Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Pain Is The Great Teacher" - Three Years and Four Months Later

Last month, I found a new genre of books which closely resemble the memoir; it is published diaries.   I read a few books about such journal writers - see this post if interested.

In one such book, The Hidden Writer: Diaries and the Creative Life, Alexandra Johnson focuses on the lives and journals of a few - the one whom I quote below is May Sarton; a struggling poet and novelist who became famous later in life for her published diary, Journal of a Solitude. 
Pain is the great teacher.  I woke before dawn with this thought.  Joy, happiness, are what we take and do not question.  They are beyond question, maybe.  A matter of being.  But pain forces us to think, and to make connections, to sort out what is what, to discover what has been happening to cause it.  And, curiously enough, pain draws us to other human beings in a significant way, whereas joy or happiness to some extent, isolates.
I like this quote very much; it is succinct and feels true.  What can be learnt from joy or happiness?  As she says, they are states of being that we may aspire to obtain but then what?  Once there, isn't it simply a matter of enjoying and hoping to prolong that state of bliss?

Pain is a different story.  Pain is the great teacher.  I think of physical pain first.  When everything in the body is functioning as it should, we are pain-free.  Again, nothing to learn.  But when there is pain, we know something is wrong and are motivated to address it.  X-rays, MRI's, CAT scans can disclose the culprit.  The cause and effect is more readily seen.  If the ankle is broken, one cannot walk.

Then I think of mental and emotional pain - internal pain of the mind, of the interior, of the soul.  The symptoms are more vague and often hard to describe.  How does one accurately depict what is going on inside their head?  Their feelings?  In a way that others can understand?    I feel bad, I feel sad, I feel empty, my mind won't stop racing, I feel someone has high-jacked my mind, etc. 

It is this internal pain, within teens, that the Josh Anderson Foundation wants to acknowledge and address: by broadcasting loud and clear that it is OK to be open with their feelings and the craziness that sometimes spins around in their head;  by busting the mental health stigma that traps them into silent suffering; by letting them know where and to whom they can turn to for help.  All this so that NO other child will turn to suicide as THE solution to their pain.

My last thought on this is that pain does cause solidarity.  A brotherhood.  Suffering alone intensifies the pain.  Shared pain is lessened pain.  This is why people gather at funerals.  Why so many kids came to Josh's memorial service; they all felt pain and wanted to be with others that felt the same way.  And seeing all of them lessened mine. It was a cathartic gathering that provided the opportunity to say a collective "good-bye" to a beloved son and friend.

RIP Josh.  I am so sorry that we did not see your pain, that you could not share your pain with us and that this pain became so excruciating and unbearable that you could not see a way out.   I wish I had known - I would have helped you through it.  And I know many others would have been willing helpers too.

Friday, July 6, 2012

All Sorrow Feels Ancient - All Death Feels New

I recently came across one of the most profound sentences in all my reading since Josh's death.  It was not from the actual book, Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels - which I quickly looked up on Amazon and Goodreads, saw enough that interested me and have downloaded the sample onto my iPad - but rather, was included in a list of simple sentences in Priscilla Long's book, The Writer's Portable Mentor.
All sorrow feels ancient.
Only four words which rings so true.  Why?  What is this "ancient sorrow"? These were the questions I sought to answer in my journal.

I envision this "ancient sorrow" like a wide moving river, flowing through time and space, generations and centuries, across cultures and species, picking up all sorrow in its wake.  And I'd like to presume that this "ancient sorrow" is the most intense, the most constant, the deepest and harshest when connected to the loss of a child.

I was oblivious to its existence but no more.  Intimate with it now - I am floating on it, living in it, and have been drinking from it daily, for over three years.  This "ancient sorrow" fills me up and I know that each day, others' sorrow adds to it.

Which brings me to my next thought: Death is inevitable.  One day, life will end.  It is a known fact, a reality.  But for some reason, despite the millions of people who have already "passed away", this intimate, carnal knowledge of death is unknown.  One cannot really "know" how it will feel - the loss of a loved one - until it happens to you.  We can read about it, watch movies, listen to songs and even be moved to tears but will not really know it until we experience it first-hand.

Why?  This seems very cruel. Why can't an ancient knowledge and understanding of death be imparted to us, down through the generations so that when it happens, we might have some familiarity, some understanding, some comprehension to help us navigate through the intense emotions?  Instead, we are left to our own devices: to struggle, weather and survive the impact of an emotionally destructive tidal wave, tsunami or hurricane - for that is how loss feels.

Yes, to quote Anne Michaels again, "All sorrow feels ancient."  What I will add is this:  All death feels new.

RIP beloved Josh.