Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Words of Strangers

"Finally, caught up with you!" he says, laughing, as he rollerblades by.

Through panted breaths, I laugh with him, squinting under the brilliant azure of the afternoon sky.

Swish. Swish. Swish. Arms swinging smoothly. Then he is gone, lost in the distance. The sun obscuring my vision.

He was being kind. Yesterday, I went for my first run of the spring season. I am not a natural runner under the best of conditions, so the first time is always really tough for me. I was running really slow, and labouring pretty hard when he passed me. I was ready to quit.

His words of encouragement spurred me on. I pushed on for a few extra painful minutes, before stopping satisfied and proud of myself.

It reminded me of something that happened to this guy I knew a few years ago. I wouldn't call him a friend now, but he was then. He was a friend in the way that people who enable each other are friends. We partied pretty hard together. He was part of a group of friends on a downward spiral. A few of us made the choice to stop and move forward. A few of us didn't. They are lost forever.

Back then, it was just about the party. We were dabbling, being rebellious, having fun. Except him. He was a hard case. There was a darkness and sadness in him that we couldn't touch. He was always in a drug-fuelled state of depression or anger, running desperately from himself. At one point, he sunk so low, that he decided to kill himself. The only thing that stopped him, were the words of a stranger.

He walked into a convenience store to buy smokes, and the clerk behind the counter looked at him, and said, "today, the sun shines only for you." I don't know why he said this. Perhaps he could sense his despair.

Words. They make a difference.


Furtheron said...

Frightening! What happened to your friend happened to me!

I was so low a couple of years ago – I couldn’t stop as you say I was in the self destruction spiral that you can get to. It had taken me 25 years of alcohol abuse as one of those “functioning alcoholics” (I find that phrase hysterical now).

One day I decided to end it all I was in such a state unable to understand why I couldn’t stop and couldn’t be without it. Hell! I drove to a cliff I knew where someone had recently died. When I got there I stood on the top looking down and then out to sea – I wanted to jump but couldn’t. Same as stopping drinking.

This old lady walked past with her dog “Lovely day isn’t it” she said. WHAT! It was one my worst days ever. But it shook me out of my depression for that moment and I went home. In about 3 weeks I took (too date) my last drink and finally asked someone for help.

EM said...

I'll remember your post when I'm laboring for breath on my next run.

I've been in that dark place before, and without the love and encouraging words of a dear friend, I may have made the stupidest and most unalterable choice of my life. Easier said than done, but when faced with difficulty, I just try to remember that "this too shall pass".

hattigrace said...

Life and death IS in the power of the tongue. Thank you for your stories that so well illustrate the Proverb.

I will be more careful with my speech. . . giving out words of life and hope. Certainly they have been cool water in the deserts of my life, too.

My mantra is "just don't quit" about a new endeavor. I keep saying those words to me and, surprise, I am listening!!!!

David said...

So true. Words can make or break your day. It's weird they posess that much power, but they do. It's like what Thumper says in Bambi: "If you can't say something nice...don't say nothing at all."

P.S. Why were you running?

May said...

Wise words by the convenience store guy! How did he know? That's beautiful what he said. Funny how life is, huh? The kindest words can sometimes come from mere strangers. Cruelest treatment from those you hold dear. Or that the direction of our lives can change in a split second. Life is funny.

Shellz said...

Furtheron - I admire your strength and courage. Staying straight and facing life head on is the hardest thing of all.

Em - I'm glad you're still with us. Even though we haven't met in person, I know that you brighten every space you grace.

Hattigrace - What a wonderful way of talking to yourself! I fear that we spend more time criticizing ourselves than being kind to ourselves. Have you read anything by Louise Hay by chance?

David - You crack me up. I always look forward to your posts and comments. I was running cuz I have to lose some of that winter hibernation flab!! Plus it was a BEAUTIFUL day outside!

May - It's true. Sometimes we are the meanest to the people we love the most. I think it's cuz we can't believe that they love us, so we like to test it somehow. But really, we are all infinitely lovable.

I love you May! ;)

Amanda Rose said...

Wow. That's really powerful. I have a firm belief that words are so distinctly powerful and can change you so much. I get upset with myself when I hold back and don't say the things I should. I am glad your friend didn't kill himself and I am sorry that the two of you could not have grown away from that phase together. I know that kind words from strangers and friends have helped me through some of the toughest times in my life. I even look forward to your kind words and encouragement even though you have never met me. Thank you for that and for reminding me when I am down to encourage myself. That means a lot. Thank you Shellz.

Shellz said...

Amanda - That is so sweet of you to say. It's such a gift when someone allows you to contribute to their life, so thank YOU for that!