It's stunning how many horrible things happened this week.... and *those* are just things we hear about... how many women were raped? How many other innocent people were murder, or died in car accidents or from being his by a DUI driver.....
I suppose when it comes to awful things that happen: the list is rather endless.
People *do* senseless, horrible things. Happens every day. Sometimes it's as casual as sex with a 22 year old, sometimes it's texting through a red light, both can have catastrophic endings.
I've thought *a lot* about what happened to me.... one thing that bothers me greatly is the idea that other people *knew* and did nothing. That other people *knew* and stood by while my children and I were left out, unprotected from the oncoming storm, to weather an emotional tsunami that I (for one) will never fully recover from.
Who does that? Who doesn't stop to help? Who doesn't, on the grounds of common sense and decency, just *say* something......? Lots of people: that's who.
El Capitan and Yoga Girl and their friends - the do that thing where we tell ourselves that whatever we're doing is "okay" because... well - Elle's a b*tch and she deserves it (that's what Dick said, nice huh? Again... not what he texted me on my birthday... ), or - Elle 'is controlling' of El Capitan, etc.... we create *reasons* for why we can accept and tolerate someone else's horrific behavior.
We make it ok. We make social peace with whatever wrong that's happening and we turn a blind eye to the reality of the damage that's going to be caused - because well... El Capitan *should* be allowed to do whatever he wants at the end of his work day - right? I mean, it's totally unreasonable that El Capitan has a 'two beer' limit: Elle is way too controlling. Or, El Capitan is 'entitled' to having his weekends free.
Dissected and standing alone, our reasons can seem almost completely understandable. They seem solid and stable and rational. They fuel and feed whatever desire we want to satisfy and, at the same time, make it ok. Make it fine.
Our sins are not *sins* so long as we can conjure up some kind of reasonable, half-assed excuse to explain them away to ourselves. However... that doesn't work. Whatever reasonable excuse one might have, it doesn't shield anyone from the fall-out of wrong or hurtful choices.
Recently... and follow me here, this might seem like a bit of a stretch at first..... but I was a holiday party. It was a group of ladies - made of friends who have become clients and some new friends - but everyone there knows me. They all know what's happening to me... what I'm going through. Suffice to say - I'm quite literally an open book at this point... so there is little most people don't know about me or my life.
Part of the nights events is a gift exchange. Everyone takes a number and the presents are wrapped and in a stack. As people open, the next person can either "steal" a previously opened gift or take one from the stack. Usually there is one or two gifts that gets stolen and is the 'big ticket' item.
This year, I opened this fantastic storage tote. It was brilliant, covered in snowmen. My first thought was how much The Boy would love putting all his holiday stuff in it - and it was totally cute. I'm fairly sure from the excited look on my face: it was evident that I really like the gift.
Lately.... I haven't had too many moments filled with any kind of excitement.
I joked that no one should "steal" this from me, because I am sans a home and a husband and if my token of the season is a storage tote... then it should go home with me. Everyone laughed.
That's me.... taking my inner most pain and using it for humor. I can't very well sit and cry everywhere I go, I'm ugly enough without the ugly cry going off every day.
The game went on... someone stole some earrings from someone else, someone 'stole' the scarf and ring set that was pretty popular... then someone came and stole the tote.
In that moment, I was pretty shocked. I know it's the name of the game and it's a stupid tote and it's silly... but in a room full of Starbucks and iTunes and Black Rock Coffee gift cards still left for the stealing... *why* take the tote?
I haven't had much to smile about this holiday season... the weight of everything we've lost presses down on my daily making it harder and harder to keep turning these lemons into vodka. Sometimes, it's freaking impossible.
All of these woman are lucky. Each one would leave that party and go home to a husband. They would return to their lovely two story homes that house their intact families. They will crawl into their warm beds and sleep in the safety and security of having a husband.
I have none of those things. I don't have a room of my own. I don't have a closet. All the holiday trinkets and decor I've collected over the years isn't set out nicely in my home: it's packed up in boxes and in storage. I don't even have a bed of my own to sleep in.
I don't have a husband who will stuff my stocking (in more ways than one) and put nicely wrapped presents under the tree for me. I don't have a husband who will take the children shopping to pick out that perfect gift for Mommy.
I have none of that. I've robbed Peter to pay Paul to make Christmas for my children, to make sure they have what they wanted. I have written a freaking book, shot two preschools (over 150 kids) shot over 20 family sessions, visited my friends sick daughter, organized a giving tree at a local business, organized and shopped for our Adopt-a-Family for the club.... and *that* was just in the last 6 weeks. (Oh, and don't forget blogging 5 nights a week on top of that).
6 weeks. That's what I've done.... oh and the 200 or so hours of editing and photo finishing. I haven't gotten more than four hours of sleep a night since late October. There's always one more job to hurry and finish because people need their photos to make presents for their family and send out their holiday cards.
It's not about the money, not all of my families pay and not all pay the same rate. I had to actually beg one of my clients to even come do family pictures because they had a huge amount of medical debt and photos were a luxury that wasn't in their budget. I refused to allow them to skip a year... they never have before. Life happens - all we have are the people in our lives and our memories. I can't stand the idea of a Mom going without having those memories captured for the sake of money.
The people are amazing and kind and have been there for me several times in my own life's journey - are they not worth more than money to me? They sure as sh*t are. I've taught The Boy from day one that *people* are more important than things, more important than money.
Because they are.
But...... on that night, during the game, the *thing* became what was important. The tote. It's just a game, right? The point of the game is to 'steal' the good stuff from other people. So.... it's *ok* to do. It's *expected* and fine.... regardless of the fact that someone's feelings might actually be hurt by it.
It's ok to do, because it's part of the game.
Neither of these women had any idea that I cried all the way home because I finally broke under the crushing reality that no one else, aside from my own parents, would be buying me any presents this year. That that tote.. simple and silly as it was - was lovely and I liked it. And... I didn't have to buy it for myself, it was mine. It was mine... until someone else saw it, liked it and took it.
We have stopped *thinking* in the moment about what a simple, seemingly harmless action is going to do to someone else. That the weight of that choice isn't just about the moment - but the fall out from that moment. That they would drive home, triumphant with their tote, pull into their two car garage, park their nice car, sleep next to their loving husband and .... wake up everyday enjoying the life of a stay at home Mom. All things that elude me. Security and love and *things* the elude me.
We all have choices. Everyday. We see an accident, we can pull over or drive by. We see someone struggling with a door to Target... we can open it for them or rush past them. We can either wait patiently in long lines at the bank without grumbling and just do that thing called.... wait. our. turn.
We see a tote we like... and we can take it... or leave it. We all have a choice. It's a small,stupid thing... but often it's the little things in life that build up against a person pushing them over the edge. Pushing them to doing things - changing their perspective on the world....
We seem to have forgotten to think about *everyone's* bigger picture.... People *saw* my husband cheating me... and they stood by and did nothing. Having made peace with the bad behavior simply because they think I'm a 'controlling b*tch'...... but forgetting that that b*tch has children who pay the biggest price in all of this.
Not realizing that for El Capitan to get where he was in life... he *needed* me. He needed me there to help keep him on the straight and narrow. Without me, while he certainly has his nights free and he can drink however many beers he likes.... he now has his days free, because he also doesn't have a job.
So those friends who made his affair 'ok' - have only served to help him get to a place where his own children don't trust him, his own son see's him as 'selfish', he has no family, no home, no car and no job......
I was more 'better' for El Capitan than I was bad... that much I can assure you. But his friends didn't know that... because they didn't know *him*.
We don't know these two recent shooters.... but I can promise you this: there were people in their lives making their bad behaviors "ok". There were people who paved their path to mayhem with excuses and rationalizations, which probably seemed totally insignificant at the time, but eventually helped lead them to doing something horrific.
May be no one saw it coming.... but somewhere along the road, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that someone could have stepped up and *may be* things would be different.
We can talk about gun control and video games and violent movies all we like... but until *we* all start *talking*... nothing is ever going to change. Until we stop thinking about *things* and start thinking about people and how our collective actions or inaction will affect someone else... we are destined to keep going down this same path. This path of social mayhem.
I said it was a stretch... it's a freaking snowman tote... it's a husband - it's not 18 kindergarten students strewn across a classroom...... but I can't help but think about what would be different if *one* person had stood up at some point along the road and said.... "That is a bad idea - I won't do it.." or.... "That's a really bad idea, and I should find some way to get this person help....."
When we don't stand up for each other in compassion and kindness even when someone else doesn't deserve it... we are destined for mayhem. Every single time. Over and over... people want to know *why* I "protect" Yoga Girl's identity..... that they would totally put her picture all over the internet -that she deserves whatever she gets.....
I don't totally disagree with that, however.... do I not have an obligation to protect her? She's a stupid kid - 22 years old and lacks the life experience (and apparently the conscience) to fully grasp the emotional carnage she's caused me.... but she's still someone else's daughter. She's still a human (just barely in my mind some days), and for that reason alone, I protect her identity. I don't' think it makes me a saint or a better person... I think it's the most basic thing I'm supposed to do as a human. Plain and simple.
What if one person had stood up and said something to El Capitan... would I be sitting here?
If *one* person had been the pebble in the river of the life of those two shooters.... could their ripple effect been such that 26 people wouldn't be dead at the hands of a young man today? I'm not going to assume either way... but I am willing to stand up and say... may be instead of focusing on political hot buttons that cause a furor of debate on our facebook walls we just get back to basics: compassion.
If you see someone struggling: help them.
If you think someone is ruining their life: stop them.
If you think your friend is cheating on their spouse: talk to them.
If you see someone who needs professional help: step up and *try* to help.
Sometimes when you try to help you might fail, but it shakes something else loose that helps down the road in another way. When we stop fighting for each other, for our friends and our neighbors and even strangers in our community - it won't matter who is holding a gun and who's not... because we've already devalued our lives and the lives of those around us in a manner that suggests to someone else that's "ok" to go on a shooting spree. I'm not saying we - or anyone around those two shooters (or any shooter) is "responsible" for anything, I'm only suggesting that as a collective society we sometimes devalue each other with our actions and our words.... that worries me.
Kindness, compassion and a willingness to step up and say something when we need to. Simple steps that don't require voting or political parties or constitutional rights: they are just human rights.
We have to find a way to get back to that.... get back to honoring each other. Simple changes we can make at home, with our friends, at work... in our community, could be the small pebbles that when gather collective speed and power - can turn the tides and change the path we all seem to be on right now.
Like the world, my heart breaks for those families - the shooters families.... there aren't words to make any of it better or different.... there is *no* comparison to snowman tote's or wayward husbands because there *is* no comparison. AT ALL. I guess, like everyone else in the world, I feel a bit helpless. WE see this tragedy and there is nothing we can do to ease the pain of these families.... bigger "answers" like gun control and better security measures take time and hours of arguing in court rooms - it could be years before *those* kinds of changes take place and how knows if they will even work....... I'm only suggesting that we stop, look around and *think* with compassion and kindness for other people before we act, saying something/do something. It's small and perhaps a silly idea... but may be if we start small, start with ourselves, we can have a bigger affect and help prevent these types of things from happening. It's a pipe dream to think it might bring about real change, I know.... but one can hope.
What a crappy week.