Tag Archives: peace

HUMANITY

A Merry Christmas that Almost Wasn’t

The Southwest

Growing up in a southwest town has its advantages and disadvantages. For one, we never got snow, on the other hand, we never got snow. Let me explain, TV shows and songs would always tell us about dreaming of a white Christmas, etc. – we never heard songs about a white Chanukah, but that is another rant I guess. It always seemed that living in the southern part of the state of Arizona, we were not ever going to be afforded a Christmas with snow so that we, upon due process, would never have a real Christmas feel. This little tale is taken not from my recruiting life, but from an actual personal account of giving back on a holiday that is, well, about giving and the reason I always say Merry Christmas…

Young Love

I was in high school, a sophomore,, and I was in love. You know the kind of love that you feel when you are sixteen, no experience in the ways of the world, yet you know – an everything type of innocence, ah puberty. Her name was Tracy, and she was my first actual love, I suppose.  Like I said, I was a teenager and not to diminish the feelings we had for one another, but that is what growing up is all about. She was kind and soft spoken and we adored each other. We smiled when thinking of each other and looking back, I am smiling as I write this. Tracy was raised by her mother, a single parent situation, which we had in common – in a way. Although my mother was married to my stepfather, he was not really in the picture. In an odd way, he caused more anguish in my life by being a foil to my wit but that is another story too, I suppose.

Being a working mother and providing the sole income of the house, it was tough on them. They lived in a two-bedroom apartment and it was close enough to the high school that Tracy walked each to school.  They could barely afford the car they had, so the option of another one was way out of reach. They got by, as they say, and the time we spent together took her mind off of things, situations, and it was Christmas. Although this was always a weird time in my life, and still is really, I was born a Catholic, but my stepfather was Jewish – and so, I was raised in that faith. I have a shawl and yamaka still in my closet from my Bar Mitzvah. My family liked Thanksgiving, less tension, so when Christmas rolled around if I was not in Yuma, I was left to my own devices. This year, I had no interest in leaving my girlfriend for an awkward trip to Yuma to celebrate a holiday that made half of my family uncomfortable.

It was cold that winter in AZ, which was somewhat unusual. People were hanging outdoor Christmas lights, putting up ornaments, the usual stuff you see at that time of year; except Tracey was not doing any of that. The week before the actual holiday, there was nothing up in the apartment. I knew she had ornaments and other baubles she could and should be hanging, as I had helped pull the boxes down weeks before and she was so happy to see them. She was awkward with me, standoffish, and at times would be angry for no reason that I could think of. I was a doting boyfriend, still am when given the chance. I finally confronted her as to why her behavior was so strange.

“My Mother lost her job, she was laid off, so we don’t have money to spend on a tree or presents”, she said.

I felt my heart skip a beat of pain for her as I had never heard, especially before Christmas, of something like this happening.  I remember under her protest hugging her tightly. She finally gave way from the stoic face she was wearing and sobbed in my arms. It was that very moment I formulated a plan in my head and decided she was going to have the best Christmas ever!

The Best Christmas Ever

When I left her apartment that night to head home, I instead went to my friend’s house where I knew some others were hanging out. I wanted to discuss the matter and tell them my plan, you see – they were going to be part of it. Those guys loved Tracy and they also loved that she made me happy and were up for anything for her and her mom, so they eagerly agreed and we put the plan in motion. Matt, one of my friends, went shopping the next day with his girlfriend – we took a pool that night from all the guys and girlfriends in our group, and since it was going to be a Saturday they went to the mall to get some token gifts, nothing too expensive and have them wrapped. John, being single at the time, came with me to get a tree because you cannot have Christmas without a tree and trees needs presents.

My friend Luke was working at a local Christmas tree lot, so we drove the truck over to see him and see if I could get a deal on nice Douglas Fir. When I found him I told him what we were doing and he just stared at me, no emotion at all and went over to a Douglas Fir that was a good eight feet tall, called over another chap and the two of them carried it to my truck. When I asked Luke how much I owed him, he simply said, “Owe me for what?” He winked and said, “Merry Christmas,” then just walked away to help another customer.

Sometimes, the spirit moves you to do the right thing and be a better human.

I had made plans with Tracy for that night so I knew she would be home, and so would her mother as well; she was not working, so where else would she be? The time came and we caravanned from Matt’s house with the tree in the back of my pickup and presents in Matt’s, the whole crew came, as we were going to decorate the house with them and sing, it was a team effort through and through. When we got to the complex, I saw the car in the spot and I knew this was going to be epic because they were home. Everyone sort of hid so they could not be seen and I went to the door with the tree, Matt and John helping hold it up from behind and I knocked on the door. Tracy’s mom answered the door and seeing the tree behind me starred with a quizzical look on her face at me, then the tree, then at me again. Before she could say anything, I smiled and instead of the eloquent speech I had in my head to pontificate the greatness of what we had accomplished in such a short time I simply said, “Merry Christmas, Ma’am,” then I just looked down. Then it happened – she, not really ever having been a fan of mine, did something she had never done before, she hugged me and kissed my cheek.

She said, “You are a beautiful young man and I am glad my daughter found you.”

The others sort of sheepishly came out into view just as Tracy came to the door to see what all the fuss was about, she cried, I cried, hell – we all did. We went inside the small apartment, John and I set up the tree while the rest of the crew decorated the apartment and then we placed the presents under the tree. The air was regaled by the voices of children just like the Peanuts cartoons that come on every year. A bunch of 16-year old kids, all from different walks of life, religions, and creeds, made a family down on their luck have a great Christmas that year.

I lost track of Tracy and her mom when they moved back to Tennessee and the young love we had was torn from us yet that is why I will always, no matter what, say “Merry Christmas!” at this time of year and always will.  I am not a practicing Christian but I understand what it means to those who are and what day means to them and, well, me.

#peace #truestory

HUMANITY

The Night of My Suicide…

When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I’ve done
Help me leave behind some reasons to be missed
And don’t resent me
And when you’re feeling empty
Keep me in your memory
Leave out all the rest – Linkin Park

…If you are reading this

suicide

The Words You Never Want to Hear or Read

That simple eloquent phrase can start the beginning of what would normally be news that you didn’t want to hear. I know, because I had the immense displeasure of reading these words once and have also had the phone ring only to hear a friend saying a person was gone; they had taken their own life. You take pause, you wince, you cry, you scream out loud, or in the deep recesses of your mind. The steps of grief begin.

Mental Illness is Taboo in this Country

The terms crazy, insane, delusional, etc. have been stamped out or are only whispered inside homes and hospitals. But we see mental illness everywhere and it is not the homeless I am talking about either, it’s the person sitting across the table from you, the family member that is lying to you when they say they are doing fine, or the pal that stopped taking your calls and you gave up calling.

THAT IS THE PROBLEM!

Sinnead O’conner recently posted a video as a cry for help telling the world that mentally ill people are different; they need help. She is correct and sadly, I sat there and thought, I wonder if anyone will actually reach out to her. Will she become another statistic, another Kurt, Chris, Robin, or Chester? I sure hope not.

Are You Curious?

It makes me curious you know, this is a disease and it kills people, either by their own hand or because the drugs they take slowly eat away at their organs or deliver other horrific side effects. Diseases like Cancer or MS seem to get the best press out there. They get colored wrist bands, banners, full-page ads, athlete spokespersons, and Hollywood stars lining up for endorsement deals to express their anguish. I am not saying that these are not noble causes, for they are, but it seems that the things we can actually see, hear, and feel all around us we walk away from. Why?

Mental health or homelessness is just not sexy enough for people? No money in i, I suppose or does it hit a little too close to home for some people? I am not an expert on this subject but I have been there, I have ached inside – I have wondered at my own existence. And I know I am not alone…

My Story

My fiancée and I had broken up, I had lost my job, and my Great Uncle, a man I owe my success to and dearly loved, had just killed himself – these events all happened within thirty days. There was no safety net to catch me. As they say, “It’s not the fall that kills you, it’s that sudden stop at the end.” Depression set in: I didn’t know what that was and I had no one to turn to. I was too afraid to tell anyone I was hurting; I was wounded, alone, and afraid. After a fifth of whiskey and sitting in a chair alone in the dark with only the glow of the idiot box for warmth, thinking there is no promise of a better tomorrow – I crawled into bed with my choice. A choice.

I put the bottle to my temple, drunk, out of my mind, silence in the air, total quiet, a finger on the trigger, so to speak – ready to pull. Comfortable to go, ready to die, ready for it to end, to get to where I was going.

I didn’t. You know this because, well, you are reading this.

And I am thankful.

When You Have an Awakening

I often, too often, have to remind myself of my temper and that I, sometimes, let it get the best of me. It’s mine and I need to own it. And here I am,  making that turn in life where I do not want to be an adult and really wish that could go back to bing a ten year old, running through the sprinklers on a hot Arizona day, laughing uncontrollably with friends that left me all too soon. I sought help, started writing again, and realized that it is and was going to be ok.

After I sent this to two dear and close friends I chose to open up to one of my oldest friends, a man I have known for over thirty years and told him my story. He is a great man, better than most, better than me, that’s for sure. He asked me, in a soft tone, like he often does, “Why did you not reach out or call me?” My answer, I didn’t want to burden you with my problems, man. There is the rub, as Sherlock Homes would say. Here is a man, my closest confidante and in a time of need – a time of burden – and I felt too scared to reach out. In my addled mind, I felt like it was easier to let go.

Think About the Mind, as well

We are so interested in health care that we think only of the body, not the mind. We understand what we can see, you cannot see mental health issues until you know someone in the thick of the battle and then, in that moment – during that time, too many of us just walk away. We don’t know what to do, we whisper about them, we point or laugh, we make inappropriate jokes, and it only twists the dagger. Am I guilty of this? Yes, yes I am.

I know few who are not.

Sheer Will?

Something saved me that night, God, an Angel, the sheer will to live, as a human instinct? I don’t know, don’t want to either. I just know I am here and have chosen to continue, I know I received that chance – it was a gift. There will be many people who read this and say WTF? That’s ok, I am ok, I learned things and have found my peace. Sure, I have melt downs, we all do – but I am doing them the right way, venting the frustrations to the right people, and realizing that in 100 years, I will be not only not be remembered, read, or listened too, or even considered anything other than an insignificant ant in this cog of life. Or maybe my words here will have impact and save someone who is yet to be a grandma or great grandma. Maybe.

Yeah I am having a Gilgamesh moment.

I accept that. What I am concerned about is that we are losing the poets, the bards, and the dreamers – those who were turning this ship around. We failed them, all of us; we took and took and took, until there was nothing left for them to give.

When they are gone, we wail and cry, we set up support groups for them, instead of reaching out before that person is gone to say I am here, I want to help and if I cannot, then let me point the way.

Once again, why?

If you think someone is hurting, they most likely are. Let’s not allow all this social media BS to run our lives – be human and have empathy, I know it’s hard. Life can be hard, yet it is us, as the collective good, that can reach out and work to help each other. It’s ok to reach out, to speak, to shine the light on this seemingly taboo subject we seem too afraid to speak of. All is not lost yet, and maybe this is the manifesto of my pain, not exhausted but fueled by the anguish I see and feel. I don’t want to lose anyone else, do you? We can start, right now, making a difference.

If you are reading this and you need to vent, just find me, or find someone. There is help and there are people who want to help.

I will leave you with this quote, because it was the one that I found that made me say, “Yeah, with people like this in the world I think it might be a good thing to try and stick around and say I survived and so will you.” That is the reason I am coming forward – this is the reason I write this now.

Suicide is a serious thing. And if you know anyone who is suicidal, you need to get them help. No one should be in pain. Everyone should love themselves.” Gerard Way

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-8255

#peace #life