The Brood: Everything is Not Okay

By Holly Mohr

As Theresa has told us before, a late Brood is better than no Brood at all. And folks, the last two weeks + have been Broody. Holy hell.

The serotonin from last night’s run seems to have spiked my brain back up into levels where I can (attempt) to write something coherent, so here we are. The past several days have not suggested that as a foregone conclusion, however.

And while I can now attempt to write full sentences, the full, visceral reality of the past couple weeks eludes me. I could have given you some jagged, close-to-the-bone pain yesterday (had I been able to offer you something beyond frenetic bouts of crying and a glazed expression), but being in a functional space makes it somehow harder to share what’s (feeling) most deeply real. But I’ll give it a shot.

My work schedule is weird, as it includes many evenings and weekends. My downtime often comes at unexpected times, in that case.

Every time (lately) that I take off some “non-traditional” time during the week and go “off grid” (i.e. not checking my email all day long), some sort of tragedy or almost-tragedy seems to happen (or almost happen).

It’s starting to give me a complex. I’m tempted to take up some superstitious practice—if I check my email at least once an hour even if I’m not working, will that stave off the anguished but caring messages from my children’s assorted teachers, telling me (again) that there may or may not have been a shooting event near my children’s schools? Can I make it stop if I give up on trying to relax and resign myself to even more constant vigilance than I already obsessively employ?

Every Saint Patrick’s Day, I carve out some portion of the day to spend with my close friend. We wear at least some green, combine whatever Irish-ish food we’ve been inspired to share with each other that year, split a can of Guinness, and maybe read some John O’Donohue. It’s one of the most lowkey but joyful times of my year, and I look forward to it all year long.

We got together this year at my house, eating tofu shepherd’s pie and cabbage and mushroom toast. It was beautiful. My friend came with me to school pickup to collect my two youngest kids, both of us practically dancing onto the blacktop with joy.

I had not checked my email.

The curious and somber faces of the adults around us tipped me off that something was not right. On the way home, my third grader told us why.

At recess, the whole class was playing on the playground and heard gunshots. They all started running toward the school building instinctively. They have been trained (trained . . . for years) on what to do if they hear gunshots.

My eight-year-old knows what a gunshot sounds like. I’m not sure I do.

So far, my eight-year-old seems okay. I don’t know why. I don’t know for how long.

On Wednesday, I did not check my email until the evening. My youngest had a dentist appointment in our old neighborhood, clear across the city, and I knew enough to take off the whole morning and afternoon.

We had a beautiful morning. The sun was shining, we got to visit our favorite library, and she did a kickass job at the dentist. She opened her mouth wide at all the right times, answered in complete and articulate words and phrases, and wore the light-blocking sunglasses like a rockstar. The dentist even praised my three-year old’s brushing skills. I was so proud.

After that, we went for a simple but beautiful lunch together. The morning and early afternoon had been a success.

I was so confused when we got to school for the afternoon and the front gate was closed. I was even more unsettled when the school security guard followed us all the way to my preschooler’s classroom, looking at me with what seemed like suspicion, or at least exhaustion.

It was a frenetic day, and though the morning had been beautiful, getting it all done had taken some fancy footwork. Not only had I not checked my email, I had not noticed the voicemail. And though I had had the morning off, the evening was jam-packed with high-energy work events. I didn’t think much of it when I saw the number of the robocall from the District.

Right before leaving to pick my kids back up from school, I finally checked my voicemail and took a look at a couple of my emails.

And then I got nauseous.

The nausea merged with a headache when I got to the blacktop at school and heard more details. Two neighborhood schools, Catholicschools where we know people, had had active shooter “hoaxes” earlier that day. All the schools in the neighborhood were locked down “out of an abundance of caution.”

“Hoax” is a word that sounds vaguely sinister, but not as threatening as it is. It doesn’t do justice to the reality of the situation.

“Hoax” sounds like something stupid Eddie Haskell would orchestrate, or maybe Buzz from Home Alone. It just doesn’t quite capture the reality of a SWAT team, along with a host of paramedics, taking over the neighborhood next to the one we live in, kicking down the doors of our friends’ schools.

It doesn’t capture the very real terror and exhaustion thrust upon our kids’ teachers. Or upon our kids. Or even upon us.

I’m hearing a lot of people sighing in relief, saying things like, “Thank God everyone is okay! Thank God it wasn’t a real active shooter!” (This time).

But everyone is not okay. I don’t know anyone who is okay. And while it may not have been a real active shooter (this time), it was a real individual who chose to use 911 to thrust whole communities into panic and a very real experience of trauma. This time it wasn’t a shooter, but it was someone who meant harm. Grave harm. That happened.

As my oldest daughter, the one who absorbs all the feelings around her, collapsed into my arms in heaving, sobbing, terrified exhaustion Wednesday night, I held her, remembering the advice to not give advice when someone is so deeply upset. To just be there and let her be.

We talked about it all a little bit afterward, but there are only so many times you can remind your child that in the end, God will be All in All and we will arrive at the Parousia, or that even now, we are part of the work of building a better, more peaceful, more just, world. We have our breathing practices and our tea to calm our nervous systems to try to move out of fight or flight. But when you need those practices one too many times, you start to get unsettled that they’re necessary in the first place.

It’s just too much. Even this, when right now our bodies are safe and sound. It’s too much.

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