The parking garage was just a quick drive up 91 North, and even though it was late, I got into the ‘94 Buick LaSabre and cruised up the highway.
Or was it early? It was in the dark in-between void between late and early when most people would normally be sound asleep that I went for that drive fueled by negative rumination—the rumination that overwhelmed any other sound vying for my attention.
The negative cycle was only broken by the sudden appearance of blue lights flashing in the rearview mirror, emerging from the darkness. It was only then that I became aware of John Denver’s voice singing “Sweet Surrender” over the car stereo. I must have put a CD on when I got in.
🎶 “Lost and alone on some forgotten highway; traveled by many, remembered by few.” 🎶
When the Massachusetts State Trooper sauntered up to the passenger door, I rolled down the window to pass along the license and registration. After briefly perusing the credentials, he asked, “Do you have a registration that isn’t expired?”
“That’s the only one I have,” I responded, “Is it expired?”
“Yes,” he replied, “It expired last week.”
I thought about the stack of mail on my desk back at the apartment. For six weeks the pile grew bigger and bigger, but I had no interest in looking through it. “The renewal notice must be there,” I thought to myself. “The system isn’t designed for people who don’t care.”
“Would you step out of the car please,” the trooper asked—though it was more of a command than a request. But I didn’t make a fuss about it. Although perhaps I should have—that might have been one way to get to my appointment with the other side, with no need to get to the tall building.
The trooper proceeded to frisk me before taking a cursory inventory of the items in the Buick. He took special interest in the saxophone case. I don’t know exactly what he was looking for, but it was all very exciting. And I told him so.
“This is all very exciting,” I said, as he closed the sax case.
“Really? Why is that?” he responded.
“I’ve never had anything like this happen before,” I said.
Just as the trooper finished snooping around, the tow truck arrived to impound the Buick. I stood idly by, watching the trucker load the car onto the back of the truck. I thought it silly that a fully functioning vehicle had to be carried by a bigger vehicle just because a signature and stamp wasn’t delivered to the RMV. To be a part of society certainly requires a lot of red tape.
But for the prior two months, I had no energy to be a part of society. After my fiancée died, I lost the taste for life, and the everyday rituals of society seemed so empty, arid, and meaningless. There wasn’t anything wrong with me physically, but mentally and emotionally I was a wreck. All I wanted to do was make the pain go away, and in that dark void between late and early all those years ago, I decided to rid myself of the pain and the meaningless of life by jumping off a parking garage.
What stopped me from following through with this life-ending plan was the negative rumination itself—which kept me from checking my mail, preventing me from renewing the car registration, causing the State Trooper to tow the car away, which in turn literally stopped me in my tracks.
When the Buick was secured on the back of the tow truck, the trooper gave back my license and registration, recommending that I do what needed to be done to take care of the issue, then got into his cruiser and cruised away. I thought about the John Denver CD in the car:
🎶 “There’s nothing behind me and nothing that ties me to something that might have been true yesterday. Tomorrow is open and right now it seems more than enough to just be here today.” 🎶
The ensuing years were rough, challenging my assumptions, fears, and desires; and as my mental and spiritual health deteriorated, my physical health soon followed. But eventually, over time—and in a roundabout way—I did heed the trooper’s advice. I started taking care of myself—starting with what was necessary, then with what was possible, and finally I found myself doing the seemingly impossible—striking a balance between my physical, mental, and emotional health.
When disappointments and challenges stack on top of each other, it can be easy to get overwhelmed, allowing your health to deteriorate over time. Yet by taking these challenging circumstances in stride, by tending to what can be controlled and letting go of the rest, you empower yourself with the mental, emotional, and physical health needed to carry you safely from one moment to the next, even in moments of potential crisis.
It was in this way that I eventually overcame that dark night of soul, a pit of despair lasting three years. It used to be that I thought about death every day because I was excited to bring about the end. Today, I still think about death often, yet now it’s not because I want to bring about my end, but rather because there is still so much that I want to do. Today, there is a profound sense of urgency to maintain physical, mental, and emotional health to allow myself as much Dynamic Free Will as possible to ensure I have the best chance to do all that I hope to accomplish in this lifetime. Or as John Denver would say:
🎶 “There’s a spirit that guides me and a light that shines for me; my life is worth the living, I don’t need to see the end. Sweet, sweet surrender!” 🎶
What are you doing today to take care of physical, mental, and spiritual health
I'm a mirror (and so are you).