“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
-Robin Williams, Dead Poet’s Society
I don’t think anyone was expecting a breaking news update yesterday announcing Robin Williams had died of an apparent suicide.
He struggled with drug and alcohol addictions and had been battling depression lately. Still, I doubt even those closest to him truly saw this coming.
All of us have likely been affected by suicide in one way or another. Either we’ve lost someone dear to us, almost lost them, or had those awful thoughts ourselves. If that last one is you, I hope you’re in a better place now and I’m proud of you for getting through that. If you’d like to share your story, please let us know. If you’re still having those thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Having the Conversations While You Can
Some time ago my Mom and I were discussing a tragedy in the news. At one point, she asked me, “If you ever felt that bad, would you tell me or get help?” We’re very close, and there are no shortages of tragedies in the news to bring about this kind of conversation, but it made me realize we hadn’t had this honest conversation yet, while we can.
The whole point of an estate plan is to clearly convey your wishes once you’re gone. People often avoid this topic because it’s rarely an enjoyable or comfortable one. But as we know, it’s the honest conversations that are not only the toughest to have, but the most necessary.
You likely understand the importance of an estate plan, but have you ever thought about a tragedy avoidance plan?
I filled my Mom in on mine. I decided years ago if life ever got too much to handle and I started thinking suicidal thoughts, I’d pack a small bag, head to the airport, and buy a one way ticket to Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, or similar. I’d leave a paper note somewhere but I’d likely be totally unreachable otherwise. I’d disconnect from all electronic communication and totally shut out the world that brought me to that dark place.
I’d like to think I’d eventually get a job in a restaurant, cafe, or something low stress and hopefully even fun. I told her when the time is right I’d contact her (and other loved ones) and probably eventually come home (unless I discover a hidden talent as a surfer chick).
I haven’t had to implement this plan. But since I came up with it many years before she asked, there have been times where it’s felt like my life was falling apart around me, I couldn’t do anything right, and I wasn’t seeing a hell of a lot of light at the end of the tunnel. Before those thoughts even turned a dark gray, though, knowing that my true worst-case scenario is a tropical beach without the frustrations of day-to-day life always helps put things in perspective.
And no, this isn’t a tragedy avoidance plan for the wealthy (thankfully, since I’m not). While I advocate for prudent financial decision making, my life is worth far more than some outstanding credit card debt if I were truly in that dark of a place and had otherwise run out of money.
What’s Your Tragedy Avoidance Plan?
There are so many situations in life where we have no idea how we’ll react until we find ourselves right in the middle. But that’s the point of a plan. It lets us know the actions we can take in case we don’t otherwise know what to do or can’t come up with anything better on the spot. Plans can be changed and updated, but they can’t provide guidance if they don’t exist.
Take some time to consider your tragedy avoidance plan. If you’re up for it, we’d love to hear it in the comments. Either way, share it with those closest to you and ask them what theirs is.
We never know when it’ll feel like the world is conspiring against us, but one of the best ways we can fight back is by knowing in advance that it’s not going to win.
R.I.P Robin Williams (1951-2014)
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