It has been an extraordinarily painful few days for our country with the back-to-back mass shootings that occurred over the weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
The grief we feel as we mourn the many innocent victims who so violently and tragically lost their lives unites us not as a country but as human beings.
Even if we don’t personally know any of the victims, at some level we all know that we lost something this weekend because of these shootings.
It might be that we lost the belief that things will ever change, or our faith in humanity that was already hanging on by a frayed thread, or that we as individuals have the power and ability to change the trajectory of our individual and collective lives.
I know the speed and intensity at which all that is good in this country and in us is being attacked, dismantled, and destroyed is mind-boggling.
I know it’s hard to catch our breath let alone figure out what to do or how to organize and combat what’s going on.
I know that you are in pain, because I am too.
But I’m asking you to not walk away or distract yourself from the pain you’re feeling.
If you’ve read THE SPIRIT FACTOR, you know that the inspiration for our book came from a moment of pain, deep pain, that Michael and I unexpectedly experienced one February night.
That moment of pain was so powerful that it kept me questioning and searching and writing for almost 9 years, eventually turning our pain into a completely new and revolutionary philosophy for creating lives and a world of Unobstructed Spirit (US) so each and every one of us has the opportunity to live to our fullest potential.
Pain can be a great motivator if we allow ourselves to sit with it.
We need to remember that pain has an important message, and that its voice should be listened to.
Pain tells us that there are imbalances, injustices, inequalities, and many urgent issues that need our attention.
Below is something I wrote a few weeks ago about an experience that made me realize I have been avoiding painful feelings that have been building up in me over the past few years.
I didn’t know when I wrote this post how relevant it would be today.
I hope it inspires you to listen to and use the pain you’re now feeling as motivation to take action to create positive change in your life and in our world because we need you!
A Park, A Picnic, and the Pain It Uncovered
This afternoon, I sobbed uncontrollably as I made the 15 minute drive home from a community fair in a small rural town where my husband Michael and I had a booth for one of our businesses.
I wasn’t crying because something bad happened.
Actually, I witnessed something at the fair that was so beautiful, simple, and rare these days that it brought to the surface emotions that have been building up inside me over the past few years as I’ve watched the cruelty and cowardice of so many politicians and people online and in person.
Recently, the rhetoric and vilification of immigrants from Mexico has reached such a disturbing level that my heart hurts when I think of the fear so many of them live with every day and the new challenges they now face.
The rural area where Michael and I live in northeastern Washington has very few people of any color, which has always felt strange after living in a very culturally diverse area of Southern California for most of our lives before moving here 14 years ago.
So, today, when a Hispanic family of five sat down at a picnic table in the park the fair was in a short distance away from our booth, I noticed them, and wondered what it must feel like to be in a community where no one looks like you and in a country where you have been singled out and called criminals, rapists, and less than human by the president.
I was surprised by the overwhelming sadness and grief I felt when I thought about the dangers this lovely family now faces and the anger and hate that is being directed at them.
Tears filled my eyes and soon started rolling down my cheeks as I watched this family, not only because of this but also because the love they had for each other was one of the most beautiful things I’d seen in a very long time.
It was so strong that it was visible, tangible, and so simply stunning that it took my breath away. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them.
I watched as the mother pulled several small plastic bags filled with homemade sandwiches from a reusable grocery bag, giving them to the father, who had a kind face and a gentle spirit, who then handed out half of each of those sandwiches to his children and wife before taking one for himself.
I was amazed how he treated the food with such gentleness and appreciation, and how each family member received the food in the same way.
When everyone had their food, they all closed their eyes and bowed their heads as the father gave thanks for the meal they were about to eat.
When he was done, they looked happy, eating their lunch while quietly talking to each other with undivided attention.
No “selfies” or other pictures were taken, no texts exchanged or phone calls made, and no social media accounts checked or posted to.
Actually, there were no cell phones in sight.
It was refreshing to see that this family felt no need to try to impress or prove anything to anyone, and that they were content in the simplicity of eating homemade sandwiches on a Saturday afternoon in a park with each other.
This beautiful family was not some story on TV or meme on social media. They were in my community, sitting next to me, in real life, close enough to look in the eyes.
And at that close distance, I saw the truth—that this family didn’t pose a threat to anyone—and not the lies told to further the agendas of politicians who want us to believe that some “group” they single out is the enemy instead of them.
When those in power label a group of people as bad, as the “enemy,” it makes the world much more dangerous for everyone in that group, including the sweet family I saw today peacefully living their lives and who loved each other deeply.
Knowing this, I wanted to walk over and give each of them a hug, and say, “I’m sorry. I’m just really, really sorry, for everything.”
I wanted to tell them that I wasn’t one of “them,” and that I don’t believe the lies that are being told.
But I didn’t.
And I didn’t because I felt so deeply ashamed by what’s happening in our country that I was immobilized.
To be honest, this experience has totally and completely wrecked me. I can’t stop crying.
I don’t know that I can put into words the significance of what I’m feeling, but I must make an effort not only to give you an idea of the gravity of it but also for me to understand the many different emotions I’m feeling.
You see, as I watched this beautiful family, whose skin color and ethnicity has made them the target of vicious attacks, I felt the dam that has been holding back the grief, hurt, frustration, anger, and despair building up inside me over the past few years completely break, flooding me with a tidal wave of emotions that I felt I might drown in.
I thought about the words I’ve wanted to say and people I’ve wanted to confront but haven’t.
How I’ve bitten my tongue bloody and chocked back words that needed to be said but weren’t.
The community meetings I should have attended but didn’t.
Like you, I’ve watched this nightmare unfold in real life, in real time, in our country, expecting someone else to step up and stop it.
But no one has.
I’ve tried to find ways to navigate these challenging times by limiting my exposure to the 24/7 news cycle and social media, distracting myself, and just trying to be joyful in spite of what’s going on.
But it’s been hard.
No matter where I go or what I do there is an always-present feeling of uncertainty, instability, and danger hanging heavy in the air that my body and mind are keenly aware of.
Today, I felt the depth and seriousness of what’s going on in our country as I sat close-enough-to-touch to a family who is most affected by the dangerous rhetoric being used to turn us against each other, and it hurt, bad!
But I’m okay with that.
I’m letting myself feel the pain, not walking away or distracting myself from it, because I know that in this pain is where I will find the courage to stand up and speak out, and by doing so I just might find in me the person I’ve been waiting for to “save” us and make the difference in the world we so desperately need.
Maybe if you do the same, we can create a world that’s kind and safe for everyone, and look towards a future that’s filled with limitless possibilities for all of us.
Author, THE SPIRIT FACTOR
THE SPIRIT FACTOR is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats!