I woke up this morning in a hotel room, and like many other Americans, the first thing I did was grab my phone. Immediately I saw the many news notifications about the Las Vegas shootings. Mixed into the middle of all the red notices was a green text message from my daughter. “Las Vegas:(” She had reached out to me when she first heard.
This brought back sharp memories from a couple of years ago when I woke up on vacation and looked at my phone only to see that there had been a bombing in the train station in Brussels. Directly underneath that notification was a text from the same daughter assuring me that she was ok. That time she was in Brussels. The relief may have been sharper then, since the danger felt more direct, but the impact of the connection was the same.
Scott and I began the drive home from our rare weekend away together, silently listening to the news on the radio—journalists dissecting the events of the Las Vegas shooting, new details coming every few minutes, theories and discussions about causes and reasons.
“I’m sad, “ he said, after we’d turned off the radio. Of course he’s sad, it’s a horrible thing, but we should be numbed to it by now, right? It seems to happen all the time. Our kids are growing up in a world where this is common. “All I can think about is if this happened to you. I’d do anything to protect you.” That’s where it will never stop mattering—when we identify and personalize. We can sympathize, but it is when we are able to imagine ourselves in the same position as all of those directly affected and truly empathize that we begin to understand how a tragedy like this really is universal.
When he said this, it lifted something in me and allowed me to recognize how my body was physically reacting since hearing the news four hours earlier. Initially I felt relief--my family is safe, my children are safe, I have a great love in my life, I have food and a beautiful home; I can run, dance, read, write, laugh. Then why is my throat painfully tight to the point I feel I can’t breathe? I had been denying that I was so affected, and when I decided to be honest with myself, I realized that mixed with sadness, I was feeling a lot of guilt about that initial relief. We are all ultimately affected, in many and various ways. In our collective universe there is no escape, no matter how much you may try to isolate.
So with a smack in the face, we are all harshly reminded of how fleeting life is, how every moment counts, how we need to reach out, express our love. For just a moment I am not concerned about money or the future, or my hair or if I’m going to get sick, or if my kids will ever want to hug me again. I don’t worry if my girls will like Steve’s new girlfriend better than me or if my house is clean enough for the cleaning people or if I remembered to reschedule that dentist appointment.
I do remember that I got to just spend three straight days and nights with the man I love, I had a really nice conversation with my sister last Friday, my son called me the night before without being asked, and my daughter texted me first when a tragedy like this happened. These are the most important things in life right now. Is it any surprise that you can’t buy a single one of them?
I write about dating. I write about relationships. I realize now that on one hand this might seem trivial when there are far bigger issues at hand and people are dying senselessly all around us, but quite honestly, what this recent tragedy has illuminated is that though there is no perfect relationship, our interactions with other people is what makes life rich, rewarding, hopeful, happy, comforting, worth living.
There is no superiority in being part of a couple (in fact, maybe the opposite). I just know that in almost every case of extreme emotion, it helps to share it with someone who cares. Connection helps dissipate the pain, amplify the highs, alleviate the fears. It is crucial to know that we are not alone in our pain, guilt, relief, sadness, whatever emotion this tragedy has unearthed individually.
Today I reached out to each of my children; I called my mother, I texted three friends with whom I really needed to connect. Now I am ready to end this exhausting day and hope that tomorrow will be even just one iota better in some way. And if God forbid, it is not, I will hold on to those I love for support as I push through.