A Sequence con Sequence

1. I read this article and watched the video.

2. Then I read this article, which is part of this book.

3. Then Reilly and I watched this movie.

4. Then Reilly put the book on hold at the library. Then he checked out the book when it became available.

5. Today, I finished the book. I wrote this little review on Goodreads:

Conversational, thoughtful. Balanced; I forgive the author because she admits her biases. Covers and interweaves three main discussions: bullying, being a good parent/concerned adult/assertive innocent bystander, and mental illness. There’s also an exploration of solutions and encouragement of ongoing conversation, which I wholeheartedly support.

6. At 12:05pm, I decided to write the author of the book. Because that’s what I sometimes do.

Ms. Bazelon,

I finished Sticks and Stones about ten minutes ago, and I found it fascinating. And infuriating. And heartwrenching. And, at times, relieving. I appreciate your huge undertaking of a project such as this, your first, book. Yay!

Your interview with Stephen Colbert (as featured in Slate–about time somebody made him cry 😉 ) piqued my interest in the book, but first I watched the 2012 Weinstein documentary you happened to mention, Bully. So many times people or media want to point a finger at something more concrete, more visible, such as bullying. But when I hear of suicide, I almost always think first of mental illness as a possible cause. I’m glad you explore this subject, and as I read Phoebe Prince’s case, I was disappointed that the right people didn’t consider her psychological issues. It’s always more complicated than people usually perceive.

On the other hand, the ones who were able to pull through–the ones who found new friends or went to new schools or where school administration implemented effective bullying prevention–those kids were became incredibly insightful, self-aware, and empathetic. The way they grew up really impressed me.

Anyway, I loved the book. There’s so much more I could mention! Congratulations on your success, and may we all continue in courage to have these important conversations for our families, society; humanity.

7. At 1:39, I received this reply:

What a lovely note–thank you so much! If you’re inspired to share your feelings on Facebook or via email, please do–I need ambassadors! And I am up for calling or Skyping into book groups, for parents or teachers or anyone.

All the best, thanks again,

Emily

Replies do not always happen, and I was thrilled when the message landed in my inbox.

Thing is, as I read the book, I couldn’t help thinking of the young man who took his life in front of his schoolmates just north of here. I wish there were greater awareness; I wish people weren’t too scared to acknowledge and address mental illness and to examine all the causes of bullying and not just label these kinds of events “bullycide.”

It would be great to have a constructive discussion about this. Because my husband is a school teacher, I would love to organize something to see what steps are in place in local schools to help reduce bullying. It would be so wonderful to set up a call with Emily and maybe some school administrators and some ladies at church to have a heartfelt conversation about safety for our community’s children.

I always feel drawn to the underdog. It’s getting harder just to stand by and do nothing, and feeling helpless is no longer an excuse.

8. – ∞

Quarantined Himself to the Study

Poor thing.

Yeah, that’s a bucket. Just in case.

He ate a few crackers. He ate some soup. He got ready for bed, took some medicine. Drank some water.

I prepared the futon. He got in it and under the blankets. We had family prayer, and now he will sleep.

I probably will not.

Get better, love.

He Came Back on the Skybridge After Going Home

When I first saw this news report last night, the tears came suddenly. I watched footage of a grief counselor (or teacher, or maybe another parent) say that he was going to go home and hug his kids, and he assured the students that they are loved, that if they’re feeling depressed, there are people they can talk to. The grief counselor (or teacher or another parent) looked overwhelmed. His voice strained to control his own tears, sadness weighed in his face and on his shoulders and he seemed to hold his breath throughout the interview to keep his composure until the camera cut away.

The junior high in Taylorsville is about 40 minutes away. News reports say that the teenager went home with his mom after school and then he came back toward the school on the skybridge that crosses a main road. He pulled out a gun on that skybridge and shot himself. Other students watched it happen.

This morning I watched the footage of the candlelight vigil that other students and his friends held. Many of them said that their friend was bullied. Many of them were trying to understand why bullying happens, why their friend was gone, why their friend was sad. It’s hard to understand because it’s complicated and often can’t be explained.

The news report states that a friend talked with him yesterday, joked around with him, and he seemed happy. Students will ask grief counselors why this happened. They will wonder why he felt so lonely and depressed. Friends will cry and say they miss him. Some may be angry and hate themselves, and even curse God. The witnesses will have those few slow, helpless seconds replay in their memories over and over again. They’re probably going to wonder if there would have been a way to stop him.

His family will also cry and wonder. They may pray for comfort, for answers, for solace to their pain.

Pray for the family, for Bennion Junior High, for the Taylorsville community.

It’s hard to understand a sorrow so deep and engulfing, a grey so overcast that it swallows the horizon.

I can only cry.

Just Treatment

Scenario 1: At a church women’s function there’s an activity where we have to find the oldest and youngest ladies at each table, and then from those ladies, we have to figure out the oldest and youngest in the room. When we identified the oldest lady, she stood up and announced, “Yes, I’m [somewhere in my 70s]. And I have 25 grandchildren to prove it.”

Scenario 2: In hundreds of conversations I’ve had with different people, this happens:
Me: So, do you have siblings?
Other person: Yeah, I have [at least four] brothers and sisters. What about you?
Me: Yeah, I have a younger brother.
Other person: So it’s just the two of you?

HOLY COW, PEOPLE, THIS IS NOT A COMPETITION. Yes, families are uber-central to our (Mormon) society and culture, and I know that children become our world once we have them, like how my parents focused on mine and Frank’s happiness as they raised us; how even my brother and I looked out for each other when we were kids, and we are probably more protective now.

It’s not “just” the two of us. There are two of us, and we’re awesome.

Reilly and I have been talking about when we’d like to have kids. Are we going to have “just” three, or “just” two, or “just” one? What if we end up only having one? “Just” one sounds like a disgrace, a failure, an implied incompetence. If we have one child, he or she will be awesome. If we have more, they’ll be awesome, too.

What if I can’t biologically have children? Are we going to “just” adopt, as if it’s a lesser alternative? As if parents use an inferior stash of love for children they couldn’t physically give birth to? Do these parents tell their kids that they’re “just” adopted? Will other kids tell my kid(s) “So, there’s ‘just’ one of you” or “So you’re ‘just’ adopted?”

BLEEP NO. You don’t win all the contests, because THERE ARE NO CONTESTS.

Sometimes people don’t even realize what they’re saying. And maybe I could be less annoyed. But should I be less sensitive when it comes to my family and my potential family? Are you really going to sit back and take it when I say that you have “just” a boy or “just” a girl or “just” twins or they got “just” Bs on their report cards? First, you know I wouldn’t think those thoughts, let alone say them. Secondly, you would defend your children if someone made these statements, because you love your children, and they’re awesome. That’s all it takes.

Think about what you’re saying. Think about the implied devaluing and belittling in that one little word. Be mindful of the context in which you use it. Make an effort to stop using it in the situations I’ve mentioned here.

Just stop.

I Should Love Abdoulaye Wade

This thought kept crossing my mind during church today, all three hours, in between wanting to pull my hair out and silently disagreeing with everything everyone was saying. And, in between texts. Yes, during church. Judge me already.

This thought surprised me, and I struggled with it.

I’m struggling with it.

Small Request

I know I don’t talk to a lot of you on a regular basis, and sometimes the conversation goes a certain way. Most of the time. You know what I mean. I’ve been having this kind of discussion for 18 years, ever since I was old enough to date?

If you decide to ask me if I’m dating anyone, just be aware that I will know:

  1. if you’re merely curious
  2. if you are concerned about my overall happiness and would meddle if you could
  3. if you want to brag about your current amazing relationship, which, if you’d just tell me already, I’d be very excited for you.

Now, I can hold up my end of the conversation, and my intuition serves me well. I may call you out on your intentions, or I may not. But please also be aware that:

  1. if I want to tell you if I’m dating, I will
  2. if I’m not dating, it doesn’t mean I’m sad or pathetic
  3. I really do appreciate your company, but if I’m not outright complaining about dating, you really don’t have to worry or try to fix anything. I’m doing great. I promise.

Thanks.