I went on a date once with a guy who was, quite frankly, strange. He did odd things during dinner and he left the restaurant with the bottle of wine we didn’t finish wrapped in his coat. But he said one thing during dinner that I’ll always remember. As if seeing a side of me not many others knew, he said, “You’re one of those tortured souls, aren’t you? You like to torment yourself by watching the news and all the horrible things that go on in the world.” Needless to say, there was no date #2 but it was odd that he had hit the nail on the head about me.
I do have a rather compulsive need to watch and read all the horrible and depressing things that go on in the news every day and, as we saw on Monday with the Navy Yard murders in D.C., there is no shortage of fodder for my obsession. Between the daily shootings, the war torn Middle East, and brain-eating amoebas, I often tell my husband it feels like we’re going to hell in a handbasket.
I remember my brother feeling tormented shortly after 9/11, wondering whether it was almost selfish to bring my nephew into the world when our former shell of invulnerability had been irreparably shattered. How could he keep him safe when he might not be able to do the same for himself?
Despite the Armageddon-y feeling of all the violence around us, babies are born every day, completing the circle of life. And all we can do as caretakers of these little people is to instill in them the desire to help those around them. In turn, in times of trouble they need to learn to look for the helpers (as Mr. Rogers once said).
Life can feel like a series of incidents, feeling as though it was divided into befores and afters. As a parent, I know I am all too aware of my post-Columbine, post-Newtown existence. One of my kids will say something or do something that touches me to my very soul, and it’ll hit me with the force of a freight train – somewhere, a parent misses her child. Someone is hurting to the core as he walks by the bus stop he once walked his child to each day. Someone winces as she drives by the café where her son lost his first tooth in his foot-long hot dog. Someone’s breath catches as he opens the acceptance letter to a college his daughter will never attend.
And yet, even as someone who can get bogged down by all this, I’m constantly amazed by the resilience of the human spirit. The more I see violence on the news, the more websites pop up whose soul purpose is to report the good around us. The more we hear of someone going into a crowded place and open firing, the more we hear about someone paying it forward – buying someone their morning coffee, paying a family’s bill at a restaurant, or covering the layaway bills at K-Mart for those in need. The more some try to tamp down the human spirit, the more it rises up in rebellion.
Yesterday, I had a terrible parenting day. If I’m being honest, it was one of the worst in my five years as a mother. My kids complained all day long and, instead of taking it in stride, I lost my cool. I yelled. I slammed doors. I even cried. I felt so defeated when I went to bed; I barely even remember my head hitting the pillow.
This morning, however, both boys emerged from their bedroom, sleepy-eyed and happy. “Good morning, Mommy,” they said in unison, both smiling as they told me about their good dreams. It was a clean slate and unconditional love at its finest. And it made me realize that I need to live more like them, greeting each day knowing that the human spirit, love, and, most importantly, hope prevail.
Choose hope. It’s everything.