My blogging routine goes something like this: Think of something I feel like discussing, fight to find a few free minutes during nap time or after the boys’ bedtime on nights my husband has class, write.
I don’t do a lot of pausing, thinking or editing. Pretty much, I just kind of swoop a net through my brain and gather some thoughts, then let them flow onto the page.
Sometimes, though, it is a little more intense than that. Sometimes I write because I feel like I have to. Not that I owe it to anyone, but literally like my brain needs that release. At those moments, the thoughts don’t flow so much as pour onto the page, pushing each other aside as they all fight to find their place through my fingertips and onto the screen.
This Fall, has been full of times like this. Times where I needed to write. Unfortunately, most of these times have been due to events so upsetting that my need to write was surely a part of my own processing, coping or grieving.
Once I have written my original ‘release piece’ about any event, I waver. I still have leftover emotions, obviously. But I also have other things I want to talk about, want to share, want to have in writing for my kids to see someday. I think of my readers, too. When something like a massacre of first graders occurs, I imagine that you, like I am, are still reeling, still grasping for understanding, still welling with tears at a certain comment or sight. However, we can’t live our entire lives heart-deep in sorrow.
As I have wavered following this latest tragedy, several things have guided me. One is a movie my husband and I watched the other night called Happy. There are people in horrible situations all over the world that maintain true happiness. Yes, things like poverty or disease are different from random acts of violence in that the person or thing to blame is not always as clear. The level of anger probably less because of that. But it is a reminder that happiness is a choice, truly counting our blessings is a choice and reacting with humor and love, rather than continued despair and anger, is a choice.
Additional guidance came in the form of a beautiful comment on the Real Mommy Chronicles’ Facebook page from a beautiful friend. She quoted an excerpt from this blog post on www.OrdinaryCourage.com about practicing gratitude for what we have. What Brené Brown has to say in her post is absolutely worth clicking over to and reading, but basically she explains that honoring what you have is actually the best way to honor what others have lost.
As you can imagine, the third thing that has steered my choices about how to navigate all of this is my own family. When Hurricane Sandy hit, we had to prepare our apartment for the worst without scaring the boys, when I was diagnosed with cancer I had to deal with my own shock and fear without placing worry or sadness onto my sons’ shoulders, when children with whom Carlitos had attended school were stabbed to death by their nanny and when many children were shot and killed in a building where they should have been safe I have had to entirely shield my own children from my devastation, let alone the facts themselves, in order to preserve their sense of security and joy.
Life is a messy thing. There truly is joy and there truly is pain. Ugliness and beauty. Love and hate. Acts of terror and acts of compassion.
All of it at the same time all over the planet.
We can’t focus solely on the horrible in the same way that we can’t only acknowledge the good and put blinders on to the bad. The human experience is supposed to be all of it.
A couple days ago, we went to see The Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. When Santa talked about how important the light in a child’s eye is and how the spirit inside of them is joy, I cried. For all of the kids that don’t get to enjoy a complete childhood and for all of the parents who outlive their children.
But I also spent most of the show laughing at my two boys who couldn’t help themselves from bopping their shoulders (Xavi) and doing jazz hands (Carlitos) to each song – totally absorbed in their own happiness and unaware of their surroundings.
So, I will now finish a blog post I had started early last week, in the spirit of honoring the ones I love. And hope that there can be a little more space in between ‘I have to write’ moments for a little while.
My husband worked in a gas station convenience store growing up. The thing he seems to remember most from this period is when parents would come in, buy cigarettes or beer and then yell at their kids when they asked for a piece of candy.
So the parent gets to spend money on their vice/unnecessary pleasure but the child doesn’t? And worse, gets in trouble for daring to ask.
The impression this left on my husband has been entirely in my benefit and the benefit of our boys.
He has never come home with beer for himself without something in the the bag for us, typically candy for the boys and chocolate for me. Never, ever, ever.
It works with bigger things, too.
This week, my husband had his work review and his bonus was a little bit more than he anticipated. While most of the extra will probably go toward our deductible because of my surgery, and he definitely needs a new suit, his first thought was of the boys. We had already purchased all of their Christmas gifts, but had stuck to a budget. Now, he wanted to think of something extra that would make this Christmas even more special for the boys.
His first thought: the boys.
While visions of a weekend getaway to Vegas, bottles of fancy champagne and reservations at a chic restaurant flashed through my mind, my husband had already begun thinking of what he could buy for our kids that would be entirely frivolous and amazing and mind blowing.
Parent points go to daddy on this one, big time.
So, we are trying to find a cabin in the mountains to rent this weekend. We did this one weekend this summer and the boys LOVED it. We just got back a huge pack of Carlitos’ written stories from his teacher and at least three of them were about this weekend at a cabin in the mountains. I am thinking being up there with snow just might make their little minds combust with joy and fascination.
I am grateful that I have a husband who can think of nothing better than giving to his kids. And I am beyond thankful that we are able to have so many adventures as a family. In honor of those who have lost a child, I vow to never take mine for granted. We will continue to fit in as many family outings, explorations and new experiences as possible. I will hug and kiss them every day and remind them how much I love them as often as they’ll let me. We will laugh and play and create.
My husband and I will do everything in our power to give them the happiest childhoods possible.
I am trying to take comfort in hoping that those parents who have lost children really do see that as the best way to support them and to honor the memories of their children.