needs are unmet?
I am flooded with grief at the loss of another friend in Nicaragua. I have no answers, only more questions. But, I do know that In times of disappointment, tragedy, and crisis I have started to ask myself, “How do I want to LIVE?”
Which story do we tell?