I've had to spend the past week processing the shooting in Connecticut before I felt able to write about it. While I can't say that I've come up with anything profound, I've at least moved past the initial shock, mostly through a lot of anger, and straight into the sadness that will surely always touch this memory.
As the mom of a 6-year-old, I was going to do a post called "This is 6," but so many fellow bloggers have covered that territory so elegantly, I'll just post this picture and say this: This is 6. It's precocious, innocent, fiercely loving, stubbornly independent, sometimes wild, and free from the pressures the world will bring someday. No longer a baby, not quite a big kid, miles away from the confusion of adolescence. It's a great age.
Of course, if it wasn't 6, it might have been the innocence of 12, or 4, or 16. And sometimes, it is. The fact that children sometimes die, sometimes violently, is a sobering reality every day of the year. Cumulatively, we lose many, many more than 20 kids to violence each year in this country. It's hard not to get stuck right there, to not just freeze in place forever, unsure why we should bother anymore. If this could happen, is there really a point here? It's a sad cycle.
It's hard not to get stuck, and rage against ... well, something, anyway. It feels kind of productive, at least. We can rage against guns, parenting, mental health care failures, the culture in general, security in schools, you name it. And to be clear, there are much-needed national conversations that need to be had regarding many of these things. But it's easy to get stuck on the rage, too, and that worries me. More rage is not what we need to move on, and we must move on, eventually. There is really not another option, if we consider life worth living, but to keep moving forward.
So I think all we can really do if we must do something, is to take stock of how we treat other people and how much honesty we're putting out there. It is really, really hard to live authentically, all of the time, but I truly believe this is a worthy goal. And if we're going to live lives that are true to ourselves, we need to encourage others to do the same, even when we are freaked out by another person's freak flag.
Here are my goals, post Newtown.
1. To reach out to the marginalized wherever I can.
2. To figuratively and literally wear a bathing suit in public, because time is short and we all deserve to just be.
3. To look other people, of all ages and backgrounds, in the eye more, for my own sake and theirs, because we're all worthy of being fully acknowledged.
4. To do more playing, singing, laughing, learning, seeing, and thinking.
5. To do less consuming, acquiring, idling, assuming, wasting, and regretting.
6. To make sure my kids spend the next several years just being kids. More running and playing, less comparing and pushing.
7. To make random acts of kindness a way of life that I don't even think about as out of the ordinary.
8. To presume good will, most of the time.
9. To not get stuck on the bad parts, so they can't drive away the good.
10. Above all, to keep moving forward. Always.
Once I've achieved all that and I get my Perfect Person award in the mail, I'll be all set! No, I realize it would be impossible to become this ideal, relaxed, incredibly kind person, but it's all about progress. I'm always going to be a bit of a dork with a flair for irresponsibility and bad taste in movies, but even with these sometimes debilitating handicaps, I feel confident I can do good things, that I can be better. We all can. Positive goals are crucial right about now, when we would all like to just curl up together in a heaving sob and stay down for a good long while.
Soon enough, though, we'll have to make a choice - to either allow this tragedy to fade into a surreal, misty memory like so many others before it, or to allow it to change us in a fundamental way. I'm going with the latter, and I'm choosing positive change this time around.
I hope you'll join me in tuning out what feels unproductive and damaging, and focusing on what we can do on an individual level to make this place a tiny bit more kind and beautiful, for the 6-year-olds who left us too soon, for the ones who are still among us, and for the ones we all once were.