Thoughts and Prayers…Then What?

 

Dear Las Vegas,

I can’t tell you how deeply sorry I am, how much my heart hurts, how horrified I am, at what happened Sunday night at a country music festival on the Strip.

At how some nitwit 32 floors up in a hotel room opened fire on the crowd, killing, at last count, 50 people and wounding over 400 others, making this the largest mass murder in recent American history.

At how what should have been a night of fun, music and camaraderie turned, just like that, into a real live, real-time nightmare.

I can’t begin to imagine how chaotic, unnerving, terrifying and ultimately senseless the whole scene was as it unfolded. People knew they were in danger, but had no idea where to run, as this monster continued his all-out assault, motivated by who knows what.

It’s heartbreaking. It’s sickening. Unfortunately, though, it’s not especially shocking.

It’s simply our modern-day culture. Somebody kills a bunch of innocent people. Again.

 

We all know what happens now.

“Thoughts and prayers” come in from well-meaning people around the world. Which is entirely appropriate. After a tragedy such as this, many of us feel too helpless to do anything other than let the victims know we care, but that’s important for them to know.

Then, the gun control advocates and the National Rifle Association and its acolytes have a shouting match over what the proper response should be. About all I’m saying about that is, “Guns don’t kill people; people do.”, definitely ranks in my Top Three for single most asinine statement I’ve ever heard in my life.

Then, ultimately, nothing changes, the story becomes old news in our 24/7 news culture, and things go on as before, until the next mass shooting.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Somebody, please, prove me wrong. I would love for someone to break this cycle, and soon.

I know you’re hurting really bad, Las Vegas. I wish you comfort, healing and strength.

And one other thing. To those of you whose compassion and courage moved you to rush to the aid of victims before the first responders could reach them: you were, by far, the brightest lights on the Strip last night.

A Ray of Light, Part 4 (Yes, Cain, You Are)

 

And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?

Genesis 4:9

 

For Cole

 

As I alluded to before, suicide has made its presence felt in my family, a few times.

One family member completed it.

Another attempted it. More than once.

Another decided, at the last second, to choose life. (Fortunately)

And I came really close once to attempting it. And have thought about it many times since.

So, that’s why this issue is rather close to my heart. When I discovered that this was National Suicide Prevention Month, I knew I needed to do what I could to raise awareness, and to erase some of the stigma attached to suicide. Most of us aren’t comfortable talking about it, so we don’t. Unfortunately, we may be paying much too high a price for our silence; too many precious lives lost.

Well, we need to start talking about it, folks. Especially, parents, to your kids. Suicide is occurring more and more among teenagers, as well as elementary school kids, some as young as five.

Think about that for a minute. Five. How heartbreaking is that?

The Bible verse I started with features Cain lying about Abel (who he had just murdered), then passing off any responsibility for him. The truth is, we are all our brothers’, and sisters’, keepers; one of the reasons we’re here is to look out for each other, showing care and compassion.

And that includes a health care system in this country that provides adequate care and support to anyone with a mental illness. Because, while most mentally ill people do not kill themselves, the majority of suicides are completed by people with some mental illness.

There are many homeless people who have a mental illness, but can’t get access to the treatment they need. There are many veterans who, because of snags in the system, are not getting the treatment they need, which is criminal. Who will fight for the ones who willingly fought for us?

Fortunately, there are several mental health advocates in Congress, including Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, John Cornyn and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who deserve our thanks for their efforts to effect positive change in mental health care in America.

I know, a lot of people won’t seek help for mental illness, because it’s so stigmatized that they won’t admit they might even have one. And that needs to stop.

If you have a mental illness, you’re not crazy, you’re not a nut job, you’re not cuckoo, or psycho, or looney, or any of the other derogatory terms commonly used.

You’re simply ill, and you need help. Please, don’t be ashamed to ask for it.

 

If you’re thinking about killing yourself, please read this first:

We may not know each other, but I love you. I care about you. I’m sorry you feel like that. I’ve felt like that. And I want you to know, you deserve to be alive.

You absolutely deserve it.

It’s something I have to remind myself of, often. My depression puts me through round after round, fighting the feeling of complete worthlessness, the feeling that all I ever do is screw up, so maybe, I should just put a stop to it, for good.

But no; I deserve to live. And so do you.

I know, sometimes, life just SUCKS. It’s confusing, frustrating, unfair, tragic and cruel, offering no explanation whatsoever as to why.

But, fortunately for us all, it’s also full of beauty. And wonder. And laughter. And love.

I promise you, it’s there.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, at 1-800-273-8255, if you need to talk to someone. Please.

And let me recommend one more amazing website to you: http://livethroughthis.org/

Here, you’ll find stories from 95 different people about attempting suicide – and surviving. People who were molested. People who were bullied. People who were body shamed. People with depression. People with addiction.

I’m willing to bet, one of their stories matches up pretty closely with yours. Because, you’re probably sitting there thinking that nobody has ever been through what you’re going through, but I’m pretty sure you’re wrong about that.

So, let’s live, okay? Let’s live, and see what happens.

I wish you healing, peace, love and life.

A Ray of Light, Part 3

 

For Cole

 

Recently, I’ve written some posts regarding suicide, as September is National Suicide Prevention Month. It’s a major public health issue, and it’s on all of us to do what we can to prevent it.

In my previous post, I’ve presented the warning signs of a suicidal person, and some steps you can take to help someone who exhibits one or more of those signs.

And, once again, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. The call is free, and the line is open 24/7.

Today, I want to pass along some information from the World Health Organization, regarding some popular myths surrounding suicide, along with the facts that dispel them.

MYTH: “Once someone is suicidal, he or she will always remain suicidal.”

THE TRUTH: “Heightened suicide risk is often short-term and situation-specific. While suicidal thoughts may return, they are not permanent and an individual with previously suicidal thoughts and attempts can go on to live a long life.”

MYTH: “Talking about suicide is a bad idea, and can be interpreted as encouragement.” (I believed this one.)

THE TRUTH: “Given the widespread stigma around suicide, most people who are contemplating suicide do not know who to speak to. Rather than encouraging suicidal behaviour, talking openly can give an individual other options or the time to rethink his/her decision, thereby preventing suicide.”

MYTH: “Only people with mental disorders are suicidal.”

THE TRUTH: “Suicidal behaviour indicates deep unhappiness but not necessarily mental disorder. Many people living with mental disorders are not affected by suicidal behaviour, and not all people who take their own lives have a mental disorder.”

MYTH: “Most suicides happen suddenly, without warning.”

THE TRUTH: “The majority of suicides have been preceded by warning signs, whether verbal or behavioural. Of course there are some suicides that occur without warning. But it is important to understand what the warning signs are and look out for them.”

MYTH: “Someone who is suicidal is determined to die.”

THE TRUTH: “Fact: On the contrary, suicidal people are often ambivalent about living or dying. Someone may act impulsively by drinking pesticides, for instance, and die a few days later, even though they would have liked to live on. Access to emotional support at the right time can prevent suicide.”

MYTH: “People who talk about suicide do not mean to do it.”

THE TRUTH: “People who talk about suicide may be reaching out for help or support. A significant number of people contemplating suicide are experiencing anxiety, depression and hopelessness and may feel that there is no other option.”

Did you see any myths you thought to be true? That’s why it’s important for us to learn what the real truths are, so that we can clear up the misunderstandings in our society regarding suicide.

I hope I’ve passed along some valuable information to all of you. You can find much more at http://www.bethe1to.com/ or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or several other terrific websites related to suicide prevention. It’s something we all need more education about, so that we can be better equipped to help family members, friends, co-workers, who we see all the time, yet may not have a clue how badly they hurt inside. Knowing this information just might make a difference.

I’ll wrap this up next time with some personal thoughts and observations. Wishing you all well.

 

They Listen

 

Interesting thing happened to me recently. I know, go figure, right?

Well, I got a text from a guy named Will, who was a client of mine last year, when I was still a chauffeur. Turned out, Will was a musician, in town for some huge, weekend-long wrestling event. He loves music, and he loves wrestling, and we joked about him maybe making a career combining the two, like being a musical wrestler. Or a wrestling musician.

Anyway, we talked some about the kinds of music we like, and he said he likes stuff with a jazzy vibe to it, so I asked him if he’d ever heard of Steely Dan, whose specialty is just that. He said he hadn’t, which was understandable; Steely Dan was a little before his time. So I suggested he check ’em out; he might like them.

Hadn’t had any correspondence with the guy since.

Until this text he sent me. He said, when he heard recently of the death of Steely Dan co-founder, co-songwriter and guitarist Walter Becker, I was the first person he thought of.

(!!!!!)

Mind you, I drove this guy once.

Over a year ago.

He still remembered me, and our conversation. He said in his text, he couldn’t believe it. I texted back, “Neither can I!”

 

This was a story about how you never know what you’re gonna say to someone that stays in his mind long after you said it. Good thing for us all to keep in mind.

Will, thanks for the reminder. Great to hear from you, even if it did freak me out just a bit. Hope you’re a successful musical wrestler, now.

Sour Apples

 

Okay, so now we have a brand-new phone that is available to Joe T. Consumer for the incredibly low price of $999.

(At least it isn’t $1,000; that would just be outrageous.)

Let me tell you something. If I pay $999 for a telephone, it better connect me to somebody on Saturn, understand? Furthermore, it should cook all my meals and wash the dishes afterwards, wash, dry and hang up my clothes, change my oil, mow my yard, and service me satisfactorily in bed.

Otherwise, it ain’t worth it.

Of course, I know there are some folks out there who will buy, or have already bought, this phone. To you, I say:

Could I interest you in some oceanfront property in Iowa?

A Ray of Light, Part 2

 

For Cole

 

(This one’s long, but bear with me. It’s important.)

Hey, friends, I’m back to remind you that September is National Suicide Prevention Month, so I hope to, in my own small way, help in doing exactly that by writing about  it. Suicide is a very important public health problem, and I’d like to see us all have a part in preventing it.

First, a reminder from my last post, courtesy of http://www.bethe1to.com/

 

Do You Know the Warning Signs?

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun.
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
Talking about being a burden to others.
Increasing their use of alcohol or drugs.
Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
Sleeping too little or too much.
Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
Displaying extreme mood swings.

 

So, be mindful of these signs, folks. How many times have you heard the people closest to the ones who kill themselves say, “I wish I’d known”, “I should have seen it”, “Why didn’t she tell me she was hurting?” Perhaps, knowing these signs, you can be more aware if someone is at risk because, chances are, they’re never gonna just tell you.

Realize, too, this is something that affects children, senior citizens, teenagers, veterans, men, women, straights, gays…no segment of society is left untouched by suicide.

So, what do you do if you notice any of these signs in somebody? Again, I refer to http://www.bethe1to.com/ , an excellent, informative website, and their Five Action Steps. You can get more complete, detailed information on each of these steps on the website; I’m just introducing them to you, here.

ASK

This one can be tough, I know; just initiating the dialogue with a direct, non-judgmental question. But, studies show that asking someone who is at risk can reduce the likelihood of that person actually following through on his or her thoughts. Remember, though, if you’re going to ask, be prepared to listen. Take what that person says seriously, but – and this is important – do not promise to keep his or her suicidal thoughts just between the two of you.

KEEP THEM SAFE

This step is about, after having the conversation and determining this person has had suicidal thoughts, asking more questions about if he or she has thought about the how and the when, if it’s already been attempted before, if there is easy access to the gun, the pills, or whatever he or she was thinking of using to commit suicide. If the answers indicate this person is in imminent danger of killing himself or herself, then you see about separating him or her from any easily accessible, potentially lethal methods of carrying it out. This is a good way of demonstrating your support for this person, taking action to make his or her environment safer.

BE THERE

Pretty self-explanatory; just be present for this person. Help him or her feel connected; reduce the feeling of isolation. Be supportive and encouraging.

Someone I knew committed suicide a few years ago, after dealing with intense physical pain for a long time. Later, I discovered, he had confessed to someone before killing himself that, had he received any words of encouragement from someone, anyone, he might have fought harder to keep living.

That’s how important this step is. Let people know they’re not alone. Tell them you’ll be there for them, but only if you’re actually going to be. Don’t say it, then not follow through.

HELP THEM CONNECT

Provide him or her with a safety net, made up of people and organizations, local and otherwise, to reach out to in times of personal crisis, like the Hotline, or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ . Speaking to someone trained to deal with these crises can reduce the risk of someone going through with a suicidal act.

FOLLOW THROUGH

Again, pretty self-explanatory. Once you’ve talked to someone about his or her thoughts about suicide, and provided a safety net of people to contact, stay in touch. Don’t just forget about him or her. Show you still care. Ask if there is anything more you can do to help. The need to feel connected doesn’t go away once a crisis is averted. It’s a lifelong part of the human condition.

I know I gave you a lot to digest, here, but this is serious business, folks. We can all play a role in the prevention of suicide. Educate yourself on what to look for, and how to help. Let’s all look out for each other. Life – with all its pain, tragedy and injustice – is still worth living.

More to come…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like it Was Yesterday

 

(A year ago, I submitted this post in remembrance of the events of 9/11. Today, I offer it again, updated to mark the passing of another year since that horrible day. Never forget…)

 

Sixteen years ago…
The brilliant cerulean skies over Manhattan
Suddenly, shockingly were interrupted
By the smoke from a misguided burnt offering,
Offered by impassioned false prophets
To a Prophet they never really knew.

Sixteen years ago…
A throng of innocent, ordinary faces
Stared in utter horror and disbelief
At the face of death, approaching them swiftly
In the guise of a great, winged demon,
Its once perfectly resplendent skin
Now engulfed in the flames of Hell,
The air redolent of burning flesh and jet fuel.

And then – this time, before a captive audience – it happened again.

Sixteen years ago…
Desperate, hopeless, sorrowful voices
Left tearful, heartfelt goodbyes
On cold and sterile answering machines
For the ones they would leave behind
To play back again, and again, and again,
Frozen in their grief, their loneliness, their rage,
With merely a voice to hold through the long, sleepless night.

Sixteen years ago…
Knights in shining armor ascended,
Disappearing into the smoky blackness,
Staring down fear, resolute in their mission
To rescue those who were helpless,
Only to become helpless, themselves
As the once proud and mighty towers
Crumbled spectacularly to the ground,
And we witnessed the Baptism of Dust.

Sixteen years ago…
Another winged demon crashed into a Pentagon,
And still another into a pastoral Pennsylvanian field,
And we all shook our heads in shock and bewilderment and terror,
As we helplessly watched what we believed
To surely be the beginning of The End.

Sixteen years ago…
I saw grown men weeping openly:
Television news anchors, stoic and detached,
Now utterly flattened by the sheer relentlessness
Of report after stupefying report
And image upon horrible, graphic image;
Police and firefighters, hearts irreparably shattered
By the overwhelming number of fallen comrades
Who sacrificed everything in upholding
Their sworn, sacred duty;
Business executives who lost scores of dedicated employees,
Just ordinary people, going about their ordinary work,
Gone, all gone;
Office workers, pained with guilt
Over deciding not to go to work that day,
And resolved to earn every subsequent day of life given to them.

Sixteen years ago…
I heard “The Star-Spangled Banner”
Played, of all places,
In front of England’s Buckingham Palace
At the ceremonial Changing of the Guard,
In a remarkably touching display of sympathy and solidarity.
I heard Congressmen, gathered on the Capitol steps
Performing an impromptu, earnest and defiant rendition
Of “God Bless America”…

And I felt the embrace of the world.

Sixteen years ago…
So many other things happened that September day;
So many acts of courage, of strength,
Of sacrifice, of compassion.
Of Love.

And sixteen years later, I remember it all,
Just like…

 

 

A Ray of Light, Part 1

 

For Cole

 

Alright, folks, this is important, so please pay close attention.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. During this month, there will be much attention focused on this major public health issue, and what all of us can do about it.

You’re going to be hearing a lot from me about this over the course of this month.

Suicide is something that’s touched my family. It’s touched many families. Maybe even yours.

The first thing I want you to know is, if you’ve had, or are having suicidal thoughts, or if someone you know is, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, anytime, 24/7, absolutely free. Outside the United States, go to http://www.suicide.org to find a crisis center where you live.

(Incidentally, the National Hotline answered over ten million calls each of the last four years. Does that tell you how big a problem this is?)

Whatever you’re facing, you don’t have to face it alone. I swear you don’t. There are people at these crisis centers who will listen to you and help you. Reach out to them.

Please.

 

And, just so you know…

Yes, I’ve had those thoughts, myself.

Still do, on rare occasions, if I’m being totally honest.

Depression has been a part of my life for several years, now. A large percentage of all suicides can be linked to some mental illness, like depression, though it’s rarely as simple as that; there can be many different factors that can lead to someone ending his or her own life.

So, I know. I’ve walked to the edge of the cliff and looked over, more than once. (Not literally, mind you)

Fortunately, thanks to a loving and caring wife, a competent psychotherapist, and effective medication, I walk over there much less often.

But I know, not everyone has those things. I know it would be much tougher for me if I didn’t.

But if you have nothing else, now you got this number.

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

I hope you never use it. Unless you need to. Then, I really hope you do.

We’ll talk more, later. Please share this with your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and all the rest. We need to make everyone aware of the significance of this month. You can find more information at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Also, if you wish to comment, please help me keep this a safe space for everyone, as I don’t monitor this site 24/7. Please, no derogatory remarks, graphic details, or negativity, in general. Thanks.

Please, take care of yourself. You may not believe me, but you are worth it. Trust me.

PLEASE NOTE: I am not a qualified counselor; I’m simply directing you to some who can help you. Please contact them, not me. They are always available!

 

Do You Know The Warning Signs?*

Some warning signs may help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these, seek help by calling the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun.
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
Talking about being a burden to others.
Increasing their use of alcohol or drugs.
Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
Sleeping too little or too much.
Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
Displaying extreme mood swings.

*http://www.bethe1to.com/warning-signs/

 

Eclipse His Nails

 

Then, you flew your Lear jet to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun.

“You’re So Vain”, Carly Simon

 

Okay, who do I talk to about getting a refund?

‘Cause I didn’t see no dadgum solar eclipse.

Where I live, we should already have seen it by now.

Nope. Nothing. Zero.

Maybe because I’m not in the “Path of Totality.” More like the Path of, “Ehhh, maybe.”

And who came up with that title, anyway? Sounds like something a guru would say.

My children, I am here to lead you all to the Path of Totality. Everyone, remove your clothing.

Totality of a bust, I say. At least, I didn’t waste any money on those dopey glasses.

Guess I should have just gone to Nova Scotia.

Those of you that did get to see it, I hope it burned your eyes out.

Course, then, you couldn’t read this, could you, so that was kind of a wasted curse.

 

Okay, well, I hope your privates fell off.

Wow

 

524629971904

 

You know what’s really cool about blogging on the Internet?

People all over the world can read what you wrote.

It’s just absolutely mind-blowing to me to realize my blog has been read (so far) in forty-six different countries, over six continents.

Come on, Antarctica, you’re lagging behind! Don’t all you penguins need something to read while you sit on those eggs?

Seriously, to write about what’s on my mind, and know that someone in Vietnam, or Australia, or Russia, or Costa Rica might read it, is not only astonishing, but immensely gratifying.

So, a big Thank You to all of you, wherever you are, for looking in on my humble little blogsite. I genuinely appreciate it.

Some of you are repeat visitors. I’m glad you like what you read enough to come back. Others have visited one time, and may never again. That’s okay; since there are, I don’t know, a few billion blogs out there, I feel fortunate that you looked in on me, even if it’s just once. For my regular customers, I hope to keep supplying you with a quality product.

And, all you social media buffs out ther, you’re certainly welcome to share anything here you like on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Chatsnap, Mmm-Bop, Da Doo Ron Ron, whatever.

Blessings on all of you, and Peace on Earth. 🌎