Thursday, September 22, 2016

Suicide Is Not Painless

Please note: I am posting the following as a favor to a friend. I am at once heart-sore for her and proud of her for fighting and writing her way through her reality. She wishes to remain anonymous, but would love feedback and input, so please, feel free to leave a kind word or two. Thank you.


If there is one thing you should know about me, it is that I am a fighter who was raised by fighters. With a birthright like that, I've faced each round that came my way in 59 years with drive, determination, and spunk. Until yesterday.

Once again, sleep was eluding me for the umpteenth night in a row. Remembering that there was a brand new bottle of OxyContin in the drawer in the bathroom, I sat up in bed and began to count my steps to the drawer. Those little gems were a gift from my sister, the hypochondriac and attention whore who claimed that she didn’t need them, but perhaps I could use them for my chronic pain. The day she gave them to me I remember thinking, the real pain in my body or the pain in my heart and in my head?

My fight, remember I'm a fighter, was gone. Vanished. Vamoose. Fin. And with it, my desire to allow the gravity in the universe, to keep me sitting on the edge of my once comfortable bed. Sadly, thoughts of taking myself out were not foreign to me. Been there...3 times...done that. So, the bottle of pills, now sitting on the table in front of me, only made sense.

Opening the bottle, I laid them out on the table and attempted to arrange them the same way I do M&M’s. Orange here. Red here. They were all blue. Just one more thing that I couldn’t control or coordinate. I put them into groups of 4. Easier to consume that way and swallowed with a big gulp of vodka - my numbing, "I love you, man" drug of choice.

Everything set and four little life changers in my hand, I heard Joe get up and it broke my concentration. Listening to his travel path across the bedroom carpet, I knew those steps like they were my own. In that split second, I could only think of Joe. What would happen to my husband? Where would he go? How would he survive this? He’d come home after a long day of playing ‘fetch and go’ to find me like Madame Bovary. Would his heart be broken? Where would he live? $11.00 an hour wouldn’t allow him the luxury of keeping the house. And the life insurance that I’ve been paying on for years wouldn’t generate the cash he’d need to get by for at least 2 years. Fucking suicide clause!

I put the pills back in the bottle, poured out the vodka, and walked back into the bedroom. The pills went into the nightstand drawer and I climbed into our bed. Right next to me was the man who drives me crazier than I already am and yet, has loved me in spite of myself. Shit! How could I do this to him even though I want so desperately to do this to myself?

In the middle of this dark night, the voices in my head were telling me no one would be willing to listen to what just happened. “You’re crying wolf and they’ll be angry that you woke them up.” Since the chatter never, ever stops in my head unless I write, and sometimes not even then, I reached in the drawer for a piece of paper and a pen and tried to focus on the 5 words battling to be heard underneath all the other declarations, “You have to find help”. There had to be someone outside my mess who doesn’t know any part of this horror story, this volatile place I’m in. It was time to tell it to someone outside the circle who would hear it with fresh ears and a current course of treatment. Someone who hasn’t been through my suicidal episodes, the mania, the rage, and the depression. Someone who will listen and who will care about me, because I can’t.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Listen. Look. Feel.

Part I

The sound of hearts breaking -
not just surface cracks,
like ice at the first breath of Spring,
but the shudder and boom
of a fault line
reaching its limits.

The raised fists,
the open palms.
the middle finger -
even our hands are unsure.
Fight, question, or give up?

When you kill them,
you kill us all -
black, white, kaleidoscope.
Create a world of distrust
and blame,
hatred and arrogance,
nobody wins
and we are all your victims.

If I was a wizard -
had a magic wand to wave,
or a word to make it all
go away, but no.
I don't understand my role
or know my lines,
so I say,
Listen. Look. Feel.

Part II

I'm sorry -
such feeble words
are barely a spark
against the
great dark injustice
that thickens the air you live in.
But I am.

I know
you know
we are not all
like that -
fearfully hateful.
We have love.
We want to help.
We are trying.

I am crying -
my heart split from another
My hands are unsure -
wanting to keep
friends and their children
safe, but who am I
and how do I?
So, I write,
I beg,
I plead.

Listen. Look. Feel.

by Barb Black
September 21, 2016

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Holding Out for a Hero

Something has been bugging me for a few years. Nah, let's make that decades.  Every now and then I start to speak up about it, raise my index finger as if to stop the noise and make a point, and then I shrug it off. Choose your battles wisely, the man once said. But, I've come to realize that it really meant, "Only choose battles you can win." There's been enough of that brand of bullshit in my life - probably why I fell for it so easily.

Anyway. Back to the thing that's chronically, nay, serially bugged me.

Here's the thing. I have had it up to here (*points at eyebrows*) with people referring to athletes as heroes. Today was the last straw. I heard someone referred to as an Olympic hero and another referred to as a football hero. They are not  heroes; they are athletes, or if you want to be specific, gymnasts, runners, quarterbacks, etc. So, let's begin by breaking it down by definitions.

A hero is defined as someone who is admired for extraordinary acts of courage or nobility.

An athlete is defined as someone who is proficient in sports.

In no way does that proficiency make an athlete a hero. It doesn't matter how many trophies, how many medals, how many broken world records, or which team(s) signed the athlete... still not a hero. Now, I will acquiesce that an athlete can be a hero, but only if said athlete actually performs an act of heroism beyond the scope of their athletic job. Yes, it is just a job. They train to be proficient at what they're doing the way a doctor trains to be proficient at surgery, the way a chef trains to be proficient at cooking, the way a forklift operator trains to be proficient at forklifting stuff.

A hero doesn't think about personal gain. A hero doesn't look at a situation as a photo opp or viral story. A hero does what needs to be done in the moment for the greater good of someone other than himself or herself, with no thought to any glory that lies ahead. In fact, heroes are, more often than not, humble to the point of not wanting to be called heroes. I know, because I have many heroes in my life and none of them want the credit.

This is not a slam on athletes, not in any way. I admire athletes for what they are able to do, for their passion and dedication and spirit. I wish I could find some of that fierce determination in areas of my own life. No, I'm not slamming athletes.

What I am suggesting is a call to awareness. Let's stop glorifying people who run fast, or throw a ball, or do an impossible looking flip. Let's stop putting them on pedestals as icons of moral virtue (because they are flawed humans like the rest of us, and moral virtue has about as much to do with sports proficiency as it does with artistic talent). Instead, let's place them on a pedestal as someone who is really great at the sport that they do, which still leaves us plenty of room to admire them.

But. Let's stop calling athletes heroes by virtue of the fact that they are athletes. Perhaps if we do, we can allow them the space to take human form again. Maybe then we won't be so disappointed when they do turn out to be mere humans after all. Maybe then we'll see the human who lives within the athlete - the one with dark thoughts, the one with emotional issues, the one who loves his wife and children, the one who makes the wrong choices, the mother who feels guilty for training instead of being there for the kids, the one who doesn't treat his animals well, the one who thinks signing autographs is beneath her, the one who gets drunk, the one who doesn't ever feel like he's enough, the one who gets caught with drugs, the one who has his or her own ideas of who and what to stand for and when.

Humans, that they most certainly are, but not heroes.