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Ruth Golden

Project Update Spring Edition

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I am excited to announce we have raised enough money to complete a promo tape for The Silent Goldens documentary.  My fellow producer, Jamie Smith, the director, Jon Bendis, and I have honed in on a concept and are crafting the idea.

Additionally, we soon will officially become an LLC and engage a lawyer.  Both are big steps for me on this incredible journey.

Personally, I have been sorting all my storage items to find things we can use for visuals, which are sparking many childhood memories, and finding interesting notes and items I had forgotten all about.   I’m also doing my yearly minimizing sweep of stuff and am astounded, as always, how much more I’m willing to get rid of each time.  I haven’t added anything to the pile since I last went through it.

I continue to learn a lot about the film business and patience each step of the way.

My TV jobs had turned into such formulaic, speed them through the machine endeavors that I burned out.  The difference is fascinating but I’m itchy to start filming!

My work on the board with the Greater LA chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is picking up as many of the events we attend to spread awareness are in the Spring and Summer.  Lots of music festivals, Pride events, and health fairs on the list.  We have a couple of new board members so I’ve been able to focus my attention on being Community Outreach Chair and liaison to 3rdparty events.

Finally, I’m revving up my participation in my Toastmasters club for public speaking and am scheduled to redo my intro “Ice Breaker” speech next Wednesday.  We had a leadership change and a few new people have become involved since I first spoke, so I figured I’d do it again. I did rewrite it though based on the promo tape idea.

All my activities feed nicely into one another and are keeping this train moving.  I’ll be working on the speech until I give it then I’ll post it for anyone who is interested to read.

Thanks, as always, for your continued support and I will report each milestone as we hit it!

To Like or Not to Like

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I have become a Toastmaster.  It’s an international club focused on communication and leadership skills.  Public speaking is becoming a bigger part of my “new life” devoted to producing my film about my family’s experience with suicide, and actively volunteering in suicide prevention so my sister, Leah, very kindly gave me a membership as a gift.  I am enjoying it immensely, hear fascinating speeches, and really am impressed by the variety of members’ backgrounds, careers, and reasons they joined.

Recently, I had my first opportunity to be the “ah” counter, recording all the “filler” words like and, well, but, so, ah, um, er, you know…you know?   It was illuminating to really listen for those in other people’s speaking.  More than you think sneak in there so it is impressive to listen to a speaker able to avoid them.  The trick, they tell me, is pausinginstead of using a filler word.  The fillers simply allow your brain a moment to think, as does a pause.  A silence just sounds more thoughtful than an unnecessary word.  Go figure!

I have a lot of work to do.  My first 6-minute speech had 24 “ums.”  One every 15 seconds.  Now that I know that, I have become hyperaware of when I say them. That, of course, leads to the brain going off track and “umming” all the way back on.  It’s a challenge.

Noticing my speech also made my chronic “like” habit unacceptable.  Many other people’s too, actually, but I’m only working on fixing me.  This is the word I am now committing to, like, strike from my casual speech.  No professional ums.  No personal likes.   Goal set.    Stay tuned!

Check it out for yourself!

Computer update for those following these blogs:I did finally update the computer when I game I like to play started slowing down. Shortly, thereafter, I started having problems in the cooling system of my computer, which is now requiring an expensive repair.  I don’t know if it’s a coincidence of if my electronics were in cahoots.

The Games People Play

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The incredibly limited playlists on LA radio have that song  “I’m a loser baby, so why don’t you kill me.”  It goes round and round in my head.  One time I heard it as I was pulling up to a suicide prevention event, so that was weird.

But today I want to talk about the word “loser.”  I understand the concept of competition and when there can only be one winner, there will be losers.  It’s the word for “not winners.”  But they are losers of that particular competition.  The label isn’t supposed to make a statement about your life.   I know about losing.  Especially in sports.  I have never won a trophy.  Admittedly I rarely participated, primarily because I didn’t want to be a loser.

.Because the word has been co-opted as an insult, it has taken on this broad meaning that implies worthlessness as a human being.  It’s thrown around against people we simply don’t like, people who don’t live the way we do, people who struggle with problems we don’t understand, and so on.   Many “winners” have been called losers.  Many go on to lose.

What is the competition?  What are we winning?  How are we losing?  Randomly assessing someone to be a loser says nothing about that person but clearly exposes our judgmental tendencies.

The cultural definition of success isn’t something the whole world is vying for and let’s be grateful for that.  Different interests, different desires, different opinions make this world go round and allow us to have shopkeepers, doctors, teachers, engineers, trash collectors, movie starts – if all these people only focused on the very narrow vision of “winning” this game, we’d be hurting for the services and communities that make our society thrive.

There is the board game Life.  I’ve played it – recently in fact.  I enjoy it but I used to get freaked out if I lost thinking it was an omen about my life.  But I’ve since learned that life has many paths, many challenges, and many, many interruptions.

Many might call me a loser right now.  I don’t have all the accoutrements of an adult life.  I own a 17 year old car (18 on July 3!), I live in other people’s homes doing dog and house sitting full time.  I was playing the game of tv producer and it was making me crazy.  It turned into a game I didn’t want to be playing so had a mid-life crisis breakdown and am still in the metamorphosis stage.  My stages seem to take longer than other peoples’ but I know I eventually get there.

So am I loser?  Maybe, but I say there is no game.  Life is not something to win or lose.  There is nothing tangible, no definitive mark, no mountain peak to reach –  just infinite mini-games you can choose and challenges you can set for yourself to make things interesting.   Everything becomes a lot more fun when you aren’t striving for an invisible, unattainable goal to avoid a label that makes no sense in the first place.

A Procrastinator’s Predicament

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Every day at the top right corner of my computer screen I am asked if I want to update my system. This has been going on for months, yet every day I drop down the menu to ‘remind me tomorrow.’

Whenever there is an upgrade or update, I purposely wait until it’s been tested in the mass market and all the bugs worked out and confirm with those who know better than me than all my programs will work. Once those hurdles are cleared, the procrastination sets in.

Initially I always somehow truly believe that I will quickly get around to doing it, thinking that when I am reminded tomorrow I will either do it or set it to happen overnight. I know it is that easy. The next day, I realize it would be just as easy to set it to go tomorrow, and I click that option again. There is no telling how long this will go on – primarily because I forget about the whole thing as soon as I make the in-my-face notice go away and when I see the notice again the next day, I don’t ‘feel like it’, so again it goes undone.

I don’t know what my record is for procrastinating, but I generally miss a couple of update versions before I do it. Lately, though, each time I see the notice I actively wonder when the tomorrow will actually come. When will I be motivated to click that button, and what will be the instigation? I am in what some psychologists might call a ‘precontemplation’ phase, where I am preparing to do something by thinking about it.

I can’t explain the reasoning behind it. The issue isn’t whether or not I need to update, as my work proceeds without problem, it’s why something so easy and helpful has become a “thing.”  I feel no fear around updating, see no reason not to, and it takes no effort for me to do it, but yet I can’t seem to push myself to make it happen. Maybe it’s part of my aversion to being told what to do.  And the days go on.

Perhaps this blog will be the catalyst. If so, I’ll let you know!

Forever Mom

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Today is my mother’s birthday. She would be 81 had she not died in 1985 just two month’s prior to her 48th.   It is hard for me to picture what she might look like at 81. I’ve seen my father age to (now) 82 and the difference is pretty dramatic compared to photos from the last year of my mom’s life.

Before I began talking about my mother’s suicide, my memories of her were very flat, based on the real or imagined photos I was left with of specific moments and events. When I did open up, she came back to life in my mind in a way. The memories I had became more three dimensional, and many that had been packed away returned.

I then began placing her in current-day situations and conversations to get a sense of what she might say or do, how she would react to world events, or her thoughts about my life – personally and professionally. In all these scenarios everyone else is present-day, while she remains in looks, energy, and attitude, the 1985 Debbie Golden, or my version of her. My mom is forever 47.

It’s a little odd to think about since I’m now a bit older than that, but a mother is always a mother so even if I get to be 81, that beautiful young woman I’m hanging out with in my mind will still be mom – forever loved and missed.

Anxiety Attacking

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I knew this last weekend would be intense. I was organizing a large volunteer event for Saturday, right in the middle of the week I was helping a friend through major surgery. Both were things I wanted to do and deeply cared about so was planning on being on my best behavior.

A presentation I was creating for the volunteer event took longer than I expected causing a severe lack of sleep for two nights prior to the event, and the little life things I wanted/needed to do for myself fell by the wayside. Without going into any details, let’s just say my friend and I ended up fighting in her hospital room and then again at her home. Everything she said hit me wrong, and my reactions can be rash, oppositional, and – I am sure – hurtful. I felt horrible as it was happening but could not stop it. I felt self-righteous, indignant, and decided I never wanted to talk to a human again.

I was ready to run for the hills but to my friend’s credit – and the fact that I still had to pack all my stuff that I threw around in a search for my keys or something – she wanted to talk it out and get to the bottom of it.

We concluded I was overtired, overcommitted, overwhelmed, and not attending to my own needs. It’s my usual MO but it got to me this time. I likely lashed out at her because it was “safe” to do so – a kind of friend that’s like a sister that isn’t going to go anywhere.   I hope she won’t, anyway.

I feel shame for fighting with someone in such a vulnerable position. I feel guilt for adding to her stress and anxiety. I’ve been ruminating about it all day. It does not make me feel good about myself. I don’t want to be that person.

I Googled “irritation” to see what generally causes it and found a site with a 7 minute free test (basic assessment and extended both free but for extended you have to put in your email to receive it.)

My symptoms are currently high. I’ve always had anxiety and have snapped before but I didn’t realize just how much it was hitting me. Now I have to work on controlling it more. Something else to add to the list – the same list that causes all the anxiety in the first place. But I’m making this week about me and getting through a lot of that list so when someone needs my help next, my mind will be available for them.

Snub the word Snub During Awards Season

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Volunteering at the International Documentary Association’s Docu Day where all the Oscar nominated documentaries screen back to back got me thinking about the word “snub” that is used endlessly during Hollywood’s award season as apparently any film not nominated was “snubbed.” So I’m going to vent about it.

According to the internet, the word snub means “rebuff, ignore, or spurn disdainfully.” It’s very negative. There can only be so many nominees (unless they keep adding like they did for Best Picture, which I think is a bit much now), but there are a slew of films every year, many of which are talked about as shoe-ins. But if the voting is sacred and private, could there really be enough momentum about any film to ‘spurn disdainfully’ certain actors, directors, writers, or producers? More importantly, I see awards as being given or voted about for someone or something, not against all the others. So if the votes tally up for Best Actor, film, director or any other category, that is the winner.

I may be completely wrong about the whole thing and everyone is in cahoots picking and choosing winners, but I think that would take more work than anyone working in the film industry has time for.

I was reading some celebrity intrigue on the internet this week and, in an article about a supposed feud between Kate Middleton and Princess Beatrice, one reason for the bad feelings was that Beatrice’s mother was not invited to Kate and Prince William’s wedding – with Beatrice, her sister, and father attending. Now that’s clearly a snub!

What Colors Our Lives

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A friend of mine shared a Ted Talk from a man named Drew Dudley about how something you do or say can change someone’s life – even if it’s such a small thing to you that it doesn’t even register in your memory.

I don’t want to spoil his story, but I personally have had people repeat back to me something I said long ago that stuck with them and what they repeated was totally unfamiliar to me and didn’t even sound like something I would say. But I also have about 7 of those lines from others in my life that will forever stick with me and color some of what I do that I know they don’t recall.

So see for your self what it’s all about and how much power we all have to create change something for someone just by being ourselves.

To Know Or Not To Know

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I’m not sure where my parent’s got the painting that sat above the couch in our living room in Texas, but saying that was painted on it always resonated with me and –those who know me know my love of quoting quotes- quoted and continue to quote often read

If you don’t know 

you don’t know

you think you know.

 If you don’t know

you know

you think you don’t know.

– R.D. Laing

I believe these words apply to everything we do – every action we take and decision we make is based on some sort of knowledge. It might be very basic from having information (or not) about what time the tv show you want to watch is on to having the training to practice brain surgery or rocket science.

The first paragraph explains what was going on in my head the last 30 years due to the family silence about my mom’s suicide. I made up stories about people and created motives for them based on what I did know, which was very little. I assumed many things, formed judgments, and chose evidence from their further actions to confirm my narrative.   I also assigned them opinions about me and reacted to them accordingly.

Once I began asking my family members the questions at the core of my stories, the narrative changed dramatically. I got the facts – the knowledge, and the entire picture and magnitude of what happened came more into focus.

My interpretation now of the second paragraph speaks to the “should have” paragraph in my story. My parents kept a lot of information from me and my sister once my mother was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 1984. I was a freshman and my sister was a sophomore at Carleton College in Northfield, MN and they led us to believe everything would be fine, her chemo was working, and they were determined not to distract us from our studies. I think we were determined to distract ourselves from her illness.

Both my parents worked at the University of Texas Medical Branch, my father as a pediatric neurologist, and my mother as a social worker. Throughout our lives my sister and I learned a lot about a wide variety of diseases, conditions, syndromes, and the various departments of the hospital while sitting at the dinner table. I’d seen those ‘70s TV movies where a kid gets a nosebleed then dies of leukemia. Back then cancer often equaled death. I didn’t think about it, but I’m sure it was somewhere in the back of my head. I didn’t ask, but if I decided to add up all the little things, I was savvy enough to “know” it wasn’t going to end well and I was in no way prepared.

I always believed those paragraphs represented the two ways of approaching knowledge. But then came my mom’s suicide and that never even crossed my mind – I neither knew, suspected, had an inkling, or otherwise. Suicide was a plot point in books on movies like Ordinary People, which I saw with my parents. We didn’t discuss suicide after the film, though. It wasn’t “real.” Until it was.

If you don’t know

What you can’t know

You won’t know til you know.

   – Ruth Golden

Milestones & Memorials

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Here it is – January 15. Thirty-three years to the day my mother died by suicide.

While I do not light a candle on for her following Jewish tradition on the Hebrew calendar anniversary, I have always lit one on the evening of the 14th, said the traditional prayer that I Google each year, and “talk” to her for a few minutes. Many people eventually develop rituals around milestone dates for the deceased. Other than what I have mentioned I have never settled on one.

A few weeks after she died there was a memorial service for her in Galveston, TX where I spent we spent my teenage years. My sister and I were not brought in to attend, but each received a cassette tape of the service thanks to my mother’s friend, Ellen Levin. For a number of years I would listen to the hour-or-so long tape on my walkman and cry as I listened to the Rabbi Alan Greenbaum and Dr. Bill Daeschner, Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch where she was a social worker, speak about her. I felt pride in who she was and cried my eyes out that she was gone. I also wrote her letters expressing disappointment in myself, lamenting how lost I felt and how much I was struggling to get myself together or feel good about anything. After a few years I reread the letters and found them depressing. So I stopped.

That was also a time I was getting busy with life. My mid-twenties were fun.   I worked at MTV (when they played music). I lived in NY. I complained, I’m sure, but really had no complaints. I was free and felt like I was “going somewhere.” I do remember once or twice during that time telling my mom in our yearly “talk” that I thought she would be proud of me around then but it didn’t last.

I’ve been to her grave when I’ve been in Minneapolis for work or play. It honestly doesn’t make me feel closer to her and I felt self-conscious trying to speak out loud there. I connect more when speaking to a familiar picture.

Even with all the time that has passed, I am highly conscious of the date but the deep drop in my stomach and clench in my chest I used to feel when it came up is more like a light stomach leap now. Since I asked my family to speak to me about mom’s death about a year and a half ago, she has become more alive in my mind – a 3-D image with much more of a life, and many more good memories, than were part of the concise narrative about her that I created to “explain” her suicide.

This time of year affects my general mood, but it no longer shuts me down – especially now that I am finding my own way down the path I’m confident I would have ended up on so long ago had she been there to guide me – a career focused on helping others through action. The values, ideals, and passion that my mother instilled in me have awakened and the story she left me with is ready to tell. I think she would appreciate my current path, be thrilled that I’ve found purpose, and smile a slight “I told you so” smile to herself (but never say it to me.) I love you mom, I thank you, and will give you every reason I can to be proud.

I am using this date to unveil the Donor Memorial Page on my website listing those who are adding their voices to rid the world of the stigma and shame of suicide and honor those lost by helping The Silent Goldens become a reality.