Yesterday a few people tried to talk with me about the outrageously tragic shooting in a Connecticut elementary school. My responses, in general, consisted of three word or fewer. This is not because I'm not touched by the event, nor because I'm callous. What it means is that for someone with my background, discussing the tragedy before I've had time to process it privately translates into panic attacks and horrible distress.
Some might say those are appropriate responses given the level of loss. Some might say that I need to allow myself those feelings because to shy away from them is unhealthy. Some might say that if I talk through what I'm feeling with someone safe, I'll be able to process everything more quickly and with fewer residual results.
I say: You do not know what you are talking about. You are not me. You do not have my experiences, my years of therapy, my knowledge of self. And regardless of your training and background, you still are not me.
I have had one day to think on what has happened. I haven't yet delved into the investigative reports and when I choose to, I don't know how deeply I will do so. I have not yet wept for the loss of life and grieving parents, families, and friends. I will wait until I know I can cry without being overwhelmed. And some day I will talk about this outside my blog--but not today.
You see, for someone like me, an event such as this has the effect of convincing me that people are inherently harmful; that no matter how we strive to protect ourselves and those we love, there is someone who wants to cause harm--even, in this case, death. And when I go to this place it affects the level of trust I have in others, it transforms all my relationships into platforms of fear, and I find myself fighting the impulse to cut off all communication and just hide.
I know--extreme and unreasonable. Welcome to my world.
So yesterday I chose to read the Facebook responses of grieving and angry friends. I chose to briefly scan the news reports. And then I chose to let everything lie. After all, one needs to be able to sleep at night or processing all of this can become impossible.
Today I am accepting that something horrible happened to innocent children and the people who wanted to protect them. I'm not just talking about those who were present at the shooting, but people everywhere who would keep children safe, but who could not help those who were killed yesterday. And in that acceptance I want to make the following statements:
1. There are moments which make life seem ugly and monstrous--when we realize that one person can spread violence and evil within a matter of minutes. But there are also moments within those moments when we watch people reach out to one another because grieving alone feels ugly and monstrous, as well.
2. I love Mr. Rogers's mother who told him, "Look for the helpers." All of us will need helpers to make our way through this tragedy. Those who have suffered devastating losses will need help most of all. They'll need monetary help to provide for the days when they must leave work to go home and cry, or to provide therapeutic intervention for themselves and their loved ones. Or maybe they're already stretched beyond their ability to cope, financially, and don't have the means to provide for their loved ones' burials. Regardless, my hope is that those who can, will share with those in need by donating to reputable sources. And for those who cannot, I hope they will share prayers, hugs, time...any appropriate resource with the victims and with those who mourn with them.
3. Today I will have hope. Hope is often an elusive entity in my life, but I want to believe that, regardless of how it seems that incidents similar to the one that occurred yesterday are escalating, this is an isolated, unusual thing and that the majority of humankind is caring and supportive of one another. I wish to remember that in this world of uncertainty, I am safe because I have many in my life who love me. I choose to have hope that while we never, ever forget those who have been lost to the senseless violence chosen by a few, we will also continue to believe that life is good and beautiful and worth living every single day. And for those who died yesterday, I have hope that they are no longer hurting and afraid--that in whatever place they are now found, they are embraced and comforted and filled with love and peace.
And to every person touched by yesterday's tragedy--I wish you the same.