Someone I once knew said, “When you are wrong, and you realize you are in the wrong, apologize early and apologize often.”
So I’m taking that advice.
They say that anger is a secondary emotion – usually it comes close on the heels of fear or of pain. And as I cleaned my second house on Friday, listening in horror at the news coming from NPR, all I felt in that moment was pain. Pain for countless mothers, fathers, friends, siblings, grandparents – a whole damned town and beyond of people affected by the senseless shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.
But by that evening it had changed to cold, hard fury. My animals annoyed me with the mud on their feet. My lingering cold and the serious, “don’t mess with me” PMS rose up.
Perhaps it was that those innocent children were Emily’s age – all of them ages six and seven – and while I initially thought thank goodness I don’t have her in public school. I felt ashamed of the thought – knowing that for many that isn’t an option. Knowing also that these things come at inexplicable times, in the most normal of settings – a movie theater, a mall, the workplace…a school.
Life is nothing if not uncertain.
But overall, what I came to realize in the waning hours of Saturday evening, was that I was simply and irretrievably ANGRY and that I had been all day and the evening before.
All It Takes to Light a Fire
On Friday night, a young woman I am friends with, someone I consider a daughter figure, posted something on Facebook I found rather concerning. There had been a lot of misinformation in the media, especially when the authorities reported the incorrect name of the shooter. When I saw this young woman act on some of the misinformation, I was concerned and asked her to consider removing the post based on new information that had just come out.
She was defensive – and my temper flared – I tried to say little but I was quite upset by what I felt had been flippancy and lack of concern for a possibly innocent person. I didn’t stick around to see if she removed the post, the pain I had been feeling all day since learning the news flared up in me and I clicked the de-friend option in Facebook. I walked away from the computer, angry at the world.
After all, what kind of world allows innocent children to be murdered?!
No, I Hadn’t Calmed Down
The next morning it was still eating at me. And what I did next was unacceptable – I called into question this young woman’s intelligence and her ethics – and that wasn’t okay. I told myself as I typed the angry words that I had taken the evening to calm down, that I wasn’t angry, that she should have known better.
In short, I used her as the metaphorical whipping boy for my frustration and pain over the constant mental image of twenty little bodies lying on the floors of those two classrooms.
And that wasn’t fair.
And it wasn’t right.
And that is why I say, I’m so smart that I’m stupid. Because that young woman may have been defensive, she may have trusted the erroneous news, but she did take the post down. And now I’ve said things that can’t be taken back.
Do You Stand Your Ground?
My father’s mother was a fighter. She had to be. Her dad died when she was six, her mom couldn’t care for all six children, so Nana and three of the other kids went to the local orphanage. She was scrappy, she fought for what she needed. What she learned at the age of six, she kept with her all her life.
I never once heard my grandmother admit she was wrong…even when it was obvious that she was.
My dad may not like to admit it, but he’s not far from the same way. A lot of us are. God knows I am too – I learned at my grandmother’s knee to fight for myself and was reinforced by regular encouragement from my dad. You defend yourself – always.
When you are wrong, what do you do? Do you stand your ground? Even as you know how ridiculous it is, do you stand steadfast and hold your position?
Admitting There Is Another Way
They say that “pride goeth before the fall.”
I can relate to that, it happens a lot with me. I’ve learned to suck it up, apologize “early and often” but it doesn’t get any easier. It isn’t easy to say, “Casey, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have reacted like that.”
See what I mean? I didn’t actually say it, did I?
Yeah, so here goes.
Casey, I’m sorry. I overreacted and said things I shouldn’t have. That was wrong of me, it was hurtful, and I apologize.
Own Up, Take Responsibility
A huge “issue” I have with society at large, is the lack of responsibility, moral behavior, and thoughtfulness we often show. We race to react – spurred on by the news, social media sites like Facebook, and more. We rush to conclusions, begin waving our agendas in the wake of horrifying news (gun control – people are dividing across the board and screaming their opinions back and forth), and are ready to take action, to vilify, bring to justice, and so much more.
But in my anger at what I viewed as this behavior, I did the same thing I claim to despise so much. I feel like Rodney King is standing at my shoulder saying, “Can’t we all just get along?” as the country is burning.
There can be no understanding of what happened on Friday. This unimaginable horror, this pain that as a parent I can’t help but feel, and the fear of ever letting my child out of my sight ramps up inside me. I imagine these same feelings are repeated over and over, in the hearts of parents throughout this country. How can we not, for a moment, share the same fear?
There will be no explanation that can suffice. No measure of peace. Eleven days before Christmas, twenty-six people lost their lives. We can’t get them back.
But what we can do is breathe. And live. We can live lives full of purpose, full of intention, and realize we are all full of beauty and shortcomings, anger and love, stupidity and brilliance. It is what we do with each moment, how we react, and what we do the moment after that which matters the most.
We can each make this world a better place. One moment, one person, one word at a time. I believe that. I really do.
If it all sounds gooey and gushy, smarmy or feel-goody, fine, so be it. Just…