The Out of the Darkness Walk Speech

Today, despite casually researching flights out of Austin the night before to make an escape, I stood in front of the Texas State Capitol and addressed a crowd on behalf of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and delivered the following speech:

Good Morning everyone. My name is Beth Doughty, and I am the team captain of the Jay Walkers – just one of the many teams walking with you today.

Like many of you, I’m here because I lost someone. In my case, my husband Jay died by suicide at the age of 40. On that day, almost every person on my team lost someone – some lost a son, some lost a baby brother, some lost an uncle, and others a good friend. On that day, I stopped being a wife and a best friend, and I became a widow – our future plans and dreams shattered. On that day, each one of us lost pieces of ourselves. The loss was devastating. The loss was profound, and none of us will ever be the same person we were before July 9, 2016 – the day Jay died.

Immediately following his death, I not only felt isolated, I was isolated. People didn’t know what to say, so they wouldn’t say anything because of the stigma surrounding suicide. They worried that I was embarrassed or ashamed by his death. So when I went back to work, I wasn’t greeted with sympathy cards or flowers or expressions of condolence after my husband died. No one said, “I’m sorry for your loss.” Instead, several workers asked, “How was your vacation?” And I sat there gobsmacked – emotional wounds that hadn’t begun to heal widened further. And it wasn’t because the people at work who knew about his death weren’t kind or sympathetic people, they just didn’t know how to talk about suicide or mental health issues, and they certainly didn’t know how to share that information with others. 

It seemed like suicide was this boogeyman, and people were afraid to speak about it except in whispers lest you invite its gaze upon you or your family.

My first support group was the people you see walking with me today (and the walkers who are walking with me across the country and across the globe). They formed a protective phalanx – closed ranks, and we gathered around each other tightly – supporting and protecting each other.

Unfortunately, our experience isn’t uncommon.

I’ve been asked to tell you all why I walk. I walk because I believe we should and can normalize this conversation. I walk because I believe strongly in AFSP’s mission. I walk because of the support of this community and I believe that through it we can heal. I walk because you’re here – whether it’s because you’ve lost someone or you’re struggling, you’re here, and I believe together WE can make a difference, and that starts by having open and honest conversations around mental health issues and suicide. It starts by changing laws so that everyone has better access to mental health care. And it starts by being seen, like we are here today, and by talking loudly about these issues so that no one feels isolated again.

We thrive as a community.

We heal as a community.

And I also walk in honor of my husband, Jay, my favorite person and my best friend, so no one ever forgets him.

Jay was so much more than one event.

Thank you.

Community – Beth Doughty, Oct. 2022

A huge thanks to everyone who supported the walk again this year either by making a donation or participating in the walk (virtually or in-person).

We raised $7,747!!! (Once the auction closes, it will take us over $8,000! WOW! Great job all of y’all!!!!)

Special thanks to:

  • The Parks Family
  • Central Texas Archery
  • Our Silent “Let’s Get Loud” Auction Donors
    • Rocky Mountain Vacation Homes – April Bindock
    • Chuy’s
    • Dragon’s Lair
    • Anna Adam
    • Heather Barthelme
    • Dustin Colson
    • Leslie Nichols
    • Dianne Sheldon
    • Meghan Spear
  • Enid Kowalik
  • Katy Kowalik-Alcorta
  • Also, extra special thanks to: John Skaarup for keeping the Silent Auction alive.

And none of this could have been accomplished without my best friend and co-captain, Anna Adam who provided support, hugs, and willingly gave up Sundays to sit for long hours out in the Texas heat. She crafted incentives, chased down tumbling tents, and ultimately helped guide this unwieldy ship to shore.

There’s still a bit more work to do. Incentives to be shipped. Bad videos to be created, but all should be coming your way soon.

Thank you all for supporting us one last time. We had a good run.

If you’d still like to give to a great cause, you have until December 2022. Just click on this link to The “Jay” Walker’s AFSP Fundraising Page.

Every Year…

Every year she comes back and asks us to donate to AFSP. Blahblahblah. Hand outstretched yet again. We get it. Your husband died. But that’s your cause that ain’t mine. “Please donate to our walk.” “Please help end the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health.” “Please help end suicide.” I’ve heard that request before… again… and again… and again. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. Or it’s “Please just walk with us.” Like I have nothing better to do than walk with sad people on a Saturday in October. It’ll probably be 105° just like every other day in Texas. Plus, I have a Halloween party to go to. My makeup isn’t applying itself. Who has time for two hours outside. Hello? And don’t get me started on those cheesy incentives. Lady, no one wants your haiku or to see you poorly act out a scene or sketch or whatever it is you’re asking us to bid on. And seriously, is one of the higher-end incentives a “pay to come and play with you”? WTF? Let me just say that slowly in my head: I.. am paying donating (semantics) to hang out with you. Are you actually kidding me right now? I see through that one!

Ohhhh… and now a Silent Auction??? As if I wanted to attend the longest-running music program. I can get into an Austin City Limits taping whenever, bruh. Guaranteed tickets to the Houston Opera? Yeah. I have connections. A stay in a adorably quaint town in Colorado with some of the best BBQ in a nearby neighboring town. Dude, have you even been to Hutto? We have that here.

HEAR ME OUT!

The Why of Why I’m AskingAGAIN

Let’s start with the facts:

  • Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death
    • In Texas…
      • it is the 11th leading cause of death
      • it is the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 10-24, and 25-34
      • (Have you been to a funeral for a teenager who’s died by suicide? I have. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever experienced. Watching teen after teen stand up, stand before a crowd sobbing as they expressed confusion and heartache for two straight hours of eulogies was profound. It was overwhelming and gut-wrenching. Another friend’s daughter lost a friend to suicide over the summer. When do we say enough is enough? When do we start having those real conversations where we talk about this openly and candidly?)
  • According to the Veteran’s Administration 2022 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report:
    • Among Veterans between the ages of 18–44, suicide was the second-leading cause of death.
    • In each year from 2001 through 2020, age- and sex-adjusted suicide rates of Veterans exceeded those of non-Veteran U.S. adults.
  • In 2020, 45,979 Americans died by suicide
    • In 2020, there were 6,146 Veteran suicides.
  • In 2020, there were an estimated 1.20 MILLION attempts
  • The rate of suicide is highest in middle-aged white men.
  • In 2020, men died by suicide 3.88x more than women.
  • On average, there are 130 suicides per day.
  • White males accounted for 69.68% of suicide deaths in 2020.
  • In 2020, firearms accounted for 52.83% of all suicide deaths.
  • Almost three times as many people died by suicide in 2019 than in alcohol-related motor vehicle related accidents.
  • 93% of adults surveyed in the U.S. think suicide can be prevented.

But that’s all statistics – numbers can be hard to relate to…

So, all of that is why I ask you to support this cause (again). It’s why I ask you to walk with me (again). It’s why I ask for you to pick yourself up and go outside on October 29th at 9 AM wherever you are. You don’t have to be in Austin, TX to show support. I ask because I want you to help me. I want you to be part of the solution that drives those numbers come down. I want to see REAL change to how we talk about this topic and how we address mental health care in this country.

… and if all that takes is offering up a bad haiku, tickets to Austin City Limits or even a chance to Explore Archery then it’s worth it.

A huge shoutout to all of our donors who come back each and every year! and to our walkers! You’re making a difference! We wouldn’t be successful without your continued support.

And a special shoutout to one of our donors who is trying to single-handedly carry the Silent “Let’s Get Loud” Auction. Thank you!! Hopefully, you’ll get some competition soon or if you don’t, you have a lot of fun date nights coming up. 🙂

The Jay Walker’s Silent “Let’s Get Loud” Auction

I NEED YOU!

This year the Jay Walker’s are all about trying something new, stretching their wings a bit, going out on a limb, and any other similar idiom you can think of that means all of that. But for new to be successful…

I NEED YOUR HELP!

This year, we’re trying out a Silent (not so silent) Auction to help raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

I’m not going to lie, asking for donations was super uncomfortable. “Hi, this is Beth, this is my cause, would you like to give me stuff? Please?” We reached out to friends, family, and local businesses to solicit donations. It’s for such an important cause, and hey, some even said yes! WOO HOO!!! Thank you thank you!

What we have now are some pretty awesome things. We have tickets from The Houston Opera (you choose your show), The Austin Symphony (their donation is being finalized but should be posted in a few days), the Fayette County Theater (more theater, because we LOVE theater!), Chuy’s (because we also LOVE eating!), Dragon’s Lair (games!!), Scubaland (underwater adventures!!) as well as personal training sessions to help you start your fitness journey (get ahead of your pre-New Year’s resolution now and start reaching your goals). And some of our walkers have also donated their own amazing handmade crafts. I even threw in a few things, because I’m swell.

Take a peek! Support a good cause! Help remove the stigma and make mental health a priority!

The Jay Walker’s Silent “Let’s Get Loud” About Suicide Prevention Auction

Like I said, I need you for this to be successful so go out and tell your family/friends!!!

Coming Soon!

More information about teaming up with Central Texas Archery for a fun Fall Archery Event to benefit the Jay Walkers and AFSP on October 23rd.

Plus, a chance to hear me speak from the steps of the Capitol!

Want to donate directly to our walk? Want to take advantage of fun incentives?

Visit my AFSP fundraising page!

Choose to make a difference today!

A Eulogy from a Chosen Daughter

Can We Play in the Photoboth?

I wrote her obituary…

“A beautiful eulogy!” “I could tell you wrote it.”

Those words…

… an outline of a person.

A collection of moments – of milestones. Not the person. Never the person.

Not a eulogy. An obituary.

This is a eulogy. Random memories.

On August 28th, I lost my parent.

She wasn’t related to me by blood, but that never stopped her from proudly boasting to anyone who would listen, “this is my chosen daughter” as a loving arm wrapped around my waist and she’d beam up at me.

For 40 years she was a major figure in my life. For the good times, the bad times, and everything in between. From belly-splitting laughs to Dad’s pleas of “can you both stop fighting?”

She had the worst memory of anyone I’ve ever known. Stories usually based in a truth, but the details a bit smudged, taking on a fresh new life. It wasn’t an aging thing – just a her thing.

“Honey, did you bring your epi pen?” “Why do I need an epi pen?” “We have bee hives, and I want you to be safe.” “I’m not allergic to bees.” A suspicious,”Hmmm…” would follow any story corrections. “Well, bring your epi pen.”

“Beth is afraid of mice.” “Wait, what? I am?” “Don’t go into Dad’s workshop, have Daddy go if you need anything.” “Ok?”

Hearing a story about yourself was usually an eye-opening event and typically ended with pulling people out of earshot to say, “soooo… here’s where that story came from and no, I’m not allergic to bees.”

She was my champion. I’ve seen her go toe-to-toe with other parents, with schools, with friends and family whenever she felt I might be slighted.

She loved books – no matter where she was, one was in hand – from the the livingroom to the tub and then to bed. When I walked into the house the morning after she passed, an audiobook sat on her desk. Trevor Noah’s “Born a Crime” – a great book – one I recommended she listen to instead of read so she could hear Trevor Noah tell his own story. I didn’t think she took that recommendation. She had. She listened.

She was my mom, my confidante, the woman who ensured I got to participate in summer music camps and showed up every weekend for String Project where I learned music history and composition. Yes, to a small degree I have been trained to compose music. Still waters… She showed up for every concert, every graduation, every major event often times insisting she go instead of Dad, especially if there was a party where we got to dress up. Trust me, it wasn’t a Dad thing.

She and Dad usually traveled independently; someone had to watch the property and mind the various critters, so when she had to miss Jay’s memorial, she sat on the phone and wept. She felt she’d let me down as a parent. She had not, but a hug from her in those rough moments were definitely needed.

I love bad action movies and bad SciFi – really bad SciFi, so she introduced me to independent films. My world opened. (Although, when she refused to take me to see Krull, there may have been an epic early teen girl meltdown. I still haven’t seen it. I’m sure it’s glorious, and I can continue hang onto that belief as long as I never see it.) While everyone shopped for Black Friday, we’d head off to the movies.

I’ve lost my day-after-Thanksgiving movie buddy.

I will miss the times that she wouldn’t let me let obstacles get in my way. The city shutting down because of ice on the roads? Why shouldn’t we go to the movies? She was skilled at driving on those treacherous roads! We had the streets and then the theater to ourselves. We sat and watched Ghandi.

There was a time I was laid up in a hospital bed unable to leave because thinking about moving made me nauseous and then actually moving was even less pretty. It was supposed to be a day surgery, and the hospital staff were considering admitting me overnight. She breezed into the recovery room and went from mom-mode into nurse-mode. She snapped up my chart, grilled the nursing staff., and then looked me in the eye, “You want to get out of here. You’re not going to get sick in my car. C’mon, let’s go!” Assertions – not questions. I went from feeling puny to let’s hold hands and Thelma and Louise it out of this joint.

She taught me…

  • How to drive
  • How to be safe by setting boundaries
  • To write thank you notes
  • To not shy away from using my voice

She drove me crazy – saying all the wrong words, and then all the right words. She embarrassed me and made me proud. She was perfectly and beautifully flawed – perfectly human – with a huge heart and a bigger laugh, and she was loved because of it. And in return she accepted and loved me for all of my flaws.

She defined my voice. She’s the “why” when I tell stories.

These stories have always been for her.

Letters to my #1 fan who just wanted to hear an anecdote about my day.

When I was in New Zealand she went into the hospital. “Honey, I don’t want to worry you. You have a great time and tell me stories when you get back.” It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t get to share those stories – to make her laugh at the adventures and misadventures – to show her all of the pictures. To be really listened to and enjoyed as only a parent can.

The last message I received said, “…hope to feel like talking soon.” and then a few days later she passed – a week after her birthday, two weeks before their 40th anniversary, and three days ahead of her own mother.

When people say I’m like my Dad or my Mom, they forget that I’m very much my other parent’s daughter. She shaped me. She is part of the DNA of my soul.

I love you, CJ!

Your chosen daughter.

I Want You!

#StopSuicide

As those of you who know me and follow this blog are well aware, Suicide Prevention is an important cause to me. Each year I talk about suicide prevention. I raise funds. I walk. I do it because I believe I can make a difference, and I know with your help, we can make a difference.

I do it for Jay. I do it for Barbara. I do it for Lyssa. I do it for Austin. I do it for my friends who I know struggle.

I do it because I don’t want to add another name to the list.

Information / Statistics

I want to share a some information and facts from the American Foundation for Suicide Preventions (AFSP) and the CDC, and then I’m going to ask that you help – that you choose to make a difference.

  1. Suicide is one of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States, and it’s preventable
  2. As the suicide rate continues to rise, we must make mental health a national priority — and advocate for more investment in suicide research and nationwide prevention efforts
  3. There is no single cause for suicide, and suicide risk increases when several health factors and life stressors converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair — learn the warning signs at afsp.org/signs
  4. Everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide, and together we can learn the suicide risks and warning signs, and encourage those who struggle to seek help
  5. Assume you are the only one who will reach out, have an honest conversation, ask directly about suicide, and let them know you care
  6. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance use problems, especially when unaddressed, increase the risk of suicide — most people who actively manage their mental health conditions go on to engage in life
  7. If we encourage more people to seek treatment, we will make a huge difference in improving mental health and reducing suicide
  8. Suicide is complex, answers may not come easily, and it may take time to understand the thoughts and feelings associated with a suicide — you don’t have to go through this difficult experience alone
  9. Driving demand for better treatment will improve the field of mental health
  10. We can #StopSuicide

Some Facts

  • 45,979 Americans died by suicide in 2020
    • It is the 3rd leading cause of death for ages 10-19
    • It is the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 20-34
    • It is the 4th leading cause of death for ages 35-44
    • Over 1/3 of people who died by suicide were 55 or older
  • 1.2 million Americans attempted suicide in 2020.
  • In 2019, the suicide rate for Veterans was 1.5x higher than for a non-Veteran.
  • 54% of Americans have been affected by suicide in some way.
  • 90% of those who died by suicide had a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death.
  • 46% of Americans ages 18+ living with a mental health condition received treatment in the past year.
  • 72% of communities in the United States did not have enough mental health providers to serve residents in 2021, according to federal guidelines.

How You Can Make an Impact

You can make a difference. Here’s how:

Walk with us!

  • Join the Jay Walkers on October 29th and walk with us either virtually (send us a photo of you walking to be included in our walk collage) or in Austin, TX at the Capitol. (Click on the link and select “Join Our Team”.)
  • You’ll be with a welcoming and supportive community
  • Let’s have the biggest group yet!
  • Show Austin, TX that Mental Health Matters and help remove the stigma around suicide

Make a Donation!

  • Donate to AFSP through the Jay Walkers Fundraising Page. (Click the link and select “Donate”)
  • We brought back a lot of fun incentives – haikus, custom disaster-pieces, and bad performances to name a few – all for a good cause!
  • Plus, your donation goes directly to AFSP whose mission is to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. (Read more about the work they do by following the AFSP link)

Choose to make a difference today.

Thank you all for your continued support. I look forward to seeing you on the 29th when I will be speaking on the Capitol steps.

My Jupiter

My brother-in-law cannot stand two things: Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” and the fact that anyone else provides the voice of Kermit the Frog. If you want to see a grown-up flip right on out, have Steve Whitmire or Matt Vogel (the previous and current voice actors for our favorite green fellow) sing the “Eye of the Tiger.” Hrm… I wonder if that’s doable. I’ll stick a pin in that idea. If someone were to play that song, he’d get up and leave immediately. People have challenged him, only to discover that he was not kidding. I know of another woman, a friend of a friend, who apparently takes great personal offense at the size of Jupiter… the planet. Why does it have to be so big? What is it trying to prove? (She’s not actually kidding. She’d like some answers there. The sooner those are forthcoming, the better.)

… and I’ve laughed at these. Retelling the stories with a snort and a giggle. HAH! Seriously? So crazy! So irrational!

Epiphanies

Then out came my Jupiter in the middle of New Zealand.

The Shire – Matamata, New Zealand

“…and over there is where they filmed Bilbo’s birthday scene… over 100 actors were… blahblahblahblah” droned our super enthusiastic tour guide.

My brain exploded with expletives –

“Are you kidding me? F*ing Bilbo and his 500-page bloody birthday bash. Yeah, we get it, guy. You’re super old. No one needs 500 pages to drive that point home. This isn’t Dickens. Your author wasn’t paid per page or chapter to paint the world’s most annoyingly painful overly-described scene. No. He did it because he’s a sadistic word monster. It’s like that godforsaken turtle in Grapes of Wrath all over again. Just cross the road, turtle! More words to prove that you have a myriad mad skills at avoiding saying ‘very very very very very.’ Get on with it. ‘And all the little hobbits flapped their little feet in rhythm and cheered, “Happy Bloody Birthday, Bilbo.”’ Eat a noonsy or a gazillionth breakfast or whatever you lazy little hobbits need to do to get on with your adventure, form your fellowship, and finally change the bloody POV to Frodo FFS. For all that is holy, wrap it up and get those furry feet to the Prancing Pony, which has undoubtedly become a sinkhole in Middle Earth after being boarded up for five centuries. OMG!!!!!!”

Ok, I didn’t say much of that out loud, just some of it, and mostly to my friend Julie but honestly, all of that and much worse raced through my mind.

As I looked out on that empty field, with its lovely little maypole, I hissed silently – joy turned to unadulterated loathing – “hobbbitsesssss birthdays, we hates them, Precious.”

My friends will occasionally and quite foolishly (naively??) try and cajole me out of this crazy, “Beth, it’s not that bad…” “WRONG, IT’S 10,000x WORSE!!” “You could just skip that chapter, y’know.” “I could, but what if there’s something in the minutiae of the dumb fireworks that I need later???? You don’t know!!” “Umm…” “Yeah, exactly. Harumph.” The subject is almost immediately dropped because hey, we’re at an impasse, I’m in full-blown, unapologetic, insane mode and it’s probably better to say something like “ooh, how about those puppies! Those wiggly happy bodies! Plump little bellies, huh?!!” Because who can be mad about adorable puppies? No one!

I took a moment sometime later to again reflect on my overreaction to a single chapter, and I realized that Bilbo’s Birthday is really only one of my Jupiters – one of my Eye of the Tigers.

Soooo… funny thing. It turns out I have an entire solar system. I winced a bit in acknowledgment

Let’s Talk Jazz

I’m not talking the jazz age of the 20’s & 30’s or even New Orleans-style jazz. No, I mean the post-war era free jazz most often heard in the 1950’s and 60’s. It has less structure – less form and is more of an exploration. And… it’s basically the musical equivalent of Bilbo’s birthday to me.

You may recall that some time ago I gave dating sites a try (turns out there’s not a Jay 2.0, but that’s beside the point). Well, on one of those sites they asked, “What are your hobbies?” and I wrote “making fun of jazz” because it’s jazz and making fun of it brings me joy – you can collect stamps, paint watercolor goldfish, craft decoupage poodles if it amuses you, and I’ll poke fun at jazz (it’s a big boy/girl, it can take it – you don’t have to run to its defense). Well, some fella took great exception to this and sent me a note, “Making fun of jazz isn’t a hobby” and I wrote him back, “then you’re doing it wrong.” Weird how that didn’t work out.

Honestly, I can’t explain why or what it is about it that I dislike so intensely. (Did I mention these are irrational reactions?) I can’t show you on a doll where it bad-touched my tympanic membrane. Maybe it’s Muzak’s fault? Maybe it’s buried trauma from being stuck in an elevator/lift or placed on hold indefinitely one too many times. “Your call is important to us and will be answered in the order it was received. Please stay on the line and a customer support agent will be with you shortly. Now we return you to that one song. The only song. This three bar masterwork that we plucked from Dante’s very own Inferno collection – the one currently filling the level of Hell you find yourself indefinitely stuck in. Please enjoy it over the next hour as you regret the life choices that brought you to this specific moment. Say goodbye to your soul. Thank you.”

Whatever the cause, I simply don’t enjoy it – I don’t like the brush tapping against the cymbals. I don’t like the lengthy solos, or the musicians occasionally seeming at odds as they try to discover a direction. That said, I appreciate the genuine talent. It’s just not for me.

There are more Jupiters, but we’ll save those for later.

In the meantime, I’ll bring you some jazz I do enjoy! 🙂

Jazz as it was meant to be!
I love love love Postmodern Jukebox – I may have seen them twice! (The upcoming show is sold out, which crushes me!)

A Quick Lesson in Rugby

After my last post about my trip to New Zealand, it was brought to my attention that there might be some confusion around me using the term “sea of All Blacks” in reference to the rugby team/fans. So, I wanted to clear that up for you non-rugby folks:

The All Blacks is the name of New Zealand’s national rugby team – a name that was popularized during a 1905 tour of the British Isles, according to Wikipedia. In fact, you can learn a lot about the history of the team here. (Likely most of it is true, but hey, anyone can edit that site soooo… That said, it’s still the name of the team.)

As you can see from my video below, the teams’ colors are black and white, and the fans tend to wear black and white in support. If you look into the bleachers across from where I was sitting, you can easily spot Ireland’s fans, and of course a woman in pink. (That’s not me, I was the one filming, so I’m on the opposite side. However, I’m now a little sad that I never noticed I had a twinsy. We could have been waving our hot pink arms at each other the entire time. Opportunity missed. Moment gone. 😦 Until next time, my hot pink twin!)

Thanks to my friend Elizabeth and her quick/dextrous fingers, we had some amazing seats. I’m not zoomed that far in. Anyway, below is my video of the opening haka.

What’s the story behind the haka? I’m glad you asked. Here’s even more fun info here and also here.

And for those who want to understand the words/lyrics: the All Blacks perform multiple hakas, but I believe this is Ka Mate (please someone correct me if I’ve got that wrong) Note: some directions are being called out ahead of the Ka Mate telling them to stomp their feet and slap their thighs. This was seriously cool to see in person.

The Words of Ka Mate

MaoriEnglish
Ka mate! Ka mate! Ka ora! Ka ora!I die! I die! I live! I live!
Ka mate! Ka mate! Ka ora! Ka ora!I die! I die! I live! I live!
Tenei te tangata puhuru huruThis is the hairy man
Nana nei i tiki maiWho fetched the Sun
Whakawhiti te raAnd caused it to shine again
A upa … ne! ka upa … ne!One upward step! Another upward step!
A upane kaupane whiti te ra!An upward step, another.. the Sun shines!!
Hi

All that to say, I wasn’t describing anyone’s skin tone. I’m not actually “pink” – well, unless it’s 105 degrees in Texas and I’ve been outside more than two minutes. Oh wait…

In fact, I can’t tell you much about the other people, other than: there was an overzealous wee girl behind me (easily under 10) who really wanted the All Blacks to get in the game and they kept profoundly disappointing her; she let them have it. There was also a very rude man at the end of our bleacher who seemed pretty insistent that he was not about to stand up to allow us to easily slide into/out of the row (he lost that battle of wills at least twice), and a really sweary guy who I’m pretty sure swore at me as we tried to make our way through the wall of people getting beer in order to get to our seats – I gave him my disapproving meemaw face, which I’m sure made him rethink some life choices or had no impact on him at all – one of those. I think they were also wearing the colors that supported New Zealand’s team.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Fact: Nothing drives my team lead crazier than when we’re encouraged to share “what we did on our Summer vacation” in one of our bi-weekly meetings. I know, I know, I just broke one of my writing rules – “Rule #1: Avoid discussing work”. But I promise you if she came across this blog she’d say, “OMG!!!! I don’t want to hear about another Summer vacation! You didn’t seriously tell perfect strangers about yours. GROSS!” and then she’d kind of laugh and shake her head. So, I’m writing this knowing most people probably aren’t dying to hear about my Summer vacation, but here we are – I’m writing, and for some reason, you’re sticking around.

Let’s pick up where we left off: Day 3 of Covid.

On the night of Day 3, I actually slept while laying flat down on my bed like a little bed sleeping hero. Go me! I mean, no offense to the recliner, but… Well, actually, it wasn’t bad, but I happen to be addicted to the bed.

My main accomplishments during my Covid stint included: making a tissue mountain, raising the stock prices for Puffs (you’re welcome Proctor and Gamble), and smothering my nose in copious amounts of mentholatum while perfecting the messy ponytail. I basically lived my best life – I smelled amazing (see mentolatum facial above) and looked great (also see sloppy hair reference above). Seriously, step aside Victoria’s Secret gals, meemaw is working this quarantine runway! Then, I finally got better. For weeks afterward more friends would rise up and attempt to steal my runway crown. Some people have no shame. Back up and find your own pandemic tiara.

Then in the middle of July, I spent two amazing weeks in Aotearoa/New Zealand – the land of the long white cloud. I went from Hakas to Hobbits – Fjords to Redwoods to geothermal springs (that smelled so bad and were so beautiful). I had the good fortune of taking it all in with one of my oldest friends and favorite people who now calls this place home.

However, I’ll do you a kindness by sparing you the details (my team lead would be so proud – ok, she wouldn’t, she’d be proud if I just dropped the whole subject altogether, but she can’t always have it her way). So, here are some highlights:

Seeing this girl again. The one who grabbed a new girl’s hand on her (my) first day at a strange school in a strange city and ran with her up a hill – their first recess together nearly 50 years ago.
Seeing my first rugby game where I landed on the jumbotron – a hot pink girl among the All Blacks (the name of New Zealand’s rugby team and color worn by the fans – see photo above) about to see her first Haka in Aotearoa mere hours after her plane landed.
Seeing my first sunrise on the first morning in a new country – one of many – all beautiful and perfect.
Seeing a place where adventures start…
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

The highlights (in words) :

  • Getting this wonderful moment to spend so much time (though not enough) with one of my very favorite people.
  • Appearing on a jumbotron at a major event thanks to some people going wild behind me. I squealed and pointed like you do. Well, I don’t know about “you” but definitely like that other person you’re sitting next to.
  • My first rugby match
    • My first Haka!
    • Cheering for Ireland the All Blacks!
  • Unexpectedly, running into friends in Te Anau, like you do in another country
  • Being handed Legolas’ prop bow while touring the Weta Workshop
    • “Who here has shot a bow?” “MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” “Here you go. Draw that.” “Please, thank you, and step off other tourists. I have THE bow! Ummm nooooo, you don’t get a turn.”
  • Sprinkle sauce (it’s a thing – trust me).
  • The Bucket Fountain (Hell Mouth – also a thing – trust me – every tourist should visit this national landmark)
  • Singing loudly along with a performer singing covers in a hotel bar and getting stared at by “proper Kiwis”.
    • Creating a playlist from said bar
  • Keas, Tuis, Pukekos
  • WINTER WINTER WINTER
  • Cheese, because… well… cheese
  • Every single other moment

It was beautiful – restorative – the place I wish I were right now sitting by a fire on my friend’s deck high up in the hills overlooking a harbor, drinking a cider, enjoying the cool night air while listening to my friend whistle to the tuis.

And yes, given the opportunity I would go back in a heartbeat just to explore one more path, see one more stunning/breathtaking view (New Zealand is kind of an overachieving showoff in this regard), and enjoy one more conversation – one more adventure.

One quick question though before I run off. Is anyone looking to adopt an adult? Must be wealthy. Must expect nothing in return other than super gracious notes of thanks and social media shoutouts. Must be willing to generously replenish empty bank accounts. Asking for a friend. Also, the aforementioned friend requested I note that Christmas is around the corner and nothing says Merry Christmas quite like adoption and a large travel budget. Please see me if interested in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Hope you all are having a great Summer (and surviving this heat).

Covid: Day 3 or 5

Let’s just start with: I don’t really know what day of Covid I’m officially on. Day 5, if you start the count from when I was exposed. Day 3, if it’s the day two little stripes showed up to wreck my weekend. I’m sure the Googles would clarify this little mystery, but ehhh… I’m typing here. Who has time to perform a search? Plus, does it really matter? I mean, I have Covid.

It’s like…

Who am I kidding, I don’t have a gift for analogy. (John, hit me with something that works and is wildly inappropriate, please. Thank you! I’ll throw it in later. (Sometimes you need your heavy hitters who have a rare gift. Trust me, he’s your guy. Ask him about thermal bending. He’ll explain it in a way that you’ll never forget and you’ll wish you had.)

Anyway, it’s like something… unfortunately, I’m incapable of telling you what that something is at the moment, but sometime around Wednesday, I came into contact with at least one person with Covid according to a lovely woman who sent a lovely note explaining she’d tested positive. On Friday, after testing positive myself, I wrote my own little note to everyone with whom I’d come into contact. Something like…

Dearest People,

I apparently have the ‘ronas. You may now, too.

Whoopsie. My Bad. This is why I shouldn’t be social.

This is also why I should work from home more of the days.

XXOO,

Beth

-30-

E-mail “sent” 6/10/2022 (WP is prompting me for a citation. Blame them. Psst, can you cite a fake email? Yes??)

Only, I suppose I did write it in a more professional manner where I fell firmly on my sword and prostrated myself before my colleagues since I felt genuinely awful for spreading something I wasn’t aware I had. (Fact: I have some next-level martyr guilt when inspired.) Just for funsies, the responses I received fell into two categories: 1) you’re too hard on yourself, get better, and 2) we don’t do contact testing (not, “thanks for letting us know, sorry you’re under the weather, wishing you a speedy recovery,” but more of a, “Hello, you made words that included the word “Covid.” Sweet Baby Jesus, what’s wrong with you? Please do not inform the people whom you came into contact with – we don’t do that here.) Ummm… really? Wow.

Granted, if I had a cold I wouldn’t wander around begging for forgiveness from people I’d encountered while I had said cold, or the people who’d touched the handles I’d carefully licked, but this is Covid and I’m only part monster. (Disclaimer: No actual handles have ever been licked by me (I don’t know what you do, so I can’t speak for you.)

My Symptoms: Some Boring Bits

Friday, it felt like I had a typical cold for me (I don’t know what a typical cold looks like for you, so again I can’t speak for you here). The kind that starts in my chest and finishes off in my head. Spoiler alert: this isn’t going to be a story about how it did anything different. Yay. Friday/Saturday, I coughed up a storm making the cartilage around my upper rib cage scream. Saturday, sneezing had joined in on the fun, and well today, today I feel a lot better – I can do neat things like breathe easily again. (Quick note: I’m off to find something to knock on because it’s well known that the universe is an actual jerk who is targeting you (and by “you” I mean “me”), and the only thing keeping its wrath at bay is the wood that one would knock on. This is a well-known fact about the universe. You’re welcome.)

However, despite it behaving like a normal cold (for me again, still not very sure about you – I’m never too sure about you, truth be told), I did constantly monitor my temperature, blood pressure, O2, and pulse. I did inform my doctor. I did try to get whatever shot/pill they offer if detected early enough and I did receive a big ol’ “not for you”. Rude. I mean “yay” I’m not considered at high enough risk to warrant one, but also there’s that fear of missing out (FOMO) thing at play.

My Pout and a Wee Rant: The Selfish Stuff

Pre Pout/Fuss Disclaimer: I’m very lucky to live the life I live and am lucky to be able to do the things I do and have the relationships I have.

Friday was the start of my long-awaited four-day weekend beach vacation to celebrate my friends’ (not merely “a friend’s”) child’s graduation. This is a kid I’ve not only tricked into believing I’m their aunt but also that I’m their favorite aunt – a kid who thinks a fantastic graduation present is spending four days on the beach with old people playing board games – a kid who will jokingly call me their “Beth-st friend”. I LOVE THIS KID! Thinking it was just a cold, I made their favorite cookies Friday morning (with mask on) ahead of the car ride down with them to the coast. Then I tested just to be safe. Two little lines later and I wanted to flip coffee tables and fling over two dozen cookies out into the yard. (In all fairness, while they’re this kid’s favorite cookies, they don’t have chocolate in them, so I find them very confusing and because the universe has a wicked sense of humor, I actually make them well. For the record, I make an amazing lemon cookie too. Which, funny story, also doesn’t have chocolate. Why? Why do they exist? Anyway, throwing them into the yard wouldn’t be a huge loss to me because of said lack of chocolate.)

Sure, we can have some kind of do-over weekend later, but it won’t be the same. It will never be this weekend. Those moments are gone.

The Fussy Bit I Mentioned

During this, I received praise for enduring all of this alone.

This actually got to me. Like crying level upset.

In my defense, I was at the height of the worst part of my symptoms where I wasn’t feeling exactly at my best (aka felt like garbage). AND I’d just watched the last episode of This Is Us, which I thought I’d seen, but they snuck in one more. The train episode was the perfect ending, people! But no, couldn’t just stop there when there were a few more emotional heartstrings left to tug. YOU NEXT LEVEL MONSTERS! So I’d just had ugly cry part two! Did I mention I wasn’t feeling well and was emotional?

Anyway, I appreciate the sentiment. I really do.

However, I don’t know that what I’ve done is exactly praiseworthy when I don’t have a choice. I have to put one foot in front of the other, which is more a sign of perseverance or possibly tenacity rather than one of bravery or strength; it’s basic survival. Praising me for it, especially when it’s happening a month before the anniversary of Jay’s death, keenly reminds me that strong isn’t the word you’re looking for. I’m alone. It reminds me that I get to walk through this world by myself.

The rational part of my brain would hop in here and say (because I’ve said this to many a friend): You’re not at the end of your story; you don’t know how it ends. You don’t even know all the characters This is just one chapter. And the irrational part snarks back, “oh, don’t I though?”

So, for now, I appreciate it, but if you could hold back on any praise for remembering to do something that amounts to “getting up, breathing, and feeding myself again.” I mean “go me” but ehhh… it’s just a day ending in the word “day”.

Now let me walk that “I’m alone thing” back a bit, too.

I’m not entirely alone in the sense that I do have people who care about me. So, I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer a huge thanks to everyone who checked on me every single day this weekend – usually multiple times a day – to make sure I was ok – that I was still hanging in there. You’re the best. I appreciate you, and for those of you who got really scared – the ones where we performed brief tangos where “I’m not sharing with you how badly I feel, and you’re not telling me how scared you are.” I’m not done being sick, yet and we’ll still dance that dance but know I appreciate you for caring that much.

Hopefully, after some sincere wood-knocking for the universe, I’ll continue to improve.

Additional Random Bits of GratitudeEnding on a Better Note

Thanks to the following:

  • All the places that deliver: from groceries to O2 sensors and Tylenol
  • Streaming Services
    • Stranger Things, Season 4
    • The Good Place
  • Cell phones + My inability to text (good times)
  • Videos with friends laughing at TV shows
  • Marco Polo videos
  • Naps
  • “Call Me Maybe” Tribute videos by various US Armed Forces units (it’s an embarrassing addiction a guilty pleasure that cheers me up)
  • Roel – so great to hear from you; your texts cheered me up! I cannot wait to see you when you get back from your trip!

Ok, off to call it a night and get ready to face Day 4 or 6.

I’ll just put this here…

Something Else Real

I’ll probably fire this one off a bit too quickly, then look back with regret that I hadn’t taken the time to massage the words as well as I could. Ehhh… that’s almost every post you read here. Somedays I get to own the fact that my words aren’t always my strength… and that’s ok.

When I asked people to share something real for Mental Health Awareness Month, that was a big ask – a hard ask. Hey guys, take this figurative microphone, and now go speak your truth to your friends, your family – the sea of co-workers, classmates, and that gal you connected with on that flight – those people you call your “followers”.

It’s daunting as hell to remove one mask to reveal a new one – an unknown one. It’s much easier to post vacation photos. However, a couple did fise to the challenge. You found your voice. You spoke your truth. You were honest. You were fearless. You were courageous.

I applaud your bravery for being willing to take that leap.

Before Jay died, I hadn’t given much thought to the community I had around me. It was a given – these people who steadfastly stood by my side weaving a net of support in the event I fell (like I’ve always woven for them). And when I fell and fell hard, they held tightly to its edges unable to prevent all of the bruises and deep scrapes but enough to protect me from shattering on the ground.

I thought about them a lot last week.

As I mentioned, May heralds the beginning of my season of sadness – of anxiety. Last Monday, I found myself outside a building unable to flee, pleading into a video that I just wanted to go home – that the day was overwhelming – that I was a freak. I explained that I just wanted to pull the blanket over my head and be done with the day. Why was the Uber app not resetting my password so I could just get one fucking ride home? Was it too much to ask for the universe to stop conspiring for one bloody day so I could just shut all the blinds, lower the temperature in the house, and just “not” for a bit? My phone buzzed, “where are you?” I frowned. “We can’t find you?” You don’t really want me around …and then I let my friends coax me back until I was ok.

At the end of the day, I sent a new video explaining what happened as big tears spilled down my cheeks. “I’m ok now, it’s just that for a moment…”

The rest of the week was calm, and on Friday a new message, “are we doing something tomorrow?” I rescheduled my day of nothingness and when Saturday rolled around I asked, “do you know what today is?” Yes. “I almost forgot. I was always bad at remembering.”

Saturday was our 15th wedding anniversary. We would have been together for nearly 23 years.

She pulled me into one of the best days I’ve had in a while – one filled with laughter and paint.

The subconscious is an incredible and crazy thing – working in the background and oftentimes keeping our conscious out of the loop. A seemingly random Monday wasn’t as random as I thought. My skin just a bit thinner as we march through the months of this season. I suspect a lot of Monday had to do with Saturday.

… and then there are my friends – still holding onto the edges of that patchwork net – knowing instinctively, without being told, that they should hold on a bit tighter.

Thank you, my friends. Thank you for being there, for listening, and for lifting me back up. Thank you for pulling me back when I start tumbling towards the edge…

…and thank you for splattering me with paint to make sure I was ok. 🙂 (not figurative.)

Thank you for covering me from head to toe in paint (and for taking care of me)