Ever since the tragedy in Newtown unfolded, I’ve been contemplating what to write about on my blog. I knew I needed to write something, anything. Writing is my therapy these days. It helps me process. It grounds me. But how do I find my footing after an event like this? When I first heard the news I was alone at home with Luca. He was sleeping peacefully, thankfully, because when I heard the news I wept. Then I saw a post from one of my favorite bloggers about not freaking out in front of our children as that would only scare them more. I know that Luca is far too young to understand anything, however I do believe that he can sense when I’m scared. Once he woke up, I held him tight and put on a strong face for him.
But there was something so… wrong, so fake about the way I was acting. I’ve struggled my whole life with depression. I am very sensitive to hopelessness and despair. Naturally, events such as these trigger those emotions in me. As time went on, I felt a bitterness rising up within me. I felt hopeless. I felt scared. I felt fucking pissed off. Wow. Should I erase that? No, I’m not going to sugarcoat this post because I’m a Christian and shouldn’t swear. I’m pretty sure God was fucking pissed about it too anyway. There were so many strong emotions that felt overwhelming and they were magnified by the fact that I am a mother now. One of the emotions that haunted me was guilt. I actually felt guilty that I had selfishly brought a child into this disaster of a world simply so I could have a family. I imagined him as a kindergartner being so scared and helpless. I imagined myself receiving a phone call that my son was gone. This is what my torturous mind does to me. “What have I done?” I thought as I looked down at my son.
Then Saturday night came and I started noticing myself wanting to distance myself from Luca. I didn’t want to hold him. I felt overwhelmed as a parent. I told Caleb that I needed a break. I confessed to him the horrible thoughts I was having and that I felt like I was slipping into depression. Even during the hardest sleepless nights with Luca, I had never wanted to distance myself from him. This, I knew, was a dangerous feeling. It’s a feeling associated with post-partum depression. Caleb asked me if I had been taking my placenta supplement and I realized that I hadn’t. I went and took it and then asked Caleb to pray for me. He did. He prayed for my mind, he prayed for protection, he also prayed for Newtown. Something about Caleb that is so beautiful but also so difficult for me is that he is very positive. He can hear events like this and brush it off. I can’t do that. They haunt me. He knows me well and just held me until I fell asleep.
This morning, Caleb greeted me with a goofy smile and more snuggles. He made me breakfast while I fed Luca. Things felt better this morning and I knew today would be the day that I would write. What about though? Should I write as a parent, a therapist, a Christian, a crunchy activist… how? We went to church and the sermon was about Joy. I was struck with the idea that joy is a choice. I decided that my depressed feelings were not going to overcome me. I don’t have that luxury as a mother anymore. I decided that these strong emotions were going to propel me to action. Now, I want to pause for a second and say that I think I had it in me to make this decision because my hormones were balanced, my husband was being supportive, and I felt the presence of God. I certainly wouldn’t have the strength to come to this conclusion on my own. I looked down at my son as we were in church and remembered the meaning of his name, “Luca Hart: Soldier of the Light.” This world is dark. Yet, there is light to shine into the darkness. The Christmas season is a reminder that God sent light into this broken world to be a source of hope for us. Someday, every tongue will confess and every knee will bow to God and we will be freed from the suffering of this place. I knew that I would need to muster up the strength to channel my energy to be a messenger of God’s truth, a messenger of hope. It’s so much easier to surrender to the despair, but I just don’t want my life to be directed by that.
Then I realized, I can’t write about this from just one part of who I am. I’m all of those things so my writing, like my actions, will be colored by all of them. So, here’s what I’ve decided to do to bring some light into this dark world:
1. As the mother of a boy, I am gravely aware that males commit most of these heinous crimes. I vow to be the best mom I can be to Luca by encouraging him to embrace his masculinity in healthy ways, to allow him to express his emotions without shame, and to limit his exposure to violence in the media. Some great resources for parents of boys are:
–Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys (Caleb recommends this as one of the best books he’s ever read)
–Parenting From the Inside Out (I recommend this for every parent, best parenting book I’ve read by far)
–Wild at Heart (Great Christian book about the way God made men, it helped me a lot as a woman to understand the soul of a man)
2. As a Christian I am going to continue to cover Newtown in prayer. I plan on sending some sort of token of condolence to the town. I want them to know that they are in my prayers and that God has not forgotten them. He longs to bring them hope and healing. (If anyone has any ideas for what this token could be, please let me know!)
3. As a therapist I plan on offering my services to be part of an emergency response team for crises such as these in the future. I can’t do that now but someday Luca can go without his Mama for a few days and that will be the time for me to jump in.
4. As a crunchy activist I plan to become more involved in promoting government policy that will better the mental health services provided by our country. We need better options for parents who are dealing with kids who have mental health issues. I also feel very strongly about educating parents about the dangers of allowing their children to be exposed to violence in the media. I also believe that it’s important that guns are not so easily accessible. Especially guns that are suitable only for a war-type situation.
5. Above all, I will choose to seek joy. I will enjoy the time I do have with my loved ones. I will continue to lean on God for my strength and look to Him for hope. This is a daily sometimes, hourly commitment, but it gives my heart a lightness that only He can give. It’s better than any drug and any amount of snuggling because He gives my life meaning.
Just writing these things out makes me feel empowered. I no longer feel like a weak person wandering about life, hoping that nothing tragic happens to my family. There are no guarantees in life and it’s certain that life isn’t fair. I think it’s good to grieve the reality of the world we live in. Yet, we don’t have to surrender to despair. We can take action towards making this world better. We can bring meaning to tragedy by using our powerful emotions as a catalyst for change. We can also choose joy. We can choose to see the beauty in this world. Turn off the news. Take a break. Allow time for healing. This Christmas, allow yourself to embrace the true meaning of the holiday. Accept the gift of hope.
May God bless you with hope and give you something to smile about today.