a letter to my suicidal friends
To those of you who want to die,
I need to tell you something. I need to tell you to go outside. Find a forest. Sit in it.
I have spent a lot of time outside over the last three weeks. Around every corner, there was something new.
I spent hours looking at the stars as I sat under the Double Arch in Arches National Park with Jonny. I touched this giant arch, a result of hundreds of millions of years of movement and change. I nearly cried when I first put my hand to the sandstone. The moment I felt it, I heard, "this is what being alive feels like."
I'm not telling you to go off the grid. I'm suggesting you take a short or long drive to a place that is alive with a quiet soul. Sit under a tree and really think about what it means to be made out of stardust, just like the plants around you. Allow the nurturing spirit of these trees to give you the feeling of comfort that you need. If this sounds weird, I want you to know that it's not.
I sat under a huge sequoia tree in Sequoia National Park. Over 20 feet in diameter, over 200 feet tall. On the National Parks Service website, in regards to sequoia trees, they say, "The vast size of the sequoias is difficult to comprehend fully. It is so out of proportion to commonly recognized measurements of trees or other familiar objects that figures regarding size do not register a clear picture of its vastness." I sat under these trees I'd only seen pictures of. They sounded hollow, it was so weird. They were really soft.
When I stood in oneness with these trees, I thought, "when you know everything, you become a tree." It was comforting. I have more to learn. I felt a mother's voice say, "Oh, my sweet baby, I am so glad you are here."
Every day, I saw something I'd never imagined. Something so big, I was stunned. It felt physically a bit like fear, but it wasn't scary. It felt like I'd lost my breath. I want you to feel that, too. Don't die before you sit in the presence of giants on purpose. Give in and allow yourself to imagine what it might be like to truly feel this life in your bones.
We were walking in the Grand Canyon when we met and spoke with a monk named Swami who gave us books about past lives and Buddhism. It was wonderful to share that moment with him.
We stayed on a Navajo reservation in a male hogan. The largest reservation in the country. Our closest neighbor was 25 miles away. We spoke with the women there about their traditions and their history. We smiled and laughed with them. It was an unexpected late-night conversation. They gave us beautiful necklaces.
I encourage you to talk to someone new. I know it's scary and weird at first. It doesn't take long to get comfortable if you try to remain in the present moment. Maybe it's meaningless. It feels good. It feels like connection and it feels so good. I want you to feel that.
Maybe it doesn't seem feasible. And I've definitely seen a lot of the South West by taking a very scenic route to California. Not a ton of people are able to do that. We went to a small park in Marfa and played on the swings and felt that same sweet feeling we felt when we turned a corner and were welcomed by a mountain. It can be as simple as taking a walk. It's all about approaching it with an intentional wonder. Give yourself permission to try it.
Ask your inner child what they need. "How can I honor you right now?" We would say, "What do our seventeen-year-olds feel like doing?" And then we would be silly and listen to hip-hop and do jumping jacks on the side of the road. We sprinted through White Sands National Monument with our dogs and laughed the whole time.
Awaken your curiosity. Everywhere we went, we tried to take away at least one new lesson. With every interaction, we asked, "What can we learn from this? How could I have been more present? How did it feel (in an emotional and mindful way) to jump in that lake?"
We spent twenty days in the car with our two dogs. (We put them in doggy daycare while we were in Las Vegas and Boulder... it was awesome).
I went to a casino for the first time and I played the quarter slot machines. I lost $6 and moved on. There was a lot of interesting people-watching, and very interesting water features all over the place. All in the middle of the desert.
We met other peers who were on the road, too. We came across a man our age traveling solo with his airstream.
There were a lot of powerful conversations. There was a lot of healing. There are painful pieces of my life. There are relationships I wish I had, there are feelings of abandonment, mistrust, resentment, fear. I had to practice non-attachment to those feelings. I allowed them to come up. I spoke those feelings out loud, and I allowed them to pass. Acknowledge, have tea, let go, repeat as needed. This is not a practice I have perfected by any means. As my dear friend Liz says, "Day by day, in every way, I keep getting better and better. "
A Zen master had a mantra that she repeated over and over. She said, "thank you for everything, I have no complaints whatsoever." I'm currently working through all the loopholes that negative Sim could come up with, and then I hope to adopt this mantra. Thank you for everything, I have no complaints whatsoever. Don't you wish you could say that? If you want to die, this might be pretty eye-rolly. Just... suspend disbelief for a second, okay? Imagine yourself saying it. Imagine yourself believing it. What would your life look like if you could say this mantra aloud and feel your heart open with acceptance?
If you want to die, it is a red flag. It does not mean that something is wrong with you. It means that you need to reach out. At first, it's easy to be resistant. Embrace even the smallest feelings of willingness to make a change. Those feelings grow if you give them space. Breathe into it. Sometimes it feels like pain. You're growing. Allow.
I have the word "allow" tattooed on my hand. I got it when Jonny and I were struggling big time and everything felt like it was falling apart. I wanted to allow that pain to flow through me. If we were going to part ways, I didn't want to do it in anger. (side note: we didn't part ways. He is my very best friend, my romantic sweetheart, and a human being I admire who encourages my spiritual growth on a new level).
Now, when I see my hand, I remember to allow the happiness. I remember to allow the gratitude and the emotional reactions to these places. The fear, the uncertainty, the anger, the vast beauty, allow it.
Continue your self-compassion practice as you embrace trust, love, vulnerability, fear of the unknown. Allow it. Chade-Meng Tan wrote, "Happiness is not something that you pursue, it is something that you allow."
Give yourself breath. Sit next to a tree. Look at its leaves. That tree is where you get your oxygen. Allow yourself to be amazed by that, even if you don't want to. See what it's like to give yourself a moment of wonder.
Look at a tree or a plant in your house or the grass outside. Imagine yourself seeing that connection. Isn't it amazing? It's the weirdest thing ever! Tap into that oneness, it is there. It is always there. You don't have to believe in anything to have a self-transcendental experience.
This journey is not over yet. There is a lesson in every moment, a peace that exists in the root of your bones. Take a moment to feel it. There is a chance that you have had some experiences of conditional love. That doesn't mean unconditional love doesn't exist. Give it to yourself.
Ask for help, because if you feel suicidal, you're having a hard time seeing the big picture. I always felt that I saw the big picture so much that I knew everything. Once I knew the truth that life is stupid, the only option was to kill myself. Let me tell you that despite how true it seems, you don't have to fucking do it. It's not the only way, it's not badass, it's not a jab at anyone, it's a stab.
My best friend is still healing from the years she feared that I would kill myself. We met in sixth grade. For most of our friendship, she didn't know if I was going to make it. She is so happy I am happy, though that fear sometimes lingers. A professor once told me, "everyone is precious to someone." You are precious. I am precious.
We are a young nation on an ancient land. Stay here. Be in it. Be a part of the ripple of life that began with the big bang and flows through your lungs. It moves when you smile. It grows when you hug. It comforts when you cry. Learn about the history of the rocks you see on the ground. What did the land where you live look like 450 million years ago?
Go on a walk, go on a scenic drive, spend one night at a state park. Ask someone to join you if that feels comfortable. Definitely don't go alone if you're actively suicidal. You never know what opportunities for impulse could arise and you need to set yourself up for success.
We were at King's River in King's Canyon National Park. I felt the water in my hands. It was new and fresh. Just like me, it had never been here before. Always new, allowing. Embrace feelings of healing that you feel, even if they are fleeting.
I always thought nature was cool. I saw breathtaking beauty in my backyard as a child when deer would walk by and eat the flowers. However, I had never seen so many things that were so incomprehensibly big that they took my breath away. It changed my life. It is changing my life.
To those of you who want to die, don't. You don't have to. You are made of the stars. You are just like the stars. Shining and burning and changing. You are precious because you exist. If you don't know that yet, you aren't done.