If you can’t find hope, there’s help

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine took his own life. I don’t know why and have chosen not to dwell on the reasons. I just know that a person I always found engaging and witty was burdened by something he felt too heavy to bear.

I believe I understand what it means to journey through the valley of the shadow of death.

But I’ve never experienced the loss of all hope — or the inability to find some way, any way, to cope.

I’d like to think it’s obvious to those who read this blog (and especially to those who follow me on Twitter) that I use humor to help me cope with the challenges I encounter in life’s journey — and to point out some of its absurdities. I believe that during tough times, it is especially important to find those things which make us laugh. Humor is just one of the ways I cope. Family, friends, faith, exercise (but not enough), prayer, having two dogs who love me, study, hobbies. They all help me. I’m amazingly fortunate, also, to have a job that allows me to work with co-workers and clients doing something that is as much a passion as a job.

As a person who has spent most of my adult life starting and running businesses, I know how critical it is to be optimistic — even if your optimism is limited to a belief that you can do the things necessary to help you survive the challenges of the next hour, of today or this pay period.

Let me say that again: Being optimistic does not mean believing everything is going to work out perfectly one day in the sweet by-and-by. Optimism can be simply believing you’ll somehow summon the faith and fortitude to face whatever catastrophe befalls you today. And fortunately, you almost always can.

This morning, a federal agency I did not know existed, the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration announced the launch of a website called A Guide to Getting Through Tough Economic Times. It includes warning signs, possible health risks and ways individuals may help cope with the personal difficulties they are facing. If you’ve discovered that you’re obsessed with the economy, maybe you should read over the first page of the website and see if there are issues you find familiar — and consider looking into the ways it suggests you cope.

The most important thing to remember is this: You are not alone.

Feeling anxious, fearful, pessimistic, tired — all those things are not unique to you.

You can summon the faith and fortitude to face today’s challenge. Others have. You can also.

However, I do have one specific piece of advice regarding how to get through the current economic times we’re facing. It has to do with the cable news channel CNBC. My advice: Turn the damn thing off.