Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Everything's Not Fine

Posted to Facebook, June 13th, 2016, by Berkeley Breathed
(If you're not following Berkeley Breathed's Bloom County on Facebook, you should be.
Go ahead and do it now.  I'll wait.)
Everything's not fine.

I mean, sure, it is fine on lots of levels.  I got my daughter off to school with a minimum of fuss.  I got myself to work on time (same for yesterday).  I made dinner last night, packed lunches this morning, administered a final exam to 9th graders, ate a muffin, graded essays.  The usual stuff of life in mid-June.  Oh, and I voted.  It's primary day around here.

But I had to switch off NPR on my ride home from work.  I couldn't listen to the news anymore.

Today I feel fragile, like maybe I could shatter if the wind blows too hard.

I've been writing on this blog about my fears: fear of playing ball with the boys, fear of bike riding on major roadways, fear of rollerskating.  Mostly fears of falling down.  I can think about those.  But there are other fears I routinely put in a box, store on a high shelf, try not to look at too often.

Sandy Hook made me look. Paris made me look. San Bernadino made me look.  Orlando made me pull the box down and dump its contents on the bedroom floor.  Each time it's harder to put everything back and close the box.

I've read a few articles in the past forty-eight hours, mostly about the people who died at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando.  I made myself take the time to read a list of names yesterday.  Today I cried as Anderson Cooper told us something about each of the forty-nine lives lost.  (I've always had a soft spot for Anderson Cooper):

I try not to read too much, though.  I skip the articles with transcripts of text messages, and I don't like to read about the man who perpetrated the violence, or speculation about his motives.  I don't know what will happen to me if I read too much, but I have this sense that it won't be good, so I just don't let myself go too far down that road.

It takes a lot of energy not to think about something.  I've been very tired these past few days.  And I keep sighing.

I've also read a lot of Facebook posts from friends, making their own statements about what has happened, sharing information, looking for ways to help.  Maybe this blogpost is my turn, but what I really want to write about is my daughter.

This morning she asked me, seconds before I had to drop her off and go my own way to school, "Why do people do murder?"  Answer that in ten seconds and make it meaningful and not scary.  Sure.

She didn't seem too caught up in the question, and she bounced into my mother-in-law's house, eager to have breakfast and play a game of Chutes and Ladders.  (I think she's feeling nostalgic.)  But I thought about it some more on my ride to school, I listened to NPR , and I had to pull myself together as I pulled into the parking lot.  Sigh.

One of the blogposts I read this weekend was from Abby's father.  He shared a photo of a previous year's Pride Parade in Portland and wrote, "An important year to march. Please join us!"  I couldn't breathe for a moment.  All I could think was, "I can't let Abby go."

Abby has marched with her father through the streets of Portland behind the giant rainbow flag before.  She has grown up around all kinds of people: gay, straight, transgender--and she doesn't see anything but people.  She thinks it's perfectly normal that Mommy, Dad (my husband, her step-dad), Daddy (her biological father), and Mark (her Daddy's partner) attend all of her important school events together.  (We are quite an assemblage at parent-teacher conferences.)  It blew her little seven-year-old mind when the four of us escorted her to Disney World en masse.  Her entourage on Halloween night is comical.

But Abby doesn't know much about the struggle, the hurt, the fear that got us to where we are today.  She's only now starting to realize why Mommy and Daddy had to break up but doesn't really fully understand why Daddy couldn't easily choose a boy that first time around.  She doesn't know about what happened at Pulse (or in San Bernadino or Paris or Sandy Hook).  But this morning she asked about why people murder.  So obviously she's heard something.

I'm so angry that my brain now automatically goes to the need to protect her from guns and bombs, and not just the possibility that she might fall off her bike.  I mean, this is me--I get nervous when she runs down the driveway (she could fall) or plays in the yard (ticks!).  I'm already always fighting the urge to keep her from running, jumping, tumbling, riding, climbing, falling.  Letting her go is hard.  And getting harder.

Last night I fell asleep in a deluge of tears and tissues, wracked with fear that one of these times it will be Abby or someone from her family who ends up a victim of cruelty and violence.

I want to end this post with something uplifting, about how love is bigger than hate and we have to keep living and we can't give in to fear because that's what the bad guys want us to do.  

But I've seen love break Abby's heart too many times this year.  She lost her grandmother, her great-grandmother, her beloved cat, and her hamster all in the last six months.  When you love so many, the risk of loss is all the greater.

And now I get to fear hate, too.

I'm worried (yeah, what else is new?) that this post will make me sound hopeless.  But weirdly, as much as I'm feeling the burden of loving someone who is still so tender, and feeling the burden of hate that is manifesting in violence, I still have hope for the future.  That's what children are, right?  Hope for the future?

Mr. Rogers gave advice for times of tragedy: he said to look for the helpers.  And that really helps.  Those are the stories I'm trying to focus on when I look at the news or listen to NPR.

These few days have been hard, and there will be other hard days ahead.  I don't want to grow numb to tragedy, so all of this feeling is a good sign that I'm still ok.  And I've got my family, my dog, my friends, and the potential to face my fears.  So yeah, everything may not be fine, I may be feeling a little fragile right now, but I'm not about to shatter.


  1. Susan, I've been enjoying your blog! I am not a risk taker, either, and completely get it. Though I admit with age and the sense that my time on earth grows shorter and shorter, it's been easier to overcome some fears. I've done more risky things in my 50s than in all previous decades combined. Some experiences have been wonderful, others just meh and still others total failures but at least they happened. Can't wait for your next installment!