Tuesday, August 12, 2014

#RobinWilliams and how we talk about the bear...

#RobinWilliams is trending tonight. It will probably be the last time.

It isn’t necessary to recount his genius. Surely any resident of a country with televisions or movie theaters has, in the last 35 years, laughed at Mork or Mrs. Doubtfire, or been moved in other ways by Patch Adams, Sean Maguire, John Keating or Adrian Cronauer.

“Shocked” is a word being used often on social media. Really? I’m shocked that people are shocked. Mr. Williams always seemed very manic and his bouts with depression had been reported in the past.

And I am shocked that in 2014, with all the resources available, people know so little about mental illness or depression or suicide. Shocked that people still say things like, “That is so selfish,” or “Why didn’t he think of his family?”

I respectfully submit that if you asked either of these questions tonight about Robin Williams, you don’t understand depression or mental illness.

This is not an attempt to analyze Mr. Williams or to be morose, but a plea for more understanding of a large and common problem.

Some of the most wonderful, caring, talented people I know suffer bouts of depression. It is frustrating for them. It is challenging for their loved ones.  

It isn’t a Hollywood thing or a selfish thing or a weakness thing. It’s a human thing that takes 40,000 lives in the US every year.

My eighth grade Geography teacher had the same response every time a student complained about a test question or the pop quiz we were about to take...
“Some days you get the bear, some days the bear gets you”

Each of us has a bear. Your bear might not be named Depression, but you have one.

Ask yourself this – do you feel awkward when a coworker says h/she is going to Weight Watchers or having gastric bypass? How about if a friend discusses AA meetings? Or discloses a gambling problem? No, we support these folks – and rightfully so. Television is filled with them. Hoorah for their victory.

Now think about the last time someone in your office talked about going to a therapist or psychiatrist?  The last time a friend opened dinner conversation by announcing a diagnosis of mental illness in the family? Awkward, right?

We are a society immersed in discussion about obesity, cancer, diabetes, physical disease after physical disease. We act like we just can’t help ourselves, like these conditions are thrust on us.

When James Gandolfini died, did anyone accuse him of being selfish and not considering his family or his vast talent before he ate himself into a heart attack at 51? No, we called it “natural causes.”

But mental illness? It makes us uncomfortable. It’s a weakness or the people are, well, crazy. If you were applying for a job, would you feel free to disclose an illness requiring psychological help? I’m guessing most of us wouldn’t. 

And Robin Williams? His suicide causes us to use phrases such as, “how selfish” and “what a waste” and “why didn’t he get help?”

He did get help. Unfortunately, on this day, the bear was bigger and meaner.

Yes, suicide is a choice. But it isn’t a choice like pie or cake. Or even a choice like exercise or be a slug.

It is a choice made in the bottom of a pit with more pressure weighing down and more darkness than a person can tolerate for one more second. I’m guessing Mr. Williams was not cavalier and uncaring, but so ripped apart that nothing besides giving up seemed possible.

That doesn’t make it right – just real.

I know people tonight who can honestly say they have never given one second of thought to a decision like that. Good for them.

I know people tonight who can honestly say, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Really good for them.  

Suicide isn’t a good choice. It is irreversible and painful in a hundred ways.  It doesn’t make sense.

Neither does eating an average of 152 pounds of sugar per American per year.
Think about how different those two dialogues are.

Imagine if there were ways we could help beat back the bear. Imagine if we began talking about mental illness and depression as freely as we discuss overeating and smoking and substance abuse and cancer. Imagine how many people might feel like they are not alone. Imagine if we stop looking at suicide as a selfish act by weak, crazy people who don’t care, thereby alienating anyone who has ever had a suicidal thought.

I am not naïve or foolish. Mental illness is a large and powerful bear, and sometimes it wins.

But our social dialogue doesn’t help. Imagine if we started to change that.

RIP, Robin Williams.


Beth Painter is, among many other things, a writer and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page.

Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life! 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Oceans, toppled boogie boards, and not driving...

Monday, August 4, 11:30 AM

I should be on Route 19 somewhere in West Virginia right now.

Months ago I decided this day would be spent traveling to Topsail Beach, NC. Some of my favorite people in the world are vacationing there. Sharing a few days with them would have been a great gift.

Being at the beach revives me. Humbles me. Inspires me. Relaxes me. Recharges my batteries. I enjoy walks in the early morning and at sunset. I bask in the sun on my skin, the sound and smell of the water, the sand between my toes. What is better than coming in from an afternoon at the water, taking a shower, then spreading out on the bed while the ceiling fan drops cool air?

I should be en route right now. Life had other plans, as it has for some time now.

Even when I haven’t seen the ocean for years, images of it, emotions surrounding it are easily brought to mind.  Sometimes I think of small waves breaking around my ankles as I stroll the beach. Or splashing with the kids. Or finding the perfect shell.

Other times – today – life feels like the ocean at its fiercest. Loud, choppy, difficult to navigate. I think about a time I was boogie boarding at Hilton Head Island. I respect the power of water. I stay alert to where I am, where the current is going, what is around me. I had just settled on a nice wave and was heading toward shore when another wave suddenly popped up, crossed mine and tossed me and the board.

Sometimes life feels like that, doesn’t it?

I was gauging the waves. Didn’t go out too far. Was aware of my limits. Even still, I was suddenly submerged, unsure of which way “up” was, then finally reaching the surface, grasping for my board and seeing the hat I was wearing going in the opposite direction.

I feel like that today. Nothing has “snuck up” on me. But what I thought for sure would have changed, hasn’t. The effects on that lack of resolution seem to be compounding. My board has been struck by a cross wave. I am confused about which way is “up” and things I treasure seem to be floating in many directions away from me. Resolution has been promised and promised and promised, but nothing has changed. The ocean I envision today could swallow me in an instant.

Accounts of people who have nearly drowned, but been rescued after losing consciousness, indicate that drowning gives the same sensation as a runner’s high. At some point, the body is so oxygen-deprived and full of endorphins that it shifts into a euphoric state.  The desire to fight slips away into what feels like blankets of peace.

I have, thankfully, never been close enough to drowning to confirm or deny those accounts.
But, maybe you are like me…maybe life’s waves are sometimes so overwhelming and you feel like you can’t breathe and “up” seems to be out of sight and precious parts of life are being carried away on the current and peace – in whatever form – would be welcome.

Are you like me? Do you ever feel that way? Maybe today?

Then a song comes to mind. Those who know me well say, “Of course there is a song!”

I will call upon Your name and keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace, for I am Yours and You are mine*

Sometimes I hear a song I love and say UGH.
UGH because calling out and keeping my eyes up require energy I don’t feel is available.
UGH because I am SO WEARY of oceans rising.
UGH because resting in anyone’s embrace, even the Creator’s, requires surrender.

Do you ever feel that way? Maybe it’s just me…

I turn off the song. That will work, right? Wrong. The bridge won’t go away. Over and over and over until I sing it out loud without even realizing.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the water wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior*

If your ocean is sunny and little waves lap at your toes and kids are giggling around you, sing your heart out and be grateful.

Maybe your ocean is like mine today and singing those words makes water pop out of your eyes.

I should be en route to the beach. But I’m not. Maybe you feel the same way.

I don’t have a trite answer for either of us.
I know God is good. I know He has a plan. I know I’d like to see the sun right now. I also know it is still shining.

We will talk again soon.
Until then, I would love to hear your thoughts…

Beth Painter is, among many other things, a writer and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page.

Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life!

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga3DmPRPAQQ

Friday, August 1, 2014

A day on the Ohio River and higher thoughts than mine...

We took the boat on the Ohio River for our most recent outing. No big deal, right? Can’t be much different than the Allegheny or Monongahela, which are the usual paths.

For those unfamiliar with Western Pennsylvania, the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet in Pittsburgh to form the Ohio River. The confluence of these three rivers - The Point- is both an important site for barge traffic and a lovely attraction for water lovers.

Having chosen a launch point directly across from where the Beaver River joins the Ohio, approximately 25 miles from the Point, we packed a great lunch and set off. The weather was lovely, the river looked calm, and there was little traffic. It seemed like a great day for the novice boater - me - to get some driving and docking experience.

We headed toward the city, knowing the pool would end in ten miles at the Sewickley lock, but eager for sights we had not seen from the water. Immediately, I was surprised by the width and depth of the Ohio River. I have driven along and across the Ohio, so it seemed silly to be startled by what is, after all, two rivers combined. But looking at the river and being on the river are very different experiences.

While the weather conditions were ideal, the water was choppy…no, CHOPPY!  I quickly learned two lessons: the bumpiness of going upstream is directly proportional to the breadth and depth and being at the helm makes turbulence more evident.

The journey was fine. We had no trouble, just a bit of discomfort at times, but were happy to reach the lock and turn around. Heading the other way, the river was the same, but seemed much calmer. The scenery was the same, but the driver had much more opportunity to enjoy it.

So a leisurely boat ride becomes a story of life.
At least my life…maybe yours too?

I have been thinking about rounding that bend on the Allegheny when the Ohio comes into view…about how much fun it is to have a passenger for whom this view is new.

I have been thinking about how the perspective changes when traveling a distance on this bigger, swifter river, rather than passing briefly through it on the way to the Monongahela.

I have been thinking about how life expands in the same way – sometimes unexpectedly. A gentle ride becomes deeper, faster, potentially choppier in a flash.
The boat tosses…and sometimes I toss with it.
Maybe that has never happened to you?

I have been thinking about the incredible difference between upstream and downstream.

There are necessary journeys in this life, pools of water we must travel. Sometimes, it seems the path is absolutely upstream with no way around that.
It’s certainly true that if your boat launch is in Cincinnati and you want to go to Pittsburgh, upstream is the only way.
I have been thinking about my proclivity to make journeys upstream when they don’t need to be.
Maybe you don’t do that?

I have been about the nature and character of God, and about my faith. Do I believe that all things work together for good[1]? Do I believe suffering produces patience which produces character which produces hope that never fails[2]? Do I believe it is even possible to count all my troubles as joy[3]?
Do I?
Do you?

It has taken many years and many heartaches and much surrender to learn this: Everything I want, everything good is downstream. By design.

I don’t believe God is a cruel captain who forces us to travel upstream. I believe He is more of a white water guide. The way is not smooth. There are lots of rocks. Big ones. Dangerous ones. And whirlpools and fast currents.  The vessel is a two-person kayak. Me and God. It works best if he leads and I listen for direction. Our path is downstream.

You might argue and say I don’t know your journey. You’re right. But I know mine.

You might say you have made many journeys fighting the current. I know. I have too.

You might not like it when I say it was my choice, and probably yours as well.
You might scream, “How HOW HOW was it my choice??”

Hear these words from Isaiah 55:
The Lord says, “My thoughts are not like your thoughts. Your ways are not like my ways.
 Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Rain and snow fall from the sky and don’t return without watering the ground.
They cause the plants to sprout and grow, making seeds for the farmer and bread for the people.
The same thing is true of the words I speak. They will not return to me empty.
They make the things happen that I want to happen, and they succeed in doing what I send them to do.

Is there anything about those words that sounds “upstream”?

Everything I want, everything good is downstream. Everything.

But God will let me go upstream. He will let me turn the boat around and paddle in futility. He allow me to furiously paddle in one direction until I am spinning in place.

His ways are downstream. Not always smooth. But always downstream.

His thoughts point downstream. Not without storms and tears. But always downstream.

I can choose for my ways and thoughts to be aligned with His or to be upstream. My choice.

I have been making a new habit of thinking about what I am thinking about and asking myself, “Upstream or downstream?”
It might sound odd, but let it roll round in your head for a bit. 
Picture a river with rapids. Then examine your thoughts. Upstream or downstream?
And know this – everything you want is downstream.

We will talk more about this soon.
In the meantime, I would be honored to hear your thoughts.


[1] Romans 8:28
[2] Romans 5:3-5
[3] James 1:2

Beth Painter is, among many other things, a writer and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page.

Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Willow, Lent and what I should give up...

Tuesday is Meals on Wheels delivery day for me.  It is a privilege to have the opportunity, and the folks are pleasant and grateful.

By far, the highlight of my day is Willow. She is a Lab mix who lives on a farm, and is a little over a year old. And while there are numerous four-legged residents on the farm, Willow is the only one who goes in the house. Her face is adorable, but that isn’t why she has her own wingback chair in the television room.

It’s her joy. Every week I am moved by it. The absolute delight that is seen in her face, her eyes, her life. Some people believe animals do not have a soul and cannot possibly have any notion of God. I don’t know how anyone could watch Willow and not believe she is in touch with her Creator, each taking great pleasure in the other.

Today is Ash Wednesday…the beginning of Lent for Christians. It is a time to reflect on Jesus’ journey to the cross and on our own journey. Traditionally, people give things up sacrificially– chocolate, snacks, alcohol, social media.  

Some years I choose to do that, some years I don’t. I was thinking about it yesterday while delivering Meals. The past year has been difficult in many ways. Unresolved financial litigation continues to drain me. A riding tractor accident cost me part of two fingers.
Often I find myself facing the day, or ending the day, with fear and despair rather than hope and joy.
The notion of doing something sacrificial hasn’t been inviting.

Then I turned onto Willow’s lane yesterday. One hundred yards away I could see her coming from behind the barn, half running, half leaping, up the hill toward me…never on the road, just beside it. When we met, she turned around and made another circle around the house and the barn. By the time I got the meal out of the bag and made my way to the door, Willow was there. Tail wagging, mouth open like a smile. She walked in with me, followed me back out and escorted me to the car – then she took off back to the barn or the work shop... and later back in the house if she wanted to sleep.

As I drove away, it occurred to me…maybe I am not called to give up something I like. Maybe, instead, it would be a great time to give up something that I fall into but shouldn’t. Fear. Despair. Doubt. Lingering over questions that have no answers.

Maybe this should be a time of turning my back on those emotions that drain me…turn my back on them and RUN the way Willow does - with wild abandon, with joy.

Fear and despair feel natural in the face of financial disarray. Doubt creeps in. “WHY” kills many hours. And the challenges are still present.

I want to write more, weigh less, do so many things that require focus, which is an elusive commodity most days.

I have been at my wit’s end. I have gnashed my teeth. I have cried and shouted and cried some more.

So maybe for the next forty days, I will try it Willow’s way.

Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

I could use some strength these days. And joy.

I might also benefit from running, but I don’t want to get too crazy.

Walk with me through Lent…maybe you will find some joy and strength too.

We will talk again soon…


Beth Painter is, among many other things, a writer and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page.

Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Being like Rocco and other high goals!

My friend Rocco wears a gray Fedora every time he leaves the house. He likes it, so he wears it.

I want to be like Rocco.

Not wear a gray Fedora. I will pick blue and white plaid.

I want to be like Rocco because he just does his thing. He’s
five years old, so he doesn’t care what people think. He hasn’t noticed looks that can sting. He hasn’t heard comments that can make him question. He’s blessed with parents who are teaching him not to care about what people think, and not to be afraid.

I want to be like Rocco.

Not uncaring in a selfish way. Unmoved by idle opinions. Steadfast in my purpose. Focused.

Not fearless in a way that makes me oblivious to real danger. Unable to be intimidated. Audacious in my pursuits. Brave.
I want to be like Rocco.

I want to put on my blue and white plaid Fedora when I write, so I can be authentic, share joy and pain and fear and blessings…because how can anyone identify with something less than REAL?

I want to put on my blue and white plaid Fedora when I think about promoting my blog and seeking speaking opportunities. This has been a call on my heart for as long as I can remember. How can I do less than honor God by using the incredible gifts He has so graciously given me?

I want to put on my blue and white plaid Fedora every time I go out. I want people to know who I am and whose I am. Like Rocco, I don’t want to be afraid to say what I like and what I don’t like, what I will accept and what I won’t accept.

I want to share the love of Christ with people the way He did. With no reservation. With no judgment. Boldy. Some might say foolishly.

I want my life to show that God is first and I am second.

I want to love so well that the people closest to me never doubt their importance and value. I want to tell them the whole truth about who I am, and I want them to feel safe enough to do the same. 

I want to be so filled with joy that people who cross my path FEEL it.

Think about it...who is served when you are less than authentic? Who is served when you don't speak truth about your life and your faith? Who is served when you don't squeeze every drop out of the gifts you have been given?

I want to be like Rocco. I want to put on my blue and white plaid Fedora, stand beside him in his gray Fedora. I want to resurrect my "shiny" self and live life with the spirit of a five year old again. 

I hope you will join me as this journey continues. I would love to hear where you are in your journey to being real and authentic and true to yourself and your God.

We will talk again soon. In the meantime, I need to search the internet for a blue and white plaid Fedora…


Beth Painter is, among many other things, a writer and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page.

Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Battlin' Bucs '14 - 1/1/2014

Jan 1, 2014
41 years ago my mom came into my room to wake me. She sat on my bed, and through tears, told me the news.
Roberto had died.
HOW? She told me about the plane crash. The earthquake. Roberto’s mission of mercy.
Then I asked all the questions that are yet unanswered. Why was the plane so heavy? Why didn’t someone stop him? Why did HE have to do it? Why Roberto?
Pirates’ fans were still reeling from Bob Moose’s wild pitch that gave the Reds the pennant. How could we endure this?
Roberto Clemente was, for me, the core of Pirate baseball. I was too young to think about him being a pioneer for Latin players, or to care about sports writers who contended that he didn’t play hard every day and nursed his injuries a bit too long.
He was The Great One. Bob Prince shouted “Arriba! Arriba!” when he came to the plate…”Hooray!” I  shouted the same as I threw a tennis ball off a cement block wall for hours on end, playing out entire games in my mind – Roberto always the hero.
I cried for hours. Cried when the season started without him. Still get emotional when his widow receives an honor for him.
We have gone on. Won the World Series. Lived through 20years of losing.
It is 42 days until Spring Training opens. 2014 holds high hopes for Pirate fans. There is much to love about these Buccos…
But today, we remember the grief of losing #21.
Stay tuned for more Pirate love…there is a project brewing!!
Beth Painter is a writer and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page.

Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life!

One Word 2014: CHOOSE

My friend Melanie (bluemarblegod.com) chooses a word each year that she will embrace, that will embrace her, change her days. 
Last year I admired it...this year I am inspired by it. Big difference.
So I have been thinking for the past couple weeks...

I wanted a FUN word. Joy. Prosperity! 
Or a cool word. Wisdom, maybe.

One word jumped to my mind quickly, but I didn't like it. So I rolled others around in my head. But the first word wouldn't go away. 


Joshua 24:15 Choose you this day whom ye will serve...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Life is all about choices, isn't it? And choices have to be made again and again....which annoys me.
This is not the word I wanted...but it is appropriate.


I share it with a certain amount of reluctance, given the resulting responsibility. So, instead of listing specific goals, I would rather discuss the results as the year progresses.

I will, however, commit to this: 
In 2014, I will choose to clearly speak, out loud, my intentions to whomever they affect.
Maybe that sounds easy for you, but I am pleaser - not accustomed to always being direct, more often smoothing the waters, avoiding conflict.


Dozens of times a day. About health, work, countenance, money, treatment of others...on and on.

365 opportunities to be proactive, to steer the ship rather than let the current take it.


We will talk again soon.

Beth Painter is a writer and motivational speaker. You can follow her on Facebook on the “Think Big focus small” page.

Beth is available to speak to your group about how to make your dreams and desires come to life!