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  • The Laughing Heart
    by Charles Bukowski

    your life is your life
    don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
    be on the watch.
    there are ways out.
    there is a light somewhere.
    it may not be much light but
    it beats the darkness.
    be on the watch.
    the gods will offer you chances.
    know them.
    take them.
    you can’t beat death but
    you can beat death in life, sometimes.
    and the more often you learn to do it,
    the more light there will be.
    your life is your life.
    know it while you have it.
    you are marvelous
    the gods wait to delight
    in you.

    I owe my life to a Great Blue Heron. There are other entities, human and not, that I owe my life to but not to the extent that I owe that Heron.

    In 2000, my life crashed down around my ears. Not for the first time and probably not for the last but so utterly that I was not destined to survive. I've suffered most of my life with chronic depression and anxiety. While the depression was more or less being managed, the anxiety had never been addressed. My marriage was foundering, I was in a job that was life and ego-destroying, I was still recovering from a miscarriage. I had never recovered from the deaths of my birth father and my step-Dad within weeks of each other. I was in need of real exploration of my life and the WHYs of who I was but was too chicken to try it.

    When I finally had reached the breaking point at work and quit (without telling my husband I was going to) the house of cards started falling.

    I stopped taking my anti-depressants (at the insistence of my husband "No one in MY family takes tranquilizers!) and spiraled downwards. I held things together when my husband arrived home and the moment he left, I crumbled. My friends and family knew there was something terribly, terribly wrong but I managed to hide it pretty well from him.

    I was unable to take care of the most basic tasks. My mind raced, filled with worries, doubts, uncompleted tasks, how terrible I was, how bad I was.... over and over and over...

    My mother, fearing that she was losing me, took me off to visit my brother near Georgian Bay. I tried to let things go. I really did but it only got worse.

    I really don't recommend suicide as a way of straightening out your life.... But that's what worked for me.

    Most people who attempt suicide will tell you that you reach a moment of calm where you realize that the only solution to stop everything is to take that step. Experts will tell you that suicides will pick a place or a method to die that they believe they deserve. Not in a romantic way... In an "this is all I am worth", way.

    In my case, I "deserved" to be in a place so remote and forlorn that I would never be found and would never be capable of walking out of. I chose a forest well off a remote highway, dark and cold. I had gotten the pills I needed, anti-nausea medication so I wouldn't throw it all up, and plenty of water. I headed out really early in the morning, just after my brother left for work.

    This is where Serendipity rears its beautiful head...

    I had reached the area where I was planning to stop, leave the car, and head out across fields to the woods I had chosen. The woods were on my right. Suddenly, on my left, I caught a glimpse of something I hadn't noticed on the several trips I had made down this road. Something sparkly caught my eye. It was a stream that twisted away from the highway and around behind a row of trees. On impulse, I swung off the highway, down the short gravel drive and came to stop just to the left of the stream. The early morning sun was reflecting off the fast moving water and filtering through the low-hanging branches. And standing ankle-deep in the water was the largest Great Blue Heron I have ever seen in my life. He (She?) was standing on one leg, the other tucked up under him. I don't know how tall he was but in my head, he was 6 feet tall... He stood there, staring at me over his long beak. I sat there behind the wheel staring at him. We stared at each other for a minute or so and then he spread his wings and swooped gracefully and gently over the car and around the bend of the stream and was gone.

    I'd like to say that I simply turned the car around and headed back home but I didn't. Instead, I decided that the beautiful glade right beside the highway was "where I deserved to die." I took my pills, settled down in the back seat with a book and drifted off to sleep.

    Sometime later, I woke up... groggily, I realized that I had "failed"and like a drunk driver, dragged myself into the front seat and tried to drive home.

    Thankfully, I managed only to back into a culvert, knocked myself out and was found shortly after by a couple in a passing car. Police and ambulances were called, I spent a day in the hospital, got the medication I needed, and was sent home.

    My marriage ended and after a year, I was able to find a therapist who was able to help me negotiate my brain and find out why I am who I am.

    While I know that I will always have to be aware of the signs that things are slipping, I know I will always be on medication, but I also know that there is help, that people care, and that I need to be proactive in my own mental health.

    The photo? The tattoo on my right shoulder which incorporates the spirits of the Great Blues Heron and myself. Serendipity.
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