All Kinds of Crazy

What a strange new world.

The rhythms and routines of daily life – once barely noticed – came to a screeching halt a few weeks back. And now the world as we knew it is suspended… indefinitely.

I don’t know about you, but my schedule looks vastly different than it did before March 13th. Except for showering and sleeping. Well… some days.

(Today is not one of them.)

It’s tough to get your bearings when you can’t see anything but the backyard or balcony. If you don’t have either, I pray for the preservation of your sanity. (Seriously.)

This is our new normal.

Personally, I’d like to get back to the old one. (Maybe with an extra helping of perspective. And heaping sides of gratitude and compassion.)

But I guess that isn’t an option. Not entirely anyway. Because this virus is taking a heavy toll.

I remember how different the world seemed after 9/11. Then – like now – most of us really came together. We cared… gave… grieved. We comforted and consoled.

And we counted the cost.

And here we are… counting again.

41,000 lives lost. (And by the time you finish reading this, it’ll tick even higher.)

That’s a whole lot of bereft families and broken hearts.

And that number doesn’t include the other victims of this crisis. The collateral damage, if you will.

I’m not minimizing the death toll. Not one iota. But I think maybe it’s time to acknowledge our other losses too. To say it’s ok to feel dazed/ disoriented by the far-reaching effects of this pandemic. It’s normal to feel discouraged/distressed about how different the future looks from just a few weeks ago. It’s understandable if you feel distraught/devastated… even if none of your loved ones have died from COVID-19.

This. Is. Hard.

And this “virtual” reality feels… well… unreal.

Trying to outlast this virus seems like a lost cause because folks are dropping every day. Not only those who die from Coronavirus but those who succumb in other ways.

To slashed income. Or domestic violence. Or burnout from working 12-hour shifts. Day after day. Week after week. (No relief in sight.)

There’s other unsettling fallout too. Like the shocking and sudden realization that there isn’t much you/I/we can control.

Like job security… financial security… food security.

There’s more than a little desperation going around. And nobody coming around. That’s a profoundly negative equation. (Isolation + desperation = unmitigated disaster.)

I think it’s high time the people who deliver the news start reporting (loud and clear) that we’re smack in the middle of another pandemic.

A mental health emergency.

This crisis has followed right on the heels of the contagious disease and even those who’ve outrun or recovered from Coronavirus are starting to feel the effects of its ruthless twin. Regardless of where we live, more and more are finding ourselves in…

An acutely SAD state.

(As in… Stressed. Anxious. Depressed.)

And who can blame us? Coping skills – in unprecedented global crises – can be scarce. And when there’s no place to go…

We go all kinds of crazy.

Relationships come unraveled. Sobriety is shattered. Suicides (and attempts) skyrocket.

How do we dig up some hope in all this wreckage? Where’s the steady calm when the whole world’s spinning out? Who’s got answers? And antidotes?

Anyone?

Human beings are pretty resilient and resourceful. But we’re not invincible. (We’re not infinitely clever/creative/capable either.) We don’t have enough willpower or prescience or inner zen to anchor ourselves (when we’re adrift) or find our way (when we’re lost) or develop a cure (for all that ails us).

Not one of us.

We need someone a whole lot stronger and smarter than our so-called best and brightest. We need a superhero.

A savior.

We need a hope-provider and healer. One that specializes in bodies, psyches and spirits. One that can fling stars and split atoms and soothe troubled souls.

Pretty sure every single one of us could use a good doctor/therapist/holistic healthcare provider right now.

Let me introduce you to a great physician and wonderful counselor.

His name is Jesus. And he can see you anytime.

He’s the answer and the antidote.

And he will carry us through.

You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times… So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does. (1 Peter 5:9-11, The Message)

Wendy

P.S. Please know I’m not trying to put a spiritual Band-aid on a severed artery. Stress, anxiety and depression are complex mental health issues with physical, emotional and spiritual causes and effects. (And God has given us amazing doctors/therapists/holistic healthcare providers to help us in times like this.) If you’re experiencing ongoing symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, please, please schedule a Telehealth appointment.

Stat.

Punctuation & Continuation

Fall has arrived!

Along with peewee/high school/college/NFL football, Christmas countdowns and pumpkin spice everything.

And right on the heels of the autumnal equinox, we observe the “high holiday” of English teachers and content editors everywhere.

Today is 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.

That’s when I stumbled upon Project Semicolon.

And learned the meaning of the profoundly simple semicolon tattoo.

Unlike other impulsive, random and/or mystifying body ink trends, this tattoo has real significance. (And no, it’s not just the mark of a really committed grammar nerd.)

This mark represents mental health struggles and the importance of support (medical care/counseling/social-emotional support/therapies/self-care) for suicide prevention.

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

“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.

Project Semicolon was founded by a young woman named Amy Bleuel who 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;

To not believe depression’s convincing and consuming lies. That you are not loved. That there is no hope.

Because that couldn’t be further from the truth.

There is always hope.

And you are forever loved.

That’s the truth.

(Capital T. Exclamation point.)

So as I mentioned earlier, I will celebrate today. This lovely autumn day also known as 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 sweater weather. 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. Sadly, Amy Bleuel lost her battle with depression and died by suicide in March 2017. If you or someone you know is in suicidal crisis (or 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.

 

 

 

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.