Avi Liberman

Creating to cope

As people, we all crave times in our lives when we like to escape. Sometimes, that’s an actual escape from what we deal with on a daily basis, like a vacation, and other times it’s on a smaller scale, like just escaping to a movie, getting a massage at a fancy spa, exercising, or meditating. Escape can be physical like the vacation, or mental, like meditating. Either way, we create scenarios for ourselves to help us cope with life’s curve balls. Creating helps us cope.

When I was in the ICU after my car accident and emergency brain surgery, I had no choice but to create to help me get through it. I was stuck in a bed with IVs in both arms and constantly being pumped full of drugs, from anti seizure pills, to oxycodone, to blood clot medication to whatever else I was getting to keep me alive. I tried to sleep, but sometimes I was just tired and couldn’t sleep. I would close my eyes and see if I could go somewhere that would help me. It was especially hard at night when I felt most alone. My parents, siblings and other friends who had come to visit couldn’t be there. Could I create a place that would help? Was I even crazy for doing so?

I closed my eyes and out of nowhere a man showed up who seemed like a wise, older experienced teacher, and he wanted to have a discussion. He was followed very shortly by someone else, who was a bit more outgoing and talkative. They both were obviously friends. They seemed like sages and wore clothing from an era gone by, dressed in robes, but had a “Lord Of The Rings” look to themselves as opposed to ancient religious figures. Religion never even came up. The second man had long streaks of white in his beard and had a good sense of humor. I honestly wasn’t sure if I was being gifted these men, or they were just a manifestation of my mind. At this point, I honestly didn’t care. I was happy to have someone to “talk” to and get some advice from also. One thing was clear. They had more life experience than I did, and were a lot smarter than I was.

I ended up in a place I could best describe as what looked like a nice country club. When I went in, there was a large group of people enjoying really nice dinners and the two men were showing me around. I remember asking, “These people aren’t dead right?” “Well, you’re alive so what do you think? They are just enjoying themselves. Some are learning what it means to have nice wine. Others are just here with people they care about. Look, you brought us here anyway.” It was odd. They were dictating the conversation, but apparently I was in control of the location. The location would also change, as we would have our talks. The calmer of the two told me very clearly, “Look, your job right now is to heal. That needs to be your focus. One thing at a time. For now that’s, what you need to focus on. Do not cloud yourself with other things. Those will fall into place” Then it was the boisterous of the two’s turn. “Your job is to spread love, positivity, kindness, whatever word you want to use. You will be able to do that best when you heal yourself. You should know that doesn’t just apply to you by the way. It’s true for all of us. For one person that may mean teaching a child something, for another it may mean giving someone a ride to where they need to go. You’d be amazed how much the smallest things can be for the greater good.”

I even came a across a woman who seemed like she was learning to tend bar. When I asked what she was doing here, she simply said she enjoyed it. She didn’t have to be there. She seemed very well to do actually, and was just having fun. She just wanted to learn something new.

Some of the questions I had frightened me, but the two men always seemed to put me at ease. I was thinking about how it could have been worse and what would have happened if such and such happened. They immediately came at me with, “OK, lets play that game. We can do that all day. Couldn’t you always create a worse scenario? Of course you could. But let me ask you this, is that helpful? Does that do any good? I think we both know the answer to that. Why don’t we deal with what we are dealing with.” They would take rational approaches to things and calm me down. Or was it the part of me taking the rational approach? Either way, I didn’t care, as long as it helped.

I mentioned this to a friend of mine who had come over to visit while I’m rehabbing in Houston, and the friend is also going through a tough time in life as far as depression. It was jokingly mentioned that I should ask the two men about what the friend was going through. I said, “No problem! I’ll bring it up the next time I go rest and close my eyes.” Sure enough they got right back to me and said, “Look, if we could give your friend a pill that would make the pain go away we would, but you and I both know that doesn’t exist. Your friend does not suffer alone. When an athlete gets injured of course that person suffers, but so do the teammates and coaches. Maybe not at the same level, but it is there and they know. There are people who care about your friend, and more than you think. It’s way pain always loses in the long run. It simply can’t compete with the army backing up your friend.” Certainly seemed wiser than anything I could have come up with so I relayed, and the friend seemed to enjoy the answer. I’m not saying it will fix anything, but it might make the friend feel just a tad better. At least, I’m hoping it does.

What was interesting was that even though the locations seemed to be my choice, thy often surprised me. I remember meeting them once on a frozen lake and as I approached I said, “Ice fishing? Seriously?” It was an amusing moment as the quieter of the two said, “I hate the cold” much to the amusement of the more talkative one, who simply chastised him about cold air being good for your lungs and to enjoy it. They were also always dressed warmly so no issues there!

They also told me they would be there 24/7 whenever I need them. “We will always be here for you, we don’t close.” That was a lesson in itself, that maybe that’s something we should strive for when it comes to friends and family, and in many cases even strangers who need our help. They would even challenge me at times with things I never thought about. “When you close your eyes and you sometimes see specks of light, ever ask yourself what that is? Maybe you should.”

Are these two men real? I don’t know. Are they just figments of my imagination? Maybe, but in the end it doesn’t really matter. It shows that creating something when we are down can help. It can be a story, drawing a picture, or creating a new dish you like to eat; it is something new for us to experience. A phone call to an old friend creates a new connection. Creating can keep us moving, and in an odd way, keep us sane. So, if you’re going through a tough time, a way to help might be to create something, anything. And who knows?!! Maybe one day two men may swing by and admire whatever it is you’ve come up with. I’m hoping they let me know. I look forward to seeing or hearing what you’ve created, no matter how big or how small.

About the Author
Avi Liberman is a stand-up comic who was born in Israel, raised in Texas and now lives in Los Angeles. Avi founded Comedy for Koby, a bi-annual tour of Israel featuring some of America's top stand-up comedians.
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