I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS. If I could I’d over decorate my house and my office, and I love it when I see those reindeer horns on cars (I’m looking at you, Karol Towns). It is an exciting time of year, especially for a parent, but it is also stressful. It’s true that I overspend, overcommit and definitely over-serve at the table. Celebrating feels like an appropriate way to end a year and start off fresh for the next one. However, the season can also be monumentally hard and make some people feel overwhelmed and disconnected.
The first time I was touched by suicide was in high school. It was my friend Erin’s dad. She was my neighbor and the “it” girl at school; our proximity allowed me to flow in on her coattails every morning via carpool. It was December, and I still remember the panic in the pit of my stomach at the sight of patrol cars in her driveway as I arrived at the back alley that lead to her house. I went in and the mood was somber. This was before the time when a cellphone call could have alerted me to the terror the family had suffered through the night. Her dad was as they say “a pillar of the community,” a man of God. However, in the darkness of that December night he went to Pirates Cove, where he became another holiday suicide statistic.
Reading Melanie Haiken’s article on suicide brought back those memories and the desperation the community felt in the wake of his death. Last summer, when suicide was flashing across the headlines, we thought it might be a good topic to write about. But once we dug a little deeper and realized that Marin County leads the Bay Area in this unfortunate statistic, we all agreed that, despite the potentially depressing tone it might set, it’s an important message to get out to our community during the holidays.
While life is great and we do live in the most beautiful county on the planet (don’t bother Googling this, you can just agree), life is not always easy. It’s not just here and it’s not just now — throughout time philosophers have reflected on the struggles faced by all of humanity: “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche. The Buddha’s teachings are full of hints that life is a lesson of persistence: “Anxiety, the illness of our time, comes primarily from our inability to dwell in the present moment.” Even Oprah credits her success to her many failures and continues to dig deep and search for paths to happiness and contentment. If Oprah’s still looking, the rest of us should feel no shame in the investigating therapy and self-help game. It might just be part of being human.
The good news is that we all feel these ups and downs and we have the power to help each other.
Just take a look at all the groups that participated in our annual giving feature. Each of these charities most likely started with someone having a bad day, feeling like there had to be a better way to live and treat our fellow humans or animals. For me, this rang true when I recently attended a Lifehouse event in San Rafael. The group started here in Marin in 1950 as a resource for people with developmental disabilities, and it has been so successful it is revered and duplicated across the country, helping thousands of people live independent lives. The event was magical; Marin County’s superintendent of schools, Mary Jane Burke, applauded many success stories within the organization; and it felt good to be part of this great community called Marin.
On behalf of our entire staff here at Marin Magazine, we want to thank you for reading (and writing letters). We also wish you a happy and healthy holiday season. Cheers to 2018 and bring on 2019.
his article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition under the headline: “Holiday Hopes“.