• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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May You Build a Ladder to the Stars

Thanks to everyone who left a remembrance of Shanna. It all rang true. It was wonderful to spend a few more moments with her. She was all that and more. I guess I want to talk about suicide. I was 24 when I made an attempt, one semester into graduate school, having battled depression since I was fifteen, romanced by writers who who took their own lives, Plath, Sexton, Woolf. My love of their work, Lowell too, fused with my depression. I didn’t know if I was a cliche or a chicken. I thought you had to be brave to take your life. I was so ashamed when I failed. People say, “it was just a cry for help,” when you don’t succeed at taking your life. It’s so fucked up. It’s like they’re disappointed. As if a cry for help is pathetic and weak. A cry for help is the most profound thing of all. I don’t know the final days or hours of Shanna’s life. I don’t know about the last days of George’s life. Did they go off their meds? Did one voice crowd out all others? Did not wanting to live become wanting to die? Did wanting to die become a one way street. For anyone out there reading this post, please cry for help. Please get help. I am here thanks to Lithium, Lamictal, and years of therapy. But mostly the meds. Sorry, therapists. But all the insights about my childhood didn’t put the floor beneath me or the ceiling above me.

I love you.

21 Responses

  1. I love you & I love this post.

  2. amen, lost inside, trying to find truth and your own identity is complicated, and everyone wants perfect, but no more, in books, in movies, we love character with flaws,because we all have them, amen, the more interest, the adventure, this too shall pass, as does all emotions, amen

  3. What a post to read—stunningly honest. Yes. I did that too, identified with Plath, Sexton, Woolf, glorified them in my mind as too good for this crappy world. I thought there was such romance in it. But really, what romance is there in death? You’re so absolutely right, Betsy. Crying out for help is the opposite of failure. A cry for help is the bravest thing a person can do. Meds for depression helped me too, and a devotion and commitment to therapy. And guess what? I’m proud of the years of therapy, of being smart enough to get meds when I need to. Point out someone who thinks therapy and mental healthcare signifies weakness and surely, you’re pointing out someone in need of it. I’m so sorry for your loss. And I’m grateful for your bravery, and your honesty.

  4. I love you too, and I love all the voices here, including the ones who are waiting to speak. I want to hear your words.

  5. Beautiful. Thank you. I love you too.

  6. thanks so much, betsy, for your support, and your raw honesty. you’re a good person.

    there are so many words we need to hear, you know?


  7. This says everything I think. Thank you.

  8. I’m very sorry about the loss of Shanna. I didn’t know her, but I know it’s terrible that she’s gone. I was lucky enough to know George. His sense of humor and drama over the phone brightened my days working in the Contracts Department mine fields at Houghton Mifflin. And he gave the world a beautiful book, Bettyville, before he left. Mental health is health is a human right. That’s all I can say. Rest in peace and power, George.

  9. I love you too Betsy and I love this community you created. Thank you. xo

  10. I love you, too, Betsy. And all of the rest of you.

  11. “I love you.”

    What magical words they are. Much love to and for all of you here.

  12. A friend recently told me about that moment between hanging on and letting go. She described it as an instance where something random and, on the surface, meaningless changed her direction that day. I think about that a lot. Thank you for being here and for your words.

    • This, yes. So many times I’ve found myself eyeing the escape hatch when some small event will intercede to remind me that I can still be of service to the people I love, and that life itself, in all its dazzling variety and complexity and the infinite questions it provokes, is enough.

      I love you, Betsy.

    • This is so true. You never know what small act, what casual encounter or word – even a shared laugh with a stranger at the grocery store, you never know how it might break that demon spell. Life is fragile; we’re all fragile.

      Thank you for this, Betsy. So sorry you lost your dear friends.

      Love, yes.

  13. If love is an ocean, I’ll be your fresh water island. I’ll be your oasis in the desert, your calm before, during and after the storm.

    Thank you for this post. Not only are your words powerful, but they come from experience. We’re listening.

    I’ve been playing a song by John Prine, “Summer’s End”, the last few months. It’s as beautiful as it is sad, one of his last songs before dying from Covid last year.

  14. I saved a classmate from a suicide attempt when we were both just 15 years old. In the decades since, and especially after H. Katrina, the number of friends and fond acquaintances who have chosen suicide as their last act has haunted me and affected my view of Life, relationships, and the world. Betsy: I am so grateful for the people (and meds) who helped you, and for your honesty in sharing your story. Know that you are always loved.

  15. I love you Betsy. Love is such a precious word. I love you all. We are all gentle souls you know. We are all each other.

  16. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon your blog, Betsy. I do know that I stayed in the shadows awhile and then finally got up the nerve to write a comment. This post is powerful and real and heartbreaking. It almost had me run back to the shadows, but here I am. It’s weird to love people you’ve never met, but it happens here. It eels like a prayer circle, a magician’s lair, an answer, a forest through the trees. I love all of you – the regulars, the passing throughs, the ones watching from the shadows. I love you, Betsy, like the Scarecrow, most of all. I read these words from a John Irving novel 30 years ago and they became the closest thing to a mantra I know: Keep passing the open windows.

  17. I love every word you ever write and these ones I love most because you are such a gift and I’m so glad you’re still here. My stepfather isn’t as he just couldn’t be anymore. I wish his cry for help was so much louder. I am a much better listener now. I always hear my son’s.

  18. I have known too many people who have contemplated or attempted suicide. Trying to reassure them with the hopeful thought that “things will get better” seems so unhelpful and non-empathetic. But the reality, for most of them, was that their state of mind and their life did eventually improve if they somehow managed to find the strength and the necessary resources to push through. Easier said than done, for sure. Yet still…

    Wow—All the lives you have touched and enhanced through the years, Betsy. I can’t imagine a world without you. So happy you asked for help and got it. We all love you. And you have even given many of us the opportunity to know and love each other. That is one fucking mighty legacy.

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