I was pregnant with my second baby when I watched a video of a van running over and through a street full of people in Egypt.
I can still remember the screams and the sound of bodies as they hit the front of the van and rolled under the tires. I can remember exactly what Saddam Hussein’s face looked like as he died at the end of a rope. I can recall the grainy security footage from the Trolley Square shooting as though it happened yesterday and I still remember exactly where I was when the twin towers fell and Columbine was no longer just the name of a flower.
When the news came on this morning about Aurora, Colorado I left the room. The rough cell phone camera footage, the panic and the screams let me know that it was not something I wanted to hang around and listen to. My dad gets angry with me that I turn away from it, but he doesn’t understand what it does to me. I internalize visual terror and it rots me from the inside out, pulverizing my heart and tricking my brain into horrible scenarios.
I used to watch Law and Order SVU loyally. It wasn’t until I began fantasizing ways of killing my family and getting away with it that I realized I needed to find a new show (and a new medication.) I do not watch rated R movies and sometimes even PG-13 is too much for me. I do not watch violent television shows and I most certainly do not watch the news. It is not that I’m a naive prude, it is that my brain just cannot process violence and terror. If I were to eat a bad cheeseburger my body would find a way to expel the rotten food from my body, it wouldn’t be pretty, but after about 48 hours it would be gone. My brain works in pictures and sounds but unlike my stomach, once a visual or sound is internalized? There is no way to flush it out. There is no way to unsee what I’ve seen, so I’ve found the best way to keep my brain free and clear of violence? Is to avoid it, which is as simple as turning off the TV, closing a book or shutting down my computer.
Yes, I want to know what is going on with the world. But rather than knowing everything that is going wrong with it, I want to know how I can help. I want to use my talents for furthering the good and drowning out the evil. I want to use my voice to amplify the stories of courage, heroism and lives well lived, not continue the same rhetoric of violence and ill. What happened last night is unfathomable, and now is the time we must find whatever good we can in society, use it to lift others and squeeze it until it squeaks.
I heard there were young children killed and injured in Colorado, but the way I see it, they were all children. At one time a parent rocked every single person who died last night through teething, growing pains and colic. Losing a human at any age is terrible, whether the child is three months or 30 years. Death has a far reaching, and painful ripple effect, one I have experienced and found my own way of working through. Tragedies like the one in Colorado make the process of mourning even more complex for the thousands of people knit together by the unspeakable.
I cannot, and do not watch the news. While I discuss with my children that horrible things can and do happen, there is no need for them to know what death looks like, or hear what terror and fear sound like. What may be entertainment or informative to some can be damaging and far reaching to others. Respect those around you who may be especially sensitive to visual or emotional stimuli, especially regarding your children.
If you find yourself struggling and internalizing bad news, violence or tragic events – take a step back. Make your home a safe and quiet place from all the noise and anger that is out in the world. Violence in movies and sensationalized news stories can be triggers, and many times people don’t even realize that it is the influence of the media that is causing them a deep sense of sadness and hopelessness.