May is Mental Health Month

Recently I noticed that many of my posts are kind of dark, deep dives into heartbreak. I was like, 

“Beth, you sound depressed. Why all the big feelings? Are you always this sad?” 

Maybe I am depressed. I definitely have very large feelings. Please know that I am not always this sad. Yet, if I were “this sad,” I think that is ok too. Regarding my often pain-filled blog posts, I simply think I write when I have something I am working through (or most likely have been triggered). Writing helps. I have also come to believe that telling our stories is crucial to healing. Selfishly, I also recognize that a big part of my healing is having a platform. Honestly, at this point I am not sure who reads my words. Nevertheless, I am grateful I have a place to put them. I am grateful I am able to write them down. I am grateful for the opportunity to process and heal. Even better, I am grateful for those who do speak up, who do stand by me, validate and show me that I am worthy and I am seen. You are a gift. You have saved me more times than I can count. Seriously! Thank you! 

I only hope I can do that for you. 

Earlier I was watching Oprah’s new show on mental health called, “The Me You Can’t See,” when I heard the following quote,

“Therapeutic change is about healthy relationships. It’s about feeling like you belong and like feeling like you are connected.”

I love this quote and I agree. About the show, sure I cried all the way through and no, I am not going to review it except to say that it is vulnerable and it is good. I hope it reaches those who need to hear its message. 

Now onto my story:

The stars collided in such a way that I could not refuse their message. My mind is racing to connect all the dots that have brought me to this place. I see the intersection of my family and our relationship with the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints). I hear my best friend Marianne say, 

“Mormons are just like everyone else. They make mistakes. They care about social status, prosperity, power and popularity. They cheat on their spouses and talk behind your back. The problem is because they have Jesus, they think they are better. I would argue using your belief in God to justify your ‘Christlike’ behavior is even worse.”

I do not disagree. 

As I think about Marianne’s words I solidly hear my non-Mormon therapist say,

“You know, Beth, many people love being Mormon and do not blame the Mormon church for their problems.” Then I see her pause long enough to make sure that I am really paying attention. She continues, “I also think many of these same people grew up with families who gave them healthy tools to navigate such an intense religion. These were the families that also provided their children with a healthy sense of self.”

Immediately I feel inadequate. I want to throw up. I feel deep pain. I feel weird. As a young girl, I know I did not have the tools. I know I did not possess a healthy sense of self.

As I try to piece this rush of feelings together, I am thrust back in time. I see my trigger. I feel the pain and insecurity as I remember how I perceived the women at church treat my mom. Though not everyone was like this, the ones who were, were terrible. I let my mind remember. I see my mom’s good friend dropping her upon being accepted into a more prominent social circle. I remember perceiving like my mom felt inadequate and rejected. I remember all the phone calls from those same women, including the “good” friend. They always wanted to make sure my mom knew how bad my sisters were. I remember the rage and frustration I felt knowing that the kids of these same women were doing the same or worse. I felt powerless as I watched my mom appear to feel like it was all her fault. It was not her fault. Those women were cruel, exclusive and self-righteous. Many of my peers remember these women differently. I think that is ok. I imagine we can hold space for all of us.

Most of these women live in Utah now. So does my mom. It is my memory that they never have included my mom, or invited her to their Minnesota get togethers. I imagine they would tell her the same thing the local LDS moms tell me,

“We just didn’t think you would want to come.”

I imagine my mom feels less than, confused and rejected. I wonder if she thinks it’s her fault. Maybe she moved on long ago. 

Abruptly I move from these feelings of sorrow to the moments I needed my mom’s empathy and compassion. Instead, I hear her words every single time I shared my pain,

“They are such good people. Beth, are you sure there wasn’t something you did?”

What I have learned through hours of therapy and mistakes I have made myself is that what I needed is for my mom to believe my story (as it was). I needed her to stand by my side and to protect me.

Of course, we can always do better. I can do better. Regardless, what I keep thinking about is this: why do we live in a world where my mom or a person of color, or the whistleblower, the rape victim, the poor kid, or the family who no longer attends church has to shoulder the burden and constantly prove they are valid or that they have worth? Why does the burden of proof fall solely on the disadvantaged or marginalized? Why is the outsider required to carry the relationship? It makes no sense. Victim Shaming or shunning the outsider or whatever you want to call it, drives me absolutely bonkers! Unjustified rejection is my trigger. It is also my trauma.

I am certain this trauma goes right back to the moment my family walked into the doors of the LDS church. My parents were recently married. Both of them were on their second marriage. They were young. And somehow in my mom’s upbringing, I believe she was taught that everything was also her fault. I believe she wanted to have healthy relationships. I believe she wanted to fit in and to connect. As a young mom, who was raising a blended family with six children, I believe she did her best. What I remember is that her best was taking the blame, asking me to take the blame, and consequently, reinforcing our cultural belief that the burden falls on the disadvantaged. By the way, it is also my memory that the women at church had no problem letting my mom take the hits. I always thought it was so cruel. I don’t know if she realizes what I see. I am sure my truth would embarrass her and break her heart.

Honestly, how on earth could one expect her to give us a strong sense of self while she was reconciling her own past trauma? How on earth could one expect her to stand with confidence as a new member and within the confines of such a rigorous belief system and religion?  How could I expect her to navigate the nuance of prosperity doctrine, social status, the generational cliques, while at the same time incorporating Christ’s teachings of inclusion and love? I truly believe she did her best. I also believe many of these women grew to love my mom. She is kind and openhearted.

Nevertheless, as many times as my mom has owned these moments, the trauma is still deeply embedded. It is what it is. I also fear I have perpetuated this pattern. For me to heal, I recognize that need to be honest regarding my complicity.

As a result of this learned behavior, within these dynamics, I always felt like it was me, not them. I felt like if I could shove myself into their world, everything would be fantastic. I have come to believe that feeling like I am less than and unworthy is damaging. I cannot fix them, or better, I cannot heal their own damage, the damage that causes them to be mean. I can only surround myself with people who love me for who I am.

As a result of these experiences, I was determined to help my kids feel a healthy sense of self. I was determined that they would always feel worthy. I encouraged their dreams, their fashion sense, their interests. I look them in the eyes. I make sure to connect with them each time they leave. I tell them I love them. I tell them I believe in them. I tell them these things often. Regardless of these positive behaviors, I also feel as though I have failed my sons. See, I could have done better. I am heartbroken. Now, when I know they are actively being ostracized and excluded I have never said and then asked them,

“Kyle and Eli, they are such good people. Are you sure there wasn’t something you did?”

However, what I did do is when they were actively being ostracized I stridently tried to negotiate with the parents. For years, I worked on these parental connections as I tried to prove our worth. I bargained over and over and over again. I allowed my boys to needlessly suffer because somewhere inside of me I felt like it was my fault. Thinking about the moments my children were rejected, condemned, and excluded fills me with suffocating pain and shame. I see the damage I enabled. Instead of encouraging them to walk away from people who do not treat them well, I encouraged them to stay. I am so sorry. I think I really still believed that I was the bad one. I was the one who was unworthy.

I have apologized privately to my sons. I have actively held boundaries with those who have been so unkind, intentionally or neglectfully. Now I straight up call these folks assholes. My brain also breaks each time I hear someone say, 

“well, I mean, it was so and so’s plans. I did not want to step on toes.” 

I scream inside at those who know what is right and do nothing. I think they are lame. After repeatedly placing my sons in harm’s way, and allowing them to stay in a situation they were ill prepared to navigate, I finally see that there is nothing I could have done to change who these people are. Sure, these folks also exist in a belief system where I believe they think they did what was right (in spite of our sons feel less than). From my lens, this behavior is still not ok. Regardless, it was my job to protect them. I could have done a much better.

That is why regardless of where I am tempted to place blame, at the end of the day, the buck stops with me. (Accountability)

I should have encouraged better boundaries. I should have kept Kyle and Eli from this harm. For my failings, I will always be sorry. I pray for Kyle and Eli’s forgiveness. I hope they see that because I know better I am trying to do better. I hope they know that I always stand by their side. I have their back. I like them and I love them. They are good and they are worthy. Ultimately, I hope they are able to surround themselves with people who love them just the way they are, (and not people who are not determined to dictate who they should be). I hope they always have places and spaces where they feel connected and where they know they belong. I hope they know they are loved — because they are loved — always.

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Coronavirus Crisis: Carefully Flying Across The Ocean As The World Shuts Down

We are social distancing. Just not the way I thought we would be.

Me, Big Daddy & Easy E, Salt Lake City, Utah

I think it was twenty-four hours ago, but it has probably been more. We lost a day. On Friday afternoon, son #2 and I drove to our local WalMart. He was mad at me because of something I said the day before. We stood in the frozen food section talking it through until a person strolled up and son #2 impatiently said,

“Mom, let’s keep this moving.”

Until that moment I had not noticed the empty shelves and carts filled with items such as twelve bottles of Lysol disinfecting spray, shrink wrapped thick pieces of beef, and Velveeta Macaroni and Cheese. I will assume that son #2 also saw the cart filled with Velveeta Macaroni and Cheese, because he said something like, 

“Mom, I really want some Velveeta.” 

I was like, “you might as well; it is the end of the world.”

Once convinced I would actually buy him “synthetic cheese,” son #2 proclaimed, “Mom, the Velveeta is not in the refrigerator section.” I laughed and said something like, “Oh, so you are going like 1980s Apocalypse?”

I felt some relief and resolve when he laughed in response. 

We asked the kind, short-haired WalMart employee taking inventory, if she could help us find the Velveeta. Is it really cheese? She stood up, put both of her hands in the air and said, 

“See where I am standing.”

We looked at where she was standing and acknowledged her. She responded, now pointing with both arms,

“It is on the other side of where we are.”

We thanked her and commented about the empty-shelf-Armageddon-situation. Somberly, she replied, 

“This all makes me want to cry.”

Compassionately, we thanked her and said, “hey, hang in there. We are in this together.”


I am not sure the world is going to end tomorrow. Nevertheless, she was correct. The Velveeta was on the other side and on a shelf. It is one of the things still left (or at least left on Friday). Son #2 laughed again and said, 

“This stuff is expensive, or I would have bought it myself the other day.”

I laughed too and said, “Good thing your mom loves you and wants to keep you safe during the end of the world.”

At that, son #’s mood improved and he laughed too. I was hopeful that his positive mood shift signaled that he had forgiven my blunder, or at least, was on his way. And before we could pick up the next items, we noticed what turned out to be a brother and sister cleaning out every last box of pasta. I eavesdropped into their conversation as I watched them pack their arms full of boxes of Barilla pasta,

“I can’t believe her. She is nuts. Mom asked us to buy all the pasta. This is insane.”

I looked at  them. They looked back at me.

“Our mom is crazy. I am so sorry.”

“I get it.” I said. 

I couldn’t help myself and I wanted to help them (even if they didn’t want my help).

As they walked away I asked, “Hey, can I have one of those boxes?”

The girl sweetly turned around and said, “Here. You want two? My mom won’t miss it.”

“Sure. Thank you.”

She handed me the boxes. I told her I really didn’t need the pasta, and we talked about the end of the world.

Then, son #2 and I both acknowledged feeling overwhelmed and marginally freaked out. I took one more run through the store in hopes of finding hand soap and Clorox Wipes (I know. Foolish). 

Empty-ish Plane: SFO – AKL

We stood in the check-out line shocked at it all. Neither one of us realized it was so insane until we stepped into WalMart. It was almost our turn to check out when a woman approached me. She said something about how she needed one dollar and that if I gave her one dollar now so she could pay that we could go to customer service and she would give me my dollar back. I handed her a dollar and said, “It’s ok. You keep it.”

As we drove home, son #2 said, “Mom, that was traumatic.” Honestly, it kind of was. 

And it was only going to get crazier.


See, my husband, Dave and I were booked to fly to New Zealand on Friday. Son #1 is studying at NYU’s Sydney center. He has been having a hard time, and has been counting on us to meet him during his spring break. Nevertheless, with borders shutting down and schools closing, we were not certain if we should really go. Son #1 was panicked. He continued to be pulled in all sorts of directions. I kept having a feeling that I needed to be there with him long enough for him to catch his breath. I wanted to show him that he did not have to quit or settle just because other people want him to settle. I wanted him to see that we believe in him so much that we would travel halfway around the world. Dave and I want son #1 to know he is worth it.

I know. It sounds a little crazy. What we moms do for our kids. Anyway, I think we are a little nuts. I also worry about my children. I am also a person who totally follows her gut. My gut kept telling me to press forward, which was all fine and good until my mom called.

SFO United Lounge

It was 5:24pm, Friday, March 13. Dave and I were leaving for the airport at 6:15pm. Son #2 is planning to meet us in Sydney next week. (I know. I know. That probably will not happen.)

“Beth. Did you hear?”

“Hi Mom. Did I hear what?”

“Governor Herbert closed all schools across the state starting Monday.”

“What? Wait. Mom. I can’t talk. I need to go. I have to call you back.”

Son #2 was already packed. We only had minutes to decide. I wrangled Dave into our room for a pow wow.


We decided to tell son #2 he needed to get ready to go. Ok. In truth, I asked Dave to tell him. Remember, it was only minutes ago that son #2 and I made peace.

Within minutes, Dave was back in the room looking forlorn.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Son #2 is beside himself.”

Dave and I panic-talked for then next three minutes. We were about to cancel the trip. In fact, earlier in the day, Son #1 told us he wanted to come home. We almost canceled the trip then. I cannot explain my weird mom feelings, because instead of canceling, we pressed forward. And I felt totally calm.

I was on the fence regarding son #2. It was 6:00pm.

I went into the kitchen where son #2 and I talked. I was like, 

“Son #2, I don’t have time to say everything perfectly. I don’t want to piss you off. I probably will. I think you can stay home, but I need you to keep it together. And by keep it together, I mean, not how you think you should, but how I want you to keep it together. No excuses. No, “I don’t feel like it.” We don’t have time to throw down. We just need to decide. Can you keep it together with a good attitude?”

“Yes.” Son #2 calmly said.

 Then I looked him in the eye and said, “Oh, and no girls in your bedroom—for real. And no girlfriends spending the night.”


I could feel son #2’s relief. We have a great network in place. I also think this is a good adulting opportunity for son #2. Again, I was weirdly calm.

I asked son #2 if he was ok.

“He said, I need to go downstairs for a minute and decompress. That was a lot.”

I totally agreed.

By 6:24pm our Lyft arrived. son #2 gave me the best, lift-your-mom-off-the-ground hug. We reminded him we may be back home in an hour, or we may be quarantined in another country. I told son #2 I loved him. We all agreed to take it in stride. I told him I loved him again. Then he obliged to take some pictures, gave me another big hug, and has been checking in regularly ever since. 

Friday’s Lyft driver is a mother of five. Her oldest is nine. She assured us her car was Lysoled and that she wipes her car down with Clorox Wipes after every ride. We talked about schools being closed, about homeschooling and the end of the world. 

The airport was way more crowded than I expected. Every service worker was wearing latex gloves. Our ticket agent was extremely careful about our hands not touching her hands. Our first flight was delayed, which was potentially going to make us miss our flight to New Zealand. Luckily, the 6pm flight to San Francisco hadn’t left yet, having been delayed by 90 minutes, and was boarding as we walked by the gate, so we asked if we could get on that flight. It was only half full.

Somehow we found ourselves in half empty airport lounges, staring at people wearing masks on their faces and pulling them down to eat, and making jokes with people in bathrooms concerning all the bloodied hands from all the extra handwashing. A woman even asked me if I had seen the “Terminator Wash your hands Coronavirus” meme. I have not and will have to find it. About half the people were wiping down their airplane seats. I Clorox-wiped my phone like fifty-seven times. I don’t understand all the people who wear their face masks around their necks. And I have mad respect  for the folks who used their elbows to open the airplane bathroom doors. United Airlines somehow managed to get my gluten free meal. (I only get it about 30% of the time so that was like a total coronavirus-bonus). The flight was uneventful. A nice New Zealand woman explained the New Zealand food import restrictions. (Don’t leave fruit in your bag, or they’ll hit you with a $400 fine). And I didn’t even mind know-it-all budget-Kylo-Ren and his know-it-all girlfriend who were seated behind us, correcting me, Dave, the nice New Zealand lady, and each other while the plane was loading.

Us, Auckland, New Zealand

By the time we landed in Auckland, we were inundated with news. First, we heard misinformation about New Zealand’s borders being closed. Then we heard that all people arriving in New Zealand will have to self quarantine for the next fourteen days. I asked a staff member at the immigration line and she set me straight. We both laughed a sigh of relief when I realized that son #1 would arrive before the quarantine deadline. 

“You all are fine.” She said.

“But what about my son? He doesn’t arrive until 2:30PM.” I respond.

“He is good. He arrives 9 hours before the self quarantine requirement begins.”

Auckland, New Zealand

I thanked her. We laughed again. I thanked her again. We did not touch because no one is touching. In the past I probably would have given her a high five. I texted son #1, who was about to get on his flight to Queenstown from Sydney. As I texted him, Dave and I walked about to the New Zealand immigration agent, who asked me to put my phone away. Then she gave us the third, fourth and fifth degree about where we had been in the past 15 days, and where we’d been in the United States. When we asked if we were visiting New Zealand “on holiday,” she gave us a disapproving look. We explained our mission to help our son, and she softened somewhat, but still eyed us as suspicious disease vectors. Finally she stamped our passports and let us in. 

Landing in Queenstown, New Zealand

After washing my hands like six more times, and using hand sanitizer at least four more times, we exited customs and searched for the domestic terminal. Luckily, Mia, a nice New Zealander who had been sitting near us on our flight, walked us literally like one half a mile from International flights to Domestic flights, and we made it to our next flight. What a gift. In all this world-is-ending chaos, the flight from Auckland to Queenstown is heavenly. It took my breath away. We flew so close to the mountain tops. I felt calm. I felt loved.

Landing in Queenstown, New Zealand

Alas, Dave and I are so jetlagged. When we landed in Queenstown we were bitchy tired. My phone lit up.

“Where are you? I hope Sydney and not NZ. What was travel like? What are your plans? I bet son #1 will be or was so relieved to see you. How can we help son #2?”

That is when I thought I should look up the news and see what was going on. I did and I also got some clarification. Then I responded to my texts. 

Landing in Queenstown, New Zealand

“We are in New Zealand. All is well. We have talked to officials. It’s actually quite bustling here. The restrictions go into effect until midnight tonight. Son #1 will be here in 2 hours. So starting midnight is when the self quarantine for arriving people begins. News is a little crazy. I am guessing this is what you are referring to? We made it under the deadline and do not have to self-quarantine.” I texted back. 

“Yes the quarantine was what I was referring to.”

I paused and thought of my sweet mom. I’d better let her know we are ok. I tried to call her. She did not answer so I called son #2. I filled son #2 in and counseled him regarding how to share this information with Wawa (my mom). Son #2 is super cool and grown up. (son #2, we are very proud of you!) He also took my mom to buy toilet paper today. Unfortunately, they were not able to find any. (Anyway, I am also sure he would love dinner while we are away. Thank you kind souls.)

Us, Queenstown, New Zealand

Then Dave and I retrieved our luggage, rented our car, then we both melted down in the rental car lot when we saw the unsanitary condition of the car we were assigned. We exchanged our dirty car that had a booger on the touch screen (true story). Yes. Of course we washed our hands like seven more times. 

We made our way to the Countdown grocery store. Dave hummed to himself, “It’s the final countdown!” (*note Dave’s awesome edit here.) They still had toilet paper in stock. There were people shopping and they were calm. 

Me & son #1, Queenstown, New Zealand

We made it back in time to find son #1 waiting outside for us. We hugged hard and then son #1 showed us the “Wuhan foot shake.” In the past few hours we have learned that anyone arriving in Australia after midnight tonight will have to self quarantine for fourteen days. All of son #1’s belongings are currently in Sydney. He could go home. It is possible that school will have the students self quarantine for fourteen days and then go back to regular classes. I am proud of him for sticking it out this far. I know he has a lot of voices in his head pulling him all the directions. I don’t want to make this choice for him. I want to create a space where he can finish his assignments, get some rest and clear his head. I am amazed by both of my sons. They are rad. And yes, you can tell us we are crazy. You would not be the first. Alas, before you get all judge-y, I would gently caution you to first ask us why? Or talk to us. Or walk try walking in our shoes and we sincerely promise to do the same for you. I know there is always more to it. Like my grandma used to say,

“Bethy, you just don’t know what is going on in their hearts.”

Great advice! (Man, I miss my grandma. She would totally have the toilet paper situation under control.)

son #1, Countdown Supermarket, Queenstown, New Zealand

We will keep you updated. If we get trapped in New Zealand, will you guys keep in eye on son #2? He is amazing and very self-sufficient. I just want him to know how much his mama loves him too. 

PS We went to the grocery store later on. The toilet paper section was substantially more depleted since it had been this morning: nearly sold out. I compulsively grabbed a package. Dave protested. He even went as far as to pull me aside and demand that “we have a serious talk.” Then insisting that there is no way the toilet paper will fit into our luggage. Well, after our “serious talk,” and after resisting the urge to bluff and say that I was getting it for son #1, I bought a four pack.  

son #1, Rammy and our new toilet paper, Queenstown, New Zealand
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Clearing My Head About Pain

Athens, Greece

I was watching YouTube the other day when I happened upon a video of Pink on “Ellen.” To summarize, Pink said that she needs pain to make beautiful art. Ellen asked something like,

“Well, then what do you do when everything is going well?”

To which Pink responded something like, “Look around. There is enough pain in the world.”

I agree.

Salt Lake City, Utah

In fact, if all I wrote were happy awesome things like my tall blond boys are equally beautiful and awesome to me and everyone else; my marriage is the very best; I am healthy; I exercise; I do not age; I am my goal weight (even though I eat a lot of sugar); we travel all over the world; and of course, Dave and I have mind-blowing sex on a regular basis, including great orgasms (for both of us), I suspect you might want to hurl a knife at my eye, or better, if you are less violently inclined, you might mumble something softly under your breath like, “bitch.” I know I might.

In fairness, please let me share the painful reality: I am not my goal weight (and probably never will be). Regarding my awesome sons, recently someone stated,

“you know son apple is better looking than son orange, and you just have to deal with that fact.”

Then this person proceeded to support their assertion about my better-looking son, because (obviously) I knew it too. Ouch! That is some hardcore, mama-bear pain! Oh, Oh and I have tried Botox in my forehead (and really liked it). Dave and I fight. I cry. He looks at his iPhone. We do have sex (thank God)! We also fart during sex. I never wear lingerie. I may or may not compose a to-do list during foreplay, and my legs are rarely shaved, or better, they are often stubbly.

Budapest, Hungary

Hey, and I have also certainly rolled my eyes a time or two after I see a friend’s Instagram perfect bikini shot captioned with some humble brag like,

“Silly me for posting this bad photo. I am usually so shy about posting pictures of myself.”

(Screw you yoga, Cross-Fit, and “shy” friend with a perfect body. You win!). No. I am not writing about jealousy. Nor, do I want to. It is fair to envy.  I am writing about pian. We are human and I imagine most of the time our frustrated jealousy may just be reflections of how we feel about our own lives.


It is funny (not funny at all), after we attended the funeral of Eli’s friend, Eli said something like, “Hey, did you see so and so and his mom?”

I was like, “Yes, I did.”

To which Eli, said, “Isn’t weird that even at a funeral they had to act all better than everyone, like their pain was more important. The kid gave me shade and his mom was not very nice to you.”

I agreed and actually wondered the same thing. I was like,

“Why did they think they were more important? A kid committed suicide because he felt like he did not fit in. And as we were there to honor this young man, it appeared that this mom and son decided that it was the right time to remind us that we were not good enough, that we did not fit into the world as well as they did.”

Weird. I hope they are not people who think they are better than the rest of us. In fairness, maybe they are so used being on the top of the pecking order that they do not notice. I hope that is what it was. I  realize as I write this that I need to recognize how I convey myself to others. I need to wake myself up and play fair. Do I make people feel less than? Probably? I hope not. If I have, I am very sorry.

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Wales

Nevertheless, I think the experience Eli and I had at the funeral is an interesting moment to deconstruct. I also think that is why writing pain (and awkwardness) is not only safe, it is compelling. Sadly, I imagine I am not the only one who has felt less than or rejected. I also imagine (hope) that when I share my own vulnerably (pain), my guess is that you may relate. It is compelling. In fact, no matter where we sit on the cool scale, the socio-economic hierarchy, or the righteousness ladder, we all know pain. Further, I would argue that showing our pain is a gateway to revealing our empathy.

Hold up. I say this with a strong caveat. If revealing your pain is all about,

“my pain is worse than your pain,”

then I think you need to step out of your self-centered cave, look around and see that you may have missed the boat, or the world exploding around you.

Russell, New Zealand

Ultimately, (because this is kind of a long, streaming thought), I think the incredible beauty of our world is connection.  And pain seems to be the catalyst for that connection. My pain allows me to relate to your pain. Sure (and another caveat), obviously there are many many people who have experienced pain that I cannot even imagine. Where I can relate (love) these people is by reaching outside of myself and showing them that I also have known pain.

And then we are able to LOVE!

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Why Should I of all people write?

Haast, New Zealand

Hi there.

I feel like writing lately. I have been working on not one, but two, memoirs. The themes are different (of course). Here is what I am working on: (1.) my nutty childhood — without pissing my family off (wish me luck) and (2.) riding the dot com boom, including falling in love with Dave via our mutual high tech careers, dudes who appropriated Dave’s credentials, and a boss who went to prison for selling drugs for Bitcoin on the Silk Road. I have a super solid outline for the second one and several chapters written for the first.  (And yes, I want to write at least one travel memoir too.)

Haast, New Zealand

Nevertheless, as a result of my personal memoir-writing quest, I have been trying to learn more about the memoir. My quest reignited when I returned to college.My Senior Seminar class was called, “Critical Theory of the Memoir.” Instead of writing our own story, we studied other texts. What I learned is that “Cancer” memoirs are now considered boring. Ouch! (I urge my professor to read this piece from Mel Magazine about the actor who lost his nose to cancer.

About halfway through the class I learned from another student that our teacher won an award for writing about his experience working at Wendy’s during college. Ultimately, I realized that Joan Didion’s, poignant and moody memoir,  “The Year of Magical Thinking” resonated with me most. In fact, my capstone assignment is based on this memoir. Here is a sentence from the second paragraph of my analysis:

“We think of Didion’s memoir ‘The Year Of Magical Thinking’ as sudden, as messy, as organic and off-the-cuff. That misses the fact that it functions as a carefully-crafted grief narrative, adhering to the narrative expectations of that genre.”

After recognizing that I like to deconstruct literature, and after completing my capstone paper, I completely freaked out. I could not breath let alone look at my paper one last time. I knew I was breaking the rules. I knew better. I knew I should let my paper simmer for a minute and read it again. I didn’t. I couldn’t. Instead, As usual I let my insane performance anxiety take over. I knew my structure was not its best. I knew I needed to re-read my paper. I could not face it. I turned it in and immediately regretted my decision. I felt sick. It took me a week to contact my teacher. His words were swift:

“Really? You really think I should let you read your paper one last time? You waited too long to ask. You should have contacted me sooner.”

I received a B+.

It is funny how that B+ has haunted and literally traumatized me.

Haast, New Zealand

Nevertheless, I am determined to write my own story. As a result, recently, I decided I need to get reacquainted with the rhythm and tone of memoirs. I really did not care which memoir I read. Two friends recommended Tara Westover’s memoir, “Educated,” so that is what I chose. “Educated”  is a memoir about a homeschooled woman who grew up in Idaho in the survivalist, fundamentalist fringes of the LDS faith. Eventually she attended Brigham Young University, followed by Cambridge University. That being said, she is sure to note in the foreword that the book is not about Mormonism, or that it does not make an opinion about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Interestingly enough, I think the crux and conflict of her entire story has everything to do with the relationship in and then out of the LDS faith. Her memoir has won like a gazillion well-deserved awards. Her voice is completely different (of course), yet her story also feels very familiar.  

Of course as I read her memoir, I ended up getting  into my head and thinking,

“I am nobody. No one wants to hear another memoir about someone who grew up in The Church of Latter Day Saints.”

And then I was like, “There is no separation of religion and person (even when you leave), so this is my story.”

And then I thought of my friend Joanna and her beautiful memoir, “Book of Mormon Girl,” and I was like,

“Well, at least two there are two Mormon-girl books.”

Haast, New Zealand

I decided to put myself out there. I made a few calls and wrote a few texts.

A week ago I had lunch with a friend who works in the book industry. She is smart and kind. She also reminded me that people who write memoirs, memoirs that do well, are usually famous, like Michelle Obama. (She actually did use the example of Michelle Obama.)  That is when I could see I was not selling her. I brain-scrambled and kept thinking,

“Beth, you have to work on your pitch.”

Through a discussion on how we could actually tip or original waitress instead of the one who took over, my throat cracked. My eyes filled with tears. Now between bites of a Southwestern chicken salad and giant pieces of lettuce getting stuck in my braces, I began telling her about my friend Bill:

“I am a little embarrassed that Bill’s family says things like I helped save his life.”

She perked up.

Haast, New Zealand

I continued,  

“I totally feel sheepish telling you this story. Bill worked for my husband, Dave. We were laying people off. That was the startup world. So Bill began consulting with his former colleagues at Cantor Fitzgerald. Sure, Bill called me Friday, September 8, 2001, and asked if we had any work for him back in DC. He was working in the World Trade Center at the time. I was like, ‘Bill, I talked to Dave an hour ago. Of course I pressed him. You know I am like that. I asked him if he had work for you to do. He wasn’t sure, but then he called me back. He does.’ Then Bill asked if he should stay in New York or come home. I was excited and I was persistent. I was like, ‘Bill, please come home.You have to come home!’ True story. Thankfully he did.”

My lunch companion gasped, and I said,

“Hey, none of us had any idea what would take place on Monday, September 11, 2001. Selfishly, I just wanted Bill to come home. I loved his family. His wife, Stephanie, is one of my best friends. She was home with their two small children. I wanted Bill home because I did not want Bill and Stephanie to leave Northern Virginia. Thankfully it worked out for Bill. Six-hundred and fifty-eight of his colleagues lost their lives that day.”

Haast, New Zealand

As I finished, my friend seemed more encouraged. Then she paused, looked at me, and reminded me about the importance of knowing who my audience is.

“Don’t be too broad.” She cautioned, then added, “Think of one person you can speak too. That is the advice I often give to people showing me their books.”

Since our lunch date, I have thought way too much about who that person would be. Maybe my audience could be my friend, Beth. She is funny and a good listener, or Stephanie, Bill’s wife. We have each raised two sons. She gets it. Of course I thought my audience should really be a younger version of myself. I thought about how I could tell young me my story, reminding her she is valid and worthwhile. Even when things seem really crazy, I would remind young me not give up.

Us, Haast, New Zealand

Not to do a complete one-eighty on this post, but in this moment, I think it would write my memoir to Eli’s friend, Roan. He killed himself last week. His parents posted a poem on his memorial page that he wrote just a few days before killing himself. His writing is beautiful, creative, tight, honest and hopeless. I would picture myself talking to Roan at our local coffee shop or the Mexican restaurant, where he worked. I would tell Roan my crazy stories and insane adventures because first, at his memorial I learned from people of all ages what a kind, generous and empathetic friend he was. Meaning, I know he would listen. I also guess  that he would give me, (the parent of one of his friends), the validation I needed — even if he did not think my stories were good, or that it was weird, because I am his friend’s mom. I can see him nod in approval, just like he did after suggesting that Dave get one of each type of fish taco. I also know he would be kind, because, at his funeral, that is what every single person said about Roan. If Roan were my audience, maybe I could remind him that we are not alone, that it is ok to be quirky, and think outside of the lines. Through my life story, I could remind him that I understand depression. I understand feeling invisible, totally uncool, and feeling less than. I really get it. I also know that it gets better, even when better seems absolutely impossible, and even when better means that it might get worse and then get better again.

Finally, I would share my stories with this young man in hopes that he could know that he is of value. I would reinforce that like Pink said on, “Ellen,” the beauty of pain is that it creates amazing art. I would tell him that he is talented. People see him. Then maybe if he could feel seen, he would not have felt like he could not stay. Ultimately, I never want anyone to feel like they have to go. I am very sad that he did.

That is why I would write.  

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If You Are in Crisis, TEXT #741741

Us, Malaga, Spain

“First, (if) you’re in crisis. That doesn’t just mean suicide: it’s any painful emotion for which you need support. You text us at 741741.”

…Last week Eli came home from school and told me one of his friends had died. The next morning he told me that his friend had committed suicide.

My heart breaks and keeps breaking some more. When I hear about a suicide I always envision the following scene: I see that person stuck in the rapids. I see myself far away, reaching out my hand. Then I realize I cannot get to them and they are gone.

My mom’s husband’s son killed himself when we were on vacation a few years back. A high school friend’s sister, who was a mother of five, drove to a park and killed herself. My best friend’s dad killed himself when she was away for work. Dave’s friend & coworker drove onto the Golden Gate bridge, parked his car, quickly got out, walked over to the edge, and immediately jumped to his death. I went to coffee with a mom who told me that her daughter slit her wrists and it is a miracle she is alive. Last year a student at a nearby school committed suicide by hanging in the school building. Two years ago Kyle’s dear friend tried to kill herself. This girl’s sister tried to kill herself the month before. At the same time, one of Eli’s friends called and told him that she had just taken a handful of pills.

After Eli heard about his friend he felt understandably disjointed. So, as Eli tried to process his friend’s death, he and I talked and talked. He reminded me about the rough emotions his peers are dealing with each day. Then he reminded me of this moment:

“Mom, remember that girl, the one who took the pills? I would have been the last person she spoke to before she died.”

He was fifteen at the time. He told this girl he was going to get help. Immediately he spoke with Dave and me. Then he tracked down her parents. We all made sure she was ok.

Córdoba, Spain

Years ago I tried to write about suicide. I was asked not to include personal stories (because they might embarrass someone). Instead, I talked around the subject.

Here is what I wrote on May 2, 2005 (*I have updated this post to reflect current statistics — By the way, suicide rates have nearly doubled since 2005 & my outlook has also changed.):

“The first day of my seventh grade Social Studies class was like any other first day of junior high. It was a warm, sunny autumn in Minnesota. This was the first year I would get to pick some of my own classes, move from room to room and actually not have to be with the same kids all day long. My teacher was new to school and I believe this was her first teaching job. She gave us our seating assignments, called roll and I remember that one seat remained empty. I didn’t really think anything of it. Kids surely would be changing teachers and maybe when this boy saw the new Social Studies teacher, he bolted for the nearest exit.

A month went by, and although some of us had been absent a day or two during that time, this boy’s seat constantly remained empty. The teacher asked once again,

“Does anyone know where Ritchie is? Did he move?”
And then, like he never existed, the teacher (choosing to leave the very large elephant in the room) never spoke of him again.

For the first month of seventh grade all this boy was to me was the perpetually empty seat in my Social Studies class. Eventually, because the subject was so hush hush, I found out through other students who knew him from their elementary school what had happened.

At age twelve, one hot and humid Midwestern summer day, this little boy went into his bedroom and hung himself.

His death haunted me for a long time. In many ways I think it still does.

‘Why would someone my age (which was twelve at the time) want to kill himself? What was he like? What made him so sad or feel so unredeemable that he felt like he needed to take his own life? Why won’t the teacher talk about it? Why do people treat this boy like he never existed? Are you less of a person if you kill yourself?’

I am a verbalizer by nature. I like to process things and I like to get my feelings out in the open. I was completely thrown by this and because I was still young and innocent. I was also completely baffled by all of the silence. I needed to talk about what was swirling around in my head, which was the shame, the sorrow and the reality that once you die, there is no coming back. The good, if there can be good from this boy’s death, is that at a very early age I understood the responsibility that we have to see the people around us. We share this world together. Consequently, it became essential for me to notice the lonely and sad people that crossed my path. And I thought that maybe if I took a moment to listen or smile or include them, they would know that someone out there sees their worth.

Sadly, the more years I live, the more I see that it probably takes more than a smile or a hug to save someone’s life. (That doesn’t mean that I think I should stop reaching out, however, and I won’t.) The more people I encounter and the more I read, sadly, the more I know that suicide is much more common than many of us may realize. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. In 2017, 47,173 Americans died by suicide. By 2018 statistics, suicide is Utah’s 8th leading cause of death. Additionally, In 2017, there were an estimated 1,400,000 suicide attempts. When you see the numbers laid out like that, it’s pretty astounding.

And then it occurred to me that maybe we do not realize that suicide is so common because we (still) do not like to talk about it. It is an understatement to claim that suicide is a horrible and very sad thing. Yet the more I think about suicide, the more I acknowledge that people who kill themselves have completely lost hope and are SHRIEKING for help! I think if you asked someone who has survived a suicide attempt, they may just say they tried to kill themselves they may actually minimize their pain in their response. We all need to feel worth, not shame. In a society that does not (seem to) like to speak about suicide, are we giving a person another message: that because of how they feel, that somehow they are shameful and bad and that this world would be better without them. Do I make any sense? This is such a big topic and just my little web post can not give it justice. The bottom line is this: if we are not talking about suicide, or if we are not allowing suicidal people to talk about their suffering, I would argue that we we are closing doors that may ultimately save someone’s life.

Further, as a person who has experienced depression first-hand, I know what it is like to feel hopeless, worthless and feel like, “What is the point?” I know what it is like to feel lost, yet not have the energy to go on.

Córdoba, Spain

A week ago, after having a very contemplative discussion with our neighbors regarding things like how evil Walmart is, the need for universal healthcare, all the problems in Africa . . . (the list went on and on), I had a sleepless night thinking about all the things I would do to make the world a better place. The next morning I decided to post that list. Number eighteen on my list was ‘Better understanding of Depression/Suicide Prevention.’

Of all the things I listed, number eighteen seemed to strike a huge chord with many of you.

Out of the many emails I received on the subject of depression and suicide, two sisters, Ryan and Molly, contacted me (Ryan emailed me and Molly left a comment). Ryan immediately told me about a walk she was doing in July called, Out of the Darkness: A 20-mile walk [through Chicago] through the night to end the silence surrounding suicide. She kindly suggested that if I really want to make a difference, I could start here. Her email came at a haunting moment: I received it just moments after speaking to someone close to me, just after she had returned from the funeral of someone she knew that had committed suicide. The universe is crazy like that. Of course, I took Ryan’s email as a sign and immediately donated to the cause. The next day I received an email from Molly. She let me know that Ryan was her sister, they were doing the walk in honor of their dad, and she wondered if I could get the word out.

I said yes, and that is when I became completely overwhelmed. To write about suicide and depression has made me acknowledge that as much as I have personally found peace in my life, there are days when I feel like a complete loser (hopeless). Those are not easy feelings to face. I also had to face the completely crushing sorrow I feel each and every time I hear of someone who has either taken their life or has tried to take their life. As sad as I have been (and I have been very sad before), I was willing to face my own pain in hopes that maybe someone out there will know that I get it, that there is always hope, NO MATTER WHAT!

Priego de Córdoba, Spain

Here is Molly and Ryan’s story as told by Molly:

‘My sister Ryan and I decided to participate in the Overnight after being invited by our aunt. She is my Dad’s sister. My dad took his life thirteen years ago this coming August. We never really talked to anyone about it and so it is something I have never come to terms with. What I know is that he felt like his life had gotten so far away from where he wanted it to be, with no chance to get things back on track. He just felt that his family would be better off without him. What I wonder is, would things have been different if he had shared these feelings with just one person? Did he ever even think about talking to anyone? What if my sister and I had been able to talk about it after it happened? Would I feel differently about it all now? Hopefully, through donating and participating in the Out of the Darkness Overnight we will all be one step closer to a better understanding of suicide. People just don’t talk about it because it is an uncomfortable thing to talk about, but it doesn’t help anyone to pretend it doesn’t happen.

So in honor of the life that we all lost, I will be walking, along with my sister Ryan and my Aunt Maryellen, in the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk with the hope that we will be helping to make at least a small difference in how we all deal with suicide.

I have talked to more people about my dad since I registered for this event than I have in years. I know that other people feel strongly about it, but like I said, nobody likes to talk about it. I agree with what you said, nobody should feel so hopeless, but if they do, that there is no shame in it and there are ways to change it. I just want as many people to know about this as possible. Sure, I am looking for the money to meet my fundraising goals, but that money is going to make a difference in someone else’s life somewhere down the line.’

Thank you Molly, Ryan (still) and all of you for giving me an opportunity to talk about something that is so important to me: hope. If we lose hope in ourselves, each other and in this world, then what do we have?

And I cannot end this without saying that if you are having suicidal thoughts or know someone that is, please get help. Please tell yourself you can make it through the next five minutes, then the next, then the next. Please reach out! We are here for you.”

Malaga, Spain

Now back 2019:

Earlier in the week I had an opportunity to write on a memorial page for Eli’s friend. I cannot imagine the heartbreak his parents are going through now.

Here is what I wrote: “Our son Eli and your son share many mutual friends. Your son is a year younger than Eli. Eli told us he met your son last year and that your son sat by Eli and their group of friends. Eli told me how smart he was.

A few weeks ago my husband and I walked into the Sugar House Rubios to grab something to eat while we waited for Eli. The restaurant was virtually empty. A very nice young man took our order. I remember joking around with him because my husband kept changing his mind. It was your son. He did not roll his eyes at my husband’s wishy-washy-ness. Instead, he was very patient, kind and suggested some options (telling us what he liked best). A few minutes later, Eli walked in and walked over to our table. Eli did not see his friend. As he sat there, he told us that your son had just texted him. Eli told us his friend was working at the counter and immediately popped up and went and visited with him. I remember thinking,

‘what a thoughtful kid.’

As we left, we all walked over to the counter and visited with your son. I only wish I had paid more attention to that moment.

When Eli received the news this week that your son had passed he said,

‘Mom, I saw him at school on Monday and gave him a hug.’

We want you to know that your son touched many lives. Eli did not know him as well as others. Nevertheless, your son impacted Eli’s life and Eli definitely considered your son a friend. We are all very sorry for your loss.”

This evening we will attend the funeral. I still have no words. I am so sad that this family are in a place where they have to make this suggestion and also grateful stated that in lieu of flowers that we donate to the American Society For Suicide Prevention. Hey and if you are sad, please know you can always reach out to me. Never feel like you are too much. Never feel ashamed. I may not have the right skills, but I have the energy to help you get to the right place. I am here and I see you — for real. I promise.

Ultimately, I think we can no longer ignore how pervasive suicide, suicide attempts and depression are. That is why I keep wracking my brain, trying to figure what else I can do.

As a mom, I try to be more transparent. I try to let my boys know that that they are of worth and that I see them — that their feelings of sadness are ok, and that it is ok to fail. I am sure there is more. I am open.

Malaga, Spain

End Note.
From the principal of Eli’s School:

“Our students’ lives are precious, and as we move into the coming weekend, we want to equip you and your families with every resource at our disposal to keep our students safe. Below, you will find a list of additional resources to help you help your students.”


Know this: You are loved. You are not alone.

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