I was once happy for a year.

With the exception of one year I've always put myself “out there.” And, except for that time, I've mostly been in enough emotional or physical discomfort to wish I were dead.

I like to see opportunities to make a difference. Someone's walking, I'll offer a ride. Someone hurts, maybe I have the right pill. Someone's sad maybe I can comfort. People need affordable homes, maybe I can build some. I fail far more than I succeed. The person I offer a ride to is just as likely to think I'm a lecher or worse. The woman I offer a Midol to may be ashamed that I noticed her menstrual cramps. Most of my business ideas failed or barely worked.

Back to my happy time. Finally I got one business to work. As that business grew, I persuaded my entire family as well as some friends to invest in it. Things were going really, really well and I still hated every day because all I could think of was all the ways I was going to mess it up and all the people that would disappoint.

Then the great bird of fate took a giant dump. As bird shit sometimes does, it landed on us by chance. We had done nothing wrong. The business was fine, providing jobs and service to the community. Still, we were going DOWN. There seemed to be nothing we could do to alter the outcome. A judge and jury would decide our fate, but that would be years in the future.

We decided that we'd take the entire hit on ourselves so family and friends would not be hurt. That felt good, but doing so would take everything we possessed. We would start again.

While we waited there was no reason to start anything new, as it would likely be taken from us. There was little reason to care for the old as all that was likely to be taken. So, for an entire year there was nothing to “put myself out there” on. I just lived with the philosophy that we were going to be broke, bankrupt, homeless and jobless soon, so nothing that we did today mattered. I was so humbled that I quit thinking I could help others. I didn't see the broken down car. I didn't see the bruise on the lady's arm. I didn't notice the guy fighting to load a sofa on his truck. I just lived. Quietly and humbly.

And, for that year, for the first time in my life, I felt happy, and did not dream of death.

Eventually I came up with a plan, but everyone said it was a horrible idea and would only make things worse. I put myself “out there” once again. And did the best I could with my idea despite all the self-doubt and criticism from others. Soon I dreamed of bridges, cliffs, knives, poisons, car crashes, nooses, fires, explosions, exit bags and more. Anything rather than face another day of almost hopeless toil that was almost certain to let everyone down.

I was right. The plan worked. We were totally vindicated, and everything was restored and then I was the “hero,” for a moment. And even that moment sucked because I knew I could have done better.

I rested for a few weeks then found another hopeless project, dug into it and hated myself once again.

So, I know what I need to do if I want to be happy and free of suicide thoughts. All I need to do is give up the struggle. Quit trying to make a difference. Quit caring. Accept fate. Stop putting myself out there. And, most especially quit noticing other people's needs and offering to get involved.

I also learned that it's not the fear of what's going to happen to me that drives me to hate myself. When failure looked certain, I was happy, so I don't have to “succeed” to be happy. It's the fear of letting others down. I think “you stuck your neck out and chose this crazy risk, if you fuck it up, everyone else is going to suffer.” . . . Then I wish I were dead.

If I'm doing good things for others, living my life as best I can in pursuit of a higher moral good, trying to do right as best I understand it, trying to go a bit beyond, and trying to see and help others, is it really so bad that the pressure I put on myself often makes me dread getting out of bed? Is it really so wrong to do my best today while comforting myself with knowing I can jump off a cliff tomorrow?

If I know how to be happy and choose to struggle and hurt instead, am I wrong?

Next time I see a woman in heels trudging through the sand on a desert road shoulder, should I stop and offer a ride in hopes of helping (my natural response), or should I just keep on driving, knowing that if I stop she's most likely going to bring some kind of drama and pain on me? After all, she would not be there in heels unless something bad were going on in her life.

Next time a young waitress winces and slings a plate onto the table should I dock her tip, pretend I didn't notice, or offer her a Midol for her cramps? (Knowing how awkward that could be if my reading was wrong . . . and even if it was right).

Should I sell my business, retire and live in comfort if it means my employees and customers will not likely be as well treated as they are now?

Should I chew myself up thinking of essays that might help others even when I know they will most likely never be read and knowing that if they are read I will most likely be mocked, corrected, insulted or ostracized?

Should I care for an old man with Alzheimer's knowing that I will most likely hate myself when I inevitably get frustrated? Should I care for him knowing that he will walk in 4 times during a short essay like this to break my train of thought?

Should I try to be happy? Or is it enough that I try to be useful?

Whom should I be?