I got up and read the news this morning. Instantly, I went from a tired-but-ok day to a bad day. My health is far too closely tied to my emotional state, and my body reacted to heightened stress and emotional upheaval. Autoimmune flare, yup. A bad day.
There are times that I curse being gifted. This is one of them.
Most people watch the news and are horrified at what happened. They’re sad, they’re angry, but they move on and do what they need to do. They live their lives, cushioned from any close impact unless they’re directly touched by a tragedy. They don’t spend the entire day trapped in a vortex of fear, anger, sadness, and horror just because something bad happened.
I don’t even know what to call it. Empathy? Overexcitabilties? Emotional intensity? Whatever it is has left me wrung and dry, exhausted after a day of practically doing nothing. Like a dark cloud, the news hung over my head the entire day. Overwhelming sadness, grief for those who were lost, and sorrow for those facing an unimaginable future without the ones they love.
I am an adult. I have the maturity to deal with it, the logic to understand that this is not normal. My children, on the other hand, do not.
I didn’t tell them anything about the news. They’re too young. They don’t need to carry this burden – because they have a whole lifetime of shared sorrow ahead of them. I would spare them as much as I can for as long as I’m able. They don’t need to be overwhelmed by grief they can’t even process yet.
Of course, they understood that mom was upset. I actually talked to the Engineer at one point and explained to him that I’m upset and sad, but I’m not upset at him. I’m just upset. And I didn’t want him to think that I was upset with him, because it had nothing to do with him. He smiled at me and unprompted, lunged over to give me a bear hug and tell me “thank you mommy.” Clearly he picked up a lot more than I thought he had.
Death is something that hovers at the edge of my mind constantly. The worry of “what-if:” who will take care of my kids if something happens, will they be ok? And what if they’re taken from me by some random accident? Our car accident last fall drove home how fragile our lives really are. This weekend, a local man was killed in an accident because someone lost control of their car and crossed over into his lane, causing a head-on collision. Life is so frail. It scares me. Not for myself, but for my family. My kids.
I’m guessing that falls under the category of anxiety. To worry unceasingly about what might happen, even if the odds are low. Normally I can contain it and live with it – it’s part of who I am. But when events like the Vegas shooting happen, it all boils to the surface and erupts, spewing worry and grief like hot lava.
I’m guessing that I’m not the only one who had a bad day today worrying about current events and the “what-ifs.” If that’s the case, let me share what helps me cope:
1. I ignore it.
I don’t hover over the news, I never watch the news channels, and I try my best not to read about it until I get some emotional distance. I’m sure that sounds cold and callused, but it’s not. It’s a coping technique to deal with something that’s so overwhelming that I can’t function. I know what happened. I want to help if I can. I do not have to keep feeding the monster and prolonging my agony.
2 . I focus on the moment.
I spent the day with the kids, trying to get some school work in but mostly helping the Engineer decorate for Halloween. He’s excited about it! He wants to do the house up in lights (fat chance bud) and put skeletons and spiders all over the yard. I have my limits, but I did help him get some paper skeletons set up and we’re working on a giant spider web for his fake spiders.
3. I don’t put things off
I don’t want to live with regrets. So today we washed our rocks for painting that the kids are so excited about, and we broke open the geodes that have been sitting on the counter for a few weeks. I’m fine with anticipation and planning, but I do not want to put things off just because. Because I’m too tired … too upset … too busy … too unprepared … too inflexible. Sure, that kind of thinking got me in trouble this weekend because we did a flurry of birthday things for the Destroyer and I’m worn out. If we waited until I felt well enough to do anything, we would never do stuff as a family. So I suck it up and deal, make time to rest, and take my meds with me. Because life is more important. I don’t want to waste the time I’m given.
I’m not saying live in a bubble. I’m saying, don’t let anxiety, fear, and grief steal your life away. Live your life in the moment and appreciate it, because tomorrow it could all be gone. We know this. It’s bittersweet knowledge, but it’s critical for dealing with regrets.
It’s important to me to learn to cope because I know that my kids especially need a good example. They need someone to model it for them, because they will face the same demons when they’re older. I don’t want this for them. I want a comfortable existence secure in a peaceful life, but I know that’s unlikely to happen. We feel too much. We know too much. And we grieve too much to brush it off and keep going.
So for all of those directly impacted by this tragic event, I’m sorry. We support you, we grieve with you, we hope with you. And most importantly, we’re teaching our kids to do better. To accept and respect others, to do no harm, to support and assist instead of break down. Our tears are with you tonight.