When I was 6 and my sister was 8, a tree fell down in our backyard and crashed into the back porch, breaking a few windows.
What we knew for sure in that moment is we were getting robbed, and we confirmed this by opening our eyes wide, jumping up from our places in front of the TV, deserting our TV dinners, and running out the front door.
We grabbed each other and started running down the street until a neighbor called to us.
He pulled us onto his front porch, where we put our hands on our knees, and told, in scattered breaths, the story of why we were running.
We were being robbed, there was a robber, we were being robbed and needed to run.
His wife came out, and smoothed my hair and tucked it behind my ear. She said shhh, shhh.
My socks were wet, and I wasn’t wearing any shoes, it was an upstate NY summer thunderstorm, loud and grand.
This sweet old man who’s name I cant remember, but remember him always standing outside hosing down his driveway, took a hand on each of our shoulders, and walked us three houses back down.
You see that? he said. A tree fell in your back yard. The windows broke.
He walked us back inside, and went room by room, he looked under the beds with us. He looked behind the doors.
You see, he said.
Again and again.
You are okay.
When my Mom came home later on from her shift at the restaurant, we clamored around her to tell her the news.
A tree had fallen.
We didn’t mention being robbed.
We didn’t mention running down the street.
We didn’t mention the sweet old man that took us room by room.
We didn’t have an answer for why our wet socks were in the hamper, and we weren’t pressed for one.
Because she was tired. And it was time for everyone to go to bed.
And we knew enough to know, that our reaction wasn’t normal. And with the way time does as it passes, we became ashamed. That we didn’t just handle it. When you live in a house where tree’s crash down daily, you do not run out the front door. You do not show anyone your deepest fear. You handle it. You stay quiet.
A year later, I sat in my red bean bag chair drinking an A & W creme soda, and watched grainy footage of airplanes flying over a place called Iraq and beams of lights shooting down on them.
The news was,
we had gone to war.
we were at war.
there was a man, saddam something, we were trying to kill. The beams of lights were bombs.
I sat in my red bean bag chair, and my Dad stood next to me, I very very specifically remember him cracking open a fresh beer, eyes glazed over with both joy and alcohol, leaning back slightly, he said.
go get em boys.
go get em.
he turned and walked out of the room then, and I sat and watched the TV.
what did it mean to go to war?
My Dad had served in the army for years, over talks of weather, and pass the ketchup the past few weeks the dinner table had talk of war, and how we needed to go.
But just like you do not run out the front door.
In our house, it was best to not ask questions.
The next day in school they gathered us to give us some version of what was happening. And then, it was time to talk about prime numbers, the jump rope-a-thon coming up, and to put a check next to the lunch we were ordering that day.
School was a safer place to ask questions, but still, none of us did.
For months, I had dreams that this man would bomb our house, or come into our house, because everyone said he was hiding. So if you’re hiding, wouldn’t you go somewhere, like to a house in NY? You would, right?
I’d look under my bed and behind doors, just like that sweet old man, who put his hand on my shoulder, who’s wife tucked my hair behind my ear. See? I would tell myself. See.
Well he never did.
And the war went on and on, and I got older, and the war went on and on.
And 25 years later, and the war goes on and on.
And still, I ask very few questions.
Today is July 8th 2016, I am now 35 years old, I am no longer 8, and my body hurts, and my head hurts, and my heart hurts and I have all the resources, degrees, and networks to ask questions…and I don’t even know what to ask.
I feel about as strong and safe as I did, when the tree crashed, when the robbers came, when the bombs dropped, when we ran down the street.
But I cannot say nothing.
I called a friend who I talk with about everything this morning.
Then I texted with a friend, a special human where we can deliver outright soliloquies to one another and it feels like she’s right here.
I dropped my dog off at day care so he could play. Because I cant take care of him today.
I got up, I sat down, I checked under the bed.
Both friends, both conclusions, if any change will happen, it must begin in our backyards.
At about 11 last night I watched the video of the man dying in his front seat. I watched his finance ‘live-stream’ sitting next to him, staring at the camera, narrating. I heard nothing, but learned later, of the nothing, a 4-year old girl said, nothing, as she sat in the back seat, her tiny little knees inches away from a person of importance to her, dying.
And for the million moments in between that were not captured.
When she did speak.
She told her Mom, it was all going to be okay. She said it again and again. As her mother wavered between narration and hysteria.
And of everyone who died yesterday, in all the ways that everyone died…this part is the one that broke my heart in a million pieces.
What world is this, where a 4-year old someone knows to stay silent and even can stay silent while this happens.
What world is this where a man is dying, and her choice, in that moment is instead to take a video of it, instead of to hold him, to look at him and honor him, and the gun, held by the officer and his voice, shrill, and terrified, he continues to accuse the dying man, says he told him not to reach for anything, I told him, he says. I told him, he says. and no one is convinced, and this man must now realize he has shot someone, and he is dying, and he has shot someone and he is dying because of all the fear that lived inside of him and everyone. And I wont watch this video again, because I cant, because I cant handle the truth of it frankly, how the fear that lives in us, we run through our hands, not our hearts. And when this happens, we kill each other.
What world is this, where hours after his death, the mom stands in a circle, phones thrust into her face, recounting what happened, as people cheer, and some shake their heads, and some say fuck the police, and the circle grows in it’s energy, like a pot that is boiling, and everyone is angry.
What world is this where there is automatic hate:
because of your black skin
because of your blue uniform
because of your money
because of your lack of money
because of your education
because of your lack of education
because of your god
because of your lack of god
because of your white skin
because of your privilege
because of your noise
because of your silence
because. because. because.
What world is this.
And I have judgement for ALL of it, including myself. And I am judging the police officer. And I am judging the woman for video-ing his last moments, then taking the pulpit, and the crowd that surrounded her, salivating to get the clip that would go on the internet, where people like me would watch at 11pm, while alerts came through about Dallas, and I am clicking on ALL of it.
And I want to run down the street.
And I want someone to smooth my hair behind my ear.
And I want to collapse right into the arms of someone who can say shhh, shhh.
But no one can anymore. Because we are so so far gone from okay.
And I want to ask, and I want a fucking answer about why a 4-year old saw what she saw, and said what she said, and what the fuck is going to happen to her life now. This is no longer kids sitting in bean bags watching grainy footage on TV. We have real time access, at all times, to all the ways we hate each other.
So then, was it always there? And the channels for how we give and receive information have just become more sophisticated.
I don’t know anymore.
And my demands for a ‘fucking answer’ are based in anger and projection for every kid that sees shit they should never see. Which at this point, is I’d guess pretty much every kid that lives on the planet.
What is the solution for self-preservation and solution. Is the person who’s taking a spa day today, and instagramming themselves riding around on a goddamn swan float hurting any less than the person blasting their own social media channels very decidedly on one side or another?? I DONT KNOW. Just last week I spent 3-days sleeping in a tent, with the ocean roaring on, with no cell service, with books, and coffee, and cold beer, and deliberate conversation…this is my most favorite way to live my days, but it is not in service. However, I do not, do not want to be a martyr in anyway…I do not know what the balance is yet.
We’re all so hurt.
What I can say about what I am going to do about the life I lead and the worlds I occupy is work towards being as intentional as I can about my conversations, about my leadership, about what I say, about what I don’t say.
I wont hope this away, or wait for someone else. How can I?? How can you? How dare we.
I will check my actions to see if they are based in reaction, in anger, and if they are, I will try to find a better way, and I will seldomly do this perfectly. I will rarely, if ever, get it right.
But if I am connected to my why.
And I am placing my energy towards others who are connecting to theirs.
And I am, loving. As hard and as best that I can.
Then, I have to believe that that is a start.
If I don’t believe it, I’ll just go numb, and disengage from life, and I’ll start punching some clock, and I’ll maybe start living the life I want, you know, after retirement, someday…and then…someday…I will. I’ll never fall in love. Cause whats the point, right? In a world like this. We’re all fucked.
It’ll go a little something like that. And then I’ll die.
God, you guys, I just cant.
So lets start in our backyards. Lets look and see and feel and love who’s in front of us right now.
If we all admit we don’t know…at least we have a place to begin.
I am here, and I don’t want to live like this, do you?
In a time where it’s not easy to love, and it’s much easier to hate, what I can tell you, because I need to tell you, because I need to reminded of this too. Is that I love you. That on our best days, in our finest moments, in the moments that make up a life, in a legacy worth retelling, in the circles most powerful, in sleep that is found easy, in rest and in worship, is that I love you.
Lets try so much harder than we are.
I’ll meet you in the backyard.