Last Thursday, I talked about moving things through. Sometimes, we don’t need to hold stuff that isn’t ours or that isn’t ours to do something about. And then Friday happened and there was so much heartache and horribleness, that some of us, most of us, couldn’t possibly hold it. Some of us couldn’t even take it in because the sadness is so massive when the tragedy of Newtown, CT comes into our lives.
My kids were away for the weekend and last Friday I was 7 days into the flu or something nasty like the flu. I stayed inside and cried all weekend. All weekend, I coughed up vile-sad-anger-grief into the sink and wiped my heartache onto Kleenex and sleeves and it felt like my body and my heart were in this together, so I’d have something adequately uncomfortable and disgusting to show for all this ache.
What do we do with this?
Does it do any good to cry over this? To ache for the survivors and their grief? To attempt to imagine the difficulty of rebuilding families and schools and communities knowing that we can’t possibly imagine the difficulty? To be in our homes and practice spaces, churches and temples and breathe and connect again to our body and this moment and the places in our landscape, both internal and external, where there is still some peace?
Some of us can’t connect with this right now. It is too close and we are too sensitive. We have small children that still need to go to school and if they can be spared the knowledge of what happened at Sandy Hook we want them to be spared. We don’t cry in front of them. We shelter them from the news and radio. We do our best to let them go on believing that school is a place where children and learning and time away from parents and home is still safe and sacred, and we will do our best to make it true. Some of us are caring for a heart that is already grieving and cannot hold more of the stuff. Maybe we are caring for another person and they depend on us so we take care of ourselves to be present for this work. So, we don’t hold the pain, but still it affects us.
For some of us, we take it in. We cry and mourn and grieve for our collective self. And those of us who can, we feel it deeply and hold this for those who cannot, remembering that it is only part of what we are capable of feeling. We can feel joy, calm, peace, love and we can feel heartache. But we do not hold heartache in this acute form forever. With time, it needs to digest. This big HUGE sadness can become something else. With the belief in something bigger and knowing that we are small and that we are not in charge of all the things that go on in this world, it starts to change. This energy that we take in may try to take hold of our gut or chest or heart, but we can move it. Crying, moving, shouting and being in the presence of loved ones can help with that. Some of it must move out and some of it stays. There is residue from knowing that horribleness can happen just as there is for joy and peace and love. All experiences leave a residue. Maybe what stays can transform and become fuel. The fuel can be spent in different ways: loving those in our community, patience for those who are struggling, kindness and care for ourselves and our families. Maybe the fuel becomes energy to contribute to change in our laws and policies. Maybe we are able to be more clear about what it is that we feel and we take action in ways that are meaningful. And that might look different to each of us.
Feeling this and allowing it to come in will change us.