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


The Girl Who Grew Up with a Wolf

Once upon a time, there was a girl who grew up with a wolf. The wolf did not raise her; from the time she was small, she learned to raise herself. But the wolf taught her many things. Some of them were useful later, and some of them scarred her to the core.

Early on, the girl learned that the wolf would consistently pace around her, snarling. Sometimes he was bold enough to come and take a small nip at her, tearing skin. Eventually these nips grew to small bites, and the girl was consistently tending to the wounds of the wolf.

The girl would have gotten away, if she but knew how. But little girls have no knowledge of how to escape wolves. So the girl stayed. She never went near the wolf and refused to be close to him unless he came near her. Quite plainly she was terrified of this beast who had no care for her other than to take bites out of her little body.

One night she woke up to the wolf beside her bed, snarling. He paced around her bed, around and around and around. The girl was stiff with fear. It was night, the time of terrors, and she didn’t know what lay in the darkness beyond the wolf. Maybe there was a pack of wolves just waiting to tear into her skin! As the wolf walked around and around her bed, baring his teeth, he hissed, “I will eat you someday, little girl. You can’t survive me. I will drink your blood and shred your skin from your bones.” Suddenly he was on top of her snarling and snapping at her, taking chunks of skin. The little girl screamed. But the wolf didn’t stop. After what seemed like endless screaming, endless tearing, the wolf jumped off into the night.

But everything was changed after that night. The poor girl’s face was mauled. Her little mouth, especially, had taken a severe hit. With tiny fingers, she stitched her mouth closed, whispering, “I can’t scream. I can’t scream. I can’t scream.”

And she didn’t. In fact, she became totally silent. After 2 more long years of silence had passed, she decided the best way to deal with this wolf was to pretend she liked him. She could pretend she liked it when he took little digs out of her skin. When he snarled at her and kept her frozen in fear, she could pretend he was saying sweet things. She could pretend he was telling her that he loved her.

And so it grew so that the girl never spoke, but when the wolf would come near, she would wrap her hands in his fur and pet him softly. She would kiss him tenderly even as he stole bits of her flesh from her bones. She would walk beside him even with blood dripping down her arms and legs. Soon, it seemed the pain both became deeper and less noticeable simultaneously.

The girl began to subtly look like the wolf. As she knotted her fingers in his fur, they became claw-like with nails sharpened for the kill. As she kissed him on the forehead, suddenly she was licking him with a pink tongue that snaked in and out of a long snout. After some time she dropped on all fours and padded along beside him. He still snapped at her, but now she had fur to protect her from the stinging pain. She didn’t bleed anymore. She simply walked beside the wolf as he continued in his threats of violence.

One day, she was a full grown wolf. She looked in the mirror with shame at what she saw. She often left the side of her wolf-companion now, but every time she looked in the mirror, she shuddered with revulsion. It was his face staring out at her, his cruelty still as sharp as the first day she’d felt his teeth in her skin. Her head was always dropped in shame.

More shame flooded her as she began to take small bites out of others. Lovers, friends, family; none were immune. She hated herself each time she ripped skin off their bones. But her heart hurt so much and she knew no other way to live. As shame consumed her, she took more and more away from those she loved.

Finally one day she was all alone. Even the wolf who had been by her side her whole life had left her. He had said she wasn’t fun to play with anymore. He left without a backward glance. The rest had been chased away by the bite marks she left in their bodies and hearts. She howled mournfully, despairingly, up at the moon.

All of a sudden there was a rushing sound, and before her stood a familiar figure. For she saw her own self, in the little girl form. The familiar pink jumper, white shirt, and unkempt brown hair could not be mistaken. Nor could the tears in the little girl’s eyes. The little girl hiccuped and wiped them away, bottom lip jutting out.

The woman-wolf howled again, feeling wounded. The little girl started crying even more. The wolf didn’t know what to do. How did she help this little girl stop crying? She felt helpless. Finally, she stood and walked a circle around the little girl. The little girl stiffened in fear and the wolf winced in recognition. She crept closer to her little girl self and hesitantly reached up and licked her face.

The little girl’s eyes had squeezed shut in anticipation. But they flew open the moment the pink tongue touched her face. She stared at herself-the-wolf in surprise. Then the little girl began not just to cry, but to weep, big sobs from somewhere deep inside. The wolf realized she was crying too. She licked away the girl’s tears and the girl wrapped her arms around the wolf’s neck and cried.

Presently, the wolf realized her claws had changed. Her snout had changed. Now she was quietly kissing away tears on a little girl’s cheek, smoothing her back with strong hands, and sitting with the little girl pulled into her lap.

“It’s gonna be okay,” she said. And the little girl knew that it would.