“I’ll be a story in your head. That’s okay.
We’re all stories in the end.”
Two weeks ago we had a sweltering heat wave. Last week temps dropped into the 30s at night and barely reached into the 60s during the day. Over the weekend we had days with brilliant blue skies and temps in the mid- to high 70s; it was perfect with an autumn coolness just under the warmth. Overnight we had storms and this morning is gloomy with rain. I like such days. I feel cozy as I sit in my big brown chair sipping my coffee.
The newsfeed of my personal Facebook page has been filled with the headlines of the mass shooting at Las Vegas. I’ve only read a few articles and watched a couple of videos about it because my heart is overwhelmed and numb with the tragedy. However, I did pause to witness a slideshow of the almost 60 victims who were killed. I looked at each face, and read each name, and grieved for the loss of each life. I do it–maybe–for the same reason that Jews read off the names of the Holocaust victims: to acknowledge that people are more than mere statistics. Each had a story. Each loved and was loved, each laughed and cried, and succeeded and failed. Each was important. They mattered and their deaths are a loss.
I feel the same way about abuse survivors. Most victims are not heard. They are disbelieved, minimized, told to “stop talking about it” and “just get over it” and “move on.” Often they feel invisible, unheard, worthless. I think that one of the most powerful things that can be done for abuse survivors is to listen to their story. So no matter how painful, no matter how the stories break my heart, and even if the survivors don’t know I’m there, I read their stories as a witness that their stories mattered because they matter.
Sometimes when I read their stories, I don’t know what to say. So I say, “I’m sorry this happened to you.” “I’m sorry” is not adequate enough, but when I say “I’m sorry,” I actually mean that I’m grieving for them at the deepest parts of my being, but I can find no words that will adequately express that.
This week I’m rewatching Doctor Who for the millionth time. Doctor Who is my “comfort binge-watching series.” The series is funny, witty, scary but not too scary, and somewhat sad in all the right mixes. It just occurred to me this morning that I might have begun watching the series this week because of The Doctor’s perspective on people. He thinks humans are maddening, frustrating, sometimes stupid and naive, but when it all comes down to it, he thinks they are amazing, incredible, and worth saving when they get into trouble. The Doctor is sort of a type of a Messiah figure. I totally relate to these quotes:
“There’s no such thing as an ordinary human.”
“900 years of time and space and I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important.”
“An ordinary man: That’s the most important thing in creation. The whole world’s different because he’s alive!”
“Who said you’re not important? I’ve traveled to all sorts of places, done things you couldn’t even imagine, but you two: street corner, two in the morning, getting a taxi home? I’ve never had a life like that. Yes. I’ll try and save you.”
“When I close my eyes I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight till it burns your hand, and you say this. No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!”
“This planet, these people, they are precious to me and I will defend them to my last breath.”
Rose Tyler, one of The Doctor’s companions, said that he taught her: “You don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand! You say no! You have the guts to do what’s right even when everyone else just runs away.”
In one of the movies that Alfred Hitchcock made (I can’t remember the name), a boy was given a package and told to deliver it at a certain place. He was told to go directly there without delay. The package had a bomb in it, but the boy didn’t know it. He meandered on his way, as boys do, taking a bus to the location, stopping at various places to enjoy this or that. The suspense built and built for the audience, as we kept fearing that the bomb would go off and yet, somehow, believing that it wouldn’t and the boy would spared. But the bomb did explode, and the boy was killed. I watched the scene with shock, and I read that the original movie-goers were angry that Hitchcock did that. It was during that movie that Hitchcock first understood that in a movie there has to be breaks in the tension and suspense for the audience to catch their breath or it becomes too much.
I think life is like that. People need to have breaks in the sorrow and tensions of life. I know that I certainly do. Sometimes it all becomes too much. Sometimes it becomes overwhelming. Sometimes it batters me. My body feels as if it’s thrumming with stress this week because first Jane’s story touched me deeply and then the Las Vegas shootings saddened me. I’m trying to refocus and rebalance and breathe. Some of the things I do is this:
I ponder who God is, and that He cares about the oppressed.
I go to nature, which restores my spirit. Sometimes I go outside and just breathe in the peace and beauty of our wonderful Enchanted Forest. There are tragedies in the world, but nature reminds me that there is also beauty.
I enjoy the comfort of the animals. Danny loves me devotedly and follows me around everywhere. There is nothing like the love of a dog! The cats cuddle on my lap and soothe me with their purrs. The chickens run out whenever they see me, and gather around my feet with their cluckings. The ducks make me laugh with their goofy antics. They used to rush out whenever I opened the coop doors in the morning. Now they stay in the coop loudly reminding me to fill their food dish. They only go outside when they see me scooping feed into their dish.
I did have a scare with our new cat Madeline though. The animal shelter had told us that she needs to be a “barn cat” because she wasn’t happy living in a house. I’ve kept her contained in the garage for a week and a day so that she can reset her inner “GPS” that this is home–and also so she and Annie can get to know each other. I’ve gone out to the garage several times throughout each day to give her (and Annie) lovings so she can grow to trust me. Madeline is very skittish so it takes her time to approach me–we can tell she wants to because she keeps running past us. We give her time and space and once she draws near enough to touch, she is extremely affectionate and keeps rubbing against us.
Our other outside cat, Annie, loves to roam free but she’s been shut up with Madeline. We can’t put Annie outside without access to food, but we can’t leave food outside because we don’t want to attract coyotes or hungry bears preparing for hibernation. I felt a week and a day was long enough so I unblocked the pet door yesterday. The cats stayed in the garage for most of the day. I suspect they didn’t realize they were free to go out. When I went out at about 4 p.m. to gather eggs, Madeline was gone from the garage. When it grew dark, I went outside and called for her, but I didn’t see any sign of her. I knew it was a risk letting her out–but it would have been a risk if I had waited for a week or a month and the cats can’t be shut up in the garage forever. But still I was worried about her. I woke briefly in the night when I heard thunder, and then I had nightmares about searching for Madeline in the rain. She was still gone when I went out to care for the poultry early this morning, but when I entered the garage to go back into the house, she was there, wet and hungry. I was so relieved! Now I know that she knows how to find her way back to the garage, I won’t be so worried.
Other ways that I rebalance myself is by doing creative things. I’ve wanted to make an enchanted forest sign post for quite some time. My sign is actually more of a “welcome” and “go away” sign. I found some wooden letters in the craft department at Mejiers last weekend, and EJ painted some of the letters on Sunday and I finished painting the others. The last couple of days I’ve been gluing the letters onto boards that I pulled off old pallets earlier in the summer. We need to paint them with some sort of clear polyurthurane to protect them from the weather, and then we can nail the boards to a wooden post at the bottom of our driveway.
You may have noticed that one board says “No Political, Religious, Sales People.” That’s because in the two years that we’ve lived in Northern Michigan, we’ve had at least a dozen visits by Jehovah Witnesses. They don’t visit during the snowy months–no one wants to venture up our steep driveway in the winter–so we get frequent visits in the summer. I’m not a JW and I’m not going to change my whole belief system or church because a random stranger knocks at the door. We are rather isolated so I don’t like unexpected strangers. I was going to put “No uninvited strangers” on a board, but I ran out of the necessary letters.
ANYWAY, I also made a sign post with our house numbers on it. Our property was originally 10 acres, but the original owner split it off into two 5 acre properties. We and our neighbors–whose place is their vacation property so they aren’t here all the time–share a portion of the driveway. Their driveway splits off not long after turning off from the road while our continues up the hill. Our packages sometimes get left by mistake at our neighbor’s house, usually when there is a substitute mailperson or deliveryman. So a sign post is quite necessary.
I also find balance through humor. Laughter is good medicine, so we take time to find humor in different situations.
For example, this morning I headed into the bathroom to use the toilet. Uh, TMI, right? I’m mentioning it because Luke ran into the bathroom and used the toilet before I could. Luke taught himself to use the toilet; we didn’t teach him. One day years ago, I opened the bathroom door and someone was using the toilet. I said, “Oops! Sorry” and started to close the door when I realized it was the CAT. Neither EJ nor JJ believed me until I took a photo of him one day. Now, we sometimes have to wait for our turn to use the toilet….because of the cat.
On Saturday evening when I came back inside after putting the ducks and chickens in their coop for the night, EJ glanced at me and then exclaimed, “What happened to you???’ I had a bloody wound in the center of my forehead. Apparently it looked quite nasty. I explained, “There is something I have never told you before, but I think it’s now time. You see, I am actually a unicorn and my horn is finally beginning to emerge.” For some reason, EJ did not believe me (“You are NOT a unicorn,” he exclaimed!) so I had to tell him a boring alternate story: The latch on the coop door sometimes works itself open, especially if it’s windy outside, so I always put a bucket of drinking water in front of the door so it can’t swing open and whack a duck. The latch must have come undone–or else I didn’t latch the door well enough when I went to gather eggs earlier. When I bent down to dump out the bucket for the night, I hit my forehead–hard–on the latch. Ouch. And, sure, EJ believed THAT story. I liked the first one better.