I’ve been bouncing around the idea of writing this blog for about two and a half months but didn’t want to because I didn’t want anyone thinking that I was some head case here, plus it totally goes against the grain of what is usually a very lighthearted blog space here. But after choir rehearsal tonight I feel kinda compelled to share; the internet is funny in that it’s so interconnected (kinda the point) that people can trip over stuff without even trying. Hopefully someone that is in a similar frame of mind now that I was in then can be helped in the off chance they trip here…that’s my prayer anyway.
**ADDENDUM – This story tells a story of me some time ago, I’m great now. I promise; you guys can stop texting, calling and asking to come over. LOL
In May 2012 America, and football fans particularly, were met with the news that former NFL All Pro, former collegiate All American, and all around good guy, Junior Seau was found dead due to a self inflicted gunshot wound. In conversations that I had with friends in regards to that event the main question that was asked was simply, “Why?” Here is a guy who had everything, a California kid who gets recruited and subsequently plays for the college football juggernaut in his state, the University of Southern California, and then gets drafted by the NFL team in his hometown of San Diego where he becomes one of the most popular linebackers not only there but in the entire league. He was popular, handsome, active in the community, owned a popular restaurant in San Diego, everybody loved the guy…and yet it wasn’t enough to keep the despair away and ultimately lead him to take the matter of ending that despair into his own hands.
Why would he do it? No one will ever know that question as Junior is no longer here to worry with that inquiry. I, however, answer that question with another, “Why wouldn’t he?” That’s dark, grim even. I know that, but I’ve been there; been in that place where you can’t find happy, that evasive emotion that seemingly comes to play in everyone’s yard but yours. When your world is crashing down around you and the thought of anymore disappointment befalling is too much to take the question “Why wouldn’t I” is right there and it’s real, viable…inviting. I had a “Why wouldn’t I” moment…silly happy go lucky me, it even happened to me.
I remember driving down a section of I-75 that had a boatload of construction going on (because, honestly, when is there never a boatload of construction going on SOMEWHERE on I-75?). I was coming from a friend’s place, a big gathering; I’m lucky enough to have very successful friends, a good number of them married and living the lives that I really wanted to live, perhaps it was something about seeing them all there at one time that didn’t mix well with my situation, I’d had been laid off of a job and out of work for a while, seemingly every day brought a phone call or email from someone else explaining that I “wasn’t being considered as a candidate” or “didn’t have the skill set necessary”. I’d done all the “right things”, went to college, wasn’t the greatest student, but reached my goal as being the first college grad in my nuclear family, went about the business of trying to start a career but to that point I’d done nothing more than spin my wheels. Why couldn’t I be as successful as my friends? Why couldn’t I have a family? The needle on the accelerator was pointing somewhere around 85 when I thought about my parents sacrificing and sending me to private school when I was a kid so as to minimize the chances of me turning out like I’d turned out; I remembered not being able to look my father in the eye the last time I’d visited my parents, not because he was ashamed of me, but because I was too ashamed to look at the man who was my hero, I hadn’t turned out anything like him. I thought of what he had to say to his friends about me when conversations between he and his high school and Navy buddies turned to “So, what are your kids doing now” and he had to explain away that I was out of work and didn’t have much of anything at all. The thought of letting down my father lead me to my “Why Wouldn’t I” moment and it frightened me. I sifted through my brain’s memory banks as I drove and tried to think of song lyrics from decades of being a member of the church choir to find a message of hope but all I could see in my head was what I wasn’t. It was a dark place, I felt hopelessly alone, didn’t see any way out of what I was and no hope of being what I wanted to be. Happy was elusive. Had been for a long time and it had finally reached a head.
When I let go of the steering wheel I may have been doing about 90 in the center lane. There was a pretty good drop off beyond the left hand lane and no guard rail to keep my ride from tumbling into the construction going on in the median area. There was some heavy equipment there that I would have hit, very hard in fact, and I’m pretty sure it would have been the end of me and for longer than I’d like to think I was okay with that as the car started to drift, the driver’s side tires now fully riding on the “awareness” ripples carved into the blacktop. Why was I doing this? I’m guessing the same reason Junior Seau, or anyone that decides that life is just way too much decides to, they just can no longer deal. More specifically for me though is that I thought I didn’t measure up, not to societal norms, not to my friends and what they had accomplished in their lives, and most of all not to my Dad who had accomplished so much by the time he was my age. I, on the other hand, was a ne’er-do-well thirtysomething that didn’t want to take up anymore space. I had drifted from the center lane, through the left land and, if I had to estimate, I was about 12-15 inches from the tumble zone when something said, “You’re a coward if you do this!” and I slammed down on the brakes there in the emergency lane, where I finally skidded to a stop about 30 yards later and had a breakdown of Hollywood proportions.
As I sat there in the emergency lane inches away from what could have been there was a ticker of sorts going on in my head showing me everything that was at stake if I had finished up what I had just considered? What about all of those friends that you just left? What about that father that you love so much? And your mother that has sacrificed so much for you? Who’s going to dog sit for your sister if you’re not here? What about the wife that you’ll have one day? Who’s going to ride rollercoasters with your nieces in the summertime?
What about everything that you want and still have time to be?
I had asked myself the question “Why Wouldn’t I?” and for about five minutes as I sat there with traffic whizzing by I got more and more reasons why that question was insane. I cleared my head and started the car and still shaken felt the need to do something as normal as possible to offset my temporary insanity, so I went down the road a few miles and bought a milkshake; despite my trembling hands I managed to sit there and finish it all. I went home and called my mother and father, and my sisters, and I talked to my nieces, then I called a friend and we talked and laughed about everything and nothing at all, and I played video games, and wrote a little bit, and I played music really loudly, and I listened to really annoying blue jays that occupied my back yard and smiled, and I tried to cook something I’d never tried before…and I didn’t worry about what I wasn’t, I just enjoyed everything that was…but I never said a word to anybody about what happened and what I almost did until now.
This evening at choir rehearsal a minister friend of mine shared that we often go through things for someone else’s benefit. Perhaps in this case someone will trip over this blog on the way to taking a trip of their own down the interstate and remember that they have an awful lot of reasons why they shouldn’t do something stupid because they can’t see past the temporary. I think about all the things that I would have missed out on, I’ve made more friends, I’ve seen more places, I’ve enjoyed life, and I’ve a better appreciation for the journey and my life isn’t ideal yet but the prospects are far better now than they would have been had I not grabbed that wheel.
I believe that I was divinely protected that day, I have a praying family and I’m grateful to God for that. There are others that have tried far more lethal ways to end their Earthly run than my little jaunt down the road but the hows and whys aren’t important, I’m just grateful that someone that cared for me prayed and those prayers preserved me…and even if someone that trips over this blog doesn’t have a praying family like me, I’m praying for you and don’t even know you. That’s for real! Stick around, life is full. Kiss a pretty girl, watch clouds float overhead, make faces at a baby when no one is looking and make the baby giggle. But don’t worry about what you aren’t or what isn’t; just love life as it is and it will love you back if you let it. I couldn’t get to Junior, but maybe it will matter to someone, somewhere.
Thanks for reading 🙂