When devastating things are happening in the world, I usually do one of two things.
I’ll sometimes fixate on the news, moving quickly from one source to another. My brain is trying to piece reality together by gathering information. Sometimes I rely on experts who have far more information and can explain what I don’t understand. Other times, I’ll listen to stories from people, synchronizing my own emotions with theirs.
Or I’ll shut down. I’ll turn everything off. It’s just too much.
The school shooting at Columbine, September 11th, and the insurrection at the Capitol are all examples of the former. The first two happened when I was still in high school, watching on TV in real-time. The insurrection, just over a year ago, was one of the first times I had watched live TV in a long time. I was simultaneously scrolling through the news on my phone. Time happened in slow motion as I was witnessing the unimaginable.
The school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and Parkland were another story. I was a parent by then. I felt like I couldn’t breathe when I heard the news, with the pain of those parents searing my own heart.
I could barely watch anything related to the crises with Syrian refugees or the immigrants at the U.S.-Mexican border. Again, in my head, I saw parents. Hugging their babies close, trying desperately to get them to safety. I couldn’t watch. There was nothing I could do and the helplessness was overwhelming.
Yesterday I woke to the headline that Russia had invaded Ukraine. By midday, the word “war” was appearing in headlines.
I had a full day of work. The business kept me from reading too much about the rapidly deteriorating situation until evening. Then I read a story about Russian forces attacking a kindergarten and an orphanage and I lost it.
I told Ger that if something were threatening our babies that I wouldn’t wait — I would run. He said, “Run where? Some of those people had nowhere to go.”
His simple statement struck me. To be a parent, to know that an attack was imminent and have no options… to wait in fear, not knowing what the next days, weeks, months, or years could look like.
As parents, we would do anything to keep our children safe. Anything.
Feeling powerless is unbearable. Painful from the outside; excruciating from the inside.
So. This is one of those times where I have to create some distance. I retreat into quiet and avoid reading the news. It’s not because I don’t care. It’s because I care so much.
I also have to be in a place where I can clearheadedly explain to my own children what’s going on: enough so they are informed, but not more than they can emotionally handle. I was seven years old during the Gulf War, and I remember being afraid. I think the word “war” stirs those feelings, even in young children, even when the war is on the other side of the world.
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