Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday's Random Thoughts - A Letter to the Universe

“It isn't for the moment you are struck that you need courage, but for that long uphill climb back to sanity and faith and security.” ― Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Dear Universe,

Things have been tough for me the past several years. I'm sure you know this since you have been so busy dropping steaming piles of dog poop on my front porch, setting them on fire, and running away. Hardy har har. You're hilarious. 

I thank you for those piles. I have learned a lot putting out flames and cleaning up messes. 

Unfortunately, I have gotten into a habit of waiting for you to deliver something great to me to make up for all the crap. 

I suspect a lot of people do this. It's a pretty common tactic to deal with daily life. We like to believe in balance. Something horribly bad happens. We want to believe that something amazing will happen to make the bad thing seem like it happened for a reason. 


Yes, I'm yelling at you. Don't get all offended. I know you can take it. You are notoriously indifferent. You're like that hot guy with whom we keep sleeping and from whom we accept phone calls and texts even though we know he is the absolute worst, most selfish jerk on the planet. 

Universe, is it that you're just not that into me? 

The other day I was telling Tina about a scene in The Pursuit of Happyness, the Will Smith movie about a real man who went from homelessness to huge success. She said she hadn't seen it, because she knew it might be too much to take. 

"Oh yeah, it's definitely 'misfortune porn,'" I said. 

Misfortune porn is a movie in which the main character just keeps getting screwed nonstop until the very end. Then the main character gets his or her reward. 

The scene I was talking about was when Will Smith goes to his friend to ask that he repay the money Will loaned him. The friend doesn't have it and Will yells at him. It's a small amount, maybe $8. I can't remember. It is an amount so small that there are thousands of people in this world who would say, "What's the big deal?" 

Tina works for a company that often sends out checks to folks. She sometimes gets frantic phone calls from people wondering where their checks are. Some of those checks are for $42. 

Yesterday, on Facebook, a friend posted an update about how a new set of tires for some ridiculous car would cost $17,000, but if you can afford this car, a $1.2 million vehicle, then it would barely be worth your time to bend over and pick up $20,000 if you dropped it. 

That's hard to imagine. 

It's interesting how perspective changes as income does. 

I once watched an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show during which Oprah expressed shock that a guest on the show didn't change her bedsheets every day. EVERY DAY. That is the shock of someone who obviously employs household staff and does not change or launder her own sheets. That is the shock of someone whose perspective has changed. 

I don't know what my point is other than that $20,000 is a lot of money. $42 is a lot of money. $8 can be the difference between eating a meal that night or going to bed hungry. And changing your bedsheets every day is ridiculous. 

There are a lot of people who think they have more money than other people because they deserve it, that the universe is rewarding them for how good they are. 

Incidentally, I believe this fallacy is the fire that fuels much of America's hatred for its poor. I believe this is why Donald Trump has a platform for his disgusting point of view while so many others are silenced. I believe this is why there is a such a snide attitude toward people who struggle financially. It makes me sad, not for the poverty-stricken, but for the people who are so full of hate for their fellow man. I bet all that hate gives them heartburn. They should try chewing on some perspective. 

This belief that the universe rewards and punishes based on goodness is what fuels the mistaken opinion that a victim was "asking for it," that a person has "gotten what was coming to him." 

This widespread belief that the universe rewards and punishes us justly is proof that most of us haven't learned much in our short time on this planet. 

It's interesting how perspective changes as circumstances do. 

The problem with looking to the universe for a reason is that, if you aren't being rewarded in some manner, you start to wonder what you are doing wrong, what you are failing to learn. 

This can lead a person to believe she is being punished. Then she must question why. She will do this at night when her defenses are down. 

Looking for a reason, waiting for it to be revealed in some dramatic flourish, might work for some people, but it is not healthy for me. I have learned this much at least. 

I have also realized that I am unnecessarily cruel to myself. 

Yesterday evening, I worked out for the first time in two months. That two-month span is the longest I have gone without working out in more than four years. I couldn't tell you why I stopped. One day, I didn't want to do it and then I kept not wanting to do it. I didn't even make excuses. I only said to myself, "No, I don't want to." 

So, when I worked out last night, I should have been happy with myself for doing so. I should have given myself a pat on the back. Instead, I kept thinking how much I hated myself for getting out of shape, for gasping during the workout, for having to chug water every few minutes. 

I am constantly stunned by the awful things I will say to myself, things I would never say to or believe about another person. 

Tomorrow is the 14th Annual International Survivors of Suicide Day. This is not about people who have survived suicide attempts. It is for those who have survived a loss by suicide. They call it "a day of healing for bereavement after suicide." 

Sometimes I wonder if I should stop writing about this, as if my time should be up on trying to figure out what the fuck just happened here. 

That's how it feels. There is no better way to express it. It happened. Days and years can go by, and there is still part of me that is standing in my garage thinking, "What the fuck just happened here?" 

Sometimes I have to physically shake my head, to attempt to shake off these memories that haunt me. 

God, I hate that kind of talk. Memories that haunt me. Blech. Shut the fuck up, Amy. 

The term "suicide survivor" seems odd and not quite right for those left behind. When someone dies in a car crash, his family is not referred to as car crash survivors. But I guess there is no other way to say it really. 

And it is, no doubt, a work of survival. On a daily basis, you must find a way to breath when the question of why, when the searching for a reason, threatens to drown you in its salty depths. 

The reason why will never be enough, no matter what it is. That is the problem. I have read enough from other survivors to know that some of them are in pain because the person left a note and some of them are in pain because there was no note. Some of them are in pain because the reason is obvious. Some of them are in pain because they cannot figure out the reason. 

(Maybe the reason is lack of reason.) 

Charles left a suicide note. Not many people know that, actually. The police didn't find it. It was on the kitchen counter. Even when the cleaning crew came in, even when a friend of mine followed behind to clean again, it was not discovered. They might have seen it, but they simply did not recognize it for what it was. 

When I came back to my house after more than a week away, I went through a stack of papers someone had cleaned off the kitchen counter. One of them was the receipt from Kate's school registration. 

It was no wonder no one noticed the note on it. 

It was only two short lines at the bottom of the print-out. It was written in what I always called Charles's "rock-star handwriting" because his signature was an illegible autograph scrawled in haste.

Maybe it was only right that a mustached man in a uniform didn't find it. Charles meant for me to see it, much like everything else that happened that night. 

I called the detective who'd come the night Charles died and told him about the note. He came by the house to pick it up. He asked how I was, if everyone had been kind to me at the funeral. Yes, of course, I told him. 

"It's not always that way," he said. 

He took the note back to the station to make a copy. He kept the original. He said this was in case anyone ever questioned the circumstances of Charles's death. 

Can you imagine this, that your life might unfold (unravel?) in such a way that someone could conjure up this  maybe, this possibly, this what if

What the fuck just happened here?

What am I to do with this note? Look to it for answers? Memorize it? Tuck it away in a box? 

The reason is lack of perspective. 

I seek perspective. I crave it. I fight daily for it. 

After I worked out and berated myself for my oh-so-many failings, I texted Tina and told her that it is clear to me that I got lost somewhere along the way since 2009. I can handle this, I said to myself and to those who love me. But then I fell in a sinkhole of my own disappointment.

I catch myself wishing to be the person I was before, working it over in my mind how I can get there again. I find myself listing silly things about the me of before: I ate oatmeal for breakfast every day. I drank Diet Coke. I ate a half a turkey sandwich for lunch almost every day. I worked out every afternoon at 4:30. I did yoga. What if I did all those things again? Could I go back to being the person who, let's face it, I have romanticized into some "golden days" version of who I really was.

Now I tell myself this: I cannot keep sitting around waiting for the universe to bring me some great thing that will make it all seem OK. I cannot keep wallowing in my disappointment. 

"We're going to have to take matters into our own hands," I told Tina.

Do you hear me?

I am determined to start moving again.

I am determined to be kinder to myself.

I am determined to stop focusing on my self-perceived failures. 

I am determined to have perspective. 

I am determined to see the greatness and beauty that surrounds me every day. 

I am determined to be grateful every day for all I have that money could never buy. 

What I believe I must do in the process is release my tight grip on the book I have written and what I see as its failure to matter. I have attached too much significance to it, as if it will be the way I redeem myself for failing to save someone from his own destruction. 

I know enough to know that I could not save him. I don't seem to know enough yet to feel that I could not save him. 

I must attempt to, as the wonderful Todd Childs likes to say, "Give that shit to Jesus." 

There is a balance between feeling like someone who is giving up and someone who is letting go, and I am determined to find it.

I am not giving up on my book. I must only give up the idea that the monetary value of something I have written is indicative of the value of my life, of my worth as a person, or that it is the trick to earning forgiveness for myself.

This is how one survives, I think.

On days of bereavement.

On days of healing.

On days when the sun is shining and the fall color outside my window is so stunning that it makes me want to cry. 

"I'm so sorry. This is very hard."

That is what he wrote. 

That is all. 

It is an answer. It is a truth

It is why I write and write and write and never come to the end, to the grand and glorious reckoning I so foolishly desire. 

I have written thousands upon thousands of words, and it occurs to me again and again that all I have written is only another way of saying, "I'm so sorry. This is very hard."

As the leaves fall from the trees, I can see above and beyond the houses across the street from me. I can see the wide expanse of peaks and valleys that is invisible to me when everything is in bloom. 

I can see so clearly the gorgeousness that happens when things end, when the ending is really only something beginning again. 

I cry and rant and lock myself in the prison of asking why. 

But then I shake it off. I look outside. I fight for my own freedom. I keep moving. I attempt to accept with gratitude what the universe brings me. 

I begin again. 

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” ― Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and John Kessler


International Survivors of Suicide Day
On Saturday, November 17, survivors of suicide loss gather together in locations around the world to feel a sense of community, to promote healing, and to connect with others like them.

For more information or to find a gathering near you, click here to visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 


  1. Amy, I am at a loss for words. What you write comes from the heart, and I love that. You are strong, and you are beautiful.

  2. "At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."
    --Albert Schweitzer

    I've not lost someone to suicide but I have "survived" loss, and recently at that. I think the only thing to come of my questioning and ranting and pondering is this rather limp conclusion: the only thing that matters in this world is kindness and love. I don't get much else from death but that: the notion that we have to give and get the light of life to and from each other during our journey here. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I think you're right. Kindness and love. I'm going to mangle this quote, but I love what Kurt Vonnegut says about how we're here to love whoever is around to be loved. Simple as that.

  3. First I want to hug you as one survivor of suicide to another .. then as a woman, a mother, a writer, and a new friend. I have years missing from my blog because I simply couldn't form a sentence or bear to see it in writing...You express yourself beautifully. You try and be kind to yourself Miss Amy, the road to healing yourself is a long one, I would love it if you would email me over coffee :) ditzymoi(at)gmail

  4. I think you re-found Golden Years Amy.

    1. I'm working on it. She's in here somewhere!

  5. I've waited to comment on this in hopes I'd have something amazing to say about it, but I don't. I don't cry easily but this post is so moving it brought me there on Friday.

    1. Just reading and commenting is amazing enough for me. For real. It means more than I can say that you give a little of your time to read what I write.


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