Lifeline

Somebody somewhere needs to read this. Because the darkness is slowly suffocating her. Because his hope is bleeding out. Because she can’t find her way back to herself. Because he can only see one way out.

Lethal impulses keep bubbling to the surface. Thoughts turn traitor. Death beckons.

It promises relief… release… rest.

Death is a liar.

There’s no darkness that can’t be extinguished. No demon that cannot be exorcised. No trap inescapable. No sin unforgivable.

That’s the Truth.

Hope is just a breath away.

A call. A text. A prayer. A promise.

Last week, two high-profile Americans succumbed to suicide. And we’re stunned afresh that these brilliant, accomplished, vibrant individuals could have suffered from what turned out to be terminal anguish. As if wild success and debilitating illness (of any type) are mutually exclusive.

The undeniable crux of the matter is this:

We were made for relationship. We are meant to be connected. Yet so often when we need people the most, we retreat. We choose solitary confinement over commiseration. Isolation over consolation. Because we believe our burdens must be borne alone.

In this age of constant connectivity, we are becoming increasingly and excruciatingly lonely. Oh, the irony.

But… and this is where it gets tricky… it’s not the sufferer who ought to be charged with the duty of “reaching out.” We don’t ask people recovering from open heart surgery to jump out of the hospital bed and throw on some street clothes and meet a friend for coffee, conversation, comfort. The friend just shows up. Because friends do that.

They’re there for each other.

On good days and bad days. Cold/cloudy/sunny/snowy days. Winter, spring, summer, fall. Holidays and ordinary ones. Pre-race… and post-op… and after-party cleanup.

Those of us who aren’t fighting for our lives – we’re the ones who need to text/call/email/stop by.  The onus is just that: on us.

Life-and-death battles rage behind soundproof, windowless walls. And somehow, sometimes, our friends’ firestorms go undetected. We can’t see their pain. We don’t hear the sound of relentless/mounting/deadly despair. And even if we could, most of us don’t have the antidote. But here’s what I’m told:

Togetherness can be a lifesaver.

Check in.

Show up.

Be near.

Care.

That’s what love does. It dispels darkness. It points to the Light.

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12, NLT)

Whatever the pressure or pain, trauma or terror, Jesus promises relief… release… rest.

Restoration.

He’s the answer. He’s the antidote. The Way, the Truth, the Life.

And He’s near.

“The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near.” (Acts 17:24-27, The Message)

Even when no one else is… God’s there for you. The Life-Guard is always on duty. He’s just a whisper away.  And oh, how He loves you.

I pray you’ll hold onto hope… and He’ll hold onto you… for safekeeping.

Please, please stay.

Wendy

P.S. There’s a lovely little children’s book by Nancy Tillman titled You’re Here for a Reason. It closes like this: “A piece of the world that is precious and dear would surely be missing if you weren’t here. If not for your smile and your laugh and your heart, this place we call home would be minus a part. Thank goodness you’re here! Thank goodness times two! I just can’t imagine a world without you.”

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

 

 

 

 

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In Celebration of Punctuation and Continuation

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It’s a banner day! The very last Saturday in September… and National Punctuation Day. Described as “a celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis,” this national punctuation celebration falls on the same day each year. (And it just so happens to coincide with the time period when teachers have been back in school long enough to feel utterly exasperated by the lack and/or grievous misuse of punctuation. So there’s that.)

Based on the text messages I receive daily from my teen and young adult children, I’m quite certain none of them observe this holiday. I, however, will celebrate National Punctuation Day with wild abandon and extra exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Because punctuation is important; that’s why. (Naysayers, be forewarned that you will be serving a life sentence inside some maximum security parentheses.)

If, like me, you occasionally find yourself scrolling your social media feed while waiting at the dentist’s office or the DMV, you’ve probably seen memes that convey the necessity of properly placed punctuation. Like this one, which reads:

“I like cooking my family and my dog.”  Use commas. Don’t be a psycho.

(Good advice, I think.)

During my four years in journalism school at Northwestern, I spent countless hours poring over Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, studying the minutiae of tricky punctuation usage so as not to flunk Professor Hainey’s editing course and thereby derail my entire education and career. One stray comma or misplaced colon (insert pun here), and you were toast. Professor Hainey was a big fan of the dreaded-and-dastardly pop quiz. So you had to be prepared to remedy poor grammar and unruly punctuation at any moment. (Proper application of that divisive “dash” still perplexes – and pains – me.)

But long after gaining relative mastery over my commas and quotation marks, I discovered that I still had a lot to learn about one particular punctuation mark: the semicolon.

It was a tattoo that originally caught my eye. A wrist tattoo. Of a punctuation mark. That’s it. No anchor/arrow/angel/Angelina Jolie-inspired dragon (which was apparently regrettable since she later removed it.)  No paw prints or pink ribbon or rosebud or barbed wire. Just one simple, solitary semicolon. When I saw it, I knew it must mean something significant. So I did what I always do when I need wisdom and insight. I googled it. And this is what I found:

(Content below from Upworthy.com)

 

Have you seen anyone with a tattoo like this?

If not, you may not be looking close enough. They’re popping up…

…everywhere.

Photos by The Semicolon Tattoo Project.

That’s right: the semicolon. It’s a tattoo that has gained popularity in recent years, but unlike other random or mystifying trends, this one has a serious meaning behind it. (And no, it’s not just the mark of a really committed grammar nerd.)

My co-worker Parker’s photo of her own semicolon tattoo.

This mark represents mental health struggles and the importance of suicide prevention.

Project Semicolon was born from a social media movement in 2013.

They describe themselves as a “movement dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction, and self-injury. Project Semicolon exists to encourage, love, and inspire.”

But why a semicolon?

“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”

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Project Semicolon was founded by a young woman named Amy Bleuel who had lost her father to suicide. Her memorial tribute to her dad soon became a social media movement, and she was struck by the way a simple puntuation mark resonated with people across the country and around the world. The semicolon became a means to acknowledge the struggles of depression, addiction, self-harm and suicide, and, more importantly, it brought a measure of healing and hope to suicide survivors. The semicolon became a powerful reminder:

Your story isn’t over yet…

It became a “note to self” to just keep on… To just; not; end;

So as I mentioned earlier, I will celebrate today. The last Saturday in September and National Punctutation Day. I will celebrate it and savor every single minute of it. The rising and shining and showering, the eating and drinking and dog-walking, the thinking and talking (hopefully in that order), the smiles and sandwiches and college football. The friends and family coming and going. The leaf-raking and laundry (and the incredibly helpful, handsome man who folds it. He’s all mine.) The laughter and love… the life-living. And I will do it all today in memory of Eric Brown, Madison Holleran, Austin Hills, Will Trautwein and so many precious others who would still be with us, if only their young lives had been punctuated with a semicolon rather than a period.

Keep living your story,

Wendy

P.S. If you or someone you know is in suicidal crisis and needs help (or if you are at risk for any type of self-harm), please call 911 emergency services, contact a mental health professional immediately, go to the nearest hospital emergency room, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to be connected to a trained counselor at a suicide crisis center near you.