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WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND?

Love, Light, and Vinegar

31 comments | December 18th, 2012

(by Mir)

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?

WouldaShoulda.com

31 comments

  • Rachel

    Posted on December 18, 2012

    Mir, I assume you know this (what I am about to say), but I’m going to remind you anyway, just in case you forgot… WHO YOU ARE MAKES A DIFFERENCE!!! Reading your writing is cathartic for me and many others. Your BEING a writer and putting thoughts into words is not only ENOUGH, it’s exactly right. Thank you.

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  • Michelle

    Posted on December 18, 2012

    Yep, Rachel is right on.

    Also,I suspect that there were a lot of us who did exactly the same thing this weekend, or well maybe it was just you and me but despite my best efforts to keep putting one foot in front of the other, there’s a definite hitch in my giddyup. I know that for every storm in life there’s a silver lining and I’m not sure what good will come from this tragedy so for now I’m just going to keep on keepin’ on and make sure that my kids know how very much I love them and appreciate every moment for all it’s worth.

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  • Diane

    Posted on December 18, 2012

    I will agree with Rachel and Michelle; you often say what we are thinking in exactly the way we need to hear it.

    It’s been a bad month. Friends’ 5 year old diagnosed with leukemia. Another young friend’s cancer came back – inoperable. Another, the major breadwinner for her family, may be laid off after the new year. A pastor’s daughter’s cancer has progressed – inoperable. Last night a dear old church friend hit by a car. Sandy Hook.

    Pass the vinegar, the mop, the toilet brush…my house has never been cleaner. But during the cleaning, healing is going on somewhere deep in my heart. It may take a while to work its way to the surface, but one dusted table at a time, it’s getting there.

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  • Tenessa

    Posted on December 18, 2012

    I’ve been crafting and baking and making a general disaster of my home with my kids right along side me. For some reason this Awful Thing has paralyzed my ability to see the positive except that I’m thankful for every waking moment with my kids. So we mix and glue and paint and glitter and read and watch Doctor Who and bake and knead and make things a little messier, but a lot lived in.

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  • Sharon

    Posted on December 18, 2012

    Yep, cleaning here, too. Three weeks ago I discovered that my ribs are out of whack and are intruding on my heart space, which is making me painfully aware of breathing and too much movement. Fitting, isn’t it? So I’m moving slowly and cleaning everything in sight and feeling grateful every day that my [grown] children are safe.

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  • suburbancorrespondent

    Posted on December 18, 2012

    I totally get this. There’s nothing like a cleaned-out refrigerator and a clutter-free living room to help one pretend all is right with the world.

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  • Nancy R

    Posted on December 18, 2012

    Tampon Lemonade, baby…you’re ahead of the curve.

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  • Em

    Posted on December 18, 2012

    There is something to be said for self preservation. I avoided it all too. Even those sweet faces all over the news and facebook. Especially those faces. The sadness and darkness that would result from me “going there” is surely less of a light (not to say I spread light as much as sarcasm and sometimes cold germs). Less darkness can equal more light, can’t it? I didn’t even clean anything.

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  • bryan

    Posted on December 18, 2012

    I have no television, except the one that is connected to the Wii & therefore Netflix. I have been relying on my sister to keep me posted on the story as it unfolds; I’ve mostly been doing crisis management here at home.

    But if you run completely out of things to clean, boy, do I have a gift for you. Let me know if you want my address. Turns out crisis management does not lend itself to keeping tidy.

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  • Addy

    Posted on December 18, 2012

    Cleaning always helps. If I think about “it” too much, I burst into tears, again. So, cleaning and sorting stuff and tossing food out and you know that kinda thing. It helps. And now I am out of vinegar dang it!

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  • diane

    Posted on December 19, 2012

    On Monday, a co-worker asked me if I’d heard about the shooting, and I immediately snapped at her that I didn’t want to talk about it (which is better than my initial thought, which was to ask her if she believed I live in a cave). I went on to explain that I’d spent three days thinking, reading and talking about it and I just didn’t have it in me. I needed to be at work and I needed to be working.
    I’m not a stress cleaner, unfortunately, but I did discover that the National PTA is collecting handmade snowflakes for the children’s new classroom. Google “Snowflakes for Sandy” and you’ll find the details. That’s how I plan to process it. :)

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  • Theresa

    Posted on December 19, 2012

    I turned it all off. Twitter, Facebook, and I was very selective with the blogs in my feed. I am in a place where I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to cope with IT and everything else. I tried to organize but I have a three year old and a 4 month old. So instead I turned to my Kindle app and escaped into a fantasy world. I felt a little like I was sticking my had in the sand. But self care includes knowing when to do just that.

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  • Melissa

    Posted on December 19, 2012

    Yep to the cleaning. And hugging my children. And random bouts of crying. And setting out a 1000 piece puzzle. Setting all that chaos into order one piece at a time settles my insides just a little.

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  • Arnebya

    Posted on December 19, 2012

    Yes, vinegar, please. The mirror I keep staring into is not reflecting the world I want to see. Maybe a few good swipes?

    I can’t fully explain it. I refuse to watch online or on TV or even talk about it at work but when I wrote about it, it’s how I processed. Turned off comments because it was for me, and that was that. I did read a few blogs, but just a few before I felt the familiar tug of come sit down here and wallow in the dark. I feel like I’m doing them a disservice by not listening, but at the same time (and I’m embarrassed to admit this — maybe embarrassed isn’t the right word because I DO have to take care of me?) I’m doing myself a service.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted on December 19, 2012

    The first thing my husband did was give our daughter a hug when he got home on Friday. And I can’t stop thinking about that. He is old-school, I guess, and never much for displays of affection, grand gestures, etc. Yet the first thing he needed after all this was a hug. If cleaning or a puzzle makes it all seem a little less awful, then I say Amen and pass the vinegar. I don’t want to talk about it either, but I won’t ever forget. Also, my wood blinds have never looked better.

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  • Kim

    Posted on December 19, 2012

    I am compelled to look. As a parent of a 6yo, as a former teacher, I am compelled to see the pictures and hear their stories. I’m not following the news of it so much, but it feels important to…witness it, somehow. However, seeing it and talking about it on Facebook has allowed me to articulate some feelings that people seemed to appreciate, to reassure the mom I hugged on Friday while we were waiting for our kindergarteners, who was afraid to drop her son off on Monday, and to check in with our teacher. (My house, however, is cluttertastic.) I profoundly hope this doesn’t come across as self-righteous in any way. My process has just been different. I am finding the moments of light where I can.

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  • Carrie

    Posted on December 19, 2012

    I’ve a 6 year old first grader and a 7 month old; I typically process news events by watching as much coverage as possible, but this hit too close to home. I well up every time I hear news coverage, so I decided that I simply wouldn’t watch or listen anymore – TV has been off since Friday. I have to be honest – I’ve never felt the urge to clean, it’s just not in me. But I have been spending lots of extra time with my kids, doing things together to prepare for the holidays, instead of leaving them at daycare/after school care so I can get those tasks done efficiently. We are making great memories of wrapping presents and baking and such, and everything is taking twice as long than if I did it on my own, which means I don’t have time to watch TV – see how nicely that works out?

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  • Midj

    Posted on December 20, 2012

    Spent the week knitting toys for the babies in my daycare. Today we are outside playing and it’s the first I’ve really been on the internet since late last week. I read the articles in the paper but avoid all else. Watching these babies play is how I’m coping. Missed you Mir!

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