There has been yet another school shooting here in the United States. As the facts emerged, I moved quickly from a moment of shock and horror to anger. Not anger at the shooter. Not anger at the institutions that are failing to address this scourge. My anger was directed at the news outlet that I rely on the most because it didn’t spend much time on it. The coverage of the situation was wrapped up in the quick hourly update. They didn’t want to interrupt their regular programming, which was focused on the Royal Wedding. I was livid.
And I spouted off – on Facebook, there was no letter-writing involved, but I spouted off nonetheless. And in spouting off I garnered some response from friends that brought me to the heart of my suffering. I ran to anger because it is easier, but I skipped some essential steps.
Every time this happens, and yes, there have been enough of these incidents that I can comfortably make generalizations about my own behavior, I have to raise the question of whether or not I should be homeschooling my children. I ask myself if this is the only way to keep them safe. I ask myself what that would look like and whether it might address some other lesser concerns I have about their educational experiences. I ask myself if I could actually take that task on without losing my mind. And THEN I ask myself if it is fair for me to remove my children, if that isn’t a demonstration of the depth of my privilege. It gets messy really fast and it’s all confusion and anger, bile and swirl. They are all real questions; they are all real issues, but it feels like any other spin. And there’s a good reason for that.
It feels like spin because what I’m doing is avoiding how I feel every time this happens. My mind immediately goes to how not to feel that way any more. I don’t want to be afraid – not for my kids, not for anyone else’s kids, or for my country. And I am. I am afraid for all of us. I don’t want to feel the grief course through my body as I hear about the children who have lost their lives to our ineffectiveness. I don’t want to see my former students in those faces or imagine the lives that could have been and imagine the pain their families must be enduring. I don’t want to do any of that.
And yet when I skip past it, everything else becomes an impasse. All questions lead to “I don’t know” and “I don’t know what to do.” The spreadsheets alone won’t get me anywhere, even if it’s just that I need to realize there is nowhere to go. The thinking about it won’t inspire good decisions or action or the kind of robust citizenship that is required in times like these. The thinking about it won’t sustain my resolve or make clear which path is the right one. The thinking about it won’t fuel me and propel me to use the gifts that I have to help shift this world. All of that – the resolve, the fuel, and the clarity and action – starts with the kind of honesty that comes with letting the wave of feeling happen.
I have no shame about running to anger first. There is plenty to be angry about, and feeling how I feel won’t stop that. What it will do is to allow my heart what it needs to find that path, take the next step, and to release a small piece of the grief we endure on a weekly basis. And so, I am allowing it. And I thank you for you holding this sacred space with me, as you surely are by having read this far.
I wonder what would happen if we all allowed that feeling. If we all stayed with the moment of the loss for longer than it takes to create a policy statement, if we all decided to allow the sorrow to touch us before we squared off. I wonder if we might find it easier to make progress if we were just honest with ourselves and allowed the national wound that this is to penetrate our individual and collective consciousness.
In all of it I find it important to remember that I can be in sorrow and still be strong. I can be sad and still be motivated to act. I can grieve for our losses and our larger community and still demand better on every level. I can honor my heart and still work toward the kind of transformation our children deserve, and perhaps this is the only way forward.
So be it.