The Art of Suicide

I was lying on the table while Julia rubbed unscented oil all over my naked body.  The phrase, “The Art of Suicide” appeared in my head.  I thought it would be a good title for my blog but I didn’t know what to write after it. As the massage therapist rubbed me, I said to Schlomo,(not out loud), “Schlomo, what is the art of suicide?”  Schlomo is my friend who recently killed himself.  You can see his Yale Law School commencement speech to his class on YouTube.  It was a great speech — funny, smart, self-deprecating.  He beautifully made fun of the impotency of the American legal community.

As Julia rubbed unscented oil on my naked body, I had the following conversation with my friend, after he killed himself.

ME:  Schlomo, What is the art of suicide?

SCHLOMO:  The art of suicide is to know that it’s not wrong to kill yourself.  I know that now that I’m dead.  If I had known this before I died, I wouldn’t have killed myself because I wouldn’t have been so ashamed and I would have talked about it.

ME:  OK Schlomo, but what does this have to do with me?

SCHLOMO:  You are worried that when you go home, everyone will quit.

(Note:  I have a team of people who play with my autistic son at our house.  I train them and pay them to help my son grow.  At the time of this conversation with Schlomo, I was on vacation.  For several years up to that point, every time I went out of town, someone would quit.  Usually, I would be having a relaxing time somewhere beautiful, I’d check my email, and one of my emails would be someone who plays with my son quitting.)

Schlomo continued, “You’re scared that everyone will quit and you’ll have no one to take care of your son and you’ll get really depressed and kill yourself.  So, now you know, if you get really depressed and kill yourself, that would be OK.  It’s obvious when you are dead that suicide isn’t right or wrong, it just is–like anything else.  We all know that up here.  So, you won’t be so afraid if everybody quits and you won’t be so tense.  You can relax around them and then they’ll be freer and more creative with your kid and he’ll recover faster.  It’s not wrong if you wanted to kill yourself, even if you did it.  It’s fine.”

I cried on the table and asked Julia for a tissue.

Not judging suicide has really helped me be a better manager.  I came home being lighter, freer, clearer and much more effective with my team.  My son is flying!  Thank you, Schlomo.

(2nd Note:  If you’re freaking out now and thinking, “No!  If you say suicide isn’t wrong, everyone will go and kill themselves, including you.”  I believe it’s the opposite.  When I don’t judge killing myself as wrong, I’m less likely to kill myself.   When I’m not judging myself, I make clearer and more conscious choices and I’m happier.  So, if I have suicidal thoughts and I don’t judge that, I can notice it and choose to let it go.  I can choose not to do something, without thinking it’s wrong.  I don’t want to go to Canada, but I don’t think it’s wrong to go to Canada.)

 

19 Comments »

  1. Wow I realize how much I missed your blog. Thanks for continuously blowing me away. I love you soo much!Comment by Ellen Sandor — February 13, 2011 @ 1:19 pm
  2. First, I like Canada. Second, good to see another blog.Third, suicide is selfish.

    Comment by Eric — February 14, 2011 @ 11:29 am

  3. Glad to see your blog is back. I missed it.Brings to mind a family down the street from my childhood home, whose son who was in his late teens/early 20s (hard to remember details this many years later) who killed himself. The sorrow his family experienced must have been crushing. They kept their blinds closed and retreated from the world for about a year. And even after that his parents and sister seemed shattered.

    The problem with suicide is the people left behind. The person’s suffering is over but the suffering of their friends and family is intense. I can’t begin to understand the challenges you and Eric have every day but know that there are always people willing to listen and to try to lessen your load. Wish your friend had known that and reached out.

    Comment by Janet — February 14, 2011 @ 12:25 pm

  4. What I’m getting out of this blog is acceptance of what you feel that leads to NON destructive behavior and a happier you. Penny’s quirky writing style only celebrates art.Comment by Ellen Sandor — February 14, 2011 @ 12:51 pm
  5. Thanks for telling me about the blog, Penya. I love the combined innocence and wisdom in your writings. There is such a feeling of honesty and clarity, yet where mystery cannot be solved, you honor its presence and let it be. Paradoxically, leaving the mystery alone is part of the clarity. Glad you’re back. Much love to you and your family.Comment by Melissa — February 16, 2011 @ 6:41 pm
  6. Incredible! I love that you shared this story. It’s really powerful! You are really powerful…and an inspiration. Thank you Penya!Comment by Julie S — February 17, 2011 @ 4:16 pm
  7. Another powerful, yet shocking story. What is so amazing is your ability to bring home the power of making a reality what so many of us are afraid to confront. At first I thought, OMG..is Penya ok. Having reread it a second, then third time I came to think, WOW..if only we could all express our deepest feelings and open ourselves up unconditionally, we can all be “saved” from the pain of always being the “perfect” son, daughter, mother, sister, father, brother etc.Comment by eda davidman — February 24, 2011 @ 11:44 am
  8. I couldn’t agree with you more, negative judgement and ignorance is a killer. Recall cancer in the 50′s; alcoholism in the 60′s; AIDS in the 80′s and currently Bi-Polar which is shaping up to become another social, emotional and intellectual lepracy zone label which might prevent some people from getting treatment.Call me a cynic, I feel that ‘judging’ is part of our human nature as social creatures and functions to help us evolve, albiet, in a clumsy and painful manner. In order to judge you have to see. It is a beginning.

    All deaths take the largest toll on those left behind.

    I suppose if Schlomo had been polite enough to write a very detailed, easily comprehended, nonfinger-pointing farewell letter that explained everything in a neat little box using a polite font, well, I think more people might have been able to find a comfort zone for themselves, assuage personal guilt and personal fear, grieve for Schlomo and for themselves and then get back to the business of living.

    But if Schlomo had been able to write that letter, or had had that conversation, chances are he would still be here on earth with us, fumbling and bumbling forward with the rest of us.

    Suicide, cancer, fatal accidents, drug or alcohol addiction, Alziehmer’s — whether the exit strategy is acceptable or not does not change the most upsetting element of losing someone talented and loved to death.

    To me, the most upsetting aspect of death is DEATH.

    Death is inevitable, like it or not it is the end-game, it is non-negotiable, there are no do-overs, there is no appeals court — it is final in an unacceptably and almost incomprehensibly FINAL way.

    Because of this, I would like to thank Schlomo. His action, for whatever reason he had for it, forced all of us to look deeply into ourselves; to see each other; to ‘pause’ our daily routines for a moment in order to reconnect with love, beauty, knowledge, pain and grief — to reacknowledge life.

    I am selfish, too often I take life for granted, mine and yours.

    Schlomo, thank you, you gave me a renewed burst of life and in return I wish for you peace of mind and soul.

    Comment by Yoko Jablonski — February 24, 2011 @ 12:15 pm

  9. I see that you’re not afraid to look at scary things. I am also reading the word “suicide” as getting out of where you are. Are there other ways to get out of your present situation? Some kind of adjustment to the revolving helpers? A live in? I really don’t know the answer but I hear you calling out for a daily life change. Keep up the get-aways with massages. We’ll be there for your night away in March and again in April. Maybe take a weekend away with all 4 of you. Take one of the girls with you. Mix it up. You need to keep refreshed.
    I hope you’ll continue to write. Please put it on your list of priorities because you are such a good, honest writer.Comment by cheryl taub — February 24, 2011 @ 12:24 pm
  10. Suicide is not selfish. It’s such desperation that the person thinks he will be making life easier for the people he loves the most. It is such incredible despair that life becomes numb. My father-in-law committed suicide and I got pregnant a few months later. My baby was at risk. I was beyond angry that this man had killed himself and my baby was in danger and she didn’t have the choice to come or go. She is now 24 and fine.Comment by Melissa F — February 24, 2011 @ 1:46 pm
  11. PART ONE
    I couldn’t agree with you more, negative judgement and ignorance is a killer. Recall cancer in the 50’s; alcoholism in the 60’s; AIDS in the 80’s and currently Bi-Polar which is shaping up to become another social, emotional and intellectual lepracy zone label which might prevent some people from getting treatment.
    Call me a cynic, I feel that ‘judging’ is part of our human nature as social creatures and functions to help us evolve, albiet, in a clumsy and painful manner. In order to judge you have to see. It is a beginning.Comment by Yoko Jablonski — February 24, 2011 @ 4:56 pm
  12. PART TWOAll deaths take the largest toll on those left behind.

    Suicide, cancer, fatal accidents, drug or alcohol addiction, Alziehmer’s — whether the exit strategy is acceptable or not does not change the most upsetting element of losing someone talented and loved to death — the loss is the tragedy.

    Comment by Yoko Jablonski — February 24, 2011 @ 5:14 pm

  13. Suicide is not right. Canada is okay cuz my kids are Canadian. I think that YOU, Penya are very very cool. And strong. Really strong and amazing. I admire you. My earlier comment is the first time I’ve ever commented on a blog. You don’t know me, I’m your mom’s friend. I met you at Julia’s film at Siskel. I hope to actually get to talk to you sometime.Comment by Melissa F — February 24, 2011 @ 5:21 pm
  14. PART THREE
    I suppose if Schlomo had been polite enough to write a very detailed, easily comprehended, nonfinger-pointing farewell letter that explained everything in a neat little box using a polite font, well, I think more people might have been able to find a comfort zone for themselves, assuage personal guilt and personal fear, grieve for Schlomo and for themselves and then get back to the business of living.
    But if Schlomo had been able to write that letter, or had had that conversation, chances are he would still be here on earth with us, fumbling and bumbling forward with the rest of us.Comment by Yoko Jablonski — February 24, 2011 @ 5:24 pm
  15. PART FOUR
    To me, the most upsetting aspect of death is DEATH.Death is inevitable, like it or not it is the end-game, it is non-negotiable, there are no do-overs, there is no appeals court — it is final in an unacceptably and almost incomprehensibly FINAL way.

    Further, I am selfish and simple. I too often take life for granted, mine and yours.

    Comment by Yoko Jablonski — February 24, 2011 @ 5:27 pm

  16. PART FIVE
    Because of this, I would like to thank Schlomo. His action, for whatever reason he had for it, forced all of us to look deeply into ourselves; to see each other; to ‘pause’ our daily routines for a moment in order to reconnect with love, beauty, knowledge, pain and grief — to reacknowledge life.So, Schlomo, I thank you. You gave me a renewed burst of life and in return I wish for you peace of mind and soul.
    You have moved on but remain alive in our hearts.

    Comment by Yoko Jablonski — February 24, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

  17. I missed your blog and am so glad you’ve added another post. I am truly mystified by suicide. I spend so much time worrying about ‘bad’ things happening to me or my family that I can’t imagine inviting them in. It’s even worse when you know that person made a genuine contribution to society as he did. But I do believe that you can learn from other’s actions – the good, the bad and the ugly. I’m glad that his legacy touched you in a positive way. I think that’s something we’d all like to leave behind.Comment by Julie Sarah — March 6, 2011 @ 4:47 pm
  18. No matter how you write it, the word DEATH, or death, or whatever, has such an onerous connotation…
    Maybe one day we will learn to really celibrate it…
    But for now, tears seem to be the best answer..You, dear girl, have a great, soul-filled writing style. Thanks for your thoughts, and to your parents for giving me the link to your intriguing blog.

    Comment by Peter Pettler — August 12, 2012 @ 10:18 pm

  19. peter, thanks for you wonderful commentComment by SiteAdmin — August 13, 2012 @ 8:25 pm

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