Hi, loves. 🌿
How on earth do we cope?
On Friday afternoon, I took off for the beach. That morning, before dawn, my husband had left on his first trip away from us since sometime in late 2019 and I felt slightly untethered. I was done with teaching for the day and even though I had a few hours earmarked for work, I went anyway, a small pleasure of west coast life: jumped in the car, picked up lunch and a cookie, and sped along the 10. It reminded me of the early-morning escapes to the beach Noa and I made during the height of Covid, leaving our condo at 6:30am to make it back for her 9am Second Grade Zoom. We’d lay out our towels and my coffee, unwrap banana bread and crack open hardboiled eggs and watch the sun rise, back when we thought all this would get better, when this was a blip we could manage, when life would all return to some semblance of the familiar. When it was finite. Back when my baby was six and game for anything, if I was by her side.
At the beach I walked and walked and walked, all alone, listening to this episode of The Slowdown and this one of Poetry Unbound, gasping and laughing and crying and trying to remember how to feel human again, to experience the beauty of one line in my ears, of one surprising image, of the ease of settling yourself inside a single poem. I yearned for someone to fill my ears with beauty, and if not beauty, the truth.
My eyes have been a mess — entirely my own doing — the hours I spend staring into my phone, the endless scrolling causing a kind of strain that’s entirely avoidable and I cannot seem to avoid. So I stared out at the horizon, where the water met the sky. I thought of that funny tweet that went around ages ago that satirized the 20-20-20 rule: after 20 minutes of work, look 20 feet away, then spend 20 years in the forest.
The ocean was the closest to a forest I could get on a Friday afternoon in Los Angeles when school pickup was at 2:45pm and I couldn’t get to the beach until 1pm. The endless strains at freedom within the confines of motherhood, trauma nipping at our heels. I wanted a few hours — an hour — off.
Last week we told our 3rd grader about Robb Elementary: We wanted her to hear it from us before she heard it from the kids at school — which she did, in more detail than I thought sane or manageable for a child, but who the hell knows what is sane or manageable anymore, we’ve gone far, far beyond that — and when we were done explaining it in the loosest of terms (someone went into a school far away from here and hurt some people, you are safe, do you have any questions? — the words literally stolen out of a friend’s mouth), she had only one: What happened to the guy who did it?
My husband quickly — smartly, vaguely — said, he’s gone. You don’t need to worry about him.
This was all before she came home and told us that she’d learned that 19 kids and 2 teachers had been killed at school, and so had, ultimately, the gunman and his grandma. Oh, and by the way, she added, my teacher has a crowbar in the Make-It Room just in case. I don’t trust this teacher with 3rd grade math, let alone a crowbar.
But in that moment, that first moment, when my 8 year old sat on her twin bed, all ready for school, surrounded by squish mellows and below planets hanging from her ceiling, she asked, what happened to the guy who did it, all I could think was: Holy shit, she thinks there’s only one guy.
Many friends have been crying all week. Podcast hosts and reporters are crying when talking about their own kids. Students are coming to class and crying. We are shocked, again, and for a time. I have spent the week numb to the bone. I have avoided looking at any of these kids’ faces, perhaps because I know that’s what will do it, that’s what will unzip whatever is holding me together, and I need, for the moment, to stay together. Or perhaps it’s the images of the parents that will do it, of their bodies crumpled outside the school, as they yell for help that inexplicably — criminally — didn’t come.
What is there to say about any of this?
I went to the beach because there was nowhere else to go. It was the closest place to the end of the world I could find, even for only an hour of soul respite. I knew I’d eventually get back on the phone lines, knocking doors, marching, yes, of course I would. But for that one afternoon, I simply could not return to my phone or computer for more horrifying news. I could not have another devastating conversation; or hear the Covid numbers spiking out of control or hear about another friend ill in bed or receive yet another text, so sorry, we saw you yesterday and today we tested positive. I could not read about mass shootings in Buffalo or Orange County or the government leaving parents without any means to feed their babies or our own congregation’s offices targeted with swastikas, or anything about the war raging in Ukraine and spilling into eastern Europe.
I wanted one lone moment of looking out, far beyond where we are now, and even further still, into a place we can’t yet touch.
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ALL THE THINGS
I wrote about my beauty routine (if one could even call it that?) changing during the pandemic for Cup of Jo. This article about the anti-vax movement features our pediatrician friend, Eric! Anne Helen Peterson on minority rule. I mean, for real?! MY GOD are you watching the new season of Couples Therapy???? There’s a triple match on any donation at Moms Demand Action today only. And many ways to volunteer if you’re not already hooked in.