Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Love is not jealous

A few people have asked me in recent days if Brendan's public expression of his feelings for Sarah bothers me. Quite honestly, I'm baffled by the question.

One of the reasons that I love Brendan the way I do is because he is a kind and generous person with enough room in his heart for the most prickly among us. Brendan loves easily and openly; he's a different type of ladies' man. I have long come to accept that beautiful women tend to befriend Brendan easily, mostly because he treats everyone with respect and kindness. Unlike some men, Brendan sees women as individuals and he wants to know the individual and not "get some."

Brendan's nature reflects on his expressions of grief over Sarah's suicide. She was a beautiful woman and he's haunted by memories they shared in happier times. Brendan cared deeply for Sarah. But just because he speaks of her with such affection does not mean that he loves me any less. I never doubt how Brendan feels about me and I don't have to do so. He shows me in 10,000 different ways.

It does not disrespect me that Brendan found Sarah beautiful. Indeed, I interpret his obvious affection for her as a compliment to myself, because obviously he feels much more strongly for me than he ever did for her. At one time, nearly six years ago, Sarah and I held a similar place in Brendan's heart. He liked us both, but couldn't have us. She was across the country and I wasn't ready for a relationship. But eventually, he made his choice and pursued me. And he had to wait months until we actually started dating.

That's ancient history now. I was 17 years old and a freshman in college. Six years later, I have a graduate degree and we're getting married. Our love has evolved and grown through an incredibly tumultuous period in our lives. We've survived distance, illness and family squabbles and with every challenge we overcome, we get a little closer.

Mature love is not jealous. Brendan's heart is not my posession and he is free to love whomever he choses. Just because he loves many people does not besmirch the love we share. I'm entirely secure in our relationship and the fact that Brendan has affectionate friendships doesn't bother me in the least.

If I were petty, or if we had been together for 6 months, I might be more concerned or feel more threatened by the way Brendan remembers Sarah. But we've been together for 6 years and I know that Brendan will always be faithful and that he and I share something that I often see in old married couples. We've got "it." We built our relationship on friendship, trust and respect and that foundation is invaluable. I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that if Brendan was feeling conflicted or confused about his emotions, he would tell me. The two of us are chatterboxes and we tackle our problems together.

Anyway, I do not feel threatened or upset that Brendan clearly held feelings for Sarah. When he remembers her smile and her laugh, he's not doing so in a sexual way, but in an affectionate way. For the last few days, I've been missing my buddy Shannon a lot and when I think about her, I think about how adorable she looks when she's laughing really hard. Her laughter is contagious and refreshing.

Should Brendan be worried because I admire Shannon and miss her? No, that would be stupid. There's plenty of love to go around.

When you've been together as long as Brendan and I have, you don't really have to explain these things. I know how Brendan feels about me. And I know how I feel about him. And at the end of the day, that's all that matters.


Monday, September 19, 2005

Swan songs

A few days ago, Brendan found out that his one-time prom date killed herself.

She was my age, like 23 years old. And now, all that's left of her is a corpse decaying in some funeral home.

I never really knew Sarah, and so it's easy for me to think about her death as a part of a larger phenomenon. For my age group, suicide is like the second or third leading cause of death.

But suicide is a funny thing. I mean, in some ways, if she was suffering so much that suicide seemed like her best option, maybe she'd better off dead. In other ways, the decision seems short sighted. I mean, a year ago, I was really happy. Today, I'm kind of bummed. There's no telling how I'll be a month from now.

People who have never seriously pondered or attempted suicide don't get it. They don't understand what could motivate someone to go to the extreme. But I understand it. Aside from the obvious depression accompanying suicidal ideation, there has to be a sense of panicked hopelessness. You know that life wil never get better, that everyday will bring more pointless suffering.

People say, well, she was selfish. She didn't think about how her death would impact other people. But maybe, she did. Maybe she understood that her presence was a burden, that no one wants to be around the messed-up chick. When you believe that no one wants you around, removing yourself from the picture is a gift to other people.

And feeling like that, suicidal, is painful. Every second you believe that your ominous misery will get worse is a second you spend planning your death. The old saying is that hope dies last. And that's true. Without hope, you stumble through life and notice only the horrors our world has to offer.

Suicides can be premeditated and planned, but that doesn't make them any less desperate.

It's hard for people to understand the impulse and the mindset. But really, the only thing those left behind need to understand is that it wasn't their fault. Sure, they might have said or done something crappy and the accumulation of said crappy things contributed to the depression that fostered a deadly mindset. But suicide is a choice that requires conscious thought. The act inherently demands the participation of the person who wants to die.

Observing the reactions of Sarah's friends and family from afar is heart breaking. Parents mourn a child, siblings mourn their sister, classmates mourn their friend. It's foolish to think that your life hasn't touched those around you.

Ultimately, I wish that schools talked more openly about suicide.

God. If only people didn't have to feel crappy enough to think that being dead is more promising that being alive.

Anyway, if you feel suicidal, my advice is to go to the zoo. Really. Go to the zoo and ponder life in all its forms. Watch the primates and think about how luck you are not to express your displeasure by throwing feces.

I always find the zoo therapeutic. Animals give life perspective. I mean, if my cat can be happy batting around a bottle cap, surely I can find something to be happy about too.

There's no snappy conclusion or moral to the story here. She's dead and she's never coming back. On the battlefield of suicides, there are only casualties. Never heroes.