My friend has a daughter who was recently diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, and she doesn't know where to start. My friend's daughter's boyfriend is travelling in South America, and she hasn't heard from him in days. My own son is training to deploy into a war zone and my daughter-in-law is having nightmares this week without him home. Another girlfriend of mine is going through surgery as a direct result of having gone through an agressive treatment of an aggressive cancer. There are some serious burdens that these people are facing.
But then this morning, I woke up wondering if my son returned home from watching the Batman Movie Marathon at the Avenue at White Marsh, and then I remembered! He woke me up when he got home and said goodnight because he believed me when I promised him a punnishment worse than death if I had to worry about him in the middle of the night because I wasn't sure if he was home or not. Then, as always, I checked my phone. "CNN Breaking News - At least 20 people shot early Friday at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theatre, a hostpital official says." Then "Police: Gunman kills 14, injures 50 during early Friday screening of Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado"
What exactly was I worrying about? I go to work each day for 4 weeks in the summer to teach children who are profoundly autistic. I see children during the school year whose father was shot by an ex-girlfriend. I read the news and hear about the horrific things people are doing either in the name of their god, or just because they didn't feel right when they woke up in the morning. Then, I take another look at my life and realize that, honestly, I am living in the land of milk and honey. My husband's terrific, I absolutely crazy-love my job, my oldest boy has found the love of his life, and married her. And, HE works in job that he absolutely loves. My youngest son lives at home while going to college, and still comes to me to ask my opinions on BIG issues.
My friend's daughter? She has girlfriends who love her and an amazing mom. The relationship she has with her mother is so incredible, it almost makes you want to cry, and her older sister is also her friend. She'll make it past this bump with her boyfriend. She'll hurt, but she has PEOPLE. My daughter-in-law's nightmares? She'll be the first to tell you, she shouldn't have watched such and such a show, or she shouldn't have had that third glass of wine. She is so incredibly strong and self-sufficient, people forget that she might actually be missing her husband (my son) in the middle of all the things that she is involved with on base. She has a great number of girlfriends on base who are going through the same thing she is, and she knows how to use them. They are an excellent network for each other and they have each others' backs. My little cancer survivor? She has such an incredible family, I often ask if they'll adopt me! They are starting up their own Cancer Cure Run, and they have cooked and cleaned this tough woman's home, and taken her children to summer camp, and to the pool ever since this began. She has a tough road to hoe, but constantly reminds me how GREAT she has it. My friend with the kid on the autism spectrum? She is a special education teacher in the public schools, and while she is incredibly overwhelmed, and is taking a year off from teaching while she sorts out what she must do, she has resources. She has a beautiful child, who, in her own way, will bring her joys she never previously would have thought of as joys. She will meet people on the way who will show her kindnesses she never thought existed. She will develop relationships with moms and dads of other autistic kids, and she and her daughter will thrive.
Sometimes, we need to step back from the problems that are causing our worlds to blow apart, and realize that actually, our world is really quite a bit bigger than we think, and if we just let the rest of it in, we can survive. I took a long walk to school this morning and stopped in the middle of it, because the smell of the wet rain on the freshly mown grass was so nice. I took a few pictures of a couple of guys in a cherry picker putting a new grocery store sign up on a building. I chatted up the Starbucks girl (that was a hoot and a half), and I went to school to be with my co-workers, and we fashioned a day of alternative learning for the special needs kids in our classroom. I felt more at peace and more ready for joy after that walk than I did when I woke up.
My advice for you today? Hug your kids. Listen to them. Tell your partner that you are still in love with her or him. Call your best friend and sit on the phone for 20 minutes while he tells you all about the car repairs he had to do, or while she tells you about how MRIs scare her. Hold on tight. Then, go out and get involved in something that charges your batteries. Do something, no matter how small, that makes you feel like you have more energy to devote to the things calling your name, and clamoring for attention. Send your kids to the movies, and hug them both before they leave and when they creep into your bedroom to tell you they are home. Go to your child's school and volunteer. Even if your child is "too big for you to be be involved". Will any of this stop the next random shooter? Doubtful, but you will know that you lived your life to the fullest, and gave your best to your family, friends, and your life. It's time.
I am mourning for the people in Aurora who lost children or friends. I also feel pain for the shooter's family. But, I feel better for having smelled the grass and held my son tight this morning. I'd love to see how you've made yourself feel better about things in the aftermath of any of the senseless tragedies we've all been through since the dawn of our time. Leave me a comment below. You never know who your comment might help out!