This past weekend, I learned that the founder of For Brown Girls, Karyn Washington, died. She is said to have committed suicide. Whenever I come across a story of suicide or relating to suicide, I can’t help but wonder: How alone do you have to feel in a world to see taking one’s life as a solution? For moral, cultural, religious reasons I suppose, I can’t comprehend a justification for a person of sound mind, committing suicide. But compassion I do feel, and I feel enough, to always advocate.
We are told life is precious and indeed it is – so many people’s lives end too soon. Even in great suffering, many times we are told to hold on for dear life; that life above all matters. “Where there is life, there is hope.” I believe it. But I also know that any burdens that I have in my lifetime have been or likely will be shouldered by those who love me the most. Even when I have felt alone, I have known in the depths of my soul that I am not alone. Faith has provided me answers in the form of family and friends who give me love and hope. But what about those who don’t know? What about those who suffer in silence and feel as if they have no recourse?
That we all suffer in silence is something that is a given, especially in this part of the world where individualism reigns. For those of us who come from more communal backgrounds, I think it’s the hardest part of life here. I say this not as a critique because I have made good friendships that feel like family. Yet I often think of many people here as lonesome and lonely, and not necessarily by choice but because of the way things are. It’s a paradox of sorts, I think. As humans we need others, yet in some places we choose to live as if we don’t.
And we’ve all been there. Put on smiles and gone through days, perhaps weeks, where everything was so miserably, horribly wrong. We’ve said we were fine when we weren’t; we’ve pretended that life is good when it isn’t. I think these days even the words, “How are you?” have become meaningless; just another way to say, “Hello” and without much concern. Sometimes when I’m riding the train or walking on the sidewalk or grocery shopping, I’ll stop to notice the people around me, and I’ll wonder if they are okay. I’ll wonder what they’re thinking about, the thoughts that trouble their days, and their reasons to be happy or sad. On my worst days, all I’ll do is wonder. On my best days, I’ll give them a smile and try to be kind because far too many people suffer in silence.
We try to be strong because we think we have to be all the time. We wonder what good would come of telling others about the worries that we face; the demons that we fight. But I don’t think we were meant to face this world alone; I think we were meant to face it together. I think we ought to shoulder each other’s burdens – to do what we can for others, when we can. This is how we keep alive, and this is how we keep each other alive. Ever since I learned, “The world is unevenly cruel,” I repeat it often to put my own pains and worries in context, to neither embellish nor ignore them. But to see them for what they are. And I ask others to do the same.
But when life has made your silent suffering so exhausting, so painful, so full of darkness, I beg you break the silence. I don’t know what it feels like to truly believe that one is alone in the world. But I do know that screaming, crying, and anger is better than a silent suffering that kills the soul, perhaps long before it kills the body. I do know that life is meaningful even when one is in pain, and maybe especially then. And perhaps that’s why love and kindness are so important as we pass each other as strangers in this world – to remind each other that we are here together, that we are each other’s keepers. And to look in the eye of the stranger who may be suffering in silence and in your own way let them know, “You and I belong together. You and I are not alone.” And maybe in those moments, we save others; maybe in those moments, we save ourselves.