All Things Considered, I’d Rather Be Dead
“All things considered, I’d rather be dead.” That’s what I’ve told myself most of my life. In fact, I still say it to myself now and then, although I’ve made peace with the fact that I will probably live to be 100, another 35 years from now. My life is pretty good, from most measures. I’ve got no good reason to kill myself. It’s just that life is kind of a pain in the ass, you know? And the good times just do not outweigh the bad times.
Considering all the studies I’ve read concerning what makes people happy, clearly the one thing my life is missing now, and what has often been missing in the past, is strong social relationships. I’ve always been a bit of a loner and I’ve always had a hard time finding those one-on-one intimate relationships—friends and spouses, to put it bluntly. I live with a partner now, but, frankly, our relationship isn’t very close. However, with a handful of friends (who I rarely see or talk to) and my partner, I feel loved and it keeps the lonelies away. In fact, I consistently feel happy and grateful for my life.
But the grind! Having to plan, find, prepare, and eat food three times a day is a drag. I appreciate good food from time to time, but mostly I’m in the “food is fuel” ranks. Keeping a home minimally tidy, wash the dishes, take out the trash, do the laundry, is it time to strip the bed? What is going to be the next thing in the house to break, that will require a hundreds or thousands of dollars repair? Yard work, yech! On top of all that, there is work every day to pay the bills. I fortunately have a job I actually enjoy, but day in, day out it gets to be a grind.
Okay, I confess, I have clinical depression and I am an alcoholic. But Wellbutrin and sobriety cleared up those issues almost two decades ago. While they probably were in the past, I don’t believe they currently are a big part of why I’d rather be dead.
For a long time, I was secretly, morbidly proud of wanting to be dead. All you other suckers, clinging to this life, scared of dying … not me! I was ready to go! One day I decided to check the internet and see if there were other people with the same attitude. It turns out there are a lot of us. That was the first thing that spoiled me on wanting to be dead. I thought it made me special, but it did not. Phooey! I stopped being proud of it. In fact, I became a bit ashamed of it. But I still preferred to be dead. (The internet easily proves that none of us is special … yet we are special!)
About a decade ago I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. I was, of course, stunned at the diagnosis. I walked around in a daze for a couple of days, thinking, “Oh lord, this could be it! It could lights out, the end of my everything!” Then I remembered, “Hey wait a minute, I want to dead!” After that, I started looking forward to “the worst.” I even got a couple of canisters of helium, some flexible PVC tubing and a gas mask, prepared to take the easy way out when the suffering got bad. But a good friend of mine insisted, “You have to fight the cancer the first time. If you get it again, you can leave, but this time it is not an option!” So I went through a miserable six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy, the cancer was defeated, and I lived to grind another decade. I was—and am—kind of disappointed at that outcome.
What does my life offer on the positive side of the ledger, to offset the grind? How about family? Ha! I have no children (nor the mammoth rewards and responsibilities that accompany them, so I hear). My parents have passed, and I am not close with my siblings. I am amused that “Fam-i-ly! Family is the supremely important thing!” is the zeitgist of movies and TV series these days. Hey, I know plenty of people who are not close with their families—or worse. It’s just lazy writing, leaving no need to develop other motivations for characters.
I enjoy reading and watching Netflix. When I was younger, I went out a lot and could enjoy just about any amusement, be it a concert, and artsy-fartsy festival, or a bar. I do none of that anymore, for a few reasons. Being older (65) is probably a big one. Also, sobriety took away a lot of what I always enjoyed. And my partner is a rather negative personality so it is tough to enjoy these types of things with her. But really, I don’t miss them. They were just distractions and time-wasters, attempts to generate artificial excitement and fun that isn’t particularly meaningful. Not the kind of thing that makes life worth living. They do have value when they provide opportunities to spend time with and share experiences with friends, but, as I mentioned, I don’t really have those kind of friends anymore. They also, supposedly, provide opportunites to meet new friends, but that never worked out for me.
A year or so ago, I read an article here in Medium that asked me, what do I value? I mean really value? I thought, what do humans contribute to the universe that is truly worthwhile? I realized there are three things I believe in: compassion, generosity, and kindness. I am glad that humans bring these qualities to the universe. I am glad I can feel these qualities, and perform (and receive) acts of compassion, generosity, and kindness. It is good that I am alive because I can bring more compassion, generosity, and kindness into the world. With that revelation, I decided I don’t want to be dead. I want to be alive with compassion, generosity, and kindness. I believe I was already living that way, but now I live that way consciously and deliberately. Maybe not consistently, or as well as I could, but that’s not part of the deal. If I can just feel compassion for somebody (kids in cages, Covid-19 sufferers, those who live in poverty, the guy who cut me off in traffic—he must have something very important to do, or some serious problem on his mind), if I can be generous (supporting my parter, who does not work), and if I can be kind (in all my interactions with people, strangers as well as friends), then my life is worth living. I can’t help the feeling that I’d rather be dead from bubbling up from time to time, but now I can remind myself that my life is worth living, and the reason why. If that though bubbles up too often, my shrink increases my meds.
That should be the happy ending of my post. Unfortunately, it is not. One thing that always prevented me from ever taking steps to actually end my life (except for the cancer/helium thing), was hope for a better tomorrow. When I was young, I thought, “Things will (or at least may) get better. Just wait and see.” Now that I’m older and settled down and into a routine, I hope for a future that stays this good. They say (or “studies show,” as they say) that most people usually feel that things will continue the way they are indefinitely, while, in fact, most people see major changes in their lives every few years. A year ago, I thought about this, and decided, nah, things are about they way they will continue to be for me. Then, welcome 2020! Global pandemic! Forest fire for which we had to evacuate! (We did not lose our home, fortunately. Not this time.) An insane megalomaniac President! A Republican party that does not respect norms or the constitution! Ruth Bader Ginsberg dies! Will America continue it’s descent into fascism? Will transexual women like me be sent to re-eduation camps? Global climate change is roaring down on us faster and more severely that anyone predicted. Where can I move to be safe from it? No where is safe! AAAAAAAAAAAGH!
Well, if things get really bad for me, I can always kill myself. Does Amazon still carry helium canisters?