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Accepting Mark

Until my discovery of Vipassana, my self-pitying and shredded thoughts kept me teetering on an emotional see-saw. Sometimes, I pictured a garden of radiant roses, like the one I had in LA, or better yet, of an unimaginable haven where my psyche wouldn’t recognize anything, including itself. Other times, I desired to plunge deeper into the bitter and beguiling hell well of a mental state I had fallen into — as a sweet can tempt and enslave, so can a spice. Were it not for the appearance of this young maiden from Budapest or the disability benefits I had begun receiving, I might not have tried to run from my looming demise. Contrarily, some say imprudent concepts of money and/or love can lead to the death of one’s soul or more. 

That stance was made too real when Mark, a dear friend of mine and, at one time, a highly acclaimed and sought-after cinematographer, sent a bullet through his quick and beautiful mind. As a consequence of his career tanking, the tax dilemmas he couldn’t seem to untangle, his girlfriend leaving, his filing for bankruptcy, and his turning to heroin for help, he penned the ending to the drip of torture he bore, with a gun.

Months before I learned of his suicide, he and I talked in my car after parking in front of a moonlit Ocean and his Manhattan Beach house. We had just returned from seeing the premiere of a Jim Carey movie. Nonetheless, the ashen cloud of his heavy heart masked the night’s light. Under the sober waves of the Pacific, I watched and listened to an exceptional wit and soul, my friend, sink. Delicately, I posed a few questions about how and why he was feeling so down. Mark was ready to open up. He confessed his failures had poisoned his mind and, like talons, tore into the skin of his identity. I listened intently as he began to share details of how his career had collapsed and how that caused a line of Dominos to fall. Consumed with the rise of our businesses, my partner and I had lost touch with Mark for quite a while. We hadn’t a speck of insight about his situation, his sadness, until then. Generally, people aren’t bashful when announcing their wins to the world. Conversely, their worries and woes are kept private, undercover, burning in the chamber of emotionally aching lungs.

Tears began welling up in his open but rather dazed eyes as I recited a long list of his accomplishments. I tried to mix a convincing cocktail of hope and fact with “How can you see yourself as unsuccessful?” He said, “I don’t. I know what I have done and tried to do. I take responsibility for the sloppy parts of my life, the ups and the downs. But I am almost 50. Some things I can’t accept, I just can’t bear anymore.” Two days before, he told his father he had received notice that his house would soon be foreclosed and that he had two months from the date of the letter to vacate it. His father replied, “How could you fail me like this?”

I walked Mark to his home’s front door. We gave each other a firm handshake and a hug. Though I drove away with a breeze of hope, it would be the last time I saw him. A year later, my partner and I were driving to an appointment when we received a call about Mark. The person said he was found on his bed and that he had shot his brain out as a result of becoming addicted to heroin; neither culture, ideologies, religion, philosophy, commerce, communication, nor Mark’s father was included in the reasoning. Surprisingly, since he became unreachable after that night we shared at the movies, we were told he had been living with other heroin junkies only two miles away from my house. If I had only known. Yes, I was numbed by the news; however, I didn’t even stop on the road or anytime afterward to decently comprehend and mourn the loss, his loss, the world’s loss. There were meetings to attend. There were theme parks in Asia to design. My wings were unclipped. Waiting to be chased and seized was success. 

Several years later, after my depression kicked into undeniable gear, I better understood the pain of an anguished and unstable identity and why my friend, like a few others, resorted to relief so abruptly. Life’s stories vary, unlike its integral theme of acceptance. 

After writing the previous sentence, I checked my calendar to confirm the date when he died. It was on the same day and month as today: Monday, June 17. But indeed, that, too, is just another dot or drop of coincidence that fills each bucket of life to the brim, the sort that people customarily chuckle at and shrug off, saying, “How about that!”

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