Darlings, evil has happened again. AGAIN. And, as usual, it’s the same, same, same except with some added level of what to fear from now on. We know to fear the random stranger in a crowded place, the fellow student, the criminal. Now we know we have to fear the coworker we barely even knew.
When Columbine happened, Rosie O’Donnell had a show on television that basically made us all Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle. We were Rosie’s best friend, and we ate with her. She always gave away snacks. She brought contagious happiness onstage every single day. And, yet, I read in the star’s own words that when two teenagers opened fire on fellow students at a school in Columbine, Colorado, it affected her so deeply it altered her life for months, maybe more. It changed her health. She could not fight the depression, and she had to recover from her emotional response to that distant incident as if she owned it. (Perhaps she did, of course. Perhaps we all do.)
That story – and how true and possible it felt, hurts me every time. Every time I hear the words “active shooter” and then cannot tear myself from my news feeds until I’ve gleaned every horrifying detail, I think to myself, “This will be the one I can’t recover from.”
Today when I left work at lunch, I could barely drag my feet from the halls. I got slower as I moved towards the sun. How do we keep facing this? My children are always so horrifyingly far away from me when news strikes – this time a full five minutes away. And all I can think about is how in the world to keep getting up in the morning, how to leave each other again and again to go to routine things we don’t even want to be at all that much when any moment evil could lurk in one of our locations and separate us forever. How in the world did I have dreams yesterday? How in the world do I convince my children to have them today?
This will be the time I can’t answer any of those questions, and this shooter will have taken one life he didn’t even know existed. I’m going to cry forever this time. I’m going to fail my kids, because I don’t know how to convince them to be brave in a world that just keeps meeting our bravery with relentless, senseless hate.
I watched a webinar recently about writing a blog post. The speaker said that you must choose your voice, and there are three basic archetypes: the sage, who speaks from a place of authority, the sherpa, who speaks from at least a little way ahead on the road, and the struggler, who’s just right there in it.
That’s me tonight, because I haven’t worked all the way through the trouble. Not yet. The only thing I know, as an unfortunate sherpa for this one because, d*mn it, we have been here before, is that somehow, by some beautiful miracle of the stupidly audacious human spirit, which I believe to be born of God and gently carried by him, we do get up tomorrow. I do dream again, and I tell my children to dare to do that, too. We can face this.
In 2010, I saw Jesus in the ocean. As the boat roared away from land and farther out to sea, I felt panic in every part of my body. What was I thinking putting my children in ocean water? A place we were not born and where we do not belong and where something menacing does. I love sharks, and I am terrified of them. How could I even dip the toes of my children into a world with all those teeth? And then I dropped into the bright blue sea, and it was majestic. And I felt instant peace, and I – the watcher of Shark Week and Jaws – flipped my fins toward the statue, Christ of the Abyss, and felt stupid, audacious happiness that I had braved the sharks, to live. My children knew all the same scary things that I did, and they had braved it, too.
All I know is to let the miracle work. I don’t know how we move on from this unafraid. I just know that we do. I have seen us do it, I have been us doing it. I wish I were there already.