July 20, 2012

I’m chilling at a local coffee shop trying to grasp some realities around what’s happened today. July 20, 2012. A new date that will be etched in the consciousness of Denverites and Coloradans for years to come. In ten years, we will still remember and celebrate a decade. It happened at Columbine, it will happen again for the Century 16 shooting.

So many thoughts have flooded my mind this morning. I am not sure I truly even have the resources to coherently collect them and put them in one place. Tears have come ever since I woke up this morning. I woke up strangely much earlier than usual for a day off. It was about 7:30 am and I had to use the restroom, but I came over funny and decided I needed to check my phone. That’s when I found out the news. My first reaction? Overwhelming, incredible anger. So much anger. I still have loads of anger. Then tears. Beating the floor. And singing Glen Hansard because the melancholy makes my heart feel understood.

One of my friends was in Theater 9. She is safe. Physically. I, of all people, understand what emotional toll it will take.

But even finding out that SHE WAS THERE was enough to undo me. My life is a fucking spiderweb, pardon my French. I’m so tied in to tragedy, it feels at times that I can’t escape. My first recollection of helping in tragedy was Columbine. I made cards, at 10 years old, and took them to the victims who were in the hospitals. (That one gesture tells me that my profession choice is not a mistake – I am not looking to help the families of the deceased but those who have made it out, those who have survived) In any case, that was the first. 8 years later my life was inextricably knotted with tragedy when my two sisters were shot and killed in front of my eyes. Only 2 years after that, one of my former students in Azerbaijan was killed on April 30, 2009 in a shooting there. And NOW, on July 20, 2012, one of my friends is in Theater 9 where the shooting occurred. My mind is filled with WHY.

WHY me? WHY am I still alive? WHY is my life inextricably tied, through people that I KNOW, to shootings? What is the sense? What is the purpose? I know that I am going into trauma counseling, but I can’t really do a lot of counseling when I am in such close relation to the issue. It’s too personally triggering. I can be there, but to do counseling is impossible. It hurts too much for me.

I feel that there’s been enough disasters in Colorado ALONE to support a trauma career for years.

Another thing that strikes me is my reaction when I saw the profile and the picture of James Holmes, the shooter. He is so very normal. It’s scary. Why? He is like us. He is one of us. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, not one we would recognize to be so threatening. He was working on a Neuroscience PhD. And he was only a year and a half older than myself. He was my age. MY AGE. But ironically, also the same age as the shooter who gunned down my sisters. 24.


“Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words, 
    for I see violence and strife in the city. 
Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
    malice and abuse are within it.
Destructive forces are at work in the city;
    threats and lies never leave its streets.

If an enemy were insulting me,
    I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
    I could hide.
But it is you, a man like myself…”

-Psalm 55

“It is you, a man like myself…”

I have never really been so struck with the realization that life is short. Evil walks among us every day. Every day a “common” man is hiding his anger that is about to explode. I have that capability also inside myself. It was “a man like myself.” Each of us has the capacity for such evil, even at such a “young” age. I consider myself of morally responsible age; I am young but responsible for my actions. I am responsible for NOT becoming like that. For not letting the world harden me to the point where I think I have to take my pain out on it in such an extreme way. Or even in the not-so-extreme ways, like hurting a friend. I have the responsibility, morally, SINCE life is short, to be responsible, to change my ways, to become…

“Your honesty is nothing compared to what 
You will become 
You will become 
You will become in time become…”

It’s my responsibility to be different, to live different, to give different.

Today though, the senselessness rams into me with full force. The anger fills me like a tornado unleashed. The sadness overwhelms. My fingers itch to do, to act, to move… to create something out of disaster. That’s why I write – my fingers won’t stay still. My fingers dance, dance, dance across the keyboard trying to birth it out of me, trying to expel the darkness. I wipe it away, brush it away, type it away. I push it all out of me, all of the pain and sadness and despair. All the ache that takes my breath away and banishes rational thought. It all spills through my twitchy fingers trying to make something different and better. Trying to make sense of my sad little mind. I can’t ever get rid of all the pain that echoes inside. But at least then it spills forth and pours out of me and makes something. At least then it’s used positively for creation.

I once wrote a poem, when I was 15:

2/24/2004 – Colors: The Masterpiece

Colors whirling through my mind
They confuse me with their strange language
They seem to be speaking to me, calling me
And I don’t know what they’re saying

You think I’m insane, I know
But they’re drawing me
I think it’s deception…I see it in the black
In the gray, screaming at me

Yet the beautiful purple is whirling in my eyes
It looks so innocent when beside its beloved blue and pink
And pink and orange seem so at home
Though they are in a black background, I feel unthreatened

Purple calling to me of forgotten royalty
Pink remembering the innocence
Orange beckoning me to live
Blue trying to find the more in life

The yellow is beckoning me
Like the sun in all its glory
Whispering to me
Wanting to give me its colors

Deep red stares at me
Speaking of passionate love in the midst of hardship
Whispering that it will endure
Through the storms it will hold me safe

And believe it or not, as I stare
I understand that without the black
None would be complete
Because the black represents hardship

Where are we without hardship?
We are weak, tossed on the wind
So it is with the colors
With every color

Against white, it looks puny
But sprayed across the black in blazing neon colors
There is more depth, more power
More strength than mere white against white

I realize that I am these colors
I am the yellow…brilliantly bright and happy
I am the purple, a beautiful royal maiden
I am the pink, wholly a girl

I am the red…passion embodied in a soul
I am the green…the spark of life within hopeless situations
I am the orange…vivacity spread across an open page
I am the blue…hungry for something a little more

Yet I am the black
Passing through adversity on all sides
Nothing ahead of me, no light
Unaware, painting a picture with all the other colors

And when I look back, I see something of exquisite beauty
Something I never could have imagined
For there, across the dark canvas are strokes of happiness
Strokes of royalty, girlhood, passion, life, vivacity, hunger…and adversity

All creating something of me that I thought I never was
A person who lives and breathes
A person who feels pain, yet feels love
A person who is excited waiting to see the future

These colors draw me only because
I am the colors
I am the painting
And I am the masterpiece

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