I started writing this yesterday, got sidetracked by work, work, work and other non-conducive-to-writing obligations and thus, did not finish. I had planned to this morning – but then, 17 people died yesterday in Parkland, Florida and I can’t stop crying.
Or being mad beyond words that can possibly begin to explain it.
My mind has been swirling. My heart aches. My entire body is tense and sick and sad and has been walking through laborious, forced motions ever since this happened. Again.
I have much to say about this; how I believe with every ounce of my being that the pain and suffering in this world is all related, all connected. So if you can bear with me and my potentially disarranged thoughts, I have shut out the rest of the world right now in order to write away the pain.
Here is what I started writing yesterday:
Today is a doubly notable day.
- It’s Valentine’s Day. Or, as some people would call it, “Singleness Awareness Day.” I distinctly remember having a candlelight dinner at my neighbor’s house, two-doors down, back in Fort Wayne in 2014. There were three of us women – all neighbors, all single. I knew one woman well, so I was intimately familiar with her perpetual state of singledom, as she with mine. The other woman was the hostess. I did not know her well. When I stuck my foot right in my mouth and asked her about the cause of her Valentine’s Day disdain, she told me about her ex-husband. Who was my dentist. Thus, along with my foot, the picture of his hands were also in my mouth, soon joined by the resultant literal and metaphorical puke.
- It’s also the first day of Lent. If you’re not familiar, Lent kicks off a period of the 40 days leading up to Easter in the Christian calendar. Easter, not Christmas, is actually THE MOST important “holiday” for Christians. Or at least it should be. Beginning on Ash Wednesday (today), Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before Easter arrives, i.e. the day Jesus rose from the dead after he was crucified, died, and was buried. For us. By observing these 40 days of Lent, we are in a sense, replicating Jesus’s sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days (albeit never coming even remotely close to His level of sacrifice). I distinctly remember being Catholic and thinking that Lent only meant every Friday was a fish fry in the church basement for a few weeks. I had no idea it was a reflection of the period when Jesus fasted and suffered in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, before he started his ministry.
That’s as far as I had gotten. I was then going to pick up this morning with what I think we should all “give up” for Lent – but now my message about that has been drastically changed. Well, at least at first blush this morning when I sat down to write, I thought it had. And then I realized just how much it’s all interconnected, how much the message is, in fact, exactly the same.
The essence of Lent is about sacrifice. Giving things up. But not just giving any old thing up: giving up something precious.
As I have been purging lately in an effort to live in a more minimalistic manner, I noticed something. Only a fraction of the things we hold on to are truly precious, of great meaning and value.
We hold onto many things – tangible, physical things, but also relationships, stories, presuppositions, behaviors and patterns – that are limiting and/or dysfunctional, i.e. the opposite of valuable.
Oftentimes, we go to considerable lengths to protect these things and keep them at any cost. We buy and label containers for the tangible stuff (thereby keeping The Container Store operational), devote whole rooms, attics and storage rental units to it. We build exhaustive lifestyles that protect us from our old emotional baggage, instead of uprooting and releasing it once and for all.
We nurse our protective grudges and develop oversensitive trigger spots. We argue for, justify, and vehemently defend our limiting factors, our bad habits, and all the reasons we can’t move on into a new season and next level.
Most of us occupy an inordinate amount of both head space and physical space with stuff that no longer serves us…or maybe never did. Things like:
- The habit of comparison – our lives to others’
- Other people’s beliefs, stresses, doubts, feedback, ways of doing things, including and especially those belonging to our families, our peers, or an old version of ourselves
- Heartache and anger
- The need to judge and/or constantly intervene in business that is not ours
- Fears and chronic annoyances
- Stories, fears, expectations and scripts on loop in our heads
- Broken ways of interacting with others…and with our own Inner Being/Spirit
Why? Why do we do this? Because by holding on to our old storylines and patterns, it allows us to play smaller than we really are. This, in turn, minimizes our risk of failure and rejection. But it also keeps us from flying high and living fuller lives.
By holding on to things that we have continually told ourselves are of value, we get to feel like our traumas and pains were valid and significant – which, hear me here, they were at one time – even though our lives will be so much more joyful when we begin to release and reframe those stories, and start rewiring our post-traumatic patterns.
By holding on to things that we believe are of some value, some worth, we get to feel solidarity with others who share our same grievances, losses, mistakes and viewpoints. All you have to do is scroll through Facebook to see how this works with political bubble-mates.
This holding on to the non-valuable, worthless stuff allows us to avoid diving into the deep discomfort zone of figuring out who we really are beneath our old narratives, the ones we have come to falsely believe based on what others have told us, or tried to force us into accepting as truth (ironically, in an effort to make themselves feel worthy and valuable).
Instead of the giving up of precious things (during Lent or otherwise), the holding on to the limiting, dysfunctional, invaluable things have one payoff in common: they validate the deep, human, universal sense that we’re not ok. That we aren’t loved, we’re not worthy, and we’re not good enough as we are.
But what happens when people get to the point when they have nothing left to hold on to and still wrongly believe they are unloved and unworthy?
All unloving actions happen. Again and again and again.
We’ve all heard that it’s not cancer or heart disease that is the leading cause of sickness in our Country, it’s ISOLATION.
This may be an evolutionary remnant: a fear of rejection by the tribe (hence, “find your tribe” being overused today), from the era in our evolution in which tribal rejection meant certain death.
It also may be individual remnants from the times in our infancy in which parental abandonment had the same consequences.
John Welwood, an American clinical psychologist and teacher known for integrating psychological and spiritual concepts, said this:
“All our relational problems arise out of a universal, core wounding around love that affects not only our personal relationships but the quality of life in our world as a whole. This wounding shows up as a pervasive mood of unlove—a deep sense that we are not intrinsically lovable just as we are. And this shuts down our capacity to trust, so that even though we may hunger for love, we have difficulty opening to it and letting it circulate freely through us.”
When people feel unloved and a sense of unbelonging, we have mass shootings. We have racism, classism, sexism – we have pervasive human divisiveness in epic proportions that NONE OF US have the head or heart space to process or seemingly, fix.
Except I believe, we do and we can.
We bond over tragedy. We bond over injustice. We speak up and say #MeToo.
We bond through shared tears as we envision terror-stricken teachers and students crammed in a closet while rounds from an AR15 shatter the lives of many. We bond, as parents ourselves, vicariously feeling the paralyzing pain that those Moms and Dads and Grandparents and Caregivers felt yesterday – not knowing whether their son or daughter was going to walk out of that school alive.
We bond over love in all forms: Lost, shattered, broken, or the kind that is impenetrable, unconditional, unwaivering.
But bonding and tweeting and praying and all the unactionable platitudes ARE NOT ENOUGH. They are not enough. It has to stop. Change has to happen now. NOW. Not the next time, not next year, not with the next President who says how sorry they are, how the government is grieving and “there for them” in one breath, and in the next says, “But people! Report any odd behavior!” No, Trump, clearly that doesn’t work for humans who love humans, as they/we have been trying to report you for 1 year, 25 days, 7 hours, 13 minutes and 20 seconds.
Words don’t work. ACTION works.
Love is an action, and it is the only response and answer. In all circumstances.
You don’t love yourself? Start.
You don’t love your neighbor? Go next door and spend time with them. Start.
You’re holding a grudge, a grievance, or judging others? (side note: there are no “others” – there are only people, human beings.) Stop.
You see someone who needs help and walk by? Stop. Help. Do.
Since Sandy Hook, more than 400 people have been shot in over 200 school shootings. WE MUST DO SOMETHING.
Sign whatever petitions there are, write whatever letters need to be written, and join whatever movement you can IN ORDER TO GET THE AUTOMATIC WEAPONS GONE. Outside of the military, no one needs an AR15. No one.
I started this post by saying it’s all connected. As I looked at the picture of the 19-year-old kid responsible for the mass murders of 17 – SEVENTEEN – innocent human beings, my heart broke yet again. There is no doubt in my mind that he has not been loved well. A sense of belonging? Expulsion is the antithesis of that. He got kicked out. His adoptive parents died. He lost love.
He belonged to no one. And so he hurt everyone.
Hurt begets hurt. Love begets love.
(Please note I am in no way justifying the shooter’s actions – not in any way, shape or form.)
My head is still spinning, but the one thing that grounds me and I know for sure is that each one of us can do something. We can take action by loving. We can love better. We can love more. Harder. More intentionally. Outside of our comfort zones.
We can love everyone – no matter where we are or how unloved we have been, we can choose to love our brothers and sisters and include everyone. Make them feel worthy. Because they are. Just like you are and I am.
The narrative of people killing people must be done. That book can no longer continue to be written, no more chapters added, no more names, no more school addresses.
We are made in love, we are called to love, and we are loved.
Today is (now) the second day of Lent. Only I’m not giving up.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)
Even if you’re done with “religion,” do not be done with God. Jesus wasn’t a fan of religion – he was a fan of people and he modeled the way to love them well. THAT is the new (old) narrative. And THAT is what we must now do.