I feel sick. My dread has been growing since my wife woke me up the other morning to tell me what happened in Las Vegas. My usual coping mechanisms aren’t working. I can’t just say, “It happened in Europe…It happened in the South…It’s terrorism…It was at a protest…” It’s not that any of these things I usually say to myself are true or accurate, it’s just that they usually allow me to put my head down and deal with life day to day with a quiet sadness for those who are gone and who have lost loved ones.
Not this time.
My nieces were at a similar country festival a few months ago. My cousin and his girlfriend were at a hotel with the same view of the concert yesterday afternoon. My first client of the day had a niece who was at the concert (and fortunately is fine), and my kids go to concerts. My wife told me last night that she can’t wait to go to country festivals with me when our kids are away at college. And two nights ago we ran into a friend who said we needed to go to Bottle Rock in Napa next year. Do we…?
I know many others share my dread, sadness, and outrage. Why did he have to kill and injure so many innocent people? What makes a person hurt and kill others? How did he get those semi-automatic weapons? Is any place safe from senseless violence and death? My dread also represents the reality that even if we find out these answers, those innocent people are gone, and their families are forever devastated.
There is another reality to my feeling of dread I cannot escape—there is no more denying that our world is unsafe and bad things can happen virtually anytime and anywhere.
So what do we do?
Do we stop going to public places? Stop traveling, going to concerts, or sporting events? Do we live in fear and say we are not taking chances? Or do we embrace the reality of the fragility of life and live our life with the realities that exist? And how do we parent our children in a world that seems to be getting more and more vulnerable and fragile?
I know I am asking a lot of questions. I am usually the guy that spends his days helping to solve problems and fight fear and anxiety. I feel like I have been punched. How can I tell myself the same thing I tell my clients when I don’t have the answer?
This afternoon as I am finding some of my footing and balance, I am coming to terms with what feels like a new fact -- that I need to choose whether, or not, to live in fear. We all do.
I do not want to live in fear.
I have learned personally and professionally, that worry and anxiety are emotions that deplete us and take us away from the present while making us live in a future that has yet to exist. I offer these thoughts to you as a fellow human -- and not a doctor -- who is trying to make sense of the latest tragedy just like you.
I am working on accepting that…
- Life is precious
- Life is temporary
- Uncertainty exists (and always has)
- There are many things out of our control
- Many things don’t make sense
And that I have choices…
- Where I go and what I do
- Whether I will live in fear or embrace life
- To make a conscious choice to appreciate each day
- To show love and kindness to everyone I come into contact with
- To refuse anger and hate
We are living in unknown times just as many generations have before us. There seems to be a rise of hate and anger, and with it, fear in my opinion. We must all fight through this dread. We must band together and unify through strength, courage, and commitment to living with intention and goodness. Most of all I know we cannot give in to the fear and hate—there are many more of us, those who will always choose love, compassion, and an appreciation for all life.
We have to keep fighting fear and uncertainty because there is no place to hide. We all have to choose.