Like so many of us, I’ve been thinking a lot about the shooting that occurred just a few days ago. Once again we all find ourselves in a numb confusion. Like a pack of circling vultures, the familiar rhythms of questions we know all too well begin again: why did this happen again? What could we have done to prevent this? What do we do now? Thoughts and prayers flow again alongside louder calls for gun reform.
I had a dream the other morning. After I had woken up, too early (like 3am…I get up at 5:30ish) and then dozed back off. I usually have pretty memorable dreams in that window of time. Or maybe it’s just that I remember them, period.
There was a raging river. It was dirty, but SO familiar. You know how dreams can be…where you just know a thing without it being expressly nodded to in said dream. Anyway, the river looked really swollen and violent. But I knew it so well and in the dream I had to navigate it. And I had to do this terrifying, familiar thing with 2 little girls in tow. They were my daughters. (I have some of those in real life, BTW.) I was trying to teach them how to swim in the water, more accurately how not to go under. I’d find a spot that felt safe enough and then they’d follow me out into the murky, fast water and I’d find myself trying to grab them, hold them and keep them from washing away. It was the same thing over and over. We’d venture out, shouting to each other and grasping tightly to each other’s hands. At one point in my dream, my older daughter’s nails were digging into my arm so tightly as she held on to me, there was blood running down it.
Then I realized that under the water were all these rocks. Big ones, smaller ones, groups of them as well as stoic, solitary ones just breeching the surface of the water. I scooped up my youngest daughter and threw her over onto a cluster of rocks in the middle of the relentless water. She was screaming at first, but then realized she was steady and the rocks were keeping her from being swept away. I encouraged my older daughter to swim toward a rock that was breaking the water line just a bit and climb on top. She kicked and kicked as hard as she could while churning water dragged her under over and over. I pushed from below her with all my might, she bobbed up from the swirling waves and I saw her grabbing the rock and climbing onto it just as I went under while watching them both blur like an out of focus painting.
I woke up.
What does it mean? I don’t know, but it’s stayed with me for days now. I don’t know, but I’m writing to you about it.
It’s felt particularly challenging to be a parent lately. The uncontrollable, yet familiar river in my dream feels like the world I’m raising those real life in. It’s fast, so fast. Most days lately it feels dangerous, unclear and like we only have a small glimpse of where we’re trying to lead the young lives we’ve been handed. And mine, well mine are girls. It feels like that wild river is a reminder that they will have to struggle more, kick harder and hang on to any ground they gain in life.
But I also thought that maybe those rocks, those safe places they landed on and clung to in the dream, were other women. Women who struggled in that same river. Women who came long before them and made space for them, safe places. Grounded, rooted women who might be in their paths now as they swim…or as they try. I know some of those women I imagine the rocks to be…I have the privilege of spending time with some of them every day. Creating with them, working beside them, encouraging them and getting love back in return. I watch them stay vigilant but still open to growth. These are women who are strong, resilient and WISE enough not only to admit when they get it wrong, but are willing to share their failures (and successes) with me. With my girls.
How do I check myself daily and always work toward being a rock? How do I do that for my own girls and also teach them to become that steady force for others? How do I show them the way to find and use their own voices while simultaneously lifting them loudly for other women…especially women of colour?
So now I think: Do I even know how to do that? Am I a rock?
We’re all in this together whether we like it or not. Personally, I like it that way. But I know it can be SO DAMN HARD to undo the social conditioning of seeing each other as competition or something to compare ourselves to. Sometimes the river feels so out of control, the lie that a seemingly small gesture like a conversation or blog can’t do a thing. But that’s the trick, I think.
I wanna know you…all of you women out there. We’re in the water together.
I am TERRIBLE at self care. I’m working so hard on improving, but honestly, I suck at it. Anyone else? What do you do to take care of yourself? Not just your body, but your mind and soul too…
I know the familiar place I end up in after a big creative project ends, a song is completed, an event is successfully behind us or even “smaller” challenges like making payroll for everyone on staff…we get through said thing, I finally exhale, and then the inevitable crash.
But lately, it’s been a bit different. I’ve had this draining, heavy feeling. (I know I’m a bit exhausted…if you know me, you know I go 100 MPH pretty much all the time.) But this has a different weight to it. It’s a heaviness that’s been sitting on my shoulders and in the pit of my stomach in a different way. It’s been with me for the last coupla weeks. Maybe longer.
A friend posted a message today that made it begin to come into focus. Her post was giving us all permission to hurt right now. The heaviness that has momentarily landed me in bed is heartache. It’s grief. For our country, for families who have lost so much, for gun violence, injustice, exhausted migrants, and oppression. It’s a lot y’all.
It’s as though I can literally FEEL the collective anxiety of our nation - of our planet. And you know what, that’s ok. I want to feel it all. I want cry for lives lost even though I will never know the people closest to them, who are now trying to manage life with their loved ones absent. I want be outraged when I see images in the news of kids – CHILDREN- with scars on their bodies because they survived a school shooting this year and are now trying to figure out how to “just be a teenager” after going through such trauma.
This pain becomes fuel for me, and I’m grateful for that. And for permission to hold this grief even though it’s “not mine”. Because it should be. I’m not throwing in any towels…I’ll get up and do my work and love people. But I needed the reminder that my broken heart is allowed and it has permission to feel all the things.
You have permission too, just in case you needed to hear that.