I listen to a lot of audiobooks these days because I spend an absurd amount of time sitting in traffic. I like mostly non-fiction sprinkled with the occasional mystery/thriller for the car. One of my favorites has been The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. In it he states he thinks it's a little odd we celebrate birthdays since our birth into this world is the beginning of pain. But of course, the book is about being happy despite that.
I was thinking about the book last night when Sarah woke up crying, squirming in pain from a truculent diaper rash. She was exhausted, though, and as soon as I picked her up she stopped crying and nuzzled into my shoulder. It's true there is a lot of pain in life - diaper rashes, teething, injury, sickness, heartache... but I still think being born into this life is something worth celebrating. Of course my opinion about it is informed only by my life as a middle class white person, born into a loving family in a prosperous country...my pain has been minimal compared to many. But when I remember the things that have hurt me, I don't remember the actual pain of it, I remember how whenever I've been in pain, the people who love me have comforted me. Like having someone there to pick you up and hold you when your butt stings.
Were I the parent of one of those kids that were gunned down at VA Tech on Monday, or worse, the parent of the kid that did it, I'm not sure the Dalai Lama's book would help right now. I'm not sure anything would. It's my home state. Lots of my friends went to Va Tech, it's such a familiar place, so the news would've been close to home no matter what. But now that I'm a mother, for some reason, it's like the terrible things that happen to anyone's children are happening to mine. Because they could. At any moment, something horrible like that could happen. I can't even hear about this story right now without crying.
I suppose the fact that I feel so inextricably linked to all those families should be where I find the happiness. To know that if that had happened to my child people all over the world who heard about it would take it personally and would mourn with me, if only a little. A feeling of unity with my fellow man is scarcely enough to go on, though. It's a wonder I'm even willing to let my kids out of my sight.