I was making lunch when my sister told me that Amy Bleuel, the founder of the Semicolon Project, has committed suicide.
I just wanted to take a moment in this space to say how grateful I am. I am grateful to Amy for all the hope she’s given me along the way. I am grateful to my friends and my family who kept me believing that there is something in me that is worth saving. I am grateful to those who came before me, whose hurt and whose testimonies have made me realize that my life has barely begun. I am thankful for the people who are honest about their struggles and the feeling of validity that they have given me in mine. I am most thankful to the people who have been a reminder to me that my future is unwritten, full of potential, and comes in bite-sized days and moments; people who have given me hope.
The idea behind the Semicolon Project, as most know, is the idea that an author uses a semicolon to indicate that they are not ending the sentence – but continuing on. It’s a moment where you could put an end to something; instead you go on, and see what will come next; you choose to continue instead of putting a period. “You’re choosing to keep going,” she told The Mighty (2015).
Time and again I have run into this thought, this choice: Now Hurts. It hurts like torture, and it feels like too much to bear. There’s no need to cry out for help, because there is no help, and no one is coming for you. Better to end it, and stop the hurt if even for a moment.
The Semicolon Project; the testimonies of those who faced this moment and chose to go on; the belief that tomorrow holds at least one beautiful thing that is worth some or all of the momentary pain… This is Hope. This is a reason to go on.
There is no such thing hopeless; there is being blind to hope. I am blinded at times by the chemical imbalances in my brain, by the emotional pain within my family, by seeing my father drink, or my mother and my sister fight. These aren’t an answer to hope; they cannot call hope out; they cannot force hope to play its hand and so we can all see that hope is a fraud. There is no antidote to hope – no cure for it. there never has been. Because time and again, hope will outlast the blindness; if you wait with it, it will wait with you. Together you, and I, and hope will outlast the things that hurts us. We will outlast the idea that there is no one to cry for us; we will outlast the idea that we’re unworthy of help. You… and I… and Hope… we have a long journey ahead of us. We will not give up now.
Even when I crash to my knees
(I had forgotten that I had written this. I don’t know if I posted it before. I have now. I have very few followers. I’m sure that you will love me anyway.)
There will always be a part of you in the ground with the people you have lost. But the great thing is that with them your broken pieces of your heart can slowly put out roots. They feel the earth a different way than any other part of you. You feel the sky on your face, but in your heart – though all you see is dirt – you can feel water, warmth, and (finally) just life.
The parts you buried, that you left with those you loved, will settle into something good. The broken pieces in the earth will dig their roots down deep, and they will ground you. They will keep you rooted, and firm when the wind tears you apart. The pieces that had hurt you more than life, the ones that you had given away, in pieces of trust, and late night kisses, in baby-sitting, and calming conversation; the pieces of your heart you handed off to relatives and friends, and people you had met just once… They’re not gone. They are buried. Grounding you and taking in the earth.
One day those pieces of you that you thought you’d lost forever – those parts of you will start to grow. They seem at first to have left behind a little green scar – no more than a pinprick on the soil… but soon you see them climbing, reaching, growing – and as they grow, they gain their strength. They get taller, and they find the sunlight. The pieces of your heart reach skyward, and they spread their arms like no other part of you has had the courage to do. They grow thicker and stronger, and they smell like home.
Sometimes they look like you… sometimes you keep thinking – oh that reminds me of my friend. But always, ALWAYS… they are something better. More familiar, and more green they stretch out leaves and leaves and leaves, until the world that once seemed harsh is green and glowing – dappled by the sunlight. In each breeze it blows more, and breaks less than all the other trees.
And in that living, growing tree you see a piece of something half forgotten. It might be a smile – just a dimple, even – a phrase, or half a sentence, the words so familiar yet you had forgotten who had said it… In my tree I see pumpkins. I know a boy who saw a bear hug, and one girl who saw herself – so much younger, and oh, so loved. One man saw dog tags in his tree. I think my mother saw pianos, and some cinnamon cookies. Sometimes there is just one tree – sometimes there is an orchard: stone angels shaded by these giant, shining trees.
But in their diversity, all are the same in one thing – truly only one.
They are All So Alive.
One day we will see.
One day we will all see the kind of loyalty we could have shown to each other on this day. One day we will see the sympathy that we could have given to those who held our lives in their hands – those who could leave our children orphans, and our lovers widowed. We will see the graciousness and the kindness that we could have shown them. One day we will see how much of the pain we caused – and how much of that pain was caused by fear.
Because every man could leave my lover widowed, any man could leave my children orphaned. Any human any day could send my parents childless to their death. For all men can do the horrors that we fear. Any one person could bring down the death and pain and torture that we don’t allow to creep into our waking minds, and stumble on and choke on in our dreams. But they will do those things most who feel they have been endangered, or who feel that they are justified.
But who but God can justly sentence hell? And what but hell has any man to fear? We kill who are afraid of being killed. We kill who feel that killing is deserved. We hurt who are afraid of being hurt. We hurt who think that hurting is our right. We torment who feel we first have been tormented.
But all have fallen short, and every man is tormented alone.
Somehow, each one will face a pain that tries to take his life. If it is justice then to visit pain upon another, what will happen then? If all are justified in causing pain then who will not be flayed? When hands of fear take hold in hurting hearts what will those creatures then submit another person to? We are a broken and a fallen people. If we destroy when we fear our destruction, if we avenge another man’s vengeance, who will stand when sunset comes? and with it, who will rise?
No one. No one will live that day. Because when we are frightened – we become something to fear. When we avenge our actions will require avenging.
Someday… someone… somewhere… it has to end.
Some day we will all see. One day we will all see the kind of loyalty we could have shown to one another on this day. The sympathy we could have given to those widowed, orphaned, tortured fools – who held our lives in their hands. We will see the graciousness and kindness that we could have shown to them.