I awoke Monday morning, blindly reached for my phone and checked Facebook. Sadly, I find that checking social media has become a part of my morning routine. Part of it is that I’m not a morning person so I’m desperately seeking out blue light and stimulation of some sort to get my brain going and pull me out of dreamland. Every time I open Facebook there is a mixture of anticipation: has someone commented on one of my posts? how many likes did that cute picture of Asha get? did someone post something funny or interesting in one of my groups?; and dread: what horrible thing has happened in the world between me going to bed last night and now? This Monday, Facebook was all about Door #2. There had been yet another mass shooting in America. This time it happened in Las Vegas and the gunman had managed to up the tally of deaths to 50 with another 400+ injured. We came later to find out that, in fact, 59 people had been killed by the use of automatic rifles aimed randomly into a crowd of concert-goers on the Las Vegas strip.
Once I read the story and scrolled through the countless posts and headlines, I rolled over and thought, “Damn. Again?! This world is shit. Seriously. Let me get up so I can get Asha up and ready for school.” A sort of acquiescence to commonplace depravity has become my reality and I think the reality of many of us. I went through the rest of the morning and most of the next two days wrestling with what has quickly become a new normal of conflicted consciousness. A mishmash of emotional pain, emotional numbing, disbelief, and confusion. One part of me feels deeply disturbed and overwhelmed by all of the pain, suffering, and, inequity in the world. Another part of me recognizes that despite the darkness and ugliness surrounding us, the world really does keep on going. Then there’s another part of me that says, “but wait! This is crazy! We can’t keep pretending things are ok because they are far, far from ok!” Then, yet another part says, “You are not a person without voice or power. YOU are part of the collective. YOU come from a long line of ancestors who endured ugly hardships and survived. So, what part are you going to do about it?” Then, I just want to lay down and stare into space because I am exhausted. But I can’t do that because I have a child for whom I have to be a reflection of joy, resilience, open-mindedness, and optimism. Apparently, I’ve done a good job at that because now whenever she sees me falter or begin to concede to even the most insignificant of challenges (like shopping for brownie mix at a string of convenience stores and pharmacies because I didn’t want to deal with the real grocery store), her counterchallenge to me is: “We’re Colemans! We never give up! We keep trying, mommy!” Well, damn. How does one ignore that?! I don’t. So, I get up in a daze and tuck away my worry about my cousin who lives in Las Vegas and oftentimes works on the strip and sadness for all the lives lost.
For me though, here’s what’s worst: I think I’m acclimating to this jumble of emotions and thoughts, this sort of bone-deep exhaustion, this constant sense of holding my breath. Are you too? I fear that we are all slowly but surely suffocating from the toxicity but none of us are acknowledging our more and more shallow breaths. I feel like the world has been an onslaught of garbage for so long I can’t remember a simpler time. I think I’ve shared here before that I frequently think of my life in terms of Pre-Asha and Post-Asha. So much of who I am, what I prioritize, how my life is organized has pivoted and morphed since becoming her parent that I’ve oriented my sense of the world around her birth. She was born in the fall of 2011 and a lot of really bad things have happened in the world. I’ve suffered some personal losses as well but those I have an easier time managing. Partly because I know none of us lives a “crystal stair” life and partly because I can make sense of those losses, I can view them through my faith lens and find comfort and I can then manage them through my own resilience and resources to get to the other side.
The bad things I struggle with are those that seem so random and so senseless. The ones that continually shake my core belief that the world is more light than dark; that good does triumph over evil even if the battle is hard fought. Yet, there has been so very much injustice, hatred, and depravity the world over, but most significantly for me, here in the US, that it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to just keep going with the status quo. For any of you who know me, that in itself is a statement. I am not a status quo kinda woman by most standards! Lately, I have fantasies of taking my precious girl and running away somewhere safe. But where? Also, we are deeply connected to our family, including those who are not related to us by blood, and community. So, instead of running, I worry, deeply, about 1) how I can meaningfully and lovingly take care of myself so that I can 2) continue to meaningfully and lovingly take care of her. For me, one of the fundamental requirements of being a good parent is keeping out the darkness for my child. I am her first line of defense. I am a force of light so impenetrable around her that she thinks the sun is always shining. I don’t mean to imply that she doesn’t suffer disappointments, I don’t set limits, or she doesn’t experience consequences when she violates those limits. Those things happen. At the same time, she believes in fairness, equity, and, compassion for others so deeply she cannot fathom a world in any other way. I couldn’t be more proud that I’ve been able to cultivate this worldview in her and I find comfort in that. But on the inside, every day I get more and more scared. I walk around feeling unsafe and vigilant about how things could go to shit in the blink of an eye. We live in a world in which elementary schools, churches, movie theatres, malls, nightclubs, and concerts can become tombs with no warning or protection. “Active shooter scenarios” are part of our common discourse. We live in a world where being Black puts an actual target on my back in a very real way that I’ve not experienced before in my lifetime. We live in a world in which girls and women are sexually victimized as commonplace. We live in a world in which rights and protections, that were insufficient to start, are being stripped from marginalized groups with impunity on a daily basis. And if none of those gets me or Asha, there’s always the possibility of a natural disaster wiping us out because we have abused the Earth long enough and She’s fighting back.
How do I parent with all of that on my brain and sitting on my chest? I know lots of people who say they just don’t think about it. They avoid the news, they block it out, and they keep going. I don’t know how to do that. I also question if that’s not also part of the problem. Shouldn’t we all be a little bit scared or angry or, at the very least, uncomfortable with the new normal of depravity and danger? Isn’t that how change happens? Aren’t we supposed to be the ones we’ve been waiting for?
So, I worry about time. How long can I keep my sweet, joyful, vibrant, fierce, and courageous baby girl safe from all of the garbage? Not long enough I fear. The day after the 2016 Presidential election she asked me who won. They had talked about it at her elementary school and even as a preschooler she had “voted” and, of course, she had offered her opinion that I should “vote for the old white lady and NOT Donald Trunk!” When I told her that Donald Trump had won I expected a negative reaction. What happened rocked me. She looked at me with rounded eyes, face full of fear and asked me, “But mommy he’s a bad man and he doesn’t like us! Who’s going to protect us?” My precocious and wise girl asked the fundamental question. In my mind, I thought, “I have no idea, baby girl. No idea.” What I said to her was, “Hey. Who’s your mama? Who has always and will always protect and take care of you?” She responded without hesitation, “You, mommy.” Sometimes I say things aloud with a prayer on my lips that my ashe will bring them into reality. That was for sure one of those times. The frightening reality is that I don’t know if I can protect her if there comes a time that the darkness comes to us. This reality of the time we live in keeps a lump in my throat and a heaviness in my chest that I can’t shake. For now, we’ll continue to get up every morning and do our very best to live a life of joy, light, love, and, hope doing our part to keep just a tiny bit of the darkness at bay.
Please, leave your comments and share with me how you keep the light glowing in your life.