I was running at lunch with some friends, all much younger than I, when they started talking about a marine that committed suicide. He was 25 years old. Brought back memories of all the war stories I heard when I ran with an older group of gentlemen over 20 years ago. Back in the 1980s, I heard many stories about “that damb war”. Between these runners I heard more horror stories than I have seen in the movies. One runner had a limp and about 25 percent of his left butt cheek blown away by an explosion “he will never forget”. One had a missing lung from a bullet.
I never lived those horrendous activities as I lived in an era where there was no war. Although, through them, I still have some real impacting thoughts. For a 21-year-old who grew up in the rural part of North Dakota, these stories were like those things society packs into video games. People lose sense of reality at times. We read so much fiction that things that were repulsive thoughts in 1950 are commonplace today.
As the conversation went on, they started talking about suicide statistics. Jan stated she read that in 50 years, the rate for 20-24 years olds has doubled (I looked it up, 6.2 per 1,000 1950 to 12.1 per 1,000 in 2000). Then she said it still does not come close to my (Londell’s) age group. We started to discuss why this is a fact. That is when I talked more than the rest. I explained how this has been a very hard year for me. I explained how at 40, things change. Reading glasses we made fun at were now the needed, sleeping become more difficult, and so on… As I spoke, it was rather depressing.
The conversation turned to that of goals and objectives and the meaning of life. Came to the discussion of how our goals and objectives in life change. As kids, we have goals of playing with toys and friends. As a teen, we have goals of our fist love. As a collegian, we look for fame and fortune, as a parent, we strive to raise decent human beings, and then… I had to think, then…
When parenting is gone, if we do not formulate new goals, we lose purpose. Without purpose, we lose hope and with out hope, we lose desire. Really was thought provoking. Made me think back at the time when I got divorced years ago. I was little depressed and sought needed help. I wrote a story that I have come to appreciate. To me, it is one that describes finding purpose in a strange way. I wanted to share it with those who read this blog… The story goes:
I have this chair in my living room right now, and I hate it. It’s ugly and big and takes up too much space. And every time I sit back and lean in it, it damages the wall behind it. I’ve wasted so much time, money, and energy in my life, looking for and buying chairs for that corner of my living room. I’ve bought ones that look good – but don’t last, I’ve had sturdy ones that just don’t look good with the style of my living room, I gotten them straight off the show-room floor – but they become outdated pretty quick.
What I want is a chair that is comfortable and that looks nice too. Something that adds to the decor of my living room. You know, the kind of chair that when you’re having a shitty day, in the back of my mind I know that my chair will be there when I get home, for me to lounge and relax in. Where I can throw my legs over the arm of it, and read a good book or work for hours, comfortably. Yet, it still looks good too, like when company comes over, I don’t have to dress it up with a throw pillow or anything, it’s fine the way it is. And also it doesn’t need constant maintenance, no need for weekly polish or scotch guard treatments. But like I said, right now I have this terrible chair in my living room that I need to get rid of this chair.
But there’s a problem, my son likes that chair, it has sentimental value to him. So I can’t just take it to the dump, I’m going to have to store it in the shed or something, so my son can play with it when he wants to. But it’s cumbersome and hard to move, and I just haven’t moved it out of my living room yet.
Then the other day I was at an antique store, not even looking for a chair, and I saw this one that I really liked. I thought, damn, I’m not even looking for a chair right now, I don’t even know where I’d put it. But I really like this chair. It has a look that is unique. It had a classic frame, well made, I even like the upholstery, and I wish I could just take it home and see how it really looks in my living room.
Then these two guys walk in worksuits walk up to me and say, “Sorry sir, I hope you’re not lookin’ to buy this chair, ‘cuz it’s not for sale.” They go on and tell me, “see the shop owner here, well he’s a bit of a perfectionist, and we came here today to pick up this here chair and take it our warehouse so it can be polished up and refinished.” The guys go on, telling me how funny it is that the shop owner always does this, and that usually what the customers like about the furniture are the flaws, you know that used look, gives it character. And how often the items get all scratched up on the way back to the store anyway. So the guys tell me that they’re taking that chair today, but if I really am interested in it, then I may want to check back sometime in the future, when it’s all fixed up.
But the storeowner does have two other stores so there’s just no telling where this chair will end up. I laugh to myself, figures. The guys then tell me that I look a little tired from shopping, and they got some forms to fill out still, so why don’t I just sit in that chair, try it out for a few minutes while they finish their paperwork. Sounds like a good idea, so I sit in it. This chair really is pretty comfortable; I like it so far.
Then I remember that, it doesn’t matter really, because I have that big, ugly chair in my living room still. Even after I get it out, I still have to repair the damage it’s done to the wall behind it and paint where I’ve patched up the wall. And well, this chair here today, remember it’s not for sale anyway.
I tell my therapist this and she says, “How about not having a chair at all in your living room for now?” I say, “yeah, I agree, I think I’m just going to get myself some good art work to hang on the wall for that corner of my living room for now.” And art is good. I really can sit on a floor and enjoy the art. Life can go on without a chair. Although, at some time, there will be a chair that I will grow old in, and with a little luck, die smiling in it.
End of story…
I did buy the art after writing the story. Still have it on the wall. It reminds me of those hard emotional times I had back then and the thought provoking events in my life. I am proud that suicide was not one of the thoughts, but I felt I had an understanding of what it is like to be lost. I can not imagine the hell the war was for those running buddies of mine. I often wonder if those runs and openly discussing those issues was the best therapy for them. I know, when I dumped during my runs, or got dumped on during the runs, I or someone else really felt better afterward!
Reminds me we can never succeed dwelling on our failures if we do not look for new opportunities to succeed, which requires the risk of failure. In the words of Matthew Keith Groves “Winners lose much more often than losers. So if you keep losing but you’re still trying, keep it up! You’re right on track.”