What do we do when our worlds collide with tragedy and joy within a 24 hour period? That's the question I was doing my best to process and live out last Friday.
I woke up very excited, as my love and I were getting ready to pack to head out for a weekend of wine tasting. That is until I looked at my phone. The news alert showed "Shooting in Santa Fe, Texas" and that was enough for my heart to drop.
Growing up down the road from Santa Fe, Tx, this news headline was way too close to home. I called friends and my mother to see if anyone we knew had been struck by this tragedy.
My mother told me that my nieces grandfather was at the school and for a moment, his wife didn't know if he was one of the victims, as he is part of the security staff at the school.
And then I got pissed. I couldn't understand why I was so angry, but in time I would understand all my heart was processing.
A little back story here, my niece is 8 years old. She doesn't live an ordinary life, as her mother lives in a nursing home facility. Her mom was hit by a drunk driver when she was only a year old and is now confined to a bed due to all the severe brain trauma she endured.
So as you can imagine... the last thing we want is to try to explain to my little niece another tragedy in her life, when we still fail to find the right words to help her understand what she's currently living through with her mother. (Bear with me as this all ties in together)
Throughout that Friday, more details would emerge from the tragic shooting in Santa Fe, Tx and here I was driving with the love of my life to "enjoy" ourselves for a weekend of relaxation, rejuvenation and yes.. an attempt at experiencing joy.
That's when the guilt kicked in. Who am I to enjoy my life, when back home there are mothers who will never kiss their children goodnight again? What they would give to see their children experience joy just once more.
Fast forward less than 24 hours and the world was about to witness the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle. For some of you reading this, you may think, "who cares?", but for others, comments were being made "How can you celebrate a royal wedding when tragedy has shaken our own homeland?"
It hit home with me. Who was I to experience joy while just down the road from where I grew up, deep tragedy was being unfolded, piece by piece.
Being someone who has had to walk out trauma more times than I care to admit, there is one thing I've learned. A very helpful, life shaping lesson that I've acquired by sitting my ass down in front of a therapist week after week.
I can't control life. And I will need grace to help me navigate through it.
You see, when I mentioned that I was pissed.. I would later understand that this concept of not being in control was a part of it.
It angered me that I can't control my nieces world, that I can't stop calamity and tragedy from crossing her path ever again. I want her world to be filled with love, I want her to be safe. Never do I want her life or the world as she knows it, ever to be threatened again with tragedy as she has experienced it with her mother.
This is such a hard lesson for me, as I'm sure it's a hard one for you as well.
Working with my therapist I have learned that life is a constant ebb and flow.
In one moment there can be beauty and joy, then in a split second, tragedy can strike. Only grace can help us navigate through these intense complexities of life.
While I was driving to our wine destination, the entire time my heart was heavy in deep intercession for the people and families of Santa Fe, Tx. I didn't feel joyful about spending a weekend of wine tasting. I felt hurt, pain and anguish.
And you know what... that was okay. There was grace there to support me and hold me in that space. I didn't have to run from it, I didn't have to shove it down, nor did I need to fake anything so that my significant other didn't feel the heaviness of my experience. There was grace for the both of us to be responsible for what each of us were feeling and/or not feeling.
That Saturday morning, my Instagram was filled with pictures of the Royal Wedding. And with each picture I saw, joy slowly crept back into my heart. Seeing a couples dream come true, while the whole world applauded them, reminded my heart that where there is immense pain, there is also joy. And there is grace in between to help me navigate between the two paradoxes.
As our day of wine tasting progressed, so the heaviness my heart had felt, continued to be lifted. While the day before I allowed myself to be immersed in what I was feeling, without deflecting, here this new day created a new opportunity for me to fly in the grace of abundant joy.
A beautiful wedding, excellent wine tasting and vineyards for miles that made me breathe and thank God that I am alive.
With such complexity of emotion within a matter of days, I can say that only grace could help me stay present and honest with the emotions my heart was experiencing.
As we drove back yesterday, I saw on Facebook that my childhood pastor was at the school where the shooting happened and witnessed it as "unbelievable pain". He was even quoted saying "I don't think I have personally seen this much pain and anguish any time in my life."
My heart sank. Just seconds prior I was on a high, with our convertible top down, the wind blowing in our hair and the cases of wine in our back seat as proof that our wine visit was a success.. my heart felt the weightiness again.
Can you see now what I'm talking about? Life is an ebb and flow if we choose to live in it. And if we so willingly and bravely choose to do so, we will need grace and an abundance of it.
Becoming indifferent, detached, numbing... these are our cowardly ways of life. Grant it we may resort to these in times of tragedy to get our head above water, but we cannot live out our lives with these coping mechanisms. They are there to support us in times of unbearable need.. but never are we meant to live out of them.
So if you want to live in this very complex life we all find ourselves in and you want to do it by truly living out of that heart of yours, it will require grace to help you navigate through the waters of tragedy and joy.
conquering wine tasting below!
To work with Arica Angelo, click the image below.