Archive | December, 2012

If There IS a Day After Tomorrow…

21 Dec

According to loose interpretations of ancient Mayan prophecy, today is the last day before the end of the world. Doomsday Eve. Everybody is talking about it, and most are taking it in stride, laughing in the face of doom by throwing “end of the world” parties and hugging everybody as if they will never see them again (all in fun, of course).

Now…I’m not saying I believe any of this apocalyptic horsepucky, but perhaps I should have stopped at Walmart on my way home to stock up on toilet paper and matches. Just in case. Oh, sure, there are many items on a survivalist shopping list, but how many times have you left the store and smacked yourself in the forehead two hours later because you forgot the toilet paper? MHM. Exactly. And with my luck, I wouldn’t realize my mistake until the earthquakes start. (In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly HOW I’d realize that I had forgotten the toilet paper.)

So no, I haven’t been stockpiling food, medical supplies, flashlights, Snickers bars, my yet unread copy of 50 Shades. But now that I think about it, I may have subconsciously been preparing for the end of the world for weeks…without even realizing it.  I didn’t clean my house…so I guess I won’t have that awkward moment when you know an asteroid is coming and you look around and think, “Really? I finally vacuumed behind the television, and…really? Really??”

It’s probably serendipitous that I also did not get the tank filled with heating oil, since that would prove unnecessary if we end up hurtling toward the sun.

I haven’t paid my rent yet. If the world ends tomorrow, I’ll have some money to clutch in my hand, and can pretend I’m not dying penniless.

I didn’t schedule that appointment with my doctor, either, to save her office the trouble of robocalling me. “We’re calling from Dr. NNN’s office to cancel Susan’s appointment for tomorrow; Dr. NNN will be out of the office forever. We thought you should know that your test results will not be in until day after tomorrow. We are sorry for any inconvenience, and have a nice day.” (Oh, yes. My doctor’s office is THAT efficient.)

I did not buy any Christmas presents. If we make it to next Tuesday, my kids are going to be pissed.

Now that I think about it, I really haven’t done anything productive lately. So if Saturday rolls around, my “To-Do”  list is going to be pure evil. I will be busy.

And I’m sure I will be busy. Because I absolutely do not believe the world is going to end tomorrow. But I will confess that for a few moments tonight, I did let my mind wander to other things left unfinished…things I’ve always wanted to do, and haven’t. Yet…

I haven’t written a book.

I haven’t recorded an album.

I haven’t travelled out of the country. (Alabama does not count.)

I haven’t seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I haven’t found the perfect sticky bun recipe.

I haven’t achieved financial solvency for more than six hours.

I haven’t touched an elephant.

I haven’t seen the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.

I haven’t loved and been loved in return.

I haven’t been in a hot air balloon.

I haven’t gone to the Glass Skywalk at the Grand Canyon. (Oh, I’d chicken out after two steps, but that’s not the point.)

I’ve never had all my ducks in a row.

I’ve never kissed at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

So I guess what I’m saying is, there’s no time like the end of the world to make you think about all the things that are still on your “To-Do” list. And to be grateful that you still have the desire, and more time, to work on that list. And to resolve to get them done…someday…somehow.

And if I’m wrong –  if it turns out that there is no “day after tomorrow”…at least I can say that I died just how I always lived – with a whole lot of crap left to do.


Love Is Stronger Than Bullets

15 Dec

Today…another mass shooting. This time, 20 children and seven adults were murdered before the gunman turned the gun on himself.

Children. Kids. Happy, innocent, joyful children full of life and spirit and energy. Little kids. Which elevates this horrible thing from merely unbelievable to utterly incomprehensible.

That’s the key word here – comprehend. We can’t. We’re watching the news, looking for new information that will help us relegate this senseless thing to a place in our minds where we can somehow call it “sensible”. Not to justify it, of course, but for our own sanity and sense of safety in this world, we need to find and attach a reason to this.

Because it is happening more. A lot more. And the first time it happened, we said one time was too many, but then it happened again…and again…and again…and again…and again…and again…and again…and again…and again…and again…and then again today. That is way too many “agains”.

At this late hour, more than 12 hours after their lives were taken, the victims are still in the school, laying on cold floors, pending final official identification. The little town of Newtown, Connecticut is in shock, and life for all of them has come to a screeching, horrific stop. The rest of the nation is reeling with a sorrow that is sadly reminiscent of the days and weeks following September 11, 2001. Shared grief. Crying that comes in waves. And always…always…the question…WHY?

Tonight, we will cry. Tomorrow, we will argue about the answer to that question.

Gun control advocates will say that we should regulate the sales of weapons better. We will argue about that.

Second amendment disciples will say that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. We will argue about that too.

Religionists will say that this is a symptom of a godless society. We will argue the hell out of that.

Mental health professionals will say that we need to catch these disturbed people before they can act on their troubled urges. We will agree with the general idea, but we will argue about how to document crazy.

The media will excoriate this shooter’s family life, looking for clues, and even if there doesn’t seem to be concrete proof of childhood abuse or neglect, we’ll probably have a silent trial in the back of our minds, and find a way to blame his parents. Messy divorce, not enough structure, overly permissive…whatever. And then we will argue about nature vs. nurture, and the role of parents in an increasingly aggressive and difficult world.

Communities across the country will reevaluate school security measures, and put in budget requests for things like metal detectors and bullet proof classroom doors and additional guards on campuses. They will hope that these things not only prevent another attack, but also give parents, students and faculty a sense of security. We will argue whether this money is well-spent or utterly wasted.

The reason I know what is going to happen next, and why we’re going to argue? Because that is what we have done after every one of the last eleven school shootings, as well as other public mass shootings. We get sad, we get angry, we argue about the best solution…and then we get bogged down by the hopelessness of it all…until it happens again, putting the discussion back on the front burner.

Believe me, I’m not judging. It’s how life is. We DO care – very much – but we have a million things to care about, and do, and support, and argue…it’s understandable that we will slowly lose interest in trying to solve something that, quite frankly, has no real solution. It’s like trying to put together a thousand-piece puzzle when you only have half the pieces; it was hard enough in the first place, but now you see that it’s just impossible to solve. Sure, fewer guns would help, but it won’t stop every crazy person. More people carrying guns might make us feel safer from the crazies, but that poses more danger to a greater number of people. You could give every person in the country a mental health screening once a month, but dangerous people are still going to slip through the cracks. You could put God back into schools, but even if you converted everyone on the planet, faith is a measure of comfort, historically not a measure of violence prevention. You could enforce laws that protect children from parental neglect or abuse, but not all deranged killers come from broken families. You can take every safety precaution imaginable – in our homes, in our schools, in any public gathering place – but tragedy will still find its way in. All you’re likely to do is lose your humanity as you lock yourself away. Surprisingly, we all agree on this. So why do we argue? Because expressing anger is the second most empowering thing we can do when we are rocked once again by the sudden realization that we are helpless…we are vulnerable…and that none of us are ever truly safe in this world.

As I said, anger is the second thing we can do in the face of inexplicable tragedy.

The first, most empowering thing we can do is to love one another.

Openly, freely, loud, hard, and always.

Love is stronger than bullets. Really.

Loving the people that you love is what makes all the other arguments moot. Think of love as the ultimate violence preventer;  people who are loved…who feel loved…love themselves. And people who love themselves, truly, honestly, will not walk into a kindergarten classroom and gun down twenty beautiful little children. Not ever.

I know that sounds Utopian, and it is…but it is also the one very real thing that each of us can do, right now, every day, to help create a world where things like this happen less frequently. We have very little control over national violence prevention, but we have all the power in the world to fold our children in our arms several times a day and tell them that we love them. To reach out to people we know who are having a hard time, and letting them know we care. To just…love the people in our lives, as much as we can, while they are still here, and connected to us. These little stitches of love are exactly what we need to mend the holes in society’s broken fabric. And no, that might not be foolproof, but it’s a start, and it’s something we can all pitch in and do. What have we got to lose by trying?

At the very least, if it turns out there isn’t enough love to combat the anger and hatred in this world, I know that love does heal. When it can’t stop the bad thing from happening, it sees you through. For each of us, there will come a day when love won’t stop a bullet. Tragedy finds us all in different ways – different bullets. So love…openly, freely, loud, hard, and always.

I can think of twenty sets of parents tonight who will cherish the feel of last night’s bedtime kisses, and this morning’s hurried before-school hugs, for the rest of their lives.

And those memories…that’s how love is stronger than bullets.