Several years ago, at 13 years old, I had to memorize a small speech called Immortality for a civic club in which I was a new member. Immortality / Death was the subject. This is quite an early age for the big lessons about death to be learned, but I have never forgotten it. In fact, the lines come back to me now, the older I get, because I am at the middle of my life when funerals are as common as weddings. But never more do the words I learned back then ring true than when a young person dies.
"It may seem strange that we should direct your mind to the thought of death, you so young, so fair, your years so tender, every hope and every ambition, just begins to bud and bloom in your life. But, however fair, however hopeful, we would teach you the lesson that death is no respector of persons. It lays its hands upon the flower and tree; it takes the babe and the mother; it regards not youth, nor youth’s ambitions."
It regards not youth, nor youth's ambitions. No, it certainly does not.
But lately, there is another time when those words spring to mind; when I hear of mental illness and addiction.
And today, it's one of the worst days, when all of those three things have come together and a young person, because of his struggles with mental illness and addiction has taken his own life. He was the son of some old friends of mine. Friends who I admire and love. It's shocking. Like anyone, I am at a loss for good words of comfort. I am not religious, and even if I was, I can't imagine finding good in this tragedy. Sometimes, probably more often than is admitted, life takes an unexpected, devastating turn for the worst and all one can do is endure the pain.
That's a lesson that I hope we can teach our kids. Oh, we shelter them, it's true. But somewhere in this wonderful life my husband and I have created for August and Asher, I hope we can teach them how to endure the pain. And I will hope, while I am teaching them this, that they never have to call upon that kind of inner strength the way my old friends and their daughter will have to do in the years to come.
A few days ago I took one of those online tests to tell me my personality based on what I hate. I don't "hate" much and my result was surprising, to me, anyway: Frustrated Idealist. Not that I trust an online 10 question quiz, but I couldn't get past that result. Idealist? Would anyone ever say that about me?
I don't think being an idealist is a bad thing, mind you. I just didn't know it could go hand in hand with how I have been felling lately about the human race in general. The internet, for all it's kittens who know the art of allure and general not giving a fuck is also a lonely place full dark corners for hate to hide and jump out anonymously tearing apart any optimism I might have. Especially when it comes to my home state of Oklahoma where select politicians and some cititzens have little regard for equal rights. Here's a sample of some headlines of my great state:
- Oklahoma's Horrid Legislature Targets History Classes Instead of Rape
- Oklahoma Legislators Want to Ban Hoodies
- School Tries to Block Native Student From Wearing Feather at Graduation
- Rep. Sally Kern says people who disagree with her are ‘stoning God’
- Video appears to show University of Oklahoma fraternity singing racist chant
That last one, which came about recently, was particularly embarrassing for me since I always think of Oklahoma City and the University of Oklahoma as a place where all races mix well. Am I so naive?
Who are these people?? Who, in their right mind, raises a child with contempt for someone based on the color of their skin or thier romantic nature? It’s 2015!
And that’s when it hits me in the gut. I’m embarrassed and afraid that the rest of the world will read these headlines and think that I share this idiocy because I was raised there, because my family is there.
I don’t want to feel this way because I see Oklahoma as so much better than that. I left the state at 24, so that makes nearly 20 years that I have been telling people across the world how wonderful Oklahomans are; how friendly and kind. These headlines threaten to make a fool of me, or worse, a fool of those I love.
Still, I’m a different woman than I was 20 years ago. Unlike most of you, I don’t cling to the hope that there is a god who will fix all this; make wrongs right, open eyes. That’s not where I find strength. So, you may wonder how I deal with the never-ending news of hate.
It’s silly, really, but I play this song. I sing the words, willing people to see how connected we are. How we need each other.
I find it therapeutic. So, even though I’ve posted it many times before, here it is again along with my thousandth defense of my family and my friends in Oklahoma. (Close your eyes while listening to avoid being distracted by Ed's cool 90's moves)
A knowledge of equality and familial love is what I know exists in the hearts of the majority of Oklahomans. Any optimism I have is based on that fact.
we spend all of our lives goin' out of our mindslooking back to our birth, forward to our demiseeven scientists say, everything is just lightnot created, destroyed but eternally brightmasters in everytime lord in everyplacethose who stood up for love down in spite of the hatein spite of the hate
Diary excerpt. New Jersey, my living room, my head, 2011:
Oh my god, I am so bored. My brain is useless.
“Vroom! Vroom! Crash!”
“Oh, my gosh! we’re sisters!”
I loathe you, Barbie. Bad parenting, right here.
Wow, she’s beautiful. My daughter is so beautiful. How did that happen? So innocent, it’s breaking my heart. Someone will break her heart one day. Parenting the the worst. Job. Ever. Helpless.
“Guys! No Fighting!”
They have no clue how much I love them. By the time they figure it out, I’ll be old. Really old.
I hate it here. I hate it here. I HATE it here. But the schools are great. The kids seem happy. Wouldn’t they be happier if I was happy?
Which example do I set? The one of selflessness or the one about being responsible for my own life, building my own happiness?
Moving is such a gamble. I hate gambling. Hate.
Did he just dance?
“Are you dancing? Awesome!”
He danced. He’s a goofy, talented, sweet genius, that boy! He’s so tender. so loving. I cannot believe how much I love him.
Poor guy is tired. Why doesn’t he sleep more? I’m a shitty parent. He needs more sleep.
My kids are s well behaved. I’m doing something right, but what? Everyone says I’m doing a good job. Which part am I good at? Not the yelling. I yell. Probably screwing them up.
I wish I had a maid/cook/nanny. Never mind. No nanny. I hate leaving them with someone else. I wish there were three of me. Then I’d get stuff done.
“GO TO YOUR ROOM!”
“It’s okay. You’re fine. Shhhhh....”
I’m so very lucky. I know that. Too lucky. I have so much to loose. It scares the shit out of me.
I need to live forever. I should call my mom. I miss my sister/brother/parents.
I wasn’t there enough for my nieces/nephews. I had no idea how hard it is to be a parent. I was so stupid.
“Rod Torque Redline is fine. No, he’s ok.”
“Can our Barbies do something besides go to a dance or move to NYC?”
“Yes, you have school tomorrow.”
“Don’t cry. There’s no reason to cry.”
“You MADE this?”
She loves art! Yay!
“You made this? I love it!”
I have to teach him how to hold a crayon. I think he should know how to do that by now. He can tell jokes and remember everything I say but he can’t hold a crayon? WTF?
He’s only 3. He’s only 3.
If we go somewhere else, I’d have to homeschool. Homeschool is best anyway. But it would kill me. They’d hate me. I’m not equipped. I’d fail. Shit. Calculation and tough skin work in a corporate career, but not at home. I’d be militant. I’d be the worst of my parents.
“Because TV is bad for your brain.”
“Because candy isn’t good for your body.”
“Because it’s not nice.”
It would be nice to go out alone for dinner.
Somewhere else. Far. Maybe southern France.
Maybe we should move there. Why not?
Huh. I’ve lost/gained weight. Weird.
Look how tall my kids are. Growing up so fast. To fast. STOP GROWING up! Don’t grow away!
They’re amazing. My kids are amazing. I can’t believe how kind they are.
This is so beautiful, it hurts.