Category Archives: death

Feasting On Tragedy

feastingontragedy

I attended my first writing conference last weekend. It was exhilarating and exhausting. It was scary (I have a serious shy person problem) and fun. Mostly, it was exciting. I stepped out of my comfort zone. I met new people. I read my work out loud. I talked to people who I want to be when I grow up, and I didn’t say anything stupid (mostly). I learned a ton, and I even slept on a bunk bed in a dorm!

By the time Sunday morning arrived, I was beyond tired, but I was inspired and anxious to get home and do ALL the things I learned to reach my goals big and small. Everything was awesome. And then I saw the news ticker at the bottom of the television screen in the cafeteria at breakfast.

20 PEOPLE DEAD IN MASS SHOOTING AT NIGHTCLUB IN ORLANDO

I finished my breakfast, attended the last session and closing ceremony, and loaded up my car for the long drive home. At check-out, where I handed over the keys to my dorm room, I saw the news ticker at the bottom of the television screen in the office of residential services.

50 PEOPLE DEAD IN MASS SHOOTING AT NIGHTCLUB IN ORLANDO

Fifty.

I got in my car, turned on one of the news channels on the satellite radio, and listened to the horror unfold for the next four hours while I made my way home. Just like after 9/11 and Aurora and Sandy Hook (and so on), I had to take it in. I had to feel the sadness and pain and fear and anger. I had to absorb it and let it race through my veins because why were those people experiencing unimaginable terror, shock, and loss and not me? Why was I having the time of my life at a writing conference? Why was I alive? Why were my children safe?

I fed the beast.

Halfway home, I stopped for coffee at a highway rest area. I was afraid to go inside. Eventually I did, but not without wondering the whole time if I were safer near the front entrance or toward the back of the building. I thought about how when I go to see a movie with my kids, we’re not only told to silence our cell phones, but also to be on the lookout for “suspicious characters” and to know where the nearest exits are. When did this become normal? When I returned to my car, I turned the news back on.

I fed the beast, and the universe took note.

On Monday, the strap on my favorite pair of shoes broke on my walk to get the kids at school. That evening, I noticed a mark on my face under my right eye that had changed from a red spot to a pimple-like bump just like the one that turned out to be a basal cell carcinoma a few years ago. I made an appointment to see my dermatologist on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, we lost Internet access at the house all day. Ugh. That afternoon, a police officer at school pick-up gestured aggressively at me because he didn’t like the way I brought my car to a stop at the crosswalk.

By Wednesday morning, I was convinced that if the sun was shining, the earth was burning. My shoe broke because I shop too much and spend too much money. The Internet went down to distract me from doing my work because I didn’t deserve the indulgence of being a writer. The police officer singled me out because I was a bad, irresponsible mother. And obviously I had skin cancer. On my face. Again.

I was sweating the small stuff. All of it. Meanwhile, 49 innocent people were dead and another 53 were injured. All of their lives – and their family and friends’ lives – were forever changed. Forever broken.

I watched, I read, I listened. I fed the beast.

On my drive to the dermatologist, I listened to a news update about a two-year-old boy who was snatched from his father’s arms by an alligator and presumed dead at Disney World. And about an up-and-coming pop star from “The Voice” who was shot dead by a deranged fan. And about the wife of the nightclub shooter who knew of his of murderous plans but didn’t speak up.

I imagined the stitches, the bandages, and the scar I would have after another Mohs surgery on my face because I didn’t take good enough care of my skin.

I fed the beast.

After an anxious wait, the dermatologist walked into the examination room, looked at my face closely with special light, and said, “You have a pimple.”

You. have. a. pimple.

These four words ended my feast.

I didn’t have skin cancer. I didn’t shop too much (for the most part). I didn’t not deserve to be a writer. I wasn’t a bad or irresponsible mother. I convinced myself that taking on others people’s pain would alleviate their grief (and my guilt), but instead of creating light, I let darkness spread. I spiraled into an abyss of negativity. I had a bad week, but I was alive. My kids were safe.

I feasted on tragedy, and I made myself sick.

Interestingly, the last session of my writing conference was about self-care. It was about taking good physical and emotional care of ourselves – preventing pain, developing healthy sleep habits, taking breaks, communicating well, acknowledging Imposter Syndrome, and trusting that we’re good enough – in the midst of stress, chaos, work, and life in general.

I have not taken very good care of myself this week.

I’m still going to watch the news. I’m still going to feel helpless and heartbroken for the lives lost and ruined. I’m still going to imagine the unimaginable, and I’m still going to wonder why? Why? But I’m going to try to stop eating when I’m full. I’m going to remember that punishing myself won’t set anyone free and that tragedy will sadly always be there when I come back to the table.

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Filed under anxiety, death, Disney World, fear

God Is In The Picture

I’m as surprised as you are that I’m writing about God. As Dylan would say, “Awkwaaaaaard.” I feel as qualified to talk about God as I do quantum physics or Minecraft mods. What the heck is a mod, anyway? I don’t even know if it’s appropriate to write God or if I’m supposed to write G-d. The whole thing makes me as uncomfortable as watching “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” I’m going to stick with the “o” over the dash here, because the dash makes me feel even more anxious, if that’s possible.

I believe in an energy that runs through the universe and that if I’m lucky or fortunate or grateful enough, I can tap into it to feel something larger than myself, but I don’t know if that means I believe in God.

I send prayers to friends and family who are grieving or ill, I whisper a prayer for safe travels every time I get on and off an airplane, and I see my beloved Harry in rainbows and sunsets, but I don’t know if that means I believe in God.

Years ago, a gust of wind knocked me off of my feet after my Great Aunt Glenna died. I felt her presence so fiercely that I lost my breath, but I don’t know if that means I believe in God.

I don’t know why I can’t just say that I do or that I don’t believe in God. Whichever it is, a concrete answer would be a lot easier to live with than the perpetual questioning to which I subject myself. But, I can’t. I simply don’t have an answer, so God and I have an unwritten agreement to keep a safe distance from one another. We avoid eye contact, we’re not friends on Facebook, and we let calls go to straight to voicemail, but regardless of our efforts, something keeps bringing us together.

It’s not motherhood per se. Becoming a mother didn’t sway me one way or the other, although I totally get how it could. I mean, I grew a human being inside of my body! Twice! My molar pregnancy didn’t squash or boost my faith either. It just made me angry and sad. A decade later, it’s a wash. I’ve experienced the devastation of loss and the miracle of life, and I’m still on the fence.

It’s my kids. My children have natural and independent inclinations toward God and the unknown that have nothing to do with me (that I’m aware of). I have parented them the same. I have given them the same foundation of values. I have provided them with the same education. Yet, Dylan questions everything. He’s fascinated with death and insanely inquisitive about the afterlife, so much so that I sometimes wonder if maybe he’s been here (or there?) before. Whereas some kids ask “Why?” on a permanent loop, Dylan’s go-to question is, “What happens after we die?”

Riley, on the other hand, plainly and beautifully accepts God as true. “God is everywhere,” he once told me once while nibbling on Goldfish crackers in the car. “God is in my Goldfish,” he said munching away. How could I argue with that? It was a lovely sentiment, especially considering how many Goldfish cracker crumbs were on the floor of the backseat of my car.

Another time, Dylan asked, “Who makes shoes?”

Riley said, “God makes shoes.”

“Actually,” I piped in, “people make shoes,” to which Riley concluded, “God makes all the things that people don’t know how to make.”

Fair enough.

These conversations happened when the boys were much younger, but I remember them clearly – in fact, I wrote them down – because I never want to forget the authentic and easygoing relationship they have with God. I remain as confused as ever, but my kids and their unabashed honesty – about their certainty or their doubt – have taught me to appreciate my spiritual journey more and worry about my spiritual destination less.

I no longer cower from or cringe over my boys’ questions about life and death and everything in between. I welcome the opportunity to engage their curiosity and confront my own hesitancy. When Riley says, “God is in my heart,” I’m comforted by his faith (how ever long it lasts), and I’m equally reassured by Dylan’s courage to question it all.

Not long ago, Riley and I did an art challenge after dinner. In an art challenge, we choose a theme and then we each draw a picture. When we’re done, Dylan or Dad picks a winner. (Exciting stuff, I know. At least it’s not Minecraft!) That night, I drew a bird per Riley’s instruction and he drew a truck per his whim.

Several minutes into our battle, he said, “I think I’m going to win.”

“Why is that?” I asked as I feverishly drew a bird with colorful feathers surrounded by fall foliage.

“Because God is in the picture,” he said.

“God is in your picture?” I asked peeking over.

“He’s building a house,” Riley explained.

godriley

Indeed, God was building a house in the sky above the truck, Best Buy, and “Targit.”

My little feathered friend and I were totally screwed, because you can’t win an art challenge if your opponent has God in his picture. Still, I felt triumphant because, thanks to my kids, God is in my picture, too.

godmommy

Not that picture. ↑

This picture. ↓

godboys

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Filed under boys, conversations to remember, death, Harry, molar pregnancy, motherhood, religion

On Marriage, Loss, and Double Sinks

Good Morning,

I’m so honored to tell you that I’m on Club Mid today (for the first time!) with a piece called “The Secret To The Long Haul of Marriage.” Thank you for reading and commenting and sharing!

Here’s the link:

–> http://www.scarymommy.com/club-mid/the-secret-to-the-long-haul-of-marriage/ <–

Happy Sunday!

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Filed under death, marriage