After events like the recent Boston Marathon bombing or the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, my initial reaction is to be frozen as if shot in the gut with a laser gun set on stun. It’s hard to breath, to speak, to choke out words of any meaning. I will cry, watch too much news for a couple of hours, then something in my immediate world will draw me back. The dog needs to go out, my bladder wants to be emptied or some mundane act of living forces me to move, to break the paralysis that keeps me stuck to the couch with a silent scream stuck in my mouth. Inspiration is hard to come by.
It seems somehow wrong to have a nice meal or a soothing shower or to be happy to see my loved ones come through the door after being absorbed in the media world and drama that encompasses tragic events. I was hyper-aware when I stood up on my own two legs, how lucky I was to have them both after seeing images of one poor man in a wheelchair who had only bone sticking out from the knee down — several times. This is what finally made me turn it all off. That poor guy is going to see this footage and be reminded of those moments forever, not that he would forget, but sometimes shock and nature have a way of allowing us to erase certain harrowing moments or at least softening them. If that were the case for this guy, some idiot will surely show him the footage.
Sadly, these kinds of events aren’t new to the world, but the frequency and intensity has stepped up here in the U.S. in the last few years. If you lived in Northern Ireland or England in the 70s and 80s or in Israel or Afghanistan or Uganda . . . these kinds are events are no less horrifying, but less unexpected and shocking perhaps.
Platitudes suck almost as much as blame does. There’s always some DB that wants to claim that God is pissed at us, because we love gay people and allow abortion and this is his retribution. Seriously? Sorry, but this is NOT any god I would worship or put any kind of faith in, and trying to convince me otherwise during these times only infuriates me and makes me . . . well, actually, it makes me a bit aggressive and want to scream at the TV or the computer or the newspaper and maybe even throw things. Interesting.
The Dalai Lama usually gets it right for me at times like this. I dig my stubborn little heels in and refuse to be dragged into darkness. I reluctantly turn on the lights, breath deeply, smile at my neighbor, prepare a delicious healthy meal, and drink in life unabashed and unashamed — in tiny sips to start. I cling to hope, when it would be easier to collapse in despair and just eat chocolate all day and weep with the TV about the tragedy of it all (and sometimes eating chocolate all day and weeping on the coach is okay too!).
I hate funerals. Loath them. And yet I go and mostly I’m uplifted by the spirit of hope that usually ripples through the crowd. This was the case with my dear friend and spiritual mentor’s funeral this week (two days after another woman from the same circle’s funeral!). Jean Brookwell was a wise woman with a fantastic sense of humor and a wonderfully deep New England accent. She moved around a LOT, and there were long periods of time we wouldn’t see each other over our 17-years of spiritual experimentation. But, we’d always get on the phone and her voice is so distinct in my head still, “Megaaan, you have to embrace it all! The dark, the scary, the deep unknown.” She would often pepper me with Pema Chodron quotes, and tell me to meditate, which seemed impossible, when I was in such a state of desperation. But, it always worked. I can’t say how exactly, but the unwinding of the most dreaded thing in meditation always revealed a pearl of bright bubbly light and some new tiny piece of wisdom to be gained.
Thank you Jean. In this week of tragedy, my heart breaks open even more and I weep for my mentor, my friend, for her new reality, for my loss, for my new perspective, for her new perspective (hoping she finds a way to share it with me), for her family and their loss, for the unknown finish line we will all cross at some undetermined point whether by terrorist, cancer or old age.