The time as I write this is 12:48 AM in Australian Eastern Standard Time. The place that I write is a far too large house on a small street in the suburb of Woodend, near Brisbane, Queensland. Perhaps you can find me on Google maps. Pick the right day and I will stand outside and wave a small flag. But it won’t be white. The white flag signifies resignation, and this is the one thing I have not permitted myself to do again since I was at the young age of 21. I am a survivor.
What kind of a survivor am I? When I was a young and troubled kid, I stepped in front of a moving vehicle in a panicked attempt to end my life. I was attempting to show myself one or two things. The main one was that I had a form of courage. That courage was misguided.
The attempt to end my life came at a time when all seemed lost to me. I felt down, disappointed, hopeless, alone. Pick an adjective to describe a feeling you never want and I probably had it.
Aimee Mann, one of my heroes, sings a song that says there must be a word for this, maybe I’ll look it up in the dictionary so I know what the word is and I’ll know to avoid it. That’s what I felt.
I am writing a part of a book now. The part I am writing is called Slow Recovery. Before I left Japan earlier this year I started a couple of things. At the time I had no space I my life so I tried to fill all of that dead time with as much life as possible. You can read some of that writing on my blog garantseraph.blogspot.co.jp or you can track back through the archives of this blog to find how much of my time I truly wasted. Or you can skip over to my excellent idea for a charity, uniqreefrelief.wordpress.com
(IMHO- I am allowed to think highly of what I believe is one of the most unique, creative, inclusive charities on the web- I am allowed to think less than humbly of myself- I am allowed to do lots of things. You don’t have to agree, but if you don’t like my idea for a charity, or my idea for a book, or my idea for a blog, I can just say, well, where’s yours. A not so small secret I will let you in on is that I think there have been plenty of people out there doing a lot more than me with their life, who have accomplished so much more than I- “Hello? Anyone heard of Oxfam, or World Vision, or Amnesty International, or Greenpeace?”, I can hear my imaginary reader think to him or herself. Those guys are pretty good. But I ask you a question, have you ever heard of Dave Andrews? or a Place to Belong? or Communify? or the Footpath Library? or the Big Issue? (okay, maybe, you have heard of the last one) or one of a hundred other small initiatives that started with a small vision.
I want to give you a small maxim here… the aspirational is inspirational… and a story. Class, put your hand up if you have heard of the archer who didn’t. In a small book by someone or other, I read a story once. I believe it’s taken from the book Zen and the Art of Archery by Eugene Herigal- maybe it is , and maybe it isn’t. In the story, a zen archer is waiting at the range. The crowd looks on. A little boy is there that day. His aspiration is to be an archer like Robin Hood. Perhaps these Zennists know something about how to hit the target. The archer draws back the bow, and at the last second shoots the arrow into the sky. The crowd gasps collectively. Ah, so it’s not whether you can achieve your goals, it’s only the process that matters, think the wise ones. The little boy wonders and will never know how good the archer is, and the Olympian in the crowd thinks the technique is all wrong. I made a lot of that story up, but I think from that one vent there are multiple perspectives, as is true of much of life. But the one that will help me the most is simply to remember this. The important thing is not how close I get to the bullseye but how much I try, and to remember to relax, and breathe through the process.
I know I have come along way from what I originally began writing about in this post, as in much of my writing. I just wanted to let the reader know a little bit more about the person writing this blog, because I like being confessional and I like sharing. There is not enough of it in my opinion. (Don’t need to be humble with that one, just real.)
So as I said at the beginning, when I was young and troubled I stepped in front of a car. I planned that after I had dropped out of my Arts degree a year and a half earlier. After an abortive attempt at doing a liberal arts degree containing failed attempts to study Journalism, and French, and a little more success with Literature, History and Psychology, I began teaching training. While I succeeded in my course work, I had very little confidence when it came to the Practical subjects. My teacher, Ms Box, was an iron lady who had the full control of her class, and I seemed more or less cannon fodder. Outside of that course, I was shy and withdrawn. I felt different and others thought me different, too. I was going to a Pentecostal church that left me feeling like almost everyone on Earth was going to hell (that’s a given if you follow those premises through to their natural conclusion) and I was, too. There was too much “secret sin” in my life. It made me feel ashamed. I stepped back, looked long and hard at my life, and thought, you know what, I don’t want it. It will be the train for me, thanks. In class, I teared up as I thought these thoughts, or these thoughts thought me; I made up my mind, or my mind made me up; and I remembered that it was mother’s day, and I could not do that to my mother.
I believe that was the only thing that saved me, although I have always been somewhat agnostic on whether or not there were other things at play. I decided to leave that decision for another day. I planned that act again the very next day and the next and a full two weeks. Sometimes, I spent the day mosing around, trying to find stuff to do, simple things like having a Subway sandwhich, before making the leap. Eventually, I cursed myself out, called myself a few names, and then stepped in front of the car. In hospital, I recovered somewhat- time is the great healer- and after leaving the hospital I started branching out away from the church and into other religions. I bought a little book called the Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh. Later on I would buy books called A path with Heart by Jack Kornfield and Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg. I have been reading them ever since. And praying, sometimes, going to church sometimes, and deepening my knowledge of Christianity by looking into other traditions, and exploring Sufism and Tibetan Buddhism. Those things have kept me alive.
A quote from Sharon Salzberg in Lovingkindness, a memory and a paraphrase. I could go the whole world and not find another human being worth my love more than myself. The Buddha. As someone brought up in the Christian Church, I really needed those words and I think there a lot of other people who do, too. It doesn’t mean I am more worthy of my love, for that would be self-cherishing (hey, I do that, too. this is natural. Jesus said as much throughout his text. but who can help it). No, it doesn’t mean that but what it does mean is that I am as worthy of love and compassion as anyone else. Jesus said that, too.
In my book, I want to show people how I recovered. That’s why I can write a book.
My book is not filled with some rags to riches story. I haven’t triumphed over adversity. My life situation from a Western perspective seems pretty adverse still but I’m still here, and in my still being I have honoured life. But sometimes I can’t sleep!