Saturday, December 15, 2012

Processing the Connecticut Tragedy while Hugging My Babies

I had plans for today. I woke up to what I thought was going to be a wonderful day.

Knowing that the day would be filled with gratitude and happiness as the employees at our office received the Christmas bonuses.

Knowing that we would be ordering lunch from what is quickly becoming one of my favorite local places.

Knowing that I would be attending an Origami Owl party, carefully selecting charms and lockets for each of my daughters for Christmas.

Knowing that when the kids were all nestled snug in their beds that I planned to finish up the RACK 2012 Part 1 post that has been pushed to the side as my family fought back a nasty viral cold during the last week.

Today is not that day.

As our lunch arrived, I opened Facebook on my tablet and navigated my work computer's browser to news sites. And my heart shattered as I read the breaking news headlines detailing the tragedy in Connecticut.

Our staff, which had spent a good part of the morning talking about how we were looking forward to the delicious food, sat in near silence while eating. I found myself physically ill at what I was reading.

The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to distract myself from the emotional response I could feel brewing. I cannot wrap my head around what has happened. It is mind-numbing. My soul has frozen in place, afraid of how it can move forward in a world where this can happen. And everywhere I turned, all afternoon and into the evening, my thoughts have been saturated by this tragedy.

How many of those parents were planning Christmas shopping this weekend? How many were waiting for their Christmas bonus to help finish their last minute shopping?

How many parents were at their work, looking forward to their own lunch plans when they received the call? How many parents were home with younger children, putting them down for naps when they received the call?

I attended the Origami Owl party this evening with Diva in tow, trying to have her help me pick out charms for lockets for her and Sassy while in stealth mode so that they could be presented at Christmas. But in the back of my mind, I was thinking of those families who won't have the opportunity with their precious angels. No stealth moves to select perfect gifts for their child, no need to send your child to go check on the toddler so they cannot see you buying the gift for them.

 As I selected birthstones and charms that fit the current interests of the girls, I could not help but think of those mothers and fathers who might have already spent such careful time selecting gifts, possibly already wrapped under the tree.

When I arrived home with Diva, Hubby and I worked together to get her and Monkey into bed quickly. Sassy is at a sleepover tonight. But I hugged her tightly as I dropped her off at my aunt's tonight. I plan to pull Diva into bed with me for a while when I go to bed. Probably Monkey too at some point. I want to snuggle and hold my babies against me tonight, because in the back of my mind I cannot forget the awful reality that many parents will not have that opportunity tonight.

Disbelief. Anger. Sadness. Heartbreak. Shock. And a million other emotions.
This is what this day has become. Not at all like I expected when I prepared for today.

But therein lies the truth. Nothing every turns out as we prepare for it. Every day is precious. It is a gift. It is to be cherished, for we never know when tragedy will befall us. And when it does, we are not meant to know the rhyme or reason. We are not meant to understand or make sense of the tragedy, only to hold each other closer in the aftermath.

In the coming days, there will be more details emerging. There will be angry shouts about gun control, school security, and other issues.

There will be details that emerge that, to be perfectly honest, I am afraid to learn.

You see, my girls attend a local elementary school. It has a security system with many of the same basics that Sandy Hook Elementary has. Doors lock at a specific time in the morning, right after the tardy bell. Access to the school after that time is limited to buzzing in at the main entrance, which features a camera so the office can view who is trying to gain admittance to the building.

I've always felt comforted about this fact given that Columbine occurred during my sophomore year of high school. After Columbine, our local schools began implementing security systems of this nature. Locked doors, video feed of the entrances to the school, and even having officers stationed on campus at the local high schools. These are measures that have helped me feel safe, like something like this cannot happen here.

But then I remember that the staff at our elementary school know me. They have seen me go in and out of their doors for 6 years now. While many of the staff might not know my name, I am a recognizable face, not one that would ever be turned away at the door if I press the buzzer at the main entrance. Based on the emerging details, the shooter in this tragedy was also a familiar face at the school.

So I cannot deny that something like this could happen here. And while I try to mourn the losses of this senseless act without personalizing it, I cannot help it. Every time I pause for a moment, my thoughts turn to those children. I am transported to all the days I have attended class parties or volunteered in a classroom, reading to a room full of shining faces as they laugh at "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie." And I cannot imagine the scene that unfolded this morning to a room full of shining faces just like the ones I have grown to love at my elementary school. And then I sob.

I cannot fathom the horror of today. It has hit my heart in a way that was not expected given the distance between Connecticut and West Virginia.  I cannot help but envision the faces of my daughters and their classmates. Their teachers. Their beloved principal. The guidance counselor that has helped my girls through grief. The nurse that has kindly cleaned skinned knees and treated minor illnesses.

So, while reading the news stories today, I have been overwhelmed by these images. These familiar faces fighting their way into my mind as I read the details emerging from this tragedy.

While still trying to process the events of today, I ran across two posts in my Facebook newsfeed that really hit home for me. First, Honest Toddler made me cry. I love HT because, quite honestly, his funny posts are exactly what I imagine Monkey thinking sometimes. As I arrived home tonight, I opened my Facebook and one of the "top stories" was HT's latest status update:

I think that simple sentiment expresses it all, no further explanation necessary.

As for the other post in my newsfeed that resonated with my soul, it is a post from MODG, sharing these wonderfully comforting words from what she describes as her best hippie and doula:

"It might be hard, but try to keep yourself out of the media fray with this. I know it feels insensitive, but it is not. You aren’t doing anything for any of the families or the world by following details; you’re just making yourself resonate in a way that channels pain, angst, and fear.
ANY visualization that is taking you away from what the media is feeding you and putting you on a frequency of YOUR choosing will be helpful, to you and everyone else. YOU get to choose your vibration—you do not have to be held captive and add yourself to the victim toll, which is what mentally happens when you resonate with the all-too-abundant negativity surrounding chaos like this. Be thankful for your blessings, be prayerful of a good world, and then go create it. The more of us who can resonate like this, the more we are doing our part to help.
And, of course, it protects your family, who are immediately affected by your wavelength (and MOST especially our unborn children who are affected in a *most* intimate way)."
This is just a selection of the two parts that resonated the most with me, but the entire piece can be found at the above link.

So this is what I plan to do. I will hold my children tightly. I will be thankful for my blessings. I will pray for those affected by this tragedy. I will work to do more good. I will continue RACKing to spread the joy and love.

But I will do my best to remove myself from further heart wrenching details. My soul is aching enough. Adding more details and speculation while I continue to substituted the victims of this day with the teachers and students that I know and love will not be good for me. It will weigh on my soul and my family will be affected by the shadow of that weight. And that is not healthy or productive for my family or those families personally suffering through this nightmare.

So I will remove myself from the "media fray" in the coming days. When I feel myself being drawn in, I will take two steps back and find a blessing to focus on instead. And if I am struggling to find a glimmer of sunshine in this world we are living in, I will go out with my children and create rainbows and glitter and cupcakes so that we may spread love, hope, and kindness to those around us.

I had hoped to finish the first RACK post tonight, but I just don't have it in me. I hope that I will be in a good place at some point this weekend and I will be able to do both Part 1 and Part 2, but I make no promises.

As for me, I am now heading to bed. But not before kissing and hugging Monkey one last time before bed. And not before checking on Diva and seeing if she wants to come snuggle for a while in our bed.

Hold your babies tonight. Pray for those that are suffering today. And go forward tomorrow with the intent to spread love and joy everywhere you can. The world needs all it can get after today.

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