“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” ― a famous quote from Anne of Green Gables. It’s a sentiment I share – especially living in what might be the undisputed capital of autumn. Vermont.
As beautiful as it is, October can also be a difficult month around here. It’s national observances include:
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
National Bullying Prevention Month
National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Pregnancy and Infant loss Awareness month
Plus October 10th is both National Mental Health Day and my father’s birthday who was lost to suicide.
But truth is I, and most XIZOZU women don’t need a day or month to be made aware of these experiences – they are, or have been, these experiences. They have personal relationships with these and many other of life’s most gripping aspects. And we address, support and heal from them all year long.
So we use these decreed month-long banner-waving observances to celebrate the current triumphs of our tribe.
And there is a lot to celebrate! Here are just a few recent member triumphs (used anonymously, but still with permission):
one women left an abusive, soul-crushing nine year relationship,
another marked 8 years cancer free just yesterday!,
another made amends to a family member after years of what she described as alcohol-fueled emotional abuse,
another brought her sexual assault to the surface and shared it with her mother for the first time.
So yeah, October can be a mother of a month, but also a triumphant one!
I’ve also read the autumn is nature’s way of showing us how beautiful letting go can be. So keep rocking it ladies.
We are all here supporting and rooting for you! Stay on your path, no matter how difficult, and there will always be someone here keeping watch for you when you need to rest.
September 2nd is approaching; the anniversary of my father’s suicide.
It’s been nineteen years—yes, nineteen— and I still never know how that day will arrive. Some years the sorrow of loss starts gathering early. It might appear days, even weeks, beforehand, and is persistent like the dense fog that clings to these late August mornings—heavy and opaque.
Other years the date, though permanently circled on the calendar in invisible red ink, passes undetected by my emotional radar and I awake on September 3rd surprised by a guilt-tinged realization that I didn’t think of September 2nd at all. But those years are rare.
But today, August 21st, marks a different anniversary from that same year that I rarely talk about. It’s the anniversary of the day my father wrote his suicide notes.
This week’s eight things ONE THING worth sharing with friends
Issue #6: #enough
I’d planned to publish a very witty and timely “Presidents’ Day” post today. But that can wait. Changing our nation’s literally off-the-charts level of gun violence just can’t. Not anymore. Here are eight things you can do right now to let our government know you won’t wait either and that you demand common sense gun laws.
FUEL THE MOVEMENT. Get on your feet and rally. Find an event in your state and show up. Go to States United to Prevent Gun Violence. Find a grassroots gun control group in your area – they’ll know how you can get involved.
LEAD THE CONVERSATION. Host your own information and action get together. Open a dialogue with friends, family, and the community about gun violence and the importance of action. The Violence Policy Center has created a how-to guide.
TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN. (I know. No child should have to think about this!) There are different approaches to handling the conversation about gun violence depending on the age of your children. Dr. Gilboa breaks it down for you. I’m sorry you have to even consider it.
LEARN FROM OTHERS. Other countries have tackled this. And won. Let’s learn from their successes.
KEEP THE NATION IN YOUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS. But do it before another tragedy, and back it up with actions.
Take Aim. Get involved. Be part of the solution.
Because I don’t want to design a XIZOZU for surviving a mass shooting.
Thanks for reading. Thanks for caring #enough,
This week’s eight things that are worth sharing with friends
Issue #4: What’s Wrong With Me?
Nothing. Nothing is wrong. It was a week of learning about how folks handle their self-doubts, perceived flaws and spectacular failures. Next time you’re feeling down about yourself remember: you’re not alone. Figuratively or literally.
Over the weekend I had a wonderful visit with a cherished friend who’s heading into year two of a really rough divorce. Few divorces are without some ugly bits—dismantling a marriage can be difficult and gut wrenching—but her future ex is just being a colossal prick. His narcissistic behavior pushes all of my buttons while breaking my heart—for everyone involved.
Toward the end of the visit the conversation shifted to XIZOZU™ and while showing her a new design, I laughed and volunteered to create a custom medal especially for her that essentially said “Fuck You Husband.” We both lost it laughing over the idea. “I’ m going to do it!” I swore. I mean who would know, right?
An hour or so after she left I realized: I would know. And she would know. Petty and spiteful (though temporarily satisfying!) is not what XIZOZU™ is about and that’s what a cynical medal like that would be—small and diminishing. XIZOZU™ are the very opposite of that kind of damaging negativity.
The medals I make for women are about finding their strength through hard times; they’re about coaxing the positive threads out of life’s challenges; they’re about emotional and physical valor. They’re a place from which to draw strength and direct love.
I am still making her a medal, but it will be a medal that restores her.
This week’s eight things worth sharing with friends
Issue #2: Clink! Clink! Clink!
A nickel shaking in a can—the sound of cold hard cash! Yep, therapy’s a luxury for most people, but we could all benefit from an internal tune-up once in a while. So what do you do when you feel like you need it but you can’t afford therapy? Why not try a little DIY mental wellness.
Here are 8 simple ideas that might help lift your mood, reduce everyday anxieties, process grief, or simply make you marvel at the beautiful upside of human existence:
Laughter is the best medicine. And while it’s good to be able to laugh at yourself, it’s more fun to laugh at therapists.
Today would have also been my father’s 75th birthday had he not committed suicide when he was 56 years old after an acute struggle with his own inner demon—depression.
If you had met my father, you’d have liked him. Everyone did. To the world he was charming, funny, and gregarious; quick with a clever joke or a pat on your back. Men and women both were easily dazzled by his charisma. Even near the decided end of his life, you as an onlooker would have never guessed that he was suffering with depression of any sort. I was among the people closest to him and, while I knew very well that he was troubled by many things, even I didn’t appreciate the depth of his pain and anguish.
He and I had been silently quarreling at the end of that summer. Like a lovers’ spat. Or a riff with your BFF. I was avoiding him because I found dealing with him a bit infuriating and, if I’m honest, a little exhausting. He was avoiding me because I suspect he was tired of my constantly judging his choices. We had gone more than a week without contact, which was unusual. I was glad for the break. But then it started to pull on me. When I finally called him and asked could we have dinner sometime soon so I wouldn’t have to remain mad at him for the rest of his life. He said “Sure, how about Wednesday.”
I had no idea that the rest of his life was so near.
It was a perfect blue-sky evening at the start of September. We sat at table for two on a dock at a nearby lakeside restaurant. Outside of pushing it around the plate, he barely touched his food and I don’t remember whether he ordered his usual vodka martini with a twist. He asked questions about my work, and my husband, whom he adored. When answering the questions I tossed to him he looked me in the eye and assured me that everything was “going to work out.”
“Are you sure? That’s good to hear because I’m a little worried about you.” This was probably the closest I’d come to saying “I love you” in years.
For the rest of the meal that only I ate, we talked about how we were going to spend New Years Eve – it was 1999, the century was turning. He threw pieces of his uneaten hamburger roll to the panhandling ducks swimming fidgety circles in the water beside us. There. Right there. Amidst the bobbing lake current, the chatty small talk, the clinks of silverware, and the perfectly comfortable silences, we had made up. Tacitly.
I paid the bill, insisting since I had invited him. Then we walked to the parking lot together until our paths divided and we each headed to our own cars. No hugs or kisses good-bye. Just a smile from across the lane of car rooftops. He told me to say hello to my husband. “Have him give me a call.”
“Or you can call him.” I replied, an eyebrow raised.
He smirked and said he might. I knew he wouldn’t. He knew he wouldn’t.
A quick wave good-bye. With our cars pointed in opposite directions, we drove away into the last night my father was alive.
Of course I replay that dinner a lot when I think about my dad—grateful for having had the chance to repair the small tear in our bond. I look for the ordinary things that might make it feel like any other day, any other dinner: the ice melting in our water glasses, his clasped hands as if in prayer; his elbows on the table; the dependable twitch of his mouth; a small chuckle; his eyes and attention often elsewhere. The rim of light around his face as the sun dropped behind him and the hills across the water. The alleged everyday-ness of it.
I had no idea that would be the last time I’d see his face. Or that his was the face of a suicidal man. There was now way to know that because, I have since learned, suicide has no face.
Not long ago a friend had recommended this breathing technique when I admitted to feeling anxious. It worked almost instantly – partly, I think, because if we just take the time for a few deep breaths of any kind, we can quiet much of our inner turbulence.
Lately I’ve had some trouble staying asleep and for the last four nights have found myself inexplicably awake from 2:00am till 4:00am. Considering I normally get up at 5:00am you can see how this sleep pattern was a little off-putting.