Stupid, Stupid Boy

So, it’s fairly certain that one of the biggest fires in Oregon at the moment was started by a 15-year-old boy playfully throwing a smoke bomb into a ravine while hiking in the woods. To hell with burn bans. The world is one big video game! Woo hoo! If we destroy everything, we just hit the reset button, right?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The vast majority of the crime and destruction in this world is perpetrated by boys between the ages of 15 and 24, regardless of race or religion. It’s like they take out their brains and set them on a dusty shelf in the back of their closets for a decade.

I know that’s a sweeping generalization. I’m sure there are plenty of good kids wandering around. But from a statistical standpoint, I wouldn’t bet the farm on any of them. When it comes to violence, theft, graffiti, traffic accidents, bar fights, rape, DUI, and general stupidity, the numbers bear me out.

I hope there are consequences for this kid. I hope he has to help fight this fire. I hope he has to walk through the devastated landscape afterwards and see what he’s done. Somehow, someone has to get through to him.

He won’t be in the stupid stage forever. How will he feel in his 30’s about what he did? This may sound strange, but I hope he regrets it quite a lot. Because that will show that he has developed some sort of a moral compass, as painful as it will be for him. If, on the other hand, he laughs it off, is allowed to get over it, or becomes angry and bitter and stays stuck in his stupidity, then heaven help us all.

forest-fire

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A Life of Almosts and Could Haves

Here lately I’ve been binge watching the show This is Us on Hulu. On a recent episode, one character, on the eve of his death, talked about having lived “a life of almosts and could haves”. I can think of no sadder epitaph.

Regrets. Avoid them whenever you can. There’s nothing that will plague you in life more than the road not taken. Since that road can never truly be known, it will always seem like it would have been better. Don’t obsess over it.

But at the same time, don’t let opportunities pass you by. The older you get, the more you realize that the next opportunity isn’t guaranteed. The best way to avoid what ifs is to go for it. Belly up to the bar of life and order everything that you can on the menu. You will only pass this way but once, as the saying goes, so feast on life. Devour it!

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#ShoutYourAbortion

Well, here’s a blog entry I never thought I’d write. It’s about a growing movement of women who are coming out about their abortions. They seem to be doing this for a variety of reasons.

First and foremost, as the government attempts to defund Planned Parenthood and roll back women’s rights, it’s important that people from all sides of the story have a voice in this issue. It’s critical that we look at this complex topic from a variety of angles to make an informed decision on this legislation.

There are a few myths that I would like to dispel. The first one is that those of us who are pro-choice are trying to actively encourage other women to have abortions. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I’d much prefer that people didn’t feel the need to have abortions. I wish that we lived in a world where poverty, violence, sexual abuse, human trafficking,  homelessness, inadequate sex education, deadbeat dads, lack of birth control and sub-par healthcare weren’t issues. And I certainly respect the choice that many women make to have their babies.

The fact is, you can disapprove of abortion and still be pro-choice. It’s simple. Exercise your right to not have an abortion. But don’t feel that you, or some fat old white men in polyester suits in state houses throughout the land, have the right to make this monumental decision for a woman.

The second myth I’d like to dispel is that every woman who has ever had an abortion regrets it and is emotionally damaged for the rest of her life. And I’ll explain this by doing a #ShoutYourAbortion of my very own.

When I was 21 years old I was raped by someone who lived in my apartment complex. I didn’t report it, as many women don’t, because I knew the guy, and I also knew that when it comes to rape, victim blaming is the norm. “But officer, she told me she wanted me, the slut.” It’s sick, it’s twisted, but it’s a fact. Since I knew him, I knew that the implication would be that I had asked for such treatment. I felt humiliation. I felt shame. I felt disgust. I was terrified to leave the house and only did so to go to work. I barricaded my door for about a month. He would often pound on it at 3 am and then laugh and disappear, causing me to scream and cry. Then he moved away.

But he left me a parting gift. I was pregnant. I was pregnant and 21 and poor and all alone and terrified. I was also sickened by the thought that a part of that disgusting man was inside me, and now we’d be linked for life.

So, yeah, I had an abortion. And here’s the dirty little secret that the conservatives don’t want you to know: I never experienced even one second of regret. Not in 30 years. If you think that makes me a monster, I couldn’t care less. I’d do it again if the situation were the same.

Every woman is different. Every circumstance is different. But if abortion is a choice you feel you need to make, don’t think you “have to” feel a certain way about it. Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, what to think, or what decision you should make. At this point in time, you still have the right to come to your own conclusions. It will be a sad day, indeed, when that’s no longer the case.

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Drop Dead? Really?

We all come with baggage if we’ve actually made an effort to live our lives. Mine includes staying in a 16 year relationship that made me, for the most part, really unhappy. Don’t get me wrong. He was a really good guy. And we did have our good times. That’s why I stayed so long. That and I couldn’t justify, in my mind, hurting someone who hadn’t done anything wrong. When he finally did do something wrong it was a doozie, and that’s why I left.

In hindsight, I suppose it would have been kinder to be cruel at the outset and nip it in the bud so that we both could have moved on, but I didn’t know how to do that. I do have some regrets about that. I was always the stronger one, and by not breaking things off at the start I did us both a huge disservice. We could have been great friends, I think.

But deep down, I didn’t want to be considered the bad guy. I never cheated on him, I even financially supported him for many years, and I helped him start a career. His uncanny ability to be the victim made me loathe to be the perpetrator, but I didn’t understand the unwritten rule: the one who does the breaking up is ALWAYS going to be considered the bad guy, even if it is totally justified.

Friends have told me he seems to have landed on his feet. He’s married now, so I’m assuming he’s happy. At least I hope so. Genuinely.

In every other way his life doesn’t seem to have changed much, whereas mine has changed so much that it’s barely recognizable. That was one of our problems. My dreams were always a lot bigger than his. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Your dreams should fit you, and no one should force you to change their size. If you’re happy, that’s all that matters.

Given that he seems to have found love, you’d think he’d be glad I finally ended things. But this is a guy that is still bitter about things that happened to him in high school. He’s a grudge-holder. He doesn’t let things go. People always wonder why he can’t even smile in photographs. He wants the world to know how unhappy he is. He doesn’t move on. He lets things fester. That always made me very sad for him.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised to see what was on his facebook page the other day. He posted the song “Drop Dead” by Ghoti Hook, and said, “Makes me think of my ex…”

Seriously? You’re that angry over something you brought on yourself? When you’re supposed to be happily married? You hold onto a little cup of acid in your soul like that?

If anything, it makes me feel even more justified, because I wouldn’t wish death on anyone. Especially not someone I shared 16 years with. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to sleep next to someone with those sorts of sentiments about another human being.

The irony is that the reason I went to his Facebook page in the first place is that I wanted to give him some good news that affects him, too. It was something that I strongly suspect he’d have been happy to hear about. But instead, apparently, I should drop dead. Ah well.

The fact that no one “liked” that particular Facebook post of his, even his family members who never liked me in the first place, tells you all you need to know about how sad that sentiment is. I’m sure he assumed everyone would find it amusing. Not so much.

For my part, I don’t maintain any bitterness. Everything in my past brought me to where I am now, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I wish him well. But I also feel very sorry for him, when I take the time to think about it. If I could send him a song in response to his “Drop Dead”, it would be “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen. I truly hope that some day he is able to do so.

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[Image credit: knowyourmeme.com]

For the Last Time

I read something the other day that really freaked me out. “How many things are you seeing for the last time?” This strikes quite a chord in me at this particular point in life, because I’m about to leave a place where I’ve lived for 30 years to drive 3100 miles across the country to start over in a place where I’ve never been.

All month long I’ve been visiting my favorite places one last time, and having dinner with various friends one last time, and as I walk away from these experiences, I never fail to get emotional. And to say that what I’m feeling is sadness is too simplistic. It’s hard to describe the complexity of it. It’s also overwhelming gratitude that these phenomenal people and places have been part of my life. It’s regret that I didn’t always appreciate them as much as I should have. It’s fear that I may lose something indefinable once I’ve suffered their absence. It’s hope that the trail I am blazing will be every bit as amazing as the well-worn path I’m leaving behind me.

I sort of feel like a snake that is shedding its skin. But that skin has served me well, so I’ll miss it. I feel like a fiddler crab that’s moving into a new shell. The old shell is still viable, but it no longer fits me. Change is part of the natural order of things.

Transitions are also scary. And exciting. As I leave so much behind I’m also heading toward many, many things that I’ll be seeing for the very first time. Another thing I read recently: “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” That greatly applies to my situation as well. I’ll be going places where I’ve never been before. What an adventure!

Although I’m not a Christian, all of this reminds me of my favorite passage in the Bible:

Ecclesiastes 3

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

ecclesiates

May your journey through life be full of bittersweet endings and bittersweet beginnings. They’re what give life their flavor.

Contemplating Suicide? What I’d Say to a Jumper

Recently someone I love very much told me that she had attempted suicide a couple of times in the past year. This broke my heart because I had no idea she was suffering in silence. Having struggled with depression my whole life, I know what it’s like to want to throw off that thick blanket of despair, and I know that sometimes it seems like there is only one irreversible way to do so. But that’s the thing. Once you’ve made that choice, you can never make any other choices, ever. How can you be sure there aren’t better times just around the corner?

I can also speak with a little bit of authority on this subject because as a bridgetender I cross paths with people attempting suicide several times a year. I’ve never actually spoken to one of these people. Either the police rescue them before they jump or they make good on their attempt.

I’ve often thought about what I’d say if I came upon a jumper on my bridge and no one else was there. I’m not trained in any way so I’m probably the last person that should be thrust into that situation, and I’d avoid it if I could, but if I had no other choice, what would I do to try to convince them not to take that last irreversible step?

First I’d introduce myself and ask for his or her name. Then I would say, “I don’t know why you’re here, and I don’t know why you want to jump. I’m sure you have your reasons, and they’re none of my business. But I’d like to tell you that this is probably the most important conversation I’ve ever had in my life, because I think you are important in this world. I think you have value. I really believe that every day you impact and influence people and you probably don’t even realize it. Some day, a month, a year, a decade from now, someone will cross your path who will need your influence. If you’re not there to do so, that person may never have the future he or she deserves.”

“I also think that things can change on a dime. You never know what tomorrow will bring. But if you jump, you’ll never get to find out. One thing tomorrow can bring for you is help. Someone to talk to. People who will take you seriously. And they are out there. I promise. We’ll make sure you get a chance to talk to those people, if only you stick around to do so.

“The fact that you’re still listening to me means that you are having second thoughts. That’s good. That means you still have choices. You can still not jump, and then you have a whole world of possibilities. I can tell you this. Every single jumper, without exception, screams on the way down. That means they regret their decision the minute they step into thin air. But by then it’s too late. And that sentiment has been universally confirmed by the rare people who survive jumping off a bridge. They say they wish they had never done it. Can you imagine that feeling of terror? Wanting desperately to take something back but not being able to do so? Would you want that to be the last feeling you have? I don’t want that for you.

“I can also tell you that it’s not as easy a way to go as you might think. See that concrete and wooden fender system down there? I’ve heard jumpers hit that thing, and you can hear their bones break all the way up here. That sound will haunt me for the rest of my life, and now that I know your name, it would be even worse. But even if you miss the fender system it’s bad. Your organs are lighter than your skeleton, so when you hit the water, your skeleton rushes past your organs, forcing them all to move up into your chest cavity. I can’t imagine that type of pain. It’s a horrible, horrible way to go.

“I don’t have all the answers. In fact, my life is pretty messed up. But I really do believe there’s more out there for you than this. You wouldn’t be feeling so hurt or scared or depressed or angry about your situation if you didn’t believe you deserved more, too. Don’t take away your chance to find out what’s out there. Right now you can go in any direction you want. Left, right, forward, backward, up or down. If you jump, all you’ll be left with is down. If you feel like you have no hope now, imagine how you’ll feel when you’ve only got one direction left to go.”

I don’t know. Maybe that would be the wrong thing to say to a jumper. Maybe it would do no good. But that’s what I’d want to say.

looking down