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.

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6 Responses to “Claiming the Will to Live”

  1. John said

    Wow. I continue to be amazed at your candor and the powerful things it brings forth for me.

    Isn’t that so strange?….. how we can fictionalize and embellish our past and the people in it, for reasons seen or unseen, known or unknown. I came to a similar point or transition in my experience. I too, gave, gave, gave, gave, and then gave some more. She was for the most part, completely unconscious of the imbalance. Every relationship she had at the time was crumbling around her and for the same reason – her erratic, selfish, behavior which was fueled by her ego, anger and a desire to control.

    I was just talking about this tonight with a new friend who is such a breath of fresh air. He is a very conscious being visiting my home (small home), town.. So anyway, I realized again, (I had read it many times to myself, but this time it resonated in such a natural and easy way – there was no anger behind it. I felt a refreshing distance from it.) I realized that I was so thankful for my experience with her but completely satisfied with the idea that we will never speak or see each other again. I hope that her new life is filled with love and bliss and if so, I would be truly happy for her.

    I feel like I have been doing “time” for a while. Can anyone relate to that feeling? It feels like prison. I am in my cell. No distractions. Just me and my self. Agonizing and deathly boring at the same time. I don’t know for sure if I am out yet, but if not, then it must be the sunshine through the bars…. ❤

    One thing I can say about being totally depressed and thinking your life may end at any time or soon. For me, a tremendous amount of compassion and tolerance came forward. I wanted to be remembered for the love I gave. Also, it was extremely important was that no one think that they did anything to contribute to my sadness, (which I hid, but what also must have been, completely apparent). Meaning, I would not get upset with people over mundane things. If there was an issue, then I would talk to them about it and never cast any kind of blame. This was a practice of mine for a while before my depression, but my ability to follow through came easily and often. I did not want my last days to be filled with anger or combativeness. I didn’t want to leave this earth and the people I love, with that memory. So I loved and forgave. I had an immense amount of patience and it was easy for me to forgive them – forgiving myself, was another story. I was compassionate, but I was also very depressed. I must say… it was only when I began to accept and deal with my anger, was I able to begin my ascent out of the darkness.

    I wrote the following “poem” shortly after our relationship ended. It isn’t well written, but it is very personal to me and sums up my experience. For the vast majority of our relationship and afterward, I resisted looking at her in a negative light. It was good for me to let some accurate and truthful impressions of her personality come to the surface. I also realized that she was a mirror for me and without her, I may have not been able to reach for and nurture these qualities within myself. People are our mirrors – especially those we are strongly attracted to.

    So this poem, is about me as much as it is about her. It is about my own inner struggle. My ego vs. my heart. This is how she was such a huge mirror for me. I saw myself in her and it drew me toward the compassionate side. The side that forgives, accepts, loves and claims responsibility. True to form, some time after I lost her, I found myself holding onto the very things I had spoken of in the poem… the selfishness, being consumed with my own thoughts and ideas, disconnected, absent, doubtful, fearful, bitter, etc… I couldn’t help it… I knew I was, but it was a tidal wave of events and emotions. I just had to accept and roll with the brute force of experience. Interestingly, it provided an opportunity to have compassion for her by realizing the pain that she must have been in (as I was).

    Life seems to be like this… back and forth between experiences – Samsara. The good news is I have begun my ascent on the sunny side of life. It is my hope that I will come out of this experience with an acceptance and understanding of life which will help me to find the balance I yearn for. I have come to truly understand my own fallibility. Now I hope I can merge that with my belief that we are powerful creators of our experience. Your blog has made a crack in the cosmic egg. Paradigm shifts have begun to abound! Things are moving… and apparently, at rapid rate, which I am grateful for. I wouldn’t consider myself manic, so I am fairly certain this isn’t some kind of pathological/biological rebound. I am cautious though, as I know I am not out of the woods yet. However, I am feeling a ton of Hope pour through me and it feels wonderful. I am beginning to feel my heart open again. I am beginning to feel the warm tingling sensation of being in Love with life again. Perhaps I am worthy. Perhaps life is worthy.

    Through your reverence for reason,
    I came to Honor the mysteries of the Heart.

    Through your devotion to logic,
    I came to worship the brilliance of Love.

    Through your need to understand,
    I nurtured unwavering Faith.

    Through your unrecognized fear and thus a desire to control,
    I sought Vulnerability and Surrender and the Protection of them both.

    Through your suspicion and doubt,
    I grew to Trust and Believe.

    Through your resistance and rigidity,
    I learned to Let go and Allow.

    Through your fleeting ideas of supremacy and elevated self-importance,
    I realized the magnitude of Humility and the futility of conceit.

    Through your sense of entitlement,
    I confirmed the merits of Benevolence.

    Through your requirement to be right and demand for perfection,
    I acknowledged the Fallibility of mind and relinquished my pride.

    Through your blame and resentment,
    I nurtured Unconditional Love and Acceptance.

    Through your sanctimonious judgments,
    I healed with Forgiveness.

    Through your lack of respect and attempts to demean,
    I learned to uplift the Spirit, through Honor and Praise.

    Through your hostility and antagonism,
    I instituted a path of Peace and Consideration.

    Through your allegiance to yourself and your needs before others,
    I established Loyalty and Commitment for my sisters and brothers.

    Through your strong need to be adored and praised as special,
    I found the extra-ordinary, that exists in everyone.

    Through your craving for extravagance and the wanting of it all,
    I confirmed the sumptuousness of Simplicity and the Abundance which is.

    Through your identification with the material and the aspiration for more,
    I converged with the Formless and Communed with the Divine.

    Through your longing of thrill, by way of ‘profound’ new happenings,
    I gained by Sitting; Awe of the wind and Bliss in the breath.

    Through your pursuit of fulfillment from the world around you,
    I exposed the Abundance of Love which resides within me.

    Through your expectations of others and requirements for more,
    I acquired Gratitude for everyone and instead asked of myself.

    Through your delusion of conflict, as confirmation of division,
    I affirm man’s affinity with all and Reconcile through Love.

    Through your search for ease and tranquility to always come from others,
    I find the Grace and Peace that always exists within me.

    Through your denial and projection of your self-imposed prison of pain,
    I uncovered the Freedom in Choice and personal Response-Ability.

    Through your exploitation of crisis, to propagate hopelessness,
    I employ the Stillness of Patience and sow the seeds of Change.

    Through your declaration to see the world change,
    I changed the way I saw the world.

    Through the renunciation of ideas that conflict with your own,
    I Know the only thing to relinquish, is a sense of division from God.

    Through your forsaking,
    I arrived Home.

    Thank You. Because of you, I now walk the path of Inspiration with Source.

    If someone offers you a gift and you do not accept that gift, to whom
    does the gift belong?

    • Hi John

      Thank you for commenting and for sharing your intimate poem with me and the world, essentially. Sounds like you learned a lot about yourself and how you wish to be from this woman. You shared two sides of the same coin. i like the line “Awe of the wind and Bliss in the breath.” I am very warmed to hear that you are feeling hopeful and that sunshine and inspiration is seeping through the bars of your prison cell. I’m happy to hear you are more connected to source. You are very welcome for any part that this blog may have had in shifting your perspective a little, but I think you are the one who allowed the shift and brought that forth in your life.

      Also just one thing to clarify- I know I idealized my John, but even with that awareness, and the process that I described above, he still was a most extraordinary person- the most loving and kind person I have ever known or seen anywhere, in any city or country on this planet. He was never mean spirited toward me or anyone else. It’s shocking that he put himself in front of a train when in his life he would go out of his way to move snails out of a walking path so they would not get crushed; he never hurt a mosquito. In terms of meeting me in our relationship, he avoided that. He was unable to, with me and with others. In hindsight I can see why. Nevertheless, I can understand him, but I also have to honor my experience of not feeling met in relationship with him….anyway, just wanted to make the distinction, as I do not want my post to dishonor John. I needed to get mad at him in order to preserve my sense of self and save my life.

      Hoping the beauty of exactly where you are fills you with grace and peace……………….xoxo

  2. Iva said

    If I may intrude a bit, I wanted to comment on your last paragraph Sarah. For one thing, I wonder how well you, I and (this here lol) John can relate in terms of how we see these relevant people in our lives – because not all of them are dead. I didn’t quite understand from John’s post (maybe I didn’t read it attentively enough), but it remains blurry to me if his ex is dead or just gone from his life. As you well know, my own love story was not cut due to death, but due to depression, poor choices and the unwillingness to continue trying. And while all these factors probably also contributed to John’s suicide, when the person (like my ex) is still alive and trying to rebuild his life after our crash, then I think it is only natural to not be as kind as you are in your descriptions.

    I mean, I also truly believe my boyfriend was the greatest person I ever met (even to this day), or maybe just the one that most suited me in his gentle, caring ways, with flaws that didn’t bother me much (because we all know that everyone has flaws). In many ways if our end was his death, he would and could be a saint in my eyes. But watching such a person go on and continue life without you, willingly (just like suicide is willing, but far more merciful that it ends there and then), it makes me beyond bitter and all his actions since seem most cruel. I think this is a huge difference for you and me. As much as I completely relate in other aspects of your experience, I think knowing that this person is making the choice every morning when they wake up NOT to deal with me, it makes all the difference to you knowing John will never have that choice again. He chose once and permanently.

    Ok, rant over :).

    • Hi Iva
      Oh yes, I think there is a tremendous difference between the feelings felt about that person after the relationship has ended between a person who is still living and a person who has passed on. It’s like comparing apples and paperclips; cannot really be done. Nor can we compare a divorce to what it’s like to lose someone to death. Also, everyone’s relationship and the circumstances surrounding the relationship are different, so it’s hard to necessarily have a set formula. Having said that though, I will say that there were times that John and I broke up. And even though those separations were heartbreaking, there was never a time when my heart was closed to him or when I thought he was cruel or unkind. He had a way about him that softened people’s hearts; he had an innocence you couldn’t hate, and he never did anything that could remotely be considered cruel or disconcerting (other than his suicide of course)….so you see, our situations are very different. While I can’t control the options i have about any possible future with John, as I don’t have the choice again, I can choose or not choose to accept what has happened and come to terms with John’s ultimate choice; and in fact I love him so much I would only want the option that is most peaceful and best for him. If that option is death, as hard as it is, I support his choice and am grateful that he is in peace and no longer in pain.
      Though it may not feel like a gift to you now, from my vantage point, it’s an absolutely incredible gift that you have the opportunity and possibility to engage with the possibility, idea, and opportunity to see your ex one day again, to just hear his voice on the phone if you truly wanted to, and who knows, maybe even be with him again if fate should decide that. It is a tremendous gift, I hope you can feel. I would give anything for the option/possibility to have that choice again. I don’t know if this actually addressed your comments, but this is what came up for me in reading it.
      If you’re angry at him, you probably have good reason for it. Go with it. And I hope your anger points you back to your own self-worth………………xoxo

    • John said

      If we compared any aspect of our lives to anyone else’s, then it would be possible to see the differences and commonalities in the details of our stories. While I appreciate the uniqueness of each and every one of our journeys’, I feel we all share common, intrinsic, experiences. Our humanity is our shared, common, experience.

      For instance; one may experience a loss through suicide, while another losses someone they love through a disease. Someone else may experience a deep sense of loss through a break-up, while another losses a loved one through warfare. Further still, one may experience a loss of someone they love directly from their own actions (driving while drunk, manslaughter, etc…), while another may experience a deep sense of loss from natural causes after 50 years of marriage. Additionally two people who both experienced a loss through suicide may experience that loss differently. One may be inspired by the passing of a loved one (through healing) while another may delve into depression and denial. The possibilities are endless as are the details around them. However, the common experience is that of losing someone you love. Each may carry additional, unique, yet common thoughts/experiences/emotions such as anger, guilt, depression, etc… particular to the circumstances and the person’s way of dealing with these feelings.

      I guess what I am trying to say is that I look at anger as anger, guilt as guilt, fear as fear, etc…. Yes, the details of the experience of anger, the level of anger, as well as the circumstances may be unique to each individual (and excluding the additional thoughts and feelings that may come with each unique experience), but at the end of the day, anger is anger. One may have a lot of anger, while another may have less. One’s anger may be fueled by a loss, while another‘s may be fueled by a lifetime of abuse. While dealing with anger because of a death may require a different approach to dealing with anger cause through a lifetime of abuse, the raw emotion of anger is the same IMO. The intensity may vary, but it is not dependent on the circumstance. So while it may be necessary to distinguish the emotions and the details of the situation in order to approach a path of healing, the details of the situation are not necessary in order to find communion with our fellow human beings.

      I remember an experience I had when I first started the Spiritual Psychology Program at USM. I was in a room of 200+ people. There was a diverse demographic of people there – from corporate executives, to free-loving hippies. Some were attending to get a Masters in order to further their career, while others were there for personal growth only. The ages ranged from low 20’s to 70+. The room was organized in rows – big long rows of 30 to 40 people. We were encouraged to sit next to different people each day.

      Each day school was in session, we had a lecture and then we would break up into groups of three. So the people whom you were sitting next to during the lecture, later that day, would end up being a part of a group of three people. The group of three was broken down into; “The Counselor” (the person who would try to implement the lesson from the lecture), “The Patient” (who would share a challenging experience) and “The Silent Observer” (the person who sat and observed silently until the session was over). Then we would all rotate, then once more so to experience each role.

      Often I would find myself sitting next to someone whom I felt no immediate connection to. I liken it to sitting next to someone on a bus, or a subway – in a line at the grocery store or a clerk at the counter, etc… There was nothing running through my mind that made me feel like I had a bond or connection to the strangers next to me. At times, I actually was nervous knowing that I was about to pour my heart out with this complete stranger who “appeared” to be someone I would not usually gravitate towards. What was absolutely fascinating is time and time again, I shared many of the same struggles as the person who was a stranger just minutes before. I realized how much we all have in common regardless if we lived on the west side or the north side… whether we were from NY or Brazil… whether we were Catholic or Buddhist. I could be sitting next to a stranger who appeared to be coming from a completely different place and ten minutes later we would have this profound connection. The person could be a 62 year old grandmother of 5 (I am late thirties with no children) and we would be sharing the feeling of guilt. It didn’t matter where the guilt came from or how long it has been there – we could find a communion and a connection in the feelings of guilt,…. or love,…. or loss,… or anger, etc… It didn’t matter if guilt was coming from a cheating on a significant other or if the guilt came from not meeting a parent’s expectation… Most often, it was a feeling that all three of us could relate to, even if our reasons and process’ were different. Rarely would I feel that the other person could not understand my feelings of say shame, because they had not been through my particular experience. Additionally, rarely if ever, did I feel like I could not relate to the fundamental emotion or feeling someone might be dealing with. It is our humanity that connects every one of us. With that said, there may be some limitations. Yes, it would be difficult for me to understand the profound experience of living in Africa and being witness to the genocide that has been carried out there. Admittedly I feel I could never understand that experience, but I might be able to relate to their pain regardless of their circumstances. Having been seriously suicidal, I know that I have personally reached and been consumed with an overwhelming, debilitating amount of emotional pain.

      Two people can have an identical experience of losing a loved one to murder yet the aftermath of that experience may be totally different. For example, one might feel anger at the loss and delve deep into drugs, while another feels gratitude and forgiveness and writes a book. Thus the outcomes may be totally different from the same experience. So even with a shared experience, the way it is processed could be totally different.

      The reason why I may have been so moved to write about this is because I have seen the devastation and the divide it can create, when people compare their beliefs and experiences to another. One of the best books I have ever read “The Bonds That Make Us Free” by C. Terry Warner addresses this topic in a roundabout way (“The Anatomy of Peace” approaches it on a more direct and societal level). Whether we are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Atheist, we are all searching for meaning and fulfillment. Our paths to get there may be different, but it doesn’t make any one of us more right or more wrong than the other. However, it seems people tend to focus on the differences instead of the similarities often creating discord (“The devil is in the details”?). We either feel inflated or isolated because of it. Even more disappointing for me, is that people tend to define themselves through their differences. While this can potentially be healthy, I often feel it creates further separation between our fellow man (even within profound and deep personal relationships) in an already divisive world. This tends to be a great source of personal pain for me as I wish that this world was more peaceful. I am totally fine with having independent thoughts and ideas, but when we self-righteously proclaim our ideas to be the truth, we will soon find ourselves in conflict with another as the stating of “facts” will often illicit a lack of consensus and/or approval.

      Anyway, here I go again rambling… LOL.. not sure where I am heading with all of this other than being grateful to have the discussion in the first place.

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