Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Terror on Tuesday

This has been a day of high emotion, and it's only 10:30 a.m. My older brother, Bill, would have turned 64 today had he lived, and there was a shooting at UT Austin, where my daughter is in school. The school is still on lock down as I write this, with one shooter dead and police searching for another suspect.

Even though this incident in no way compares to other mass shootings i.e., Columbine, West Virginia, I am a wreck. My daughter is right next door to the library where the first shooter killed himself, and I will not breathe easily again until the outcome of the 2nd suspect is determined.

When I texted her originally, she replied, "Chill, Mom. All the doors are locked." As if that could stop someone with an AK47???? Yeah, just chill. I think I'll go throw up, instead.

UT did an outstanding job of alerting everyone and shutting down the campus in record time. Leslie is in with 200 other kids in this auditorium-style class and has no idea how long she has to stay there.

More later, as I know more. I was going to write a nice tribute to my brother, which I will do, but not until I know Leslie is totally out of harm's way and OFF that campus.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Little Bee and Other Horrors

I recently read the book, "Little Bee". It almost killed me. I had nightmares for a week--people shooting me, chasing me, dismembering me. I thought reading "The Lovely Bones" was a whipping (I didn't see the movie, needless to say), but "Little Bee" made it seem like child's play.

The story revolves around a young Nigerian refugee, Little Bee, who flees to America on a container ship after witnessing unspeakable atrocities to her family during the "war for oil". I won't say more than that in fear of having more nightmares, but suffice it to say it's NOT a comedy.

It is supposed to be a magical story of the undaunting human spirit, of the possibility of a transformed future, of love that conquers all; but truthfully, I never got there. I couldn't get passed the nightmare, the cowardice, the absolute brutality, the never-ending evil portrayed in a thousand different ways throughout the story (the women in my book club will have a field day with this!).

It reminded me of a near-death experience I had in graduate school. Due to an exploding ovary, I hemorrhaged internally and almost died before they got me to surgery to patch me up. As I lay on the surgery table, I felt myself leaving my body, floating up and up (like all the books tell you), could see myself lying there on the table, and thinking, "Wow, this feels great!" But then I remembered that I had a 3-year old daughter who was still at daycare and needed picking up, and, oh by the way, raising. So I decided I couldn't throw in the towel yet and had to get back down there into my body.......which, of course, I did. What I didn't do, however, was have that ecstatic spiritual experience that so many people speak of when they cheat death. All I felt was pissed off, depressed, and angry.

The same feelings occurred with this book. I have no concept of how people can call this book "magical", especially the ending. That is not to say that it is not beautifully written, well crafted, and significant. But the tragedy was simply too overwhelming for me to get to the magic.

This must be the way people feel when I tell them what I do for work. It seems to be almost overwhelming for them.....so much so that they are unable to see the magic I see. The magic of kids transforming before my very eyes. The magic of a horrifically traumatized young woman achieving her dream of a college degree. The magic of my staff and the daily miracles they perform. People who hear about my work go automatically to the tragedy, the loss, the trauma, the sadness; and until I can help them understand the magic, it alludes them.

I am those people about this kind of book. So, although this is beautifully written and profound, I think I can't read books like it anymore. And although I can see magic all day in my work, I need a break from tragedy, from trauma, from evil.....even when transformation or magic follows.....at least in the written word.....because I can't get to it.

My father used to wonder why we would go see "movies with meaning", as he would call them. "Why does everything have to make some damn statement? What happened to just plain entertainment?" I used to think that was so narrow-minded of him......until I began wondering the same thing. Maybe he needed "just plain entertainment" to soften all that he had seen and witnessed in his life. Maybe the same goes for me, as I near the age he was when he said that to me.

Some stories need a warning label: Unspeakable horrors ahead. Read at your own risk.