Have you ever been singing along to your favorite song, thinking you know every word, only to have someone tell you you’re mistaken? The other day while driving I was belting out the lyrics to one of my favorite songs by Prince and the Revolution. “Me and the red Corvette….” I crooned. My fellow passenger started to laugh and kindly informed me that the lyrics are “Little red Corvette, not me and the red corvette.” Oops.
It turns out there is a word for misheard lyrics. They are called mondegreens. Who knew? In the spirit of music and sharing, I’d like to share some of my favorite mondegreens.
September 10th marks the tenth anniversary of World Suicide Prevention Day, celebrating 10 years of research and advancement in the prevention of suicide. On this day I encourage you to do two things. First, take a moment to recognize where you might need some extra care in your own life. We cannot be of any help to others if we are not taking care of ourselves. Be kinder to yourself today and allow yourself to feel feelings that you might otherwise try to repress or ignore. Take some time to bring cheer, self-love, and optimism into your own space. Second, take the extra step to reach out to both friends and strangers in your community who might be struggling. Even the smallest smile or helping hand might be the gesture it takes to turn around the thoughts of someone fraught in life and contemplating suicide.
In today’s post I would like to once again share an article I wrote in 2003 for Arizona State University’s State Press newspaper. Although many years have passed since it was printed, the message remains as important today as it was then. The article is written for college students, but the meaning is valid for each and every one of us. Talking about suicide can save lives. It is time to stop judging and start spreading the word that it is okay to feel helpless in this crazy world. There is help out there for you; all you need to do is ask.
by Riki Cleveland, guest columnist
published on Friday, March 14, 2003
My brother shot himself. That’s right, suicide. When you see me, and the topic comes up, please don’t lower your eyes and mumble your sympathies. Please don’t tell me you know how I feel because your dog Buddy was hit by a car. Tell me it sucks. Tell me you’ve felt like that before.
Tell me about the day your parents got divorced, you failed an exam, you caught your fiancée with another lover, the car wouldn’t start, and you just felt so alone that you wanted to disappear. Then I can look at you and say, “I’ve felt like that too.”
Believe it or not, more people than you think are feeling the stress of college life on our campus. In fact, according to the American Association of Suicidology, suicide rates are significantly higher for 19-24 year-old college students than for non-students of the same age group.
The rate increase is credited to the fact that most students experience their first bout with depression in their college years. Go figure. The expectations of your parents, professors and peers are very high. We allow ourselves to get caught up in what other people in our lives think of us.
We are so busy perfecting our blasé act, where we pretend to be unaware of what everyone thinks of us. We look as if we don’t care. For some of us, it’s a full time job. The impression is that we just can’t be passionate about something. We just can’t feel that much. It’s just not cool to be different from the norm.
Take my brother, for instance. He was an 18-year-old boy in his senior year of high school. He had a style he liked – country western. Dumb, huh? What a dork. What kind of guy walks around in Wranglers and a cowboy hat? Students can be heartless, and college doesn’t change that. Did my brother’s sense of style aid in his alienation that led him to kill himself? Maybe not; but it surely could not have helped.
In order to prevent future suicides we have to normalize mental illness and the actual act itself. It is not weak, shameful, sinful, or selfish. This type of stigma keeps students from getting the help they need. We have to allow the feelings to be normal.
It has to be OK for us to talk about them. It has to be the norm. My brother was in the U.S. Army, and it’s just not acceptable to be emotional in the military. Maybe that’s why not a single soul was aware that he was hurting. Maybe that’s why a cop and a detective had to break the news that a young boy took his own life to a family who thought he was happy. Maybe that’s why I now get a pain in my chest that just won’t go away when a person takes his or her life while feeling absolutely alone.
All of us have causes we fight for. Mine is suicide prevention. You know it’s the leading killer of men 18-25. You also know we lost a classmate, Jeffrey Gleason, who is suspected to have committed suicide on Monday.
You know what? Nobody’s talking about it. But we have to. Since 1950, the rate of college suicides has doubled for women and tripled for men.
Some of the rise can be attributed to the accessibility of drugs and alcohol for students. It is easier to self-medicate when we’ve had a bad day. Alcohol also lowers inhibitions. We’ve all seen the effects at a party or over Spring Break. Adding depression to lowered inhibitions increases risk-taking tendencies toward self-destruction.
We have an incredible amount of support around us every day. We don’t have to be alone. Where is your support? Teachers? Dorm mates? Sororities? Fraternities? Sports teams? We have to use them. We have to look out for each other.
Nobody is too busy, too macho, or too strong. Please talk about it, and remember your resources. Hotlines (1-800-SUICIDE), peers and family are all great places to start. If you know a friend or loved one who is feeling suicidal, please remember the following tips: be yourself, listen, listen, listen, try not to judge, and get help as soon as possible.
My little brother died a very lonely death. I was denied the opportunity to say goodbye or tell him that I love him. Now my life has taken a different course. I ask ASU students to please keep an eye on one another and remember that there is a better way to solve problems. Call a friend, call me, call anyone.
In the words of Dr. Chris Carr, “Suicide is a permanent answer to a temporary problem.”
Tonight at 8:00 p.m. I will light a candle to honor the loss of my younger brother, Kevin to suicide. I will always wonder if talking would have saved his life. Don’t leave yourself wondering the same thing about someone you care about. Show your support of suicide prevention by lighting your own candle tonight, and join the Facebook group set up to spread the word. Reach out and make the difference.
For those of you new to Refreshingly Riki, I have decided to participate in the 30 Day Letter Challenge in which I will write 30 letters to various folks who have touched my life directly as well as inadvertently. The letter for Day Fifteen is to be written to the person that I miss the most. I’ve chosen to write this letter to my younger, more carefree self.
Dear Younger Riki,
It’s been a long time since we’ve sat down and daydreamed together and I miss you so much. I miss how we used to spend hours dreaming up our future and what might be. We had no cares about what other people think of us and no boundaries to our visions. Anything was possible and we wanted it all.
There were long summer days writing words that nobody would ever see. That writing was among the most free and uninhibited we ever produced. If we wanted the cat to have purple fur and twelve toes, then by God it would be that way. Critics be damned; it was our story! Now things are more constrained. I feel the pressures to conform to what is “supposed” to be. My writing falls into the very boring category of safe, even when it is likely nobody will ever see it.
In life I am also more restrained. I have seen things fall apart for lesser reasons and although I have a plan for my future, it is less expansive and fun than it used to be. I wish you were here to remind me that anything is still possible. Your bubbly and enthusiastic excitement for the future would be a welcome distraction to the tedious task of planning what is yet to come for me.
Just talking to you in this brief letter has reminded me of how good you were for me. I am looking forward to tapping into your youthful fervor and finding ways to infuse your joy into my daily life. Don’t be a stranger. Come and visit and maybe stay awhile.
Welcome to the First Friday Freewrite! Today’s prompt is the photo above. I’d love to hear your responses for today’s freewrite! Feel free to leave a comment or a message through Contact Miss Riki with your own creative writing! Here is my take:
Wendy took her time blowing up the brightly colored balloons with helium from the large tank in the back of the shop. Birthday parties at Peter Piper Pizza always brought the unwelcome task of using the helium tank. If she went quickly, a balloon was bound to either slip off the rubber nozzle to swirl around the room with a high-pitched scream, or simply fill too fast and pop with a loud jolt of sound. Since Wendy didn’t care for either one she took her time.
Wendy actually loved balloons once they were bundled together in a rainbow of joyful color. She liked the way the pretty colored ribbons that tied them together curled and the way the balloons bounced off of each other. She also loved the way that a child’s face lit up when she reached up to free a single balloon from its friends.
As Wendy repeated the process of grabbing a deflated balloon from the enormous bag and placing its open end onto the rubber nozzle to be filled she let her mind wander. She imagined a young girl in a dress with lace edges looking up at her with her big bundle of balloons. The little girl would ask her politely for a balloon. Instead of finding only one to give the little girl, she would surprise her and lean down to give her the entire bunch.
The little girl would squeal with delight and grasp the ribbons tightly. As the little girl walked out the door she would begin to float slowly towards the sky. Wendy would watch in wonder as the girl looked back down at her and smiled. The little girl wasn’t afraid. She would go on to prance from rooftop to rooftop, looking at all of the people so small below her.
Wendy was brought back to reality as a big red balloon popped in her hand.
It’s Thankful Thursday! Here a just a few things I am grateful for this week…
These are the most incredible invention ever! They are made of this crazy gel-like material instead of a wet felt tip and they highlight even the thinnest pages without any smudging or bleeding through. As usual, the people at Sharpie are amazing.
Thanks to Labor Day, last weekend was a three-day weekend, and I was able to get everything on my to-do list completed. That never happens in a regular weekend. This week has been so much calmer and more focused thanks to that productivity. The extra day off also gave me time to have a family movie night, which made the weekend complete. I am always grateful for a three-day weekend!
One of my favorite drinks is plain seltzer water with fresh lemon juice. Sometimes I even make a sweet sparkling lemonade by adding a little non-calorie sweetener. There’s joy in the bubbles and it’s calorie-free. Delish.
I’m a huge sports fan, and although I love professional sports, the return of the college football season always gives me a fresh look at competition. College players are playing not for money, but for the school and personal pride that comes with winning at that level. It’s refreshing to see athletes enjoying the game for what it was meant to be played for, and I welcome the rivalries that come with supporting your school.
Today is a holiday I think we can all relate to; September 5th National Be Late for Something Day. I’m yet to find a person who hasn’t been late for something at some time in their lives, and most people can relate to being late for something extremely important to them.
I recently had the opportunity to play with the Alla Breve Flute Choir at the National Flute Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was something we rehearsed for eagerly and I was looking forward to it immensely. When exciting day came I was up early getting ready and full of excitement. Since the convention hotel was booked when I registered, I was staying across the street at another hotel and had a bit of a walk through the muggy Las Vegas heat to get to our performance site. What I thought would take me twenty minutes got me lost and later than expected, and to compound the problem, our group was not in the spot we were to perform in.
I tried to calm myself down as I made my way up two flights of stairs to the convention information booth. They explained that the performance had been moved due to an issue with the fire marshal and sent me back down to find my group. I trotted back down the stairs to the new location with my arms full of instruments and music stand and came up empty again. By this time it was five minutes past our performance time and my emotions kicked in. Crying, I ran up the stairs yet again to get help. The lady at the information booth took pity on me and offered to guide me to my performance location and I dutifully followed her as she led me right back down to the very empty spot I had just been.
Together we wandered the halls of the hotel searching for my group and found them tucked away at the very end of a dead-end hallway that apparently did not vex the fire marshal. As I came running up the conductor of my group was addressing the audience and saw me frantically pulling out my instrument. She made some small talk and I was able to get seated, but the entire first song was spent sweating and trying to stop crying. Eventually I calmed down and we played a beautiful performance, but it was an extremely stressful experience for me.
After the performance, members of our group cheered me up with tales of their own tardiness for performances. I should count myself lucky that I even had my instrument in hand after hearing of the woman who made it all the way to her gig to find that she had an empty case since the flute was sitting on her stand in her home practice area. It turns out that tardiness happens to the best of us.
Have you ever been late for something truly important to you? Leave a comment and let me know that I’m not alone!