A Particular Set of Skills

WARNING: Strong language that is likely unsuitable for people with access to language skills may appear in the following post.

I have a particular set of skills, not the kind that would help me find any relative in an action movie, but they count as skills or maybe more precisely “skills” in air quotes. They’re not the kind that my parents are particularly proud I possess, but on occasion, they have made my friends laugh. (And the “skills” I’m referring to are not abusing semicolons and parentheses, though my editor David might argue that I’m quite skilled in those areas as well.)

I can rant.

I can rant in a way that will make a room go silent. I can rant in a way that will make you spray water onto your screen. Your reaction depends on the topic at hand and my mood or my objective. I’m that person people have said, “I bet it’s cute when you get mad,” and immediately the “oh shit” or “eject” cartoon bubble appears over their head when they’ve accidentally discovered how woefully mistaken they were.

This ability doesn’t make me particularly different or special. It’s just that in my basket of ways/tools I can pull from to express myself, I happen to be better at that style. My precision with the English language becomes sharper. My sentences become simpler. I’m like an angry Hemingway. Again, it’s not so much a thing to brag about. It just is what it is. Thus, I have a blog. It’s here to help me work on communicating my thoughts better. That’s a lot of blahblahblah to start a story, but you needed some background.

Tuesday was the anniversary of Jay’s death. It was also two days after a cookie misadventure, which nearly left me without a thing to bring to a gathering of friends. On that day I went to see one of the few people I can be around on that day: my trainer. I have a lot of great friends, but my trainer is one of the few who can successfully navigate through all of the mess that is me some days. On Tuesday, I walked in pretty wound up and then launched into a story about some cookies. As I’m working my way into the second or maybe third sentence she says, “I’m going to stop you for a second. You’ve now said “fuck” five times. Normally you say “fuck” zero of the times. I just wanted to make you aware that I’m counting. Continue.” Oops. I completed the story without another incident. At least I don’t recall one. Although, as mad as I was I probably had “fuck” amnesia and said it ten more times to emphasize all of my crazy buttons had been pushed. Yay amnesia that lets me believe I stopped at five! Ultimately, through the use of that expletive, I successfully (and emphatically) communicated that I was completely amped up about the thing I was amped up about. All before 6 AM. Go me!

On Thursday new thoughts on “the Great Cookie Massacre of 2019,” which is really how it should be referred to from this moment forward, were shared.

Now I realize you’re probably thinking, “this is a lot vague talk about some sort of cookie thing, and I’m not entirely sure where we’re going here. This seems like a “near” rant, but not quite an “actual” rant. I thought I read this far for a rant. Where is the payoff? Didn’t you say you were good at it? I’m not feeling the “good” here. I knew I should have picked up the New York Times instead. This is bogus!” Well, first off: when did you become such a rant critic? And your sticking around is really on you, but also you’re not wrong. I’m fence-sitting because I’m torn. You see, I promised my Dad today that I wouldn’t go on an epic cookie rant on my blog. However, a good friend thought it might be a fine idea and encouraged it. I’m sure he could picture himself tucked in, reading it and chortling. (People really don’t chortle enough these days.) Then there was another person who, without context for the story, felt I had the potential to turn it into something funny, which I’m also failing to do.

So, what I’ve successfully delivered here is an unfunny brag about ranting where I didn’t rant. It’s a post where I threw in several expletives, and you learned nothing about a supposed cookie massacre. However, had I chosen to crush my father’s soul and gone through with the rant, you likely would have heard things like: “self-deprecating,” “I Love Lucy,” “parchment paper,” and a declaration that “peanut-butter chocolate-chip cookies are the best!!!” (Because they are.) There likely would have been a story about how I used to work at a cookie store in a mall, and there might have been a brag that I can out-cookie most people. Although, in true rant style it probably would have digressed into a vague threat to the universe regarding dough storage, and someone would have restarted the “f-bomb” counter.

Words Matter

My husband Jay died by suicide. It was not romantic or noble or beautiful or any other positive feeling you might have seen portrayed in a movie. Mozart’s emotionally stirring Requiem didn’t play softly in the background, nor did a dove take flight in slow motion during the event that changed our lives. No, what happened was an absolute horror show wrapped in “Crime Scene” ribbon starring all of his immediate family and friends.

When you look at the statistics around suicide, it’s estimated that a single suicide affects up to 115 people thanks to a ripple effect. So, not only was I deeply affected, but so were his family, my family, my extended family, my friends, my co-workers, the last person who spoke to Jay when he was in crisis, the police officers involved, the victim’s services staff, and so on. You get the idea.

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know all of this, and you know that Jay suffered from depression combined with extreme fatigue as a result of untreated sleep apnea. These are all things you know.

Some things you might not know: I now suffer from anxiety and panic attacks that become more pronounced this time of year as we get closer to the anniversary of Jay’s death. (Each year they get better. Yay.) There are moments that my body suddenly starts telling me I’m in danger, and I need to flee. It’s not exactly what you want to be feeling when you’re in the middle of a meeting in a confined space away from the door and there are 45 minutes left on the clock. We’re just getting started folks. Settle in for this fun brain chemistry run amok rodeo!

So, you may be asking yourself, “Beth, why are we here again? We’ve read this one.”

Well, it’s because I have a request to ask of you – not just for me, but for the other 114 people who were touched by Jay’s suicide. If you figure that nearly 800,000 people die by suicide worldwide each year, and each death affects 115 people, then ultimately my request is for the 92 million people who are affected annually. There is an average of 129 suicides in the US per day, which means that the 92 million grows by 14,835 people in the US each day.

The Request

My request is fairly simple: I need us, as a society, to work on changing some exceptionally bad habits we’ve fallen into. The kind many of us, including me, have innocently engaged in over the years. Here’s what I’m talking about – I’ll explain by way of offering up a scenario: You’ve had a rough day – the kind where everything has really spun a tad out of control, and you’re kind of frustrated/grumpy/what-have-you. You’re standing around the water cooler chatting up your friends, your family, or whomever you like to chat with, and you want to drive home the point of how exceptionally challenging your day was. Now here’s where you may find yourself at a bit of a descriptional crossroads (or multi-directional highway). How do you drive home the point that you’re kind of irritated with how this particular unfair life event unfolded? You’re a good person, clearly deserving of better! I’m going to offer up a pro tip here: Whatever you choose to say, avoid describing whatever happened as being so bad you really want to end it all. Not only should you not say it, you should also avoid a pantomime of meeting that end. The reason? Of the people gathered around listening to the description of your perfectly awful day, you likely have little or no clue as to whether one of them is among the NINETY-TWO MILLION in this year alone who have been affected by suicide. In this case, it’s better to simply say, “I had a bad day.” We can all relate.

If you are in crisis, please seek help immediately and call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

Another scenario: Let’s say you did something daffy. (I’m sure people do “daffy” things still, don’t they?) You’re a bit embarrassed. You can’t believe how dopey it was – how preventable if you’d only been on your game. Your friends are laughing with you (some possibly at you – friends can be jerks). Just leave it there. You don’t need to put a finger to your head and pretend to blow out your brains; it’s not necessary. Your temporary embarrassment isn’t worth suggesting you should die over it. We get it. It was goofy. Atypical for good ol’ you.

Where This All Came From

Today I sat next to someone who shared a personal story – a tragedy, and I acknowledged how difficult and stressful that time of their life must have been. Then they proceeded to tell me how they “nearly” ended their lives in a particularly graphic way – hand gestures, the whole bit, to really drive the point home that their life had been tough. I just stared. What they described so casually, so nonchalantly was exactly how Jay died so hopelessly, so tragically. I became agitated, which started triggering an anxiety attack. I counted things, I breathed, and then I counted more things because my supervisor frowns on me saying the words that immediately pop into my head in those situations. (He hasn’t explicitly told me “no” though, but I think he relies on my better judgment to help me navigate through those rougher waters.)

From there I decided to write this appeal to everyone and ask that we just stop for my sake, and for the sake of everyone else – for the 92 million affected people. Suicide is not a joke. It’s not a punch-line for your bad day or for things spinning momentarily out of control. It’s serious, it’s tragic, it affects far too many and we shouldn’t make light of it. We shouldn’t wish it on ourselves when we’ve had a bad day, had to spend time with the in-laws, seen a bad performance, or whatever your trigger is that makes you feel like you need to punctuate your displeasure by suggesting you wanted to die. How awful.

Me? I want to survive that bad moment, that bad day, that bad year, that bad performance and look back and say, “Damn, I’m a badass! I made it through again!” Because there is very little in this world that I think would be made better by me not being a part of it. 

Oh, a Blog… and Other Stories

Another online date out of the way, and more time spent with people who haven’t seen me in awhile brings me to my least favorite line of questions: “So, Beth… tell me about yourself. What do you do?” If there is one question that is like hitting the clear button on my brain, that’s it. You ask it, and not only have I forgotten what I recently had for lunch, I’m not entirely certain where I actually live. It’s a house, I think? Likely in Texas? We’re in Texas, right? (Hrmm… seems I didn’t travel far or, y’know, Texas far.) I have a cat! (Wait, I do have a cat, right? Maybe a dog? Maybe not… Tricksy questions.) Err… how about you? (Whew. Solid ground again. They probably didn’t notice the floundering.)

I’m about 97% certain I bored the recent date so much with my lack of ability to point to anything I did that he basically faked a reason to escape. (This worked out quite well, because I “really” had to go to powder my nose, and he’d told the staff it was ok to go ahead and lock up. We’d be good sitting on the patio drinking tea with no access to facilities. Also, what kind of mad coffee house closes at 5pm???? That’s not a thing!)

Ok, the fact that I may have been bent on boring him on purpose
after he popped his index finger into his nose for the THIRD time is not important to the story. I just wanted to share that bit, because OMG a grown man, a pastor, put his finger in his nose multiple times. Just kept it there, too. Like you do when you’re meeting someone for the first time.

Anyway… I digress from the point, which is discussing the question I hate. “What do you do?” Here’s how that conversation typically goes, with very little variation:

Person: What do you do for fun? (Keep up, I can’t believe I had to type that again.)

Me: I write.

Person (eyes light up as their thought bubble excitedly explodes with, “Ooo! A novelist! Definitely a novelist – probably in a writing group… literary… smart… look at the glasses, the brown hair, she sits tall… all signs of great intelligence): What do you write?

Me: I have a blog.

Person (barely contained disappointment – not a real writer) …what kind of blog?

Me: Mostly anecdotes about my life. (Seeing the disappointment, I offer…) It’s sometimes funny???

Person: Well… isn’t that something. Oh hey, I think I just saw Alice and Mario walk in. Let me just go say hi. (They flee never to be heard from again.)

Honestly, I would get a much better reaction if I said matter-of-factly, “I lick paint,’ or if I started to peel and eat crayons in front of the person.

Y’know, it reminds me of a schoolmate’s husband. “What does Tim do?” “Oh, he’s a magician… at a strip club.” I mean, who doesn’t go to those places just for the magic show and the cheap steak?

As I type these words, I realize that analogy is spot on – to call what I do “writing” is a bit like saying I’m a magician at a strip club. Or I guess it’s more truly akin to claiming I paint, and producing a Paint by Numbers kit. “It’s Christina’s World! They give you like three different kinds of beige. Isn’t it awesome? I plan on framing it when I’m finished.”

Or, you know, like going to a “Painting with a Twist” class and showing off my lopsided Eiffel Tower, and calling it art.

I really should take up drinking one day.

Anyway… all of that to say I’ve been asked about my hobbies a lot lately (the online date guy, Dad’s birthday), and each time, I drew a gigantic blank, no memory of anything I did in the past or do currently, then blurted out, “I write a blog!!” with a goofy smile because I’d remembered something. It was like I’d just announced, “I LIKE PONIES!!!” (In all fairness, who doesn’t like ponies?? I mean in theory, actual ponies are kind of assholes.)

Dad’s friends exchanged sad looks as they realized that the poor man only has the one child. “Bless her little heart. She tries. At least she’s able to feed herself on her own. Or… maybe not. I can’t even look right now.”

This reminds me that I’m still trying new things this year (that I’ll forget to mention when asked what I do).

This is the “and other stories” promised in the title. As you know, I tried painting (February). In March, Anna and I live-streamed our attempt at yoga, and I discovered a new gallery Ao5 (Art on 5th) c/o my nephew, which was fantastic. In April my plan is to sign-up for beginning rowing. And as always, I’ll write about it, or write about it (in italics, since this isn’t real writing from what I gather based on everyone’s reaction).

Oh, and by the way, this is about the same reaction I receive when I announce I “go to the gym,” but that’s another post for another day.

Pick Up the Phone

Thursday night a good friend of mine experienced what I imagine is one of the most profoundly painful and tragic moments in her life. Her 30-year-old son murdered her husband at their home. Their tragedy played across the local news with photos of police officers entering the lobby of their condo, their son pinned to the floor, hands behind his back, an officer’s knee holding him in place, and finally his mug shot. One article tried to paint this in Middle Eastern tones: “the family of Middle-Eastern male descent.” (Last I checked, Algeria was in Africa, but hey we’re ‘Merica, we don’t do geography; we do sensationalism, and we do it well. I mean, let’s just ignore the bit that his mother is American; it’s not as interesting that way.) The truth of the story is it’s not about nationality; it’s a tragic story about mental illness.

For reference: This is the friend with whom I recently spent the evening painting a tilted Eiffel Tower while sipping wine a couple of weeks ago; she’s the reason you all got a blog entry and a photo of a terrible painting. She’s the person I’ve floated in a lake with laughing, stayed up with until all hours of the night watching movies, enjoyed countless meals and countless glasses of wine. (There was the time I got completely tipsy with her sister, giggling madly in her kitchen.) We’ve shared a million stories, a few hardships, and we’ve laughed. (I mention this again, because it’s such a key component of who she is as a person.) Her laugh is the kind that lights up a room. Everything about her is open, welcoming, kind, and thoughtful. She’s exactly the person I would like to be when I grow up, and it’s why she has been my mentor for years.

She’s also the person who came over after Jay passed away to take care of our beagle, Sam, which allowed me to celebrate Jay’s mom’s 80th birthday. Jay, who was rarely one to say he enjoyed someone, really liked both her and her husband.

When I heard the news I was standing in our crowded cafeteria. My face crumpled, and I ended up in a ball in our lobby. I knew her husband; he was a beautiful person, the kind that exuded warmth, kindness, and genuine calm. He was brilliant, but quiet and self-assured. They had been together since college, had traveled the world together, and had been true partners who’d built an incredible life for themselves and their family.

That’s a small glimpse into my beautiful friend.

I hurt for her. Her life fractured into a million pieces Thursday night. I worry about who will be left behind as some lightness left my friend.

People say this a lot, and it always rings hollow, but realize I am sincere when I say: I wish I could take some of her burden. Because of Jay, I know what I can handle, and I can take on more and continue to move forward. I wish she could hand some of her pain over to me; I can shoulder it.

I’m going to switch gears here to talk about communication etiquette, because it has weighed on my mind the last couple of days, and I’m doubtlessly going to get a bit preachy. (Aside to my editor, David: David, you have my permission to slash/burn/fix/re-state what is about to come out, because I feel a wall of ranty little words are on their way, and they all want to explode out of my face and from my fingers simultaneously. My fear is they won’t make sense. So, would you kindly help me make sense?)

There have been some great/significant improvements in communication since the day Alexander Graham Bell first spoke the words, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” We’ve gone from a reliance on messengers, to telegraph lines, to the point where now I have an English professor in Japan who, after waking up in several hours, will declare, “Oh crap, why doesn’t she warn me before she’s about to post?” And all of it is arguably great, especially since it’s a rare day that I want to have a full-blown conversation on the phone. The way I work, like many of you, is I have a thought bubble, I send it out, and in minutes I may or may not have a lunch date tomorrow. That’s what instant communication does well – the short, unimportant, day-to-day stuff. It tells my boss I’m going to be late, my friends I’m sitting in the back booth of a restaurant, links to an article I might find interesting, shares a playlist, or shows a photo of some place I wish I were standing and enjoying with you.

What it doesn’t do well? Important things like communicating a great tragedy has occurred that may deeply affect the recipient.

When I learned of the recent tragedy that befell my friend and her family, I sent out three text messages that basically read: “I need to talk to you, please let me know when you have some availability. I am ok.” (Long ago, a friend of mine and I agreed that any bad news should involve a statement of how you are so no one is unduly alarmed. Fun fact: If I don’t include the words, “I am ok,” then please feel free to worry.)

I needed to talk to these folks in person, because I was not about to do a disservice to the severity of this event by glibbly linking an article with a few words of, “Oh hey, FYI just letting you know my friend’s life fell apart.” <insert sad face emoji so you know I’m sad>

Pick up the phone. If you can type a text that is that important, you can pick up a phone. If you can’t, if you don’t want to deal with the reaction, it’s ok – call someone who can. You know your friends, you know their strengths, so find that person who is better at delivering news than you.

Where I Make This a Bit About Me

Most of you know how Jay died – maybe not the details, but you can probably imagine it was bad. (It was in fact bad.) You can imagine, or you have seen, the abject pain it inflicted and still inflicts. With that in mind, when you hear that someone I care deeply about suffered a traumatic/violent loss, take a few beats to think about what you’re going to say to me and how you’re going to deliver that news. Really think about whether sending a mugshot and a short text is the best way you can think to let me know. Think about your motive. Why is it important that you tell me, and that you tell me in this way? Are you truly affected or are you swept up in the excitement of the story where a person’s life not only fell apart, but it fell apart in such a big way that all of our big city news outlets are reporting on it? Are you telling me because you’re worried about me and how I’m handing it, or are you trying to suck a little more marrow from my own personal tragedy? Also, be thankful that beating up messengers has gone out of fashion (though probably not in Florida).

I received approximately five text messages that day, along the lines of “Hey, did you see what happened to Rita? It’s in the news. <story link><tear face>” And I received exactly one call outside of the three people I asked to speak with that day.

If you have bad news to deliver, pick up the phone. Don’t send me a text. If you must text, then please purchase two tickets – one for me, and one for you – to Florida. Let’s talk about it there. Once we’re done, you can Snap Chat, Tweet, FB, Instagram it all… if you’re able.

Empowering Me Doesn’t Emasculate You

I hurt someone’s feelings. Yep. I did it. Just stomped all over them, and the thing is: I don’t care.

You probably want a little more than that, I suppose. A few questionable sentences that end with an “XXOO, Beth” isn’t going to cut it. It could though, right? I mean, you could actually accept that I hurt someone’s feelings, and that you finally got that pass to quickly exit from my site without meandering through one of my tales. It is not your lucky day, my friend.

As you probably guessed from the above feet dragging, I’m having a tough time deciding how to start. Flashbacks may be in order.

Ok, let me just take a stab at it. I’ll start with the actual incident.

Yesterday I moved four boxes from one spot to another. Nothing particularly impressive – just boxes that weighed approximately 30 lbs each. Not heavy – more cumbersome. You see, it’s actually my job to move boxes. I’m the box mover. Boxes come in. I get a note. I sign a thing claiming I’m now in possession of said boxes, and I take them away. Done.  It may not be my favorite task, but I’m reasonably competent at this task. Box moving is in my wheelhouse of skills these days.

I also happen to have been born with both a fairly functional brain, vocal chords, and decent synaptic relays that allow said brain to send signals to said vocal chords, as well as other things like my lungs, diaphragm, etc. They in turn perform this beautifully choreographed dance thus allowing me to communicate with other human beings. Call it a genetic legacy. Maybe it’s Jungian on some level. Blame my family tree. Whatever you need. That ability allows me to express a need for help should one arise. For example, I could say, “hey, this is kind of heavy, would you mind helping me move it?”

I start unloading the first box, and the next thing you know I have guys in my cart trying to help. That’s nice. Thanks. “I don’t need your help.” I said that. “I’m good, thanks. I can get this.” But no, they had to help me, and that’s fine. That’s nice. How about you ask me if I need help? That would have also been nice.

You see, I’m really not that dainty. In fact, I was on Day 2 of looking like I just got pulled away from a poker game in the back of some un-air conditioned warehouse. (I blame bad hair, and not the fact that anyone who saw me walking down the street would suspect my name was Marge and that I smoked a copious amount of cigars. No offense to the stogie smoking Marges of the world.)

And that’s when I snapped – right on the heels of their not quite sincere sorries.  The kind of sorry that is really, “I’m sorry you’re mad at me” versus, “I’m sorry I did something that is clearly irritating you.” I bristled, “I didn’t ASK for your help. I’ve got this. I can do it. Next time let ME do it.” (I’m not always the most adorable person to be around.) That’s how I upset someone, and they walked away.

FLASHBACK (as promised): The day before I moved 640 lbs. of items from one building to another and literally up a small hill. There were slightly (aka a ton) more than four boxes. Midway through, another woman saw I was doing this, and started alerting all the men that “Beth needs help!!” I didn’t. I had it. It’s my job. As I kept working while that show carried on down the hallway, she looked back and announced, “Beth is continuing to work!!” I was, because it had to get done. Three guys swarmed, emptied the rest of the cart of it’s four remaining boxes.  That was nice. I only had another cartful to load and unload, but ok you guys get back to what you were doing. You did your good deed!

Four boxes was nothing. He had no idea that the previous day I’d moved so much more.

FLASHBACK (just a bit further): I needed to move a box of copier paper from one room to another. “Can I help?” “Yes, can you get the doors?” “Do you want me to carry that for you?” “No.” “You’re emasculating me by not letting me carry that.” REALLY???

Here’s the thing.

I work out so I can do this; I used to not be very strong. I’m technically still not strong, but I’m stronger than I was. Doing these tasks makes me feel capable. Doing these tasks after blowing my ACL makes me feel incredible. They make me feel strong. I get to say: I moved a box of copier paper down a hall and through two rooms. I loaded, unloaded and moved 640 lbs. of items up a hill. Oh, and I moved these ridiculously small boxes. I didn’t need a “guy” to help me. LET ME DO IT. I will ask if I need help. And it’s ok for you to ask me if I need help, but when I say no, walk away and be ok with that.

Empowering me doesn’t emasculate you.

Assigning Blame

If you followed the recent news, you may have noticed that we lost two beloved celebrities last week. And I’m here to tell you that their loss had zero real impact on my life. By that same token, I also recognize that their deaths strongly impacted those around me, and they definitely impacted their friends, family, and business partners who find themselves struggling with “what comes next?”  I understand that struggle. I live with it EVERY SINGLE DAY – every time I walk into this house.

Like many, I read the articles to try to glean the facts. What happened? How did we end up here? Then the follow-up articles came out – those discussing the inevitable confusion of people who don’t quite understand depression – the “but they had so much to live for – they were adored – if only they could have seen that…” – those folks who naively believe that simply smiling will destroy all the demons. The “yay life” cheerleaders. The ones who view the victims as people who just need to toughen up a bit, to believe and fully embrace that tomorrow is a brighter day – the ones who see the victims as unfortunately having a bit of a weak constitution – the very ones who add to the shame that prevents people suffering from mental illness from seeking much-needed help – the ones who unwittingly are part of the problem.  And I was fine with these reactions, because they weren’t unexpected.

Then I read more follow-up articles designed to increase clicks and further milk the celebrity death interest, articles with a different angle – with new, exciting perspectives. By Friday I started shutting down while I processed all the words that were out there. Granted, I may have been unconsciously drawn to articles that would upset me, and I may have latched onto a line or two that skewed my abilities to fully comprehend all that I was reading. I’ll own that.  But what I felt like I was reading, and what I definitely reacted to, was this idea that the people around suicide victims were at fault for not doing enough. That it was through their failures to listen, to get this person the necessary help, to ask the person if they were suicidal, or to remove any means for the person to carry out the act that ultimately led to their special someone’s death. And let me tell you, I absolutely refuse to abide these sentiments.

Yes, we should always listen, yes, we should point people towards getting help, and yes, we should remove all judgment when that person is speaking frankly about their intentions. That said, unless you are a trained mental health expert, you are NOT a trained mental health expert. The best thing you can do is encourage them to get help from a professional. And if, at the end of the day, after you’ve done everything you can, they choose to take their own life – that is not on you. How dare those authors even lightly suggest that the people around the victim are culpable when we, the friends and family of the victims, deal with our own guilt, guilt we’ve piled on our own shoulders whether deserved or not, every single day. We don’t need the help figuring out where we could have done more, and we don’t need fingers wagged in our face by people who lightly perused a website about suicide trying to increase their organization’s readership.

In my previous blog post, I warned that this month I was going to be blunt about suicide. If you are sensitive to this type of story, I strongly encourage you to stop reading at this point. I’m not kidding.

I struggled trying to get Jay to seek help from a mental health professional for years, and it wasn’t Jay I was struggling with – it was the stigma surrounding what seeking that help involved.  I had to find cases of acquaintances and friends who were under care – people he respected – to make it ok.  And one day, after the meds had finally taken hold, he looked at me and said, “this is the first time I’ve felt happy.” Do you know how hard that is to hear? To hear the person you love more than anything in the world has never experienced true happiness, and to wonder what it was like for him to finally have that weight of depression lifted. My personal default setting is “happy” and if I’m truthful, it’s probably better defined as “goofy.” My idea of a perfect day would be to twirl in the parking lot every morning, arms outstretched and sing, and I cannot imagine a world where that is not my truth. So, to hear someone I love, my best friend, has never felt that way before, made my heart hurt. Imagine a world where you’ve never known true happiness.

Well, the thing about antidepressants is they need to be adjusted and changed, and the person needs to be monitored, which was what I was talking to Jay about in our last real conversation before he died. His depression prior to his death had returned with a vengeance, and that was combined with his untreated sleep apnea – something that wasn’t being addressed by his C-PAP machine.  Severe depression plus extreme fatigue is a deadly cocktail. We talked about going back to the doctor – that the meds and lack of sleep were not ok. Or more precisely, I talked about it and Jay got quiet, because he knew when I came home from my trip I was going to start pushing that issue – that’s what I do.

My brother-in-law and I live with the guilt of his death EVERY SINGLE DAY, but don’t you dare imply it was our fault – that we failed Jay, that we didn’t talk to him, we didn’t listen, or pay attention, or wrap him in bubble wrap, because at the end of that day, after all of our talks, Jay walked outside and shot himself in my backyard, and that’s on Jay.

And if we want to play that “what if” game… if I had removed the gun, he would have asphyxiated himself in the garage, if I had removed his car, he would have likely poisoned himself, and if I’d removed all cleaners/medications, etc., he would have found something else. He was in extreme mental pain, and he was highly motivated.

And my brother-in-law and I both dream about him, and in both of our dreams we have to explain to Jay that he died, because he doesn’t understand what happened or why he’s dead – because he had a mental snap. Imagine repeated nights where you have to say, “baby, you were ill and you died” to this beautiful soul who was only 40 years old.

And nearly every day is a varying degree of hard for us without some detached writer pontificating about suicide and attempting to assign blame.

Step the fuck off.

So please forgive me if I’m not more upset about two celebrities when, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 123 people die by suicide EVERY SINGLE DAY. Where are those articles lamenting those lost, and equally as important, souls?

Unicorns

LANGUAGE WARNING (sometimes I swear)

My friends and family have been waiting for the post-cruise post. Well guys, I’m sorry. This isn’t that post. Your wait just got a little longer. In my defense, I’m still flipping through photos, and going over my story-telling options. I mean, do I share the “Overheard” list, review all the things I kept carrying around in my mouth, or do I go straight for “that time I had to speak to the cruise ship police” story? Tough choices indeed.  You see my dilemma.

So, this is clearly a segue to talk about unicorns.

Oh, it wasn’t? Weird.

Let’s start with… There are certain words that just stick in my craw. There’s no real rhyme or reason to it. I hear the word or phrase, and suddenly I find I’m a little twitchy and that my eyes want to carefully investigate the inside of my cranium. Words like “hipster” or “YOLO”. Then there are the words that have been appropriated. The ones I’ve been warned not to use like “taint”. GRAB A DICTIONARY (“Urban” doesn’t count), you degenerate yahoos!  That’s NOT what that word means.

Ok, now can we talk unicorns?

The first time I heard the word in reference to a person was honestly in the TV show Supernatural – Meg’s special name for Castiel. I actually can’t hear the word without imagining it purred out in that character’s voice. It fit, too. Castiel was pure, chaste, special – a one-of-a-kind.

I’d forgotten about it until not long ago when my male friends were snickering over a video which depicted an eye-rolling graph about women. The X-axis represented degrees of “sanity,” while the Y-axis was “beauty.” Basically, after spewing a lot of words that made me want to punch the aforementioned giggling male friends, it claimed a gorgeous  sane woman was a “unicorn” – a woman who didn’t exist, and if she did, she would be so rare that she’d be impossible to catch.

Then yesterday I found myself on Urban Dictionary looking up “unicorn” and reading the following definition: “That girl that you can’t catch. Everything about her is so perfect (divine, if you will) getting with her is unfathomable…” I snorted.  Honestly dude, you’re not a fair maiden from the middle ages who has been woven into a tatty tapestry, and this “divine” object of your desire is not a cloven hoofed mythical creature with a calcified growth protruding from the middle of her head easily lured by virgins. She’s just a woman.

There is so much to be said here, but I’m going to walk away from this before I hop down a rabbit hole and land on a soapbox.

A friend of mine lamented that men are always out chasing these unicorns, never stopping to look around and take notice of the great “non-unicorn” gals around them. I see her point, but the topic was frustrating. My friend felt so much less than these supposed “unicorns” – these supposed mythical, uncatchable, and overly talented beauties who are somehow “more than” in ways my friend never felt she was or could be.  It was frustrating, because sometimes I feel that despite our best efforts, despite our progress, despite our age or seeming self-confidence that sometimes our only validation can come through the attention of men. (Note: I said “sometimes” there, because we occasionally rally in beautiful ways.) We desire to be a unicorn. We don’t want to believe or be told that, “You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.” (Chuck Palahniuk).  And then we hear men describe a woman as a unicorn, and we yearn for that same attention and want someone to think we’re just as special, just as unique, just as beautiful.

On one hand I want to point out to her how she is this rarefied unicorn – to say something so profound that it allows her to actually see herself through my eyes. On the other, I recognize I don’t see myself through my friends and family’s eyes either, which  frustrates them to no end. I also realize it’s hard for me to talk when I’m wrapped around the axle over a guy who has his prom pictures prominently displayed in his living room. Someone who, as a friend pointed out, I think isn’t as smart as most lamp posts. (In all fairness though, the lamp posts around here are pretty sharp.)

And I recognize in myself that while I’ve been extremely lucky to have caught the eye of some truly great men in the past, I too still want to be thought of as special. I too am frustrated by dating (and coffee – have I mentioned the coffee thing?). And I don’t want to say words that don’t ring true like the ones I always hear: “You don’t need a man in your life; you’re strong,” or “the right one is out there, you’ll find him.” Typing those made me vomit a little.

So, here’s what I want to say to her and to all of my friends, even though they won’t hear it or believe it (because I wouldn’t either):

You’re all unicorns. Maybe not in that ridiculous way Urban Dictionary defines it. You’re  not perfect (who is?), and maybe you’re not “divine” (such a ridiculous adjective),  but  you are beautiful, special, and unique snowflakes. You are untamable, unstoppable, and made the more beautiful by your scars and your flaws – you’re women, not objects. Set the world on fire! Show it how great you are, and screw anyone who doesn’t take a moment to pause and really see you.

And hell, I didn’t play in a mariachi, take tap for seven years, sing onstage with a puppet on my arm, hug it out with Chuck Norris, get trapped in an elevator with Lady Bird, play in orchestras for years, lay someone on their back in Tae Kwon Do, blow out my knee one year only to climb a Mayan ruin the next (almost on the anniversary) to be told I’m not interesting, unique, or a f*in’ badass unicorn.

And you ladies have done even more than that.

You’re all mother fucking unicorns!

But know I do hear you. And I say all of that knowing what you’re feeling and experiencing is frustrating, and understanding how deeply it hurts, but I do truly believe these unicorn hunters aren’t worthy of you – they never were. Show them how great you are.

(PS – Jenn, I think I’m still mad. 😦 )