Claiming the Will to Live

February 23, 2011

How can you use your anger to empower and fuel your will to live and help you feel driven to actualize in the world?

I’ve mentioned before in this blog that my biggest breakthroughs in healing my grief over John’s suicide and my own longings to take my life to be with him in death, happened through my anger.

Back in June 2009, I was at one of the lowest points in my grief. I desperately did not want to continue on another day without John. I was too tired and in too much agony. It was a series of  things though, that collided at the same time and snapped me out of my depression and my longing to die.

The first thing was that I had been working with two different therapists. One was a transpersonal therapist trained in grief and loss, and the other was a Jungian expert who helped me understand the imagery behind the vivid dreams I was having. For several weeks, with both therapist, we talked about the patterns I have in relationship with men: my tendency to overextend myself to take care of and to meet the man’s emotional needs while my partner rarely tends to my feelings. We explored how this was the case with John, as I was always trying to rescue him, and this was the case in other past relationships. In relationships, I was rarely attended to on an emotional level and we fleshed out what it might look like otherwise. As an exercise in tending to my own needs, the Jungian analyst had me call a friend at the end of the day and tell her about every little thing I did that day, and every piece of food I ate. She told me to baby myself to someone else in this way. {Me being the overly self-reliant independent person that I am- of course I didn’t bother a friend with the minutiae of my day (we have Facebook for that), rather I journaled about it to myself…}

The next thing that happened was my friend Ben came over and played a recording he’d found where he interviewed John and me about our relationship for a Couple’s Therapy class. At first I was nervous about hearing John’s deep rumbling voice again, thinking I might lose it and never find my way back to wholeness again, but as we listened to the audio together, something shifted. I listed with a clinical distance and rather than being absorbed in the pain and loss, I was able to observe the process of John and my communication and the subtle nuances in our dynamic that I had never noticed before. In hindsight, given his death, I, ironically, had a better understanding of his words and the gaps in between his words. What he didn’t say spoke more to me than what he did say.

It was quite an awakening to observe and really hear in the recording how passionate and committed I was about our relationship. I could hear the love and enthusiasm in my voice. But what about John? He said some nice loving things but for the most part his answers were short and guarded and seemed to be dancing around really saying what he truly felt. I could hear his fear. I noticed he avoided making a direct or complete and honest statement about us; I noticed his lack of commitment to me and avoidance of planning a future with me. As I had been talking about in therapy, I was giving 100% and he wasn’t matching that, let alone meeting me halfway.

I had been willing to give up my life- to kill myself, for a man who could not honestly tell me what he was feeling, and speak with vigor about our relationship while he was alive. Clearly he would not have reciprocated my passion and given up his life to be with me, as is evident by the very fact that I was not enough of a reason for him to stay. How’s that for overextending myself? How dare he take his life and leave me behind in so much pain? It was then, hearing me talk with such love, that I realized how worthy I am, how I deserve so much more than what I’d received. I resonated with the self I heard on the audio and felt appreciation and compassion for her and all she had given to her beloved, all her love and efforts that had gone in vain, and for the pain John’s dishonesty and fear had caused her. I saw clearly how all the qualities that he lacked: passion, honestly, courage, commitment, devotion, dedication…. are the qualities that I have. All that time, I had been idealizing him and imbuing him with qualities of a saint, when the evidence in front of me did not accurately reflect the truth. Hell no was I going to throw my life away for someone who did not meet me half way, who did not consider my feelings when he took his life, and left me behind to deal with the devastating aftermath.

The third thing that happened, and this one is kinda quirky, was that that very week Michael Jackson passed away. I was shocked to hear he died, but I was also more shocked because three months earlier I had a dream that he died. In my dream he died in a football stadium due to a heart attack. I have this dream written down in my dream journal from March 2009. It is plainly documented in between other dreams. And as it turned out he died of a cardiac arrest and his memorial was held at a stadium.

So it was like  “holy shit, what the –?” And then *snap- I felt fired up, confident, and refueled with my own self-worth. I do have gifts! I do have talents. I always knew I had some psychic abilities, and during the course of that year I had several very significant dreams that came true, but Michael Jackson’s death was confirmation of my abilities for me. Maybe there is some reason why I’m here, why these things are happening, that I’m of value. And if I have these  extraordinary kinds of gifts, am I really going to go giving this all away, continue my negative patterns with men, overextend myself to meet them and be with them, and in the extreme version of this- give up my life? Hell no!

These three revelations slapped me back into life, cementing my boots to the ground. As much as I love(d) John, there was no way that what he did was going to take me down too. I had too much to lose, too much I had been given, to much to give and too much that he didn’t have. I was not going to give it all up to be with a guy. I knew I deserved to be with a man who could match my qualities of love, commitment, passion, and care; a man who would willingly meet me half way or even overextend. A man who would never leave me this way. This I knew I wanted and owed myself.

And it was with that, that I got serious about myself and about my life. I got focused, disciplined, and rolled up my sleeves to get cracking on using my gifts to do whatever work I can do.

So ladies (and men – if relevant) – if you’ve been left behind by suicide, or broken-hearted in other ways, get self- righteous, get self-indignant. I bet the qualities lacking in your men who left you behind are the very qualities that you embody and the gifts you offer to the world. Do you also have the tendency to give up whatever you can for the man you love or to be with the man you love even though knowingly or unknowingly- he doesn’t meet you half way? And in fact walked the other way? Is it really worth sacrificing all that you are to follow a man into death? Don’t you think he should have at least stopped to consider your feelings for just a moment before he did what he did?

Dig in to your life; investigate the truth. Get angry and stake your claim in this world. You deserve to get what’s yours. Don’t give it up for anyone. Get what you came for.

rock bottom choices

February 22, 2011

There seems to be two kinds of people in the world: those that when they hit rock bottom contemplate suicide, and those that when they hit rock bottom would never even consider it in a million years.

I’ve always wondered why that is. Does anyone have any thoughts?

 

May love continue to flow through the cracks in your heart

 

 

 

the trashed schoolyard

February 2, 2011

My Wednesdays are spent channeling my inner teen (not hard to do given my penchant for Taylor Swift and boy-talk), and counseling some pretty amazing teenagers at a public high school here in Los Angeles. A colleague of mine calls it “working in a war-torn country.” I arrive home in the evenings, bedraggled, shoulders in knots, and thirsting for a glass of wine. Some days I’m so beat I have to nap in my car before I can drive home.

I don’t know how teenagers today deal with the chaos of our increasingly disconnected and fear-inducing world. By definition, teenagers are far more emotionally sensitive than most people, as they are still emerging from the emotional openness of birth and childhood; they’ve either learned to protect themselves and adapt to the unfairness and abuse around them by shutting down, withdrawing into their shells, becoming someone they’re not, or raging outwardly. They’re so vulnerable to the media and far more impressionable, sensitive to the moods and rhythms around them, then they realize. Throw in cell phone/texting addictions and junk food, the situation is a mess.

Walking into the high school each week is like entering Crisis Central. You never know what’s going to happen. The energy is scattered and explosive like a bomb could go off at any minute. Just knowing some of the student’s lives and what they deal with every day, it’s no wonder. Multiply that by the thousands of students enrolled at this one school and you have an emotionally and energetically dysfunctional, counterproductive, scary, stress-inducing environment to try and thrive, learn about who you are, and maybe figure out what to do when you graduate, if you graduate. By the end of lunch, the campus is covered in plastic wrappers, empty milk cartons, styrofoam plates, and leftover food scraps as seagulls swarm to feast. Multiply this image by thousands of public schools around the country. Is it any surprise that suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 15-24.

I’m inspired by my brave students slugging through the overcrowded fluorescent lit halls day after day, doing the best they can to play the shitty card of hands they’ve been dealt.

Adriana: eldest daughter of seven, brother in a gang, mother doesn’t speak English; she was innocent, but beaten to the ground by cops outside her house for their mistake. Honors student, working overtime since jr. high school taking extra course work every Saturday and summer to guarantee her a college scholarship, now has to contend with the possibility of a permanent mark on her record for a crime she didn’t commit.

Amber: sassy, warm mother-hen you want as your girl-friend. She’ll be right by your side the second you need her. Dad on death-row at San Quentin for murder, mom passed away from drug related suicide. First time I met her she wore her mother’s green felt blanket around her. Now lives in an abusive house with her dad’s relatives: they have black skin, her’s is white. She sleeps in her great-grandmother’s bed every night for safety. She stays in this house to make sure her great-gran is ok.

Deshaunna: smart and determined, her parents were killed in a car accident this past New Years Eve by a drunk driver while she was at church with her friends. A month out, she hasn’t registered the loss; she lives with her 24-year-old sister. This week she was promoted to captain of her cheer team.

Shamiul: 15-year-old prodigy going on thirtysomething from Bangladesh whom I talk to with like a peer; actually, he talks with more depth,  self-awareness, spiritual and psychological sophistication and insight than most people my age. Musical genius, so cool, but he doesn’t know it, yet. Father walked out on his mother, shaming the community. He and his mom lived in a homeless shelter for some time. He has a park bench in his bedroom.

I could go on and on, as I have other students as well. I’m in awe and want to send a huge shout out to all you teenagers and “young adults” out there internalizing the burdens of our society, the burdens of your parent’s ignorance, and shivering yourself into form each day, holding on, and making it through this often-time gruesome stage of life. My teenage years were filled with depression and drug use, but that’s another story perhaps for another time; I can’t imagine how the pain of being a teenager has magnified as the future has rushed forward. My heart goes out to you. Sending love, sending strength.