Sunday, 2 May 2010

A Case of Priorities

I spent a year of my life doing a post graduate course in counselling and psychology, during which time I had to write a thesis on some practical studies I did in my own time. I worked in a special unit of a large hospital. Here I met people who had found life so difficult they had taken an overdose or made some attempt at taking their own life. In one year I interviewed  2635 people. Many of them were just one off events and the event itself brought people to a point of accepting help and moving on. For others it was more complex.

One person was Cathy; she took a cocktail of drugs and alcohol each day.A cocktail that would have laid out most normal people. She was living rough, so when it came time for her to depart the unit I offered her our spare room. She stayed there for some time, and the promise was there was to be no drugs. She managed it amazingly well and with the odd relapse was getting better and looking better. She stayed with us for a fair bit, until we managed to arrange a small rented flat. She was so happy; I will remember the pride on this young woman’s face until the day I die.

Two years later we left Edinburgh to do a year in Moniefieth. Before I left she was looking great and life was indeed looking hopeful and a long way from where it had all started. It was therefore heartbreaking to read the newspaper one morning and read that a girl of her name had been found murdered in the River Leith. It seems she had met up with an old friend and that was the start of the end.

I am sorry that this sounds like a very sad and negative story but the reality of life has not been all success stories. The one thing I have learned and I know Jerry has a similar feeling is that we need to learn from all things.

There is the story of the young man who went to the master and said, “Master I want you to help me find god and enlightenment.” The master grabbed him by the scruff of his shirt and dragged him over to the water and held his head under for a frightening length of time. When he pulled him out he said, “Now when your head was under the water what did you want most in life?” The young man replied, “Air.” “Right,” said the master, “go away and come back when you want god and enlightenment as much as you wanted air.”

We have to decide what we want and then we have to want it badly enough. If we want something badly enough nothing is impossible. Reading that paper that morning I learned that lesson and I have carried it with me to this day.

This is the way of the Tao.

This blog is linked to my other where I talk of the art used:- Rain Along The Shore

The two small paintings used on this blog are best viewed on my website where it is possible to enlarge them:   Seascape Paintings 


  1. "people who had found life so difficult"

    This is something that I can understand and relate to myself, Ralph. I get what brings a person to the point of suicide, truly, and it is heartbreaking. Not an act of selfishness, to my mind, but a despair so deep there is only one way to find relief. I am so sorry for this young girl but am thankful she had you as a friend and mentor.

  2. Life is precious and precarious, that is for sure! It is "the rest of your story" that is inspirational. I do believe than anything is possible and our President in a perfect example!
    You have to want it, work for it and not get distracted! This is true of politics, "success" by any definition, sobriety, love, anything!

  3. Wonderful post Ralph, I'm addicted to these fables and your interpretations of them.

    Very inspirational

  4. It is when standing that the edge of land and ocean that I feel the most grounded and level-headed about perspective. I am small, my problems even smaller, and the ocean is vast and grand. If I scream, the roar of the surf will drown the sound. If I write a detailed list of my grievances in the sand, the tide or a storm will wipe it clean.

    Your choice of coastal paintings is perfect for your story today.

  5. Lovely paintings and poignant story. My poor boss from a former job suffered greatly after her grown son committed suicide and left a wife and 3 little daughters. His mother never really got over this tragedy and told me one day she wanted to die. I knew it was a cry for help and I called her daughters and said .someone needs to intervene and now! The one said..Mom always talks like that and the other was just as unmoved until I told them I would call our mutual friend a police officer and get her the help she needed. This seemed to work on the one daughter who came and took her mother to the hospital. The good news is my boss is apparently better and has lived with this daughter for the last 3 years. The sad news is I never saw her I think that she resented my interference and the fact that I was the one who told her that fateful day years before that her son had not come to relieve me on the job and I couldn't get ahold of him. They found his body in the west desert the next day with a gunshot wound to the head. Maybe I was too close..but she was such a wonderful woman and my friend. But I am happy she is doing well.

  6. Ralph, I want to thank you for this post.
    I just e-mailed it to my son, Jett, and am praying your words will encourage him to keep trying and not give up.

  7. Ralph, I remember reading that when people stop abusing substances they MUST change friends. It is imperative. I wish she could have embraced that idea. It is so sad that she is gone--but I am glad she had some good times and clarity during her brief life. Beautiful paintings to accompany your words.