Tonight I’ll go back to work, my usual 12-hour shift. Regular life. The shock of Newtown is subsiding, so soon. Each day I shed a few less tears for the families in Connecticut.
My children could do no wrong this week. Whining, bickering, new coats crumpled on the floor, all the things that usually drive me mad—this week, I was only grateful. Fall-to-my-knees grateful. But already this morning, I had to walk out of my daughter’s room to stop myself from raising my voice when she was dawdling, endlessly.
Next week, I suspect, I’ll start sending them to their rooms again. Next week, my daughter will be in trouble if she keeps sneaking M&Ms off the gingerbread house.
This week, I am full of righteous indignation at the insufficiency of mental health care infrastructure, at the blockheadedness of the NRA. Next week, I’ll be filling stockings, packing for a trip to the snow. I will probably cry while filling the stockings, thinking of the high closet shelves in Newtown, the hidden toys with no stockings to fill; but then I will become immersed in creating a tableaux of half-eaten cookies and carrots to verify the nighttime presence of the red guy.
This kind of tragedy does, as it should, create a pause, a pulling back from the details of our lives, a moment of perspective. But we can’t stay pulled back: life has a way of throwing us right back into the middle of our own small routines.
So, while the angle of vision remains wider than usual, I am taking stock. Deciding which of those routines are the ones I want to return to.
Everything but the grief seemed unimportant this week, but it’s not. When I reflect, I see that I do want to return to my regular work, caring for the dying as a hospice nurse, fighting climate change as an activist, hanging the laundry, mothering my three children (lucky, I’m so, so lucky). It does not strike me a meaningless to return my attention to these tasks.
Even as I hold the grieving parents in my heart, my mind and my hands are turning to the work I have chosen, knowing that even with a broader view, even if everything is incredibly fragile, my work is what I want to be doing.
My chosen work is not the buttressing of our mental health care infrastructure, nor the battle for better gun control laws. That work is important, essential, and I will support the people doing that work, and hope that this crisis has given them more energy for their struggle.
Join the people working to create better models for mental health care provision. Join the people working on stricter gun laws. Let’s get help to the people who need it. Let’s keep guns out of our schools. Join me. Let’s stop fracking, let’s overturn Citizens United, let’s divest from fossil fuels. And we’ll join you, in your work. Let’s make a better world.
Back to work.
"If I knew that tomorrow was the end of the world, I would plant an apple tree today." (attributed to Martin Luther)