I have felt too much, I have mourned too much, I have asked too much and I have been given too much. It crashes in on one so.
When the news hit -- hit Twitter, and Facebook, and the radio and the TV and everything, crushed over us like a wave of terrifying size and secret strength -- when the news hit I was riding in a car with my friend Rachael. We were driving out to Kookoolan Farms to pick up a pig. It was a very good pig; treated with loving tenderness during its life and killed quickly and humanely. Cured and portioned and packaged and waiting for us in three enormous IKEA bags. We talked with the farmers about rescuing dogs and foster children. We talked about kombucha and milk and eggs. And we drove back, taking photos of flamingos, watching the grey rain rain greyly, talking through the cold wet day.
I came home and walked inside and sat down at my computer and it hit me too.
For a long time I tried to avoid it. Tried to not let it soak me. Tried to shake it away.
But I could not, of course, and by the next morning I had heard and read all the news and all the analysis. My Facebook page started to flood with statements of blame, defenses, sarcastic attacks and raves of religious retribution. I knew what I blamed: 1. isolation and unkindness and an utter lack of sufficient love and connection and 2. the presence and power of guns. It was easy for me to know what went wrong. It was not so easy to set it right.
It seemed easy, too easy, for too many people; there were siblings and family friends and old classmates and too many people with answers that, not just troubled me, made me fear for us all. Rocked me to the core of my faith and safety. Told me I was wrong without ever needing to say my name. A wide sweep of the arm, a giving of power, to fear, to mistrust, to more isolation and armaments. I knew this was wrong.
And I read the names and ages of the victims and I began to cry and I said to myself, "NO!" and became racked with how little, how little, how little I could do. How spare was my sphere of influence. How permeable, how easy to wash away in a fiery splash of blame.
I said this and someone said to me back, "no!" and "yes! You have more power than you know."
Do I? Could this be true?
I do not know but I know this. The weapon I have is my love and my story and my faith. The power I have is over my patience and my kindness and my deep breaths and tellings of stories. The manifestos I have are about sparing things: rods, retribution, threats, ultimatums, angry words, insults. Spare these things and you will strengthen the child. Spare these things and you will bolster all of us, you will put brick after brick widely, set proudly, set carefully on its foundation. You will make, not capital, but culture; you will make, not profit, but promise. You will create community where there was before commerce. You will build inspiration where there was before institution.
* * *
When I finished, all I had was a dim and grey, a blurry but quietly brightening sense that there was something I could do. A growing, overtaking investment of calm and courage. I know that I have this, this magazine, and this, this writing life. I can perhaps take this, and this, and I can, dimly, greyly, blurrily and with my hoped-for quiet and small power do something more.
If I am part of this, this is how I'll take part.
And when I uploaded this post and I read it on the computer screen I took a deep sobbing breath and all I could give to myself was tears.