Theresa Catharina de Góes Campos


“Tomorrow”, she said to herself, “I’ll get a prescription for tranquilizers. I’ll make sure that I have enough. I’ll set a convention date for my death…… one not to upset the least, my family weekly schedule………….”

Ann was working hard on the idea of committing suicide and trying a very cool approach. She thought that her past failures resulted from allowing too many feelings to get into her decision-making process. But striving to be objective did not hide the basic questions which so deeply troubled her.

Ann was just too tired of hurting and being hurt by other people. She was also sick of herself for compromising with principles when deep down knowing her attitude should have been to stand up and be counted among the other few who felt the same uneasiness.

At age 39, the full time training assistant, wife and mother of two boys, once in a while would feel guilty about the rat race she had joined a long time ago.

Physically and emotionally exhausted, Ann had run out of excuses. “ There is no doubt in my mind – I just can’t face everyday life any longer. What for? Why so much struggling for so little? Work, work, work all the time. All kinds of noises and pressures.”

Looking back, it seemed unbearable not to find real improvement on her personal condition. Was she helping the family substantially or not? Why so many worries with the monthly bills?

Once, realizing she was overworked, Ann dared to mention about hiring some help with the household chores. Jim did turn the TV off in disbelief – “You are dreaming! Wake up, Madam. We are not rich!”

Work, work, work. Endless, boring groceries buying. Or rushing to choose more things to own, keep, insure or simply to talk about. No break, no relaxation. Was this all that life had to offer women like herself?

No faith or hope, just anger….. Maybe a hidden desire to experience more than the same routine, with no perspective of growth/change. Most important of all to a human being like Ann: no time to care for someone else.

If you cannot care for someone other than yourself ….. life is not worth living indeed.

No time for love either. Love has a place of its own. It takes time. It demands patience. One cannot rush love. Or confine it to coffee breaks.

No one to be a friend to. “Nobody with time to spare to be my friend! I just can’t endure living without friendship. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry pointed out in his famous book “The Little Prince”, people got used to buy everything ready from the stores. But one cannot get a friend from a department store.”

Suddenly, Ann stopped crying inside. For a few minutes, she almost felt tears would bless her eyes at last, after a decade of no display of emotion. Nothing happened, though.

Half an hour later, Jim and the boys returned from the hockey practice which usually would take place every Saturday. The three of them were in a jolly mood, laughing, exchanging silly jokes. “ The children will be in good hands,” Ann reassured herself.

Would she stand any chance to be missed at all? Would her absence have some meaning only if she had a daughter?

Once more, like it occurred a hundred times before, Ann longed for the girl she never conceived.

Would she care for life, if things had been different?

Would she have a friend, if Jim had given her another chance , instead of demanding: “No third pregnancy! And no sleeping together until you have a hysterectomy.”

Ann’s hands did show much nervousness but her head was going crazy, while she recalled Jim’s remark: “There are already too many girls in the world. Grow up, Ann. Enjoy the two boy we have.”

“Ann, what are you up to now? The meat is burning!”

She did manage to save the dinner that Saturday, despite her private turmoil.

Would she manage to die?

“Oh, what a big fool I am!” Ann was now very close to screaming. Surprisingly, she could not deny to herself that she meant: “Will I manage to survive?”

“I am a coward”, she would be repeating for the next days, while dragging herself from home to the office and then back to the family routine.

A few weeks earlier, Ann was under the impression that she had finally liberated herself from life. She could feel a determination toward suicide. Ann got a strong hint that her mind was made up and nothing would change such decision. Ann was relieved. Really?

She did have a small problem. Whether psychologists would name it an instinct for survival, or contradiction, or doubt, Ann could not define it. She knew the headaches were getting worse. The more Ann planned a date to die, the more she experienced a great inner controversy. It was like dealing with two very different people, striving to achieve opposite goals, walking not in the same direction. Both fighting like cat and dog. “Their” endless discussions were driving Ann crazy. Were they her enemies? Allies? Were the concerned, thoughtful friends to whom she had not been formally introduced? Someone did seem to care, after all.

In disbelief, her body and soul aching, Ann slowly realized that she had a true friend inside herself. Which one? The voice on the campaign trail for complete peace and total absence of suffering? Or the one to hold her death plans to a virtual standstill?

Something very powerful inside Ann was pushing her away from her deadline. “Nonsense”, she would whisper, struggling with the agony of everyday choices. “I am too weak. I am lonely. I don’t care any more for anything or anyone anywhere.”

“Please stop harassing me, strange voice. I just want to die. Some people are lucky: they get killed one way or the other. But I have no luck, so …… I must do it myself. I am not the only one to give up. Suicides are on fashion nowadays. It is no big deal. People of all ages and backgrounds choose this solution to their problems. Their number is on the increase. Even among the very young.”

“If life is not pleasant to children, why should it be to me? If many kids find this mad world unbearable, why should I crawl and cry until the end? Why should I be forced to keep searching for ideals never to be achieved anyway? Why to search for love when there is no such thing? Why to keep longing for someone to care when nobody cares? Why to go on trying to reach others ….. when people really don’t want to be touched, moved or involved? There is only selfishness around me, so … we are all in the path of self-destruction. I refuse to let myself die slowly in acute pain and distress. Considering the disturbing times we are living in, euthanasia seems a heavenly choice. Suicide too (for me, at least).”

Ann drove the boys to the hockey practice the following Saturday. Jim was working on a special project, hoping for a promotion and a substantial salary increase. He didn’t go to the office, but no one would think he stayed home either.

Jim’s silence has always bothered his wife, who felt as being a victim of segregation in her own territory. Ann found it hard to admit the truth: she still hoped for a different weekend, when the family would get together to enjoy and love each other. Every time such aspiration did not turn into reality, her frustration would take its toll. Depressed, disappointed, Ann became increasingly irritable and tense.

To judge others as phoney people is unpleasant… though one can live with it. The unbearable situation occurs when one realizes he/she has became a “phoney” too. This was the essence of Ann’s profound shame of herself.: the changes which had taken place, not only in her life but specially the ones in her heart.

She remembered with fondness her childhood and adolescence. The loving way she was brought up had later taken a sharp turn. How to reconcile her family atmosphere of yesterday with the rush-bump-push and pull of her present life? It seemed impossible to her to establish any kind of fair comparison between the togetherness experienced in the past and the lonely independence of family members in today’s society.

As a child, Ann enjoyed her Mother’s total devotion to her loved ones as an automatic womanhood behavior. Growing up brought a striking contrast. Attitudes were no more an extension of words. Principles were not expressed or followed up by coherent actions. Communities changed because people living there undertook a practical translation of technology by adopting a new set of values.

Would Ann let her parents take a look deep into herself? Would she let her Mother see what her daughter was like now, at home as well as at the office? Would Ann’s Mother then cry in disbelief and sympathy beside her daughter, holding her again like she used to, at bedtime? Ann had to admit that she didn’t want to hear the answers.

Ah, the tragedy of Ann’s life: too many fundamental questions, either impossible to answer or carrying the stigma of solutions she didn’t have the strength to face without breaking down.

-‘Mommy, I can’t wear this shirt….. two buttons are missing!” nine year old Carl said to Ann.

- “Sorry, Carl. I noticed it yesterday. I have been very busy at work. Let’s try another shirt. How about the one with the smiling face printed on the pocket?”

-“No! That’s too childish! It reads: “Love me.” Give me the one with the big Superman picture.”

Carl’s brother had gone earlier to school with a neighbor. Jim would be up in half an hour. By then, Ann would be dropping Carl for his first morning class.

Ann’s Daddy would probably have said: “If you have two cars but cannot enjoy a meal together, as a family… oh, this kind of success… I’d rather hide from progress on the farm.”

She would get very upset at him. Deep down, Ann knew her Dad was a wise man. She had pretended that those things didn’t bother her and her Father came to accept her false explanation. Or was he pretending too?

Ann’s Dad had been always fond of telling stories to his family. He did it when the children were very young and didn’t stop it when they were teenagers. He enjoyed the thrill of keeping his audience interested. Ann’s Mother liked to point out that his set up technique was more important than the content of his parables.

“He didn’t care for bedtime stories. Dad wanted the dining room table as his scenario. In fact, he would speak only if all the family members were present. If one of us couldn’t make it for the meal, the tale session was postponed.”

Ann was feeling down again. She looked at the wall calendar and chose a month. “Soon I’ll pick the day”, she assured herself, shaking with self-confidence… Ann tried not to recall one of her Dad’s Parables… because it troubled her.

" It is not fiction. His story happens everyday everywhere. I see it around me too often… a reality which my own boys will most probably be facing. Living in the country, wasn’t it remarkable that my Father knew so much about city life? Here, there is violence. Peace and quiet don’t really exist – just their disguise, masquerading loneliness.

Was Dad skillful educator? Was it out of scientific knowledge or professional training? No. Dad was a farmer all his life. If asked, Mother would have answered candidly, with great pride: - It was out of love and concern for his children’s

future. "

Ann’s efforts to avoid tender memories were in vain. She could still hear her Dad’s compassionate voice telling the family his favorite contemporary parable:

“In a poorly lit room, a man of perhaps thirty eats while watching the news on television. People are fighting violently on the screen, but he shows little interest. A few minutes later, after finishing his meal, he decides to get rid of the garbage. He opens the door and there, in the hallway, he sees the bloodied face of a young man being beaten by three others.

Having no desire to become involved, he slams the door. The battered teenager pounds at several doors, trying to find a way out. Although everyone is aware that something is amiss, all doors remain closed. Confident now that no one is going to interfere, the trio laugh at their victim’s vain attempts to escape. Inside his apartment, the man returns to watch TV, as if unaware of what was happening.

Early the next morning he slowly opens his door and after looking in all directions, leaves his apartment. He safely disposes of the garbage and drives off, heading for one of his favorite parks. En route he comes across an accident. A girl, whose arms appear to be injured, is attempting to free her companion who got pinned within the car. She sees the approaching vehicle and screams for help. He slows down hesitantly, stopping just to tell her to call the police, then speeds away.

A summer day warms the camp site, like a dream for the ones who would like to forget winter will come again. Hundreds of people eagerly enjoy the nice weather. Some even give the impression of rushing, for fear of missing a short-lived fun. Parents who never seemed to relax, close their eyes to receive the blessing of the sunshine, without giving any thought to bills or rising costs. Children feared to be hyperactive in the heat of the city, now sit for hours building with sand and little rocks. The man chooses a spot well away from other people, in order to enjoy his solitude, his indifference and desire to remain free from other people’s problems. No troubles, no laughs shared either. A firm, personal policy of no questions asked.

A striking sunset, a rainbow good-evening from nature. Two girls approach the area where the uncommitted man has put up his tent. They try several ways of establishing a conversation. He again chooses to ignore their efforts and takes refuge into his tent, clearly preferring the company of his radio.

The wind had been telling the trees, for the last three days, that winter is definitely coming on time. The camp sites are not as crowded, though many groups still enjoy common activities all day long. Back within the safe confines of his temporary quarters, the man lies awake inside his sleeping bay. His mind wanders back to a sign at the entrance of the provincial park which reads, “No animal here is dangerous if it is left alone.”

He is still thinking, suddenly realizing it is not the same with human beings. He just remembered reading something about the unexpected, odd behavior of lonely people… a potential danger to society, like a hurricane not preceded by a warning forecast. He did sleep after all…. But not before he cried for hours.”

Suddenly, Ann was back to dealing with a private dilemma: a deadline for her suicide. Years ago, her Father had impressed upon his audience that selfishness is never the way to peace: “ The flower of peace blooms only when we accept our human condition and the absolute need to communicate with others.”

The young man’s tears at the end of the story meant a rejection of personal desperation and a move towards solidarity.

Ann was about to miss her lunch hour. Everyone else had left. The night before, Ann suffered such a harassment from her friend inside her that in order to stop the nagging, she agreed on postponing the date for a pill overdose.

The two voices were again expressing their viewpoints, leaving Ann in a kind of suspense.

She was glad thus when Bernadette called to invite her for lunch on the following day. Ann liked her since the first week they worked together.

“ Bernadette is a warm, gentle girl” – Ann would say it later. She had always shown appreciation for the help Ann gave her at those difficult times when she was starting a new job in the Company. Her sincere gratitude would strike some mixed reaction from Ann.

Would she have helped a new colleague so much as she did, if she had not planned to die? Would she have been kind anyway? Would she give friendship priority over career advancement and promotions?

Ann could not answer those questions with honesty. This was terribly discouraging to her, who once cared more for people than for competition and salary increase.

Ann and Bernadette have been friends now for about a year. They trust each other. They share ideas, solutions and doubts. Each one helps the other as much as possible, at work and at home whenever help is needed, wherever the need is. Cruel questions, out of curiosity alone, are out of question. There is much concern, care, laugh, and mutual support.

No longer lonely, Ann cancelled her previous deadline. She looks beyond the daily obstacles to accept with courage the challenge of living.

Theresa Catharina de Góes Campos
Ottawa, Ontario - Canada, April 22, 1982.

From: Tereza Lúcia Halliday
Date: 2011/6/2
To: Theresa Catharina de Goes Campos

Belo e vero. Mais uma vez, the anchor of Friendship makes a difference.

Thanks for sharing.
Tereza Lúcia.

Date: 2011/6/3
To: Theresa Catharina de Goes Campos


Que lindo conto! A mensagem de esperança é magnífica. Realmente, é preciso vencer os obstáculos diários que não são poucos. Beijos, Raquel.


Jornalismo com ética e solidariedade.