Wednesday, March 12, 2014
movie theaters and elementary schools.
It was our first date in months. As the parents of a toddler, we rarely go out and, when we do, it's usually to dinner with other couples. But this day it was just the two of us. To celebrate my husband's birthday, we were seeing a movie in an actual theater for the first time in over a year. And we were a bit giddy about it.
We bought tickets, purchased monstrous containers of popcorn and coke, and settled into our seats to watch the previews.
I thought my heart was racing because we'd been in a rush to drop our son off and get to the theater on time. I thought I would settle down. But as we sat there, I realized that I was getting more anxious instead of calming down. It was the theater, not the rushed schedule, that was upsetting me.
Then it clicked. I hadn't been in a movie theater since the shooting in Aurora.
I grabbed my husband's hand and pulled his face close so I could whisper, "If someone starts shooting, jump off that balcony to the exit. I'll meet you outside. It's the fastest way out."
It is ludicrous, isn't it? The fact that I thought we would (could?) jump a balcony to escape? The fact that I HAD to think about that?
I'm not an overly anxious person, and yet, there I was. My eyes kept darting to the exits, my throat felt like I had a bowling ball lodged in it, and my heart beat fast.
As the movie began, I kept finding myself forgetting to look around. Each time I relaxed into the movie, I soon would scold myself for enjoying it and getting distracted. My sympathetic nervous system was ready to fight or take flight.
It is as if I thought a shooting could never happen as long as I was looking out for it. And so, by my vigilant watch, I would keep us safe.
In our neighborhood, we have a sleepy little elementary school. Our son is young, so I've never been in it. But I drive past it frequently on my way to friends' houses.
Each time I do, I slow down and try to peer into the tiny windows to make sure everything is still sleepy. Sleepy is safe. I can't really see anything from the road. And I'm not really sure what I think I could do if I did see something. Would I leave my babe in the car to go wrestle a gunman to the ground?
And yet, I can't help but look each time. My heart clenches up and I ache as I try to avoid thinking about why I'm thinking about this. Each breath I exhale is like a wordless prayer. A prayer that I can't even let form in my mind except for one word: Peace. Peace. Peace. I push the prayer, the energy towards the school building. And each time I see that things still look sleepy, the thought of peace changes quickly from being a prayer to being a "grateful-for".
Peace. Peace. Peace.
I long for it. I long for a world where we don't have to worry about movie theaters and elementary schools. I long for the day when it isn't just a countdown to the next catastrophe.
Tell me: when, oh when, did the world get so, so deeply fucked up?
(I know people won't like that word. But do you really think "messed up" is an accurate descriptor of what happened? I needed a word that was as equally gripping and startling and repulsive as those events. They were that weighty.)
Was it this way from the beginning? Has the evil gotten particularly sinister in recent years? Or is it just the fact that I am older, and a parent, and suddenly have so much that I could lose?
I don't know the answer here. I do know that it's deeper than guns or mental illness, although those are certainly important discussions to have. To be honest, I don't even know if there is an answer here.
How can I help in this world of deranged madness?
I'm not quite sure.
But I do go back to that achy, broken, silent heart-prayer of peace, peace, peace. It is a tiny, inconsequential step, of course. It feels almost flippant when put up again the gravity of these tragedies. But it is a start when I have no other:
I must pursue the peace.
I must spread the peace.
I must be the peace.
I must find the peace.
"And he will be called...Prince of Peace" isaiah 9:6