A Cycle of Despair

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Recently I experienced a mega case of the blues coupled with anger about the way things seem to be in the world around me. This is an uncharacteristic state for me and when I core dumped all of my worries and woes on my husband, he commented that if I were experiencing such extreme emotions he could only imagine how so many others must feeling right now. After all, I’m the optimist, the bleeding heart, the quintessential empath, the person who always finds a way to spin gold out of hay.  It made me think that we are all in a kind of pressure cooker and are reacting to the trials and tribulations of the past couple of years that are making us all react more extremely than we might otherwise have done.

There were a multitude of things that brought on the bout of cynicism that I have rarely experienced. I was literally crushed by the tragedy of the Astroworld Festival that resulted in the deaths of ten young people who had so much life before them. Somehow I understood why going to that event had meant so much to them and how they had only sought to have a good time after such an uncertain year. One of my grandsons might have been there had his mother not requested him to stay at his college and study. The irony that something meant to be a celebration of life and fellowship turned into a scene of death and injury was not lost on me. Even those who survived are speaking of having a kind of PTSD as they relive those horrific moments of feeling as though they were going to be crushed to death. I cried for those who had died and for their families. I viscerally know what it means to lose someone so unexpectedly. It was a soul crushing moment for me to think of all the heartbreak that will forever be associated with the old Astroworld, a wonderful family attraction for so many years here in Houston that brought visions of good times and joy. 

To a lesser extent I had already been disturbed by the general reaction to the Houston Astros baseball team. The ugly comments that seemed to follow them throughout their drive toward the World Series told me that far too many people do not believe in the concept of redemption. It became apparent that for many, once someone or some group is tainted they may never completely find acceptance no matter how much they try. If we can’t rebound after our mistakes, then how do we tell those who have erred that there are possibilities for reclaiming a good life? Being doomed to a bad reputation forever destroys hope and joy. That is so unacceptable to me and yet it appears to be an all too common reaction in society.

In the midst of all these things someone I know took his life. I have always struggled to understand the kind of desperation that it must take to reach a point of totally giving up, but I have witnessed such things more times than I have wanted. Somehow this time I found myself understanding that perhaps there can be such a convergence of trouble and sorrow coupled with a brain chemistry gone awry that there does not seem to be an escape from a life spiraling out of control. It hurt in physical and mental ways to think of how deeply broken this man must have been even though he literally tried to reach out for help. I too was feeling a bit crushed by a world seemingly gone mad.

There are so many signs in our society that vast swaths of people are angry and unforgiving. Perhaps they too are carrying heavy loads that they do not wish to reveal or maybe even fear showing their vulnerability to the rest of us. The ugliness that emanates from them may only be cover for aching hearts that do not know how or where to find healing. It does not help when we have television personalities and elected representatives fomenting division among us at a time when we should be embracing one another and doing everything in our power to help those who are suffering. If we can’t bring ourselves to demand more kindness from the most influential people in our world during times like these, then when indeed will we understand that our best hope for making it through our many challenges is to begin with compassion?

As I was resolving I learned that one of my cousins, a brilliant man with an uncommon wisdom and thoughtfulness had died. For decades he has deteriorated under the violent attack on his body of Parkinson’s disease. He fought back with every ounce of energy that he possessed and inspired all of us who knew and loved him with a level of courage that few mere mortals possess. In the last weeks and days of his life he was a prisoner in his own body, sometimes unable to even swallow. Nonetheless we all new that his mind was working as vividly as ever and he pushed himself to be present and loving even in his pain. Somehow thinking of him brought me back to my more normal senses.

Upon hearing of his death I found my own determination to overcome the sorrow that was threatening to drown me by doing what I know he would have done. I snapped out of the doldrums and became more determined than ever to spread a message of kindness and to remind people of what is most important in this life. My cousin understood that concept so well. There is no better way of honoring him than to carry on his brave and loving legacy.

I’m fine again. I am girded with the armor of goodness and hope. I intend to spread as much of it as I am able. I will also call out those who would drive wedges between us with violent actions and words. It’s time we quit giving a pulpit to hatefulness and innuendo and the best place to begin is with ourselves. Let’s break this cycle of despair one person at a time. Smile and spread love. Help people to know that they matter. This is our most important task. This is the way to begin a revolution that will help us all.

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