On How I React to Tragedy

I’m a slow processor.  Throughout my life, each time I’ve received the news of a devastating event, I wish my reaction could be more immediate, but it never is.  Others hear the same news and they immediately cry or mourn or frown or otherwise outwardly display their emotions.  That’s never happened to me, and I can’t explain why.  Before you judge me – as it seems everyone is wont to do the last few days – please understand that this is not an admission that I am an unfeeling, hate-filled, soulless being.  I don’t think I am.

What I am saying is that we all process information differently, particularly when it comes to life’s most disturbing events.  So, I find myself troubled by the outpouring of vitriol and argument that I see going on around me.  Especially the hate that is not directed at what people are saying, but how and why they are saying it.

When I first hear of something terrible, I want to fix it.  I can’t help that reaction, nor do I know why it happens.  And even as I am doing it, I can feel a pit developing in my stomach that I tamp down and try to ignore.  I can feel that pit growing and looming, working to fight itself through the defense mechanisms that I’ve spent years building up and strengthening.  Then, after an hour, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime later, the pit erupts, unannounced, uninvited, and uncontrollable.  In that moment, I am overcome with sadness or rage or fear and I don’t even know from where or for what.  It’s often a moment that I share with no one.  out of fear that someone will deem my emotional response incorrect or insignificant.

Though I may not share that moment on my facebook wall, or send out a tweet announcing my lonely tears and deepest fears, it doesn’t make it any less valid.  Somewhere in the world, I’m sure there is a person who is not saddened by the tragic loss of young lives in Connecticut.  A person who doesn’t mention that his heart goes out to the families and communities that will forever struggle with what it’s like to experience the inexplicable.  But, I don’t think that person is one of my facebook friends, and I don’t think that person is today reaching out to others proposing solutions for how to prevent another tragedy from happening again.

So in this moment, I choose to reflect on my feelings in the way that feels best to me.  I write them down.  I also choose to respect your right to do the same.  Whether that means attending a candlelight vigil, praying to a god I do or don’t believe in, proposing political change, or sharing a funny cat video to ease the tension.

But please, let’s stop arguing about the right way to react.

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