Thoughts on a tragedy
Today's bog post is going to be different than my usual posts. I have no step by step answers or tools to manage how we process these tragedies. I typically don't write about many current events because I find it takes me time to process and find my words. But, today I feel the need to write. My words may not come out right, my thoughts may be jumbled, but I felt compelled to share.
Today I woke up as I do every day only to hear the horrific news of another mass shooting. I feel sick, I feel sad, I feel angry. I wonder when enough is enough. I wonder what it is festering in our country that makes people take these kind of actions. I worry for my children. The reality is everyone at that concert in Las Vegas was someone's child. It breaks my heart.
I find that these events also increase my anxiety. Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine, Aurora, and every other shooting in a public place all fuel that fearful part within us. They start to feed the irrational anxiety monster within that worries about going to a concert, the movies, or even sending our kids to school. I struggle with this too. We are hard wired to protect our kids and anxiety is part of that , but it can easily take over.
This is not what I envisioned when I had children. This was not part of my childhood. I am pretty sure my parents never thought twice about sending me to school, going to the movies, or letting me go to a concert. Maybe I am wrong and they were anxious. Maybe I was was just unaware. Either way this wasn't something that I predicted I would have to navigate in my parenting journey, yet here we are.
So what do we do? How do we navigate this part of our reality. We can't let our anxiety run our lives so for the sake of our children we have to manage it.
Fred Rogers said it best when he said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping". This is crucial. Looking for the heroes, the helpers, the resilience, the survival. While we can't change a tragedy we can change our focus. We can focus on the helpers that come out in all of these scenarios. It doesn't take away the tragedy or the unimaginable loss, but it does provide a glimmer of hope and humanity that we need to hold onto. We need to remember that there is good, there is hope, and there are amazing people in this world who risk their well-being for strangers every day. It makes me feel more hopeful knowing that for every one person that commits a terrible act there are so many more helpers.
I also can't help but challenge that anxiety beast within to face the fact that in general on the day to day we live in a relatively safe place. There are many places in this world (and even this country) where people's day to day lives are full of terror, fear, and real life threats around every corner. For the most part we can leave our houses and come home later that day. There are thousands of concerts a year where these things don't happen. Yes things happen, yes these concert goers thought they were going to go home too, but most of the time these things don't happen. I know what you are thinking...until they do. My mind goes there too. I get it. But again, that is our anxiety. No one knows the future and anxiety loves to live in that place where we worry about the future.
"If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present. "Lao Tzu.
This Lao Tzu quote resonates with me every time I hear it. It is exactly what we need during these times when anxiety is close to taking over. It is how I recommend we manage living in a world where we here about terrible events way too often. Staying present, being mindful, allows us to focus on only this very moment (and in reality only what we really have control over). Living each day to our best ability, loving our children, and most importantly not letting our anxiety take over.
Living in a constant state of fear is detrimental to our health and well-being. It can handicap us in ways we never imagined. While our goal may be to protect our children, our fears can become theirs, continuing the cycle and negatively impacting them as well.
This is where the work begins. This is where I work to stay present, to keep my mind from jumping to "what ifs". To not allow irrational fears to take over and to really look at just this moment and the information that is presented to me in this very moment. I feel the anxiety wanting to creep in and take over. For now, I will mourn those lost, feel for their families, and continue looking for all those amazing helpers.