The world we live in is imperfect at best, and a cataclysmic train ride to hell at worst. Just when you think things are starting to go your way, something happens to bring your life crashing down around your feet in broken bits of whatever’s left when your expectation doesn’t match your outcome.
And if you want a fast track to crazy, just go into social isolation for a few months.
I’m not a social butterfly. I never have been, thank God. I love my own company and can go without other people for long periods of time. But not forever.
Humans aren’t designed to live their lives alone. We need connections.
When the normal is snatched away from you, the “new normal” takes its place. NOT the one everyone is predicting, but the real one. The crazy one.
At first everyone was content with taking care of things that needed to be taken care of. I did a little of that. Cleaned up some stuff, threw away some stuff, boxed up some stuff, gave away some stuff. I did home repairs. Cleaned out a shed. I burned a lot of things when we were able to (there was a burn ban in our state for a while).
I burned some things that didn’t need to be burned just because I like destroying things sometimes.
After a while, I ran out of things to do.
I ran out of things to write about to, or I couldn’t think of much. My mind seemed a bit blank.
A blank mind is a dangerous thing.
Granted, it could be said there’s a little insanity in each one of us. Some more than others. But when you take a person away from everything that is “normal” and into forced isolation, the potential for crazy dramatically increases.
Thoughts creep in. Suspicious, paranoid thoughts.
You have nothing else to do anyway, so may as well entertain those thoughts for a while. Maybe check into them, see if you can validate them in some way. Maybe by using social media, the devil’s playground.
Sleep is an odd thing as well. If you aren’t parented by your job on when to sleep and when to get up, there’s no reason for a regular schedule. You can even do your cyber stalking in the middle of the night if you want to.
You’d be surprised how fast the crazy sets in.
Psychology Today calls solitary confinement torture. It leads to all kinds of symptoms, including anxiety and paranoia. It may seem extreme to compare our bout of social isolationism to solitary confinement, but I don’t think it is. It would be especially daunting to someone who already has issues with trauma, loss, and anxiety.
You know, people like me.
Being socially isolated causes loneliness and depression also. We’re able to get out more now, and that’s a huge relief, but there are some people who are never able to get out much.
A large percentage of our population are shut ins. We have the elderly, and the mentally and physically disabled. People in hospitals, hospice, and nursing homes.
Maybe your mother, father, or grandparents.
People who are too poor to afford to go anywhere.
Going a little crazy for a bit has helped me see things from more than one perspective, and I’m grateful for it.
I see that I need to reach out to people more and stop doing without people for long periods of time, even when I’m not forced to.
I also reached out to my ex-husband and asked for his forgiveness. Not because I crashed and burned our relationship. That was him. It was more because I could see the other side of the fence, and how he had to live with me choosing to give my attention to all kinds of things, and not realizing he needed more from me.
I kind of see why his thoughts went all haywire. When you feel isolated, you’ll do stuff you wouldn’t ordinarily do.
Good comes from everything if you know where to look.
For some reason, the flies are unbearable this year, and I think it’s because the pipe running into the sewer has a leak, and human waste is trickling onto the ground in the backyard. I feel like a little kid from a third world country, swatting at flies that are too lazy or full to even be intimidated enough to fly away.
An overwhelming dampness hangs in the air and settles on my skin. Typical for the South. When they go on about the South rising again, they don’t bring up the stench of human sweat and the clinging humidity-drenched clothes weighing us down, keeping our energy levels too low for us to do more than talk the talk.
We can’t rise up. We can just sit here and pound the letters of our keyboards into oblivion as we set the world straight with a few well-chosen words.
Another day in the pre-summer self-isolationism that’s been forced upon us, against our wills and for our own good.
It’s a strange newness, with approximately half of everyone you run across wearing a mask while the other half looks on with disdain, and vice versa.
We’re such judgmental folks. Of course, each of us has an opinion on what’s best, and the likelihood that all of us are wrong is very high.
When things are tragic, terrifying, or ugly, we can’t stop looking at them. It’s just human nature.
I knew this kid when I was in elementary school.
Billy was fishing with his brother—he couldn’t have been very old—maybe six or seven and maybe even younger. Somehow one of their fishhooks got embedded in Billy’s eye. It didn’t end up pretty. The eye, I mean.
Growing up, any time I saw Billy, my gaze was immediately drawn to that bad eye. I didn’t mean to look. I just couldn’t help it. I could barely take in what he was saying for staring at his eye.
I missed being a real friend to him because my focus was on the wrong thing.
I got lost in how he looked and not who he was.
I’ll never know how amazing things might’ve turned out if I’d have looked past the surface.
It’s odd how you remember things like that.
I’m thinking the world we’re existing in right now has a lot in common with that story. Terrible things have happened. It’s hard to draw our gaze away.
We can’t help but stare at all the bad because it’s right here in our faces. It’s human nature to dwell on the tragedy, rather than search for the triumph.
Not only that, but it’s easy to get lost in looking for someone to blame for things being the way they are. And someone does need to be held accountable. Justice needs to prevail in a lot of situations. No argument with that truth.
I’m just saying that it’s real easy to get overwhelmed if you keep staring at all the things that are wrong. If you do that, you won’t ever have what you really need in life, especially when it comes to relationships. The things that are on the outside can look really bad, and if we focus on them, we’re going to miss the opportunity to have the kind of world we need to live in.
If we’d take our focus off the way things look, and put it instead on who God is, we might find out how amazing things can really be.
The silence I live in since I found my child dead isn’t silent at all but is made up of voices from my childhood, talking incessantly and laughing as they clink their wine glasses together and scrape their forks across china plates. Noise I can’t explain is now accompanied by the shrill voice of tinnitus.
I stare blankly and wait for the moment to pass. It always has. I pray it always does, but let’s face it. The odds aren’t good.
My life is no different than countless others who hide behind a façade of normalcy.
We are what we’ve become, or maybe were destined to be or always were. I’ve lost sight of my reasoning on this. It doesn’t matter anymore. Too much has happened. I can’t contain it in a neat little box that I can present to the world with a bow and say, “See! This is who I am!” It’s not so cut and dry.
But I play the game with reasonable success, although I can’t say I have everyone fooled.
I don’t ever pass a metal, rusty swing without my mind immediately throwing me back to the familiar creaking of the up and down motion accompanied by haunted laughter from the children I birthed and buried before they were ever old enough to swing.
This is my world, and I accepted it a long time ago.
I live in a state of semi-madness, but it’s a concealable offense, and no one knows but me. It’s safer that way.
How can you explain to a world seeking to avoid ugly of any kind that you have flashbacks of your son’s dead face, taking turns in rapid-fire succession with a bloody pig head hanging from a limb? You can’t. How do you explain the visions of a hammer coming down hard to stop just short of its goal and the buttons of your dress hitting the wall like bullets as it was ripped from your body? You don’t.
Memory could be the death of all that’s sane in me if not for the foundation I’m rooted in.
Still, at times I feel a shift and reach out helplessly, blindly grasping at anything that might pull me to a safe place. And there is no safe place. Not on this earth, although I’ve been assured time and again that this is temporary, and eternity will hold none of the evil that haunts me now.
We shall see. I may have traded eternity in a desperate bargain with God to save Heaven for my child instead of me. He never said if He took the deal.
Even in my crazy, messed-up world, life continues to go on as it will do. Relationships fail, cheaters cheat, betrayers betray, and sometimes they don’t. The world I’m unfamiliar with is the one with truth and honesty. I’m too acquainted with the other to be fair to the one-percenters.
So I watch the words form on your lips and hear them trickle past the noise in my head and in my sanity I pretend to believe you, while my mind screams out, “Motherfucker, I’ve always been old! I SAW what you did!”
But I know you would neither understand nor receive my words, and besides, I don’t curse. Not aloud anyway. So, I remain quiet, and live inside your lie with you, because it’s what I’ve learned to do.
It’s how I exist on earth, and how I allow you to exist as well.
Could the foundation hold if I revealed the truth? Could YOU survive if you were confronted with not only the evil of the world but the evil of your own soul?
Every day we die. We live in a state of perpetual decay, yet we think that by not acknowledging it we’re more alive.
We have the audacity to mock the ones who show the crazy.
We laugh at the souls brave enough to acknowledge the voices, and then try to drown them out as if we don’t all hear the same thing. The line between sanity and insanity is as thin as a hair and so easily broken that I don’t dare breathe in its direction, for fear it will snap and the hell inside will become the hell outside.
And oh, how we pretend! Our entire world is make-believe. We’ve created money systems, and cars, houses, and hosts of other things and imagine they actually MEAN something. We’ve manufactured societies with rules and laws, and jobs to go to—and it’s all nonsense. Constructs that we’ve created to get through a world we don’t understand. An evil world where free will has led to the absolute destruction of mankind, except for the foundation.
On some level, you must know it, but you play the game anyway, because hell, everyone else is playing and that’s all there is to do anyway. To go against the construct is to be—insane. No one wants to get caught in that trap.
It’s all meaningless.
In fact, to learn what has actual value in this world, to learn what LIFE really is, you must experience the end of it. Death. Loss. Love.
You must find yourself loving another person with every single fiber of your being, love them so much that you’d rip your own heart out of your chest and give it to them, pour your lifeblood into their veins, breathe your last breath into their nostrils—and you must be helpless to do any of these things.
Instead, you must lose them before you understand that although breathing surely is a symptom of life, life is nothing more than a symptom of death.
Sanity is just a mask we wear to keep from facing both.
The stress of divorce and not knowing how I’ll pay my bills has taken away my voice. Or in this case, my words. My mind draws a blank when usually I can’t get to the laptop fast enough to get it all down before my thoughts are replaced by new ones.
All I can think about now is what I don’t have.
The first thing I don’t have is security.
Honestly, security is just an illusion we buy into anyway. We’re never as safe as we think we are. I was married to the one man on earth who I thought would never cheat on me. I felt completely safe in that knowledge. Then I found irrefutable proof he was seeing someone else.
He works away so I’m sure there have been countless others. He’s obviously very good at hiding things. The proof was gone a couple of seconds after I discovered it.
Unfortunately for him, I’m pretty quick with my screenshot abilities, so his denial of the truth meant nothing to me.
The security I thought I had was a joke. My castle was built of sand and could’ve crumbled at any time. I just didn’t know it.
2. The next thing I don’t have is money.
Not enough, anyway. When I booted him, I booted the one who has made most of the money in our household. I have a good job, but my earning potential is about a quarter of his. I have benefits he doesn’t have, like good insurance, retirement, holiday pay, and weekends off. I just don’t have a paycheck that meets the needs of the household.
3. I don’t have the luxury of knowing what to call my husband.
We’re at the awkward stage between married and not married. What is that? I don’t know. So, when I talk about him (and I do, a lot), I have to say his name when I’d rather not. He’s not a real person to me anymore. He’s the guy who betrayed my trust and broke my heart. Since I won’t call him the things he deserves to be called, and I can’t call him my ex, I find myself stumbling over any mention of…him.
4. I don’t have protection.
Apparently, it doesn’t matter how old you are. When you become single, you become prey. My social media has blown up with friend requests from men who immediately jump in my inbox trying to “get to know me.” Please. Dude. I’m not even divorced yet, and, oh yeah. I don’t care. Go away.
5. I don’t have basic respect.
He’s dating her in our small town in front of everyone and it’s like a huge slap in my face. I have the choice of pretending not to be aware of it or to not care that he’s flaunting it. I’m not sure I do care for caring’s sake. It’s embarrassing for me the way his narcissism drives him to do something that lowdown and dirty. He obviously wants me and everyone else to know he traded me for her. And he traded way down, God forgive me for saying so.
The least he could have done is picked someone BETTER than me.
6. I don’t have my family—not all of it.
My step kids aren’t going to keep coming to see me, and I love them like my own. It’s going to be awkward for them, and I hate that. It’s not fair that they should bear the brunt of their father’s bad decisions.
I do wish I could be a fly on the wall when they find out who he’s with now. That’s not going to go well. As a matter of fact, it’s going to go extremely badly.
Out of all the things I don’t have now, I’ll miss my stepchildren the most.
Divorce is cruel. I never would’ve chosen to go this route if I could’ve done anything else. Cheating is a deal breaker. I didn’t sign up for that.
I’m sure a lot more things will occur to me as I get my thoughts back. A break-up leaves you stunned and disbelieving, grappling for a way to build a new life out of the fragments of the old one.
The betrayal hurt, but I’ve survived much worse. Now it’s time to regroup and get on my feet again. My life isn’t going to be what I thought it was. My plan is to make it better, despite what he did. His moral failure didn’t destroy me. I’ll pray it doesn’t destroy him either.
Even though divorce is taking some things from me, it is also proving to be a blessing in some ways.
I have the chance to start over.
All those dreams he kept trying to crush can be pursued even more now! I don’t have to be anything but who I am. I can reach as high as I want to and not worry about threatening someone else’s identity in any way.
I have freedom.
If I want to stay up all night writing, I can do it without making any explanations to another person. I can go wherever I want to go for however long I want to be there and not be worried someone is going to question my every movement (irony, given the fact he was the one cheating). I answer to myself, which is great because I’m fully capable and have always been a responsible person. I didn’t get married to have a parent or be under anyone’s control.
I have self-respect.
Not staying in a relationship where I was not being respected and where he was being unfaithful was the best decision I could’ve made for my life. I can look at myself in the mirror and know I’ve done the right thing. I can be an example to other people who may be watching to see how I’ll react.
Knowing I didn’t choose the pseudo-security a more financially beneficial position afforded me makes me hold my head a little higher even while I hunt for change in the bottom of my purse. It is way better to be broke and have self-respect than to be financially well off without it.
I have “me” back.
Out of all the things this break-up has given me, this one is the best. He didn’t break me. The parts of me that were hidden for a long time came bursting forth in a single moment of clarity, when I realized I didn’t need another person to validate me.
God has always taken care of me. I struggled for years thinking I had to take care of myself or grasp the security I found in a bad relationship.
All I really had to do was surrender the outcome.
I can’t control the universe. I didn’t make him cheat and couldn’t have prevented it. It was his fault, not mine. It’s true I don’t have some things because of it, and I’m struggling for words right now. They’ll come back. They always do.
In the meantime, I’m going to kick back and rest, thinking of all the things I’ve gained.
When I was a kid, I had a pet cricket named Elvis.
Mama said you can’t really have a cricket for a pet. The truth is, I never saw him once, but Elvis sang to me every night, so I reckon he decided to keep me instead of the other way around.
On a normal summer, a cricket chirping in your bedroom would be downright annoying and might even make you want to jump off a bridge if you couldn’t figure out where he was, so you could step on his head. I’m sorry to say I’ve stomped on quite a few crickets in my life, plus a whole lot of other bugs I won’t name here, for fear of offending some bug-loving, revenge-taking, article-reading slight acquaintance of mine.
I tend to hang with a different kind of crowd, but I know you need to watch what you say and do sometimes.
The deep end is a whole lot closer for some people than it is for others, if you know what I mean.
The summer Elvis sang to me was a different kind of summer than most. Mama’d run that old ceiling fan, swearing the whole time that she hated it. It was how we kept cool though. Never bothered me. I liked the noise of it.
When the fan was on, the curtains in my room would billow inward and create a little tent on my bed. I liked to sit in it, and it was from there that I ran a library for the neighborhood kids. I had plenty of books, and I figured it might do some of them at least a little bit of good if they’d read one or two of them. It sure couldn’t do them any harm.
If I didn’t have my little library, I doubt I’d have talked to another kid all summer long. I rarely stepped out of my room.
Most of my waking moments were consumed with writing poems about killing myself and trying to build a new nose out of orthodontic wax. I hated my nose.
I was never sure where the jokes started, but they started in my own family. My nose got made fun of a lot. Mama said I had “Daddy’s nose,” and the boys would all snicker because I guess Daddy’s nose was supposed to be obnoxiously big or something. It looked like a regular nose to me, but I fell in with the jokes because I knew I was supposed to. I compared my nose to one of my brother’s and we always argued about whose was the biggest.
It’s all I could see when I looked in the mirror.
A nose without a face, just sort of floating there. The one time I experimented with acid, I looked in the mirror and my green bulbous nose was pulsating and growing. I never touched the stuff again.
My nose isn’t the reason I was preoccupied with planning my own death though. I’m not sure why I was sad. I just was. I think I was born that way. It’s taken me a lifetime and unimaginable grief to find joy. Nothing in this world makes any sense. I don’t expect it’s supposed to.
After Samuel died, I was caught up in fantasies about dying again.
Samuel was my baby boy. He died when an intrauterine blood transfusion failed due to doctor error. The grief was unbearable. I stopped writing poetry after that. Occasionally, one comes to me, but not often. Some spaces can’t be filled with words.
I remember sitting on the tractor with Johnny while he baled hay and wondering what it would be like to fall under its wheels. Other times I’d be driving down the road and press the accelerator hard, ready to ram the car into something, but then I’d ease off and live instead.
Later, after I found Mikey dead, there didn’t seem to be a reason to stay on this earth. I was just done. He was only 16 years old. A mother should never have to bury her baby. Mikey made three for me. It was too much grief for my heart to process.
For months, hiding in a coat pocket in my closet was a bottle of pills, ready for me to take myself out of this world.
Mama knew the state of mind I was in, so she went tearing through my house, emptying bottles. She didn’t realize she got rid of my depression medicine. She never found the ones in the closet.
My other kids made it impossible for me to leave, but I carried those pills around with me for a long time before I got enough courage to pour them out.
When I finally got around to cutting myself, I don’t think I had intentions to die.
I think I just needed to hurt myself. I needed to be punished for not being perfect, for failing, for everything. It’s a twisted way of thinking, but everything I was doing at the time was a direct attack against my own life. Too much drink and too many bad choices led to a meltdown.
Recovery for me started on my knees.
I have a lot of things I wish I could say to the young girl back in that room letting Elvis sing to her–things about her nose and how precious life is. I’d tell her to enjoy every single moment and to dance and sing every day like it’s her last one on earth.
You never know when death will come around.
But I know she’s figured it all out for herself. I also know she’s alive and well, and finally made her way out of the darkness.
I don’t know exactly when it was that I started planning my life instead of my death. My nose is the same as it’s always been—just a nose, not too bad. It’s certainly not noteworthy. I’m proud I have Daddy’s nose, but I hardly ever notice it. If a cricket were to come sing to me in my bedroom now, I’d smile as I remembered my little friend, Elvis, from days gone by. For a minute, I’m sure I’d enjoy the song. Then I’d search him out and stomp his little head, because you can’t really have a cricket for a pet.
They’re annoying and might make you want to jump off a bridge or something, and I’ve got a life to live.
I’m not known for the popularity of my views. I’m also not one to keep quiet when I have something significant to say. The difference is, I’m writing this strictly for myself.
I understand that my words may not be well received by a certain group of people, particularly a subculture of society who identifies strongly with the rural southern USA. So be it. I’m working all these thoughts onto paper because somebody has to say it. It might as well be me.
I’m not against the Good Ole Boys, generally speaking. I love them. It’s simple to navigate. They’re part of my own culture–where I’m from. I also identify with this way of life. It’s all I’ve ever known.
There’s an abundance of good things about men who grow up in the South, particularly in the area where I live. Here are a couple of quick ones:
They’re raised to be strong providers. At least, that’s the tradition. A strong work ethic, rough, working-man hands, backs that don’t break with the weight of their families’ needs. Baby boys are born strong; Daddy and Grandpa smiling down upon them, ready to impart the wisdom of generations.
Like I said, that’s the tradition. In many cases generational strengths have been replaced by the new generational curse of addiction. A boy who would have once turned his hand to the plow may find himself battling to keep his life from becoming meaningless in the trail of destruction left by methamphetamines or alcohol dependence.
Many of them can live off the land. This area is known for hunting and fishing and raising crops.
If an apocalypse happens, you’d want to be with one of these guys. You might live through it. Not every kill is taken legally, not every rule is followed, but the survival skills prevail.
Here’s what I’m not doing in this article:
I’m not writing to address the “Good Ole Boy Network” as it does or doesn’t exist today. That’s not my goal or intention.
There’s no question that racism and misogyny exist in the South.
There are plenty of people who are more qualified to speak on those subjects and who are doing so eloquently. I’m glad of it. Things need to be said. Things need to change.
What I do want to talk about hurts me on a deeply personal level.
As a mother and grandmother, I have the responsibility to speak up. To call it like I see it, whether it begs to be heard or not. I’m doing this for me, to get it off my chest. Maybe I can move on once it’s said. Maybe I never will.
That’s because I’m a mother who has buried a teenager in the South. In my mind, this gives me the authority to shout from a rooftop if I feel like it. You don’t have to agree with me. That’s what you get to deal with. It’s not my problem.
I’m not insensitive to your feelings.
I just don’t care. Unless you’ve walked a mile in my shoes, this is not about you.
If you hold fiercely to your way of life as the be-all and end-all of a perfect existence, the truths I point out may cause you to want to stone me. I don’t blame you. It’s going to be hard to look at. Look anyway.
You may see something that makes you think a little harder about it yourself. Ideally, if you have the opportunity, maybe you’ll choose to do better than what’s been done in the past.
Perhaps a life might be saved.
If so, this would serve to be my greatest work ever, even if I never get the first clap or “good job” on it. I’m stepping up to say it, no matter what the outcome may be, because the truth is ugly.
Around here, teenage boys drop like flies.
And by that, I mean they die. Disproportionately.
Check out the statistics for yourself. There are plenty of ways to do that. The internet is amazing. I did some research based on my personal knowledge, which was enough to convince me. Then I checked some sources and found out how right I am.
At first, my major question was whether this was really a culture thing or not.
Kids die all over, for lots of different reasons. Data suggests that I’m onto something.
There’s no question that young men in urban areas die at an alarming rate from gun violence. It’s an awful reality, and we need answers on how to stop it. However, death from firearms is not limited to violence inflicted from one individual onto another.
Sadly, the suicide rates for young men, adolescents and young adults, has increased dramatically in the last ten years. Check out this report and this article. What it boils down to is that boys are far more likely to take themselves out by suicide than girls (although girls are trying to catch up), and that when they use firearms (which is most of the time), they are most likely getting them from their parents.
According to worldlifeexpectancy.com, Louisiana ranked 2nd in teen deaths for 2017, surpassed only by Alaska. They die by guns and car crashes the most, no matter what area they’re in.
There’s also no question at all that substance abuse plays a huge part in these results. Opiates, alcohol, and meth.
Add a kid, a car, and a gun and you have a recipe for disaster. You have a tragedy that some mother will never recover from.
I have the experience to call out the truth and the guts to dare anyone to contradict me. My child’s decomposing body is all the proof that I will ever need. You can say that I am misplacing the blame for his death on whatever external factor I can find that might explain the tragedy away. I know that there is NOTHING that can explain it away. He died because a good ole boy didn’t want to acknowledge that his illegal drugs were accessible to a teenaged boy with emotional problems.
He died because “boys are gonna be boys.”
If you took the town I live in and mapped off 100 miles in any direction, you’d see a pattern. There’s a way of life here that is as deadly as it is beautiful.
It’s a way of life that encourages young men to live recklessly; to risk their lives in pursuit of one-upmanship.
What I find most astonishing is the apparent denial of this phenomenon! Surely I can’t be the only person who notices?
Teenagers. Young men with their entire lives ahead of them are trading everything for the chance to beat a train, make a faster curve, smoke another pipe, kill the biggest buck, drink one more beer…you get what I’m saying here. It’s not always because of drugs. Sometimes drugs aren’t even involved. They’re just “being kids.”
They live to show off. Impress the crowd.
And they die for it too.
This is what I find most disturbing about this: their parents encourage them.
Who buys the fast cars, big trucks, and the guns? This is what we reward kids with around here. This is how the adults show off. Impress the crowd.
There’s nothing wrong with the competitive nature of boys.
It’s when they’re encouraged to live with reckless abandon and without consequences that you manufacture the disaster that’s inevitably going to show up for some poor mother. Death is going to eventually come calling. Is it going to be your son this time? Your grandson?
I’m not saying you don’t love your kids. I know you do. This way of life was handed down from your own parents. These things we give our children to kill themselves with are STATUS SYMBOLS. They’re also how we survive.
How is it that life and death are delivered in the same package?
We hunt for food, so we buy guns. We teach our kids gun safety, but somewhere along the way the recklessness with which our own lives are lived trickles down to our children. A good hunting story around the campfire with a 12 pack of beer is a regular weekend event, and it’s GLORIFIED here in the South! Sometimes a pipe is even passed around.
Bottles of pills get bought and sold like any other commodity. Pain management is big business. Our kids see all this. It’s how they grow up.
We love the way we live.
Sometimes we fail to recognize the danger.
Suicides, accidents, and homicide are not events that we would regularly associate with children, and yet they are reality.
As parents, you tend to want to look the other way when your boys get in trouble. Remember? Boys are gonna be boys. I’ve heard it too many times. I’ve also heard this one, “I’d much rather he drinks at home where I know he’s safe than out running the roads with his buddies.” So, the idea is to just allow the unhealthy behavior, because after all, you do it too. Right?
That’s how we live! No one has the right to take our way of life away! We’ll die to protect our rights.
Sacrifices to the cause. Is that what our children have become?
Here are some tragedies I’ve had to witness in my neck of the woods. Keep in mind that I’m not saying these happened because their parents weren’t responsible or didn’t love them. I’m calling out our way of life, because it needs to be called out. I’m calling out our mentality. I’m saying we need to wake up, because our children never will.
I lost my son to a morphine overdose in 2006 when he was 16 years old.
In 2001, teenage cousins were killed when the oldest one lost control of the vehicle he was driving.
I know of more than one train accident in recent years that has taken the lives of kids within 30 miles from my house.
Another young man hung himself, in 2005 I believe.
One boy was driving way too fast late one night and somehow ended up missing a road, which ended in his death.
A boy from the school my kids attended was being bullied and took his own life with what I believe was a handgun a couple of years ago.
A 15-year-old young man lost his life a couple of months ago to a gun in the neighboring town. I believe that was an accident.
Someone I worked with had to try to help her son put his life back together after he accidentally shot his best friend.
These are just a few of the ones I know about and just the young men. I didn’t bring up the tons of them who died in their early twenties. If we lived in a large city, this wouldn’t be as unusual. This is small town America. A lot of boys are born here; not as many grow up.
What is our responsibility?
We need to stop the madness. I know accidents happen. Bad things happen to good people. It’s not about blame.
I’m not advocating for gun control. I’m not suggesting that we end a way of life.
It’s about RESPONSIBILITY. It’s about our little boys. Surely, we can at least entertain the idea that maybe something needs to change.
This hasn’t been as cohesive a piece as I would like. It’s one thing to know something, another to be able to prove it.
But if you’ll just think about it–if it changes one thing–if it causes you to think twice about the glorification of things that kill our children…that’s enough for me.
This probably isn’t even a surprise to anyone who knows me. If you look at my track record, you can tell I’m not getting anywhere fast. Not really.
I’ll tell you something else.
I’m directionally challenged.
Let me explain.
I can walk into a place (for example, a store at the mall), and when I walk out, I choose to go the exact opposite direction of the way I meant to go. Why? I have no idea what direction I was originally heading.
I’m not observant.
I don’t notice things like landmarks or stores I may have passed already. I’m too caught up in my own thoughts—too wrapped up in my world to notice that there’s another one apart from me, unless it includes flowers or other brightly colored objects that grab my attention.
It’s like I just wander around aimlessly, hoping I end up where I thought I wanted to go. And that pretty much sums up my entire life.
It even sums up my writing. This was penned sitting in the dollar store parking lot. I stopped to get cheese and dog food when I realized I didn’t have my life together and knew I needed to get that on paper, instead of doing what I meant to do.
I’d love to say that my insight and self-awareness were leading me to a new path of intentionality, but I’d be lying. How would I know?
I always think I’m going in the right direction, even though I seldom see a thing that indicates the truth of that.
It’s usually only after I end up in some strange place where I never intended to be that I realize I should’ve taken a different road altogether.
“So,” I think, “I should plan better,” and I make a 60 page to-do list. About two items in on the doing side, I get overwhelmed with the sheer enormity of tasks I’ve created for myself and quit the whole thing. This is further complicated by the fact that I’m a compulsive notebook buyer, and each one is filled with similar lists of things I will never accomplish.
The great thing about having the notebooks with me is I get to write random nonsense and interesting ideas in them, and they’re always handy if inspiration strikes.
Otherwise, I find it hard to justify the fact that I’ll never measure up to those spiral dictators. I don’t give up, though.
One of my favorite blundering-through-life techniques is a little thing I like to call INFORMATION OVERLOAD.
This is where I begin to watch videos, listen to podcasts, voraciously read books, blogs, and everything else I can get my hands on. These help me plan a million and one no-fail ways to get my life back on track based on what everyone else says works.
Guess what? This doesn’t help. I get so much stuff in my head that I couldn’t make a rational decision to save my own life!
Besides, who’s trying to make decisions? I have all this wonderful INFORMATION to sort through.
Sometimes it crosses my mind to wonder if I’m the only one. Do other people plan out their lives and work those plans, or do they just let life happen to them and hope and pray for the best?
I mean, being perpetually lost is NOT the worst thing. I’ve stumbled into places and people I would’ve never encountered had I had a legitimate goal in mind, or at least a goal that came with a plan.
There’s been a bountiful amount of beauty on my spontaneous and confusing journey.
I’ve learned so many things I would have been cheated out of in an ordinary goal-driven, plan-based life.
I’m extraordinarily grateful for my experiences and the savage joy accompanying them, even as I daily attempt to narrow my focus and thereby create some kind of directional path I can follow.
In fact, I’m going to work on that right now. Well, almost right now.
First, I’m going to go find a flower to pick.
I noticed daffodils are blooming, and they’re my favorite. Nothing smells sweeter, and one will look pretty in my hair.
I talk a lot about grief and recovery. I probably always will. My son was 16 when I found him dead on the couch one October morning. You can’t go through that unscathed. You don’t ever get to a place where you stop talking about it.
Love always comes with the risk of loss.
Death happens just like life does. It’s inescapable. I’m not the only one who grieves. I’m constantly learning things that I want to share, hoping it may help someone else.
Here are six simple truths I’ve picked up along the way.
1. It’s deeply personal.
People get caught up in thinking that because I’ve lost a child, I should be an expert on grief—especially since I seem to have survived it. I can’t count the number of times someone has minimized their own grief in a conversation to me, as if acknowledging the extent of their own pain somehow makes it seem as if they aren’t aware of mine.
They use phrases like, “But it’s nothing like losing a child…”
You’re right. It’s not.
Your grief is your grief, just like mine is mine. It’s not “lesser than,” it’s just different.
We all go through things in our own way.
Sorrow is personal and indescribable. The bereavement you feel is unique to you. You don’t have to throw me a bone in the midst of your crippling loss. I already know how I feel. I don’t need your reminder that you know too. I’d like for you to give me the chance to be there for you.
2. Sometimes being there is all you can do.
I don’t have a collection of magic words to say because I’ve been through hell and back. The truth is, I’ve been through hell, and I’m not back. I’m never coming back. I carry hell with me every day.
Let me explain the loss of a child to you:
“When someone asks me when my son died—it was yesterday, it was a thousand years ago, it’s right this minute, it’s tomorrow.
He will never stop dying.
When a person who experiences such profound sorrow says, ‘You never get over it, you just learn to live with it,’ think about this.
They never stop dying. We have to live every second of every day with that.”
It’s an every day for the rest of my life kind of thing. I can’t always summon up the courage to tell you that grief never really ends.
All I can really do is be with you in your sorrow, hold your hand, wash your dishes, and take out your trash. I can listen when you tell me the same story over and over again, because I know there won’t be any new stories to tell. I can hold you when you realize you will never have another opportunity to take a picture or say, “I love you.”
3. There’s just no answer for some things.
God laid it all out in the Bible for us, so it shouldn’t come as any big surprise. Ecclesiastes says that there’s a time to be born and a time to die. Hebrews tells us that we are appointed once to die. Psalms 139:16 says that “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
God knows when our time to die is. We don’t.
It hurts like hell to look at the world and realize some people live to be 100 but you have to bury your 16 year old.
Or your husband. Or your best friend. Or your sister. It doesn’t seem fair or natural. That’s because it isn’t.
4. Death isn’t natural.
That’s why if feels so off when you grieve for someone. How many times have you thought, “This can’t be real?”
Sure, God knew how it would all play out from the beginning, because He made us and He gave us the free will we would use to self-destruct. He knew, but man made the choices. I don’t have to remind you of what happened in the Garden. It’s LITERALLY the oldest story in the world.
You know it by heart. If you don’t, you can find it at the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 3.
We’re still making those choices every day.
I remember the second I realized that Adam and Eve didn’t pay the ultimate penalty for bringing death upon all mankind. You can disagree if you want to.
Picture this: they threw immortality away for the frailty of humanity. They were looking to be gods and the consequences were dire. Immediately, they knew they messed up. They realized they were naked—out in the open where they were vulnerable to attack from every kind of enemy, targets for pain, fear, and death. All of these were new to them. They had no protection other than their Creator.
What did God do? Immediately He covered them in animal skins, so they weren’t naked anymore.
He covered their sin and their shame. There were consequences to their actions, but He covered them, physically and symbolically. It was a picture and a promise of the Lamb that would be slain to cover the sins that created death.
5. All hope lies in Jesus Christ.
What I know about grief—what I REALLY know about grief—is that I couldn’t face one moment of it if not for the fact that God sent Jesus to redeem our lives.
I put my hope in this because it’s all I CAN do.
If I didn’t know there was something beyond this life, I couldn’t go on.
I remember in the early days of horror when I was still very crazy. I went running down the dirt road, screaming at God, “Where were You? I did EVERYTHING I thought You wanted me to do and You still took my son!”
I’d wrestled with my faith since Mikey died. How could a loving God allow death at all? How could God even exist? I said I didn’t believe. I was looking toward the sky and screaming when it hit me.
“I’m screaming at God. I’m screaming at God because I know He’s there.”
I learned that grief is not enough to take away the love of God. God has been with me from the beginning. He has been the constant of my life ALL my life. I didn’t lose faith in Him. I was just mad at Him because I didn’t understand.
I still don’t understand.
What I know is that I don’t have to know WHY anymore. God always provides everything I need to get me through, even when I can’t see it. He’s there, even when I think I don’t believe.
6. The death of someone you love feels like the worse thing you’ll ever go through because it is.
It can leave you confused, lonely, cold, and empty. The light at the end of the tunnel is an eternity where there is no fear of loss or death. It doesn’t exist. There will be no more tears. It’s a promise from God to those who believe in Him.
I won’t have to visit a cold stone to talk to my child. God has prepared a place.
Things that are unfair happen, and you end up in places you never intended to go.
What do you do about it?
Well, you can try to reason it out and get back on track.
The problem is you don’t always know exactly where you veered off course.
Things looked all right! Actually, they looked pretty good, like your life was finally falling into place.
It goes down something like this:
The road looks familiar to you at first, so you think everything’s okay. You’re passing landmarks that you swear you’ve seen before. You know just when to lean into the curve and when the road is straight for a while. You just ride along, letting the wind blow your hair and think, “I’ve got this!”
When you look from side to side, you swear you can see people lining the highway, cheering you on. That’s what people do isn’t it? So you keep on going, because you know this is right where you need to be.
Suddenly, you reach the end of the road and you don’t even know where you are. What was familiar just a few seconds before is stretching behind you like the big lie that it is. It wasn’t the right road. It wasn’t YOUR road.
It looked like your road and felt like your road, but it wasn’t your road, and it couldn’t be more obvious than it is now. You feel lost and defeated. You feel alone.
The thought crosses your mind that you’re too embarrassed to turn around. Everyone will see you. You can’t go back down the road you just traveled.
They’ll know you were going the wrong way! Maybe they already did.
All those people who were standing on the side of the road to cheer you on could have reached out to stop you at any time with a question or a warning.
Like, “Hey, do you think maybe there’s a better choice for you?” But they didn’t, and they’re still standing there, waiting for you to ride past them again.
You think about continuing to travel in the wrong direction. After all, who but you would know? It’s either that or face that crowd of people waiting to tell you how you failed. Again, you went the wrong way.
“But I tried,” you think. “I tried. I did my best and gave it all I had to give! I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought it would turn out okay in the end.”
Since you don’t know what else to do, you take a moment to reflect on your roots. You remember where you came from.
So, you go shopping.
Wearing the most outrageous outfit you could come up with, you paste a beautiful smile on your face.
Then you turn around, face the road you just came down, and march down that b**** like the queen you are, throwing out candy and beads, shouting, “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”