Being The Gatekeeper

Something evil happened last week. I don’t need to tell you what it is. You know. You’ve seen the reports, and read the headlines and wept for strangers and clutched your children to your breast because of it.

This thing, this tragedy, maybe it’s entered your heart and your head. It’s entered mine. I have two children. Young children, school age children. Like probably all the parents reading, to keep my kids safe I would live, kill or die.

Right now, our kids need us to live. Presently, actively, and defiantly, we need to live with them and near them where they can witness the magnitude of life we have in us. In order to do this, we cannot be rendered incapacitated by horror and by the rerun of evil, a blue flickering against our pupils in an infinite loop.

We, all of us, must be active gatekeepers to our home and our head, and be terribly careful about what sordidity we allow to take up residence as houseguest. Do not read more. Do not watch more. You know enough. Tragedies are not rendered less tragic because we salivate over details. Sitting immobilized helps no one. Standing tall might. No matter how much you learn, you will never understand. You will never, ever understand. It is not yours to unlock the Pandora’s Box of why, it is yours to live strongly, now, for those you love.

Perhaps I am advocating ignorance. A cultivated, deliberate ignorance. What will lingering longer on this darkness serve, except to draw your own energy ever downward into the grey? It will not ease the grief and pain of parents and sisters and brothers and friends. It will not reweave the torn fabric of a family.

If you are compelled to action – political or humanitarian – take it. Grab your fiery muse and make your pain your bitch as you work for whatever change you feel might help. But do not allow talking heads to spoon feed you more death until the weight of that meat sits so leaden in your belly you can do little beyond clutch at your core and moan in the deep way of loss.

There are people right now who are praying desperately to God, asking him to please let them exchange places with their dead baby. Let it be me, let it be me, please let it be me instead. Their grief fills the world. They are alone and as untouchable, as rent and as numb in their despair as you would be. Your distant vigil of news cannot help them.

But you can turn your head up and toward the light. You can be the gatekeeper who refuses entry to the creeping fear. You can live joyfully now, when others cannot. And because you can, you must. Joyful, joyful like a child. It honors our dead to do so.


  1. Kenneth says

    Beautifully written and heartfelt, Erica.
    Being much older than you, long ago I adopted the habit of “less TV”. Yes we can all be transfixed for days, weeks on end about the Challenger disaster, Desert Storm, Michael Jackson, the latest school shooting or whatever. Why dwell on this stuff? So my wife and I don’t stay glued to the tube for the latest and greatest doom fixation.
    Stand strong for your kids, live a full, vibrant and joyous life. Be happy! That’s the best any of us can do, and it works.

  2. says

    I agree wholeheartedly.
    Filling our head with more endless TV images is not a good plan, especially if there are children in the house also taking in those looping montages. The studies are conclusive that our anxieties and fears escalate the more we watch this stuff…and as you say, it does nothing to help. In fact, it makes us worse and the world worse as a result.
    Instead, let us do something. It matters not what that something is. Simply do something good and fine and loving. Put the good out into the world, with your children, friends, strangers…every day.
    Choose love. Every single time.
    Thank you for your eloquent post.

  3. says

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve struggled with depression, and am learning to be more self-aware and careful with how I treat myself during the hard times. Then in the middle of this, Newtown. It wasn’t about being ignorant- it was about knowing my limits, knowing how much I could hear and still be a functional mother for the two little people at home. As it turned out, that wasn’t much. So I unplugged, logged off, and decided that I would insulate our home in happiness and love for that time.

  4. Debbie M. says

    Bless you, Erica. Fear is not the universe we want for our kids. Look for the joy everyday. Mr. Fred Rogers put it well when he said his mother always told him to look for the helpers in the world. No matter what the circumstance, there will be helpers. We can all be helpers.

  5. Shannon Wilson says

    So eloquently said Erika. I have protected myself from the media of this event, for my own tender well being at present. I know very well how this kind of news can impact me personally, and I am wise enough to know that I don’t have the capacity to do anything but fear and fret right now. Maybe it is a little different up here in Canada, as we are protected by laws and filtered media but plenty of my community has been swallowed up by this tragedy. I have managed to not read a single article, see any visuals and hear only snippets of conversation before retreating to a place of strength and trust which is crucial to my well being. Ignorance is certainly not what I am aiming for in my life, but I often struggle to see the goodness in humanity and THIS must be my focus in order for me to lift myself to a place of loving and being a world changer.

  6. LadyBanksia says

    Thank you, Erica. Well put.

    IMHO – After the first reporting of anything, the media has done its job. We now ‘know’ about ‘it’, whatever the day’s ‘it’ might be. We don’t need to ‘know’ about ‘it’ over and over and over again. I, for one, can’t handle the up-to-the-minute, yet endlessly repetitive, descriptions of the agony, the visuals of the grief, the intimate invasion of one’s personal suffering space… the kind of grief that renders one in-cognizant of time and space, faces and names, even the drawing in of one’s own breath. Its not, in any way, a case of back-turning, waving off with the hand… its exactly the opposite. Its that we care so much; but the ‘words’ to show it, to prove it to the world, just don’t exist. They are never enough.

    Now, we need to ‘do’. ‘Do’ whatever ‘good’ we can. Let ‘good’ take the shape of love, care, devotion, and mindful protection in our hearts and in our homes first. Then – go share it. Doesn’t matter where, because this entire world needs it. Next door, up the road, the opposite coast, or the other side of the planet. Go and embrace ‘good’ and use it to lift others up.

    Just my thoughts…

  7. says

    Being a generation older than you are, I have done pretty much what you so eloquently suggest for many years. But your words are brilliant. I shared this to my Facebook with this comment: “The wisest words I have seen on the you-know-what tragedy. I love this woman. ” Someone already shared it.

    Much love to you and yours in the Solstice/Renewal season. You are a shining light. Write a book!

  8. says

    thank you for your wise words. they are true. i was very stuck grieving for those parents, clutching my children and (very slightly) freaking out that this horrific thing happened to the most innocent in the safest of places. but i know.. i know.. it does no good to stay stuck. we must live.

  9. says

    Thanks, Erica. I needed this reminder. The tragedy hasn’t made me afraid or depressed, and we gave away our television 10 years ago so no TV news about it for me, but I have read a lot of articles this past week and it’s time to stop. Sadly, children and youth are killed daily throughout this country–not just in horrible mass tragedies–and lingering on any of that news isn’t helpful. Best to be fully present for our own precious kiddos and act in concrete ways to do what we can for the rest.

  10. Lisa Treat says

    Yes, yes and yes… Like several of your other posters, I am older and learned a long time ago about the wise advise you have given.

    Turn your t.v.s off and live your life with your beautiful children…

  11. Lisa says

    There’s a difference between ignorance and having sufficient information without the need to wallow in it.

    One of our residents came in today to talk to the Business Office Manager, and she said she was sad. She had various reasons, and one of them was talking about the things she was seeing over and over on the news. Both my boss and I said, without hesitation, “Turn it off and stop watching that. It’s not good for you.” I don’t watch the news as a general rule. (I make exceptions, like last year when the Tsunami hit Japan, I watched the breaking news all night long. But then, after the night was over, I stopped watching again.)

  12. says

    I sooooo agree with you here. When 173 people died in a bushfire in Australia a few years ago I went down the vortex of media coverage. I was desperate for news about people that I knew in the affected area. After a while, after the fire, after we knew that it was terrible, we then hear the details, the first hand accounts, the horror. It can be compelling but it can also be shattering. I had to switch off. I acknowledge that every person has an amazing or sorrowful or dramatic or tragic story to tell but I decided that I needed to *not* hear all those stories.

    I now have little children and stories about children being killed or assaulted are like a poison to me. I try to avoid the coverage if I can.

  13. Cynthia says

    Wow. You are such a powerful writer. Your imagery about the Tube made its pathology clear in a very pithy way. Thanks as always.
    And from the gardening paradise of the States, South Florida, (not!) we’re enjoying our green beans, Hakureis top and turnip, and 17 kinds of salad greens growing in 80 degree dryness, but putting up the hoops and plastic for a deep chill coming our way tonight. Life grows on.

  14. Nancy says

    This is so well put. Where I work we have a school for children ages 4-13. Our young principal made the decision not to observe the moment of silence yesterday because he didn’t want the children traumatized any more than they already have been. I totally agreed with his decision. I have 4 young grandchildren. It’s hard to be happy right now but must be for their sake.

  15. Kim says

    Erica–this is the most powerful piece of writing I have read in a very long time. Thank you. May joy and renewal fill your household this holiday season.

  16. David says

    Thank you for your writing. It imparts some wisdom to dampen the chaos of fear, horror, and anger that surround this tragedy.

  17. Christina says

    Bravo! As one gut-punched parent to another, well said: enough with the TV, the net, the endless dissection of events and the horrific slideshow of small faces and weeping parents. I came to your blog just today and I’m already a huge fan of your words, your ideas and your spirit…thanks

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