My friend over at Growing Up Guns, Mark Luell shared an interesting article the other day in regards to a very serious topic: death.
I don’t talk much about my days prior to guns. Why? This is a blog about self defense, particularly armed self defense so it seems a little off topic to talk about a time and a place so far removed from the subject.
In many ways I had a really good life. I had parents who loved me. I had a lot of really good things going for me. I had some amazing, close friends and people who loved me.
There were many times of great happiness. Great joy.
But there were a lot of really big hurts, too.
I’d barely entered my teen years when I attempted suicide the first time and for years after that the idea of taking my own life was a subtle thread through the back of my mind.
I didn’t actually want to die. I know that now.
What I wanted–what I needed– was a way out of situations that, at the time, seemed far too permanent. I felt hopeless and helpless, afraid, angry and insignificant. I felt as though my life were not my own and I had no power to act on it.
It’s silly to think of now because, when I look back on my life I see many ways in which I was in control of my life. But for whatever reason this was a pinpoint of focus for me at that time. Like a laser beam focused exclusively on the one negative thing, drawing all of my attention and angst. I was blind to all of the wonder around me because I could only focus on the pain.
What was my solution? Obsess about the one and ultimate means of control: how I might die.
What I didn’t expect was that death might seek me out–violently.
I ended up being abducted, beating and nearly strangled to death.
I don’t talk about my abduction much. It’s a story I still struggle to place within the context of my public message. In many ways it seems very remote to who I am now but it certainly played a massive role in my life and who I would become.
Why I mention it now is because how it applies to Mark’s post.
I very distinctly remember believing I was going to die.
I remember thinking that I would never see a blue sky again or my mother’s face.
I remember feeling like I had wasted so much.
For the first time in years I wanted to live–really live! I wanted to see the sky and marvel in its color. I wanted to appreciate the wrinkles in my mom’s face and on the backs of her hands. I wanted to savor every breath and every sensation. I wanted to live and I was so sad that I wouldn’t get that chance.
I didn’t die.
I know, I’m glad about that, too.
But being that close to my own death did something to me. It made me appreciate how easy it is to take this life for granted. It made me realize how fixated we can sometimes get on the negative, how caught up we become with the routine and the safe. We put things off, we fail to tell people we love them, we waste it.
We waste the wonder and the joy.
I know it seems weird, but I’m thankful for what happened to me.
I kind of wish I didn’t have to go through it. It really did suck. I had what felt like a lifetime of shit to wade through afterward that I really won’t go into right now.
I came out of that garage a different person in a lot of different ways, but if I can make a single point it’s that I went into that garage as someone who thought she’d live forever and wished to die and I emerged as someone who now understood how mortal she was and was inspired to live.
It doesn’t mean I’ve succeeding in seizing every single day.
It doesn’t mean I never again became complacent or wasteful with my time.
I’m still looking forward to some dreams and adventures and allowing myself to take my time to get there.
It does mean that no matter how tough things have gotten since I’ve never imagined suicide as a solution.
I had a pretty stark reminder of my mortality and for the most part that reminder has inspired me to do some pretty awesome things.
But I’ll still feel like it’s been wasted if, when I die (and die, I shall), the people I love don’t know how much I love them, the people I’m grateful for don’t know how much they mean to me and a blue sky comes and goes without being appreciated.
You never know when it will be your last.
You don’t need some life-altering event. Take the exercise Mark laid out. Try it and get to work filling the empty space with life, and wonder and joy.