I have a pretty great life. It’s glamorous and fun and all-around enviable. I’m happy (pretty much) and healthy (pretty much) and I own a lot of very shiny, very expensive things, some of which are made out of snake skin. My kid brother, on the other hand, has cancer and a scar like a giant zipper running down the entire length of his torso. The only thing made out of snake skin he owns is an actual snake, and honestly it’s not even that great of a snake. My brother has been in and out of hospitals for a year and is currently winning his fight with cancer.
Yesterday a young friend of mine lost hers.
I’m not going to tell you what it’s like to grieve or that my friend’s death affected me in a way no one could ever know. That’s just not true. We’ve all known grief and we’ll know it some more before we’re finished with this pony ride. Mine isn’t any more special or poignant than yours. Life is damn precious, precious and short. Even when it’s bad, and it’s bad a LOT, it’s still precious.
I’m not a motivational speaker when it comes to important things. Hell, my gardener doesn’t even listen to me unless I’m holding money and a lemon popsicle. I know full well that what I’m about to say –if you even read it– will most likely go one eye and out the other, never to be thought of again.
I’m fine with that. I’m just going to ask you to think.
My brother didn’t do anything to “earn” his cancer and my friend didn’t do anything to deserve hers. Cancer, like most things bigger than ourselves, is unjust.
We can’t do much to stop the random mutation of cells in our bodies but we can do something about the metaphysical cancers we put on ourselves; cancers that grow through laziness, anger, fear and our own brokenness.
I don’t care what it is or how you do it. Just fix it. We are all living with something inside of us that is a cancer. Lord knows I am. It could be anger or jealousy or a stinginess of spirit. It could be something that’s as easy as a phone call or something as difficult as changing brain patterns. Maybe you started it, maybe you were left with the psychic aftermath of someone else’s bad choices. Doesn’t matter. Fix it.
And as a special aside to my friends with depression: Y’all. you are my people. I suffered from severe depression when I was younger and I almost didn’t get older because of it. You have the toughest row to hoe and are the best liars on the planet when it comes to pretending everything is fine. If you’re not getting proper treatment, fix it.
I know from my experience working with folks who suffer from depression that I can’t tell you you’re worth more than you think, or that people love you. Even if I could say it, you’d probably think you were the exception. You’d think there’s no way I could know how you feel, how bad you really have it. How far from redemption you really are. Besides, even if you were worth it, you’re beyond fixing.
You can’t hear me saying you’re worth it, but maybe you’ll hear this:
Show a little damn respect.
My brother has been in the hospital for most of the past year getting shot full of poison and he WANTS to live. He’s fighting to live. My friend who just died wanted to live too, but she wasn’t given the choice. You have the choice. There are therapy programs, medications, books, classes, support groups…all available for you. If money is a problem, you can email me and I will personally help you find low-cost services in your area, anywhere in the English-speaking world.
That’s about all I’ve got to say, or at least all I can say right now. Tomorrow we’ll go back to your regularly scheduled faffery. I’m much more comfortable discussing the external than the eternal, but we can’t forget about the eternal. You can call it God, or community or the human spirit. It doesn’t matter it’s bigger than us, and if we don’t live fully into it, it doesn’t matter what shoes we’re wearing, because we’ll never be ready for the party. So that’s it. That’s all I’ve got to say. We’ll have a big question tomorrow and probably some hot guys and expensive shoes too, but for right now I’ll leave you with this passage from Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”:
“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”
Honor that, and fix it.