The pain, for me at least, has not really gotten better. Judging from the conversations I have had out in the world, and the things I see on Facebook, the things I am seeing here on WordPress, it is not getting better for anyone. If anything, the shock has worn off and it hurts even worse. The pictures of all of those beautiful babies smiling, just another arrow through our collective heart. The whole world is walking around, wounded and heart sick. What can we do? There is nothing that can be done…I keep hearing myself say these words, that awful, helpless feeling welling up in me. We cannot go back in time, we cannot give these children and their teachers their lives back, we cannot even truly ease the pain of the people left behind, longing and mourning for them.
Still, the desperate best in us has come to the forefront again, the way it always does when a tragedy of this magnitude unleashes itself upon us. There are petitions to sign, tributes made, candle light vigils held across the world. Our compassionate, beautiful sides, too tender, we think, to reveal all the time, are the faces of most of us right now. Yet I wake up in the morning afraid and tired, still feeling like my hands are tied, that none of this really HELPS at all. I know this is not really true, on a certain level, and that any kindness and compassion we pour forth now is a gift that the world desperately needs- the truth is, this world has become a place too dark, too individualized, too alienated from it’s own humanity. If that weren’t true, it wouldn’t take a tragedy so horrific to bring us back to earth again, finally able, for the briefest moments, to remember the gift of right now, right here, what we can see, smell, touch, taste, hold close.
There is beauty everywhere, too. We forget so easily. How many times have you been face to face with a beautiful sunset, purple and pink and orange and yellow, and barely registered its existence, so worried about traffic or hell bent on getting back to your empty house to get the dishes done before dinner can be started? How many times have you run out to grab something from your car, and the full moon shone down, but you were too tired to let it take your breath away? I live mere blocks from the beach, and sometimes days pass before I can even be coaxed into looking up, taking it in. Last night, I sat on the couch, absorbed in a book, and I looked up to find my two year old staring at me solemnly with her enormous green eyes, just looking and looking. My heart lurched in my chest because I could see that her eyes were telling me the story of her longing to be near me while I sat there, a thousand miles away. I picked her up and held her in my arms, kissed her cheeks and buried my face in her golden brown curls, and thought about all of the parents in Newtown who would give their own lives, without a backward glance, to have the chance I had nearly passed up. We are a peculiar animal, humans. Great with big concepts, while failing miserably to see what is right in front of us.
This morning it occurred to me that perhaps there is something I can do. There is something all of us can do. We start at home. We take full responsibility for our lives and how we conduct them, agreeing that the example we provide is as important as the advice that we give. For me, this means being present, not being afraid of my teenager when she acts up because I am afraid of all of the discord. It means putting my foot down, not accepting unacceptable behavior. It means following through with predetermined consequences, no matter how much better things seem, or how much work it is for me.
I can make the world better by being a better mother and raising better children. I can make the world better by taking better care of myself, trying not to die of lung cancer or emphysema due to my inability to reign in my own addictive behavior. Killing myself is not going to help my kids at all. This sounds stupid, but if you really think about it, it’s a great example of what I mean- thinking of the ripple effect, the things we do that are not really just to ourselves, but effect everyone around us. It is high time we take responsibility for ourselves and for each other.
The first step is ourselves. The next is our families. Then we need to learn to widen the net, to put down our phones, shut off our TV’s and laptops, and begin to know the people around us. This means our neighbors, our children’s friends, their friends parent’s, the people at church, at the grocery store, at work, at the gym. We need to keep our eyes open and see what is happening in the world around us- so that maybe, when one of us is very, very ill, next time, we can see it. Next time, maybe someone will see what another could not. I think it could be the difference between life and death. These little changes, the difference between existing and living.
Please, let me know what your thoughts on any of this are. I would really love to know what your mind has been whispering to you about what has happened and who we are or have become, as people.