Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sometimes it is life or death

Death is a topic that is often on my mind.  I am faced with having to think about death at least once a week.  We spend most of our lives trying to ignore that thought of death, where I willingly volunteer my time once a week to put myself right smack dab in the middle of the conversation.  The funny thing is that I never feel more alive in my life than when I spend those four hours a week volunteering at the crisis hotline.  Maybe it’s not really even about death, but a pure joy towards the other extreme, which is Life.  Maybe it’s about a fear of death that keeps me coming back.  By constantly facing the fear, maybe it changes my fear around the topic of death.  Maybe it helps me face my own mortality, as well as the mortality of those I love.  An existential psychologist would say that much of the dysfunction in our lives can be traced back to our fear of death.  So maybe I keep coming back to minimize my own dysfunction. 

I currently volunteer for one four-hour shift every week at the crisis hotline, which does take calls from the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.  Why do I do this?  The answer I typically tell people is that I am doing this because I am working on my masters in mental health counseling and this gets me some really good experience with individuals in crisis and gets me a chance to practice my craft, which is true.  It also gets me in front of some people that can lead me in the right direction towards future professional goals, which is good.  Though that would ignore the bigger question of why I would pursue something that can be filled with such horrible things and people going through such tragic things in their lives. 

The reality of the situation is that I don’t really have conversations about suicide with people every time I go in.  Most of the time it is regular callers with different mental illness’s or just individuals who are going through some really challenging times and just need someone who will listen to them.  I love these moments.  One of the greatest things in life for me is just listening to them, and the less talking I have to do, the better.  Even though I really love those moments, that doesn’t change the reality that every time the phone rings, my heart skips a beat, my stomach gets a knot, and I think to myself, is this the person that I am not going to be able to help?

This past Monday was one of those days when I got one of those calls.  The woman was at the end of her rope, in a bad relationship, and had just purchased a gun two weeks ago, with an intent to use in on herself.  She had told her boyfriend that she was feeling this way and his response was “Are you going to leave a note”.  Now what can you really say to this?  My goal was of course to empower her,  to help her to see the strengths that she has, and open herself up to the possibility that she does have a bright future, all in a span of about a half an hour.  Oh yes, to also make sure that she never touches that gun again and gets rid of it.  Fortunately, I believe I was able to accomplish all of those goals, though I do not get to know the real outcome, though the outcome in my mind is that this woman will have a bright future.  It’s the only thing I can really think about, well if I want to maintain my sanity.  She made a plan to have her Mother come and get the gun and dispose of it and she ensured me that she would make an appointment to meet with a therapist the next morning.  And you know what she said to me at the end of the call?  “Thanks.”  It wasn’t even about the words, more about the way she said it.  The feeling I got then cannot be put into words, as I do not have the vocabulary to really do justice to that feeling. 

There are moments in your life that are much bigger than yourself, and cannot be defined in monetary value.  Its just moments where you know you are alive, when your adrenaline is pumping, and you meet a goal that is purely self-sacrificing that are moments that move you.  So I guess my answer to the why questions I was asking lies somewhere in there, I suppose. 

A couple things you can do if you are local to the Twin Cities area is the Stomp out Suicide 5k run/walk for awareness (in honor of Alissa M. Haines) on August 25th and the Hustle for Hope 5k, which proceeds go to the crisis connection, which is the organization I volunteer for on September 29th.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Abby's 10 today! Happy Birthday!


One of the greatest things that have happened to me in my lifetime happened to me on June 19th 2002.  I was 26 years old at the time and just after 2 in the morning that day, my wife delivered a beautiful baby girl that we named Abigail Margaret Marek.  I would love to say that this moment was a pure moment of joy, which joy was a huge part of it, however there were many other emotions that went along with it, mainly fear.  

At that time in my life, I was still a Newlywed, as Renee and I were married August 18th, 2001.  (Yes the math works out for anyone asking) :)  So being a Dad was a little bit scary, since I really didn't know how to be a husband yet, how was I going to be a Father.  Though being a Father was something that I always wanted, and now all of a sudden it happened.  Though when I envisioned being a Father as a kid, I thought I would be confident, know everything, make lot's of money, coach everything under the son, etc..  Though the reality of being a Father is that none of that happened, which in the end, I believe makes me a better Father and keeps me humbled.  Which being humble helps me to always understand just how important of a undertaking this is.  I do however know that I am extremely lucky, as I believe Renee is a great mother, and made my job as a Father much easier, which I hope that most of the time, that I make her job as a mother easier as well.  

Though of course this blog is meant for Abigail.  I am often amazed at how much I love her.  There is some truth to the saying that you don't really know what love is, until you become a parent.  I truly embrace that I get to learn from you everyday as it is such a wonderful journey and privilege to be here with you as you grow up.  Of course, I don't want you to grow up faster than you are know, but I am very excited for your future and for the person you are and are becoming.  You are the sweetest person that I have ever met and you fill me with so much joy everyday.  You make everyday for me just a little bit brighter!  



Back again

I know it has been a year since I made my last post, but I have found some motivation to get started again.  Maybe this will be my only post for the next year, or maybe I will be posting regularly.  Recently I have been motivated by an individual who began their own blog that I have as a Facebook friend, though have not seen in person in many many years.  Though I began to think that I should at least give this another shot, and not think of myself as having somewhat failed by not living up to my expectations of myself.

You see, I believe I had the right intentions, to possibly help others out with my own ramblings about the things I know.  Most likely a part of me felt like I should share some of my insights through my life, career and schooling.  This was a very good thought, though I missed the point of this, which really should be about helping myself.  I'm sure most people know the analogy, when you are on the airplane, and the oxygen masks come down, that you are supposed to put the mask on yourself first, and then help your child get theirs own first.  This is what I was missing.  It is so easy for me to put the mask on someone else first, as it does make me feel much better about my existence.  Though if I am able to put the mask on myself, and then put the mask on the child, am I not accomplishing much more?  Am I not making two lives just a little bit better by this act and providing more overall?  

So I have probably exhausted that analogy, but back to the individual I was referencing in the blog and why I decided to write again.  I was amazed by his courage to be able to say who he is, what he believes, and why it's important to him.  I say courage because one of my biggest challenges in my life is allowing people in to my world.  Their world is easy for me.  I can peel back the onion on somebody else's life pretty deep, and frankly I can do this in many ways better than others.  This is why I decided to go back to school for my masters in counseling, because I love doing this, and I do believe that in some ways that I was meant to do that.  The onion that I often leave alone is my own.  Why do I pause with my own onion and avoid letting many people get to know who I am.  I have not had it back fire on me when I do let people in.  I have a beautiful relationship with my wife, mostly because I allow her in and mainly because I know that I love her and want her to know the real me.  

So like I began, maybe I'll post a lot, maybe I'll post a little.  Though my posting will be with in intent to put the mask on myself, and maybe putting the mask on someone else who reads this.  Maybe I'll talk about politics, religion, family, daily thoughts, what excites me, what bothers me, sports, general life, and yes probably a little Psychology action cause that's just who I am.