Tag Archives: life

Love and Wonder

The following post is from the blog Not Otherwise Specified, an ongoing story of recovery from addiction. The blog is written by the daughter of a friend. The blog’s “About” page explains, “Today I have over eight years of recovery in my program of choice. By writing about my experience, I hope to reach others struggling with all types of addiction.” I admire much about her, including her ability to share her insights. This piece on “Love and Wonder” strikes so many chords with me, I simply must share it, along with the suggestion you visit her site and consider subscribing.


I loved technology when I was a kid. In middle school, I entertained myself for hours by teaching myself HTML code and photo manipulation. While the internet ultimately played an integral part in my addiction, it was also a creative outlet and a tool for inspiring positive change. I started my social media campaign, Human Too, in that same spirit of positivity and I feel incredibly blessed to have creative license in my career as a web content manager. However, the drawback of working with social media platforms is that you actually have to use them.

Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t some element of futility in trying to harness social media for benevolent purposes. The part of me that teeters on the edge of needing a tinfoil hat -but I don’t think is too far off the mark – cynically believes that technology is not only a drug contributing to the Achilles’ heel of civilization, but also a means by which the masses can be easily manipulated. That’s some serious 1984 or House of Cards shit, but it’s tough to refute. The difference between me and other cynics is that I still think it’s possible to live a contented and meaningful life in spite of the disillusionment.

When you turn on your TV set or scroll through your newsfeed, it seems as though the world has collectively gone mad. And maybe that’s not far from the truth. The world doesn’t make sense. There is an element of absurdity to the whole concept of human existence. But when you unplug and stop to consider the realm directly outside your window, the picture is likely to stand in stark juxtaposition. Maybe you hear the traffic or the crickets. Maybe you watch your neighbor get the mail or water the garden. Maybe the breeze blows. Maybe someone on the street coughs or waves or speaks indistinctly. And maybe, in that moment, everything is okay. So which version of reality is the most accurate?

If you choose to invest yourself solely in the digital narrative, it’s easy to view the world as an angry, hostile place. And sure, people are angry…but mostly we’re afraid. I can only speak for myself, but my buttons are most easily pushed in terms of my identity as a gay person, a woman, and a police wife. “How will you hurt me? What will you take from me?” These are the questions behind my own personal brand of rage. My fears are immediate and acute and frequently supersede my consideration of my global brothers and sisters. We are all self-preservationists in our anger. We are driven by and united by fear.

All of that is not to say that self-preservation is bad. The instinct to survive is what makes us human. Fear is human. It is merely an observation that we share a common ground.

In a climate saturated with the threat of nuclear war and simmering racial tension, it’s only natural to feel like our existential terror is somehow unique. But millions of people have experienced or are currently experiencing the heaviness of wartime. Millions of people have experienced plagues, famine, natural disaster, genocide, and the collapse of civilization. Millions of people have held their lover and wondered what kind of earth their children were destined to inherit. We have been fearing the end since the beginning. It’s part of the package deal when you occupy this planet.

I used to get very upset by the idea that there is no life after death. I don’t know what I believe anymore, but I think it’s highly likely you simply cease to have consciousness. I believe our energy leaves an imprint on a place. I also believe in the fabric of the Universe – a divine thread connecting all living things – but beyond that, I cannot say for certain.  The only reason the uncertainty bothers me now is because I can’t bear the idea of not seeing my wife. I guess if we don’t have consciousness, we don’t know the difference.

These are heavy thoughts. Perhaps you’re thinking: “What’s the point?” And here’s where the cynics and I diverge. The point is that you are conscious in this moment. The point is that you have the ability to love and to be filled with wonder. Our purpose, in my view, is to love and wonder.

Early in my college career, I spent about five minutes as a philosophy major. Looking back on my notes, I found a page that declared “the meaning of life is awe”. If you can maintain your sense of awe, you have unlocked the secret of living. It’s hard to say how that bit of insight came to me, but I have subscribed to the ideology ever since.

Addiction numbs our consciousness. Our drugs of choice block us from feeling love and wonder. We die prematurely.

There’s a reason Buddhists strive to be “awake”. There’s a reason yoga and meditation advocate for the present moment. The “now” is all we have. It is the only time in which we are able to love and be loved. It is the only time we have to consider the profound and miraculous beauty of our delicate existence. The precariousness of our position is what makes it breathtaking.

I don’t think anything needs to “come next” for this flawed and absurd life to be more than enough. We don’t need to do anything for life to have meaning…we need to simply be. I have often sat by the ocean and reflected sadly on the idea that the dead no longer have the capability to inhale the intoxicating air. It is a gift to experience the wonders of this wild earth. I think the real question is whether we receive it or we reject it.

The activity of appreciating the morning light is not just for poets and painters – it’s for humans. If all I do with the rest of my days is exuberantly behold the sunset and love as much as I can, I have achieved the “it” for which mankind toils. If all I do is celebrate wildflowers, a good meal, clinging rain drops, a shy smile, cool summer grass, and all the other remarkable minutiae…it is enough.

I am sober. I am awake. My being vibrates in the truth of the moment.

The cards are stacked and it’s hard to say how the deck will scatter. I don’t know if anything I do will ultimately make a difference. But I know that my being has purpose. I want my voice to be a whisper in the din: “Wake up”. Don’t die without living. Don’t live without meaning.

Coffee Talks to Continue!

Our first Coffee Talk was a great success–we covered a lot of ground and agreed to continue the talks as a “series.” Please consider joining us… parents, teachers, kids… all are invited! We’re particularly interested in exploring ways our communities can support our kids as they face many of the issues raised in 13RW.

For those who may not know, Thirteen Reasons Why is the title of a book first published in 2007 and recently adapted to a Netflix Series. The story follows a fictional teenager named Hannah and, in short, how she shares her thirteen reasons for deciding to take her own life. For various reasons, the book and series have captured national interest with many believing the story “glorifies” suicide. Many young adults are reading the book (a New York Times best-seller) and watching the NetFlix series, while many parents are concerned about the messages youth are receiving.

One thing it does do is generate conversation and this informal discussion of the book and Netflix Series will tackle questions like

  • Do books and films like this glamorize suicide?
  • Were Hannah’s reasons for taking her life valid?
  • Why are young adults captivated by the book/film?
  • What does the book/film say about adults?
  • Should I read/see it if I haven’t?
  • For those who have read/seen it, how did it impact you?
  • and any questions or concerns you might have.

This is a free event with an opportunity to get the facts and discuss your concerns and questions around the story and issues young adults face. All are welcomed!

I have created a resource page for information on this topic and we will have additional material available at the Coffee Talk!


Coffee Talk will be held at the Guilford United Methodist Church, 3 School Street (across from the fire station), Guilford from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m.  For additional information:

Pastor Reeni Cipullo
Guilford United Methodist Church
(207) 876-3372

Walter Boomsma
Certified Youth Mental Health Specialist
(207) 343-1842

For Immediate assistance, contact the Maine Crisis Hotline.

Suicide Hotline #

 

Keep Your “Warm Line” Open

The song tells us “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” but that’s not always the case. While it may seem counter-intuitive during a “season of joy,” there can be moments when we are overwhelmed and even anxious. We may find ourselves feeling we’re not “measuring up.”

I’ve noticed a recent trend on Facebook whereby people are posting the suicide hotline phone numbers and encouraging others to do the same.  That’s not a bad thing but we can each be a “warm line” and perhaps prevent a crisis.  All it takes is some sensitivity to those around us and a willingness to intervene–even in subtle ways.

If you sense that someone is feeling the holiday blues, look at this infographic, especially tip #4, from the perspective of providing some relief–think of that person’s need as a call to your warm line. Make some time for that person to “love and support” him or her. You can take him or her ice skating (tip #3). Understand, of course, that it’s not specifically about ice skating, it’s about exercise and a change of scenery.

My theme for 2017 is going to be “Little Things Mean a Lot.” Inviting that harried friend to take some time out for a cup of coffee or cocoa may seem like a small thing, but it can make a huge difference. Just yesterday I was at a gathering of colleagues for lunch. I was the last to leave and when I went to pay my check, I was informed that it had been paid. It was an act that has “stuck with me” not because of the dollars, but because of the simple kindness and sense of connection it provided.

One of the hazards of this season is that perceived demands of “getting things done” means we don’t always take the time to genuinely connect. I was at a school holiday concert last night where my self-appointed role is that of unofficial photographer. During a lull in the photos, I stood at the back of the room. Two little girls came over and one said, “Mr. Boomsma, will you come out in the hall and play with us?” I explained that I couldn’t but a big part of me wishes I had–if only for a few minutes. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure they weren’t suffering the holiday blues. They were simply bored.

Connecting is such an important part of self-care (see tip #1). Best of all, when we connect at least two people benefit. Keep your warm line open. The ring may be subtle–keep your eyes and ears open and be ready to answer. You’ll be glad you did.

BDN Series Mentions Mentoring…

back-to-school-183533_1280“Maine Focus” is currently running a series of excellent articles “Before Addition There’s a Child.” I’m both honored and humbled to report that my experience with Bus Drive Otis Phillips was included in the installment entitled “How one caring adult can change the life of a child.” (Scroll down to the epilog, “Your Stories.”) I continue to be amazed at the impact this story is having.

My ongoing hope is captured in my observation that “We mentor people in ways we don’t even mean to.” A corollary to that is mentoring doesn’t have to be hard. By definition, mentoring is a relationship in which an experienced person helps guide someone who is less experienced.  I think something as simple as  a kind or encouraging word creates a connection that can be defined as a relationship, however brief. Let’s call it a ‘mentoring moment.”

The Maine Focus series is about “preventing one of the largest public health problems of our time.” There’s a growing body of evidence that human connection goes a long way towards combating addiction.

Mine isn’t the only story in which an adult did something that at first seems small, but turns out to have major impacts, perhaps because it is about human connection. Hearing those stories is encouraging and heartwarming. But creating our own stories can be even better. Just look for those mentoring moments.

October 10 is World Mental Health Day

Facebook2-ShareableOctober 10 is World Mental Health Day, and this year, the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) has announced the theme as, “Dignity in Mental Health – Psychological & Mental Health First Aid for All.” The goal of this year’s theme is to bring mental health to the forefront of the global conversation so people feel more confident and comfortable speaking up, reaching out and getting the help they may need.

Compare the number of people trained to perform CPR with the number of people trained to provide mental health first aid. Poor mental health can be just as life threatening as poor heart health.

Read more about this year’s World Mental Health Day theme in The Huffington Post and find a Mental Health First Aid course near you by visiting  the NAMI website. If you need some help locating a course, just let me know! You can also sign up for one of my Suicide Awareness and Prevention Classes and visit my Resource Page.

My bias is that while suicide awareness and prevention are important topics, ultimately the fundamental issue is mental health–one reason I became a certified mental health first aid specialist for adults and youth. But research also shows that a “barely trained” person can deter suicide. You don’t have to be an expert. Students who’ve attended my two hour Suicide Awareness and Prevention Class report

  • 85% either agreed or strongly agreed they feel more comfortable talking about suicide.
  • 93% either agreed or strongly agreed they feel more confident in their ability to recognize suicide warning signs and risk factors.
  • 85% feel better equipped to help someone who might seem suicidal.

You can make a difference.

Suicide Hotline #