First World Anxiety
I remember this feeling. A little over 11 years ago I felt the same uneasiness. Vulnerability finding its way back to my generalized anxiety disorder. The sweaty palms and the shifty eyes I felt as I boarded my flight to Las Vegas in October of 2001 – they all returned as I dropped my son off for preschool this morning.
It seems strange to even compare the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 with the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, but they follow a similar emotional formula:
The breaking news report when you least expect it.
The unfathomable reality of what is happening.
The empathetic pains to the atrocious experience.
The exploitation of the horror by the media.
The tearful reunions with our families when we got home that day.
The constant reminder from the ratings-hungry media.
The anxious understanding in the months following that life is all too fragile.
The slow return to an ignorant normal.
Unlike my response to 9/11, I was determined to avoid the media’s sensationalism of the Sandy Hook shootings. They were interviewing surviving children as they reunited with their family members. They interviewed the shooter’s Mom’s car mechanic in a desperate attempt to run ‘new’ material a week after the shooting. I watched enough media coverage during my two 30 minute breaks that first day to let my empathetic imagination take over. I refused to give the media more of my soul after that. I mourned for each individual and read each bio on my own time a week later.
I’m currently experiencing the anxious aftermath. I had horrible anxiety in the movie theater when a young man entered the theater alone with a large full backpack – turns out he brings LOTS of snacks. I jumped out of my seat at the mall when someone in the food court yelled loudly; apparently it’s a new restaurant trend to scream out customers’ orders.
This is the American experience – our first world experience. In my life time it’s happened only a few times. We are so blissfully ignorant.
Twenty children and six adults died on the morning of December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary. Today, as with every day, 5,500 children will die in Eastern and Southern Africa from preventable causes (according to Unicef).
What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary is deplorable. I don’t wish to dismiss or minimize the horror of those events. However, in assessing what happens to children worldwide from violence, disease, or malnutrition, what we experience as Americans is a drop in the bucket of the collective world suffering.
We find our way back to the ignorant security found within our daily humdrum. As we get angry over FaceBook drama, obsess over a Kardashian pregnancy, and quantify our contribution to society by the number of gadgets we own – I challenge you, as I challenge myself, do not let go of the anxiety. Do not let the sting of our wounds heal.
Maybe I’m more sensitive because I’m a Mom, or maybe it’s because I’m a pediatric critical care nurse – but the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings have once again ripped my head out of the sand.
We need to stay awake.
We need better security for the children in our country and for children across the globe.
We need to fight for human rights – the right for everyone to feel secure, safe, healthy, and loved.
I’m not quite sure where to start. I’ll pray, meditate, and incorporate these rights of our children into my daily intentions. I will search out reputable organizations to contribute my time and resources too. I will not let go of the pain.
My New Year’s resolution includes creating a larger, more conscious, “love-footprint” in the world.
“Never forget” is what they say.
I suggest we “never look away”.
I’m staying awake. Are you?