Moving Forward To Find Peace After Tragedy
Peaceful and carefree
Is There Any Going Back? The End of Innocence
Do you remember that time when you were carefree, light and innocent? I don’t know if I ever felt that way in particular, but I have certainly felt cared for, fulfilled and excited about the promise of the days that lay ahead. I love that feeling of being caught-up with work, a free day on the schedule, a checkbook that balances with some money remaining and the bills paid. I revel in the feeling of accomplishment that comes with completing something difficult like a marathon, taking a long anticipated trip, slipping into that smaller size of clothing (and looking good while not having to squeeze!) When my children lived at home, I always felt that sense of peace when they were all safely tucked in and sleeping, lightly breathing, smiling through a dream.
I can feel the peace that comes from that satisfaction, that accomplishment that unrestricted peaceful feeling. Let’s just all take a moment and breathe in that peaceful feeling. Ah, I wish I could bottle it and then uncork the peace when times get tough, ah, because we all know that those times will settle in, right? Those tough times that remind us to remain humble.
My mother used to tell me to not get too excited, or feel too good, because someone will always come along and smack you down, hurt you, or disappoint you. It took me years to learn that that was just not true. That is a victim’s way of defining the world, a passive-aggressive way of saying that your peace and contentment are in the control of others and so to protect yourself, you must never love, care, or risk for another. Those statements always contradicted my overly rambunctious spirit and I decided early not to care what others thought about me, or did to me and that there was always something to look forward to because I was going to make it happen.
And I did. I remain very successful at dreaming and making the impossible happen, not looking back, not questioning the path on which I am compelled to walk. “Why not?” is my rallying cry just before we find a massive solution to a complex problem. My spirit itches to be electrified about something, to be moving toward something that I am passionate about, following my destiny, making it happen; clearly convinced that creating connections and collaborating elevates ideas and dreamers and humanity. I am in constant motion. That fits who I am to my core.
And then it happens. Something that is so horrible that the perpetual motion of satisfaction, peace and fulfillment crashes to a halt. Like putting a pipe into the spokes of a moving bike and over you go while the bike is stopped in its tracks. Or in this case, the brakes stop the bike and my 14 year old daughter is thrown over the handlebars into a 20 foot ravine in the mountains of Mexico while I watch behind her in slow motion. It happens; the end of innocence.
The moment I realized that life as I knew it will never be the same is a moment that will forever be etched in my brain. We all have them, I know. The only way to avoid these kinds of experiences is to never love, to never care and to never be engaged with people. One of my favorite MASH episodes was a holiday scene when Trapper John was feeling sorry for himself that he was not home with his family and after moping around for days, Hotlips Houlihan jolted him out of his pity pot by reminding him how lucky he was to have someone in his life that he cared that deeply about that created the longing and the pain. To love means that you will experience pain, it is inevitable, but painful nonetheless.
The problem with having a momentous event like watching your daughter go over a cliff head first is not the accompanying pain, both physical and emotional – it is the end of innocence. The end of that carefree, light, peace that comes when you realize that there is no going back. It is the seconds that it takes to throw down your bike and run to the side of the cliff not knowing what you are going to find. Peace shattered. Emotionally, spiritually, physically. For a moment not knowing what the next few moments will hold and how you are going to take the next step.
I was in a bike accident many years ago and thrown 15 feet in the air, landing on my head and neck and was fortunate to have blacked out and not been conscious as I hit the pavement as the car’s driver sped off. But this time I was not so lucky, my brain has permanently recorded every single millisecond of my daughter’s crash and there is no going back. We have now entered the end of the innocence and there is no going back. And I know others have been there, because sometimes bad things happen to those we love.
I have been reminded of this incident a lot lately as a friend of mine has been experiencing something truly horrible in her life; watching her husband die. I have been watching her from a distance and thinking a lot about this loss of innocence. The impact of the end of innocence on my spirit and soul has been permanent and is different than the impact on my character and resilience.
Character is built based on how you respond to life’s events, and resilience is that muscle you get to build by continuing to withstand bad things happening. The end of innocence creates a fear of caring, a knowing how much your heart hurts when you experience a deep pain and there is no going back from that. Or is there? Hotlips Houlihan would tell us that we were lucky to have loved someone so much that we feel this level of pain at their loss or their pain.
The end of innocence is just that, it is not the end of loving, nor caring, nor more pain. It is just a new place from which to start again, and the beginning of a new innocence filled with anticipation, peace and caring. We cannot close our hearts as a result of fear of caring, we can acknowledge that it hurts, it is difficult and that we know it may hurt again. I have heard people say, it is a “new normal”. I know that the pain of the kinds of experiences that shatter our understanding of innocence will not go away; if we are lucky, they may diminish, or the memory may soften, but there is no going back and so we must move forward however difficult that may be.
Creating a new understanding of innocence, or letting go of the fear of pain that comes from caring can come back in time. It takes being intentional about opening your heart again and caring, being willing to take a risk again and most importantly patience as your spirit and soul heal. Being willing to take that risk and open your heart again will generate healing, hope and help offer a new innocence filled with peace. I know, I have been there and back again and believe that inner peace is attainable. There is no going back. We must open our hearts…albeit through pain, to regain that innocence of peace, fulfillment and excitement for the promise of the next day. Namaste.