The Gift You Have

Most choose to end with this, so instead I will begin with what I feel is the most pertinent information contained herein:


1 (800) 273-8255 is the number of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. All calls are confidential and experts are there, 24/7, for this service at no charge. Do not hesitate to make the call if you need to. It’s going to be okay.


I think it is likely pretty obvious at this point, but this post is going to deal with some pretty graphic material related to self-inflicted violence and suicide. I felt it best to leave a warning at this point for those who might find it difficult, painful, or otherwise traumatizing to read. It was neither my intent nor the intent of the Love Yourself Foundation to foster an environment that would make its readers feel uncomfortable, and yet I felt that this topic needed to be discussed in this way. This wasn’t any easier to write than it will be for you to read.


Sometimes I just can’t sleep.


A man walks alone as

A writer no one reads

Stands alone in his dreams


Across highways of the eternal night…


Sometimes I will stay awake for days at a time trying to find the right words to set down, as if I couldn’t take them back the second they are typed or written out. Sometimes it is not words, but answers to all of life’s problems that keep me awake, with every brain cell scrambling to find a truth I may have hidden even from myself.


Why didn’t anyone read that post? Why can’t I just lose the weight once and for all? Why did that piece get rejected? Why did they all go out without me? Why can’t I write like him? Why am I like this?


Sometimes there doesn’t have to be a reason.


Sometimes –


Sometimes I just can’t sleep.


Reading the most recent LYF newsletter, I came to the realization that Spring Cleaning wasn’t always about cleaning your physical space, but it was about cleansing your mind and soul of any negativity pervading it.


I never really thought about it that way, but it makes sense. Why not find a way to clean your spirits of toxicity that may be pervading your thoughts instead of just cleaning your room?


Unfortunately, this is one I still struggle with, and likely always will.


There are any number of unhealthy coping mechanisms, and for one reason or another, I stumble into these and relish in them much sooner than I do in finding something more productive. I think the writer in me enjoys these dark spaces, as at the time they feel like good fuel for creativity, but like most people, I often discover that it was better to have described the storm after it has passed as opposed to hastily scrambling notes in the rain. Yet just as dark clouds blot out the sky above, a similar fog will bog the mind, leading it to believe any number of things that simply are not true.


One day, as the sun is shining, this looks like happiness, breathing in the clear desert air and feeling good for being fortunate enough to experience it. On the occasional dark day, even if the sun is shining, these thoughts might change from happiness to sorrow, from content to misery. Work that would’ve been lauded by the creative muses are now called worthless by some other voice that isn’t always there.


Stephen King once wrote “Monsters are real. And ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes they win.”


I feel a pang of jealousy just typing those words, knowing that I haven’t written something half so good here or anywhere else. Yet on a happier day I know that my writing will never sound as good to me as it might to someone else. I will never read my own writing the same way that someone else will, and yet in those dark moments, I find myself questioning a compliment when it comes, or worse, if no one acknowledges it, I find my inner turmoil even more intense.


Sitting here now, completely awake and completely aware, I know how juvenile and insane it sounds, but it is true. Yet when the fog passes through, those thoughts come on heavily, much to my shame when I wake from those moments.


Where Hemingway found peace.


Recently, I have become enamored with the writer Ernest Hemingway. Those were words I never thought I would write, yet here we are. I recall skipping one of his novels when I was in high school, as at the time I figured there were better things to read, and as a constant reader, why would I put down Bradbury or Huxley for Hemingway? It was unconscionable to a sixteen-year-old me. It would have been like having a salad on pizza day at school, or actually studying algebra instead of playing the new Resident Evil game. Who does that?


As a side note, I ended up having to take a couple of prep classes before even getting into Math 120, so I suppose the last laugh was on me, but still, at the time, it would have seemed insane to me to read something I had to read as opposed to reading something I wanted to read. I often wondered if the teacher had missed the point after telling me to stop reading Fahrenheit 451 when I was supposed to be reading Edith Hamilton’s Mythology or some such thing. Were those who tried to tell people what they had to read ever on the right side of history?


The irony was that had I just read Hemingway I might have realized that the spirit of rebellion was one he would have agreed with; hell, since he hated fascists, he might have been amused. Fortunately for the teacher I didn’t, because had I read it, I might have been an even bigger pain-in-the-ass.


Cause even more problems by not following the rules and reading the assigned works? Well, if Mr. Hemingway insists…


And yet Hemingway would come to mean a great deal to me, and to how I have conducted the Spring Cleaning of my mind.


Broken Genius.


Hemingway was a man’s man, macho and strong, and it might have killed him, and though many point to his time in World War I, or to the multitudinous injuries he suffered there and throughout his life as leading to mental illness, particularly to the post-traumatic stress disorder he attempted to drown with the finest liquor in the Parisian streets of the Bohemian revolution, another lost soul of the lost generation, an artist among artists, and a disorder he failed to drown that would bubble to the surface again and again, between bar fights, great hunts, and Nobel prizes, and would lead to his eventual death, I still do not believe that wallowing in sadness led to his death anymore than an excessive amount of run-on sentences that were grammatically correct but seemed to go on for an eternity never stopped Gertrude Stein from praising his literary genius.


He was a man’s man, and men didn’t seek help. Men who fought their nightmares in the dark, and lived only talk about it if they won, and even then without the faintest trace of any vulnerability.


Hemingway, the last of the “the Great White Hunters,” had more than his fair share of skulls and tusks to adorn his study as proof. He was a boxer and played a role in two Word Wars. He won every battle except the one in his mind.


I always found it curious that every short bio on the back of every book he has ever written neglects to mention how he died. On my desk sits a copy of his Parisian memoir “A Moveable Feast,” and the final line of the back cover bio reads: “Known for his larger-than-life personality and his passions for bullfighting, fishing, and big-game hunting, he died in Ketchum, Idaho, on July 2, 1961.” The writer makes it sound as if he died peacefully after an adventurous life.


The reality is he ate both barrels of his favorite shotgun one morning on no particular occasion, just like his father before him.


Why?


The tragic toxicity of a damaged, broken genius now splattered onto the ceiling above the foyer, dripping down onto a soulless husk that would not rise again left no answers.


I have often wondered what he found on the other side of eternity.


The gift you have.


While there is no denying that Hemingway was suffering, and by all accounts was a sick man by the end, he was also a man who sought shock therapy in the place of just plain therapy, a tortured mind and soul suffering in the eternal, rugged, silence of masculinity.


Hemingway spent decades in a place that I have only known for a brief while, and one that I hope not to see again for a long, long time. I made the analogy in last month’s blog post about mentors, and of having imagined them farther on down the river of time.


I can still see that place when I close my eyes, yet something isn’t there now that was there once, years ago. I can stand now at the shores of eternity in peace. The last time I stood upon the banks, there was no boat, as it was not my time just yet.


You leave some part of yourself in that place. Once you go there with intent, an imprint of your soul remains on those shores until you return to take the ride.


Yet the difference between Hemingway and I (aside from his immensely superior skill as a writer), is that the former made one choice out of desperation and I made another; where he sought peace at the end of 12-gauge, I chose to walk away from the shores and seek it elsewhere.


It was not an easy decision, but it was the right one to make. You may not feel that you have anything left to offer, but if you have made it this far, then you most certainly do. And I will tell you from the experience of having stood on the edge more than once, the world may not have given you anything, but you have something to give to it. If you find yourself alone, be the person you wish someone had been to you to others.


It will leave you with a fulfilment and an unimaginable happiness that I cannot describe. Instead, I will leave you with a quote that offers more hope than I ever could.


Monica Garcia, founder and director of the Love Yourself Foundation, summed up the mission of LYF at a live-streamed Love Yourself Expression Event December of 2020 when discussing a near-death experience that motivated her decision to create LYF, saying:


“I didn’t know if there was going to be a tomorrow, and in that vulnerability, in that fear, in seeing death so close to me, I realized how I wasn’t living, all the things that came to my mind was not only the love that rooted me on this planet, but also just the unfinished business that I felt that I had and this is definitely part of it… this year had us all hit rock bottom in different ways and manifest differently for everybody but I just want you to know that if you’re here, you are your own hero, be proud that you made it this far, and be proud that for all of the [tragedies] and devastations, be proud that you went through all of that. And I want to take that moment before the end of the year to celebrate you. You’re here, and that’s what matters, and more likely than not, the gift that you have is the gift that we all need to experience.”


The gift that you have is the gift that we all need to experience.






About the Author:

Shane is a content and grant writer for the Love Yourself Foundation. Originally from New Jersey, he has lived in Las Vegas since 2013. A recent graduate of UNLV’s English and Professional Writing program, he is now putting his skills to work wherever they are needed. He also has a degree in Criminal Justice from the College of Southern Nevada, which he hopes explains his love of true crime novels and of all things horror. A constant reader and frequent writer, Shane has two novels currently in publication and a few more on the way, including a book of poetry due this fall.