Tuesday, December 18, 2012

clinging to one

I've been debating whether or not to write about the terrible tragedy that occurred in Newtown last Friday. On the one hand, I didn't want to write about it, because I didn't know what I could say that so many others haven't. But, on the other hand, I haven't felt this struck by a news story….maybe ever. This just felt different. It felt different because Alex and I grew up in Connecticut and lived less than an hour from Newtown until about a year ago, because my father-in-law lives only minutes down the street from Sandy Hook, because I have so many teachers and administrators in my life (including my husband, sisters, cousins, friends and myself at one time), because there are many kindergarten-age children in my life that I immediately thought of…..because I am a parent. And so, I decided I need to talk about this if I want to make peace with it at all.

When I was pregnant, I read this quote on the bathroom wall of my midwives' bathroom every month/week: "Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." And it terrified me. "How will I be able to handle that?" is what I used to think every time I read that wall. I am emotional and fearful and full of anxiety without a child. I struggle unendingly with a sensitive heart that cannot bear the sight of cows standing in the cold without blankets, or homeless people who are all alone in the world, or orphans without parents to love them, or horses that are in pens I've deemed too small, or or or. I cannot bear the news so I usually do not read it and never watch it. I cannot bear so many things that sometimes I completely shut down. Or cry. And now, I have to deal with my sensitive heart walking around outside my body? I have, at times, found myself wishing I could stuff my baby back inside my belly….where she is safe, where she can't fall while trying to walk, where no one can hurt her feelings (or body), where she is always warm and embraced and soothed, where she and my heart are right underneath my nose always.

But, she is her own person. And I am her mother. And I have to be strong for her. One of the first lessons I learned as a mother was when Emerson was about a month old. She would sometimes cry without explanation, as babies do, and I would be a mess and in pain until she would stop. It was so hard for me to see her in distress and not be able to take it away or prevent it. And then one day, I realized that it is not within my power to shield her from every wound life may inflict upon her. It is within my power to hold her hand and simply be there, loving her, through it all. (In more serious circumstances, I would, of course, take a bullet for her and do anything to protect her, but I won't always be able to.)

Back to the quote—I have thought of it a hundred times since I first read it. Every time I look at my child's face, another piece of my heart leaps out of my body and into a world that is unpredictable. The events of Friday provided a shocking, incredibly painful example of the things we parents cannot control. There are now twenty sets of parents (really more than twenty, because the adults that died have parents, too) whose hearts have been broken. And there are hundreds more parents that are now faced with the task of holding their children's hands through this frightening, scarring ordeal…..parents whose hearts hurt for the memories and fears that Friday will leave their children with for the rest of their lives.

Then there are the rest of us who hurt because we feel the interconnectedness of all human beings, of all parents, of all communities. We hurt because we have children (or have children in our lives that we love) and are filled with the anxiety of this troubled world that we cannot protect them from. We hurt because losing our own children creates unfathomable pain deep inside us. We hurt for those that did lose children on Friday. We hurt for the fear those children must have felt during their last minutes on earth. We hurt because we know teachers or are teachers, and cannot bear the thought of our husbands or wives or friends or neighbors or relatives or coworkers not coming home at the end of the day. We hurt because people died. Babies died. And adults who were someone's baby once, too. We hurt because this doesn't make sense, because there are so many questions, because it's just plain NOT. FAIR.

Here's the thing—I am glad that I don't have to send my child anywhere yet. But, I will someday. And when that day comes, I don't want to be crippled by the anxiety that terrible things may befall her. So, I cling to one. One love for one people, in the hopes that we are not lost as a species, that we can heal, that there is still so much light and love and good in this world to pull us through the dark times. Because, without that hope, I will spend the rest of my life clinging to one. One child (and her siblings). One uncontrollable pit of anxiety. And that's no way for any of us to live.


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