I’ve been cultivating a slow Sunday morning habit, the core of which is avoiding email and social media for as much of the day as I can. Good news rarely comes through those channels. At best, the things I read on my phone steal a few minutes of space, from my brain. At worst, the things I read turn what could be a restful day into a blur of stress, worry, and sadness. I realize that those words have that power, mostly, because I give them that power. But sometimes, what can you really do?
When my willpower is strong and my phone stays away, I am rewarded with blissful mornings, complete with feelings of connection to my husband and children. When my willpower is strong, I can let the troubles of my life and the world fall away. I can let myself just be.
Yesterday, I made it to around 11am. Which means I lived in blissful ignorance longer than most.
We had ventured out to a new bakery downtown. The sky was blue and the morning was warm but not yet brutally hot. Excited by a mini-adventure that promised sweet treats, my kids were in delightful moods, bouncing happily and sharing pieces of muffin and cinnamon bun with each other across the distressed wood table. We were together and happy and trying something new and on a late spring morning, what more can you ask for?
So it was almost noon when I first saw news about what happened in Orlando.
Except that I didn’t click.
Instead, I continued along my morning, walking alongside my son’s tricycle on the way to the park and my daughter’s new two-wheeler on the way back. I sat outside and watched my kids dash in and out of the sprinkler, admiring how my little girl, who once would barely agree to get a toe wet, now runs straight for water, leaping through the fan of sprinkles. I watched my son avoid the activity altogether and admired my own ability to be ok with that this time around, now that I know how it will all likely turn out.
When I finally gave in, read the headlines and the content below them, the tragedy had already been deemed the worst in our country since 9/11. My social media feeds bursted with images of condolence and hope and love and, then, anger and frustration at the hate.
But I didn’t join in. I put it all aside and I woke my sleeping children and we went to their swim lesson where I dipped my toes into the icy water and cheered as my daughter swam and my son splashed. I wrapped towels around my children and changed them. We came home where I gave them baths. We ate dinner and read stories and said our prayers and I tucked them in.
I went through the rest of my day and ignored yet another giant hole that had been torn in our humanity. I did not click on links to gather the additional details. I did not click to see what horrible things Donald Trump had to say. And I still haven’t. I didn’t even seek out the stories of the good that always surface in times like these. I didn’t try to catch the predictable wave of light through the darkness. I went about my small, quiet life. I closed the blinds, kissed my babies’ sleeping faces, and went to bed.
I didn’t send out an image of hope or a note that my thoughts are with those torn apart in Orlando. Because, to be honest in a way that scares me, my thoughts were not in Orlando. They were as far from Orlando as I could possibly get them which, when my three people are here with me under this roof, is satisfyingly far. After all, the point of my media avoidance is to keep my thoughts here, with my children and my husband and my life in this moment. But, also, if my thoughts were truly there, then I would not have dropped my children off at school or camp this morning. I would not have let my husband out the door to catch his train. I would not find the strength within me to sit here, alone, just typing.
I’ve been doing this more and more lately, this willful shrinking, deliberately closing out the bad out there in fierce protection of the very good in here. I rarely listen to the news. I give up scrolling Facebook. I stop clicking and so I stop talking and I stop engaging altogether. When given the choice to go out or stay in, I strongly prefer that we all stay in. I focus my attention on my kids. I read them stories, answer their questions, absorb their imagination and wonder. I talk with them about the world as I find myself building barriers between it and us. Lately, I am sticking my fingers in my ears and pretending the world reaches no farther than the cozy spot I’ve created for us here.
I have become the fear that we are warned to keep at bay, the fear that means the enemy is winning.
I am also the confusion and the disbelief. Anger turned to terror. Events that used to motivate me to think of ways to do something and inspire change now motivate me to nestle deeper into my home and my kids.
It feels like giving up.
I want to be the hope. And the love. Because if I can manage to be those two things, then my children will continue to grow as those things and maybe, just maybe, we can turn this thing around. I want to be the hope and the love because that is what we all need right now, it’s what I need right now. Hope and love work against the fear and the confusion and, if properly applied, might calm my nervous stomach and stop my fingers from shaking on the keys and allow me to keep dropping my kids off into their lives and letting my husband out the door to his. Hope and love might even bring me back to mine.
As part of my withdraw from the world, I haven’t come here in quite a while. Every so often I type a few paragraphs that I never return to and, so, they never make it out for you to read.
But today, I’m going to click ‘publish’ if for no other reason than to reach back out into the world with a little something and hope that creates within me, and you if it might, the strength to reach back out with more.
To hope, love, and light.