I wouldn’t say I’m the best at communicating anguish when I hear about something terrible happening to someone. I certainly feel the pain. But when I try to express how horrified I am, or how sorry I am, it all comes out in this stilted and young vocabulary. By ‘young’ I mean, the words I use are ones that two year olds have mastery of, like bad, sorry, hug, wow, feel sick.
Some people have the gift of immediate and profound responses, or can at least show how deeply they feel something by crying right along with the person.
Not me. I have trouble finishing my sentences. And, I can’t even reveal my sympathy with tears. I’m on anti-anxiety medicine and while it has made me more human, in some respects, it’s also made me more robotic in that I rarely cry. The tears are in there, just waiting behind the eyelids for release, but it’s like they’re jammed. No matter how much I’m feeling.
So, that being said, when I think about Orlando and everything that’s happened there in the past week, I’m at a loss to communicate. This is the fourth version of a blog post I’ve started, and not one has adequately said what I feel.
I’ve tried to write about other things this week, but that isn’t working out either.
To not write about Orlando feels like trying to unsuccessfully squeeze past something that fills up the whole, entire room. And yet, writing about it feels impossible, too.
Each day there were new people to mourn, new motives to consider, and new aspects of hate that emerged. And, so much pain. My mind keeps taking shifts with the pain of those who loved Christina Grimme, the pain of all the people killed or injured at Pulse, the pain of everyone who loved them, and now the pain of those parents whose two year old was killed by the alligator in Florida.
That last one is hitting me the hardest, I must admit. It’s probably because I’m a first time mother and just experiencing the caliber of love that you feel for your child. It’s unique and boundless, really. I now understand what my mom means when she says she’s “only as happy as her least happy child.”
The idea that these people had to watch their baby be attacked and dragged out of sight by an alligator is almost too much to think about. How do you survive something like that, emotionally? How?
In some effort of self-torture, I’ve been trying to put myself in the shoes of those parents and imagine, minute by minute, what they’re going through and how I would feel in each of these unfolding moments if it was Laken. I’ll say this–I don’t think I could survive it. I’d have grabbed on to that alligator and not let go until it took me down, too.
I don’t think that type of agony is communicable for anyone. Not even for the very best outward sympathizers.
As I went through Facebook this week, there were all kinds of videos and temporary profile pictures showing solidarity with Orlando. There were inspirational photos, quotes, debates, links to news articles, and impassioned status updates in reaction to everything that happened.
As someone born in the 1970’s who didn’t even have an email account or regular use of the Internet until college, it still fascinates me that we can have an immediate dialogue with just about everyone we’ve ever met about current issues as they unfold. It’s neat, actually.
So, I’d like to share two things that were posted this week that stuck with me. They seem to be linked in terms of their message.
The first is a video clip of Stephen Colbert reacting to the massacre at Pulse. (I’ve included it at the end of this post, just in case you haven’t seen it.)
In a way, I feel like he gave me permission to not attempt a direct response about what happened. As he says, we can all imagine the script. We’ve heard it before, many times now, all eloquent and heartfelt. We can imagine what a president would say, what a newscaster would say, and maybe even what a blogger might say in response to all the news coming out of Orlando.
So maybe there’s no real need for me to stutter about my grief in this post. I’m sure we all know and share it, already.
Perhaps it’s less about what we say and more how we carry on from here. I’m not even necessarily referring to gun control, or the bigger ‘issues.’ The question is–how will these events shape our attitude? The way we view and interact with each other and our surroundings?
Colbert’s message stresses the importance of love combating hate. One of my favorite lines is when he says that love is a verb, and that it requires us to act.
The second post I’d like to share is a picture that one of my best friends posted. For homework, her son had to write sentences using the vocabulary words he’s learning and here’s what he wrote;
As I said, I have “crying issues” and yet this just about had me bawling when I first saw it, yesterday.
I think, if given ‘world’ as a vocabulary word–most adults would write a very different sentence right now, especially after this week. Depending on your stance, your homework sentence may be something like;
This world is messed up.
I can’t imagine what will happen to the world if Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton becomes president.
There’s something wrong with a world where people are able to get their hands on weapons designed for the military that are capable of killing mass amounts of people.
I should not have to go through the world defenseless, without weapons and unable to protect myself.
People around the world find the United States scary. (Sadly, I’ve spoken to several German friends this week who said this exact thing. They’re increasingly viewing the U.S.A. as a place where the potential to be shot, for any reason at all, is high.)
Some Americans would like to keep out people from other areas of the world, especially Mexicans, refugees, and Muslims.
What in the world were those parents thinking when they let their child wade into that water, despite the ‘No Swimming’ signs?
What in the world is wrong with people who would criticize parents going through such a horrific thing? Is there any parent in the world who hasn’t looked away for one second? Accidentally let their kid do something potentially dangerous?
So when my friend posted this sentence her little boy came up with at the end of a horrific week in American history, it just about knocked me over with its beautiful, open-hearted simplicity. The irony is jarring, obviously. After a week like this one, that sentence seems to be in stark contrast to anything else a person would write at this moment in time. Maybe that’s what makes it so powerful.
It’s a sentence that made me yearn, that’s for sure.
My friend’s son is living in a world that isn’t yet filled up with the topics that have come out swinging as a result of all this recent tragedy. It’s a world that isn’t crushed at the center of sentences about pain, death, guns, fear of where your country is headed, homophobia and rage.
He’s too young to be called ignorant. But, even so, it’s bliss; it’s what he’s known of the world so far.
So, what have these two posts convinced me of?
To be completely honest, I’m not sure. I’ve come back to this part of the post repeatedly today, trying to articulate why I found Colbert’s video and the sentence my friend’s son wrote this week so touching.
All I can come up with is that tragedy incites emotions that seem to be in direct opposition to each other. On one hand, we hold our family members tighter. We cry (or, in my case, wish our anti-anxiety meds would let us cry) about strangers. Airlines offer to fly family members to Florida. Candlelight vigils take place all over the world. People donate to GoFundMe. Pay for the funerals of people they’ll never know.
But, conversely, tragedy fills us with grief, anger, confusion, and debate. It makes us feel uneasy about and intolerant of each other. It makes us point fingers.
I think I saw what my friend’s son wrote and, for me, it drove home Colbert’s message.
If we allow ourselves to believe the sentence that little boy wrote is only a temporary state of being that will eventually be wiped out by the awful truth–then, as Colbert said, it’s a victory for hate.
And we can’t have that.
8 thoughts on “The Whole World is a Good Place”
Oh Sarah… thank you for being my “other half” of my emotional self. By that I mean you literally have written so eloquently what I have been experiencing myself. I thought I was alone in the masochistic way I try to put myself in the shoes of those that are suffering. As a mother, every loss is viewed from that perspective. As I heard and read reports of the text messages that were being sent to mom’s during the Pulse massacre, my heart literally began to pound just imagining the terror that woman must have felt reading those words and waiting…waiting…waiting for a last text saying they were ok. How do you go through that and walk away a whole person still? Lane’s parents, who did what parents do every.single.day and let their child explore their world around them. THAT is how children learn best, right? They were being GOOD parents. Loving, doting, caring parents that also understood how important it is to let their children step outside of their grasp so they can learn and grow. Then, in the blink of an eye they had to watch, helplessly, as the worse possible nightmare unfolded before their eyes. I do not do it consciously, but I can’t help but play that scenario over and over in my head and imagine what I would have done. How I would have reacted. How once getting the official word that my baby would not be coming home with me I would want to go back to that very spot and walk into that lake and not come out. How do you experience that kind of loss and continue to live?? I do not know how you ever close your eyes again and not be bombarded with the horrific images of the last time you saw your baby alive…
Like you, when I read Dylan’s simple sentence that morning, I broke. I did not know WHY it affected me so deeply until I read this post. You summed it up so perfectly. I broke because he is still so innocent and he still sees the world as a good place. I suppose I am envious as well and wish I could see the world through his eyes. 😦
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When I think of what all of these families are going through I know that any difficulties we might be experiencing are nothing. Trying to remember that when I’ m feeling frustrated, sad, or furious about what we are going through, the parents of the Orlando tragedies are life changing. I try to be cautious about the posts I put up on Facebook because you know everything on the Internet is “true”!. However I am reading lies, exaggerations, accusations and on and on. Sarah your thoughts are perfect. We need fewer moments of silence, fewer thoughts and prayers from Congress. We need action, we need change. We need to do something, now. If Sandy Hook didn’t make people wake up,then Orlando won’t either. I hate being pessimistic but I feel anything BUT hopeful right now.
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“Perhaps it’s less about what we say and how we carry on.”
That’s a beautiful thought and one I will cling to because I have trouble following such events debating what to say, whether I should say something, or whether I should just carry on. In both the case of the Orlando tragedy and the tragedy of the parents who lost their two-year old there are too many people saying, “I told you so” and I do feel compelled to respond to that. Especially the latter case because all parents will make mistakes. Just because this mistake ended tragically doesn’t mean we should add to their grief by judging them to be bad parents.
We can’t change the past but we can show compassion and hope–futile as it may be–that future mistakes won’t have such tragic results.
I love Colbert’s response and also John Oliver’s. The tragedy at the Pulse nightclub happened too soon for Oliver to address it in his show but he did tape a brief pre-show segment which highlighted the kindness of generosity of people responding to the event–people lined up for blocks to give blood to help the victims. He emphasized that the people who love vastly outnumber those who hate.
He then ended with, “And now please enjoy our stupid show.”
That last line reminded me of something a friend told me about when her father died. She felt numb and went to see a funny movie and laughed for two hours. Then she went home and cried for two days.
That brief respite where she could forget her loss and laugh allowed her to open herself up to her grief. It served as a reminder that it was still okay to laugh, to be happy, and that while she would grieve there was still a future where she’d feel those feelings again. There were still good things in the world.
And as long as there are still good things in the world the whole world is a good place.
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I’m the same. I guess I also have it a bit easier than you guys as while we’ve had coverage of the Orlando shootings it hasn’t been as in-depth as I imagine yours has been. Of course it has affected me and I have feelings about it but I’ve been trying to expunge them in my diary. Lots of anger and swears – if I tried writing a post about it it would just feel trite. I feel I need to say SOMETHING though, because silence feels like tacit acceptance and I most definitely do NOT think what that bastard did was okay. We have our federal election next month and I’ll be voting for marriage equality, for a start. I also post things on FB and comment on blogs written by people who can get past their anger and focus on keeping up hope for the future much better than I can.
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I try. I try so hard to not write about anything political. Nothing current-eventy and potentially polarizing. But, it’s hard, isn’t it? To write about stuff is what writers do. I am glad you did. I feel like I kind of wussed out. It’s a problem because I am MOSTLY pro-gun. People do not want you to have gray areas. Do I think my cousin who gets drunk a lot should be able to go buy a gun that mows people down? I most assuredly do not. But if you break into my house at night, past my barking dogs, ignoring my alarm system (it came with the house), and still continue on into my bedroom, I most assuredly will shoot you in the face. And people find that hypocritical. Is it?
Getting out the pitchforks for the parents of any child that comes to harm makes me sick. When a parent leaves a child in a hot car, I ache for the parents. I can totally see how it could happen. Try telling someone that. People act like that. THEY never let THEIR child out of their sight. You sure wouldn’t forget your PHONE! STFU. What punishment should we give those parents? Really???? Would you need further punishment?
The world is a good place and a scary place. For the first time in my 55 years, when I go somewhere in public, I memorize where the exits are. I glance around at the people and wonder, if a calamity struck, what role would each of these people play? What would be mine?
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Stunningly beautiful post, friend. Seriously.
Also, what the fuck is up with this past week? In addition to the horror that was global/national news, my husband and I also grappled with his Nana entering Hospice, my Grandpa being hospitalized, our brother-in-law being diagnosed with severe Chron’s, and my sister taking a trip to the ER. Oh, and we blew a tire on our car… that we bought 12 days ago.
Obviously, I am not one of those geniuses who can whip together words to adequately convey the grief that this week has evoked. So, yeah, I’m going to steal words from one of those geniuses who can.
I was listening to Hamilton this week, and one line stood out as relevant to the day:
“There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down”
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I solve it all by not watching the news, although I’m aware of all that’s transpired, and hear bit and pieces from passing conversations. If I want to know more, I can look up articles.
I felt the same way you did about the alligator story when I heard a story about chimps that snatched a baby from a backpack, took it up a tree and ate it. I might have had to commit suicide to eradicate the image and the grief from my mind, had I been the mother.
The uproar over the recent killing of the gorilla at the zoo to save a little boy shows that changes are overdue. Railings should be too high for anyone to sit on or scale. Since there was a chance for an alligator to come up that channel, it should have been blocked off with an underwater cage.
Any given week there’s plenty to be anxious, unhappy, outraged, helpless, frustrated, and in grief over. And that’s just before you get out the front door!
You probably don’t feel the same way as your German friends do about the safety of the US. As a matter of fact, many Americans feel that way about Europe. All we hear about are the bombings, mass rapes, machete murders, train stations being targets. I flew for Pan Am for twelve years, and I’m not sure I’d want to do it again, or travel around Europe. That’s no doubt a foolish feeling.
Americans feel safe here at home for the most part, and I wish you’d tell your friends that. I think we’re all prepared for a president that’s less than ideal, but we’ll survive that, too.
The way I see it, we are all affected differently. And so, while it might seem cliche to jump on board and write about a trending topic, we still have our own words to share. And someone might gain new perspective from reading them. Or maybe not. Maybe our words are just cathartic for us and we need to express them to feel some semblance of hope, of happiness, of normalcy.
It’s strange how as a nation (and world, really) we pinball from one big event to the next. Last week I was about a block away from a meat-cleaver yielding citizen. A few days later, news shifted to focus on the pipe bomb/pressure cooker explosions in NJ/Chelsea. It’s a strange world. Is it all bad? I don’t think so. But it’s so unbelievably reassuring to see the world through a young child’s lens, isn’t it? They don’t have that chip that we’ve developed over the years. They’re not quite jaded. And they certainly don’t have hardened hearts just yet. But by the grace of buddha/allah/God/whatever you believe in, your child is happy and alive and healthy. DO NOT imagine scenarios like the one that took place in Orlando with the alligator. I can barely type that without shaking. I can’t imagine experiencing that, I have no idea how those parents must feel, WILL feel for the rest of their lives…. but consider yourself blessed for every moment, every day, every landmark that you get to experience with your child as she navigates her way through this world 🙂
I love you. I’m rambling, I think. I apologize. But really? I miss you. Sending much love, my forever friend.