Someone told me we’d forgotten Newtown. I don’t think we have. Someone told me we will never learn. I don’t know if that’s true, but I worry. Someone told me that the “other side” just doesn’t care. I know that’s not true. We are all still carrying the pain of that loss, of all the losses. We just don’t know what we’re doing. We’re drunk on it, the whole nightmarish thing, and we’re stumbling around lost, striking out at anyone who chooses a different way to believe this craziness can be solved.
I’ve been saying “When we’re living in fear, the terrorists win.” I say it a lot. Fear is controlling so many people, and there’s so much anger too. In fact, we can find all the stages of grief, alive and well in how people talk about the Sandy Hook shootings, and all the shootings since then. There’s even conspiracy theorists, literally stalking some of these parents, bent on proving it all to be a hoax. Denial taken to a sick extreme.
We haven’t forgotten. We’ve drunk it in, absorbed it into our beings. We’ve become tired, angry, and less willing to pause and breathe before we react. We are weary, we are sad, we are so very pissed off. And we are helpless, in spite of the arsenals and the concealed carries, in spite of the research on mental health, in spite of the walls and divisions we fight over. In the end we can’t change what happened, we can’t go back to that time we remember when our children were safe. We are lost.
The heartache of that day is mixed up inside of me with the certain knowledge I had then that I was losing my second child to the hatred and fear of parental alienation. I was coming to terms very slowly with the fact that someone I loved with all my heart, and who loved me just as much, had learned to hate me, had become so involved in that hatred, that nothing I did had the power to change her mind. I was already in the dark of depression when the news came about the shootings, and my lack of hope was already life-threatening.
Maybe the shock of what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary saved my life. Maybe that’s why three years ago this week I finally told my doctor the truth about how bad it was, what had been happening, how I’d decided the best way to die so that my family would be sure to get my insurance money. I wanted to disappear, to let everyone off the hook. I wanted my children to stop feeling like they had to hate me in order for their world to make sense. I felt they’d be better off in mourning than moving into a life of lies and paranoia. Sometimes I still wonder if that would have helped them more than the choice I made. But I chose to ask for help. Then I chose antidepressants and therapy, and I’m utterly grateful I had that choice.
A few weeks later, I did lose my daughter, and she hasn’t been back in my house or my life since. More to grieve. And the shootings have kept coming and coming. We are a broken nation with no doctor. We are at war with ourselves and everyone else. The unimaginable has become, almost literally, a daily experience in this country. And instead of recognizing the pain and fear that overtakes us all, instead of helping one another grieve and recover, so many of us have grown ugly and isolated.
We are full of inner conflict, loaded with misunderstandings, and a bravado around those misunderstandings that has people not even wanting to try to see things a different way. We call each other libtards and morons and worse. And a lot of us seem to be enjoying the vitriol, which is the really scary part. We’re all a little sicker than we used to be, and I think that’s part of the Newtown legacy. We think we’ve forgotten, but really, these things have become a part of us, malignant and growing. Newtown and all the other towns – I don’t think we’ve forgotten, I think we have drunk it all in and become some new Mr. Hyde version of ourselves.
In the last three years, I have climbed mountains in my own soul, and come out stronger and better in almost every way. I have faced demons, myself, and learned how to keep doing so every day while loving this amazing life I have now. My wounds are healing, but just like this country, I have scars. I’m a different person, just as we’re a different nation. To pretend we can go back in time and create a better past is the worst kind of torture we can inflict on ourselves. It makes us take sides, look for someone to blame, to hate. But it isn’t that simple. We have to find a way to try to heal ourselves instead of tearing our country apart.
What I have found in the last three years of emotional heavy lifting is my center, my balance, my ability to pause, think, and react with generosity as often as I can. Do I screw up? Only all the damn time. Sometimes I can be mean too. Apologizing is my new friend. But it’s the trying that matters, the fixing what we can fix, and letting go of what we can’t. I still have trouble with the letting go. I can’t fix politics or hatred or gun violence or race relations. All I can do is speak up and ask people to reconsider what they’re doing and saying, maybe pry open their minds just a centimeter before spouting off. I see the closed-mindedness on all sides, the belittling of the “other,” the cutting down of people who are really just grieving in a different way, but still afraid, just like the rest of us. We all long for safety and belonging. We are all drunk on horrible things.
I can’t fix this. I want to so badly. All I can do is tell you that this world needs kindness more than ever. You can’t fix this either. I’m guessing you want to also. We can’t heal until we realize we’re hurting, and give ourselves room to become something better. So maybe, can you ask yourself a few questions for me? Or at least think about it…
Are you helping people, or calling your friends names for not agreeing with you? Can you do better? Do you really need to pass on that “clever” meme that insults those who think differently? Is there another way to make your point? Are you willing to honor the victims of Newtown, and all the other towns by not giving in to your basest fears without thought? If you truly believe that you can’t convince anyone of your side of things, is there anything else you can learn for yourself? Those “morons” might know something you don’t. At the very least, can you allow that everyone here on this crazy planet is seriously just trying to do their best? The gun-nuts and the libtards, all doing their best! You may think some were dropped on their heads as babies, but does that then mean it’s okay to belittle them? Oh, please, for my sake, and for yours, don’t say yes.
Today I’m still grieving for all that was lost in Newtown and in ourselves. We will always hurt, and we simply can’t forget. But we really can get better than this.