Love, Light, and Vinegar
I can’t—rather, I suppose, I won’t—try to address the recent school shooting. You don’t need me to, anyway; Facebook, Twitter, every blog in existence, and every news outlet is busy making sure we can’t think about anything else.
Violence is terrible. Violence during the holiday season somehow seems worse. Violence against children is unthinkable. Violence on this scale… it’s almost incomprehensible. Which is why, I think, everyone rushes to express their feelings from every possible angle. Sadness, disbelief, anger, and then, of course, come the Discussions We Need To Have before anyone’s even had a chance to finish processing all of those overwhelming feelings.
For once, I found myself silent. I don’t want to say anything. It’s too much, and if I try to join the conversation which I so desperately wish wasn’t happening, never had to happen, I fear I will get sucked down into a darkness from which I might not be able to escape. So I didn’t say anything. I turned off the television (or turned it on only to channels like Food Network, where I wouldn’t be subjected to news alerts or the president crying). I saw a blog post that wasn’t about the event in specific, focusing instead on the need to spread more love to continue shining a light against the darkness (I’m paraphrasing), and I liked that philosophy so much, I directed my readers to that writer and then I closed my computer.
I spent a day in my pajamas, because I didn’t want to leave the house. I started cleaning. And cooking. And I felt a pang of guilt that I was willfully turning away from this Big Thing, but at the same time I wasn’t somehow Doing Something to make the world better. What was that about spreading love and light? Shouldn’t I be… feeding the hungry? Clothing the poor? Hugging my child in a constant stranglehold rather than pestering him to stop playing Minecraft and come make fudge with his mommy?
On the one hand, I wanted to do the magical Something that would make everything make sense again. On the other hand, I almost felt like rushing out to Make A Difference or whatever would be as inappropriate as leaping into the discussions I’d so staunchly avoided. I wasn’t ready. So instead, I buckled down and kept cleaning.
Yes, I want to spread love and light in the world. I’m not sure exactly how I go about that with real purpose, just yet, but I’ll figure it out. In the meantime, I just felt like everything had tipped at about a 45-degree angle. You know the cartoons they did in Monty Python, where a giant hand would come out of nowhere and adjust the scene, or whatever? This particular tragedy felt like that to me. Everything shifted. Solid ground felt slippery. My assumptions about the world around me were upended, and I had to find my footing before I could even think about Where We Go From Here.
I didn’t spread any love this weekend, unless you could the time I spent discussing chemical reactions while my son and I made fudge (and I do count that, actually). In-between our batches of sweets—which we’ll be distributing as a bit of light and sugar-shock over this week—I scrubbed. I applied vinegar to a variety of surfaces around my house. I scrubbed the stove top; I swished toilet water; I wiped down counters and vacuumed and I gave my new carpet scrubbing machine a pretty thorough workout on both carpet and upholstery. I ferreted out and tossed expired food in the cabinets and I sorted through piles of clutter. I tried to make sense of my house when it felt like nothing else made sense.
It turns out that the weekend wasn’t quite enough time. On Monday I worked for half a day and then found myself “just cleaning a few more things” and by bedtime I realized 1) I’d managed to waste half my work day and 2) I’d just about run out of things to clean. But I also realized that I felt better.
The world wasn’t fixed. Tragedy wasn’t negated, I wasn’t “over it,” or anything. But—for me—cleaning had been cathartic, somehow. I took control in this small, small way and it reassured my caveman hind-brain that some things still made sense. I cook, the kitchen gets dirty, but then I can clean it up and look, now it’s fixed. Not everything is so simple, of course, but this week, for me, it has to be enough.
How do you make sense of life when it doesn’t make sense? Anyone need me to pass the vinegar?