I was going to write a post on a whole different topic tonight – it involved liquorice – but today is World Suicide Prevention Day, something I (to my slight shame) only discovered when I logged into Facebook just now.
World Suicide Prevention Day.
I’m tired, and it’s only Wednesday but it’s been an incredibly long week, and despite my best intentions, a book and wine happened, and so my washing-up is still piled on my sink, and my laundry is still in a pile (depending on your definition of the word “pile”) on my bedroom floor, and as of tonight there’s a smell in my fridge, and all I want to do is sleep for a month, and I can’t think of anything profound or meaningful or inspirational or beautiful to write on a day which, it turns out, is deeply pertinent to my experience, my narrative, my life.
Because I was on that cliff face, watching the waves beneath me dash themselves to pieces against the patient rocks, and feeling the sun on my face and the breeze playing with my hair, and knowing that I should stay alive for so many reasons, and desperately not wanting to. Desperately wanting to cast myself to the waves, the rocks – I craved the peace of freefall and I wanted my life to end, because for me there was no way out of the brutal and life-draining and spirit-withering and identity-stealing and terrifyingly secret captivity of a violent marriage.
I didn’t step off the edge of the world, and most days now I’m glad of that. And I hold quietly the knowledge that my reason for not stepping off the edge of the world was small – minuscule, in the scheme of a life: Palestrina’s Missa Aeterna Christi Munera, the silvered polyphony, four- and five-voice harmonies weaving around each other in painful, exquisite beauty. One day, I’d like to thank Mr Palestrina.
It’s the small things. So often those big, broad, sweeping reasons to live – family, love, friends, beauty, hope itself – are too abstract, too far away. People for whom you would walk through fire without a second’s hesitation: in that depth of darkness, they are no longer real. Nothing is real inside that utter bleak, dreary, soul-destroying lack of hope. It’s the small things which are exactly the right size to cling onto: one stranger’s smile; an adored and adoring animal waiting at home; a coffee date; a football match; a beautiful Mass setting to be sung that bleak and sunny morning, that I didn’t want to miss out on.
It’s the small things. And we can be small things too.
Reach out. Don’t be scared to ask the question: Are you ok? Does he hit you? Are you thinking of suicide? What’s wrong? So often we don’t even have to have an answer – most people don’t need others to sweep in and fix things for them. Most people just need someone to notice. Someone to step inside the darkness with them, and to have the courage to stand witness to it. To wait with them within it.
A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it. St John’s gospel doesn’t say that the light barges in and saves the day, and beats the shit out of the darkness, and they all live happily ever after. It just says that the darkness doesn’t win. And the reality is, you only need a flicker of light to remind the darkness who’s boss.
Shall we hold that light for each other?