Why we need each other more than ever
I am tired. So very, very tired. Tired of the sameness of my days and nights. Tired of nothing going my way. Ever. Tired of never being touched, or heard, or really seen. Tired of dreaming of the impossible. Tired of the dreary monotony that is my life. Most of all, I’m tired of the pain. So why should I get up today? Or, ever?
A couple of days ago, as I was cleaning up after the tumult created by getting two of our floors replaced, I tuned into CNN, as a kind of “white noise” in the background.
I probably shouldn’t have done that as my anxiety had spiked over the last several days to the point where it affected me, physically. My attempt to cut back on the vino — so far, so good — had only contributed to that angst, but it beat the hell out of being hungover. Because, when a low-grade hangover is something you wake up to every day, you’ve crossed the line into Shit City. And that’s no place I want to be. Been there. Done that. Don’t like it.
Of course, the “news,” was typically dismal. The spike in the Covid “spin-offs” that are even more treacherous than the one we’re already dealing with…the fucking frightening pronouncement by our country’s “patriots” that they’re planning on blowing up the Capitol while President Biden delivers his State of the Union address…the sickening reality that Donald Trump is never going away unless he drops dead…and on, like that.
As I scrubbed, and dusted, and swept, I struggled to think happy thoughts, as it occurred to me, and not for the first time, that this shit show may never end, in my lifetime, anyway, as well as for those who share my “seasoned” status. How does one “find the joy,” amid a scenario like that?
Yes, there are glimmers of hope. Thank Buddha for the vaccine rollout. The Johnson & Johnson incarnation sounds especially promising, but it’s the actual getting of the thing that’s well…the thing.
I received an email from my healthcare provider that I was now eligible and was instructed to log into MyChart to schedule the shot. Do you think it was as simple as that? Hell, no. Every time I clicked on the calendar to schedule, I was told to “come back and try again,” as nothing was available.
Okay. That’s alright. I get it. I’m willing to wait my turn; I just wish I knew how long that wait will be as I'm getting itchy, as most certainly you are as well, to live again. To get on with things. Meet up with friends and family. Leave the mask and hand sanitizer by the wayside and wear red lipstick, again. Of course, that scenario will require more than just a shot in the arm, but it’s a damn good start. It’s something. And we all need our dreams, do we not?
And then, as I continued with my chores…I understood. I got it. The Universe dumped a bucket of ice water over me and the cold, frightening reality of why people take their own lives became clear.
I’ll pause here to assure anyone who gives a damn that I. AM. FINE. In fact, today, I feel better than I have in a while. Plus, I’m too damned stubborn to end it all. Nor do I have a reason. I’m one of the blessed.
No, this has nothing to do with me, but rather, those poor souls who decide that they just can’t bear to wake up another day.
I’d always wondered, after hearing that someone committed suicide, what their tipping point was. What was that one thing that made them think, “Screw this. I’m done?” Was substance abuse the catalyst, as it is for so many? Abuse by a partner, either mentally or physically? The sudden death of a loved one? Chronic depression and/or anxiety? Or “merely” the feeling that life isn’t worth living?
People voluntarily exit this world every day, on the hour. Regular people, like you and me. And then there are those individuals in the public eye, who we believe “have it all,” until the morning we wake up and hear a newscaster intone that they hung themselves from a shower rod in a luxury hotel in France.
The anxiety, stress, and depression brought on by this pandemic is a load far too heavy for the more emotionally fragile among us to carry. According to The Washington Post, a rise in suicidal thoughts has increased dramatically in young adults age 18 to 24. That’s not to say older folks aren’t affected, because we’re in the shit too. Maybe more so, as the number of years we have to look forward to are far less than we would prefer. But, when all is said and done, regardless of age, misery is misery. An equal-opportunity destroyer.
But this isn’t about the pandemic. More to the point, it’s about the things that we miss in our communications with others. Those fleeting moments when we could have listened harder, or read between the lines of a hastily tossed-off email or text.
We’re all hurting. We all have our own personal baggage to deal with. I’m an authority on that, but there are those around us, perhaps even right in front of our eyes, who are slipping, and in need of a hand or a hug or some assurance, no matter how feeble that “Yes, Virginia, there is light at the end of that friggin’ tunnel.” Even if we’re not sure we believe it.
A virus and its resulting quarantine have caused us to become insular and hyper-aware of our own issues, to the point where we forget that there are others who are struggling to such a degree that they can no longer slog through another month, or a week, or even a day.
I wasn’t entirely truthful, earlier. Of course, I’ve had moments in my life when I’ve wondered what it would be like to be “done.” To say, “I quit.” And I’m going to go out on a limb here and add, “Who hasn’t?”
We come to an impasse, and rather than digging in with our fingers and toes and scrambling over, we get tired. We let ourselves slide down that rocky wall because we just can’t see our way over it. But there are those of us who are lucky…we have help. Family, friends, healthcare providers — people who take the time to listen, and who can sense when another human being is at the end of their rope.
Now, more than ever, we need to do just that: Take the time to listen. And not just listen, although sometimes, lending an ear is all it takes to help someone feel better. Rather, we can do more than talk the talk.
“What can I do? What do you need? How can I help?”
We’re all trying to make the best of a shitty situation, albeit, some of us are more successful at making lemonade from lemons, than others. There are people right here, right now, who could probably use a friend, someone to assure them that they’re not alone. Even without a virus to fuck things up, life, in and of itself, is a tough ride but it doesn’t take a hell of a lot to smooth out a few of those bumps we all hit on our individual journies.
Simply, we can all remember that we’re human beings, and act as such.
I wrote the intro to this story as my imagining of what someone at the end of their tether might be thinking. And, if I knew of such an individual, what could I do to ease their pain?
I could be a human being. That’s what. And sometimes, that’s enough.
© Sherry McGuinn, 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.