I camped solo last night by a river in a canyon. I went with a small group to do a nighttime medicine walk. This means I had people in safe shouting distance, but I also didn’t see another human being all night. I encountered deer, and I heard other creatures making noise in the distance, but mostly it was just me, the river, and the trees. My only shelter for the night was a sleeping bag. I dosed in and out of sleep with river sounds serving as a grounding mantra.
I wanted to walk away from the night with new clarity. I can’t say I found any. But something inside me shifted.
My past year was one of great darkness. I experienced extreme changes in every aspect of my life. This, and a variety of other factors, triggered a major depression that required hospitalization and a lot of diligent work and care to climb out of. I’ve spent the past several months climbing and climbing. I finally feel like I might be on solid ground. I got a new job that involves writing (hence the lack of blogposts on here recently).
Also, my best friend of 8 years and I decided earlier this year to be in a romantic relationship. It’s one of the best decisions of my life. I never imagined I’d marry a woman (I had only dated men until now), but the transition has been beautiful, and I’m happier in this relationship than I’ve ever been. I’m not convinced the soul knows or cares about gender.
As I’ve been tending to my own personal grief in the past year, the collective grief continues to feel unbearable. Human greed continues to perpetuate hate and fear, further fueling all of our systemic issues. We destroy this planet. The more destruction we see, and the more limited resources become, the more we divide ourselves into us. vs. them, making our animalistic fear come out—the kind that allows one person to kill another.
Like so many of us, I was paralyzed by the devastating news in Orlando. I couldn’t hardly talk about it or read about it for days, because I didn’t feel strong enough to let the grief in. I had to let it in slowly, reading a bit more about it each day.
Ignoring grief doesn’t make it go away. In fact, I think it gives it more power. If we don’t confront it, it weighs on our sub-conscious breeding more and more fear. I spent the past week contemplating how massacres have somehow become normalized, and that they always end with social media fights about guns or shared statuses about how we’re all in this together. But we all move on, which makes me wonder: are we really in this together? The victims’ families can’t just move on. Yet, I get that it’s too much collective grief for each of us to walk around with it constantly in our heart. How do we cope and respond to such tragedy?
After the Orlando shooting, I realized I’m just so tired. I’m tired of the society we live in that has people feeling isolated enough to go shoot up a place with innocent victims. It takes anger and hate to shoot at hundreds of people. Anger and hate are secondary emotions. In my essay Graffiti, I say how I think hate comes from hurt and fear, and massacres like this only further amplify the fear. If we surrender to despair or fear, we are letting darkness win.
I don’t know much about light, but I know it has more power than darkness. A little bit of light in a dark room has far more influence than a bit of darkness in a light room. I strive for enough balance in life to sit comfortably with both light and dark.
Last night I walked straight into the woods for the night. I could have slept in a meadow, under the nearly full moon, but I chose the darkness. I don’t know why. It wasn’t a conscious choice. I saw trees, and I went to them. I heard a river, and I wandered toward it. Until we stop running away from our own darkness, we will project our fear and anger onto others. I don’t mean let’s resort to self-defeating thought patterns about how bad we feel and how dark our own shadow is. I mean accepting the darkness for what it is—a temporary and natural part of life that helps us better see the light.
Last week, I violently murdered an earwig . It was outside. I really had no reason to kill it. The truth is that I was afraid. I was pinched by one on the stomach as a kid. It hurt. A lot. The ugly devils have scared me ever since.
This particular earwig was crawling on the lid to the container where we store our recycling. I had to open it to put away some bottles, and the damned thing took off toward me in a wicked sprint. I got scared and stomped on it. Because of the lid’s curved shape, the earwig survived. It played dead a minute and then took off running again. I stomped on it again. The same thing happened. Then I just became angry about it, despite having had a bit of guilt even while I was in the act. I stomped, and I stomped until I ground the thing into pieces. I felt sorry, but less fearful, so I tried to rationalize my behavior.
I said things like, “There’s so many of those bastards,” or “It might have gotten in the house.” I knew that the living earwig wasn’t actually hurting me, but just the fear of it was enough for me to want it dead.
I can’t pretend to have any real answers or insight right now, but I know that I can’t stay silent. Silence isolates us, and community is tragedy’s remedy. Below, I’m sharing a few articles and videos that have been helpful for me during this time of heavy collective grief. Please feel free to share what’s helped you along in these tough times.
“Who Gets to Be Angry” by Roxane Gay
Brene Brown TED Talk about Vulnerability
“Homeless Youth Find Their Way Home” by Mirabai Starr
Brainpickings reflection on Anne Lamott