Last week, after the bombing at the Boston Marathon, we lost a 10-year-old girl (to what turned out to be natural causes) here on Whidbey Island. An islander in his twenties stabbed a friend, and then in West, Texas, a fertilizer plant blew up. The second explosion killed four volunteer firefighters who were already on scene after the first explosion. The community of West lost four responders, ten civilians, three of its five firetrucks, the fertilizer plant (and the jobs that went with it), several homes, and an apartment complex. Two hundred others were injured.
It could have been worse. They all could have. But they were bad enough.
At Whidbey CareNet, my partner and I have been researching and poring over materials on stress and trauma for several weeks, developing a presentation and tools to equip emergency responders to relieve stress, and then last week it started to manifest itself in me.
It came to a head when I had a dream in which I yelled angrily at my partner, “Don’t talk to me about stress until you’ve held a dead body in your arms!” I was losing ground to the stress, which creeps up insidiously. It doesn’t knock loudly, at least not for me.
So this week, I will make some appointments with Whidbey CareNet providers to deal with even deeper issues of stress and trauma in my own life. And I’m going to listen to music–a little jazz in fact. (Thank you Molly Cook!)
Last week was about the human condition. In Boston, where others ran away from explosions, emergency responders ran toward them. In Texas, responders did the same thing and died because of it. Here on Whidbey Island, we responded to two calls; one tragic, the other violent.
It takes courage to get up, keep doing this, and keep my heart open and empathetic. It takes courage to call a practitioner and say, “I need help.”
Today, I encourage you to remain vulnerable, be grateful, move your body, breathe the air outside. Feel the sunshine on your face. By all means, cry if you want to. I have. As Forrest Gump’s mother said, “Oh Forrest, death is just a part of life.” Feel it, process it, listen to your emotions, and see where we disconnect from mercy, compassion, and justice.
We saw the uglier side of the human condition this last week. Let’s manifest some of the more positive side this week.