It Always Passes…

Dark times come, but they always pass – they always pass. Waiting for depressed or suicidal feelings to pass might be the hardest thing I live with from week to week, and day to day.  I hope to remind those who also live with such feelings, that they will always pass.

For many, depression or suicidal feelings are foreign and unrelatable.  For others, if we are lucky enough to connect, it’s as though we share a common language which we’re afraid to speak in public, for fear having a net thrown over us. Throw a net over everyone who lives with depression and/or suicidal thoughts, and say goodbye to most artists, many creative thinkers, and all baristas everywhere.

I have lived with depression and suicidal thoughts since I was in elementary school. These often need to be dealt with daily. When I frame it that way, I have been successfully taking on and overcoming such feelings for more than 50 years. Do something regularly for 50 years, and one is likely to be good at it.

I am quite adept at finding ways to ride out the storms of chaos in my mind, because experience has taught me that it passes – it always passes.

At the end of the day, for me, the idea is to do whatever is necessary to win the day. This might include music, food, or companionship.  More likely though, it involves exercise, solitude, and nature.

Last night I was in dark place.  The reasons why aren’t important.  Exercise didn’t make a dent.  Nature helped, but not a great deal.  So, I sat home alone.  I reached out scarcely on social media, and was met with a wave of kind thoughts and well wishes.  That helped more than I can convey.

A simple comment was all it took to reassure me, and to remind me I’m not alone.  I was taken by the number of replies I got; emails, text messages, and phone calls comforted me until bed time.  It wasn’t too long before I was centered once again – and grateful for the flow of compassion.

It passed.  It always passes.

Today is a new day.  As I sipped coffee this morning, after a good night’s sleep, I held close to my dog.  As his chest moved in and out in my hands, and as his eyes declared the peace within, I felt needed, if not inspired.  As I reflect on all who reached out last night, I am humbled.

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Today there is dew on the grasses in the meadow, and blossoms waiting to be photographed by me.  Clients need to be trained.  Dishes need to be washed.  And a little girl, who ain’t so little anymore, still owns my heart.

Last night, with the help of social media, and with the compassion of many friends, I won the day.  It passes.  It always passes.. Jhciacb

IF YOU’RE EXPERIENCING A HEAVY DEPRESSION OR SUICIDAL FEELINGS, REACH OUT.  THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE IS 800-273-8255.

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Love Tractor.  Enjoy…

Thus, I continue…

Deep thoughts in grade 3…

I can trace the start of my life-long existential meltdown to a single moment in the 3rd grade.  A friend had told me that if the radio next to my bathtub fell in while I was bathing, I would be electrocuted, and die.  That thought frightened me.  It also opened my mind up to possibilities, and options.  That is the first memory I have of contemplating death, and all that may come after.

That was also the first moment I realized that my own death could be in my charge.  That is, if I chose to push that radio into the tub, I would have control over my own existence.  That idea remains the most powerful thought I would ever have.  I have thought about my death, self-inflicted or otherwise, nearly every day of my life since that day.

To consider self-inflicted death or to actually contemplate it, are not necessarily synonymous.  I think about ending my own life intermittently throughout the course of most days.  Mostly as an instant way out of the otherwise tedious moments which comprise my days.  I imagine it, but I don’t do it.  I only contemplate taking my life when the confluence of external and internal forces narrow the stream of my thoughts into a space so tight with borders so rigid that I feel they will burst from the pressure.

In stressful situations, or when the heavy blanket of my own depression lowers itself upon me, I have craved to be excused from this world in favor of another.  Therein lies the good problem; there is no guarantee of another life.  Even if there is another life waiting, what guarantee is there that it would be better than this one…?

Why I don’t…

If you’ve read this far then you have probably determined that you’re going to contact my mother, state authorities, or avoid me altogether.  Please don’t.  Throughout this ongoing negotiation in my head, there has been a kill switch on that kill switch.  I believe to my core that suicide is just a reset button which can only return me back to Go, without collecting the $200, and forcing me to start this game all over again.  Perhaps in a another time, and in another body, but a do-over just the same.

In my life have done many wonderful things, and shared amazing times with beautiful people.  I have loved, laughed, and stood at the edge of nature with wide wonder.  I have seen beauty which has moved me to tears, and felt love even greater.  I have been thrilled to the point of ecstasy, and fulfilled to the point of absolute guilt.  I am grateful to have won the lottery of life.

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I have also cowered down though, many times beaten by fear, paralyzed by apprehension, overcome with rage, and stifled by depression.  I have cried without explanation, experienced loss, deprivation, and sorrow.  I have expressed hatred, caused hurt, and come to regret it.  I have even thwarted murderous feelings on more than one occasion, the murder of my own self included. Despite these, I have found the strength to carry on.

I have not exercised my option to take my own life, and I believe I never will, for the simple fact that as good as my life has been, I don’t wish to relive the bad stuff.

On the selfishness of suicide…

The act of suicide is often referred to as ‘selfish’.  Those who are left behind are often resentful of, and bitter toward the departed.  I don’t subscribe to that belief, and if you are one who does, I ask you to reconsider.

We who remain behind in the wake of suicide, have no idea what thoughts may have been colliding, nor how hard or how long those collisions might have been taking place inside the head of someone that desperate to end their life. We often know little of the external influences, and even less of the internal conflicts which may have led a person to that moment.  Assigning selfishness to the act is a judgment no living person is qualified to make.

There can be no way to understand that moment – that chaotic moment when a life, a future, a legacy, and the all the relationships that go with it, no longer hold any value.  It must feel, in that moment, like the universe has not yet begun, or has already ended, and therefore there is nothing to lose since there is pure solitude.

I have even come to actively question whether suicide is the ultimate act of bravery, and we who are left behind are the dumb and the weak ones.  I don’t genuinely believe this to be the case.  However, if I am capable of such a thought, then others might also have felt this.  In my quietest moments I wonder if some who have taken their own lives, have done so in the name of bravery, not looking just a little deeper into the outcome.

At the end of the day, despite all that isn’t yet known of causality, and existence, my dog still needs to be fed, my daughter requires shoes, the lettuce in the crisper still turns blue if I fail to eat it, and my mother deserves to know each week that she is loved, if only by telephone or text.  Thus, I continue…  Be well.  rc

Please take a moment to scroll back to the top and rate this essay honestly.  Thank you.

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Dog Trumpet.  Enjoy…

EM2 Linder…

A Simple Twist Of Fate

I was deckhand on the Coast Guard Cutter Acushnet in the mid-1980’s.  I didn’t want to be a deckhand.  I applied to be the Yeoman Striker in the ships’ administrative office; an apprentice Yeoman. To my surprise, and to the shame of the Coast Guard, my request to strike for Yeoman was actually approved.  I would then work my days, not on deck chipping paint under the hot Yucatan sun, but in the ship’s air conditioned office under the tutelage of the Yeoman First Class. 

My administrative abilities would be cultivated and I would become a pusher of papers, an organizer, and a correspondent. This was in the early days of personal computing – pre-Microsoft.  The Convergent Technologies C3 word processor and data storage system was the technology which the Coast Guard implemented. 

The C3 had a small CPU, and a 13” monitor with a green LED display.  Inside the CPU was a slick combination of voodoo, witchcraft and a floppy disk-drive that enabled the manipulation of words.  I was able to cut, paste, and re-form my paragraphs as well as my thoughts, in ways which I could never do on a legal pad or with a typewriter – it was like having a pallet and an array of brushes for my words.   

EM2 Linder

Petty Officer Jim Linder was and Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class on the Acushnet.  He was from El Paso, Texas and of Native American ancestry.  Jim was diminutive, quiet during working hours, and generous to a fault.  I have no memory of ever speaking with, or even seeing Jim when he was not smiling – not one.

Sometimes It Just Sneaks Up On You

I had just finished having dinner with a shipmate and his wife at their apartment just a few miles from the pier where the Acushnet was moored. It was a hypnotic May evening in Gulfport, Mississippi.  I rode my motorcycle slowly from my friend’s apartment back to the ship so I could enjoy the charm of the night.  My moon-lit trance was momentarily broken as a fire engine and a few police cars headed toward the apartment building I was leaving.  Still, I thought little of it, stared back up at the pines on one side of the road and the coastline up ahead and continued my ride home.

At the pier and off my motorcycle, I approached the quarterdeck to board the ship.  On my arrival, the Officer On Duty advised me that shipmate, Jim Linder, had just been shot – an apparent suicide.  I was told that he might have been fighting with his girlfriend, and leaned his chest into a shotgun or a rifle.  This action had taken place in an apartment not too many feet away from the one where I had just enjoyed dinner with my friends.  Now, the fire engine and police cars made sense, though I never heard the gunshot.

Thoughts From A Couple Of Shipmates

Mark L:  “I used to tease him that it was an old Indian legend that if someone took your picture, they stole your soul.  I don’t recall if he confirmed or denied believing that.  He had a short-bed fleet-side Ford pickup, about a 1977 model, painted white.  He scraped up both sides of it, front-to-back on an exit ramp late one night on the way home.  To keep the scraped areas from rusting, he sprayed them with primer which made the truck look like a palomino horse, or a jersey cow, depending on your perspective.  An Indian needs a horse, right?  We had a lot of laughs about that”

Cliff T:  “I relive that night over and over.  Over the years I have lost other friends under tragic circumstances and each one has made me flash back to Jim.   Jim was one of the best electricians I ever worked with.  I learned so much from him in the short time I was on the ship with him.  If Jim had not taken his life he would have become legend in his abilities.  Jim was a smart and generous individual.”

Slight Of Hand

We were to get underway for a 30-day patrol within several days of Linder’s death.  With the exception of the confines of the EM shop where Linder worked, little was spoken among the crew about Linder’s death.   Nothing was done by our command to celebrate his life.  There was no grief support offered to the crew.  A few words were said, we got underway for our patrol, and it seemed that Linder’s life would just be a thing of the past – so far as our command went. 

Several weeks into our patrol, our commanding officer hand drafted a letter to the family of Linder.  He wrote to let them know what a good a good shipment Linder was and that we, as a unit, were sorry for their loss.  The Captain brought that letter to me in the ship’s office, that I would enter his words into the new word processor, print it up for his regal signature, and mail it to the family of Linder on our return to port – nearly a month after Linder’s death. 

I was embarrassed reading the letter my Captain had written. Though his intentions were good, it was clearly written out of obligation.  The letter was clumsy, awkward, and lacked any grace whatsoever.  He was good leader, but not much of a wordsmith.  At a great risk to my job in the ship’s office, and my future in the Coast Guard, I would re-write the Captain’s letter, that Petty officer Linder’s family might feel a legitimate sense of loss by our crew. 

Somewhere Between Voodoo And Witchcraft

With the help of the modern word processor I wrote, worked, and molded what I thought to be an exceptional letter to the family of Jim Linder.  I cut, pasted, and re-worked the letter again and again – until it was near perfect, and it was near perfect. The problem was…

… the only words on the letter written by my Commanding Officer were his names on the signature line.

With a lump in my throat, and a knot in my stomach, I printed the letter and took it to my Captain’s stateroom for his signature.  My hope was that he would glance at it, sign it, and send me on my way – his usual way of handling correspondence.  He did exactly that.  As I was about to exit his stateroom, he called me back.  Shit.  He took the letter from my hand and read it again.  I stood with sweat on my forehead and my knees trembled as I watched the pattern of his eyes confirm that he was reading it word-for-word.  He paused, and stared into space for a moment.

He then looked at me and said, “Thanks Cohen, you did a good thing – you have a gift.”  I swallowed hard and said nothing.  He then (jokingly) told me to “get out” before he had me put in the brig for undermining his authority. It was at that moment, I knew I could write.

Coming Full Circle

In a month without technology, the only thing I truly missed was writing with help of my computer.  Writing, as much as exercise, is what does it for me these days – what connects me to the essence of who I am.  I may earn my keep as a fitness trainer and gym owner, but writing is what I do – even if it never earns me a penny. 

I have known too many people who have taken their own life – a few I have been very close with.  Most of them I knew much better than I knew Jim Linder.  Despite this, Linder’s death has haunted me more than any other.  In part, I suppose, because of how poorly my Command handled the situation.  Jim Linder deserved much better – he was a class act.

It was in part due to Linder’s death that I discovered I could turn a good phrase. I would like to turn a few tonight in his honor:

The act of suicide is often referred to as ‘selfish’.  Those who are left behind are often resentful of, and bitter toward the departed.  I don’t subscribe to that belief, and if you are one who does, I ask you to reconsider. 

We who remain behind in the wake of suicide, have no idea what thoughts may have been colliding, nor how hard or how long those collisions might have been taking place inside the head of someone that desperate to end their life. That is a judgment no living person is qualified to make.

There can be no way to understand that moment – that chaotic moment when a life, a future, a legacy, and the all the relationships that go with it, no longer hold any value.  It must feel, in that chaotic moment, like the universe has not yet begun, or has already ended, and therefore there is nothing to lose.

I scarcely knew Jim Linder, but I have thought about him nearly every week since his death over 25 years ago, and I will continue to think about him because, regardless of how he died, he was a good man and he was always kind to me.   Be well.  rc

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Please check back in two weeks for my 2,000 word diatribe on the value of moving weights more slowly.  Oh, and the is this from George Harrison, for Jim Linder.  Enjoy…

 

The Times They Began A Changin’…

A mid-week tease for my upcoming column on modern word processing, the US Coast Guard, and the suicide of a shipmate — how they influenced my direction.  Please check back next week for the completed column.  In the meantime, here is an excerpt:

A Twist Of Fate

I was deckhand on the Coast guard Cutter Acushnet in the mid-1980’s.  I didn’t want to be a deckhand.  I applied to be the Yeoman Striker in the ships’ administrative office; an apprentice Yeoman. To my surprise, and to the shame of the Coast Guard, my request to strike for Yeoman was actually approved.  I would then work my days, not on deck chipping paint under the hot Caribbean sun, but in the ship’s air conditioned office under the tutelage of the Yeoman First Class. 

My administrative abilities would be cultivated and I would become a pusher of papers, an organizer, and a correspondent. This was in the early days of personal computing, pre-Microsoft.  The Convergent Technologies C3 word processor and data storage unit was the technology which the Coast Guard implemented system-wide. 

The C3 had a13” monitor with a green LED display, and inside the CPU was a slick combination of voodoo, witchcraft and a floppy disk-drive that enabled the manipulation of words.  I was able to cut, paste, and re-form my paragraphs as well as my thoughts, in ways which I could never do on a legal pad or with a typewriter – it was like magic at my fingertips.   

EM2 Linder

Petty Officer Jim Linder was and Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class on the Acushnet.  He was from El Paso, Texas and of Native American ancestry.  Jim was diminutive, quiet during working hours, and generous to a fault.  I have no memory of ever speaking with, or even seeing Jim when he was not smiling – not one.

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Please check back next week for the completed column.  Oh, and there is this from Rusted Root.  Enjoy…