Inspiration in the Midst of Darkness

25 Jan

There’s an old Japanese proverb: death is as light as a feather, duty as heavy as a mountain. I’ve been having trouble lately and several times I thought, “wouldn’t it be just easier if I just ended it all?” Well… not for anybody I love.

This is not a call for help – after all, you don’t read my blog to learn how depressed I am – and to be honest, most of the time I’m not. However, this is just where I am at the moment, and when you’re in the darkness, it’s hard to write about anything else. So forgive me if I go down a dark rabbit hole.

I’m having trouble at work – frankly, I’m close to getting fired – and although I wouldn’t mind leaving my job, I do mind not having a paycheck for a while. When I started my present gig 2 1/2 years ago, it was a godsend. I was a travelling consultant that hadn’t gotten a new contract in three months. Because of the nature of my work, I had saved up enough to pay for the times I was between gigs, but three months was near the end of my savings. Then to find out I could work from home, instead of moving to Dallas, was a huge benefit.

I had worked from home before, but I’d still have to go into the office occasionally–now it was everyday. It’s easy to get bored, and after the honeymoon period, I started screwing up. Although I had places to go to work out of the house, I quickly exhausted them… not that I got kicked out, but the appeal really drained out of it.

I used to be able to ride my bike to places to get some exercise, but then some *@($*#& stole my nice bike out of my backyard. I tried getting two cheaper bikes, but they broke down spectacularly, once the brake failing and causing me to fly over the handlebars and braking my clavicle. I’ve been walking around the neighborhood, but it’s not the same, and certainly not as enjoyable.

Then COVID happened and suddenly the benefits of working from home suddenly ended. Now everyone was home–I didn’t get even the illusion of being at work. Or rather, I was always at work. I couldn’t even do my normal escapes. I used to go to Panera Bread and start work at 6:30, so that I would be out of the house while the morning rush, but even though I could do that again now, it doesn’t open until 7. Even now, when my wife can go back to her office, she doesn’t want to. My son does go to school two days a week, but it’s still online, so he’s even more miserable. And then I can’t seem to do anything right at work.

So I’m stuck and have been stuck for months. This work situation happened back in April too, so I guess it was inevitable. But I’m back to that dark space. My brother committed suicide when I was 21, so I know that’s not an option, because I saw what happened to my family. Besides, all that means is that my wife and kids don’t have a parent and a paycheck, and I don’t want to do that to them.

So I cannot die, I can’t work, and I’m not sure what to do. It’s temporary, I’m sure, and things will change… but man, it sucks now. When have you contemplated suicide? Where were you in your life when that happened? Was there a gradual improvement out of that dark spot or was there a singular event? If you’re willing, share in the comments below.

7 Responses to “Inspiration in the Midst of Darkness”

  1. Mal January 25, 2021 at 9:38 am #

    I very much hope you find a way out of your tunnel.

    Honestly, I’ve thought about suicide every single day since my junior year of college. At this point, I’m simply living out of spite and out of duty to my family. I try to take a stoic approach (literally Seneca’s Stoicism) and think that the gods love me, therefore they torture me. But every day I wake up wanting it all to stop. I’m not going out of my way to die, but I wouldn’t put up much of a fight if I were to find myself in the type of situation. I think it’s a chemical imbalance – I’ve tried to correct it, but trying different meds on top of birth control is not a fun game. So I gave that up.

    Mostly, I focus on what I can control. I’m also at a low point in my job, and I know if I want it to change, I have to change it. So I’m applying for other roles within my company, looking for project opportunities, and genuinely trying to get out. That’s the only light at the end of my tunnel that I can think of. I know I can’t change my mindset, and it’s not that I haven’t tried. But I’ve lost faith in my current role getting better, and I can’t change others. What I can do is look for a better fit for me.

    I sincerely hope you find your better fit.

    • SirNolen January 25, 2021 at 11:19 am #

      Could you elaborate a bit about “Seneca’s Stoicism”? I haven’t heard that term before.

      • Mal January 25, 2021 at 10:08 pm #

        Absolutely, I particularly appreciate Seneca.

        Seneca was a Roman philosopher, we read two books in college: “The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca” by Moses Hadas and “Seneca Moral Essays Vol. 1” translated by John W. Basore.

        For the majority, Seneca defines Stoicism, a life philosophy, but also a way to interact with the gods. We read Seneca alongside Lucretius.

        Anyways, I like to make the distinction between Seneca’s Stoicism and the word we use today in regular conversation, because the latter is watered down. When we say “stoic,” casually we typically just mean that a person doesn’t react – they take it in stride – come what may, you’ll never get a rise out of them. Stoic as “straight faced” more/less.

        Seneca, on the other hand, defines stoicism as a way to approach life. Stoic should accept whatever life brings them, good or bad, with the same determined resolve. It’s the common usage I described above. But he goes a step farther. Seneca tells us that if a person’s life is particularly rough or cruel, it’s because the gods are paying him extra attention. That person is being singled out by the gods, and because the gods love him, they are throwing challenge after challenge his way to hone his personality and/or body. The gods so love the struggling man that the man should look upon his strife and smile, taking it as it comes.

        There is a caveat to this. For as much as the gods send trials to the humans they love, those humans have every right to call a cease fire. If for whatever reason the man wants his struggles to end, it is perfectly logical for him to end his own life. He will never go to Elysium or whatever post-death “happy place” people believe in, he will be sentenced to carry out his afterlife in limbo. But the world and the gods will not discredit the act.

        Suicide, for a follower of Seneca’s Stoicism, is neither negative nor positive. It is a shame that one so loved by the gods didn’t have the strength to continue his holy trials, but the individual has the right and the strength to over rule the gods! In the end, a man’s life is the man’s to control – not the world, not the god’s, his. And though he’ll be in limbo afterwards, it’s not altogether that terrible of a fate compared to Hades’ underworld.

        Seneca was the first time I encountered a philosopher that was decidedly okay with suicide. His teachings are also what I meant in my original comment that I should recognize the god’s love. Haha

        Hope this helps and maybe even gets you looking into something new!

  2. Mal January 25, 2021 at 9:40 am #

    Also, kudos for this post. It takes a strong character to admit their struggles (and share them with the internet!) and own them. Non-physical ailments are also difficult to pin down and are still a little taboo though we’ve made huge strides in the past couple of decades.

    Thank you for sharing.

  3. Jane Tawel January 25, 2021 at 12:13 pm #

    Your Japanese proverb makes me think of Milan Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. And while duty is heavy, it is as you say, the heaviness of caring for others and finding what we owe them in terms of loving them enough to get through the pain as best we can and be there for them on the other side of it. It takes a lot of courage sometimes to stay alive combined with a lot of fear of what would happen to those who love us if we left. Stay strong and a little afraid, and take it one moment at a time.

  4. Brian (SearchingForLostSoul) January 25, 2021 at 1:59 pm #

    You can always ask God for help. If you ask, He will answer someway somewhere somehow. He always answers. Might not be what you want but..

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