The virtues of not acting on impulse.

I was angry today, very angry. Those who know me would say that is very unusual as it takes quite a lot to set me off. I wanted to scream, yell and break things. In the end I put on some loud music and played air guitar for about a half hour. I realized just how irrational it was and in the middle of singing along to brutal heavy metal I dissected the feeling in my mind. Why did I feel this way? What was the causal relationship between what had just happened and the very physical feeling of intense scorn I was experiencing. Why should it be that this emotion should dominate my psyche when it was clearly irrational?

Darth Vader had a point – let the hate flow through you, do not resist it, let it flow so that it does not settle.

Why? Quantum physics tells us that the mere act of measurement changes the properties of that which we measure. I decided to put this to the test in what was admittedly a less scientific experiment on myself. I systematically arranged the facts about what I was feeling in the truthful order in which they unfolded. The music made me feel the elation that music usually does, when we like it, and dissecting my feelings into their component parts stripped them of their power. It took about ten minutes of this exercise to regain my usual composure.

I have had the fortune of burying more people my age (whom I knew personally) than is usual for someone below thirty years old and not living in a warzone. I say fortune because it exposed me to death, it is no longer a myth to me. Three of these people committed suicide.  The latest was sometime this week and when I first heard the news I tried to remember the man. It had been over a year since we last spoke. He seemed to be a rational person, mild mannered and respectful. It struck me that he spoke correct Romanian without having to try, which is rare.

A mutual friend who knew him better than I did spoke to me of a depressive character and an existence rife with insecurity. It only took a more severe bout of deep depression and the local crematory was in business a couple of days later.

Suicide is a strange thing. The same friend said he somehow felt similarly but thought “I’ve already bought the ticket, might as well stick around for the show, it’s not going to last forever”.  We all have moments in our lives when we feel like we just can’t take anymore and it seems like an attractive solution. All over, as quick as your chosen method can deliver the result.

The first person in my life who committed suicide was sixteen at the time. It was not her first try either. I admit I had somewhat of a crush and it was all kind of surreal at the time. It felt like I could have done something to prevent this. I was one of the two or three people in our class who knew why she’d missed school for a month in the first semester. She was smart and we shared similar tastes. One night she decided it was all too much and resolved to end it. We all learned a lesson during the events that followed, and it wasn’t just that drowning and being under water for two days makes your body swell like a cheap tampon. No, we got to witness the aftermath of a family losing their only child. We got to watch a mother bury her daughter and the seemingly unbearable desperation of being unable to make her wake up. We got to witness the reality of choosing to die on purpose.

What’s more is that this lesson continues. Twelve years later the problems we faced in our teens seem trivial and remote. She missed these twelve years by leaving the cinema early and it is painfully clear to me that she never got to really appreciate whether the movie is any good, she only saw the intro and decided the lead’s partner was going to ruin it. Turns out that guy was just an extra with a single line though.

The decisions we make in our lives can have a profound effect not only on ourselves but on those around us. It can be easy to act on a gut feeling, at the time it’s the most attractive solution to whatever conundrum life throws our way, and while taking too much time to act can be an equally debilitating course I think it always pays to stop and take a look at yourself when in a crysis.

Stop, drop and roll.



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