I am crying again today. This time for Munich.
I’m crying because I keep thinking about what I would be feeling, how many hairs I would be pulling, if somebody I loved was inside that mall. Images of my friends and I eating giant pickles at the Mall Del Norte in Laredo flash through my mind. The joy we had in our independence. The carefree way we flirted with teenage boys and bought Flaming Hot Cheetos, licking the orange from our glittery-painted nails. I usually had about ten dollars to spend, and dropped it unwisely at Claire’s boutique. Another cheap pair of sterling silver earrings. Another medal of maturity. Are those days gone?
Will our kids get to grow up?
The first thought I have when I wake up in the middle of the night to pee is: What if something bad is about to happen. This minute. This night. This next day. This year. My mind swirls around a list of fears, like a terrifying carousel that’s always turned on. Lights shine bright – news clips, videos, bleeding black men with shaky white police officers standing beside them, nasty sound bites, people falling apart. Once I am back in bed and exhausted by my worries, just as I’m finally about to return to sleep, the big bang comes: How will I keep my loved ones safe? Boom. Eyes open. Lower back tenses.
No rest for the weary. Every seat on the ride is taken by a new horror, and I have no choice but to spin and spin until I almost throw up. I think I’m becoming most afraid of peeing in the middle of the night.
I want to blame the twenty-four hour news channels for sensationalizing everything and forcing miserable images down our throats, especially when I keep reading articles about crime being down and how much safer we are. I want to blame those articles for lying their shit lies, or for trying to make me see the truth when my anxiety insists otherwise. I want to blame the news for pandering and pushing and filling time. I want to blame my addiction to investigative reporting because I’ve fallen into a station’s mathematical formula like some expert variable. They’ve got me. I’m scared. I’m a lamb.
I want to blame the government because everybody is bought and sold and there is no room for the middle anymore. You’re either this or that. If you’re this, you hate that. If you’re that, you hate this. Who stops and asks, Is it true? Do I hate? What if I am different? No. We just pick a side and stand there with our finger in our nose. Then a rare and shiny thinker comes along and creates a movement, but not a presidency, and a delusional bully forces his way into the ring and people applaud. And I feel further away from understanding the other side, and sometimes even my own. I feel further away from believing in anybody. Numbness in my limbs.
I want to blame God because where is He or She? Because praying feels like making up songs, like I’m coming up with a diddy to distract myself before a root canal. Life is not supposed to be one big root canal. Prayer is not supposed to feel silly. I search and get quiet and meditate and turn it over and sit in nature and go to synagogue, and all I can tell you is that it’s getting harder and harder to scratch at God because I am Awake and Aware. Can you be both - faithful and real? I want to be both. I need to be Awake and Aware because how Munich feels today, and how you feel today, matters. But I also need a Higher Power, more than ever.
I want to blame the people who make tortellini recipes at home or celebrate their new sunglasses or post pictures of themselves at the beach. Where are you? Surely on some other planet far, far away from this one because your smile looks eerily genuine. I am impressed by your ability to pretend. I’m in awe of your ability to enjoy life anyway. But I can’t relate. You make me feel crazy, like I’m the only one who spends my days drowning in lastima until it makes me so tired and I have to force myself to eat or go for a walk. If not, the sleepiness turns into A Great Big Sadness, then everything is dark.
Darkness looks like only lastima, nonstop. Lastima for Hillary who is being vilified for the same reasons she would be praised if she were a man. Lastima is for the girls of Malawi who are forced to have sex when they hit puberty to “cleanse them” as a standard of culture. There’s lastima while listening to the birds chirping outside, knowing for certain that somebody with a gun will shoot at them for fun. Smelling BBQ being grilled somewhere in my neighborhood = lastima for the rotting, petrified soul that somebody slayed to justify a craving. I’ve eaten that before, I realize with regret, then lastima for my organs. Even sun on my skin becomes a burning empathy for this planet, the one we are ruining and laughing about and profiting from and thinking so self-righteously about undoing the damage later on. There is no later on.
We’re on our way down. We’re sinking. I feel myself being dragged under.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t have lastima because the air gets too thin and it gets hard to breathe. But that’s like wishing I didn’t have kids or parents or sisters or a husband or dogs or passion or a heartbeat. And would I give any of those things up just so I can sleep a little better? Never. Besides, the other side of lastima and tears is fear and hate. Fear and hate which Donald Trump is building a world around. Fear and hate which will only lead to more killings and more suffering, until one day a very normal question will be: How many mass shootings have you live through? This isn’t a political rant. I’m not that educated. And yes, you have rights. You have a vote. You have an opinion and the freedom to express it. But where do your rights end and mine begin? What about my vote? What about wanting my kids to be able to go to the mall? What about expressing my opinion and feeling heard? Who is listening?
Depression leads down curious roads. I looked up the Sandy Hook shooter the other day and wondered if I was losing it. Because I had lastima for him. Forget the kids – for the kids I weep day in and day out, and as I type now I am weeping again. For their parents and families. For their lost futures. For the lack of anything substantial happening after a most horrifically tragic event. But also, I wept for this maniac, the murder, who must have felt so disgusting about himself, so lonely, he didn’t think the fire within him could ever be put out. He thought the only solution was blowing others up with him. What would have happened if somebody had said, “Hey, let’s go grab a coffee?” Did anybody invite him to hang out? Would it have changed anything? I believe so. I believe that’s how you change the world. If not, how else? Even if lastima makes me naive, I think he needed some. He didn’t get it. So he gave the world his pain.
Most of all, I want to blame myself. I am so tired of feeling unsafe and helpless. I’m so tired of feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility of taking care of those I love. I don’t know how to do it anymore. Every wall we build is being taken down or crumbling on its own or I realize it was never there to begin with. Just the illusion of protection now gone. We don’t need more walls. We need honesty and connection and community.
There is a homeless man in my area named Mike, and he has a dog named Kitt. I’ve spoken to him before, helped him a few times, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t look for him. He brushes Kitt every night in some hidden dirty tent in the middle of nowhere. She is 13 years old and he calls her “his heart.” Once in a while, I’ll spot them limping along an exit ramp and I’ll consider crashing just to talk to him. Then I scream at myself because why isn’t there more I can do for them? Why is my lastima limited to this heaviness stuck inside me and the occasional peanut butter sandwich? How can I turn what I feel into action? Why isn’t this the kind of world where I can invite them into my home without worrying about the millions of reasons I shouldn’t? Why is there new dread everyday? Why why why?
These are the questions that have no answers. These are the calls we have to make. Do we talk to the werido who could be a shooter? Do we pull over for the homeless guy and his dog? Do we care about Munich and wonder if our mall is next? Our parade? Our airport? Our gay club? Acceptance eludes me. This reality is unfair and wrong and not mine, dammit. It’s not mine. This is not how I want things to be.
Today I found an old pair of Claire’s earrings and that alone was enough to keep me limping along. Tonight I will lie inside my own dirty tent, more embellished than Mike and Kitt’s, and with a working sewage system because I’m lucky. But otherwise, we’re the same. I will spend the weekend not watching the news, and try to listen to the birds and appreciate their flying feathers, and try to find somebody to smile at. Maybe ask them to join me for a cup of coffee. Maybe rediscover my hope again.
Maybe stop crying.
But stop lastima-ing? No way. No matter how tough it is to carry, no way.
p.s. This post is longer and ramblier than usual. If you’ve read this far, thank you. I have a little lastima for you, too.
p.p.s. Nobody is perfect. But these are some of the things she has DONE. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allida-black/blazing-a-trail-hillary-clinton_b_5610884.html and http://www.usnews.com/opinion/leslie-marshall/2014/02/19/hillary-clintons-accomplishments-speak-for-themselves