I took the photo below yesterday, as I drove home after dropping Casey off at school because it reminded me of him. All I was thinking about was my children; my baby boys. How lovely and simple it is to get so excited pointing out the trucks and cranes and construction vehicles of every sort as we drive…anywhere.”
Here’s something you may not know about me: I really like country music. Much to my husband’s chagrin, he often turns on the car, after I’ve been driving it, to find the local pop country station blaring from the speakers.
I like the optimistic heartbreak, the simplicity offered within the crooning lyrics. The picture of a simple life accentuated by a great pair of cowboy boots. It’s a welcome distraction from the world of NPR or CNN where we are constantly bombarded by the heaviness of the world- one that I am increasingly fearful of letting my boys loose in.
Waking up to the tragic shooting in Las Vegas hit me deeply. It’s the kind of event I could picture myself at with my boys when they are a bit older, albeit at our local 4-H fairgrounds. The children mentioned sitting on their parents shoulders took on the faces of my own two boys as I pictured their terror, felt the heart wrenching fear the parents must have felt. Even though the shooting happened on the other side of the country, it hit too close to home.
Maybe this is the same feeling that people have when they “get woke”. Something deep inside of me felt frighteningly fragile as the news broadcast sunk in too early yesterday morning and I felt hot tears unexpectedly falling. A great rage roiled in the bottom of my gut and a tremendous sadness seemed to settle into increasingly weary bones.
It’s not as if I haven’t been affected by past mass shootings or the injustices occurring around our country on a daily basis. I empathize with the hurt and fear of others. But here I am- a white, 32 year old, midwestern liberal. I live in the suburbs with my husband and two children, a dog and a fat grey cat. I don’t hide from the hard questions. I support my friends in the LGBT..Q..I community. I support people’s right to protest for fair and equal treatment. I fight hate and injustice by teaching my boys to love and treat everybody with the respect regardless of race, class, gender, age, weight.
My truth is that I spend my days changing diapers, encouraging naps, making snacks and trying to convince my oldest that our furniture is not a series of trampolines. I wake up early, with an aching back and drive my boys to and from school and story time, haul them in and out of car seats as we go grocery shopping and on Target runs.
But deep in my heart I long for a simple life away from the crowds and noise. I am comfortable on cities and enjoy exploring them but I feel most myself in wide swaths of open country. When asked if I’d rather live on a beach or in the mountains, I instinctively picture myself somewhere in between, surrounded by rolling hills and green pastures. My bucket list includes spending a summer working on a ranch in Montana and traveling by horseback to seek fields of wildflowers. In my wildest dreams, I imagine us moving somewhere and living on a small farm where I can expand my vegetable garden, grow and harvest lavender and raise goats, chickens and perhaps a small hive of honeybees. I close my eyes and imagine waking up every morning to a quiet, picturesque and peaceful sunrise. Dreams, I know, but I have every right to them as should everyone who lives and resides in our great nation. Yesterday, it felt as if the right to dream was being taken away; the right to yearn for a simpler existence was being stamped out with every bullet that tore through the crowded concert venue. I have a great fear that my children’s right to dream is being taken away from them before they even know they possess it.
So yesterday, still reeling from the shock of the morning’s news, I did the only think I could think of to combat the growing fear inside of me. I picked Casey up from school and took the boys to the park, let them run around and be kids. We sat at Dairy Queen for lunch telling jokes, singing silly songs and laughing over french fries and ice cream. I told them I loved them over and over. When I finally pulled into our driveway with both boys asleep in the backseat, I carried them in one by one, put them both in my bed and laid down to nap with them in my arms.
I will be 33 in a few months and just a few days ago the thought “this may very well be the year when I become me” fluttered through my brain. I actually laughed when this thought appeared. What does that even mean?
When I was 15 I remember having a very clear picture of the woman I wanted to be. She was a far cry from the awkward, self-conscious, slightly depressed teenager I embodied. Yet 17 years later, I have become her. And now I feel the last few protective layers falling away. T he last few pieces, like patches of dead skin, are itching to be sloughed off.
Maybe I’m woke. Maybe I’m just sick of it all, sick of feeling so fearful, angry that the simple world of country songs, a world highlighted by love and heartache, easy living and nights staring up at the stars from the back of a pick up truck, doesn’t seem allowed to exist anymore. The terror of the world is beginning to close in and it’s pissing me off.
Maybe 33 will be the year. Maybe it will be the year I fight back, rail against a world that I can no longer stand and begin to build the world I picture my boys growing up it. Maybe it will be the year I become me.