Dear Suicidal Teenager (and those who love them).

Dear Suicidal Teenager,
I believe you. I believe you when you say you hate your life.

For you, life is constant pressure to conform and perform. Your world holds more challenges than most adults imagine.

Most of us have forgotten what it’s like to be 16, 17, 18, or 19. We talk to you from our adult minds and increase the disconnect. We listen to correct or inform, or even encourage, but we don’t hear your truth, experience, and perspective.

You know that. So, you say what you think we want to hear and too often you’re right.

You navigate through teachers, parents, coaches, and bosses who have little idea what you’re thinking or feeling.

In many ways, you’re smart. That’s your survival tactic.

I see you looking for a way out and screaming for help in ways no one hears. Those who do seem to make you feel worse.

I’m sorry you’re going through what you’re going through. You have more pressure than we ever did when we were your age.

And yet, even without the same chaos you’re dealing with, I was a suicidal teenager.

Now, I’m 53 years old. I recently told a close friend I’ve known since high school that I tried to kill myself my first semester in college. She said, “What? I had no idea.”

Of course not. We all keep secrets.

Dear teenager trying to get out of this world, this life, your life, I know how that feels.

People who’ve never truly hated their lives or their parents think your words are exaggerations or drama. They can’t fathom your daily pain.

Your pain is real. It feels unbearable. Hang on. It won’t feel like this forever. I promise.

During my first year in college, I lived with a nurse who had a refrigerator door full of prescription bottles. (I have no idea why.)

One night, I swallowed every pill I could and went to sleep hoping to never wake up.

I did. In a bed of vomit.

I told no one. Not my best friend. Not my sister or my mom who lived in town.

Not my boyfriend who kept trying to dump me.

I was a failure even at trying to check out. And in college, which I wasn’t cut out for at the time, I pulled a 1.9 grade point average. Stellar, right?

Looking back, I can still ignite the feelings that were all-consuming and impossible to communicate.

Two things saved me. One: I went to a counselor who made me PROMISE, NO MATTER WHAT, I WOULDN’T TAKE MY LIFE.

It was a real promise, one I couldn’t make to myself, but somehow made to her.

Later, when I had the impetus and opportunity to try again, my promise stopped me.

Is there one person you can make that promise to? One who cares about you to whom you can say, “I want to be dead, but I promise you I won’t kill myself” and mean it?

If so, please make the promise right now. If not, I raise my hand for you. Promise me.

Second, I got a summer job with Southwestern selling books on the other side of the country. This took me out of my circumstances and gave me a new focus.

It was an extreme step for a suicidal girl. I had to save my own life.

Sometimes, we need a complete shift in our environment to transform our perspective. When we can’t change how we feel inside, sometimes changing our outside world helps.

You can think your way into suicide. Please don’t! Choose better.

Stick around to see what the next chapter of life brings you. It may be your best yet.

Although I know the deep desire to end the pain, I don’t know your life. I’m not pretending I do.

I’m praying if you try to die, you get lucky and get it wrong, but we can’t count on that.

I’m praying you don’t get on the exit ramp. Drive yourself back into life. Find one thing worth living for. Just one. Let that lead you.

It’s a long road and there are many chapters to your life. You won’t always be in the situation you’re in now. I know it feels that way.

Your life won’t always feel like this. I promise.

Sometimes just staying alive takes courage. Stay. Alive. One hour at a time. Call up the brave one inside you for one minute, one hour, one day at a time.

The urges may follow you and you may have to fight them for a long time, as I did.

But, it’s worth it. I’m grateful to be alive. I’ve had multiple chapters of good and bad.

If I would’ve checked out at age 18, I would’ve missed: Spring Break in Mazatlán, falling in love—over and over again, holding my mom’s hand while she battled cancer, being my little sister’s maid of honor, getting married (and divorced), owning a home, flying on the swings at the Mall of America, laughing with my sister, traveling to Europe with eight women and one guy who didn’t like to shower, running the Chicago Marathon, waterskiing in Tulsa, Oklahoma, falling for Rod Stewart, meeting Billy Joel, learning to like jazz, barbeques on the deck, blueberry and raspberry flavored coffee, returning to college at age 37, becoming a writer, sacred love, Sedona, yoga, a collection of friends who unfold history with me (that I didn’t even know back then), watching my nephews grow from babies into men, living with my sister, dozens of road trips, being mom to the best dog in the world, making love, and best of all, being there for people when they’re going through one of life’s dark tunnels.

I would’ve missed. My life. Don’t miss yours.

This is the book of your life. Keep reading. New scenes will be written and new characters will walk in. It’s going to get juicy. Just you wait.

How Grief Lives in our Cells.

“To be broken is no reason to see all things as broken.” ~ Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

I live with my sister. We’re both in our 50s, which means we’re perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves and we value communicating and checking in with each other.

We’ve learned accidents do happen and people we love sometimes die.

We balance these not-fun facts with our inclination toward optimism.

Last night, Jayne went out with a friend, which is also a treat for me, as I relish my time alone. I used it well last night.

I skyped with an advanced editing class from my old alma mater (Metropolitan State University, Saint Paul, MN). The students asked me thought-provoking questions about my blogging process and purpose.

After the meeting, I took notes about what I learned from them and how I’ll implement some of their ideas.

Inspired by virtually being in the classroom, I dove back into a book assigned in my first politics class: American Democracy in Peril: Seven Challenges to America’s Future. How far-fetched that felt in 2002!

After reading, hunger overtook me. I noted the time: 10 pm. My sister would be walking in the door soon.

I made cauliflower rice with sautéed kale and cabbage and plopped in front of the TV.

Around 10:30, I texted my sis just to make sure she was ok. It’s not typical of her to stay out late on a “school night.”

On Scandal, the old Olivia Pope had returned—or had she? The President was going down—or was she?

My sister still hadn’t texted back. Again, not like her. She’s an IT manager and the constant bing of work messages is her norm. She’s the prompt texter backer.

I told myself she was fine, as fear felt its way into my body, the kind that says saying things are ok doesn’t make them so if they’re not.

After all, the day my boyfriend Kevin was due to arrive but didn’t, when worry hung in the air, my sister’s boyfriend said, “It’ll be ok.”

I even tried to convince myself Kevin would burst through the door, larger than life, wrap his big arms that felt like home around me, and spin some crazy story the way only he could do.

But, we were wrong. He would not be walking through my door or anyone else’s ever again. He would never tell another story with his Lentz-man vocabulary.

Everything was not alright.

My beloved died in his sleep of a heart attack. That cruel fact cannot be overridden by my mind.

The news, the truth, the day my life transformed lives in my cells. My body knows.

So, until I heard back from my sister, I suppressed the possibility of a reality I’ll never be ready for.

I didn’t even know where she went to dinner, some Mexican restaurant. She could be anywhere in the city.

God, please let her be safe.

How would I find her if she didn’t respond? I could find her friend on Facebook.

Would I call her son, the cop in Michigan to ask him what to do? Or the one here, who called the police for me and got them to search the freeways Kevin intended to drive on, and then his home where they found him in his bed?

I wouldn’t want to worry my nephews without reason, but what if my sister was in a situation where time was of the essence and could possibly save her life?

Silly, these thoughts, I tried to tell myself. I’m not a worry wart, but my mind played the sport while I simultaneously resisted the churning in my stomach.

Until Jayne’s text: “I’m sorry. I’m good. Coming home soon.”

Ah, the message of peace. I crawled into bed unscathed, tired and happy.

This morning, on her way to work, Jayne apologized again. I’ve done it to her, too. It’s no big deal.

But, then I cried because I can’t bear the thought of going through that again. And because I don’t have to.

Not now. All is well.

My sister admitted she’s been pierced by grief’s arrow threatening the worst repeating.
After all, her husband determined to beat cancer, but that day never arrived.

Like our brother who didn’t make his destination from California to Tucson and died on the side of a desert highway (car accident).

Still, I believe in the power of prayer and positive possibility.

Beautiful memories like falling in love, dancing under the stars, and splashing down water slides also dot the map of my life.

I refuse to live in the worry zone, but sometimes I take a trip there, making me grateful to return home to my current safe and sweet realty.

 

What “This Is Us” Teaches us about the Right Way to Handle Grief.

“Grief is as necessary as joy. It comes inconveniently, often catches us unprepared, but we understand that a full, rich life experiences both ends of the spectrum.” ~ Alexandra Stoddard, The Art of the Possible

Recently, a woman told me she’d also lost her boyfriend. He died.

So, yes, she knows grief. But, she had to put it out of her mind so she could get on with life.

Each person chooses her path and I can’t say she’s wrong.

However, in my life, grief grabbed me, shook me, shattered me, and dared me to look directly at it.

That’s where I found the gifts of grief, the metamorphosis of myself, and the place from which I’m rising as a woman transformed.

I get why people don’t want to get into the grief. They can see what a mess it causes.

Tears in public places? No, thanks. Being dragged down? No, stand tall!

Be strong. Don’t let it beat you.

Well, I believe what Arielle Ford said to the Book Mama, Linda Sivertsen: “Grief is your superpower.”

It’s a passage, like adolescence or menopause, or maybe a mid-life crisis.

We must go into the mess in order to get to the metamorphosis.

My friend’s daughter is 17, just on the verge of adulthood. Not many months ago, she claimed she was already an adult and couldn’t relate to kids her age.

Now, she’s decided she doesn’t want to be an adult. In fact, she wants to go back to being a baby.

Yes, I’d like to go back to being the happy woman I was in May of 2014, sunning on Big Daddy’s boat on Lake St. Louis, gushing with gratitude for how great my life felt.

Unfortunately, I can’t unknow falling in love with my man Fire and him being put out of this life.

Often, we want to be in a different stage from the one we’re in.

We’re single; we want to be married. When a teenager, we’d rather be an adult. As our kids ready to leave home; we wish them younger and still contained by our love.

When we’re in the thick of grief, we crave the hole in our heart be filled with yesterday’s joy.

Of course, there are extremes, like the widow who keeps her husband’s clothes hanging in their closet 20 years after his death, clinging to what can no longer be.

But, who’s to say? What’s the timeline? There isn’t one.

On a recent episode of my favorite show This Is Us,  it was the 20-year anniversary of Jack, the father’s death. Each of his children and his wife found a different way to deal with the memory. (Spoiler alert.)

Every year, his wife makes lasagna. She spends the day cooking and eating alone, even though she’s now married to another man.

One son does his best to ignore the day. Like him, I’ve tried that in the past (unsuccessfully).

If only December 10th, the day my brother died and the day my mom was diagnosed with cancer, could be removed from calendars!

On the show, the daughter beats herself up with guilt every year and chooses to be melancholy. While on the surface this may sound like a poor choice, she needs to indulge in her feelings.

Sometimes, it’s diving in that allows us to resurface stronger.

On the opposing mindset is the other son, who leaps into celebration mode, throwing a Super Bowl party and going overboard with determination to create big fun.

Trying to overpower grief can catch us off guard. When his daughter’s pet lizard dies, Randall ends up turning the party into a funeral too somber for children and a lizard.

When it comes to how to handle our grief, there’s no right way.

There is, however, a call for courage: to admit the mess, allow the loss to transform us, learn our individual lessons, and especially, the courage to love again—not just another person, but life itself.

When we see, feel, and honor our grief, we can grow into more awake and compassionate people.

We become intimately aware that some of the people we love will pass on, leaving a missing piece in the picture of our lives.

The death of a loved one can feel like none of the pieces fit and life is a puzzle that can’t be solved.

But, if we’re willing to let the pieces fall and scatter, when we go to pick them up, we may discover a new picture.

When that time comes, we’re not over the loss. We’re transformed and made new in the face of it.

We more clearly see others in the process and allow space for them to find their way.

This Is Us—all of us, dealing with grief the best way we know how. And that’s enough.

 

 

 

How History Helps Us Endure Grief.

“Acknowledging and letting go of these feelings brings us up to courage and, with that, finally acceptance and an inner peacefulness, at least as it regards the area which has been surmounted.” ~ David R. Hawkins, Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender

I’ve fallen into grief’s pit again. I know; I’ll crawl out faster this time.

It’s temporary, but this is the place I miss him the most. Grief is a gross comfort.

In grief’s grip, no matter how magnificent my daily life, it pales in comparison to any moment, memory, or experience shared with my now-deceased beloved.

Before Kevin stepped up into the role of boyfriend, he hung around the sidelines of my life ever since my first career opportunity, where we met, and my first marriage, which I left.

Yep, Kevin was there decades ago as I burned rubber out of both.

He seemed to pop up in every chapter of my life, while I gave him little thought, took our friendship for granted, and tried to set him up with my girlfriends.

Actually, I thought him a bit of an ass. I had no desire to impress him, which allowed me to feel free in his presence.

He wasn’t trying to win me over, either. So, I benefitted from the safety of a man by my side, like a brother.

Back in 1989, Kevin took me to his friend Ed’s party out in the country, close to St. Louis. Although I didn’t see Kevin much throughout the weekend, I felt his presence as we each mingled with other people. I knew he had my back.

The physical safety a man can offer came automatically with Kevin’s 6’3 stature. But, there’s another kind of safety.

Like when I said something I feared I had to wrap in an apology or explanation, his reaction proved the wrapping unnecessary.

I once said, “I’m not trying to judge you, but…”

Kevin said, “If you want to judge me, that’s ok. It’s on you.”

He showed me what it meant to be non-defensive, which I wasn’t used to, and non-judgmental, which I, like many people, longed for my whole life.

Best of all, Kevin embraced the gifts of my words, opinions, feelings, ideas, stories, and even my anger and fears.

It’s a whole new level of safety when a man loves a woman the way her dog does—not trying to change, impress, prove wrong, scold, compete with, or rescue.

I’d had enough of all that.

Finally, I didn’t have to or want to feel or say anything but my soul truth.

I didn’t have to work so hard at being happy or understood.

Amazingly, I saw Kevin the way I wished I’d see all the men who I’d shared chapters of my life with, but never quite managed.

He knew my sh*t. I knew his—and loved him even more for it, the way I wanted to love the other men, but didn’t.

With Kevin, I saw the quirks and flaws I’d normally judge—his loud mouth and undeniable ability to be politically incorrect, but I felt within me a new level of understanding and compassion, which felt oddly natural.

Here was a man full-on present in a way I’d never known a man to be.

Our experience flowed, rather needing to be reasoned around.

Sure, we had our moments. When I exploded with anger or jealousy (because he showed me it was safe to feel and deal with both), we got through it together.

Early on, I told Kevin I wanted nothing less than authenticity—because I couldn’t handle any more lies or disappointment—after my last three strikes with men, which he knew all about.

Like an old-fashioned gentleman, Kevin put his promise in a hand-written letter and mailed to my home: “As we go down our path, I pledge to give you the authenticity you crave and deserve. I want to have it all with you, Ice. Will you let me?”

Ice. He called me Ice. I let him melt me. Thank God I did, but damn, who could say no to that?!

Well, me—the gal who said no to or walked out on plenty of men who offered their hearts. It was just never enough for me.

Until Kevin. He was far from perfect, but he was real.

I’d have paid any price to take the ride we took together.

I relaxed and became my full self in his arms. He grew and awakened in my presence.

Our deal was divine.

Now, he’d dead—physically. (Heart attack in his sleep.)

This fact challenges me more than anything ever has.

My losses and lessons before couldn’t prepare me for this one.

This grief is like a gal with math anxiety learning calculus.

I face confusion, vulnerability, and some days, despair.

However, history says I’ve worked my way through before.

History says: love comes around again.

 

 

 

How to Find Your Way out of the Valley.

“So, it will come to pass for all of us—for all couples who stay with each other in love—that someday… one of us will carry the shovel and lantern on behalf of the other.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed

You’re strong. You’ve seduced Hope and slept with Faith.
You carry compassion across your body like a bullet-proof vest.    You’re a woman who loves fuller because you’ve lost.

When your earth splits, you strengthen every muscle,
So as not to fall into the pit of desperation.
You balance yourself, on all fours if you must.

You invest in people and experiences,
Recognizing the impermanence and
Declaring gifts in the midst of grief.

Against your will, you know
You’ve grown more authentic,
Wise, and alive in the aftermath.

You think back to your selfish, smart-*ss, 20-something self: invincible.
Until your brother’s car accident that made him leave the life he
Partied, worked, and loved his way through for 27 years.

Now, you’d live for two.
You’d put the joy back in your mother’s eyes.
Oh, the yearning for yesterday’s light!

I’ll learn from this, you said, as if
That could prevent repeating
The lesson: Live! Love!

You were living large and loving your
Mom well when cancer kicked her *ss and
You saw the strongest woman you knew fall.

You stood taller.
You made better choices.
You even got comfortable again.

Before life’s forces shook you
To the core, emptying you of
Possessions and identifying labels.

Once again, you were free
To fall. Or celebrate and
Recreate your life.

You did. You found your
Purpose in a pen and your
Power in an ever-expanding heart.

You even danced in sacred love—
You allowed it to capture you and
You’d never been so thrilled

To submit to its forces.
It felt like flying. Like
You’d earned your wings.

CLIP!

Like that. Your beloved’s death
Slammed you into the valley
And you began to crawl again.

Deeper love. Deeper valley. Deeper woman.
Wiser. More understanding.
Humble and fierce. Transformed.

Maybe you’re the clay and
God’s the potter and the
Punches shape you for the better.

You may not love life’s forces, but you honor
The evidence of metamorphosis in the eyes of
Those who’ve walked through grief’s valley.

No, you’re not clay. You’re free will.
You choose to merge with the mystery and
Some magic manifesting the new you—again.

 

 

How Grief Helps Us Grow. #bloglikecrazy

“Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed.” ~ Wikipedia

Grief is a truth teller when we like to believe the lies.

Grief slays us from our easy chair and smiles at our idea of control.

I thought her evil, pointing out my deficiencies, even stealing joy and freedom.

Grief speaks the loudest at funerals, but that’s not the only place her voice is heard.

She whispers throughout our lives and we resist her presence repeatedly.

She says: He’s got another woman (when he does). Your mom has cancer and will likely die. (Sometimes grief sounds like a doctor.) Your parents are divorcing. You hate this job. You’re going to lose the house. The doctors had to cut off his foot. He’s unresponsive.

We think grief is the b*tch, but she’s more like my new stepmom when I was a teenager: introducing rules which felt restrictive, but showed me what it meant to be a family.

Grief is strong and no doubt she can be harsh, but she’s loving.

She’s like the junior high school teacher who made my brother read in front of the class. Except Bill couldn’t read; so he slapped her.

That teacher revealed a truth my brother had been denying.

That’s the kind of teacher grief is—willing to be hated, even abused, in order to remove the mask.

A friend of mine told me he was sexually abused, by more than one person, starting at age five. He told me he doesn’t feel sad or angry. He says it didn’t affect him. In fact, he’s fine.

I recognize that mask. It’s the I’m okay mask.

I wore it for almost a decade after I was raped. I not only denied the pain, but avoided it entirely (actually how denial works).

I thought I was brave. I thought I was strong. I thought I was fine.

Actually, I didn’t think much about that night at all.

It wasn’t a #metoo campaign that made me face my pain.

A qualified therapist knew it takes more than just listening to a client like me paint pretty pictures so she feels better.

This therapist encouraged me to take off my I’m fine mask, look at the truth, and allow the tears to break where my trust had been violated.

She helped me face what I hadn’t known how to. And to move past it.

It’s not only the experiences we want to avoid; it’s the grief.

Grief says, “Yes, you were raped.”

What a b*tch. What a truth teller.

It takes courage to face our pain. That’s why so many women don’t come forward until years later, if at all. It’s easier to deny.

Our ego convinces us to be “strong” and in doing so, we often end up lying to ourselves through minimizing.

I have friends whose fathers left them or never showed up when they were kids. For years I’ve watched them dismiss the impact of an event like that.

Then, as adults when they get conscious and courageous, they can cry in the arms of grief. It’s the beginning of releasing that mask they all but glued on their beautiful faces.

When they finally take off the mask and let the grief in, the light comes. too.

When we face people’s (including our own) imperfections, manipulations, and violations, at first we’re hit with grief. But then, we’re set free.

We’re no longer captive to the actions of others. That’s why society applauds so many women and men coming out of the shadows and saying #metoo.

We’re witnessing their individual healing and society’s collective awakening.

We minimize our pain not because we’re strong or brave, but because on some level, we believe the grief could devour us.

She won’t. She waits like a patient parent or teacher. She helps us remove our I’m fine mask and the illusion of being in control.

Grief invites us to lay our hurt and humanity at her feet.

She holds us in our raw pain.

Then, like my stepmother and my brother’s teacher, grief helps us grow into more conscious and compassionate human beings.

 

How to be Soft like Sunshine, Strong like Storm. #bloglikecrazy

“Hanging around for an endless repetition of the same cycle is not loving, but merely dysfunctional.” ~ Marianne Williamson, Enchanted Love

I’m the kind of woman who’d rather face morning with tears than flatness.

I spent decades defining my emotions as positive or negative. Guess which ones I determined to align with?

When the “bad” ones vied for my attention, I changed my state.

It worked. I presented powerful to the world—and myself.

How can a woman (or a man) be whole if afraid to feel feelings?

I was afraid because in my youth anger awakened uncontrolled rage. (Never mind that I had reason.) Better not do that anymore. Check.

Sadness ignited suicidal tendencies. (Often, when women turn anger inward, it invites suicide; for men, it’s homicide.) Wow. You’re freaking people out. Stop it. I did.

I got my feelings under control. I “mastered” my emotions.

But, those slaves had a propensity to rise up at inconvenient times.

What if I worked with them? What if I befriended my feelings? What—all of them?!

Yes, now I even invite them. I allow them in my life. I listen to what they’re trying to tell me. I give them space and voice.

I find they don’t like to be pushed down, set aside, denied or renamed.

Feelings offer truth, insight, and opportunity for new understanding.

This is the more challenging path, like learning the material rather than just acing the test.

The way medical students studying diseases wonder if they have them, at first, one may worry honoring feelings defines her.

It’s in our language: She’s sad. He’s an angry person.

Enough with that.

I choose to feel my feelings. Is that so radical?

Sometimes, we feel sad or mad or blissed out.

These are our feelings—gifts certainly as valuable as thoughts—which (mine, at least) have been wrong a few thousand times.

I’m coming full circle, in one sense childlike, in the way children skin their knees, cry, and then rise to play again.

But, I’m more. I’m alive with my full feminine essence.

This is my FU you to a patriarchal society that deems it necessary to deny me of my emotions because they scare you. (She’s a hysterical woman!)

This is my hello to my dancing soul.

I was told, and maybe you were, too:
Let it go.
Don’t cry.
Laugh it off.
Be professional.
Don’t be so sensitive.

And, my favorite: “I’ve got it handled,” as in, “Don’t you worry your pretty little head.” Ha! I do not need to be handled!

If you want to care for me, consider me in all my femininity.

Fierce as a blazing fire.
Wild as the wind.
Soft as sunshine.

We reclaim our feminine nature.

Does that scare you? Maybe it should.

Or, maybe you’re so deep in denial, telling yourself the things you’ve been telling us, you refuse to feel fear even in the face of Mother Nature’s wrath.

Do you think femininity is weak?

The jokes, baby, you keep telling them. The lies, honey, you keep believing.

Not me. Not anymore. I’m out.

Out like the feminine force of nature.

You didn’t listen. You tried to shut us down and deny our feelings.

Patriarchal bullsh*t is being blown up. Where will you stand? Choose.

In the hurricane. In the political sh*t storm. In truth like a tornado.

You might just have to frack off because my sisters and I are speaking truth, crying tears, and dancing joy—real joy, not some plastic crap you tried to sell us.

We are the mothers in Mother Nature.

We’re as soft goddesses and as seductive as the sun.

We’re the giggling girls.

We’re the children and the women saying NO. And being heard.

We’re women welcoming our feelings and our experiences.

You won’t always see us smiling to suit you.

We will never line up to salute a lie.

We’re gathering like bees on flowers. We can produce sweet honey or we can sting.

We feel our feelings—full, feminine, fierce, radiant, juicy, messy, ours.

We invite you to join us.

Welcome to everything but denial.