The Secret: A Treasure Hunt

In 1982, Byron Preiss buried 12 boxes around the US and Canada and published The Secret, a book containing clues in the form of illustrations and verses – puzzles to be solved. To date only three of the 12 treasure boxes have been recovered. The treasures were found in Cleveland, Chicago and Boston. Each box contains a key. Present the key and you receive a gemstone from Byron Preiss’ trust and join an elite circle of treasure hunters.

I wish I could tell you this was my story – that I heard about The Secret, poured over each verse, carefully studied every illustration scouring the images for clues, and hit all of the websites devoted to bringing closure to this ongoing mystery, but as a close friend always points out, “that ain’t me.” (Well, he actually says, “that ain’t you” meaning “me” – you get the idea.) I’m not that girl. Among my myriad shortcomings is a lack of patience. I want to deep dive into things for exactly one nanosecond and then immediately emerge with the answer. When we start ticking into the millisecond range, we’re now a millisecond closer to a coffee table being flipped. To put it another way, if my friends and I stood before a Sphinx and a riddle was thrown our way, we’d all be insta-murdered when I balled up my fists and bellowed back defiantly, “ain’t nobody got time for this…”

You can see where that attitude becomes challenging when you also happen to love a good puzzle. Anyway… when I first heard about this particular puzzle, or series of puzzles, thanks to Josh Gates’ (my TV show boyfriend – our love is real) series Expedition Unknown, I was intrigued. At the time only two puzzles had been solved, and me being me, I wanted to solve the rest. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, this runs straight into the 100′ thick wall that is my impatience. I like things now, and if now isn’t good for you, we can compromise. How are you with now? Because now works for me. I’m good with now. (FYI, I once told Jay we could never be on a competitive show like The Amazing Race, because I would absolutely be the person America hated. There Jay would be showing infinite amounts of kindness and patience, offering words of encouragement and I’d be losing my mind over some perceived, likely easily overcome, obstacle. America would have felt terrible for him and in turn they’d want to light me on fire.)

Stupid, annoying character flaws!

But I know myself, and I knew if I wanted any of them solved, I had to lean on a strength – knowing my friends. There was one in particular who had (has!) all the right traits: brilliant mind, loves challenges, loves puzzles, loves adventures and has an infinite amount of patience. Also, they put up with me (big boon in a friend – give them props). I’m actually not all that easy. I can be a bit like Tigger when I get excited about someone or something. I’m oftentimes overwhelming (flaw?) and that’s precisely when I need someone who is calm for balance – someone who can put up with my early morning pounces that usually come in the form of a lot of words as I pitch my ideas. “Buddy! HI! I’m making words with my FACE!!!!! Now you do all the things!! Ok? Ok! Good talk! Off to get more caffeine! Make good choices! You’re the best!”

Hey, the friendship works. Yay!

Let’s Talk Treasure Hunts! Also, Good Morning! © Disney

I recruited this friend on this adventure. Hrmm “recruited” sounds like I joined in when in fact I really did a hand off. “Ok, you do the brilliant mind things, solve puzzles, keep me posted and I’m going to play cheer squad. GO YOU!!”

… and they did. They put in a lot of work – a lot. They put in a lot of analysis – a lot. They spent many an hour on this project, and now they’re releasing videos on their solves.

I know some of you are saying, “yeah, but everyone who has come up with a solution believes they’re right, and yet the puzzles haven’t been solved. How is this person any different?” My simple answers are these: 1) Those people aren’t this person, and 2) I believe in them with everything that I am. I don’t know how to quantify it or sell it to you other than to say: I just believe. Maybe that’s enough for you, and maybe it isn’t, but let me counter with my own question: What does it really hurt to believe?

Right now, with everything going on, we’re so cynical. Ok, who am I kidding? We’ve been cynical for awhile. It’s like we figured out the thing with Santa, and everything since has been a downhill garbage slide into a bottomless landfill.

We believe less.

We hope less.

We’re afraid to take chances. Hey, life might kick us in the gut, and we hate gut kicks.

That’s just sad.

So, I’m asking you to dare to believe – just for a moment.

Starting today my friend has posted their solves on YouTube (kind of slick looking, if I might say so). Take a peak. And if you’re in one of the areas, why not just go see if they’re right? What can it hurt? Because what if they’re right? How awesome would that be?

So, without further ado – their first and second solve.

To my beautiful friend Irina, this first one is in Montreal. Go grab a permit, a probe, a shovel, some friends and Buddy. Are you in?

Montreal Solve – Irina, go for it!!!
Wisconsin Solve

If you are successful, let us know. We want to hear about it. And even if you’re not, you had an adventure. You’re welcome!

Political Ideology & Tribalism

I don’t enjoy writing about politics. It’s one of those topics that I was taught not to discuss at the dinner table. Well, at least that’s what the Norman Rockwell families on TV and in the movies tried to teach me; however, my parents were always game. Yesterday, I wrote a post, and someone took exception to it, which is absolutely fine. Let’s talk openly about these things. I just wanted to share my response to their claim that this election is not about ideology, but is instead about decency and racism. It’s one of those rare moments that I’ll share my point of view on this matter.

Thank you for taking the time to drop by and leave a comment. I’m going to disagree with you; this is absolutely about ideologies especially when you demonize an entire group of people and paint them with such broad strokes. There’s a huge problem when you start looking at the other side (over 13 million people) and classifying them as “indecent” and “racist.” Are there indecent people on that side? Sure. Are there racists as well? Absolutely. But to think that there’s not any among the Democrats is woefully ignorant. So, if we can agree then that not everyone who votes Republican – not even a majority – is either indecent or a racist, then we can start looking at the reasons behind their votes. Why would a decent, non-racist person vote for a person who is distasteful? Most of my Republican friends do not like Trump personally. They’re very aware of who he is, and how he sounds, and they’re still not on the Antifa/QAnon party bus to crazy town. They can look past the cloud of ridiculous and outrageous tweets and point to the good they see in the direction of the country brought about by their party. Do I agree with them? It doesn’t matter, except it absolutely does if we want to understand where their frustration points are and how to address them – how to defeat them. There’s a myriad of reasons he received the nomination over Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich. We need to look at those reasons to understand the pulse of the nation, which pointed to some deep frustrations Republicans had then and currently have.

There’s a decent article from The Atlantic you might be interested in titled: Republicans Don’t Understand Democrats—And Democrats Don’t Understand Republicans

My point is this: We are not in an epic battle of Good vs. Evil and when we do start viewing the other side as “evil,” then we’re part of the larger problem – a problem where it becomes clear that we’re so entrenched in our own ideas and misconceptions that we are unwilling to see the other side beyond media soundbites.

Now, when we talk about friends and I’m assuming we’re talking about mine I will say this: My world is richer because I have people who think differently than I do. If my friends don’t agree with me on every issue or every belief I hold, that’s ok. It’s one of the great things about this world. I don’t need people to be in lockstep with my views in order to move through it. In fact, it’s better if we disagree on occasion so I can grow. Beyond that, I don’t need the garbage men to vote the way I do, I need them to remove waste from my streets. I don’t need the coffee barista to support my candidate, I need them to smile and hand me a great cup of coffee. And when it comes to my friends, I need them to laugh with me on my best days, support me on my worst, and listen to me when I say things like “Black Lives Matter”. I also need to listen to them when they express their counter view.

I will never subscribe to this type of tribalism – the type that closes all conversations – that believes in its rightness to the exclusion of others – that demonizes a group – that shuts down conversation – that is absolutely based on ideology, because you cannot hear the other side.

Today we walk into a new era. Let’s try to do it with grace and an open mind – one willing to listen to those we may not always understand.

The Lost One

Last night I reached out to a dear friend of mine and said, “I want to write, but I don’t know what to write about.” He suggested tribalism and the election (FYI – get out and vote today). My response was, “you’d do a better job on this topic,” because he would. That’s just fact. He’s a beautiful speaker, brilliant debater and nothing quite gets him as excited as history.

So, without further ado, and much credit (he offered up: tell them it’s someone you’ve mentioned before), I give you John’s post:

“I’m one of the lost ones.    

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, either a giant slab of quartz or Dwayne Johnson, you know that the Presidential election is this week.   Once every 48 months, we and our fellow citizenry get to cast our votes for the highest office in the land.  Ideally, this is to exercise our greatest duty as constituents of our grand Constitutional Republic.  What actually happens is that we collectively suffer through a mob-ruled quadrennial festival of rampant tribalism. 

2020 isn’t special.  We’re told it is.  “It’s the most consequential election in our times!” – which is true if you consider only the last three years as “our times”, then yes, this is the most consequential Presidential election.  “But we have a pandemic in which 200,000 people have died!  Many personally stabbed to death by President Trump”.  The 1918 election cycle took place during the flu pandemic that infected a third of the world’s population and killed an estimated 50 million worldwide.   There’s no accurate reporting on how many President Wilson personally stabbed to death.    

Though President Trump and Vice-President Biden trade barbs; it’s civil-ish.   In the 1800 election, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied with 73 votes each (Broadway, it’s a wonderful teacher).  Alexander Hamilton, seeing Jefferson as the lesser of two evils, lobbied the Federalist to his side and we got a very decorative nickel as a reward.  Three years later, Burr shot Hamilton to death.  The election of 1860 wasn’t contentious, it tore the country apart and led directly to the Civil War and the deaths of over 600,000 Americans. The election of 1875 is a doozy too complex for this small article.  Hays vs. Tilden and Google is your friend.  2020 is not the ‘most contentious election in history’.  It’s arguably not in the top 10.  Back off and talk to the historical hand. 

“If we elect Biden, we’ll be allowing in socialism for the first time in American history!”  This one is also stupefyingly incorrect.  We’ll go more recent history for this one.  Why didn’t the United States enter WWII in 1940 on the side of the British during the darkest days of the war when Hitler, if he had more than an infantry corporal’s knowledge of military tactics, could have conquered Britain?   As with all things, it was political pressure.   F.D.R. was running for an unprecedented third term at the encouragement of his party, because he was incredibly popular.  More so than any other Democrat.  Though public outcry against a “third-term candidate’ was pointed from a vocal minority, the Democrats countered that the Republican Wilkie was a “third-rate candidate”.  Well known at the time, but not well publicized after the war, was the strong isolationist and non-interventionism sentiment championed by one of the biggest “Hollywood Elites” of the time – Charles Lindbergh.  F.D.R. – and many President’s since, capitulated to Lindbergh and the money coming from the left coast and promised to keep America out of the war. Yes, that Lindbergh of ‘the Spirit of St Louis’ and the Trans-Atlantic flight.   Yes, that Lindbergh of the kidnapped baby.  Yes, that Lindbergh of, “The Jews are war agitators”.  Yes, that Lindbergh who cautioned Americans against, “the infiltration of inferior blood and dilution by foreign races.” Yes, that Lindbergh who told the world that, “Adolf Hitler has established himself as the world’s greatest safeguard against Communism!”.  Hooray for Hollywood!  Neither Lady Gaga, nor her crushed beer can, can touch Lucky Lindy. 

In 1799, George Washington was asked to come out of retirement and run for a third term.   “The line between the parties,” Washington said, had become “so clearly drawn” that politicians “regard neither truth nor decency; attacking every character, without respect to persons – Public or Private, – who happen to differ from themselves in Politics.”  The full quote is long enough to where I’m reasonably sure he didn’t tweet it. 

I’ve seen MAGA hats smacked off the heads of the elderly.  I’ve seen a Biden/Harris bumper sticker spray painted over.  Both sides have said some of the most heinous things about each other, each accusing the other of “hate” while trumpeting themselves as the chivalrous champions of ‘fairness and anti-hate”.   This isn’t at the national-level – this is in my neighborhood. Politics is supposed to be ‘the art of compromise’.  In America, it’s a show.  It’s “Us vs Them”.  You’re “with us or against us”.  In 2020 – that’s also led to violence.   If you’re blue, it’s ok to make the red people bleed.   If you’re red, wishing death on the blue may be too good for them.    

If you identify with either party, we can guess who you are.  We know what you stand for.  We know what you believe, who brain-washes you, what news channel you watch, and can’t allow you to infect your children with it.   You must be stopped.    

I’m stopping.  I’m getting off your whack-job Tribal Train.  I’m joining those both parties consider ‘lost’.  I prefer to call us independent thinkers.  I’m a Lost One. I’ve not watched the news in two weeks, and I couldn’t be happier.   I’ve already voted – after researching all 77 candidates on the ballot and the 9 unopposed candidates.  Yes, I looked into all four of the local schoolboard positions.  These people set the tax rate on my house.  There are 22 Judges on the ballot, in seats at the District, Appeals, and State Supreme Court level.  All of whom are far more consequential to my life than the United States Supreme Court.  My State Senator and Congress seats vote on and pass legislation.  The President is just the figurehead who signs this legislation into law.   

It’s the 2020 election.  It’s not special.  It’s not ‘the most consequential’.  It’s just an election.   You should vote. 

It doesn’t give you any excuse whatsoever to be the jackass you accuse everyone else of being.”       

Come Wednesday

Guys, I’m struggling here. I know what I what I want to write, but I’m honestly not finding the words. I’m not finding some cutesy, homespun, Texas way to basically say, “you’re going to be ok” the eve before the election. I absolutely want to, but I have no idea. I don’t know if you’re going to be ok. According to every news source, you’re not. According to every meme and unverified source or quote we’re dancing in a tinder box, and Karen brought a lit Molotov cocktail, because she’s super bad at mixology. Apparently, by Wednesday you will have forgotten all civility, tanks will roll down the streets, and 16 million votes will disappear because x party did something hinky.

Everyone is on edge, and I’m sure someone much much smarter than I can point to the media or the various social impacts around Covid, but let’s be honest – we’ve been heading this way a long time – just look at this lovely animation from 2016 about polarization over the decades.

Over the past four years, I’ve been asked multiple times, “How can you be friends with a <insert that the opposite political party’s name here>?” The implication is that I should consider dropping people who don’t agree with me politically, or at the very least slap them for speaking against “our” party with an indignant, “get my party’s name out of your filthy maw!!!” (In case you’re reading this and having a moment of, “oh shit, Beth means me.” I don’t. MANY people have asked this question. MANY.)

And the answer to that question is: I can still be friends with people on the opposite side because I befriended a person, not a political ideology.

When I say my friends form a protective phalanx, well guess what my little shock troops who are reading, the person to your right may be more an Artemis fan than Apollo (the moon is the best!) or hell, they may still think the Cowboys will make a comeback and despise the Patriots. I don’t care, because if I stumble, they will reach down, make sure I’m righted, and then take down whatever came at me. I won’t sneer and say, “I’d rather wallow down here than get help from someone who cheered for the Seahawks.” That would be ridiculous. My friends are my friends. My friends are fierce. My friends are unique individuals and not their political party.

And I know this post is overly simplistic, but like many, I find this all extremely stressful and exhausting. I had to tell a co-worker last week that there was a 10 day bubble where he wasn’t allowed to talk to me about politics, and he struggles with this every single day, slipping up all the time. Now shouting “BUBBLE” when he speaks has become a thing. (Pro tip: There are lots of great bubble gifs for those too tired to shout the word.)

Honestly, I feel like I’m baring witness to the rudest fans at the worst football game, because that’s how everyone is acting.

Sure, I can take a stab at the complicated root cause that got us here, but it doesn’t matter.

So, here it is – my political post, and what I’m asking is that as we move forward please try to remember that most people want the best for this country; they just may see a different path to get there. Remember that those people that you may want to demonize over an ideology are your neighbors, your co-workers, your friends and your family – the people who would gladly lend you a helping hand if you suddenly found that your world had gone pear-shaped. You are not a Hatfield, and they are not McCoys. (Unless that’s true, and if so insert some other analogy.)

And come Wednesday, should your party not win, take steps to become more involved – be proactive – don’t whine from the sidelines or try to drive a bus off a major highway.

You have a voice. Dare to make a difference.

The Jay Walkers – 2020

These are my people, these are my friends… my beautiful tribe.

On October 24th, over 37 family and friends walked on behalf of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. They walked up Mount Kaukau and Arthur’s Pass in New Zealand. They walked atop of the hill that is Sohara Park in Fukuoka, Japan – a place where battles were fought. They walked in Ohio, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida and of course, Texas. They walked to raise awareness.

They walked for me.

They walked for Jay.

With over 66 donations, we raised $4646.14 and were the number one fundraising team for the Out of the Darkness Event in Central Texas this year. Huge thanks to all of you for your continued support!

Just looking at this collection of photos touches my heart and brings tears to my eyes. You guys are simply the best, better than all the rest, better than anyone…

I love you!

I wouldn’t be here without you.

Out of the Darkness Experience 2020 – Oct. 24th!

To My Team & Everyone Else (I’m all inclusive like that!):

The Central Texas Out of the Darkness Experience (aka the Walk) – “a journey of remembrance, hope, and support that unites our communities and provides an opportunity to acknowledge the ways in which suicide and mental illness have affected our lives and the lives of those we love and care about” is this Saturday, October 24th.

The walk officially runs between the hours of 9 AM to 1 PM.

You choose your location, the distance you want to travel (a good time to check that mailbox or meander over to the 7-11 (Wag-a-bag if you’re in the Round Rock area – you do you, you special ray of walking sunshine)), and your start time. This year you won’t have to search around for a parking spot or fight the crowds downtown. This year you support a cause in your own way – just make it Saturday or lie about it later. Who will know? (Your conscience. That’s who will know.)

Have you wanted to join, but not felt like hassling with the official website?

Well, my friend I have a deal for you! You can now join my team off the books. (Psst, you always could. You knew that, right?) What can I say? I mean, call me magnanimous, benevolent, generous, altruistic, kind, incredibly damn sexy – you could go on and on, I know. No seriously, go on – keep that flattery coming. I mean, I’ve never actually had my own sycophant, so consider this your audition. Genuflect? Why, thank you! Who am I to insist you stand? Just avoid the hassle of officially signing-up to walk for my team. Online forms, am I right? And don’t give a second thought to the fact that I want the biggest team, nor that I will judge you if we’re #2 in number of walkers and your laziness kept me from another framed award. Hey, at least you’re saving yourself from an unsolicited email or 500 by joining that way AND you’re still walking. I’m here for you.

BUT whether you’re an official walker or one of the more covert, off-the books walker, here’s my ask (serious face now):

  • Send me a photo of you walking that day. This will be used in a post-walk collage. I may post it, so if you don’t want your image shared, let me know. I do still want to see your face.
  • I want to do a video where my walkers (you) pass something to another person. This can be related to the walk, your feelings, or Jay. If you’d like to participate, here’s my ask:
    • You receive the item from the right (a heart, a candle, a photo of Jay (contact me if you need a photo) or whatever you want to do.
    • You pass your item to the left
    • You say why you’re walking (or you can be silent, too), but if you choose to speak think of saying something along the lines of why you walk. It could be fairly simple/short: “I walk to raise awareness.” “I walk for Jay.” “I walk to keep Beth from hunting me down and giving me the socially distant stink eye.” Or say whatever you feel – it could be the lyric of a song, a poem (I dig slam poetry), you could sing, play an instrument – go crazy (please, don’t go crazy – that would be wildly inappropriate)
    • Hold each movement for a beat or two: The receiving action, the holding the item for the camera action, and then the passing action.
    • The video should be between 5-10 seconds (unless you’re singing, you sing! Take all the time you need! You’ll likely be the feature, and I will genuinely applaud you – seriously, I would – I’m not opposed to someone more talented and creative doing something bigger – if it comes from the heart, it will be amazing)
    • The video can be filmed on your phone. I will provide upload info – just let me know you have the video ready.
    • Let me know if you will participate in this part.

Are you ready to walk on Saturday?!?

Also, real quick: a huge thanks guys for making this virtual walk so successful – whether you’ve agreed to be a walker, you’ve donated to AFSP, or you’ve sent words of encouragement. It’s all appreciated!

I love you guys! You’re the best! Especially you. You’ve always been my favorite.

Available in 100’s of Colors (or Nine)

As many of you may have noticed after my writing 1000 million posts (you’re quite observant), for the past three years I’ve organized a team to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This year I had some big ideas for fundraising, but thanks to a global pandemic (thanks, Covid!!!) I struggled with creativity.

However, my friends Anna and Jonathan did not!! (They never do. Show offs.)

Please enjoy their fundraising video for AFSP and the Out of the Darkness Walk below. It’s clever and it also features some of my very favorite people and nephews!

It’s not too late to donate. For $3 you get one of these lovely mask lanyards in 100’s (9) colors! Information for making a donation can be found in the description on the YouTube video site. Just scroll down!

Author of Your Own Story

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a lot happening out there as we enter into our 8th month of this pandemic. Whether we’re talking about the election, jobs, relationships, racial issues – there’s a great deal of uncertainty – anxiety as we’re faced with questions like “what happens next?” “Who are we when we re-emerge into this brave new world?”

Watching or reading the news, whether it’s from a major news outlet or a more easily digestible FB filter, it doesn’t look uplifting. Even Some Good News only had eight episodes before it was sold. Did the good news go away? Every day the news shows us a world that’s on fire both literally and figuratively. We’ve cloistered ourselves for months – afraid to move as we watch all of this unfold behind the lace curtains of our protected bubbles (if we’re fortunate enough to have them). We watch our nation struggle. We watch our friends and family struggle. We watch the social unrest and social injustice.

It’s easy to feel like the world has become unmoored.

We’ve changed our lives in ways we could have never imagined. We’ve lost that pep in our step. We approach life more cautiously – with greater trepidation – uncertain of our futures. It’s easy to feel helpless – to feel like you’re drowning and unable to make a change.

And that’s what I want to talk about. Change.

There’s a lot wrong in this world that we can’t fix, but what we absolutely can affect are things within our sphere of influence. I cannot fix complex issues like social unrest, but I absolutely can use my voice, and I can take steps at a local level to bring about change. I can choose to leave an unhealthy relationship, to find a more satisfying job, to ask for help when I struggle; that’s my personal sphere of influence. Your choices are within your own sphere of influence.

I know, change is scary. It represents leaving something comfortable – something familiar to step potentially into the unknown. It represents risk, and let’s face it, we can be pretty risk adverse. When confronted with the possibility, we run through the “what ifs.” It’s the “what ifs” that point to the possibility of face-planting failure that tend to get the most airtime in our thought bubbles. I mean, if we can just pump the breaks and sit in our comfortable world, even if that world is untenable, at least we aren’t risking the failure. Oh yeah, and we’re also not growing.

I think many of us have gotten into a bad habit of imaging the worst case scenario, but something I’ve started working on personally is imagining the best case scenario. What would it look like if I succeeded? What would it look like if I took the chance, put in the work, and then I was happy?

What would your life look like if you stuck your neck out and took that chance?

I sometimes think about the relationship I was in before I left it for Jay, and I did leave it for Jay. It was awful, but familiar. I was with a man who let me know regularly that I was a bad person and also that I was fairly unattractive, but hey, I’d probably make a good mom. Thanks? I knew that was wrong, that it damaged me, but it was easy – familiar. I was afraid that leaving would mean I was alone – that I’d lose my shot at having kids. I was afraid of all of the unknowns. The “what ifs” and a general sense of fear ground away at my resolve.

The chance I took on Jay was petrifying. It didn’t help that many friends and family members decided it would be a keen idea to compound that a bit, and honestly there were purely awful days. But in the end I had 17 amazing years with a person who believed I was great – who told me he loved me every single day. And on Jay’s last day, the one thing he did was make sure I was as protected as he could make me before he left. It was something the Victim Services volunteers kept repeating, “your husband really loved you – look at what he did to protect you.”

I can tell you this, when I decided to take that big risk, it was worth it – it was worth all of the years of laughter and love, and it was worth the sadness and heartache that followed. It was worth leaving a terrible situation with someone who was unkind to be in a loving relationship with someone who adored me – a person who built me up – a person who believed in me.

We need to stop sitting back and accepting where we are in our lives, because we’re too afraid, because we think we can’t affect change – that we’ll fail. We need to stop shouting into the wind hoping our voices will be heard or that someone will come save the day. We need to decide we are worth taking risks for – that we’re deserving. We need to decide it’s time to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and face our fears.

This quote has stuck with me since 8th grade (and I own that it may be a bit corny but it’s something I repeat regularly):

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Frank Herbert

Another quote I love:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson

Are you going to sit back and let the world pass you by, imprisoned by self-doubt with a beer in one hand and a foot in the grave? What is holding you back from shining? From living your best life?

You are not a character in your own novel, you are the author. What is your next scene? Do you make a stand? Do you find your voice? your resolve?

Don’t sit on the sidelines hoping for change. Reach down and find your strength, find your voice, face your fears, and be the change. Identify the steps you need to take, the tools you need, and move forward.

Dare to imagine a world where you succeed – where you’re happy.

You’re worth it.

I’m worth it.

Four Years, Two Months & a Handful of Days

This is one of the rare posts that I’m not sharing on Social Media. I recognize that when I do, it’s with the intent to alert my family and friends that I’ve been writing again and I really need some “Likes” (watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix (it’s well-done) and then blame the platform developers for driving those addictive needs that I find difficult to wean myself away from).

Over the last month my posts have had a dual purpose – to raise awareness and to also raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I think both are important. However, I don’t need that today. If you feel like donating when I’m through, you can find the link.

Let’s Start

On any given day I feel ok. On any given day I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress. I’m surrounded with a solid support base. I’m handling disappointment better (a tremendous hurdle for me). To give you some idea of where I was: In the past if someone backed out of a plan, I’d be an emotional wreck. It could be as simple as, “I can’t make lunch” to “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have invited you on the Paris trip. You don’t mind if I uninvite you now, right? My bad!” Both were met with the same level of disappointment. Not going to Chuy’s for a margarita and super nachos was as heartbreaking as being uninvited from standing in the Louvre fighting for a spot to glimpse The Mona Lisa. Two things that absolutely should not be equal were equal to me, but I moved on – my sense of perspective began to normalize again. Now I can drink a Chuy’s margarita and fuss about being uninvited to Paris. Of course, I probably still can’t go to the Louvre without causing some sort of scene by trying to flip some art or kicking an unsuspecting French person who would be wholly undeserving of said kick, but yay progress. Am I right? (Hey, I said I got my perspective back in terms of “nachos don’t equal the Louvre.” I didn’t say I magically matured or that I was over having the invitation rescinded. Pro tip: Don’t make big offers to recently traumatized people then pull them back. It’s not a good look, and the reaction you get may not showcase them at their best.)

Over these four years, I’ve made other positive steps. I’ve stopped crying regularly. I do still cry, sure, but it’s not with that same frequency or intensity. I miss my person and all that he was. That’s not going away.

In these four years, I’ve gotten a better handle on my anxiety attacks, which I mentioned in a previous post.

All decent steps forward.

Sure, I’m still mad that a condition of us being together was that I had to agree to never having children. I’m mad that I find myself alone having made that sacrifice. I’m mad that I’m old. I’m mad that I was abandoned. I mad that the prospects for someone finding me attractive are non-existent and I’m mad that I will never be touched lovingly again. All of that weighs on me. All of that hurts me to my core. All of that I have to work on.

But still, I’ve made progress. I work through and manage my issues on a daily basis – just like everyone else. And I feel ok most of the time.

On Friday I was on our bi-weekly lunch call – arguably my favorite “meeting” where I get to see all the faces I miss (and all of those faces seem to give me a certain amount of grief – hrmm, I may have questionable taste). During that call, I heard a knock at the door signaling my lunch had finally arrived. YAY! Warm sandwich and a cookie! My go-to for these lunches. I don’t know what it is, but the sub shop must sprinkle their turkey sandwiches with magic. They’re crazy delicious. When I opened the door, I was surprised to see a gentleman standing there while another was leaving. Odd. He then handed me my sandwich while addressing me by my legal name. Weird. No one calls me that, and it seemed odd for the sandwich guy to even have that information. Are you…? (Umm… are you a stalker? Serial killer?) The gentleman then explained he was my postman. (I guess gone are the days of the easily identifiable polyester uniforms. I mean sure, good on them, those didn’t look comfy. No judgment. But on the other hand you kind of end up looking like my sandwich guy.) He handed me a certified letter and my lunch.

I took everything in and set it down. The letter was from my city, which usually means that the city is asking for participants in their annual water testing project. I’m usually up for that, so I opened it expecting to find the timeline and arrival of the collection bottles.

It turned out that the letter was not from their public utilities department, it was from the city’s police department. It stated that the police were in possession of my property – a claim I found both odd and completely incorrect. Unless someone stole something, the police department shouldn’t have any of my property. I wasn’t missing anything. Did someone take something from me? I searched my memory. Could I be so oblivious that I was missing something important enough for the police to reach out about? Maybe? I read further and the letter made no sense. You see, my brain wasn’t processing the words that described the item they had listed, and that’s because I’m unfamiliar weapons – their brands or their descriptions. It’s not my world. What this letter was telling me was that the police had the weapon Jay used to complete his suicide – four years, two months and a handful of days later. The last thing he held in his hand. The letter demanded I contact them immediately and either pick it up or have it destroyed. The last thing he held in his hand. The thing that he used to take his life. The thing I told them the day of Jay’s death to destroy. The letter said I had 60 days to act – like I’d done something wrong or negligent. I reeled.

I told myself I was ok. It was only a letter describing an object.

I was not ok.

I walked over to my laptop and slammed it shut. The cheerful voices continued to dance through the speakers. I popped it back open, found the “Leave” button for the meeting, and then collapsed on the floor wailing – something I haven’t done in years. All of the pain of Jay’s death pulsing out from my body in large inconsolable waves. I allowed myself to have that moment, and then I called my people – my brother-in-law, my bestfriend, and my step-mom – each pulled me back an inch at a time – each with an immediate action plan on how to address the situation. Finally, my friend Edward offered up, “Hey, at least the cops didn’t show up with a warrant to search your dungeon basement. Does your mom know me as the guy who lives down there whom you keep demanding to cover himself in lotion?” (Silence of the Lambs reference and ongoing inside joke.) I finally laughed again. (Note: I do not have a dungeon basement that Edward lives in. This is Texas. Edward lives in my crawlspace. We don’t have basements. Also, I’M KIDDING. No Edwards were harmed – he’s too funny to hurt.)

Another friend chatted with me the next night, and helped further define my path forward – my next step, which is: I’m going to contact the police department and suggest they work with their volunteer Victim’s Services group to engage them for this type of outreach. It shouldn’t be a form letter. What they did was ham-fisted at best, and this process desperately needs improvement.

All of this said to further put a spotlight on the aftermath of suicide. It is absolutely devastating to the survivors. It ravages those left behind, taking tolls on physical and mental health. And while survivors can and will rise back up again, and again – this snapshot into a single day of my experience points out that even when we feel our strongest, we will experience momentary set-backs – unforeseen things – things that sit closer to our tears.

And it’s why I come back time and time again to express the importance of the mission of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and why I know you can make a difference – why you should make a difference – whether you’re advocating, educating or supporting with a donation. Be a part of that solution. Do it for me. Do it so future families won’t receive a letter four years, two months and a handful of days later and crumble to pieces. Do it so they never have to know that loss – that pain.

Me, I have a mission to make change. That’s my commitment.

Support

The death of Jay by suicide is the most devastating event I have yet to experience. To lose someone so suddenly, so definitively, and so needlessly ripped out a big piece of my heart. I spend a lot of time talking about the aftermath of surviving Jay’s death, about my struggles, about the struggles of other survivors in regard to blame, to shame and the stigma of suicide. I talk about the importance of putting a spotlight on mental health issues, which are critical – about supporting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. What I don’t spend time telling you enough about is the love and support I received (and continue to receive).

The day Jay died, I broke – I broke in ways that I will never get back – I broke in predictable ways – ways that a lot of survivors break. I have anxiety attacks. When those attacks aren’t managed, I can have panic attacks. These can be brought on by a stressful event, or a simple office meeting, or just watching a TV show about something as adorable/stress-free as kittens. I can be calm in one moment, and in the next, my body has just dumped a lot of chemicals and hormones into my system signaling me that we’re now in fight or flight mode. To cope, I’m now a reigning queens of breathing techniques and now have a keen ability to describe objects in painstaking detail. I do this until my brain relents and says, “Yeah ok, we’re cool – false alarm. So, how about those kittens. Huh? They’re pretty cute.”

I was angry at Jay in the immediate aftermath of his death, and like many survivors, I struggled with suicidal ideation. Why didn’t he take me, too? I felt a keen sense abandonment and that hurt me even more. We were supposed to be together. Now, to be perfectly clear, this was the manifestation of my own mental health issues that were a result of his death. I’m glad to be here. I’ll vainly put out there that I know the world is a better place with me in it. Lucky you guys!

So, let’s talk about the many things that helped me survive, and that’s all of the people who immediately surrounded me – my phalanx of friends and family who refused to leave me behind or let me fall. They began showing up at my house within a half hour of the news, and they stayed – they stayed through tears, long silences, through moments where I couldn’t focus well enough to tell them what I needed – from food to how to hold a memorial service. They sat quietly while I screamed irrationally in my kitchen, and again while I sobbed on my front porch, They forgave me when I was a little too impatient – a little too short – a little too blunt or brutal with my responses. They forgave me when I greeted their “How was your vacation?” with a low growl and the harsh toned announcement of, “I wasn’t on vacation – Jay is dead.” They forgave me when I was cruel, and there were moments where I was absolutely cruel.

One of the things I know I’ve lost is that patience – that softer edge. It’s something I work on – something I sometimes have to feign, because I want to be kind. I want to be caring again.

With my loss, I found new and amazing friends (or rather they found me) – people I knew of, but did not know. These people took me under their wing – included me in their events – introduced me to new people who were equally amazing – these incredibly good, kind, witty people with huge hearts and clubs I got to be inducted into.

My one regret, if I have one, is that I didn’t know them before and that there’s this chunk of years where I wasn’t talking to them, hanging out with them, and enjoying even more shared adventures and stories. Their generosity of spirit is awe inspiring and I cannot properly express how much I appreciate them for including me.

The bond with many of my current friends became even stronger.

The simple truth is, I would not be where I am today without the incredible support I received from my family, from my friends, and from my co-workers. I am surrounded by a great deal of love – a ton of patience and a lot of caring – people who want me to thrive – people who go out of their way to make sure that happens every single day. They’re the ones who reach out and ask, “Hey, are you ok?” when I seem a bit off or drop a silly card in the mail or agree to drive across state lines just to hang out in the mountains (and generously offer up a soft (free) landing spot in those same mountains.

When I’ve talked about suicide and how I struggled, and how other suicide survivors struggle, I did not tell you about this other side. I didn’t tell you how fortunate I felt (and still feel) – how loved I felt (and feel). But recognize that it too is part of my healing process – I could experience and recognize that love, but I couldn’t express it, yet.

So this is a thank you to all the people who are in my life – who support me. I see you. I appreciate you, and I love you.

This is also a reminder that not everyone receives the same support that I was fortunate enough to receive. And a lot of it has to do with the very real stigma associated with suicide and with people struggling with mental health issues. You can change that. You can do something to help reshape that narrative.

Today Congress passed a bill establishing 9-8-8 as the Suicide Prevention line; it’s now awaiting the President’s signature. This is a HUGE step in the right direction, and still more needs to be done. We must act now.

You can do that by helping support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention again. AFSP provides those who have lost someone to suicide the opportunity to talk with their volunteers – volunteers who are themselves survivors of suicide loss. AFSP helps survivors find support groups. It’s one of the many important services this non-profit provides, and it’s so crucial to the well-being – to the mental health – of other survivors.

And I get it, I know, you’re getting tired of these posts – tired of these conversations, but it’s important. We have to keep fighting for better access to mental healthcare. We have to keep fighting to reduce the number of suicides by 20% by 2025 (a goal AFSP has set and believes is achievable).

Please consider making a small ($10) donation to my fundraiser for AFSP.

Fundraising promise: If I personally raise $3,000 for my team, I’ll share the story about a blind date surprising me by taking me to his missed AA meeting. Good times!

On a more serious note

If you are you in a crisis: Please call 800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741.

Stay well. Stay healthy. I love you all to the moon and back.