(This is a piece I wrote and submitted to Elephant Journal. The piece is on their site, and I would appreciate if you could head over to their site and heart and/or share the piece. The more views it receives the more likely I will be able to continue sharing ideas with EJ. Thank you! ~Shel)
**Disclaimer: If you want to focus on light and happier topics, raising vibrations, or sending thoughts and prayers, then this post is probably not for you.**
Get your shit together. I thought the worst thing I was going to hear yesterday was the attempt to access the National Security Agency campus at Fort Meade, which resulted in an officer being shot and three suspects taken into custody. Instead I turned on the news yesterday afternoon to a special report of, yet another, school shooting. This time in Parkland, Florida.
What will it take for legislators to change gun laws? I’m sure that statement has caused someone reading to think, “She’s a freaking snowflake. She just wants to take guns away from all of us. She has no idea what she’s talking about. She’s probably never even held a gun.” I learned gun safety and how to shoot at about 10 years old. My dad, now a retired Air Force Master Sergeant, took my brother and me out to one of my grandma’s pastures with a handgun and a scoped rifle and taught us not just how to shoot, but how to handle the guns safely, and afterward we saw him store the guns away. It’s a skillset I have, but a skillset I wish I will never have to use. I feel the same way about my CPR/AED training.
I see no problem in someone wanting to hunt, shoot crab apples, or have a firearm as a form of home security, if that’s what speaks to them. However, I see no reason why any civilian needs a military grade weapon. I don’t understand why anyone can purchase a gun (in some cases) without having a background check done. Some people have equated guns to cars. Each is a tool that can be used improperly. People will argue that teenagers get to drive cars, but they forget to mention each state has different requirements for new drivers. In Missouri, teens get an instruction permit at 15, at 16 they receive an intermediate license, and finally at 18 they receive their full driver’s license. Each level of licensing has certain requirements that must be met before going to the next. This means a teenager has three years of training before being left to their own devices behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, whereas you don’t have to have any training to purchase a gun. A person a only required to wait three days for a background check, and in some cases they don’t even need a background check depending on how the gun is being purchased.
Along side a need to change gun laws, the country needs to work on the stigma around mental health. I just heard on this morning’s news coverage that the shooter’s mother had passed away the year before and he was depressed, and that the family who took him in got him a job. Not therapy, not appointments with a counselor, but a job. As if a job could help someone get over the loss of a parent. The access to mental healthcare is deplorable. So much of it is not covered by insurance, and fees are too high for a lot of people to afford. Many interventions focus on relieving a symptom and not actually working on the root of the problem.
People are taught that asking for help is shameful, weak, and that they just need to “let go” or “get over” what is bothering. We especially need to listen to young people when they say something is going on and observe so we notice changes when they aren’t comfortable saying something is going on. I remember being at a physical exam for junior high cheerleading, and the nurse practitioner looked at my fingernails because the governing organization for cheerleading in Missouri has a length limit for nails. The nurse practitioner berated me for chewing my nails and asked why I did it. When I replied that I did it when I was stressed or anxious which was all the time, I was laughed at and was asked what I had to be stressed about. The stress of having to get good grades? The stress of having heavier homework loads all the time? The stress of getting all my school work done and participate in extra curricular activities? The stress of peer pressure around sex and sexuality? The stress of bullying? Maybe instead of blowing off what a child is telling you actively listen to them. If further intervention is needed, try to help provide that.
Oh, what’s going to happen to the students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators, and community members effected by this? What help will be provided to them? They are going to be dealing with the trauma from this event for a very long time. Long after you forget about it and move on to the next tragedy even though you tweeted “#Neverforget” they’ll still be dealing with the psychological effects of this event.
You say it’s not time to talk about these things. That right now we need to send thoughts and prayers. Your thought and prayers won’t do shit to resolve our country’s problem. Your thoughts and prayers won’t increase the ability to prevent this from happening, AGAIN. Changing gun laws, increasing access to mental healthcare, and bettering interventions are what’s needed, among so many other things.
Spring is a time of birth or rebirth. Summer is growth and maturity. Fall welcomes the preparation of rest, release, and death. Winter is stillness and space, the in between.
It’s in this space people begin to reflect on events that happened throughout the year. This reflection is not necessarily a bad thing. It allows people to see the changes and evolution that took place. But during this reflection, especially as the New Year draws closer, people start to dwell on their “failures,” their “inadequacies,” their “not good enoughs.” It’s here people get caught up with their thoughts. People allow their time to be consumed by these thoughts, and it becomes addictive. I don’t know if we, as humans, are wired to focus on what we consider bad, or if over time we’ve trained ourselves to do this, but as we get stuck on these negative thoughts we start to develop methods of punishment so we don’t “fail” again.
We typically disguise this punishment as New Year’s Resolutions, i.e. start a new diet, lose an unattainable amount of weight, workout eight days a week. We set a bar so high that accomplishment is impossible. Then the cycle continues when we inevitably cannot put a check mark next to an item on our to do list. Our struggle with negative thoughts and resolutions isn’t helped by the bombardment of “New Year, New You” advertisements or social media posts. You are enough as you are. You cannot change your Self.
What if instead of focusing on the negative we choose to be grateful for the positive or the lessons learned from negative experiences? What if instead of punishing ourselves for our “shortcomings” and focusing on removing something we set an intention for what we would like to gain or focus on in the new year?
My intention and focus is Acceptance, Organization, and Self-Care. You are welcome to share in this intention, if it resonates with you.
Welcome to 2018. May everyone find peace, love, and happiness throughout the year.