Random Thoughts About Writing, Sadness and Community

I’ve been wondering why it is that I write, and specifically, why it is that I write this blog?

It’s not just that I write to organize the sheer volume and variety of thoughts that are constantly flying through my brain. It’s not just that I hunger for the feedback that tells me I’ve been seen, heard, understood and appreciated (although all of that is great). It’s for the feeling of being connected to other people. It’s for knowing that the things I think about and feel are shared by others, and that we are somehow part of something larger for sharing these things. It’s also the reason I love my work and anything that has to do with connecting people to one another in ways that bring joy or new possibilities.

I spend a fair amount of time on twitter. For business and pleasure. I find it a great communication and community building tool. Sometimes surfing the twitter stream brings me to unexpected places.

A few minutes ago, I happened upon the news that a well-known, respected and liked person in the marketing and social media world, Trey Pennington, took his life earlier this morning. As of this moment, his website is still up, as is his twitter stream. Hauntingly, his last tweet reads: Sure am thankful for online friends who are real friends offline, too. Love you. Trey Pennington. It was posted earlier this morning.

I did not know Trey personally, but we trafficked in similar online circles. As the news is spreading and the number of tweets by shocked and saddened friends & colleagues rapidly grows, I am expecting to see messages from individuals with whom I am directly connected. It is inevitable. This world is too small.

I suppose I am now a part of this wave of communication that is spreading like wildfire through cyberspace. I am sure many blogs will be written about him, and his life, and how someone who was perceived as so on top of things was actually suffering in silence. As for me, I am feeling oddly compelled to write this as a way to reinvigorate my online connection to my loved ones. Consider this a protest in response to the unfair demise of one whom many will mourn – like wearing bright pink at a funeral, or expressing grief by dancing and singing…

I do not generally suffer in silence. If I’m feeling sad, or overwhelmed, my friends and family will hear about it. I’m grateful that I’ve learned and been encouraged to reach out when I have the need to connect. And as I continue to express my thoughts and feelings via this blog, I’m reminded by this tragic incident that not only is it OK for me to explore matters of grief and sadness through these posts, it’s probably a good thing.

I KNOW I’m not the only one that experiences these things. Perhaps I’ve seen more than the average person’s share of illness and death in my family and close circle, but isn’t that what qualifies me to speak on them? It’s also what qualifies me to sometimes treat them with less than full reverence. It’s my humor and sarcasm that keeps me from becoming overly maudlin.

But right now, I don’t feel quite ready to muster up the humor. I am truly sad about this man I never met. I’m sad that despite the fact that he maintained an upbeat and positive online persona, he was miserable enough to take his own life. That totally sucks. And no amount of sarcasm can make that part go away.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Trey Pennington. May you all find solace and comfort in one another as you try to make sense of his untimely passing…

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5 Comments to “Random Thoughts About Writing, Sadness and Community”

  1. We often think of people who are depressed as ‘suffering in silence.’ While that is sometimes true, the issue is much more complex than that. Talking about how bad you feel often doesn’t help, in fact, if you are clinically depressed, it can make things worse. People don’t know how to respond. They become exhausted with trying to keep their own spirits up while buoying yours. That does not make them bad, insensitive, uncaring people. It makes them people who feel as helpless concerning a friend’s depression as the friend does. A friend’s quite natural reaction may be to distance themselves; to wait out the storm. Again, this is only natural.

    If your depressed friend does not improve as a result of your support, and in fact appears to become worse, backing away may seem like the most loving, supportive thing you can do. And, for the one who is depressed, ‘putting a good face on things’ isn’t just pretense. It is also an attempt to be kind and loving to themselves and others.

    Once clinical depression sets in, the symptoms are no longer about what occurred that seems to have brought on the depression. Getting better means taking care of yourself in a much more basic way. Eating right, balancing work and personal life, staying active, and seeing your doctor if the symptoms persist are at least as important as venting, or trying to figure out the problem. If there is an obvious external trigger (family troubles for example) resolving what you can is important. But, for those prone to clinical depression (a physiological disease) there often isn’t any obvious cause.

    My heart gos out to the Pennington family. I hope they find the solace they need.

  2. Evelyn, I agree. Sometimes the causes for depression, as well as knowing what to do about it can be quite complicated. This situation feels particularly difficult to understand, since Trey succeeded in putting on such a positive face for the public. My heart is with his family, as well…

  3. I came across this beautiful and heartfelt tribute to Trey this morning:
    http://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com/2011/09/04/heartbroken/

    This thing has touched me so deeply. More so than I expected. I can’t stop thinking about this person I never met, and my heart is just aching for his family and friends right now.

    I’m not trying to be maudlin, but I do feel that when something like this happens, it presents an opportunity for many of us to look at our lives in a different way. We all spend a lot of time trying to present a certain face to the world. Perhaps we need to dig a little deeper with ourselves and our loved ones, and get down to what’s really important.

    It’s way too early to try and find a silver lining in Trey’s death. Perhaps when the shock has worn down a bit, we’ll be able to talk of positive outcomes that may result in that weird way that seeds of hope can be planted out of tragedy. For now, I will continue to honor the feelings of those who are mourning, and offer up a prayer for peace for Trey’s no longer troubled soul.

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