I can’t help it. I used to think about my life as a movie. “Hum,” I think, “I wonder how sitting at the car dealership waiting for service while some little kid across from me is picking his nose would look on the big screen. I’m sure people would pay to see that.” When reality TV hit cable, I came up with my own series, American Farmer. Kind of like American Chopper where the dad is always in a bad mood and argues with his sons because the motorcycle they are building won’t work. I’d be the dad only I’d argue why getting Alpacas is dumb and we should stick with Long Horn cattle. Then when the Comedy Channel started, I viewed my life like a stand-up routine. Kind of like when Seinfeld would break to his stand-up routine that was related to something happening in his life. In my life, I’d say something funny, no one would laugh, and I’d think “Hey this would kill on stage!”
Well now that I’ve experienced significant loss, suffer, and live to write about it, it seems that my life is turning into my blog, “Through Life and Loss.” Like I said, I can’t help it or can I? Maybe you too live with a certain “third eye” that views your life with a “social self” lens. We get taught this at an early age. I dreaded going to the market with our mom. That was the place where, “Stop it, people are watching,” was born. In our house, before mom got too upset, she’d go around the house shutting windows, so the neighbors wouldn’t hear the ensuing wailing and gnashing of teeth.
We come by our social self honestly. If not our parents, then kindergarten or junior high (is there really a difference?), solidifies our social self. I’m convinced that many of the rejected contestants on American Idol never went to junior high, or at least my junior high.
It’s something we can’t get away from. But we do have choice. I believe that. We have a choice; are we going to live by our social self or are we going to live despite it? On the Appalachian Trail we stopped at a restaurant where a crouton rolled off my plate. A half hour before I was in the woods and would not have thought twice about picking it up and eating it. I stared at the crouton lying on the floor and remembered I was back in society with a different set of rules. I didn’t eat it.
Being aware of these social pressures can help you navigate your choice. So often we think we are doing something because it’s the right thing to do but our real motivation is born out of shame and guilt. It is motivated by what would the neighbors think, what would make them like me more? Not me, you respond. Well maybe it is you, maybe it’s all of us.
When my son died, there were no rules. None that seemed to apply. Life as I knew it was a vapor and, in the mist, I didn’t know what to do, where to turn, who to trust. I realized life was not what I thought. I found out how precious life is. I know how fragile and how in the light of death or is it darkness—life is the only thing that matters All else was vanity.
I now suffer fools, at least a little bit, I get it when people use distraction, I understand denial, and I even feel a bit sorry for the man who builds a second barn not knowing that tomorrow he will die. I can do this because now I experience life. I see it for what it truly is.
Maybe that’s one answer to the why question. Death exists in part because it causes us to know life more fully. Evil exists because, in part, it allows us to see the purity in true goodness.
So, I will continue to think about my life, in part, like a blog. Today I’m sitting in the waiting room of an automobile service department. The representative comes in, “Mrs. Johnson, I have an update on your car, would you like to talk here or in private.” I laugh inwardly because it is like an emergency waiting room. She is so serious, so solemn. But it’s not life—it’s a car—a bunch of steel, plastic, and gasoline.
I’m sitting here dreading the bill—it will be in the hundreds, it has to be. Any service department that gives free Drake’s Devil Dogs to the customers starts counting after the first hundred. But my life is more than that. My life is more than a blog. Maybe a blog, movie, or sitcom, helps put life into perspective. But life is now. Life is too important and too short to live it through the social self lens. My son’s life was more than that, so is mine, and so is yours. And now I’m going back for that Devil Dog.
Andy is a Clinical Psychologist who lost his son in a tragic motorcycle accident and now authors articles on bereavement. The quiz is available! Go to http://andymdavidson.com/Home/Pgd to find out if you may have Prolonged Grief Disorder. Look forward to his upcoming posts, and book, “When Sunday Smiled.” Follow him at his website, AndyMDavidson.com and Facebook.com/ThroughLifeandLoss to find out more about prolonged grief.