I slept badly all last week, mainly because I felt called to wake around 2 or 3 am PST in order to “help” Garbiñe Muguruza, my most beloved female tennis player, win the French Open. I don’t even have a TV, never mind the Tennis Channel, so I did this by watching the scores of Rounds 1, 2, and 3 on my phone.

Garbiñe (who last year beat Serena Williams to win the tournament) went out Saturday in the 4th Round. The victor was shown in the pumped-fist, teeth-bared, king-of-the-jungle pose that has become de rigueur for sports “heroes” in our culture of aggression and violence.

Somehow the whole event depressed me way more than is rational.

Then yesterday, on the elliptical at the gym, I burst into tears: the terror in London, our withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, the fact that North Korea may lob a nuclear weapon over to San Francisco or LA any minute, a recent gushing NYT piece about a guy whose last act on earth was to commit suicide–this is now called “choreographed death” and is of course thoroughly endorsed and praised by mainstream culture.

It feels as if the whole world were sickening and dying. Still, nothing is solved or helped, I need to remind myself, by name-calling, snarkiness, or making the other into “the enemy.”

Real activism and real resistance take place in the innermost chambers of the heart.  That is where the resolve forms as to how to order our daily lives, actions, thoughts. That is where I, for one, ask for mercy for my own failings, sorrow with the suffering at the core of the world, hunger for righteousness, truth, and beauty: natural, artistic, moral.

That is where I know that if I were told I would die next week I would go on doing exactly what I do already. Pray, write, work in the garden, practice the piano, sit down face to face, one human being to another, with family, friends, fellow recovering alcoholics, strangers passing through. Listen. Participate. Give of my substance. Respond.

This morning’s NYT carried an article about a ballet dancer, Gray Davis, 31, who jumped down onto the subway tracks over the weekend to rescue a homeless man who’d been pushed off the platform. He was leaving the theater with his mother and his wife, also a dancer, after seeing her perform. “At first I waited for somebody else to jump down there. People were screaming to get help. But nobody jumped down. So I jumped down.”

31 years old. Works for American Ballet Theater. Probably a bit more concerned about preserving his body than most.

“The light shines in darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” That made me weep, too.

3 Replies to “HEROES”

  1. Anonymous says: Reply

    I discovered you this morning as I was searching for books about surviving cancer. (I am currently awaiting the result of a biopsy, and now my doctor wants another body part biopsied.) After reading your Amazon author's bio and several reviews of your books, and now reading this post, I am already a fan.

    I, too, am a recovered alcoholic. (I know the typical AAer says "recovering", not "recovered". My last drink was January 14, 1990. I know better than to believe that I could never slip again. But in the meantime, I consider myself recovered, by the grace of God.)

    As someone who is also in recovery from Developmental, or Complex PTSD, I have learned that I can only take the news in small doses. If it bleeds, it leads, and my traumatized brain does not need that. Ignorance can be bliss! However, here in beautiful New Mexico where I now live, there is a special ops military base a few miles from our house. My stepdaughter works there. A bombing/gunnery range is located a few miles away in the opposite direction. A railroad runs through our town, and we sometimes see mile-long trains rumbling through loaded with nothing but tanks and other lethal looking military equipment. It's not easy to keep one's head comfortably buried in the sand, with all that is going on around us. Especially when the ground is shaking and our eardrums are vibrating from "war games" on the range.

    Like you, after years of stumbling in the dark, I became a Christ follower later in life. When all around me is terror, hatred, pain, fear, and strife, His perfect goodness, wisdom, power, mercy, and love keeps my heart in peace. Christ said that in the world we will have tribulations, but we can be of good cheer if we remember that He has overcome the world! (I'm telling this to myself, not just you.)

    I have downloaded the samples of your books on my Kindle, which I will read as soon as I get the chance. I, too, am writing a memoir… or two… or three. Mine are about living with PTSD and being married to a combat veteran of Vietnam who is now on disability for PTSD. My story is also about how I survived two years in a notorious state insane asylum as a teenager in the 1960s, one of those massive Gothic human warehouses that has since been closed and torn down. Then I went on to become a nurse, elected class president of my nursing school class, I wrote a novel (under a different pen name) that was published years ago, I was on the Oprah Winfrey Show in May 2000, and today I have a granddaughter in Harvard University's Social Anthropology graduate program…. despite all the eugenics proponents who advise anyone who has ever been diagnosed with schizophrenia to never have kids.

    Life is very hard. Life is also incredibly amazingly awesomely beautiful!

    Lynda Lee aka @LadyQuixote, author of A Blog About Healing From PTSD on WordPress. (I kept trying to sign in using my WP ID, but it wasn't working. Maybe because of the limitations of my Kindle tablet browser?)

  2. Oh, Heather, you couldn't have articulated my own feelings about the world more accurately. It does make one want to weep! But yes, each day there are gardens, bright air, small animals, unexpected stunning acts of kindness…..and, yes, heroes—all manifestations of God's abiding presence. Please keep writing.

  3. Heather, I love your commentaries because you find God's love in every situation. Two years ago while vacationing, I read "Stumble" several times over because I enjoyed it so much I wanted to memorize each story. I loved the story of your car breaking down in the desert in the middle of no man's land, being stuck in a motel waiting for your car to be fixed and happening upon a book store. I read that story several times laughing and hoping that would not happen to me on my drive home that summer. Well, on my way home driving from Seattle to Socal my car broke down. Worst case scenario, a woman traveling alone, car breaking down night on the 5, a total freak out. But, I kept you in the back of my mind. I found wonderfully helpful employees at the motel I stayed at. A tow truck driver who talked to me about his desert storm experience and had an interesting take on life. A Toyota dealership that put me at the head of the line, and the line was long, because I am a teacher and they value teachers. My time with you laid the ground work for a very interesting experience and an appreciation of the human condition. ps I bought a new car.


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