A New York Times Article on Military Suicides, and Another Gratitude List

November 26, 2009 at 7:13 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The New York Times published an article today on military suicides that’s surprisingly similar to that published yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, right down to the closing quote from the soldier’s father. It makes you wonder: has the Times stooped to merely echoing the Journal, or (and I think this is quite likely) did they both get the same talking points memo from a lobbying organization and write similar stories because they had access to the same sources? It makes you wonder. I think it’s an important story and I’m glad that both papers chose to cover it, but the fact that two major papers published such similar stories within a day of each other says something pathetic about the state of journalism in this country. When I was a kid, damn it, my high school newspaper would have been ashamed to publish a mere follow-on story like that in the Times.

Okay, enough grumbling. The fact that both papers have demonstrated some commitment to fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness ought to please me. And does please me — I’m not ungrateful.

Early this Thanksgiving morning is an excellent time to write another list of things for which I am not ungrateful (for some reason I’ve been inclined to double negatives this week). I find that this exercise really does help me to tune in to the blessings in my life, and to turn down the volume on the 24-hour Eyore and Grouch channels in my brain. So, here goes:

1. I am ever so grateful for my delightful family. I wish my sister and her family were here in Cloudcroft this morning.
2. I am thankful to be at my folks’ home here in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico. True, the weather at home is exquisite and it’s mighty cold here at 9,000 feet, but there is at least a small chance of snow, and a large chance of deer or even elk.
3. I am grateful that so many neat opportunities are opening up for me at work.
4. I am grateful that the cat-sitting lady from Reigning Cats and Dogs was able to look after the lovely Julia and the sweet, timid Sky at the last minute so that I could come up here.
5. I really enjoyed holding Thanksgiving this past Sunday (or, rather, having my folks hold it) and getting to see aunts, uncles and a cousin whom I hadn’t spoken to in years in some cases.
6. I am both grateful for and alarmed by the Apple App Store. A side note: I am definitely one of those people who can’t just enjoy technological improvements — I’m always anxiously wondering if they’re sustainable, and if they will have some terrible long-term consequence, like turning my brain to mush or making me chemically dependent on a device the size of a deck of cards. My relationship with my iPhone really is unnaturally close. I mean, I’m surprised I haven’t named it.
7. That sounded ungrateful. I am grateful that my Aunt Sharon has launched a huge geneological study of my mom’s side of the family. I will be the first person to list “bipolar disorder” as a medical condition; may others follow suit if they are, indeed, bipolar. My latest theory is that my paternal grandfather was bipolar. My grandmother divorced him when my dad was four or so, and he seems to have led the life of an unreliable and itinerant man. So different from my upstanding (if moody) dad and deeply ethical grandmother. But that’s mere speculation — there may well be mood disorders on both sides of the family tree.
8. I am grateful that they still make office supplies like staples and paper clips, and that we do not yet live in a paperless world. I like paper, and I will miss it when it goes. In fact, I revel in all office supplies. Another divergent note: apparently my great-aunt Marion and great-uncle Bob did, too, since we discovered three lifetime supplies of staples and Scotch tape among their effects. My uncle Bob was an interesting dude — some day I will write a blog post just about him. Lately I’ve been taken with the idea of writing his biography. It would be a challenge, since he seems to have been agoraphobic, but I have long been fascinated with that deeply odd soul. A few tidbits: He gave me the Burton translation of the Thousand Nights and One Night when I was 11 or 12. Very instructive for a kid who was trying to make intellectual and emotional sense of sex. He commmitted suicide not long after that, I believe when I was 13 and going through my own first, mild depression. His scores on standardized intelligence and college entrance exams were supposedly phenomenal. Later in life he rarely spoke to my grandmother, and never to their sister Pat, whom they both cut off entirely for reasons that remain mysterious to me. He puzzles me. I liked him, and fear becoming like him.
9. Onward and downward. I am grateful that I read the collected works of Harlan Ellison around the time when I was learning to become a writer. Let me just run and check Wikipedia to see if Ellison died while my back was turned. Nope! Still kicking, and apparently as cantankerous as ever. Yippee! His writing would probably appall me now.
10. I am grateful for bifocal glasses.
11. I was just thinking yesterday how glad I am that modern fax/scanner/copy machines are so shockingly reliable. At work they spit out reams of paper a day, day in and day out, only making the occasional, modest request for a toner cartridge. Why, back in my day…
12. It’s nice being just old enough to justify my frequently patronizing and always curmudgeonly tone.
13. Shooting for 20 here … I still retain all sorts of gratitude to my beautiful and perfect cats. I should take a shot of Sky and publish it in this space, since his sister has already had that honor. Perhaps if I can catch him doing his special anti-anxiety mudra.
14. I am grateful that my employer uses a manufacturing calendar, and that we therefore shut down entirely between Christmas and New Year.
15. I had a lovely childhood, and I am very grateful for that. I was a very odd, moody, and sometimes violent child, but I was largely happy.
16. I am grateful that I seem to have come to terms with the fact that I am not Martin Heidegger. Let me explain. An old professor (and, alas, later boyfriend) of mine used to talk about how, when he was 27 and finishing up graduate school, he realized that he was not as brilliant as the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. His dissertation was on Heidegger, and the work seems to have driven that point home with particular ferocity. When I was younger, I was convinced that I would do great things — publish immortal poetry, revolutionize political and philosophical discourse surrounding rape … all sorts of ill-defined, unnamed Great Things. At a certain point, I realized that this was not to be. When I entered grad school I thought there was some chance that I could be Heidegger (or, rather, Kierkegaard) if I got cracking and made up for the deficits in my education. By the time I finished up in 2000, I knew that this wasn’t so. I am not the heroine of a novel, or even a likely entry in Who’s Who in America. I was a good professor, but by no means one who changed lives. I never suffered over this, though, and for that I am grateful.
17. I am grateful that my dear friend Al seems to be doing better. I love him very, very much.
18. I am grateful that a Sephora store opened up in my hometown, and that I can afford to shop there.
19. I am grateful that health care reform has moved to the Senate floor for debate.
20. I am grateful for the very idea of built-in bookshelves.

God, my head aches. That’s reason enough to stop here. I will make every effort to search out some good links later today, and perhaps come up with topics for more creative posts. A brief biography of Uncle Bob might be a good place to start.

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