I find myself at an utter loss. Several people have asked me how I am doing following Tuesday's events at Clackamas Town Center. I've told them that I am tired but okay. I suppose it's at least a half truth, as I have not stopped eating, bathing, getting out of bed each day.
I have my moments. In all honesty I'm already predisposed to anxiety and depression, something I used to try and keep to myself, but I take medication daily and generally, my over active imagination/worry mechanism causes no real interruption of my life. And it doesn't help that less than a month ago I was driving home from Sisters in the snow and had a rollover crash above Suttle Lake, or that I'll soon be sending my husband off on a deployment leaving me as the sole caregiver for our two boys.
I like to think of myself as strong, resilient, independent. I feel I have not seen any of those characteristics in myself these past few days. There is a part of me that feels I am not entitled to the emotions I am experiencing because really, I didn't see anything. My trauma was nothing compared to that of the hundreds of people taking a break from their holiday shopping in the food court.
So why do I feel as though there is a ton of bricks on my chest? Why does my heart seem as though it will tear itself in half? Why do I find my limbs heavy as sandbags, unable to do my bidding?
Something was taken from every person present in that mall at the time of the shooting. There are the obvious things, like the lives of the two people who perished at the shooter's hand and the loss of revenue for the businesses that have remained closed for the past few days. But the loss reaches beyond the walls of that building, beyond the thousands of people who hid out until the all clear was given.
I know that I am unable to analyze the full impact on my life but I do know that right now I'm not able to be the mother or wife I need to be. Tonight, Ethan came upstairs at 7:00 to ask when we would have dinner. We tend to eat dinner later than most people but not that late. I'd honestly not even thought about dinner or realized what time it was. I told him I would figure something out. About fifteen minutes later I finally peeled myself off the couch and walked into the kitchen. I opened the cupboards, fridge and freezer in turn and then just leaned against the refrigerator and started crying. I couldn't figure out what to make for dinner and I just felt so helpless. Such a seemingly simple task and yet I just felt so exhausted by the mere thought of it.
One thing that has been taken from me, at least temporarily, is my ability to focus, to function as I normally would. If there was a magic pill I could take to turn my brain off or make me sleep long enough to forget what has happened I'd probably take it. It seems unfair to me that while myself, my family and countless others suffer as a result of all of this, Jacob Roberts is FREE. I alternate between intense anger and sympathy for this child; really, that's all he was. I see his actions as immature, his suicide as cowardice, and I wonder what could have awakened this hunger for violence in him. Maybe no one will ever know.
Even as I type, I swallow back tears around a bitter lump in my throat and will myself not to vomit. I feel like crying but I'm not exactly sure why. In a way I feel guilty for having such emotion, as though I've been given a badge I didn't earn. But what should my response be? As much as I'd like to brush this off and go on with my life I simply can't so I put on a brave face and put one foot in front of the other.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
This afternoon, my husband took the boys to Mama Jo and Papa Pete's house so he could go for a run so I decided to run some errands. I needed to go to Tar-jé (Target for the less refined) for some laundry soap and other such exciting things. As I was setting out, I remembered that I'd also wanted to go to The Children's Place (TCP) to get some things for a little girl who's family our office "adopted." Perfect opportunity, as I did not have to drag the boys along and the deadline for the gifts is approaching. I thought, I'll go to the mall first, get it out of the way. It took me a while to put everything together at TCP, I was stressing over the shirts I'd chosen, worried that an eleven year-old girl might not like butterflies or cupcakes or whatever. I finished up, walked out of the store and saw the outdoor plaza. Which reminded me, LOFT was having a sale today, cable-knit sweaters for $15. Of course I had to check it out because that's a screamin' good deal! What if I hadn't seen that Facebook post about the sweaters on sale? What if I had left after going to TCP? What if I had just decided to go to Target first? Which begs the question, what if I had decided to go somewhere else in the mall before heading back to my car? But I was there at that moment and no amount of "whatifs" can change that or make me forget what I witnessed. Sure, I wasn't in the food court where the shooter opened fire, and I thank God for that. Let me tell you though, when a semi-automatic rifle is being fired in a huge, open area, it's hard to tell where the shots are coming from. It was surreal. One second I'm standing wih a couple in the elevator discussing window tinting and the next I'm frantically pushing the close door button on the elevator praying for God's protection. Here's how it went: I tend to choose the shortest possible distance when plotting my route, so that meant taking the glass elevator outside Nordstrom as opposed to he escalator in the store. I would have had to backtrack ever so slightly by riding the escalator (I'm lazy). As the doors to the elevator opened I stepped aside to allow the couple to exit before me -- I always defer to anyone else when opening doors, riding elevators, etc. Then I heard it, a series of loud pops. I was standing there, trying to place the sound but it wasn't until I saw people running that I was able to figure it out. Gunshots. I heard the man who was just on the elevator yell to his girlfriend/wife, "Run. RUN!" I immediately tried to think what my husband would do in this situation, as he always seems to know what to do under pressure, likely due in part to his military training. I stepped back on to the elevator and pressed the close door button. My first thought was to keep my finger on that button until danger had passed, but I decided it would be best not to pigeonhole myself in a glass elevator. I pressed myself into the metal panels and pressed "1." It was terrible. That sound and watching parents running with their babies in strollers. The panic on people's faces. I hurried into the store toward the shoe department where several employees and customers were standing in an alcove. Store security ran to the front entrance to shut the gate, yelling to customers to move away from the door. The next hour and a half passed slowly, with myself and many others trying to figure out via the Internet what had happened. Nordstrom employees brought around water and provided coffee for the hundred or so people hunkered down inside the store café. Finally they told us we would be evacuated and everyone was ushered the escalator and out a single exit. It wasn't until I was on the phone with my mom that I broke down. I completely fell apart. I'm not even sure how I made it home safely except by the grace of God. I was sobbing and gasping like a fish out of water as the gravity and realization of what had happened broke over me. The best laid plans. What I had intended as a quick trip stretched into hours, what felt like a lifetime. I cannot imagine the terror those people in the food court felt when that sick, depraved human being started shooting. Like me, he had a very specific mission though we may never know why. Life truly is so short and this for me is yet another reminder of just how little control I really have over it. I can despair and cry out, why God, why? But I know that despite the senseless violence He is in control. I don't know why God chose to put me in that place at that time but I believe my steps, my every millisecond on this earth, are divinely directed and that God has set me on this specific path for a specific purpose. I've had occasion to wonder why things are happening for me this way more than usual in the past month or so. I've yet to come up with an answer but I will continue to place my trust in Him.
Obviously "The Mess" is not my given name - it's Allison - but quite frankly it might as well be! I'm willing and ready to acknowledge the utter chaos that surrounds me, not only environmentally but physically, emotionally, financially, just about any "ally" you can think of. I look at my life and think, How in the world did this happen? The short answer is I don't know. But I do know it didn't happen overnight and I'm beginning to accept that it won't be reversed that quickly either. Change should be gradual, and permanent change even more so. Let's face it, human nature is to resist change because it tends to be difficult and uncomfortable. I'm committed to change, to create short-term discomfort for a better future. Intentional change and discomfort. And I feel in my heart of hearts that I'm not the only person in this world who struggles with these same things, who has felt despair with her situation and didn't know where to start. I'm sharing my journey with the hope that it will encourage you no matter where you find yourself on a scale of tidy to "Holy crap"; with the expectation that I likely will draw the wrath of some and the praise of others; and with the hope that sharing my transformation will help keep me accountable. So come on in and make yourself comfortable. Just let me clear a path so you can get to the couch . . .