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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Suicide won’t fix it.

In a dark and hazy cloud my eyes slowly started to open. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t swallow. I was choking. I reached for my throat; I needed air. But my arms moved only inches before the restraints arrested all efforts to stop my choking. My arms were tied. My legs were tied. My upper body strapped in place. I tried to lean forward. A woman rushed at me and pushed me back against the bed hard and told me to relax. RELAX? How could I relax? I was choking. And apparently restrained. But why? Where was I and how had I gotten there? She exited the room in a rush. I couldn’t move my arms enough to reach my face but I could lean forward just enough to reach the finger tips of one hand to the thing that was choking me. I tugged. Pain. I pulled. More pain, but progress. I yanked and with a painful, pressure-laden, tearing movement, the tube that was choking me finally came free of my throat. Relief came, but not without a good deal of pain. And blood. The woman came back. I looked at her and realized she was a nurse. I was in a hospital. She spoke harshly. “What have you done?? I hope you’re proud of yourself, you certainly damaged your vocal chords, perhaps irreparably.” She was right. But that was the least of all of the consequences of what landed me in that hospital bed.

The precise sequence of events is still a blur. My mother was there. She looked tired and scared. I began to remember what I had done; why I was there. I shouldn’t have been there. I should be dead. Then my heart sank. If I wasn’t dead; if I was here, in the hospital, someone had found me. A fear like none I had ever known gripped me. In a painful whisper I asked,  “Did Lawrence find me?” “No, my mother said, trying to choke back the tears that were falling. “Is he ok? Did he know I was ok?” I knew my mother could not have been the one to find me. I had made sure of that. But Lawrence was a different story. If he had found me in that state I could never have forgiven myself. But still my mother stood there and listened to my first words, my first concern be directed at someone she had never met. Someone I barely knew. In some ways it was a pretty good indication of how screwed up I was. My first words should have been “I’m sorry.” It would take time for my thoughts or actions to make sense. It would take time to find all of the forgiveness that was due. To my family, my friends, even to myself. I had done the unthinkable. I had been cowardly and weak and had tried to take the easiest way out of my pain. I had tried, and nearly succeeded in killing myself. Had the paramedics reached me mere minutes later, I would have been gone. My plan would have been a complete success, and my life, a failure. And I would not be here to tell of it. I would not have had the chance to beg for forgiveness from everyone I hurt. I would not have the strength to face whatever comes, knowing I have already faced the very worst, and survived. And I would not have the opportunity to tell you that whatever you are feeling is absolutely valid. And if you are considering taking your life, I get it. But I hope you choose differently than I did.

This is not an easy thing to talk about. It is not easy to think about. And I know it is not an easy thing to read. For some who know me this will be the first they have ever known about my suicide attempt. And to each of you, I am truly sorry. Some think I should not write about it. I should not expose it. But I have an obligation. Because out there, among the masses who might stumble upon this post, there are some who are there, in that dark and lonely place wondering, planning, deciding. I beg of you – please keep reading. Where it seems there is no other way, where there appears only darkness and pain, I promise you, there is hope. And I know this only because I have walked through complete hopelessness and emerged on the other side, just barely. And I am so grateful for that. For the chance to tell you there is another way. There is light. There is a reason to live. And whatever guilt or darkness or fear or stigma is eating away at your will to live – SCREW IT. You are where you are because whatever is happening in your life seems too much to overcome. And you have no idea how many of us understand that. I’m not trying to persuade you that your feelings aren’t valid. Just the opposite, in fact. They are very real. Real enough to convince you to consider death as the best or only alternative. But there’s more.

The circumstances that brought me to that place are fairly irrelevant. Not because they weren’t real or valid or enough. But because these circumstance are different for everyone. The results, however, are the same. Being suicidal comes from something different for each of us. Those close to me always want to know how I could have thought death was the only way. In truth, there were times in my past when it actually appeared to have made more sense that I would have been suicidal. And there will be people who ask you this question, who will not understand how you could think death is the only way. All that means is that they are lucky enough not to have experienced being where you are. It is not judgement. It is fear and love wrapped up in what often feels like judgement.

The circumstances don’t matter. That sounds harsh, I know. But it’s the truth. Because no matter what each of us is going through, no matter what has brought us to this place of unimaginable suffering that we know we cannot bear for one more moment, the only thing that matters, is that those circumstances, all put together, no matter their enormity, are, above all else, TEMPORARY. In fact, all of what we experience is only temporary. The fleeting highs and the apparently interminable lows. The good days, the bad days. Our triumphs and our losses. All of these things that make up our experience of life are temporary. And to use a permanent, irreversible action, suicide, to deal with/escape/end/fix…however you choose to describe it, is…this decision is, at its core, illogical and flawed.

I wish I had known so many things that day. I wish I had known that despite the hopeless way I felt, hope did still exist, and would find me again. I wish I had known that the enormity of all of the things that I was dealing with, while they felt too much, too big, too heavy, too powerful to overcome, would, in fact, be overcome. Not all at once the way I felt I needed, but little by little; they have been…they are being overcome. Some part of me wishes I had known the true nature of pain that I was about to inflict on those who love me most. That I could have foreseen the pain ingrained in every fiber of my mother’s being because of what I had done. But perhaps it’s best that I couldn’t grasp that in those moments because for me, guilt was a heavy weight on the scale inching me towards suicide. From this side of the choices that I made that day though, I live with the fact that I cannot erase the permanent image of me lying in that hospital bed, bound to it, unconscious, with a machine breathing for me and tubes coming out of me that she has etched in her memory. I wish with all my heart that I could take that away. I wish I had known the panic and terror in the hearts of everyone who was desperately searching for me, knowing that each minute that passed by could be the difference between life and death. I wish I had known that less than a year later, I would be sitting here on my couch in my new apartment, minutes from the ocean, having overcome so much of what I thought that day, in those last moments I would never be able to live with. I wish I had the voice of someone who had been in my shoes speaking into me the strength and hope that might have made the difference in the choice between life and death. Or simply a hand to hold in silence that might have delayed my action long enough to change my mind.

Suicide is a funny thing. For those who are truly suicidal, what many people do not understand is that it can be the one, solitary thing that we feel we have control over. It feels like the only thing we can do to change our circumstances, end our pain, fix what is broken. To an extent, that is sometimes true. We do have control over it and many things in life are out of our hands. But the flip side, the reality, the truth we find hardest to see, is that we also have control over the choice to live. To find a way, however impossible it seems, through whatever brought us to that edge. We have that choice. And choice is power.

Suicide is alluring, almost intoxicating because in our darkest moments is promises to fix everything at once. It ends all the pain and suffering and hopelessness in one fell swoop. That promise, that idea that “suicide fixes everything at once”…it’s crap. It’s not real. It’s just a way to avoid facing the harder, better, stronger, braver choice to get through it all…whatever your all is, one tiny step at a time. Don’t feel like you have the strength to take another step? Fine. You crawl. You inch. You slide one hand forward before you can crawl. You make a movement and it is PROGRESS. It is substantial and brave and powerful. It says FUCK YOU to everything that is breaking you down. It is success and it is HOPE.

And no matter how alone we might feel at the bottom of this pit – we are never truly alone. Our actions do not happen in a vacuum. We do affect others in profound ways that we cannot fathom. No matter how alone we feel there are people who will mourn, who will take our actions upon their own shoulders and walk heavy with misplaced guilt, much the same way many of us have/are doing. If you have not a soul in the world who you believe will care if you are gone, there is a paramedic who will be unable to save you. A coroner who must examine you. Someone, some people will suffer from your actions. I say this not to inspire more guilt. The choice we make  must be about ourselves, not those around us. I say this to remind you that no matter how isolated you feel,  you are never truly alone.

I won’t go in to all of what kept me alive when I was absolutely, resolutely determined to die that day. For now, I will say this. I had planned meticulously. I hurt more than I ever had dared to imagine possible. I was 100% sure of what I was doing. I was crumbling beneath the weight of things I no longer had the power to keep from crushing me. But I was WRONG. I know that now. And if you are in that place I promise you with all that I am, you are wrong too. You can, and should CHOOSE to live. That much you do have the power to do. The rest of it, whatever it is, no matter how much it hurts, will someday be behind you. But first you have to make that choice. Take that step. Move, just a little – forward. It is worth it. YOU are worth it. You are more powerful than you can, in this moment even conceive. I know you are, because I was you. And today, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am more powerful than anything that life might throw at me. And despite the years of falling down into that pit, in that place where the cold and the dark and the fear and the hopelessness and pointlessness all collide, my choices can keep it all from owning me ever again. And your choices, today, can lead you out of it. So choose. Be braver than I was. Be the strength you don’t dare to believe you have. Do the one thing you feel you cannot do. Choose to live.

You don’t go to Hell for saying a swear-word

Growing up my family wasn’t particularly religious. We called ourselves Protestant and never went to church except for Easter and Christmas. And sometimes not even then. But my best friend’s (Meghan’s) family was Catholic. And they went to church all the time. I didn’t like it very much because they always went to 4:00 o’clock Mass on Saturdays (right in the middle of playtime, of course). When her parents invited me, I went with them, not because I had any interest in church, but because it seemed better than being apart. I got nervous when it was time for communion. I never knew what you were supposed to say when they gave you the little round wafers and I wasn’t sure if you were supposed to chew them or not and I was sure if I did the wrong thing it was probably a sin. And then everyone got back in the pews and knelt down and everybody seemed to know what was supposed to happen then except me. So I just made stuff up and hoped I wouldn’t get in trouble with God.

During the sermons, Meghan and I got in trouble for talking and giggling a lot, but I think in the end, her parents thought it was probably worth the trouble of taking me with them as long as I had some exposure to church!

One day during an ice skating lesson I accidentally let a swear-word slip. I had never said a bad word in my life, mind you. When we got home,  Meghan asked me what was wrong. I told her I was really scared because I was going to Hell. “What? What are you going to Hell for?” she asked. So I told her what happened. Being a good Catholic, she knew the rules much better than I did and she told me that “You don’t go to Hell for saying a swear-word; everybody knows that. If you ask for forgiveness, God forgives you and you go to Heaven.” I breathed a huge sigh of relief! Then she added, “The only thing you go to hell for is not going to church.”

And the funny thing was, the thing that scared me in that moment wasn’t the idea of going to Hell; it was the idea that when we died, I’d be going to Hell and she’d be going to Heaven and we wouldn’t be together…and that was the worse kind of punishment I could think of. To this day I cannot imagine my life without her.

Marriage…is it about religion, offspring or love?

A few days ago (March 11 to be exact), the Maryland legislature voted to table a bill on same sex marriage. The bill had passed in the state’s senate on February 24 and Governor Martin O’Malley had vowed to sign the bill into law if it came to his desk. The bill now goes back to the state’s judiciary committee where it will stay until the legislature reconvenes in 2012.

I’m going to try to keep this short, but I have some very strong feelings on this matter. Same sex relationships have existed for as long as we have been keeping history. This is nothing new. It is not wrong, or disgusting, or unnatural or any of the far worse words that have been used to describe it. It is also not a choice.

Over the years I have heard countless arguments about why same sex marriage should not be legal. I’ve yet to hear a single one that stands up to even the lightest bit of reason.

Argument #1. “It’s blasphemy.”

If that were really true, and you believe that God made us all, then he wouldn’t have made anyone homosexual. Also, if you take the time to really study the Bible in its historical context, you’ll realize that it tells a story that has  been told and retold over and over throughout centuries and translations, and that if you go back far enough, the truth is that sodomy does not refer to the practice of anal sex. Sodomy refers to the act of rape. Same sex relationships at the time that the Bible was written have been documented to have been wide-spread. The crime was not in the sexual act, it was in the forcing of one individual to participate in that act without consent.

Argument #2. “It betrays the sanctity of marriage.”

Really? Marriage is about the union of two people who love and honor one another.  Whether those two people are a man and a woman or two men or two women, that love and honor is still the basis for the union. It is still cherished and valued the same way.  Betraying the sanctity of marriage is not about the two people who enter into it, but about how carefully they choose to enter into it, their commitment to one another and to their marriage.

Argument #3. “Marriage exists for the purpose of reproduction.”

Oye. Ok, so then this isn’t really a gay/straight argument at all is it? This is about whether a couple is marrying for the purpose of producing offspring. So under those guidelines, if you do not know if you want to have children, or if you are unable to have children, you should not be afforded the right to marry. Period.  And while we’re at it, if you have married the love of your life and have either chosen not to have children or learned that you are unable to have children, you forfeit that right and the state should then come in and nullify your marriage.

Argument #4. “They have civil unions; why do they even need to get married?”

I can hardly address this one without shaking out of my skin with anger and frustration. Simply, it is a Human Rights issue. The minority should not be treated with any less respect, dignity or access to freedoms, rights and privileges. Two people who love each other should be able to choose marriage and all of the challenges, rights and privileges it affords them, no matter who those two people are.

There are other arguments, I know. But those are the four big ones I typically run into. I don’t claim to know everything, but I do know this. The same sex couples that I know are wonderful, genuine people who love each other. And from where I stand, there is not a reason in the world why they should not have the opportunity to enter into marriage, to love and honor one another and be afforded all of the respect, rights and privileges afforded to any heterosexual couple. Currently five states and the District of Columbia have legalized same sex marriage. The tide is changing…slowly, but it is changing. Like all human rights movements in our country’s history, this will be no quick event. Down the road though, we will look back on this and see the error of our ways, and be thankful we’ve righted a terrible wrong.

What about the other 14%…don’t they count?

There were several things I was choosing from to write about today. But then I got a forward from someone I love dearly, but disagree with on several issues. This one in particular started out with a statement on the Pledge of Allegiance. Then it went all the way to asking whether the U.S. is “ours” (meaning the Christians’) or the Muslims’. I’d like to tease apart some of the points made because much of what was in this forward is well-worth discussing.

I know the feelings about this issue are sensitive and I mean no disrespect with those of you with whom I do not agree.

To start with, here is the picture which, I presume, was the original forward:

If you take this all by itself, I would have a few reactions. Yes, it is in fact Kevin’s right not to stand for the pledge. That being said, we owe an incredible debt to every single soldier and their families for the sacrifices they have made to protect our freedoms and our rights. But do I agree with with the tactic of trying to guilt a child, or anyone, for that matter, into standing for the pledge? Absolutely not. We don’t know and should never presume to know the reasons why Kevin or anyone else is exercising this right. Sure, Kevin might be a disrespectful, ungrateful, lazy kid. On the other hand, Kevin might be someone who has carefully thought about this choice. He might be someone who does not feel comfortable expressing his patriotism through means that involve a pledge that talks about God. Kevin may have made his own pledge that doesn’t involve God and says it everyday and plans to enlist in the armed forces to defend this country…but we don’t know any of that, do we? And yet so many people find it easy to attack anyone who doesn’t stand for the pledge, or support having references to God on our currency.  I will come back to a few of these points, but I want to move on the rest of the forward.

Here is the text that followed this picture:

Isn’t life strange? I never met one Veteran who enlisted to
Fight for Socialism

86% will send this on.

I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG,
OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ,
AND TO THE REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT
STANDS, ONE NATION UNDER GOD,
INDIVISIBLE, WITH LIBERTY AND
JUSTICE FOR ALL!

If Muslims can pray on Madison Avenue, why are Christians
banned from praying in public and erecting religious displays
on their holy days?

Tell me again, whose country is this? Ours or the Muslims?

I was asked to send this on if I agree, or delete if I don’t. It is
said that 86% of Americans believe in God.

Therefore I have a very hard time understanding why there is
such a problem in having ‘In God We Trust’ on our money and
having ‘God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance.

I believe it’s time we stand up for what we believe!

Ok, let me take this one section at a time. First of all, if you’re meeting U.S. Veterans, no, you certainly will not find any that have enlisted to fight for Socialism as we are not a socialist nation and therefore have never battled for it. Perhaps if you chatted with a few veterans in a socialist nation you might have better luck.

86% will send this on. Well, OK, if you say so.

So if Muslims can pray on Madison Ave, why can’t Christians pray in public? Well, it’s not really true that they can’t. If anyone sits at their desk at lunch and says a prayer before they eat, I doubt anyone would have a problem with that. (without disturbing others or forcing others to listen…I’ve been in the company of many Muslims at prayer time and it is a quiet ritual…never bothered me any). If you want to sit out in a park with your church’s youth group and discuss Sunday’s sermon, don’t think anyone is going to bother you. We do, however, have separation of CHURCH and STATE. There is good, solid reason for this. By doing so we are protected from a CHURCH-RUN STATE. I, for one, am incredibly grateful for that right. And let us not forget, it is also one of the many things that our service-men and women put their lives on the line for. And if you haven’t noticed, in recent years we’ve been involved with some pretty gruesome conflicts in nations that could do well to adopt that same protection! One last thought on this…why is it that only Muslims are called out here? Just wondering…

Regarding the fact that Christians cannot erect religious displays on their holy days…well, I must live on the moon because I can’t even count how many manger scenes I saw last December around town. Once again, I think the issue is getting confused. It is a matter of the separation of Church and State. Do what you want on your property. I saw a 15-foot Santa this year. It made baby Jesus look a little insignificant by comparison, but I guess they didn’t have a giant baby Jesus at the store? I don’t know. In places where our government functions and in our public schools, to name a couple of places, why is it such a problem to honor the separation of church and state? These are places of government and institutions of learning. They are not religious centers…for anyone…not Christians, not Buddhists, not Muslims, not ANYONE.

Tell me again, whose country is this? Ours or the Muslims?

HONESTLY? Is this for real? First of all…I have to assume by the rest of the text here that “Ours” is meant to read “the Christians.” You might want to take a look at some recent statistics on the incredible number of religions currently represented in this country before you start separating the nation in TWO groups. And second…I don’t know how much of American history should play into this, but I’d wager there are quite a few Native Americans who would have a very interesting answer to this particular question!

So it’s “said that 86% of Americans believe in God.” Again, I have to assume the writer was referring solely to the Christian God. Well, I don’t know where this statistic came from and I don’t really care. Let’s just assume it is spot-on. What about the other 14% of Americans? Do their beliefs count for nothing? Should they be chastised in a school room for not standing up to take part in a pledge that discusses a God they do not believe in? Should each of them be reminded each time they purchase food for their families and hand over their money that perhaps they aren’t really welcome members of this so-called melting pot society?

Go ahead, stand up for what you believe. That too, is an American freedom. But think it through first. Consider not just your segment of this country’s population, but the whole country.

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