I’ve been thinking about tragedy and how horrible things in the world impact us in very different ways. Some people tweet well-wishes, or rant about how our politicians have failed us, or retreat in the arms of the ones nearest to them. Or maybe all three.
Maybe there is no right way to grieve.
But, the reactions I tend to have are overwhelming. Sometime it’s so much that I feel absolutely nothing for a week or two. It’s defense. Biological, maybe.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve always been anxious. As a child, watching exorbitant amounts of Law and Order probably did not help. I’d worry about burglars and break-in’s, and kidnappings. I’d plan out ways to protect myself and my family if something were to happen–cut open my window screen with my pair of child-safe scissors, run to the neighbor’s house, and call 911 from there.
I had pretty solid escape plans.
But those plans would only work if things in the world were actually understandable, and if the world was the size of a nutshell. Often times, though, tragedy doesn’t make sense. And you need bigger weapons than child-safe scissors to face a world the size of the actual world.
I used to think of tragedy in isolation. What would the immediate impacts be on me and those closest to me? My world was four bedrooms and four bathrooms. And it soon expanded to a schoolyard, my grandparents’ homes, and the lives & realities of those I called family & friends.
Over time, my world kept expanding. And it made it increasingly harder to create escape plans to get us all out of emergency situations in tact.
Look, I consider myself extremely lucky to know the people I do and care so deeply about them. To have friends in nearly every corner of the globe is a truly wonderful thing–a gift that keeps giving.
But, that gift of knowing and loving people in places I can’t control, in places I cannot be to provide a shoulder or a helping hand, has been something that’s given me a considerable amount of anxiety.
Because when a tragedy occurs, natural or otherwise, in the UK, in Palestine, in Cuba, in Afghanistan, in Southeast Asia, in other parts of the US, in literally every country & disputed territory across this unforgiving world, faces flash in my mind and the atheist in me is quieted. I whisper something like prayer and hope that there is safety for the people I’ve met and the ones that they love.
I don’t know what the answer is, or if there is even a question to answer in the first place.
But I know that this anxiety and overwhelming worry I have for the well-being of my friends across the world is only getting louder. And even though it would be nice in some moments to shut it off, to turn away, to stop caring and let friendships fade, it wouldn’t make life any easier.
As anxiety-inducing as it is to love people in a world and political system that tells us to think of ourselves only, I would not trade in a heart that has felt a full range of human emotions or a mind that remembers far too many stories of loss & pain, and even more of laughter & triumph in the face of loss.
I don’t know what good these words will do. And maybe they serve only to quell my fears. But, maybe that’s all they need to do.
Maybe I just need a reminder that friendships with people different from you, living in different realities, and dreaming different things, are more valuable than the worries that threaten their existence.