Living with mental illness reminds me of the perpetual tightening of sight associated with macular degeneration.  A close friend’s mother is facing a destiny of dusk, the light of day dimming earlier and earlier like the cold and snowy late months of fall.  She’s waiting for disease to throw the switch as though she hadn’t paid her utility bill.  She asked me one afternoon during a summer visit, how dark is dark; how blind is blind; once it’s dark and I’m blind will I continue farther into the cave and deeper into its darkness; or is my blindness an unmarked dead-end?

I sat in front of her incapable of producing some quip of levity to lighten the despair.  I didn’t know how to answer.  Or, what to say.  The absence of chit-chat hung between us like humidity.  Finally I answered the only way I knew how: honest and awestruck.

I said, I’m not living with an insensitive eventuality; my conditions (serious mental health and cardio-pulmonary compromise) are likely to flatten me, like being crushed by an immense breaking ocean wave, or belly flopping into the speeding approach of pasture, absent of any canopy of resistance my last minutes hopelessly free-falling like aimless snowflakes.  Then it happened.  Stopped.  Quiet and conscious while the tiniest pieces of life clung to daylight, right before it too, daylight, stopped.

acandystoreYou and I are the little boy and little girl whose noses are pressed flat against the confectionary store window.  Our yearning is painfully apparent to the plumply indulgent chocolatiers who’s moving each bit of life with the careful determination of a chess master to capitalize on each enticing, heavenly, and scrumptious creation.  We’re accustomed to forfeiting the peripheral pleasures which adorn life for those unscathed by physical mutiny.  We’re weary of the world’s pace, gaining speed to get anyplace but right here on this bench.  And we’re disinterested in watching a generation plow through a banal life ignoring its dangers and instead pursuing schedules chock full of unwieldily opportunities and difficult-to-deny distractions, especially those who’ve never stared into the intense and stoic countenance of a doctor about to tell you the most incomprehensible truth.

To wonder and inquire about your predetermination is natural and reserved for the courageous.  To have courage in light of the truth you must’ve stopped pursuing distractions, stopped running away from things, and stopped denying your mortality.  And life’s hard truths can only be understood by the courageous.