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so let’s talk about suicide

08/02/13 4 Comments

recently, i read mary karr‘s poem “suicide’s note: an annual”, which she wrote in response to her friend david foster wallace hanging himself.  i wanted to share it with you just for literary reasons.  however, i thought it might be a good opportunity to discuss the larger issue of suicide.  i know it’s an uncomfortable topic for some, but we should devote some attention/thought to it instead of ignoring/avoiding.

let’s start by reading karr’s poem over a few times below (via poetry mag).  i’ll use some of the lines as a springboard into the broader talk:

Suicide’s Note: An Annual
Mary Karr

I hope you’ve been taken up by Jesus
though so many decades have passed, so far apart we’d grown
     between love transmogrifying into hate and those sad letters
           and phone calls and your face vanishing into a noose that
I couldn’t
     today name the gods
           you at the end worshipped, if any, praise being
impossible for the devoutly miserable. And screw my church who’d
     roast in Hell poor suffering
           bastards like you, unable to bear the masks
of their own faces. With words you sought to shape
     a world alternate to the one that dared
           inscribe itself so ruthlessly across your eyes, for you
could not, could never
     fully refute the actual or justify the sad heft of your body, earn
           your rightful space or pay for the parcels of oxygen you
inherited. More than once you asked
     that I breathe into your lungs like the soprano in the opera
           I loved so my ghost might inhabit you and you ingest my belief
in your otherwise-only-probable soul. I wonder does your
     death feel like failure to everybody who ever
           loved you as if our collective CPR stopped
too soon, the defib paddles lost charge, the corpse
     punished us by never sitting up. And forgive my conviction
           that every suicide’s an asshole. There is a good reason I am not
God, for I would cruelly smite the self-smitten.
     I just wanted to say ha-ha, despite
           your best efforts you are every second
alive in a hard-gnawing way for all who breathed you deeply in,
     each set of lungs, those rosy implanted wings, pink balloons.
          We sigh you out into air and watch you rise like rain.

“With words you sought to shape/ a world alternate to the one that dared/ inscribe itself so ruthlessly across your eyes”: wallace’s 2005 commencement speech @ kenyon college continues to inspire to this day.  here’s a fancy clip from it (directed by matthew friedell).

that wallace was able to uplift others while being bogged down by a depression that ultimately pushed him to end his life is inspiring in its own right.  also, when you think about the times when people are shocked by a suicide, it shows how people’s words or expressions could be part of a world that they’re trying to create (for themselves & others) but not always a complete depiction of the world that they personally see & feel every day.

“More than once you asked/ that I breathe into your lungs like the soprano in the opera/ I loved so my ghost might inhabit you and you ingest my belief/ in your otherwise-only-probable soul”: breathing is an important theme throughout the poem.  love (as people, words & feelings) is inhaled like air, showing its bond & the high degree of necessity to a person.  at times, depression can sap not just one’s desire to live, but the mere ability to live as well by cutting off such love.  self-esteem boosts from friends and family can serve as cpr for the soul, breathing fresh belief into the depressed.  however also like cpr, sometimes those boosts aren’t always enough to ensure survival.

“There is a good reason I am not/ God, for I would cruelly smite the self-smitten”: maybe my favorite line.  i love the idea of thinking about good reasons why you’re not god.  there’s also a raw anger here that echoes the confusion, the frustration, the loss of those left behind by the “self-smitten.” at the same time, the speaker’s acknowledgment that it’s good for her not to have the almighty power to act on those emotions (added to her hoping the deceased is with jesus & later requesting forgiveness for her “asshole conviction”) makes me read more compassion than the words might show on the surface.

sometimes when people say that they want to die, i think they really want their specific way of living to end instead of life in general.  they’re in a rut of some design that they desperately need to escape and death looks like the way to freedom.  as wallace points out in the video above, there are everyday choices available to us that we can exercise to change our trajectory and improve our outlook on life.  however, sometimes that’s not enough.  in that case, having a support system is critical.  whatever combination of god, loved ones, counselors, and medication that works best.  and yet still for some, that too isn’t enough (or worse, the necessary support system isn’t always available).

this is important to remember for those looking at the suicide from the outside.  personally, i think suicide is wrong.  you can focus on your value to the people around you (even if that value hasn’t been fully realized yet).  you can think about how you’re throwing away breaths that the terminally ill would kill for.  however way you wanna slice it, your life is precious.  your life is worth protecting.  as long as you’re alive, your life can get better.  that said, without fully knowing the depths of one’s despair and torment, it’s not right for me to judge the depressed/suicidal as weak, selfish assholes who will roast in hell.  ultimately, that’s something between the person and god.

i want to hear from you.  what are your thoughts on suicide, from the perspective of the depressed and of those close to the depressed?  how do your views mesh with those depicted in the poem?

related: an interesting read on suicide and why we should talk more about it (via harpers) | the full audio of wallace’s 2005 commencement speech | “feed your faith…”


how to use your alone time more productively (and actually enjoy it)


pic by david broderick

pic by david broderick

written by adam dachis for lifehacker:

Few people enjoy being alone, or at least feel somewhat socially rejected if they do. Nevertheless, solitude can make you more self-sufficient, add to your confidence, and help you get to know yourself a lot better. If being alone scares you, bores you, or just isn’t your favorite thing, here’s how you can fix that and make your time more productive.

You, like many people, might get stuck on the idea that being alone is like having some sort of disease—even if you’re the kind of person that prefers being alone. You might skip movies in the theater if you have to attend in solitude. Or maybe you criticize yourself for eating lunch at your desks instead of with coworkers or friends. Perhaps you spend too much of our time out with others because you just don’t know what to do when you’re by yourself. With a little work, however, you can make your alone time much more productive. With the help of Roger S. Gil, a clinician specializing in marriage and family therapy, and Eric Klinenberg, professor of sociology at NYU and author of Going Solo, we’ll look at the benefits of solitude and how you can use them to your advantage.


Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.

real talk from author cheryl strayed (via nikyatu).

related: scars for happiness | 8 ways to let go

crossing the bridge to healing

06/22/13 1 Comment

j. cole “crooked smile” f/ tlc

j. cole’s latest single is a shot of self-esteem, encouraging listeners to be happy with how god made them.  the surviving members of tlc are featured on the track (which is fitting since this song shares a similar message as their single “unpretty”).  full lyrics below.  cole’s sophomore album born sinner comes out in 2 weeks (pre-order it here):

[Hook: TLC]
I’m on my way, on my way, on my way down (x2)
You’re the one that was tryna keep me way down
But like the sun know you know I found my way back round

[Verse 1: J. Cole]
They tell me I should fix my grill cause I got money now
I ain’t gon’ sit around and front like I ain’t thought about it
A perfect smile is more appealing but it’s funny how
My shit is crooked look at how far I done got without it
I keep my twisted grill, just to show them kids it’s real
We ain’t picture perfect but we worth the picture still
I got smart, I got rich, and I got bitches still
And they all look like my eyebrows: thick as hell
Love yourself, girl, or nobody will
Oh, you a woman? I don’t know how you deal
With all the pressure to look impressive and go out in heels
I feel for you
Killing yourself to find a man that’ll kill for you
You wake up, put makeup on
Stare in the mirror but its clear that you can’t face what’s wrong
No need to fix what God already put his paint brush on
Your roommate yelling, “Why you gotta take so long?”
What it’s like to have a crooked smile
This crooked smile


[Verse 2: J. Cole]
To all the women with the flaws, know it’s hard my darling
You wonder why you’re lonely and your man’s not calling
You keep falling victim cause you’re insecure
And when I tell you that you’re beautiful you can’t be sure
Cause you see that no one wants you back and it got you asking
So all you see is what you lacking, not what you packing
Take it from a man that loves what you got
And baby you’re a star, don’t let ’em tell you you’re not
Now is it real? Eyebrows, fingernails, hair
Is it real? if it’s not, girl you don’t care
Cause what’s real is something that the eyes can’t see
That the hands can’t touch, that them broads can’t be, and that’s you
Never let ’em see you frown
And if you need a friend to pick you up, I’ll be around
And we can ride with the windows down, the music loud
I can tell you ain’t laughed in a while
But I wanna see that crooked smile


[Bridge 1: J. Cole (TLC)]
Crooked smile, we could style on ’em (back ’round)
Crooked smile, we could style on ’em (back ’round)
(You’re the one that was trying to keep me way down.
Like the sun, I know you know I found my way back round..)

[Verse 3: J. Cole]
We don’t look nothing like the people on the screen
You know them movie stars, picture perfect beauty queens
But we got dreams and we got the right to chase ‘em
Look at the nation, that’s a crooked smile braces couldn’t even straighten
Seem like half the race is either on probation, or in jail
Wonder why we inhale, cause we in hell already
I asked if my skin pale, would I then sell like Eminem or Adele?
Yo one more time for the ‘Ville
And fuck all of that beef shit, nigga let’s make a mil
Hey officer man, we don’t want nobody getting killed
Just open up that cell, let my brother out of jail
I got money for the bail now, well now
If you asking will I tell now? Hell naw
I ain’t snitching cause
Man, they get them niggas stitches now
If you was around, then you wouldn’t need a witness now
How you like this crooked smile?


[Bridge 2]

related: j. cole “i’m a fool” | beauty isn’t only skin deep

06/04/13 1 Comment

scrabble-inspired brain teaser

05/19/13 1 Comment


since my mom had me playing scrabble at a young age, i was naturally attracted to today’s mental exercise (via the great puzzle site the master theorem).  details via the puzzle’s creator:  

There are lots of games and puzzles that I’m into, but Scrabble tops the list of challenging ways for me to show off my hardcore anagramming skills. And what better thing to be known for?

I’ve spent hours plotting and scheming to get the very best words in the perfect spots so I can knock out my lexical opponents. My favorite way to earn points is to layer word upon word so that each of my moves actually creates a couple words at once. 

Again, I’m pretty good. How do you think you would fare against me? 

You might not want to invite me to a game of Words with Friends quite yet. 

This is today, 

take a close look at the scrabble board above (click on it for a closer look) as well as m’s message.  then, use your deductive skills to figure out the one-word answer to this puzzle.  if you need some help, look out for a hint on atolemdro’s facebook page.

more brain teasers: when shouldn’t you trust love?the stable marriage problem | see if you can solve this math square | who is right? the professor or the student? | the integer called bleen | genius logic | einstein’s riddle

when shouldn’t you trust love?

04/08/13 8 Comments


for today’s brain teaser, see if you can solve this cryptogram.  if you’re unfamiliar, cryptograms are messages veiled by a secret code.  to crack the code, you have to think about frequencies in a language (what letters come after an apostrophe?  what phrases look familiar based on the numbers of spaces?  see any common prefixes/suffixes?).

here, you’re looking for a quote on when love shouldn’t be trusted (click on it for a printable copy).  each number below the space represents a specific letter.  as you begin to figure out the number-letter combos, track it in the chart above and use it as a guide for solving the rest of the puzzle.  to help you get started, i’ll give you some clues on the person who said the quote (listed after the hyphen in the puzzle):

– celebrated 85th birthday last week

– name inspired from time spent as a calypso dancer/singer

– awarded the presidential medal of freedom in 2011

write the answer in the comments.  also, share your thoughts on the statement (does it ring true to you?)

more brain teasers: the stable marriage problemsee if you can solve this math square | who is right? the professor or the student? | the integer called bleen | genius logic | einstein’s riddle

tolstoy on attractive poison


The difference between real material poison and intellectual poison is that most material poison is disgusting to the taste, but intellectual poison, which takes the form of cheap newspapers or bad books, can unfortunately sometimes be attractive.

as leo tolstoy (via explore) touches on above, attractive poisons come in different forms (food/drinks, entertainment, relationships, etc.) that often hurt your mind, body & soul without even a scary skull & bones warning sticker.

are you keeping any of these poisons in your life?  if so, my boy paul has some advice to begin your detox:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.


the stable marriage problem

03/09/13 6 Comments

marriagehelp 8 people find a stable marriage by solving this brain teaser.  details via girls’ anglenumberplay:

Four single men and four single women decide they’d like to pair up into four married couples. They’d like to choose their partners in a way that ensures their marriages are stable: that is, there are no two people who would both rather be married to each other than their current partners.

In order to help make sure they enter into stable marriages, the men and women, when they first start dating, rank members of the opposite sex in order of preference. Charlotte, for example, prefers Bingley most of all, and then Darcy, Collins and finally Wickham.

The rankings of all four women can be summarized as follows.

Charlotte Elizabeth Jane Lydia
Bingley Wickham Bingley Bingley
Darcy Darcy Wickham Wickham
Collins Bingley Darcy Darcy
Wickham Collins Collins Collins

The men, of course, have preferences as well:

Bingley Collins Darcy Wickham
Jane Jane Elizabeth Lydia
Elizabeth Elizabeth Jane Jane
Lydia Lydia Charlotte Elizabeth
Charlotte Charlotte Lydia Charlotte

so based on the criteria, who should marry whom?  post the correct couples in the comments & talk a bit about how you figured it out.  also if you were single, would you ever take part in such an arrangement?

update: salute alima & jamal for getting the answer right. here’s a video breaking down the math behind the problem (also via girls’ angle).

more brain teasers: see if you can solve this math square | who is right? the professor or the student? | the integer called bleen | genius logic | einstein’s riddle

see if you can solve this math square

02/11/13 8 Comments


new brain teaser via mental floss:

Place the digits 1 through 9 in the white blanks so that the mathematical equations work both across and down. Each digit 1 through 9 should appear only once in the main grid (the red square).

there’s more than one answer here so see how many you can find.  share your results in the comments using this format:




previously: who is right? the professor or the student? | the integer called bleen | genius logic | einstein’s riddle

theory of multiple intelligences


check out my favorite line from this past season of homeland:

it seems contradictory, but in the case of carrie, it was so apropos.  on one hand, claire danes’ character is smart enough to figure out conspiracies in ways that nobody else can.  still, she’s such a mess emotionally that it causes her to make dumb decisions in her personal life.

carrie’s supposed inconsistency in smarts speaks to the idea that there are different forms of intelligence.  now, intelligence is most often defined by academic criteria.  however, our everyday understanding of it should go further than that.  howard gardner expounds on this in his book theory of multiple intelligences (via explore):

1. Linguistic Intelligence: the capacity to use language to express what’s on your mind and to understand other people. Any kind of writer, orator, speaker, lawyer, or other person for whom language is an important stock in trade has great linguistic intelligence.

2. Logical/Mathematical Intelligence: the capacity to understand the underlying principles of some kind of causal system, the way a scientist or a logician does; or to manipulate numbers, quantities, and operations, the way a mathematician does.

3. Musical Rhythmic Intelligence: the capacity to think in music; to be able to hear patterns, recognize them, and perhaps manipulate them. People who have strong musical intelligence don’t just remember music easily, they can’t get it out of their minds, it’s so omnipresent.

4. Bodily/Kinesthetic Intelligence: the capacity to use your whole body or parts of your body (your hands, your fingers, your arms) to solve a problem, make something, or put on some kind of production. The most evident examples are people in athletics or the performing arts, particularly dancing or acting.

5. Spatial Intelligence: the ability to represent the spatial world internally in your mind — the way a sailor or airplane pilot navigates the large spatial world, or the way a chess player or sculptor represents a more circumscribed spatial world. Spatial intelligence can be used in the arts or in the sciences.

6. Naturalist Intelligence: the ability to discriminate among living things (plants, animals) and sensitivity to other features of the natural world (clouds, rock configurations). This ability was clearly of value in our evolutionary past as hunters, gatherers, and farmers; it continues to be central in such roles as botanist or chef.

7. Intrapersonal Intelligence: having an understanding of yourself; knowing who you are, what you can do, what you want to do, how you react to things, which things to avoid, and which things to gravitate toward. We are drawn to people who have a good understanding of themselves. They tend to know what they can and can’t do, and to know where to go if they need help.

8. Interpersonal Intelligence: the ability to understand other people. It’s an ability we all need, but is especially important for teachers, clinicians, salespersons, or politicians — anybody who deals with other people.

9. Existential Intelligence: the ability and proclivity to pose (and ponder) questions about life, death, and ultimate realities.

thinking about this list, which forms of intelligence are your strongest?  which ones are your weakest?  also, are there any more versions of intelligence that you feel aren’t addressed in gardner’s categories?  if so, include a definition like the ones above.

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