Friday, June 08, 2018

Friday morning thought

(content warning: contains mentions and discussion of suicide, both high and low profile). Maybe I'll try and see if I can put this under a jump break, though I guess some feedreaders - if they still exist - don't "honor" jump breaks:

Man, this week was kind of a sucker-punch. First Kate Spade (whom I didn't know MUCH about, though my eyeglass frames bear her name) and now Anthony Bourdain. As someone said on Twitter: "I always think of the poem "Richard Cory" when a famous person commits suicide."

And yeah, that's true. And I also admit from my perspective (as someone who wants to have a good effect on the world but who frankly sometimes wonders if she's just spitting into the wind), I feel sad because these were people who were actually having a demonstrable effect on the world, who had DONE something meaningful. Spade designed products that made people happy; Bourdain seems to have treated people well that others might reject (a lot of people talked about how sympathetic he was to the working-class people he met in W. Va) and also seems to have done a number of kind things (I admit: I never really watched him because I got a snarky vibe off him, and I find snark offputting. But I guess underneath that he had decent qualities)

And yeah, yeah, that's one of my problems, I think: the belief I carry around that somehow I have to 'earn' my place on this Earth, and my rational mind knows that's not true.

But I think it does also serve as a reminder that none of us knows what another person is going through at any given time.

(I also think of the girl I went to prep school with, who was a boarding student - I was a day student, and coming from a family where the tuition was a considerably greater sacrifice than what many students' families faced. Anyway, her parents were divorced and apparently neither one wanted her to come home on the weekend; one week her mother sent her six pairs of Guess! jeans - a new and very hot commodity back then in the mid 1980s - as a bribe for her not to come home that weekend. [And ironically? We weren't allowed to wear jeans to class, there was a dress code, so having six pairs of jeans was a little bit useless. I had one or two for weekends or after-school, but they were more "go hiking" jeans than designer jeans]. And that always made me sad to think of, and it opened my eyes a little. And it made me more grateful for my own family, where maybe I had cheap clothes and we didn't have a lot of electronic gadgets, but I knew when I came home at the end of the school day my parents wanted me there)

I dunno. People on the radio here were talking up the old "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle"aspect and while I think that's important advice ALWAYS (because it's a way to be a good human in general), I don't know that it would "save" someone. Or that avoidance of unkindness would do the same. (And now I think of Chelsea Manning, allegedly posting what looked like a suicide note, and jerks on the internet saying stuff like "Good. Jump." and wow, that makes me wish karma were a thing and they'd have to account for having said that. Then again: there's an awful lot of  stuff I'd have to account for that I've done...)

In a way, it's kind of like the whole push to "include" excluded kids and try to stop bullying as a way of maybe preventing school shootings: I don't think it will necessarily be effective - or even possible - but maybe it's worth trying.

I think of my own cousin, who took his life some 15 years ago. He had a lot of people trying to be kind to him, he was doing everything "right" and it wasn't enough.

(And I admit, I hesitate a bit even writing about this, given the "contagion" idea I've read about - that this is somewhat similar to publishing school shootings, in that people who may be wavering are influenced. But I don't know. On the one hand, my feeling that "being kind or at least not being unkind to someone may have no good effect" might cancel out my feeling that "hearing about it on the news might have a bad effect," I don't know).

I've had rough times in my life but never that bad. The worst I ever felt was to have a sense of maybe doing what some might call "career suicide" - just leaving the job I was in, driving like heck, finding some small town, and getting a job as a waitress or something and trying to eke out a living, just leaving the whole previous life behind. But of course, as someone who can always see the consequences behind everything, my hand was stayed by:

a. Life is not like some stupid movie and you couldn't go into a town with zero documentation and get a job that would support you in any kind of a safe way

b. Totally pulling up stakes and cutting off contact, people would worry, and it would hurt people that you cared about.

I don't know. I guess that's what frustrates me, the lack of answers or simple explanations. One thing I've learned as an adult is that few things that are very meaningful have simple answers or simple explanations. Life is often difficult, it's sometimes hard to wrest meaning from a world that seems chaotic, it seems often like the "bad guys" win and the "good guys" are actually chumps....And yet, it's worth it, I think, to keep on trying. Because maybe (I hope) something I teach in some class one day helps someone, or my sitting down with a student and talking with them gets them through a problem, or  maybe greeting someone at church gets them to come back, and find a happier path in life. I know I've talked about some of the little things people have done for me that made my life better, so I do have to trust that I'm having the same kind of effect.

But life is hard and sad and success and even fame and money are no guarantee of happiness....In fact, I wonder if maybe fame and large amounts of money - well over what's needed for comfort - make happiness harder to find and more fleeting. Last night, Charles posted a video about Ree Drummond and it seemed that the point was that a lot of her success was kind of "engineered," and that she had had a lot of advantages....and I admit, thinking back to the early days of blogging, I thought "Maybe I'll get famous for my knitblog" (which seems utterly ludicrous and deluded to me now) "Maybe I'll get book contracts and be able to quit this gig and travel the country and have packs of adoring fans." And I realize now: no, I probably really didn't want that. Or I wouldn't have liked it if I had got it. Crowds bother me, I'm put off by relatively anonymous criticism (I even hate reading my student comments on evaluations), and in the Internet Age, people can show up in your life in Ugly Mob Form pretty easily, even if you're not a Roseanne Barr type who might invite that kind of behavior.

So I don't have fame, and I admit things would be a BIT more comfortable with a BIT more income (though I'm really not hurting). Success? I suppose by many measures I'm pretty successful - at any rate, by my own measure, which is the only one that should matter to a person: I have a career that provides for my needs and which I don't hate going to every morning. On good days, I feel like I'm making my little corner of the world a little better. I don't have to sacrifice my deeply-held principles to hang on to my job. I have a little time here and there to do what I want....and by and large, people seem to like me. And I still have the silly blog, even if I am Samuel Johnson's very definition of a blockhead (And that is true of writing in my career, as well, I just realized. At least I can laugh about it....)

But yeah. I wish people weren't hurting so terribly, and I wish people who were hurting had someone to reach out to them and help them....

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