To be respectful of all those involved, I am going to be very generic with names and details in this post. If we are close friends, you probably know who I am talking about and my hope is that I am not offensive to anyone. I want to address my shortcomings, not anyone else’s.
A man I only met a couple of times committed suicide a few months back. He left a family I only met a couple of times behind. I have no idea why this happened and maybe people could tell me why but it would only satiate some morbid curiosity that I have. I can’t begin to imagine what his family is going through at the moment. I would imagine this would be a dark time when most of their friends are having (more) normal days than not and while they deeply care for the family, what else can anyone really do except answer the phone when it rings and try to listen?
Why am I bringing this up? Well, like I said, I don’t really know them. I only officially met the husband and wife once and, it is safe to say, I didn’t treat them kindly. They appeared to me to have everything. They were both ridiculously attractive, like some sort of couple that would catalog model for J. Crew. They had a beautiful house. I couldn’t imagine how they would want for anything. When we were making general small talk, the women asked me what I do and I explained I was a student working on a PhD. The inevitable question came after that, “What are you going to do with that when you get done?” and I gave my usual, honest answer “I have no idea.” (As an aside, I later watched Adventureland where Martin Starr’s character gave me my best response to this: “Cabby, hot dog vendor, marijuana delivery guy. The world is my oyster.”) It is an answer that I feel self-conscious about because, although I have thought about it deeply, I am just tired of stressing out about what is next all the time. I want to focus on what I can do now and worry about later when it gets hear. If I get too honest in the moment and tell people about the anxiety attacks, the waking up in the middle of the night feeling like I am dying and all the fun stuff I experience from time to time, I either laugh or cry; both responses are a little too much in the getting-to-know-you stage of the conversation as you might imagine. Anyway, I sensed a little attitude (maybe?) from this women when I gave my response about not knowing what to do and I promptly, in my head, decided I didn’t like her or her husband. I wanted to talk to the other people that night and I would be just fine if they didn’t say anything. I constructed a whole story in my head where they retreated to their lovely home and made jokes at my expense. I am, if nothing else, insecure some times. So I wasn’t mean to them that night, but I wasn’t my best self either. I definitely didn’t grant them the ability to be fully human with wants, fears, and failures too. I wasn’t kind.
I wrote on Facebook shortly after he committed suicide the phrase I heard of disputed origin “Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” I saw them at a party a few weeks before the husband went down that dark path. I actually passed him in the hall where he was walking with his son on the way to the bathroom. I didn’t say anything, not even a ‘hello.’ To be fair, he didn’t either but I can’t control that. I failed in that tiny moment. Its not that I should have said hi but the fact that I didn’t say hi because I had made assumptions about him that (probably) weren’t true. And even that doesn’t really matter…
I have a hard time looking past the surface in most people. I know that if I leave myself open to everyone, I allow myself to be hurt more easily. But I think that might be the better way to live. I probably shouldn’t post this blog but self-created rules are rules, right? I am Jack’s open wound. I will try to be more fun next time.