Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Feel it...

Yesterday while I was in surgery, the event at Virginia Tech took place. It was the first item I saw on the news after coming home.

Plenty of others have already written posts on this that are far more eloquent and heartfelt than mine can be at this point.

Still, the one thing in common all of them express is a wondering what to do with this information, how to process it, how to somehow make it understandable. How to move forward....

Move forward, they say. We must move forward!

The truth is that it will never be understandable. The shooting at the Amish school was incomprehensible. The shootings at Columbine, while horrible, had a central reason. It may have been a crazy reason, but those two kids who did it had a reason. 9/11 had a central reason. There is something we could point to and say, "this is why it happened." We don't have that yet in this case. We don't even know who did it. And some things just defy reason.

We are still stuck with the feelings surrounding it ~ and the lesson we may be able to derive from it. The only way we will learn from it is to feel it.

Yesterday after surgery, I noticed that the nurses and the surgeon were both very concerned that I might have pain. They wanted me to qualify it. One to ten. They advised me to take Tylenol or offered me something stronger if the pain qualified higher than one or two.

God forbid I should experience any pain!

I didn't bother to explain that I expect to feel pain when some guy has been poking instruments into the middle of my eyeball and scraping the lens. I expect to feel pain when my eyeball is splayed open like a grape!

I expect to feel pain when I find out my father shot himself in the head.

I expect to feel pain when 32 of my fellow planet-dwellers are shot down in a lecture hall like soi dogs.

This culture hates pain. Any pain. At all costs. Drugs, booze, denial, suppression. More sex. More "stuff". More shopping. More food. But No Pain!

Come on, folks!

Self-soothing can be a good thing, of course. None of us could cope with the world's pain on a constant basis without relief. I'm not suggesting that by any means. I am suggesting though that we collectively sit still and feel the pain.

My concern is that we try to find relief too quickly. There is a need to move forward too quickly.

Sweep it under the rug. Hide from it. Run from it. That is the worse thing we can do because then there is no lesson in it, no change of heart, no growth, no learning. There will only be more of the same.

There will be a few days of sentimental newscasts, memorials and promises to come up with a strategic plan to make sure it never happens again. And then everyone will move on. Life as usual.

There is no way to guarantee it won't happen again unless everyone in this country and all the other countries of the world are police states. There is no way to guarantee we'll always be safe from the triumph of random chance, from chaos. It won't happen.

What we can do though is honor those who died by allowing ourselves to feel the pain, to sit with it, to allow it to change our hearts. We can allow ourselves to learn from this.

We may not be able to change the world or tame chaos but we can change ourselves.




Lee said...

I sit here and imagine the fear and grief of those kids, the faculty and the parents. But I also can't help but try to walk in the shoes of that young man who was obviously alone and ill-equipped to handle life and its many tribulations. How does a human being get to this place? I've heard reports calling him "pure evil." I don't buy it. That's way too easy. Dark days indeed.

Mary said...


Beautifully said. When I sat down at the keyboard last night, I had to feel the pain on my post. And I still do...

You are right. Pain is part of living, whether it be from a root canal, or loss of life.

Your statement here says a lot:

"This culture hates pain. Any pain. At all costs. Drugs, booze, denial, suppression. More sex. More "stuff". More shopping. More food. But No Pain!"

jen said...


i never understand why people want to make me feel better, as if there is something wrong with being devastated by this world.

you said it perfectly.

Mary said...

Chani, by the way. I like that photo very much.

Penny. said...

I have to admit to being desensatized to it. Except in the nostalgic sense of pain - a little empathy and wonder, a little concern and fear and hovering, mentally, over those I love. But, I am desensatized. My generation learned that pain was unacceptable. And, you raise a good point, about that.

Penny. said...

ps.. that is my favorite flower in the whole world.

Pam said...

Well said, Chani. Running from pain is the same as running from life. It's part of the balance.

Tabba said...

Chani: I'm totally with you....I had those same thoughts yesterday regarding pain & how most of us in this country don't want to feel it, avoid it at all costs. I'm not saying that we should be rejoicing about this tragedy. But let's be respectful, mindful, and aware of the sheer humanity - that which was lost & that which by the grace of ____ was sustained.
That to feel it, to make it a part, will help to heal.
Great post & thank you for sharing.

For what it is worth, from everything I've read you are always eloquent.

KGMom said...

I agree that we are rushed to move beyond the awful things of life. There is merit in not forgetting, not getting over some things.
When something of this magnitude happens, I want to know WHY. Why does a young man get two guns and walk around a campus intentionally shooting to kill people? Why does a man take Amish children hostage, separate out the boys & let them go, then shoot the girls? Why--on and on.

MsLittlePea said...

Absolutely. I was just talking about pain with a friend of mine who is an alcoholic in recovery. She was telling me that one of her problems is that she grew up always feeling like she wasn't supposed to express any negative emotions. Negative emotions should be swept under the rug. She doesn't blame her family for her alcohol problems but she said she always felt a lot of pressure from them to always keep up this apearance that everything was perfect, everything was always wonderful. I can't imagine spending my whole life not feeling or at least being free to express myself and my emotions, good or bad. It's just not healthy. We have to feel pain so we can learn from our experiences. We have to feel pain so that we can learn to stop ourselves when know we might inflict pain on others.

The whole thing is horrible.

QT said...

Chani - again, I couldn't agree with you more.

But I didn't just learn that yesterday.

Pam said...

I missed the post about your father yesterday, but I always check back and now know of your tragic news.

I will read, as you work through it, and hope that in time you find a place for your anger.

I am so very sorry for everyone that was damaged by his act and pray you all find peace.

jali said...

You expressed it all beautifully. I'm saving your page.

This was too painful for me to write about today. I took Tylenol PM's last night so that I wouldn't have to think about the 32 as I went to sleep.

Thank you for you words: what we can do is honor those who died by allowing ourselves to feel the pain, to sit with it, to allow it to change our hearts. We can allow ourselves to learn from this

Hugs to you.

Julie Pippert said...

Oh I hope I never said move forward. I have to go back and read my post.

I think I said let the grief wash over us, and change us. I think I said to fight feeling hopeless.

Goodness, I never mean to convey move forward. If there is one thing I do know, it is that grief is not linear. I grieve every single solitary day. It's just not so simple as feeling sad, then getting over it and moving on.

Every day my grief affects the day in some way, and the kicker is nobody can really understand how that isn't meant in any tragic way at all. What happened changed me, my life. Therefore, every day, that's there. I just wish I had a better word with less connotation, KWIM?

I don't think you can beat pain, so you might as well join it.

Patness aside, what I mean is grow with it, be better from it, and accept that sometimes you will be worse from it.


At any rate the bottom line is I agree with you here, Chani. I do.

Suzy said...

Regarding pain, particularly grief, I am convinced that the only way out is in -- but grieving people make others so uncomfortable, they want you to "get over it."

We're waging war on a country that did nothing to us, and the news reports are full of "150 people died today in a Baghdad marketplace." Daily. Violence leads to violence, on all levels.

Caro said...

Therein lies a lot of what plagues our culture : this need to push down on our feelings, on our pain, to brush aside that wich isn't convenient. We like what we can contain and package and throw away...

kaliroz said...

You summed up how I feel beautifully.

slouching mom said...

Chani: This is perfect. Just right. You've written what I wanted to express but hadn't formulated coherently enough yet.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I agree too. I think we do our children a disservice by not teaching them how to deal with pain. We want too quickly to make the pain go away. We will all have pain and suffering in our life.
I'm trying not to think about what happened, not because I don't care, but because I do care. Because I can imagine being there, because I can imagine having a child there.
There are so many families hurting right now. And we can't stop it, can't fix it, just have to let it be.

Bob said...

I was thinking the same thing as Lee - what kind of pain was this young man in that drove him to commit such an act?

KC said...

I totally agree that change won't happen unless we let ourselves feel.


flutter said...

You're right.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

A brilliant post, Chani. You are a rare voice of reason in our world, and that is sorely needed.

As a child, I was not allowed to express emotions at all, and so I felt ashamed because I knew I had them. Sometimes, my head ached to bursting inside with unexpressed pain and also love.

You are so right that we need to face down our pain and be allowed to feel it. If we do not, we will surely be unable to move on, and there will be no authentic life for any of us beyond the day's gruesome headlines.

Lucia said...

Yes. Yes. Great post. One that I will carry with me through the day.