Orlando: Sitting with the Pain

I woke up this morning still awash the in the weight of the weekend’s news. Yesterday, I cried. I cried in the shower. I cried while emptying the dishwasher. I cried again while trying to distract my mind with a magazine. I fired off angry tweets to senators, infuriated with the same overwrought platitudes of “thoughts and prayers” that they’re so used to saying and we’re so used to accepting. I put my phone away and turned off the news. A friend offered the truth I’ve also been thinking: “It’s getting harder and harder to bounce back.” When my boyfriend came home I held him closely and told him I loved him. I fell asleep early and stayed in bed past my alarm. I didn’t write. I didn’t meditate. My body wanted only to lay in the latent heaviness of feeling, as though stuck in a hangover. I arrived at work and a coworker asked cheerily how my weekend was. I quietly said an “okay” and then cried more at my desk. I shut myself in the bathroom and cried more there. I pushed through a foggy morning of unproductive work. At lunch, I called my boyfriend to tell him that I’m still sad. He told me felt the same; he had to turn off the news and distract himself with his work, music. I sat in the park eating my salad, watching groups of people sitting together eating their lunches, talking and laughing. I wondered how anyone could talk or laugh. I sent an email to my closest friend to tell her how heavy I felt. How incredibly saddened I was. How hard this one hit me. She told me that she understood; that she felt it, too. And then she told me to turn off the news, turn off social media, to tip it over into words.

I know that our capacity to love each other far outweighs the hate we can harbor. I know this. And I have to believe it, or else I’ll cave under the pressure. But in times like this, on days like this, it can be so hard to remember. When the sadness of it permeates everything we know, when the shock and horror is all we can think of, when we face the frustration of having to once again mourn the death of so very many innocent lives at the hands of guns, when all of this leads us to argue in its wake instead of holding onto those we love and telling them how very much we love them, the thin fabric of our connection to each other begins to break down. I believe that our liberation is tied together. It depends on one another. We need each other every day, but now it becomes even more desperate. 

I can’t say why this tragedy is affecting me more than the others. Why I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it even for a second. I’m not particularly connected to Florida or Orlando, other than having traveled there several times as a young girl and still viewed it as the magical place it was to me back then. Maybe it’s that I worked in a place similar to Pulse Nightclub in college, and still hold in my heart the incredible community I was introduced to through that experience. Maybe it’s because the number of victims has grown to levels that has made it the largest mass shooting in our history. Maybe because it feels so damn preventable. Maybe it’s picturing the cowering hostages, hearing of the texts to family members expressing fear for their lives. 

A coworker returned from Orlando two days before the massacre. When I asked how she was doing, she expressed to me her sadness, and I told her mine. She reminded me that it’s important to feel it, to sit with the pain of it. It’s important, she said, to not become complacent. To remember that this isn’t normal.  That no matter what, we can’t let ourselves believe that this is normal.

Understand that this was an act of hate on a specifically targeted group. Sit with the fact that these were mostly queer men of color. Know that an absurd holdover from our past severely limits the ability of those who are willing to give blood. The LGBTQI community has experienced so much of the worst of America’s cultural hatred for being who they are and loving who they love. Mourn with them. Feel all of the pain and outrage that they feel. Understand that in America, tragedies of this nature are no longer a matter of “if” but of “when.” 

I know I’m not saying anything new. I’m certainly not the only one to feel this way, and there are so many others, the families of victims, the LGBTQI community, that are feeling deep sadness on a level I cannot comprehend. But this is my process, we all have our own. And we will get through it. We will all get through it. And we’ll move on. But it will happen again. And we’ll again go through this collective grieving process. And we’ll again feel anger, and sadness, and perhaps hopelessness. But we simply cannot allow ourselves to become immune. We cannot fall into the trap that this is America and we can’t change it. We have to be able to change it. This cannot become our every six month existence. We cannot live like sitting ducks, waiting for the next deranged person to become enraged by a slight, or by no slight at all. It is too easy in this country to own a gun, even legally. It is too easy to own a specific type of military-style killing machine that has the sole purpose of taking as many lives as possible very, very quickly. 

Call your senator. Email them. Tweet at them. Demand change. Don’t wait until time has passed and we’ve forgotten this feeling. Hold onto this pain and use it. We have to change it. We have to change it. We have to change it. 

One thought on “Orlando: Sitting with the Pain

  1. Beautifully written, Alisha. Thanks for naming the pain and heaviness I feel, too.