Monday, December 17, 2012

Reflection, honesty, and my vows to you

There have been so many questions going through my head since the massacre at Sandy Hook on the 14th. As a mother of a 1st grader, and also a 3rd grader, the main question is "why" followed by "how?" How could somebody do this? Why would they target those who are so young and so innocent? Like so many others, my heart weeps for these families, for this community.
We happen to live about 30 minutes from Virginia Tech. It is where my husband graduated college from and we are avid Hokie fans. Most of you will remember the massacre that claimed 33 lives there on April 16, 2007. I did have family up there that day and I am thankful they were not hurt. I spent a good portion of the day on the phone though with a friend who had gone to Tech and was worried that a professor whom had become a good friend and mentor to her might have been in the building at the time. He was, and he was not lucky enough to make it out alive. She knew his schedule, knew he was likely there, and I was bound to the role of "maybe he's ok, he might be ok, they haven't released names yet" until it became clear he wasn't ok. As a Hokie, I still grieve for the tragedy of that day and, sadly, the tragedies we've seen there since.
When I was younger I had a step-brother who "had issues." I suppose that is what we politely refer to it as, at least here in the South. Among other incidents, which are too numerous to recall, I watched him chase my younger brother in the house one day. My step-brother, who was actually a couple years younger than my brother, had an ax in his hand. He swung it high over head and it came down before my eyes .. missing my brother's left arm by inches. I'm pretty certain he received a spanking and a good talking to. I don't ever think he got the help he truly needed though and, saldy, now he is dead.
I've grown up with depression. It is something that has been a constant companion my entire life. I don't know why, it just is what it is. I have been through numerous therapists, on almost all the meds at some point, and have even been briefly committed. It was being committed that opened my eyes to the difference between crazy and "have issues." I'm not crazy, but I do have issues. They are something I have to be constantly aware of and honest with myself and others about if I am to maintain a healthy life.
I tell you all this because I have known loss, I have experienced grief, and I have known the effects of mental well-being intimately. I have seen how we treat those with mental health issues. It is an invisible disease and not given the courtesy and understanding that usually come along with easy to see ailments. At times I have compared it to having a broken limb - I'm still capable of doing most things but I may wear down quicker, I may need help, and there will be times that I simply can not do certain things. Like most people who are brave enough to realize that our mental well being isn't at optimum level, I am terrified of opening up too much about it because I fear being locked up in a padded room. Or becoming the person whom you tiptoe around and never really want to engage. I don't want to be treated different, I just want a little understanding from time to time.
Our country is facing so many questions right now. Fingers are being pointed and blame is being laid. I fear that these are knee-jerk reactions that will ultimately get us nowhere. Evil and sickness is out there. That has always been the case and it always will be the case, and as the President said in his speech last night, no amount of laws will take that away.
However, having walked the path I've walked in this life, I do know several things. I know that we seriously need to re-examine the culture we live in. We cannot blame the monsters we create and then fail to provide care for when they act as monsters. We do not have the health care that we need, especially when it comes to mental health care. We are pouring gasoline on the fire by the extreme (to be more specific, extremely detailed) violence we saturate our culture and children in. We feed our bodies with food-like substances, things that too often do more harm than good, and we wash it down with toxic drinks.
I also know that change begins on a personal and local level. That if I want to see goodness and love then I must be goodness and love. If I want well being and health, then I must strive to create those things.
Here is my vow to you:
I vow to feed myself and my family as much real food as possible. Nobody is perfect but I will strive to do the best that I can, and to make the healthiest choices as often as I can. I will also strive to help others learn about real food, how to cook and how to put food by. I vow to grow as much of our food as possible. To not let set-backs and failures keep me from rising and trying again.
I vow to be aware of my mental health and honest about it with myself and with my loved ones. We must know ourselves, know our bodies, and be honest. I will seek help when I need it, and I will be there for others, as much as I can, when they need help. I will show them the compassion and understanding that I want shown to me. Isn't that the Golden Rule? (Even if you aren't Christian, which I'm not, it is a rule that is good enough to be called golden.)
As Ghandi instructed, I vow to be the change I want to see in this world. I will strive to find the things I/we have in common with each other and accentuate the positive rather than focusing on our differences and squabbling over petty things. We are all on this world together, humans and every other creature and being out there. We can not survive in harmony if we can not live in harmony. I will strive for harmony, and when I have moments where I fail I will pick myself up and try again.
I will not allow fear to dominate our lives. I will not give in to bad men and, even worse, boogey men. Our imaginations can be our greatest success or our greatest enemy. I don't doubt evil is out there, but I will not give in to media-inspired frenzy and succumb to the false belief that there are more bad people than there are good, that the boogeyman is out there waiting to snatch my children up at the first oppurtunity. I will teach my children to be aware, but to be confident and I will allow them to spread their wings. I will allow them to ride their bikes to the playground without me. I will teach them the steps they need, I will be by their side, and then I will let go and let them do it on their own like I know they can. I will not let fear of "what if" define our lives.

These are my vows to you. I can only speak for me but I can hope for you, and I do. I hope that you can join me in this, to be the change, to be the light in the darkness, to show the love and compassion.
Dark times will come, and there will be times when you fall and fail, but have the courage to keep going, to not let the darkness define you. Always remember, you are good, you are loved, you are valued. Together we can get there and we can be the difference.