This week…well, it’s all about Friday, right?
I haven’t been able to write my “week in review” posts for the past two weeks. My first reason involved final exams. My second, most recent reason involved a distinct feeling of having nothing to say.
I read about the tragedy in Connecticut right before leaving for work Friday morning, around 10am. I cried for most of the 20-minute drive. When I arrived, my phone rang and it was my mom, and I knew what she wanted to talk about, and we both cried and she said she wanted to pick the kids up, RIGHT NOW, from school. I was already thinking it, but comforted both of us by telling her it was an early release day, meaning they would be home within two hours.
They would be home within two hours.
Probably the most beautiful words I’ve ever written.
And when these tragedies hit I’m always a little surprised by the way people fly into action. People start announcing and declaring and standing for something. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – just that I can’t relate.
Like gun control. “We need gun control.” Truthfully I don’t know anything about gun control. I know I lived in a country for a year that didn’t have guns (well, you could have a gun if you lived in the boonies and hunted but it had to be visible in your car and you had to be on your way hunting or home and it the whole thing was tightly regulated), and I know I felt safer there, walking through the “bad” areas of Barcelona, worrying (sort of) about getting robbed, maybe at knife-point, but not about getting shot.
A couple times my Spanish friends asked me “Why do children shoot children in schools in America?”
And I recall having no answer.
But guns were never allowed in Spain. I don’t know if it would work here, with all the guns already in existence. It sounds nice in theory, but could we pull it off? I don’t fucking know. These questions feel too big for me, for little old me out here in northern California, trying hard just to grasp my little life, let alone national problems.
And then there’s the mental health people. “We need better services.” This morning, on NPR: “We have a mental health crisis in America.” I’m sure that’s true too. But I don’t know anything about that either. That feels equally huge.
Morgan Freeman was quoted saying that these disturbed people who are going to kill themselves anyway do it in these horrific ways due to the guaranteed media blitz. They become household names. They become that monster who killed rather than some nobody who died in a basement. I’m paraphrasing, but his words made sense, and I believed them, and his argument resonated with me as the most. They want to stick it to the world. They want to show the world that’s “hurt” them, ignored them, wounded them. They want to go out with a bang.
You win, you fucking asshole.
But mostly I’ve got no opinions on these big issues, particularly in the immediate wake of these tragedies. Maybe I’m an uneducated American. Maybe I’m lazy. Or maybe I’m just tired.
I’m equally struck by these parents who immediately announce these defined “approaches” regarding how they’ll handle the tragedy with their children: they absolutely will not tell their children (to preserve their innocence) or they WILL tell their children (to teach them about whatever issue they feel is important).
As you may have noticed, I don’t really have a clearly defined approach to parenting. I like manners. I dislike whining. I will not tolerate racism, bigotry or hatred. I think gay marriage should be legal.
But aside from that, I pretty much never know “just what to do.” I don’t have some over-arching parenting methodology that governs my decisions. And I never have.
By the time I saw my kids on Friday they already knew. Mac had told them. I don’t know why and I don’t know how, I just know that they knew, and we talked about it a lttle. I kept looking at Rocket because he’s seven, and in first grade, like the babies who died. He said he knew he was safe at his school. I shook my head to cast out the thought of anything less than agreement of his innocent conclusion, and thanked God it’s winter break, so my kids won’t have to go back to school for three weeks.
Then we watched The Hobbit.
On Saturday we drove to my family’s Christmas celebration and on the way we listened to the President’s speech and watched him wipe away tears, and I cried and so did Mac and when I looked back at Ava she had tears streaming down her face.
And I guess I’m glad she knew.
But as usual I had no words of wisdom, no deep insights, no “take-away.” We all just cried, and kept on living our lives, as we must, I suppose.
But Friday night I brought Georgie in our bed and she didn’t go back into hers.
And when I saw this I felt like there would never be another complaint exiting my lips as long as I live, though I know that ain’t true.
And then there was this moment, and I wondered if the mothers of the children who died had already bought their kids’ special holiday outfits.
And when Georgie sat alongside her grandma to sing Christmas carols and Rocket was dancing and Ava singing, I thought “I’ve got the best deal of anybody in the world.” And maybe my heart exploded.
When I was fourteen years old I saw “Shindler’s List” in the movie theater with a couple friends. Afterwards, when I got in the car with my mom, I began weeping. I remember like it was yesterday, trying to wrap my head around the gas chambers, the children and mothers and fathers scratching at the walls and screaming in those rooms, falling into oblivion because, because why? Because they were Jewish. I was in mental turmoil and physically disturbed: I didn’t sleep for days. I felt stripped, abused, violated. My brain refused to process it. It simply could not do it.
I remember the agony of the realization that such a horror occurred. It was real.
But it couldn’t be real.
But it was.
Maybe I wasn’t ready for that truth. Clearly I didn’t have the “tools” to make sense of it.
Then again, maybe that’s right where we’re supposed to be: in the dark grey murk. In the chaos in the hell in the despair, in the place that cries for meaning, for purpose, for just one moment of logic, reason, sanity.
Maybe it’s best that we refuse to turn it into some neatly wrapped package, some approach or theory or “stance;” that we refuse to distill it into a sentence: We need this. We need that.
Not that we lie down and forget it, figuring “what the hell, nothin’ we can do,” but that we face it with the bravery of everything we’ve got, even though we’ve got nothing, fighting until our last breath to find something like an answer. So when it comes, we’ll be ready.
Ready for what? I don’t know.
Change, I guess.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
I’m trying, somebody please tell me how.
All I know is my love, for the ones that came home within two hours, and the pain in my soul, the aching truth of our existence, the place where there are no answers, where the Jews died and the children died and there’s me, little old me, hungry for a place to settle my feet, and my mind.
Sure that if I hold on, it will come, and it won’t all be for nothing.