November, 2015Yesterday I posted on Facebook some articles that were meant to remind people about and support the necessity for compassion toward refugees of war torn countries, regardless of the fact that there is the possibility of evil lurking among a small percentage of the people we are trying to help. The response to my posts was huge, and not in the way that warms my heart. I have friends who disagree with me and they were pretty angry about it. One friend, in particular was offended that I likened the fact that the majority of Americans did not want to take in Jewish refugees as they fled anti-Semitism just before WWII. That was different, he says. Jews were not terrorists.So much to say on that. So many, many angles to argue. But I didn't. I said almost nothing. Not because I'm weak. Not because I thought he made a valid point. (I didn't). Not because I'm so wonderfully polite. (I'm often not). I didn't argue with him or my other friend, because it was futile. I felt pretty sad yesterday, less because of what happened in Paris, and more so because I could see this divide between myself and a significant group of people I call Friends. And that, to me, looks like a successful outcome for terrorists. Divide and conquer.Of course it has been suggested to me that I Un-Friend people who so vehemently express their opposing opinions on my feed. I'm not going to lie and say I didn't consider it. Sometimes I think "What's the use? You obviously think I'm stupid or naive. It doesn't look like you respect me." Who needs that opposition in their life?This issue of accepting or not accepting Syrian refugees into the US reminds me of a few things that I have experienced similar to this in the past, albeit on a smaller, simpler scale.Several years ago, when a hurricane was about to rip through our township in NJ, we were living next door to a house that looked like it was literally about to fall apart. In that house was a family that I disliked. The grandfather was a stereotypical drunk who stunk and yelled and, frankly, seemed slightly dangerous. The granddaughter, whom we had spoke to only a couple of times, seemed "not all there". She had two boys, aged 10 and 8 who were definite products of this strange environment. The youngest boy was a pathological liar and a thief. I had no proof of what went on in that house, but I was sure it wasn't good. I didn't trust any of these people, didn't want my kids near them. As the hurricane got closer, here's what I thought: Are they going to be OK? What if the house rips apart? What if they need to be rescued? Would I be OK with me or my husband risking our lives for them? What if they come knock on our door?Yeah, I thought of my family first. And then I uncomfortably realized I had no choice but to help that family through that, or any other life threatening crisis if they needed me. We would rush to their house and dig them out in the middle of a hurricane. We would take them in. We would feed them. Because they are human beings. Yes, I would never leave the grandfather alone with one of my kids. Yep, I'd keep an eye on everyone. Yep, I'd be uneasy. I'd worry. But I'd do it because I couldn't NOT do it and live with myself later.My other story takes place in May 1995, just after the Federal Building bombing in OKC. I am not sure where I was, but I remember watching on TV as Garth Brooks performed "The Change" at a children's benefit concert in OKC. I am not a country music fan and had never heard the song until that moment. It was an angle I hadn't really thought about. Would this horrific event that killed people I knew, in my home, the place where I grew up, change me? Would I go the route of zero tolerance? Would it all be so black and white? How did I feel about terrorism now? I was thinking it through and I didn't know the answer.I thought of that song again yesterday while reading posts on Facebook about the refugees, the problems we face because of Paris, the changing attitudes, the fear that seemed to wrap around everyone, manifesting itself as anger, sometimes hatred. I couldn't remember the words, so I looked it up."One hand reaches out
I'm Still Here.
I acknowledge it weekly, at least. Sometimes there are several days that pass where I whisper it to myself like a pep talk. I think it out loud when I have had a good cry, for the millionth time. I think it when I look in the mirror at what I swear are rapidly appearing wrinkles. I think it when I try on clothes and feel the scar on my new breast with my opposite hand because I still have no feeling in the place where my real breast used to be. I think it every time I am reminded that my niece, McKenzie is missing out on something. Hell, I even said it while watching the news, stumped and worried about what lies ahead after January 20th.
It's been a shit year (my worst so far!). I have faced my greatest physical challenge as well as my greatest loss of family and all that pain and trauma placed unbelievable stress on my marriage and kids. We were broken and though we work to piece together our lives, we quietly accept that we can never go back to the Before days.
I marvel sometimes that I am still here.
It's July and I'm going to call it: 2016 is the worst year in my lifetime so far.
I would list all the things that prove this, but it would sound whiny and I honestly think that not much of an explanation is needed at this point. I am, however, going to compartmentalize, because it's all I can do that keeps me from drowning. I place one feeling here, another There. Over here I have bags of anger; to the left is a pile of smiles I pull out for all those optimistic people who get downright cheerful with me when I am stating shitty facts. Those smiles are getting a bit tight and stiff as my mastectomy surgery date gets near, however. I admit, at times I am lying when I say I'm fine.
I believe the facts - those successful facts about survival and quick recovery, by the way. I know. I know I will get through this. And I am surprised by and appreciative of all the people who are empathetic and want to help.
But it seems wrong to deny those "shitty facts" their share of attention. It makes me feel that my emotions are somehow wrong and shameful to hide them. If I've learned anything about hardship, it's that you can't pretend it away. You shouldn't get into the habit of feeding your insecurities, but you should make it known what you are dealing with, so that the next person who encounters it has more information than you did. Or, at least, your friends and family know what you are dealing with so they know better how to help you.
There. Have I justified this post enough?
None of you know me. I doubt Kenzie ever mentioned me in conversation. We didn’t see each other often- the occasional holiday that, for me, was the highlight of my year, was probably a bit awkward for her. I’m her mom’s little sister, the aunt who she heard gave her mom a lot of grief while growing up. But you, her friends and acquaintances, and your parents and families have been on my mind since the day McKenzie left us. Suddenly, we were no longer strangers. We are in this together.