A cup of tea, a moment noticed and God

Every morning I make myself a cup of tea. Usually, it's chai or Irish breakfast. I boil the water, I put the tea in the infuser and place it in the mug. As the water is heating, I put some milk in another container along with a little sugar. Once the tea is steeping, I froth the milk. When the tea is ready, I remove the infuser and pour the frothed milk and sugar into the tea. Then it's ready to enjoy.

I try to do nothing else as I prepare my tea. It's a ritual that deserves all my attention. My morning tea warms me and wakes me. It reminds me of my mother. Since my husband makes sure that I always have tea from the little speciality grocery store nearby, it's a ritual of love. I want to have those few minutes every morning of memory, of attention to detail, of love.

We live in a world of multi-tasking. We've got our cell phones out as we make dinner. Our tv is on as we catch up on email. We fold laundry and talk to a friend. The truly bold are putting on makeup as they drive to work. With the exception of the last example, there's nothing really wrong with multi-tasking, but here's the thing: we are bad at it. Our brains aren't made for doing a bunch of things at once. Oh, we can do it, but we do it badly. We are never truly present for any one thing; we just do a bunch of things adequately.

I don't want adequate. It clutters up my brain. It causes me to forget things. When I make my tea, I don't remember that my husband buys my tea or that the tea connects me to my mom. And I really want to have those things foremost in my mind.

"The devil," the saying goes, "is in the details." But that is not right. It's God who
is the details. The intricacy of dragonfly's wing, the gloriousness of the human body, the complex system that comes alive under the eye of the microscope, the dance of human relationships: all bear the elaborate designs of the Designer. If we want to know Him, we must pay attention to His work. And we can only do that by being mindful of one thing, one action, one detail at a time.

Padre Pio said, "When you waste time, you disdain God's gift - the present - which He, in His infinite goodness, relinquishes to your love and to your generosity." I cannot say that I do not waste time, but that moment every morning, as I make my tea, is a feeble attempt to do this and to make it a part of my life, all day, every day. Be present, for God is here.

Suicide and who deserves care

I wanted to follow up on yesterday's post. I was going to write this yesterday, but I was a bit too angry and didn't want to have it come across as a scream.

Yesterday, I wrote about the tragic death by suicide of a young priest. By all accounts, he was not depressed, but had suffered horrible side effects of a medication. Those who knew him believe the medication is to blame for the suicide. Of course, his loved ones are devastated and are using this opportunity to remind others to talk to a loved one if they notice changes in sleep habits, eating, mood, etc.

All good. We should all take note.

But here is where my anger comes in: Where is my help? Where are my loved ones jumping in? Are only people who are at risk of suicide due to medication worth saving?

About a year ago, when I was suicidal, I reached out to a family member. She bluntly told me I was being a jack ass. This, in case you are wondering, is not the recommended approach to dealing with someone so depressed that they are contemplating suicide.

Depression is a long game. Family and friends can get sick and tired of dealing with your stuff. They don't want to hear about it again and again. Imagine how it feels being the person with depression, or anxiety, or PTSD. Trudging off to therapy yet again - aren't I cured YET?? I'm a year out from feeling suicidal but I'm still in therapy. Nobody but my husband asks how I'm doing anymore though.

There are people in my life that, had you asked me prior, I would have sad "a thousand percent," would have stuck by me in this journey and yet, they are no where to be found. Depression is so isolating; watching friends and family drop away is even worse. Would I be more worthy of their care if my issues were caused by medication like the priest mentioned above?

No one need ever die by suicide. Suicide is 100% preventable and we all can work together to prevent it. Every person at risk deserves our care for as long as it is needed. We can do better and we must.

Suicide and Awareness

We lost a priest this week. We lost a young priest. Worse still, we lost him to suicide.

By all accounts, Fr. Evan Harkins was a wonderful priest. He loved serving his parish, loved the sacraments, loved our Blessed Mother. He was close to his own family and his grandmother was thrilled that he had fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a priest.

What happened to this young man? What caused the spiral that ended in suicide? It seems that Fr. Harkins had some stomach issues, and had been prescribed some medication. (Some of this comes from a PDF; I'll try to link it here.) The medication, it seems, can cause anxiety and suicidal ideations, which apparently it did in Father's case. In a matter of weeks, he went from his normal self to suicide.

The change did not go unnoticed. Fr. Harkins, just prior to his death, had made a retreat with a group of Benedictine Sisters whom he knew. Both the Sisters and the chaplain noted changes, but Father left his retreat early without telling anyone, and he was soon dead. 

Dear Husband and I discussed this today. People are using this as an opportunity to talk about suicide awareness, to talk about noticing changes in loved ones. Hubby just finished a workshop on mental health as he coaches high school soccer, and my own mental health issues have made us sensitive to the topic.  Clearly, Fr. Harkins case was unusual, in that it was an issue with a medication, but it wasn't unusual in that the outcome was sadly common: a young man, feeling wholly isolated and scared, took his own life. 

Fr. Harkins had many, many people who cared about him, and (I'm assuming) those people would like to go back. They see in hindsight what they could not see in foresight: the appetite that is off, the pain behind the eyes, the sleeplessness, the great sadness. It's more than just a "blue mood" or being "off" for a day or two. It's knowing now that you should have said something, should have known that there was something wrong, should have gone with one's gut. But there's no going back.

Catholics have a bit of a storied history with suicide. It wasn't that long ago that those who died by suicide could not be buried in a Catholic cemetery; suicide was regarded a mortal sin. Now, it is viewed with more compassion - those who die by suicide are seen as suffering from something from which they may have little control. As our society's understanding of depression has improved so too has our faith's.

What should you do if you are worried about a loved one? Talk to them. Tell them your concerns and why you have them. Be specific: "I noticed you haven't been eating well" or "You seem so down lately." Ask how they are doing. Then let them know you think they need help and offer to go with them. Offer again the next day and keep offering. Enlist another friend or family member if necessary. Keep talking and make it apparent that you are not judging, but you are there to stay as long as they need you. 

I don't know if Fr. Harkins family or friends could have done a thing. I certainly am not standing in judgement of any of them. But damn, people, we don't need to lose another brother or sister to suicide. Let's be vigilant and hopeful. 

The Best Laid Plans...

About 20 years or so ago, I stopped giving up things for Lent. It's not that I didn't find it a worthy practice; I did. It's ...