I've been attempting to shield myself from the recent tragedies. I already avoid the news completely. If it weren't for Facebook and Saturday Night Live, I'd never know what was going on. And that's a choice. I just happened to hear about the bombings in Boston because I accidentally heard the radio for a few minutes shortly after it all happened.
On one hand I feel guilty about this. It's a head-in-the sand attitude. I don't want to know and that makes me a bit...selfish, I guess? Uncaring? The other part of me is protective of my selfishness. I've reached a limit for the sadness my heart can contain. Or maybe it just affects me more now so I can't tolerate it like I used to.
Every bit of suffering I hear about weighs so heavily. I can't hear about a tragedy without thinking of those left behind. I can't even see an ambulance shriek by without feeling my knees go weak, imagining the possible horror that people are experiencing right that moment.
Before Dave died, I didn't quite think that way. I had already experienced my share of death and I logically knew that when someone died, people were left behind to grieve, but now I know intimately what that is like and I imagine those souls simultaneously feeling a lot like I did in the hours, days and weeks after Dave died. I know what it's like to survive the worst that can happen.
I relive and I mourn again. I also feel so helpless. Though I can donate money and time to help somehow, what I can't do is make the years and years of pain go away for those who've lost their love and their lives as they knew them. That's a road we all essentially have to travel alone. And that makes me crazy.
So I avoid the news, the truth. I simply can't take it. Even the good parts, the parts about good outweighing evil, the stories of the way the tragedy brought people together, the parts about healing. They only make it marginally easier to hear. I'm done with misery. I've had enough of my own and everyone else's. I want some time to feel free of the weight of sadness. I want things to be easy.
I want to pretend, just for a few days in a row, that everything is okay. Everywhere. It's completely unrealistic, but it's true. I want to be in denial.
So much so, that I've been filling my brain with the exact opposite of harsh reality. I've been watching The Pioneer Woman cooking show on Food Network. The Pioneer Woman is Ree Drummand, who started out as a food blogger. Eventually, she got this gig with Food Network. She and her husband and four kids live in rural Oklahoma on a cattle ranch with dogs, cats and extended family. The show is, of course, a sparkly, pretty, happy version of the truth, not real life. It's an image, polished up and molded for TV, as all shows are.
But it's how I want to pretend life really works right now, instead of families torn apart, missing their loved ones and trying to understand the unfathomable.
In the alternate reality of The Pioneer Woman, both parents are well and happy, the kids are healthy and rosy-cheeked, there's always home cooking, love and laughs and friends and family gathering around. Even both sets of grandparents are alive. It's a little pocket of life created by a TV network, safe from all harm in the bubble of life we see after editing.
It both soothes and irritates me and I can't stop watching it.
I want to move in.
I want to cook for my family, like Ree does.
I want to do all the boring domestic things that I imagine a family would do.
And then I'm reminded of a couple of things before I tumble down the dark tunnel of "woe is me".
First, everyone has sorrows and problems and pain, even Ree. We just can't always see them and none of us are immune. To live is to feel pain. It's doing me no good to compare what I have with what others have. There will always be someone worse off than me.
And second, it's the loss I've experienced that has allowed me to appreciate what I do have so much more. And I hope that if I'm lucky enough to have a family of my own to cook for, I'll be less likely to take it for granted. I will hold my loved ones closer and hug them more often.
Or, maybe I'll be lucky enough one day to even get to the point where cooking for my family becomes mundane. Where I have moments when I think "I'd kill to have some alone time!" or "I have to cook for you AGAIN?!" I think I'd even appreciate that. Or at least I'd appreciate the chance to feel that way.
Sometimes, people who have intact families make me want to sit them down and tell them how lucky they are. Regardless of how hard it is to parent, to be married, to be a sister, a mother, a wife, a father, a daughter, a son, a brother. Regardless of how mundane their lives feel sometimes. I want to tell them to imagine a time when those loved ones no longer exist and how much they'd wish they had all that mundane, annoying, day-to-day domestic drudgery back. How much they'd miss every second of it.
If these horrific tragedies have to happen to us, I hope they at least remind us of what we have to be grateful for. I hope it reminds us all to tell our people how much they're loved, and how they make life worthwhile.
I hope we take each other for granted a little less often.