Genie, You’re Out! (or Reflections on the Death of Robin Williams)

BuzP7p0CMAE3_-cI am devastated about the loss of Robin Williams, as are the millions of his fans, and more so by the fact that he took his own life.  Despite all of his money and all of his available resources, depression reached its bony fingers into his life (and dragged him to an untimely death as it certainly has for millions of others.)  Drugs and alcohol are certainly a part of his story, but make no mistake…this is a story about the savage blow of depression.  The pills and booze were only a symptom of this man’s sad demise.  Depression was the death blow.

Anyone who has never suffered from the savage effects of deep depression will find it hard to comprehend his decision to take his own life. Depressed people don’t kill themselves out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life isn’t worth living. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. Depression is an invisible agony that for many reaches a certain unendurable level where life and death are near equal terrors and death becomes a lesser terror than living.

For those who decide to take their life, they spend their final days and hours in much the same way a trapped person  eventually chooses to jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames.  For the depressive suicidal, it’s not the desire of death, it’s the terror of living. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.

In this same way, a person who doesn’t suffer the agony of depression will never be able to understand the torments and terrors suffered by those afflicted. Never. Just as depression is an invisible agony, so, too is the understanding of true depression invisible to those who do not suffer it.

We can, and should, have a conversation about depression, but unless you’ve ever stood on a ledge with flames coming closer and closer, you will never truly understand the agonizing decision to jump.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams..your Genie is out.

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Defeated

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Like most people, I am caught in the web of learning  to navigate the constantly changing twists and turns of today’s fluctuating societal ups and downs.  It seems every day someone achieves their dreams while another is blown to bits by a terrorist’s bomb.  I celebrate a birthday with friends at the same time a mother buries her child.  This insidious balance of good and evil renders me near catatonic with a mixture of soaring joy and abysmal despair.  It just doesn’t make sense, and I am completely lost in a world I no longer understand.

The shooting at Sandy Hook and the resulting flood of grief as Death descended on this sleepy community left me in tears and shaking with sorrow.  No sooner had the bodies of these innocent children been pulled from their classrooms then I found myself out shopping for Christmas gifts in anticipation of a joyful family reunion. I watched the mix of loved ones waiting at the finish of the Boston Marathon, full of love and pride as their champions crossed the finish line, suddenly blended with the explosions of hate that laid low the lives of three people, one, a child who now joins the bitter fruit withering on the vine of life, not yet fully blossomed.  I have found that I am incapable of processing this confusing blend of despair and bliss.  My psyche is not wired to route the neurons of my emotions bouncing back and forth within my soul so randomly, and my mental landscape is muddled beyond words.

I am left feeling that I have personally failed in my journey upon this earth, this blue-green marble that spins wildly on a shaky spindle.  I don’t know how to proceed. No sooner than I fall on my knees in prayer that word comes of another senseless act of violence.  Is this how God answers desperate prayers for comfort and understanding?  Am I a fool to think that a simple act of Divine intervention might be suggested amongst all this violent loss of life?  So I stop praying.  God must be a sadistic voyeur for the silence of His absence in all of this is deafening.

My life does not slow down, however, to properly mourn, for no sooner than my heart is laid low by the killing of a dozen Syrian children, then the phone rings and I’m invited to a party celebrating the engagement of my best friend.  What cruel and atrocious mocking of life this all turns out to be.  Where do I find understanding amidst the laughter and the tears?  How do I proceed with any semblance of balance?  I retreat into the only sanctuary where I find an ounce of control: my writing.  But as the words pour out upon the page, my sadness and confusion only becomes more evident.  I start to write of hope and love, and in moments my words become dark and sullen.  I am the world I live in. And like that world, I am confounded  in both mind and body.  My pen stops and weeps uncontrollably.  My writing is exhausted and no longer makes sense.

I am caught in a bubble devoid of clarity, floating mindlessly through each demanding day. I cry out,  “Please, someone, pop the bubble!”;  explain this senseless woven tapestry of life so that I can chart my course, so that I can find meaning in this tower of babel.  To God and His perfect plan I say “Fuck You” – this pain is no longer bearable.  I cannot trust the joys I know when lurking behind the next corner is just another tragedy waiting to crush my spirit once more.  I need to get off this see-saw and find shelter.

I can no longer play His celestial game of ping-pong.

We Are the Mercy We Seek…

The Victims of the Boston Marathon Bombings

The Victims of the Boston Marathon Bombings

Krystle Campbell. Martin Richard. Lingzi Lu.
Three orchids withered on the vine this week.  They never had a chance to fully bloom.

This week, a nation grieves after having once more stared into the bloody, gaping maw of death and destruction visited upon the city of Boston.  Promising lives and futures were swallowed whole behind a cowardly and senseless act of terrorism, and the survivors now begin their struggle behind the unanswerable “why?”

As a nation, we will rally around the families of the dead and maimed and will embrace our brothers and sisters in Boston with action, thoughts, and prayers.  And despite their heroic efforts, the first responders will need our support as the floodgates of emotions finally catches up with them. We will be there for them as well.  But what about us?  What does the average person across America do to navigate the hopelessness and despair we feel in connection with these continuing acts of horror?

What can we do but personalize it?  To extend our support and love to those within our own sphere of influence.  While there is little most of us can do to directly help those who were caught up in the actual nightmare of Boston, we can certainly look around us and see ample loss and suffering in our own communities.  We can take that sense of hopelessness and turn it around, extending our compassion, our strengths, and our love to those who can use it best.  To feel a broken, aching heart for the victims of the Marathon bombing, yet remain blind to the suffering and pain of those closest to us is a cheap, selfish emotion.  We are better than that.

I had a back and forth with a writer friend of mine this week, before the bombings, about the need for each of us to take our gifts, whatever they may be, and assume responsibility for confronting the evil that is so prevalent in our daily lives.  She made what I thought at the time to be a defeating comment about how little we could do to combat all the evil that surrounds us.  I responded to her, perhaps a bit more harshly than I intended, that to accept that and do nothing was, in my opinion, an even greater evil.  She is a powerful writer with a gifted, compelling voice, and I reminded her that with that gift comes responsibility.  She already knew that…but I think my words caused her to stop and reflect for a moment on how powerful her gift really was.  Through the power of her writing, she can galvanize and motivate others into action.  She can do something!  And I know she will.

I often turn my own readers off when I chasten them not to look to earnestly for God’s mercy in times like these.  It isn’t that I don’t believe in God. I do.  I just don’t think He’s as merciful as we are lead to believe.  I believe He expects us to be the channels of that mercy.  But too often, we convince ourselves that falling on our knees in prayer is action enough, and nothing could be further from the truth.  We keep searching for God’s mercy while withholding our own.  And the acts of mayhem around the globe march steady on.  God has no stake in this, or at least none that my weak mind can discern. And if I spend my time looking for his tender mercy in these horrific acts, I’ll be spending most of my day walking in circles.  His mercy is not evident.  But ours can be.

Wow!  As I write this, the radio news channel is reporting a massive explosion in the city West, Texas.  15 people, including first responders, are dead.  Entire city blocks are leveled.  There are over 150 people wounded, and the count has just started.  Say a prayer, if you must, but once you get off of your knees, take then a step toward just one person whose life you can impact and do something.  If you want to honor the victims of far off tragedies, do so by embracing and helping those in equal dire circumstances nearest you.  Figure out what your “gift” is…and extend it to others.  Then, and only then, can we each do something about the relentless evil that invades our lives.

Looking for Work? 8 Side-Gigs That Actually Make Money

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If you’re stuck in an unemployment situation and are strapped for cash, all hope isn’t lost. There are plenty of short-term ways to make money and supplement your income while job searching. And who knows? Maybe one of these smaller gigs will bloom into a full-time occupation.

Plenty of unemployed Americans take on side gigs or other short-term positions to supplement their income during tough economic times. But half the task is finding the opportunities.

Here are eight strategies for quick money making:

1. Help out! Everyone needs a hand once in awhile. Pack up someone’s house, do yard work, run errands, make small deliveries, do grocery shopping, or take on any other task people often don’t have time for. Sites like TaskRabbit help people to find personal assistant work in their neighborhood or community, and Gigwalk is a popular option for people looking to get assigned jobs from companies that need real-world data or market research.

2. Earn cash from your car. Anyone with a car can help out their community by moving heavy objects, running errands, providing carpooling, etc. For example, I have a friend who bought a pickup truck for an affordable $1,500. He makes $300 a day picking up couches and other furniture that won’t normally fit in a car. TaskRabbit (mentioned above), Craigslist, and startups like Lyft can help you make money from your car.

3. Write. Being unemployed is tough, and job searching in itself can be a full-time job. But if you balance your day correctly, you may have time to squeeze in freelance work in between job search efforts. If you can write, pitch pieces to newspapers, magazines, or blogs that pay. Just remember to agree on monetary compensation prior to completing any work.

4. Be a babysitter or nanny. Watching children is a task that will always be needed somewhere. Pay for a nanny varies from state to state, but the average income of a live-in nanny is $250 to $850 per week. Sites like Nannyjobs.netCare.comNannys4Hire, andenannysource.com can hook you up with families in need of childcare. While nannies are considered family employees, babysitters are independent contractors. Sites like Care.com,SitterCity.com, or babysittingjobs.com can get you in touch with babysitting jobs in your area.

5. Try pet sitting or dog walking. Plenty of people need help taking care of their pets. Dog walkers can make anywhere from $10 to $30 per 30 minute walk, but the rate is usually negotiable and depends on a variety of factors, like whether or not you took it to a dog park.Dogwalker.com can hook you up with dog walking opportunities, and Care.com also offers resources for pet sitting and related efforts. DogVacay is another great resource for people looking to board dogs–participants set their own rates, and many make up to $200 a week.

6. Take care of the elderly. Here’s an area where plenty of families are looking for affordable and reliable aid. Help families take care of elderly relatives by taking up caregiving jobs in the home. Sites like HomeInsteadTheCaringSpace, and SeniorCare.net can hook you up with opportunities.

7. Create or sell what you don’t need. Plenty of people make money selling old clothes, used electronics, books, furniture, kitchenware, or other items they no longer need. Sites likeEtsy allow anyone to create and sell their own homemade products–clothing, accessories, art, and household items are especially popular on the site. eBay is another popular option for selling unwanted or used items, and Craigslist is great for selling locally.

8. Promote other people’s products. Plenty of people have blogs these days, but few consider offering advertising space to others. Sell advertising space on your personal website or blog, or try ClickbankAmazon Associates, and Red Lemon Club, or any other place with affiliate programs to sell or promote products on behalf of others.

Being unemployed is a job in itself — it requires patience and strategic thinking. While you should never neglect your job search, try these eight tips for making money on the side so you don’t burnout in the meantime.

About Dennis McHale: 

Writer and Author, FreeLance Columnist .Gadget lover, investor, mentor, husband, currently working on his two books, “The Winter Bites My Bones” (www.dlmchale.com) and “Echoes Across Time”