I don’t know how to write about this week. I wasn’t going to, but writing helps me process and cope and think [#cheaperthantherapy] so I need to try.
When I walked in the door last night my roommate took one look at my face and asked “Oh my gosh, what is wrong??” This week is wrong. This week has been terrible and terrifying and heartbreaking and surreal. Monday feels like it was a month ago, truly. I pray to God – literally – that this is as bad as it gets, that this week was rock bottom for our community, and there will never, ever be another week like this one.
I don’t even know anyone personally who works at YouTube, anyone whose safety I feared for. I didn’t have to endure the minutes or hours of waiting for a friend or colleague or loved one to confirm they were safe, like so many people I know did. This week has felt like walking around in a dense fog of confusion and tragedy and sadness, of navigating so many layers of work to do and action to be taken and new realities to be processed. I’ve alternated from hyper-productive panic mode to stunned lethargy to deep grief – and that’s in about the span of an hour. I have felt – and I know I’m not the only one – off-kilter and scattered, like I’m on the sloped floor of a boat on stormy seas, pitching back and forth struggling to find my footing, to regain a sense of balance and control.
The upside of any tragedy, always, is the way it brings people together, and this week has been no exception. There is a sense of community, of closeness that feels palpable and real – beyond anything I have felt before. There has been a stripping away of the small talk, the water cooler chit chat that comes with work environments and a returning to what makes us most deeply human. Professional, executive people have shed tears and hugged and used words like love and thoughts and prayers. I’ve received notes and emails that are clearly people struggling to find the words to convey the depth of their sorrow and fear and solidarity.
One of my favorite authors, Glennon Doyle Melton, taught me that the word “crisis” means “to sift.” As in to separate what is essential from what is not. I have found that deeply true this week. The things that seemed so important on Tuesday morning felt completely trite and irrelevant come Tuesday afternoon. This is, I realize, a trivial example, but I sent an email to 100 people yesterday with a glaring typo in the subject line – normally that would trigger embarrassment in my Type A, perfectionist self – when I realized my mistake I literally shrugged my shoulders and didn’t give it a second thought. Part of me is incredulous that ever seemed important.
I’m ashamed, in some ways, that it took this shooting to make it real, to affect me so deeply. As I watched parents walk their kids to school on Wednesday morning I thought “Is this how parents feel every time there is a school shooting? That sense of ‘it could have been my child’s school? It could have been my child, or their friends?’” I was saddened, of course, by Orlando and Charleston and Sandy Hook and Parkland. My heart broke and I was angry and grieved and couldn’t imagine what the victim’s families were feeling. The difference is now I’m not having to use my imagination. This has hit so close to home and the feeling of intense vulnerability, that this could happen anytime, anywhere, to any of us, is so real.
I’m also angry. I’m angry that this keeps happening. I’m angry that there is a non-zero chance that someone with a gun could walk into my office – or a school or park or church or playground or mall – and start shooting. I’m angry that I have to add this to the list of emergencies to be prepared for at work – fire drill, earthquake, active shooter. I was talking to a friend who was speaking matter of factly about the drills her company has for this type of situation and I felt like screaming “THIS ISN’T NORMAL!” I refuse to accept this as normal – fire, earthquake, active shooter- one of these things is not like the other. One of these things is an unnatural disaster. One of these things doesn’t happen in other rich, stable, developed countries like it does in the US. I am angry and I’m determined to channel that anger into action – through voting, through protest, through signing petitions. I refuse to accept this as the new normal.
Easter was less than a week ago – it feels like a lifetime – and I wrote a blog post about how the cornerstone of my faith is hope. To be completely honest, I’m finding that belief deeply tested this week. I imagine it’s like loving your spouse or child deeply, but hitting a rough spot in a 30 year marriage, or having your child test the limits of your patience – that feeling of “I know I love you but I’m not feeling it right now.” I know I have hope, that the world has hope, but I’m not feeling it right now.
But I know I will. I know it will get better and less scary, that time will heal some of the shock and sadness, and make it easier to figure out productive, helpful, life-giving ways to respond to this and how to move forward with deepened love, compassion and grace.
So, I’m taking some deep breaths, and I’m doing what I can – to help, to reach out, to find those glimmers of hope and light and beauty and love in what right now feels like deep, deep darkness. Because I know the truth, even if I can’t feel it right now – that light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. I know that the greatest forces on this earth aren’t hate or anger or bullets. They are love and compassion and community – the reality of our shared humanity. I’ve experienced that shared humanity in profound ways this week, and I’m walking forward with a renewed sense of gratitude for the people I love, and a clear-eyed vision of what matters most in this world – loving each other well.