Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Will Not Be Quiet

I, like so many, am outraged by the article in Rolling Stone about the University of Virginia and the culture of sexual violence that exists "on grounds" and that is not adequately addressed by the university administration. If you haven't read it, it's a very difficult but important read. You can find it here. Sadly, it is a problem that exists on many college campuses. It's time to raise our voices. 

I Will Not Be Quiet 
Lynda Allen

I will not be quiet.
I will keep shouting,
“They are all our daughters.”
Every one.
Each girl that is raped on a college campus in Virginia,
or on a bus in India,
or as an act of war in Africa,
or in her home by a relative,
or by a professional athlete,
or by a teacher,
or by a celebrity.
Every one of them,
They are all our daughters.

Shaking our heads and being angry will not suffice.

I will not be quiet.
My voice will be raised in opposition.
My voice will be raised for safety.
My voice will be raised for justice.
My voice will be raised for respect.
My voice will be raised for education.
My voice will be raised for solidarity.
My voice will be raised for peace.
But make no mistake,
My voice will be raised.

I will not be quiet to protect your reputation.
I will not be quiet to protect your good name.
I will not be quiet while you sweep it under the rug.
I will not be quiet while you look the other way.
When you look the other way, you will find me standing there.
When you pick up your broom, I will take away the rug.
When you look to your reputation, I will hold up a mirror.
When you speak your good name, I will speak truth.

I will not be quiet.
Our daughters deserve better.
And they are all our daughters.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Loss and Holy Ground

I will warn you that these two pieces are sad, and if heaven forbid, you have lost a child, you might want to think twice about reading them. Thankfully, I have not had to endure that pain. However, recently a student at a nearby university was abducted and killed. It hit close to home for me and I struggled with a lot of different emotions in the weeks following her disappearance and the subsequent discovery of her. The strongest emotions I felt were for the young lady's parents. It is through my empathy for them that I was able to open my heart to these words. I admit I resisted for a while for obvious reasons, but my heart would not be still until I allowed the words to move. What struck me, which you will see in the writings, is when I heard that her parents went to the site where they found her. I was so moved and saddened by that. My heart still aches for their unimaginable loss. 

The first piece is sort of stream of consciousness as I was opening to empathy and feeling the loss, pain, anger and confusion of any parent moving through this kind of loss and so it alternates between he and she. The second grew out of the first and has a more organized flow. They are offered with much love, sympathy and compassion. 

Would it help to stand where she stood? Would it help to walk the same path that he walked? I have no way of knowing, I have no frame of reference for this. There was no preparation I could have been given to imagine what her last breath might have been like. There is no one who could train me to deal with the haunting of the words, “Was she scared? Or did it hurt?” If only there was some type of surgery that could be done to extract the words, “What if,” from my mind so they wouldn’t repeat over and over until the end of my own days. My own days, which should have come to their natural end long before his. He should’ve been standing beside my grave talking about what a long and full life I had. Now no one will be able to do that, because my life is no longer full. There is an empty place that will always remain vacant. Yes, there will be love and laughter again, life will continue with sunrises and sunsets, or so they say, but it will always be just a little bit different. There will always be a slightly different tune to the harmony of my universe because her laughter won’t accompany my own. I don’t know what to do with all the comfort that I want to offer her that will go ever unoffered. I can’t offer it to myself. How could I live with that, knowing he had none? If I could at least have been there to put my arms around her, that might have been enough. Probably not, but surely it would be better than this nothingness, this inadequacy, this burning anger because I was not there, because I could not save her, because there was and is nothing I can do to reverse it, to ease it, to erase it, to protect him. Nothing. And strangely, that is what I feel. Who knew that if you mixed intense sorrow, anger, fear, loss, heartbreak and despair, you would get nothing? A strange recipe indeed, with a bitter after taste. If I could taste, that is. There doesn’t seem to be much point in flavor or pleasure. They tell me there will be one day. But how can there be when I would feel such guilt at ever experiencing joy or pleasure again? If she cannot, then why should I be able to? I have given up raging about it because I have no one to rage against and even when I did it provided no relief, no resolve, nothing. They tell me it will fade. They tell me he would want me to go on living. But I’m so afraid to. I’m terrified to live if living means letting go. We had so little time to share, just the blink of an eye really. It’s not fair. We deserved more. We were going to have more. We need more time. I can’t breathe. The awful irony is that now each minute seems a year. Each week an eternity. How the days can drag so glacially on now, I have no idea. If only I could go back. How very many things I would do differently. If only. That has become my phrase of choice, my mantra. I think it hundreds of times a day, a minute probably, without consciously doing it. It seems to come unbidden from the stratosphere, drifting down like millions of snowflakes; if only, if only, if only. I stand silently within the blizzard of if onlys. I catch a few of them on my tongue and so give them voice, while millions of others drift quietly to the corners of my mind, creating drifts here and there for me to plow through later. I sometimes wish for a snow blower to come through in my dreams and blast them all away. I simultaneously wonder if I will ever fall asleep again without seeing her face and then fear that I will and what that will mean when I do, if I do. If you can really call it sleep. Mostly I toss and turn until I pass out from exhaustion and then wake up with a start at the slightest sound. I can’t tell anyone any of this. They seem to think work will get me through this, will take my mind off it. What they don’t know is that I don’t want to take my mind off it, off her. They say time heals all wounds. But it’s not true. It won’t heal his. I want to scream in the face of their platitudes, yet I know they are trying to offer comfort however they can. They have no frame of reference either. No one ever taught them how to comfort a friend who is grieving the loss of a child. Let me tell you now, there is no comfort you can possibly offer. You are better off not trying. Instead, let your quiet presence be what you offer. It will be enough to have company through the long, blinding blizzard. 

Holy Ground
Lynda Allen

To the human eye, it seems just a lonely patch of land,
deserted and quiet.
A few animals pass by and the plants grow in peace.
I wonder if any of them were witness to it,
if I would even want to know what they saw if they could tell me.

To my eye, this lonely spot
is sacred, holy ground.
Not because a miracle happened here,
but because it did not.
I hadn’t known that the absence of a miracle
could create the holy.
I wish with all that I am
that I had not learned that particular lesson,
in this particular way.
I hope one day to have the courage
to believe in miracles again.
But today I do not.

Today I walk in silence
listening for echoes
and finding only loss.

How do I stand here where they found her,
and still go on breathing?
Too many unanswerable questions scream out
in my far from silent mind.

So I turn my attention to this place.
Somehow, despite what happened here,
it is able to hold the sacredness,
express the fragility,
witness the loss and the pain.
If only I could learn from it, how to hold all those things,
and still give forth life, beauty, light.

Instead I do the only thing I can do in this moment,
I sit on a rock and weep.
I weep as if weeping is the only thing I have ever known.
I weep every tear of joy or pain that would have been offered
throughout her life, that I will now never get to offer.
I weep for every first and last never to be lived.
I weep for each breath lost, every idea unborn, every laugh not heard,
every heartbeat not felt.

I weep without ceasing,
with only this place as my witness.
My tears fall upon the quiet earth 
in search of a miracle.