Thursday, November 18, 2010

Coming Out Courageous

CourageEarlier this year, fellow Litquake committee member, author and friend, Nina Lesowitz, called me one morning. As our fundraiser extraordinaire, I thought she was calling me for that donation back to Litquake since I shared with her weeks before about the surprise inheritance I had just received two years after Bryce's suicide. Instead, she called that morning to ask me a few questions about courage to include in her new book, The Courage Companion, and how one goes about finding it after the current love in your life chooses to take his own life over your love.

Two of my favorite quotes speak to what courage is truly about, the first, by my beloved Anaïs Nin, "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage". The other, by one wise Eleanor Roosevelt,"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience by which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along."

I often say to friends, family, and other survivors, that Bryce's suicide made me more aware of what now in life is truly horrific. It taught me how I need to live my life now, how I now take more risks (like the need to speak openly about suicide, rather than whisper it as a secret like many learned to do), how much further it opened my heart, and how I go further into the causes, like how was it that I got there, meaning, how did I come to be in relationship with a man who took his life? It also taught me that the best relief comes from giving back my honesty to those who are on this path just behind me. Whether it be a woman in an emotionally abusive relationship, highly codependent, who doesn't know how to shut that door calmly behind her before she slams it in frustration one last time, or the friend who keeps letting her relationships turn into the top-bottom variety, where her partner calls the shots through silence, doubt, neglect, and she obliges by letting that neglect take over her own needs. 

Bryce's suicide was hopefully my life's only horror. The one event that arrived as a necessity for me to use as my launching point to look at future horrible events and say, "Well, this just doesn't trump suicide."

This came up surprisingly on my wedding day just one month ago. Two girlfriends scurried around my hotel room asking for things to do to busy themselves. "You're so calm," they said, "Why are we so nervous?"

I laughed.

"Actually, I think I have the suicide to thank for this one," a response they were all too familiar with by now. I think any life event that is supposed to make me nervous now fails in comparison to the nervousness, shame, fear that event had over me. Nothing really stacks up. "Plus, I'm marrying the right man," I said. "I should be calm." In a way, courage came simply, but only after the arduous task of gathering tools to turn me towards the courageous.

Please join by reading Nina & Mary Beth's chapter on me (p. 135, to be exact) and the full book on courage & inspiration. Nina asked the probing questions and I gave the honest answers. There are sparks of clarity, and realizations of what could have been, but most importantly, there is solace in having learned that it took the tools I gathered since that fateful January day to get me to the place where courage carried me through so I could quietly shut the door.