Definition of a semicolon: the punctuation mark that is used to separate major parts in a sentence. It is used chiefly in a coordinating function between major sentence elements such as independent clauses of a compound sentence.
Life can be like a written sentence: very ‘compound’ and full of ‘independent clauses’ or ‘major parts.’ That is why when we think in terms of our own lives, we can see that we have many semicolons that kept our ‘compound’ life going. I see these semicolons as the various people that helped me when I thought I had reached the end of my ‘sentence.’ They are the ones that when I look back on the toughest of times I see their faces. I see and hear the kind, thoughtful gestures and words that pulled me through to the next part of my ‘sentence.’
There is a community on Facebook called Project Semicolon (The Semicolon Project). It is dedicated to helping people in their times of need whether they are struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury or suicide. Their vision is to make a better world by inspiring others to be more than they can be. The semicolon represents choosing to continue the ‘sentence’ of one’s life. April 16 marks their one year anniversary. To honor that, I want to share one of my semicolon stories.
April 29 will mark four years since I gave up the option of suicide. I never could have fathomed what that one decision would end up meaning in my life.
I spent many, many years with suicide as a viable option to end the pain of my depression. Each time something would happen, or even nothing would happen, and my depression would worsen, I would just long to be dead and out of pain. I just wanted to be rid of the heaviness, the darkness and most of all the thought of having to live another day with all of that. I wasn’t ‘living’ anyhow, so why not make it literal. It wasn’t so much the desire to kill myself as it was just to be free of the depression.
So why didn’t I ever attempt anything. It wasn’t for lack of desire; and it wasn’t because I thought of how it might affect those I left behind. I just didn’t have a clean, reliable plan. Plain and simple. What was reliable, shooting myself or going in front of a train, wasn’t clean. What was clean, using pills and alcohol, wasn’t reliable.
April 29, 2010 brought a different way of thinking.
Here’s how that moment played out: I had just had a visit with Peg and she kept questioning if I really had been serious about suicide since I had never made any attempts. This really annoyed me because it wasn’t the first time she had made such comments. I got in my car to go to my therapy appointment and sitting there in the FBC parking lot it struck me, “I just need to do IT!” By “It,” I meant to kill myself. As quickly as I had that thought, or quicker if that is possible, I decided to write a note to my therapist that simply said, “I will kill myself one day.”
We had an unspoken agreement that I couldn’t take back anything that I physically gave her. By giving her that note, I was giving up that as an option to deal with my depression. My therapist smiled, looked at me and asked, “So why now?” All I could say was, “I want to have a stronger relationship with God and He is about ‘living.’ Suicide is about ‘dying.’ I can’t have one while still holding on to the other.”
There are many times when it is not wise to make hasty decisions. When we do things without thinking them through, they don’t always work out and we end up paying a price. Fortunately, this was one of the wisest hasty decisions ANYONE could have made.
Three days later, May 3, 2010, I attended my first service at FBC. May 4, I was offered a part-time job with Creative Channel Services. Even though I wasn’t exactly successful in that position, it was a step in the right direction. In mid- to late-May I was approved for housing assistance and got my apartment on June 16 after being homeless for a year.
On July 24, a Saturday, I submitted my application to Bed, Bath & Beyond. I stress that it was a Saturday because we balk at those who come in during what is generally our busiest day to submit applications. But, that’s exactly what I did. I spoke briefly with the manager and he asked if I could come in on Monday to interview. During the interview, Mike asked me which work reference I preferred that he call. I immediately got very nervous! I had listed the part-time job I had just had in which I only worked about half of what they originally wanted me to work. I had also listed my job in New Mexico making donuts. That job I had for a month and didn’t work a full week during that entire time. And then there was my job at Purdue! I won’t even go there!!
But, as we continued our conversation, he asked when I could start and I told him, jokingly, “Tomorrow!” He smiled and said, “Well, we do have a training starting tomorrow.” I was excited and worried with this news. You see, by that time, I was already coming to breakfast and also had therapy at 5 pm on Tuesdays. I just knew there would be a conflict of time. When I asked him what time and he said it was from 12-4 pm, I nearly jumped out of my seat with joy! It fit perfectly with my availability! So, I started my job with Bed, Bath & Beyond on July 27 and the rest is history, so they say.
As I mentioned before, semicolons, to me, represent the people or beings that kept me moving through the difficult times. In this instance, though, while it could have been any number of people I encountered throughout my time being homeless, my semicolon was someone whose name has just three letters: G.O.D. I longed to LIVE in Christ and the only option I had was to give up the option of dying…so I did!
So, what is one of your ‘semicolon stories?’