This morning, I woke up to my baby babbling through the monitor on my nightstand, and my husband stirring next to me. Together we changed her diaper, which is frankly a two-person task these days, and fed her breakfast. We played with her and got her dressed—yet another team effort, before putting her down for a nap. We did our workout DVD together, and while he showered I made my protein shake and sat down for a quick Facebook scroll. Just like most Sunday mornings.
And there it was. “Prayers for Orlando.” I didn’t have to wonder what had happened in Orlando, because every time we read “Prayers for ______”… we just know. We are conditioned now to just KNOW that when prayers are sent to a specific place it’s because senselessly, lives were lost. No, sorry. Taken.
And then in phase two of “learning about yet another shooting”, I left Facebook and visited my news outlet of choice for details, hoping maybe it wasn’t “that bad”, knowing full well that even one life lost is absolutely THAT bad. And the reality was that this time, Orlando, was so much worse than any before. And I just started to shake.
I set down my phone for a moment, put my head in my hands, and whisper-yelled, “GOD DAMMIT!!!” I willed myself not to scream. Breathe in, breathe out, and repeat, I told myself. And then I posted the following status:
It felt like I’d said the right thing to share my heartbreak and rage over this, but after imploring my fellow Facebook users not to stay silent, I realized that I have no idea what to say.
And I really, really, don’t know what to do.
Every time this happens, I feel sad, I feel angry, I feel afraid. For weeks I’ll survey every public space I enter, plotting my exit strategy should it happen again there. I’ll engage in discussions about gun laws and mental health until I’m blue in the face and exhausted because the problem feels much too big, the task insurmountable. Time will pass and Facebook, Twitter, and CNN will move on. I’ll start to walk the mall with my daughter again, sipping a latte from the cup holder of my stroller, and forget to keep an eye out for suspicious persons. I, along with pretty much everyone, will position my head right back in the sand and hope for the best.
Marysville-Pilchuck High School.
Friends, above is just a mere sampling of the many, many communities affected by this big, huge problem. This has happened with such regularity that the only way to distinguish one horrific event from another is to refer to them by the location in which they took place. And even then, it’s getting hard to keep them all straight, isn’t it? Sure, we pray for them, and we post memes of memorial ribbons, and we tint our profile pictures in solidarity. But if you’re like me, you’re mostly just hoping like hell that HERE is not the next place added to that list.
It’s so easy to let that be our response. But as a mom, and a HUMAN BEING, I can’t bury my head deep enough in the sand to block out the cries of grieving parents and children. I can no longer numb myself to their pain.
As usual, we were running late to church this morning. I had the unpleasant task of waking our daughter from her nap. I crept into her room and to her crib without giving my eyes time to adjust to the darkness. I fumbled for her, and my hand found her tiny belly, rising and falling. I picked her up and breathed her in while she nestled against me. As she woke up, she smiled up at me with such innocence that the anger in me welled up all over again for every mother who will never see her baby smile again.
And as we drove to church, the fear crept in too. I told Ryan that I was afraid to put her in the nursery today. My daughter being away from me didn’t figure into my “just in case” escape plan. The same goes for my husband. I wanted us together, close, safe. The women who run that nursery are phenomenal caretakers, but I wondered what would happen, “if it happened here”. Would they pick her up and run like mad in a zig-zag pattern like I would? Would they cover every inch of her tiny body with theirs, like I would?
Ugh, fear. What an asshole. I kept reminding myself that in the end, fear doesn’t win. Love wins, as difficult as it is to believe today. So I swallowed hard and smiled as we left our daughter in capable hands. And sitting the auditorium, while our pastor guided us in breathing in and absorbing the fear, hatred, and pain of the world while breathing out love, I still squirmed and checked the clock incessantly. But I talked to people. I smiled at people. I looked people in the eye. I guess that’s the thing about burying our heads in the sand when things get scary and overwhelming. It keeps us from seeing the bad for a time, but it also keeps us from seeing the GOOD—an even more terrifying prospect, if you ask me.
I still don’t know how we fix this. It still feels all but impossible, but I know where I’d like to start. I’m going to pull my head out of the damn sand. I’m going to see the suffering and all of the kindness that rushes in to heal it. I will square my shoulders and stand up tall (er, as tall as a 5’2 woman can) and smile at strangers. I will breathe in the evil and exhale love.
Breathe in, breathe out, and repeat.