Stop People From Dying Too Young.

It is becoming more and more apparent just how high the suicide rate is climbing. While sharing the suicide hotline number shows sympathy, we need more than just that. We need it now.

The stigma surrounding mental health is killing us.

Loneliness is killing us.

Silence is killing us.

People are going through the darkest times they’ve ever known and are not coming out on the other side. It’s not getting better for them. They are alone and sharing a phone number is not enough to make them feel otherwise.

We as a community can take that stigma away. We can broaden our community. We can open up lines of communication that have been shut down.

It is going to take action and lots of it. Thinking kind thoughts is a great way to get started from within. The next step is sharing those kind thoughts with as many in the community as we can. GET OFF YOUR PHONE AND START LOOKING AT THE PEOPLE CLOSEST TO YOU! Those kind hellos and sweet smiles to random strangers will make a difference. Saying thank you and smiling at the person checking you out, holding the door for someone that’s 10 seconds away, letting someone in during traffic, and asking your server how they are doing before giving your drink order are all ways to make you, yourself, feel more connected to the bigger community, that is the city that you live in. If you feel more connected and are spreading that love and support, imagine how many people you are going to spread that too. The ripple effect is real. Imagine what would happen if we created a huge tidal wave of love and support throughout our city! And to think, it all started with you smiling at the person checking you out at a register.

If you can find it in your heart to start spreading love to strangers, then you are one of the ones that can become a beacon of light for someone going through a dark time. Someone that you currently know. There is a person in your circle that needs to talk. Sharing a hotline number is a good thing, but, offering to be a listening ear is greater. You can let someone know that a person they know truly cares. The reason there is a stigma surrounding mental health is that NO ONE wants to talk about it. It is a subject that can quickly leave people feeling isolated. The only things we post on social media are our successes, and joyous moments. Understandable. Why wouldn’t you want to share happy memories with those you know and love? When you are living with depression, your thoughts are foggy, and you can’t rationalize that those good moments are not the only moments. You are just wondering if you are ever going to feel a different way. You are looking at those happy moments, not wanting to mess them up with your own darkness/sadness/hopelessness/depression. If those of us fortunate enough to be living in great mental health can make ourselves available to listen to those who are going through a hard time with their mental health, we may be able to help someone start the healing process.

It can be hard to be a good listener. We may want to start offering solutions for people. In these instances, most of us are not qualified to offer solutions, but it won’t matter. Just be the sounding board for a friend. Let them get some thoughts out of the fog that is in their mind and out into the world, where they can’t hide them anymore. Just knowing that someone knows, and didn’t run away, gives an immense feeling of relief. (I know this because I have battled two bouts with depression.) Often times the friend that needs help is not the friend that you would guess. This is not the friend that always has something to complain about. This may be the friend that seems a little withdrawn. You could be looking at a person that smiles every time you see them, but inside they don’t feel that smile.

I am asking this, of all of us, PLEASE SLOW DOWN YOUR DAY. When you stop to talk to someone that you see every day and ask them how they are doing, pause/stop walking/make eye contact and wait for a genuine response. If you are in need of someone to talk to, stop and give a genuine response when someone does this. Loneliness is killing us. One-on-one contact is being replaced by comments, DM’s, emails, and texts. It’s crazy to think, but 2 minutes out of your day could be what gives someone in a life threateningly dark place a glimmer of hope. When you think about it like that, it seems absurd that we are even here, with the suicide rate climbing like it is. Feeling unconnected, watching headlines on the news, and seeing all of the “great lives” people are leading through social media can be a deadly combination. If you are depressed and lose hope, it is hard to live. Hard enough that too many in our community are losing the battle. And it is a battle, friends. That’s why it’s going to take a community effort to fix it.

Let’s become the change that we need to see in our world. Let’s create a judgement free community, that all are welcome to be a part of in some way. Let’s become the connection to our community for those feeling lonely and on the outside. Let’s become the beacon of light and hope within our circles. Let’s be the listening ear to those who just need to talk. Then we can offer up that hotline number, after we have truly listened to a person share what they are going through. We can offer to be with them when they call.

Stop people from dying too young.

We SHOULD Be Talking Politics!

There are two things you are never supposed to discuss. Religion and politics. Touchy subjects. They tend to get heated pretty quickly. Have we ever thought that is because we never get to talk about them with other people?

We don’t ever get to have our political ideas heard by anyone that feels differently than we do, so why are we surprised when people get so adamant about getting their point across? If we were used to discussing ideas, every day, with people who don’t necessarily have the same viewpoint, we may not feel as inclined to cut people off and yell to make ourselves heard.

Politics are something we live with every day, even if we choose not to talk/think about them. Most political people are trying to see some kind of change in the world. Everyone has their platforms. There’s always one area where we feel we can make the biggest difference. To make change, we need ideas. Big ideas. I will tell you guys, sometimes I get my best ideas from the most random experiences. When I am completely out of my element and interacting in a manner I was not expecting. It can be very thought inspiring. Why can’t we think like this when it comes to politics?

We need to be able to sit down and have a civilized conversation with the people we see day in and day out, about things that are important to us. There are always multiple ways to get to a final destination. If we think of the change we are trying to see in the world, the different perspective may do us some good. Being passionate about something can cause blinders, and there may be an aspect that we’re not seeing. It may just take a friend from the “other side” to point this out to us.

The one thing we have got to stop doing, is making our discussions about which side is in the right. A side is not going to “win” through one discussion among friends. On the flip side of that, your side is not going to “lose” if a great point is brought up by someone else. Stop pointing fingers, stop jumping to what people are doing wrong, and start with solutions. What actions do you think will solve this problem? Why are those actions going to make a difference? Then listen for those answers from others.

It’s not going to be something that changes overnight, but we can start taking steps in the right direction. At the beginning of our happy hours (pre-crunk), we could talk about current events and how we feel about them. We need to focus on the words and statements that we’re making; trying not to make blanket statements but making statements about how we feel. Giving our own reactions without any name-calling. After we’ve made our statement, stopping to listen to our friends’ reactions, really listening. This is our friend, we should care how they feel. I mean after all, if you don’t care about their ideas, why are you friends with them?

Perfectionists Have Bad Days Too

Do you know someone who is always on top of their game? They seem to be able to multi-task no matter what is going on, they have stuff ready for you without you even asking, or their feathers rarely ruffle?? Sounds like you know a perfectionist.

Perfectionists can’t really help themselves when it comes to doing all of the things. Their day is never really finished, even if the latest project is, because they’ve got three more lined up. It may seem like they have it all together, all of the time, however, you are not seeing the insane amount of pressure this person is putting on themselves.

Perfectionism may be nice for an employer, and annoying for the friend that can’t keep up, but it is a struggle for the person living it. Imagine having a list of things you need to get done, and will get done, but that list can never be completed. And I mean never, not as long as you are still a perfectionist. As soon as you are almost ready to check one thing off, you are already adding the next thing, if not more, to do.

For the most part, this works out well for everyone involved. Shit’s getting taken care of. Problems are being solved. Before long, people stop asking this person if they are going to do things because it’s just expected. People stop checking in on this person to see if they are okay and handling their list, because they are always okay. The words “thank you” are no longer said when they do something for someone. Things start getting added to their list from everyone around them, and not attached to the word “please”, because they are dependable and “they can handle it.”

Well, let me tell you friends, one day they won’t be able to handleall of the things, and you’re going to wonder what the F happened. You are going to look at them with a look of disappointment that you are not used to looking at them with. They are going to look at you with a look that you are not used to seeing from them, and will probably take the wrong way. The situation is going to spiral downward rather quickly. But, before you freak out on them, just realize that the look they are giving you, which you may see as something negative towards yourself, is actually a look of embarrassment, fear, frustration, failure, and stress to the max all rolled into one. (All self-inflicted wounds, but wounds none the less.)

No one can be harder on a perfectionist than themselves. You may be frustrated with them for overlooking some detail in something, or forgetting to pick something up, but they are beating themselves up over it. I mean full on boxing match against themselves, in their brain. They’re just replaying the mistake over and over, each time really laying into themselves about how they have failed and why they shouldn’t have done that.

So, if you have a perfectionist friend, who may or may not be obnoxiously amazing, try to be gentle with them on their off days. Offer help, though you know they most likely won’t take it – it’s the thought that counts for them. No need to harp on the mishaps, they get it. Besides, knowing them, they’ll probably be more productive tomorrow trying to make up for it.

Dating Is Dead, and We Totally Killed It.

If you talk to your single friends, you’ll most likely find that the general consensus is that dating sucks right now. Single-looking-for-a-relationship status is a tough one to be in. Especially for women. Now you may be expecting a male bashing post, but that’s not what you’re going to get.

This post is all about how we are bringing up our kids. How we raise boys versus how we raise girls. I’ve touched on this before, and am coming back to it now because it has really eff’ed with my own dating life.

We did women a solid and started raising them to be comfortable being strong, smart, opinionated, and independent women. Females are taught that they should be comfortable expressing their mind, expressing their feelings, and expressing their needs. We have started teaching young girls that they can be whatever they want in life, from CEO to President of the United States. That they can freely speak their mind, and turn down or put a stop to things and behaviors they do not like. This was a very important change in how we started bringing up our girls. It was a much needed and long-awaited change. While it has started, it still isn’t happening everywhere though.

What we forgot to do, was change how we are bringing up our young men. Men nowadays don’t quite know what to do with the women that have been lucky enough to be brought up in this way. They are still being taught that they are the ones that will go out and be the bosses, owners, and leaders in the world, along with other men. They are not taught that women are their peers. We don’t teach them that women have a say in things, and to respect the wishes of females. This is what makes it so hard for some men to take no as a one-time and final answer from a woman.

There are very real differences in how men and women think, and process information and feelings, but that should not affect teaching children that both men and women can be strong and independent. Single men now don’t know how to react to women that don’t need them. They are very offended, some even threatened, by this concept, when it really is a huge compliment. If someone doesn’t need you, yet wants to spend every day with you, that is quite flattering! It says a lot of good things about your character.

What we should have been doing, is teaching boys and girls how to lead together, regardless of sex. Accept the fact that males and females are different creatures, and teach kids how to accept this as well, without limiting roles we teach them about. “Yes, you are a very big boy. You will probably be able to squat more than her, but she may be able to out-sell you. If she does, she will also make more money than you.”

We also need to let boys express their feelings, from the very beginning. Strong and independent women don’t have time for games and bullshit. There’s nothing that will end a relationship faster than realizing you cannot have an adult conversation with someone. And by adult conversation, I mean direct, truthful, and tactful. If we keep teaching men they are not supposed to talk about their feelings, they are never going to cut it with the modern woman.

I do, however, believe that old dogs can learn new tricks, so if you are a man reading this, and agree with what’s being said, shed the olds ways and hop on into the new.

The Modern Face of Racism

funny or die house sxsw 2016
photo by Riley Blanks

When we hear the word racism, many of us think of derogatory terms, extreme hatred, and violent acts. We may be envisioning black and white pics from the 60’s of black people being mistreated in the streets. A great deal of us, myself included, had probably even at some point thought that we had come far enough to say that racism wasn’t really a day-to-day issue that people had to face. (Unless they really went looking for it.)

Well folks, unfortunately, those of us with that bright outlook on life were very, very wrong.

We live in a day and age where racism has changed so much, most people that are behaving in a racist manor, don’t believe they are in fact racist. When you actually look up the definition of racism, however, you are reminded that it is much more than derogatory terms, extreme hatred, and violent acts. It’s the belief that your race is superior to another. That’s it, plain and simple, but with much more weight.

You don’t have to outwardly say or do anything to be racist. All you have to have is the belief that someone of another race cannot amount to what you are, simply because of their race. Sadly, most of the time in our current world, that turns up in the work place. A lot of people aren’t considered to be hired, or kept on once they are. My guess is that their superiors are uncomfortable around them because of their race. Because they are “different”.

This may not make sense to some you, and you may be thinking to yourself, “That’s NOT racist!” It actually is though. If you are not comfortable being around someone because they don’t look like you and you can’t relate to them, enough so that you fire them or just don’t hire them, then you have some sort of belief that they are not equal to you. Be it in values, morals, competency, or normalcy (which what really is “normal”??), you feel they don’t add up to what you and the people with whom you feel most comfortable with

(most likely your own race) do.

Let’s face it, most people like being around what feels familiar, and what they’re used to. Not too many folks go out and pick the craziest color they can find, or most outrageous outfit they saw. Just think of how hard it is to get some friends to try a new food if they can’t tell what it is by looking at it. A lot of people have let this sort of thinking take over in every aspect of their life though!

“You don’t dress like me, you must not be able to do my job.”

“I don’t talk like that, you must not be as smart as me.”

“You don’t go through the same process to get ready in the morning as I do, you’re weird.”

This shit all sounds strange when you read like this, but take a step back and really examine what’s going on in your head when you meet or see someone that you can’t immediately relate to based on their looks. If you don’t like anything about what you’ve just discovered, stop and think about all the people in the world that aren’t as open-minded as you are.

Now can you see? Houston, we have a problem.

Being Strong Is One of the Loneliest Places To Be

funny or die house sxsw 2016
Photo by Riley Blanks

I am strong. I know this, as do most people that spend any extended amount of time with me. This makes me dependable, capable, independent, and self-sufficient. It can also make me very lonely.

I live by myself, and I love it. I have everything just the way I want it. I have had great success with my job, which means I have a very packed schedule that I must put as a top priority because I want to remain successful. If I want to go grab lunch, a drink, watch a movie, or visit a cool spot, I have no problem going by myself. This doesn’t mean I don’t like hanging with other people! I am very social. I’d actually prefer to do those things with people, but am not a very good planner when it comes to getting out and about, so it’s often very last minute. This makes it really hard to get friends to join when you’re giving them about a 15 minute heads up.

I think all the above-mentioned things also give the impression that I’m very particular about what I will and will not enjoy doing. When it comes to social outings, I am pretty down for whatever though. If someone takes the time to plan something out, I love just going along for the ride. Strong and independent folks like being able to let loose; not be responsible for a little while.

When people know someone is strong and they don’t need other people, they don’t ask those people if they want company. Needing something and being able to appreciate something are two totally different things though. I don’t need anyone to keep me company, but I love having good company and a friendly listening ear.

Just because you know a person “will be fine”, or “can handle anything”, doesn’t mean it’s going to be an enjoyable situation for them. Strong people, myself especially, often won’t ask for help; not because they don’t trust anyone to help, but because they know they are capable of handling the situation, and a lot of times it’s just faster to get it done on your own. If you’re dealing with a scenario that is not fun, you want it to be over as quickly as possible. I’ll tell you, support is always appreciated, even if it comes after the fact.

Supporting a strong person is not the easiest thing in the world either! They’re going to tell you that they will be alright. They don’t want to burden their circle with their worries. The best thing to do to help a strong friend out, is to just take the initiative. Don’t ask their opinion, just hop on in there with whatever version of support that you have to offer. Trust me, they’ll be taken back and love you even more for it.

If I Don’t Like Your Driving, We Probably Won’t Make It As Friends…

I like driving. Sometimes when I need to clear my head, I just get in my car and drive. The kind of drive where you start making turns down streets you’ve never driven on, trying to get a little lost, just to see if you can make your way back without your navigation. There are certain times of the day though, that you just can’t do that. Fortunately, during those times, I don’t have a long commute to work. This is a really good thing because in Austin, where I live, we have some BAD drivers. Like, really bad. I’ve come to conclusion that the things these people do while driving that drive me bonkers, (haha get it?) are the same types of things that happen outside of the car that drive me bonkers. Now I’m also going to take the time to apologize in advance to my friends that fall into these categories. In my defense, the title does say “probably won’t work as friends.” (There are always exceptions to the rules.)

First case and point, the driver that won’t turn unless there is a full block in between them and on-coming traffic. This person misses opportunities in life because they’re not a go-getter.

Next up, the jerkface driving in the left lane going 5 under the speed limit. You must have been a B student and your parents told you they were proud of you, because you are the “good enough” type. The world will never see your A game.

Let’s keep this rolling…

The non-signaler. These people are just narcissists who believe they’re the only ones that matter.

The slow down to an almost complete stop to make a right turn AND not signal. These people are high anxiety AND clueless. They’ve probably had so many bad things happen because of their cluelessness that it gave them anxiety!

The “no one is gonna pass me!” driver. These people are competitive, which is not a bad thing, but they are only competing with other people. They don’t compete with themselves. They’ll only accomplish anything if someone is right beside them, and that person has to be doing well.

Is it bad that I find this kinda fun?? Oh well…on to the next one!

This next one doesn’t really piss me off, but so many of my friends get irate about this. The not turning right but driving in the right lane and getting stopped at the light. I kinda feel sorry for this one, seems like they just have bad luck. I mean, are we really NEVER supposed to drive in the right lane unless we’re turning right??? The left lane would be a cluster!

The brake happy fuck does, however, make me wanna get out of my car and smack them upside the head. Ya dumb. That’s it, just dumb. Moving on…

I’m sure I am missing a few key folks in here, but I’m going to go ahead and wrap this roast up with the #1 sworn enemy of the roads. The most nerve racking, headache inducing, hypertension causing drivers. Before I begin, I would just like to remind you all about the end of the first paragraph. There is a disclaimer. This last category includes a lot of people, I’m guessing about 35% of the drivers in Austin due to the number of times I have to encounter them. All of them just as bad as the others.

The. Worst. Drivers on the road…drumroll please…

The Prius driver. I don’t even know where to begin. Why can’t one of you pick a speed to drive and continue to drive at that speed?! Why will you go from driving 10 mph under the speed limit to driving 10 mph over the speed limit just because I’m driving that fast and passing you?! You speed up so I can’t pass you, get in front of me, and then brake! WHYYYYYYYY?! Is it because you’re saving the planet with your car and I’m not, so you want to make me drive slower? These folks will speed up to get on the road in front of you, mind you, there is no one behind you, get over and break. You could have done that BEHIND ME. Prius driver = speed up, get in front of car, slam on breaks.

I have to stop now. I want today to be a good day, one where I’m smiling, shaking hands, and kissing babies, not one where I have a scowl on my face, I answer every question with the word no – even if it doesn’t fit, and I push old ladies out of the way because they walk slow. Be safe on the road my friends. Make good decisions, in the car and in life.