messy, joyful, short-lived

It has been a hard few days for everyone. I pass parents on the street, and I see their red-rimmed eyes or their hands patting the back of the head of their little kid, walking ahead of them. Mostly, the kids look blithely unaware. We’re all working hard to keep this sorrow from our little ones.

We didn’t tell Lu anything about the shootings. Why would we? She’s only 4. Right now, she’s excited about going to the thrift store and buying presents for her cousin. She’s counting the moments until she can go swimming again. And if she wakes up in the middle of the night with a bad dream, I can hold her and say, “It’s okay, love. There’s nothing bad going on. Everything is all right.”

I’m going to make sure she believes that about the world as long as she can.

Still, the pressure of playing that everything is fine when inside I feel broken, and I know so many who are too? It’s tough. And I have it easy. I’m just feeling it as a bystander. I wasn’t there.

And I’m not just broken-hearted, barely breathing sad at the imagining and the reality. My friend Luisa wrote about her spluttering, not-knowing feelings much more eloquently than I can right now. Reading what she wrote helped me a bit.

But sticking with the sorrow feels like honoring to me. It’s easy to splay into rage or defensiveness, to yell at people who don’t agree with us, to grow offended at differing opinions. It’s safer to stay in the place of cold hard I know I am right than to be vulnerable in this.

I think that place of cold hard I know I am right, that place of isolation, makes a human hidden deep within thick walls. Perhaps it’s that isolation that causes these things to happen. I don’t know.

I do know that I felt a bit better after reading these words that Pema Chodron passed on from her teacher, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche:

“This is the most incomprehensible tragedy of insanity. There is no way to even begin to understand what has happened. We can only sit with the overwhelming sadness and loss of the innocent. The guardian of humanity could not have to face anything more grave than losing the young unopened buds that were on their way to bloom. We pray that some relief may come in this time of loss and to the broken hearts of the parents, family members, and our countrymen and women. This kind of tragedy is happening way too often in our country, where only a few miles away in Canada, it is a rare occurrence. I join my palms in prayer for America to find a positive resolution to this problem.”

I don’t write here often about my Buddhist practice. It feels too much a place without words to share. But I know that Pema Chodron has been one of my greatest sources of sustenance in this world, a balm against rough winds. Her book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, might be a help to those of you who are grieving with this.

And I know that Danny and I are grateful for every day we have with Lucy. It’s easy to get lost in this dark forest of a world but our gratitude for her being here has never dimmed. We nearly lost her, twice, when she was born and when she had surgery at 10 months old. The good folks at Children’s Hospital saved her life back then, and we’re giving to them as part of our holiday celebrations this year.

We’re making sugar cookies for senior citizens in our town, peanut butter fudge for the firemen here, and donating to the giving tree at our local thrift store. We may not have much money but we have so much.

And we’re giving to ourselves, in small ways, to find light in the darknes. Last night, Danny and Lu came home from swimming and the grocery store with a surprise. “Mama, I wish we could have some crab right now,” Lu said to me. When I told her I did too, but we didn’t have any, she clapped and jumped. “We do! We do! Daddy and I bought some crab for us all!”

Dear Danny bought $10 worth of crab legs and made cocktail sauce from scratch to cheer us up. We rarely eat meals on the couch and we certainly don’t eat while watching tv. But Lucy just discovered Bedknobs and Broomsticks and she wanted to watch the dance sequence on Portobello Road. So we sat on the couch, that battered old couch we don’t replace because we still hope there’s another little one coming that will rub his or her hands over the broken places. And Danny and I cracked crab legs, coaxing the white sweet meat out of the shell and dipping it in cocktail sauce with our fingers. I fed Lucy like a little bird. She stopped watching to point at the cocktail sauce, several times, and said, “That is yummy.” Danny and I looked at each other for awhile, knowing how lucky we are, and went in for more.

It was messy. It was joyful. It was short-lived.

It was life, in our house, right now.

We’re taking a break here for awhile. We were going to bring you cookie recipes and best books of 2012 and chances to win some. But now that I’m listening to my instincts as a writer instead of the imagined demands of being a blogger, I know that I need silence for awhile. Maybe we all just need a little hibernation to heal. So we hope you all have tremendous holidays, no matter what you celebrate. We hope you have time to play dopey board games and give presents to people you love. We hope you have a happy new year. It’s a gift, that new year.

We’ll see you in 2013.

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