Ladies and gentlemen and assorted lifeforms, I hope you will forgive me as I briefly step into the darkness for today’s essay. The subject matter will take us down a road that some may find uncomfortable, even unpleasant. If you would be so groovy as to indulge me, I think you’ll find that the result will be well worth the slight detour.
As a practitioner of linguistic legerdemain, I have found myself acutely sensitive to the words and phrases people use in their daily lives, often without thought as to their true meaning or implication.
Don’t believe me? Consider the expression “keep your eyes peeled.” Precisely how one would accomplish such a crime against optometry, not to mention what benefit it could have to one tasked with such an endeavour, is frankly beyond the understanding of this correspondent.
Anyway, a commonly-used (but frankly misunderstood) expression that has drifted into my sphere of interest is one that I am ashamed to admit I have used on many an occasion:
“I have no choice.”
The implication here is obvious. The phrase indicates that a person has no alternative in a given situation. It carries a tremendous amount of baggage, all of it negative.
Occasionally, the sentiment is expressed in the form of a query:
“What choice do I have?”
Not only is it usually meant to be rhetorical, but this “question” is more heavily loaded than a Philadelphia hoagie.
We often see such a situation as a “no-win scenario.” The negativity feeds on itself, creating a seemingly inescapable feedback loop of hopelessness and despair.
It’s quite an evocative expression. It’s also fundamentally flawed.
You see dudes and dudettes, there is ALWAYS a choice. The trouble is, we either cannot think of alternatives in the moment and assume there are none, or the options available seem so negative that we can barely conceive of the possibility.
The point is, there ARE options, whether we realize it or not.
Consider this: Every moment of your life, you make the choice of whether or not to continue living. You may not be consciously aware of it, but you do.
That ultimate choice between existence and non-existence is open to each of us at every moment. I’m happy to say that for the majority of us the choice is an easy one, even an unconscious one.
HOWEVER IT IS A CHOICE.
It’s a choice that’s so profound, even the Bard himself made it a key part of the single most well known (and most misunderstood) quote in English literature:
“To be, or not to be.”
Yes ladies and gentlebeings, that oft-cited inquiry by the Prince of Denmark was in fact a lament about life itself. “Should I live or die?”
Now before I take another step along this road of metaphorical eggshells let me say this: I am in no way making light of the circumstances that cause someone to take their own life. It is, as I think you will agree, an option that comes from a very dark place, and one that I hope none of you ever have to face.
If we have control over that most profound of decisions, what other options exist that we simply cannot see at the moment?
Consider the possibilities.
Note: If you have found yourself in a position where suicide has become a consideration, please… reach out. Let someone know. There is no shame in asking for help when you find yourself in dark places. You should never walk through such darkness alone and the truth is, you don’t have to.