Thestrals and the Holidays.

I loved the Harry Potter books. I ALWAYS pre-ordered the next in the series, and every year, I’d “prepare” for the next book by re-reading the prior version at the beach down the Cape, where my aunt and uncle, my godparents, used to vacation.

It was one of my favorite traditions.

Books are my escape. When I read a good work of fiction, I’m am never aware of reading the words. I see it happen, in my head. Coming out of a book for me is akin to being woken up from a deep dream; it takes me a lot of time to shake off the experience of the book and come back into my real life.

Getting unbroken time to read, these days, is rare.

So I have such fond memories being on the beach, with the white noise of the waves, the salty tang of the ocean on my tongue, immersed in a whole other world – it was one of my favorite places to be.

And it was where I read in horror as Cedric Diggory died.

And then, a summer later, Harry could suddenly see the creatures that pulled the carriages from the train station to Hogwarts.

Thestrals, Luna Lovegood tells him. He’s not crazy – only people who have seen death can see them.*

* * * * * *

I started my first blog in 2006, and I found a community of women out there who were just like me. Back then it felt like we were all connected; I met some of the people who have become my soul sisters.

And I KNOW things change, but lately I feel like everything you put online has to be perfect; the perfect recipe, the perfect Elf on the Shelf setup, the perfectly staged selfie.**

There’s so many voices out there, so many people showing off how perfect their efforts are… it can be so isolating to be surrounded by Perfect sometimes.

* * * * * *

For a lot of years, I justified not allowing myself to grieve over my cousin’s suicide. Because, I intellectualized, my grief wasn’t as valid as my aunt’s, or my cousins’ – they lost a daughter, a sister. I felt like I didn’t have any right to attach myself to her death because my pain was nowhere CLOSE to theirs.

I played the pain olympics a lot, too, when we were trying to have a baby. At first, I’d say, at least we hadn’t been trying for 2 years – wow, that’s a long time! And then, when we were going on year three, I’d tell myself we had it good because at least I didn’t lose babies. And then, when I lost babies, I told myself that at least we had Owen, because wow, there were so many people who wanted a baby and didn’t get one.

It’s taken me a really long time – a lot of pain, a lot of struggle, and finally a lot of accepting the validity of my emotions – to realize this.

Death and loss comes in all different forms.

Not just losing people to death – like Harry did with Cedric, or my aunt and cousins did with their daughter and sister, or I did with pregnancies.

Loss can be also about the death of your dreams, too. Losing the dream of getting married, or being a mom someday, or having as many children as you dreamed of, or saving the world, or making a difference in someone’s life, or playing basketball for Duke, or being rich and famous… it’s loss, no matter what the dream is.

Loss is loss. Period.

* * * * * *

Christmas is supposed to be the best wonderful time of the year – the songs say so. The pictures on Facebook say so. The stores tell you buying more, more, MORE will make Christmas the best time of the year. I feel like I’m surrounded by all this noise – perfect people doing perfect things and having perfect Christmases.

I should be, too.

And, of course, I AM enjoying my Christmas season. I love writing my cards out, listening to holiday music, relaxing in front of the tree with eggnog, playing Santa, seeing family and friends and spreading the proverbial Christmas cheer. I found the VERY BEST version of a Christmas song (which: I didn’t actually like this song until I listened to these guys do it. Go check it out – seriously amazing. I’ve been listening this on repeat on a daily basis).

But it’s NOT perfect. There’s also loss in there, too. I miss my aunt, and I grieve that it’s been almost 20 years since we lost Amy, and I feel the sting of broken dreams when I hang up three stockings on our bannister, instead of the four we had hoped for.

So for me, what I see on social media perpetuates this idea that maybe I am the only one who feels this way. Because around me so many people are baking cookies, decorating gingerbread houses, and playing Santa far better than I am. Happy, HAPPY! my Facebook feed screams at me when I log in. HAPPPPPPPYYYYYYYYYY!!! NOW WITH EXTRA SMILEY FACE EMOTICONS!

It’s not until I have conversations with people or read blogs that I hear about the loss, too. The friend who is still mourning the loss of his mother. The friend living childfree who is reminded at Christmas that she wanted a very different experience. The friend with a newborn who is mourning that nursing didn’t go the way she had wanted. The friend dealing with uncertainty of an IVF cycle and whether she’ll make her son a sibling. The friend who struggles every year with buying presents because money is hard to come by. The acquaintance whose 5 year old daughter with cancer doesn’t have much time left with them. The parents who lost their children a year ago to devastating violence at the elementary school. The victims of the Boston marathon bombings, who lost their old way of life and are having to forge a new life for themselves.

It’s not just me.

Loss is everywhere.

And that’s what we need this Christmas – a reminder.

We’re all in this Being Human thing together. What we see on social media is life PR – life the way we WANT it to be. But real life is messy and chaotic and full of complications like loss and grief.

So for those of you who are struggling with this holiday season – for whatever reason – and feel like you’re alone?

You’re not crazy.

I see the thestrals too.

*I never understood this. Didn’t Harry see his mom die in front of him when he was a baby? So why couldn’t he ALWAYS see the thestrals? Probably me taking things too literally – and yes, I’m aware that it is a work of fiction that has to do with wizards and witches, so there IS some relinquishing of reality which must go on. But still.

**My good friend Mel wrote about this too. Worth a read.

Advertisements

Perspectives.

Mea Culpa.

As some readers pointed out on yesterday’s post, I had my facts wrong.

Fact: Jerry Sandusky retired from Penn State in 1999, but retained all access to the facilities for his work with Second Mile. Therefore in 2002, he had no real authorization over Sandusky.

Also fact: in 2002, when Joe Paterno learned in 2002 that his then-assistant Jerry Sandusky had been seen sexually assaulting a child in the football team’s showers, he directed the witness to go to the athletic director, and the police were never contacted.

________________________

I am not a journalist. I’m just a mom and a blogger.

But I do like to approach blogging THOUGHTFULLY. Yesterday’s post was from the gut, a product of a sleepless night of worrying how I was going to protect my completely sports-obsessed son from people like Jerry Sandusky. I didn’t write the post for me… I wanted to share it. So I shared my post with my friends on Facebook. Who then shared with their friends. And so on and so forth.

Wow.

The internet is a really big place, as it turns out.

So I’ve spent the past 24 hours looking at this from a bunch of different perspectives. Because it is my responsibility, as a blogger, to understand that there are perspectives out there which differ from my own.

So.

From the Penn State student perspective, there’s a LOT of media sensationalizing. Joe Pa looks like a convenient scapegoat; there were a NUMBER of people that dropped the ball, including Mike McQueary, Tim Curley, and Gary Shultz. That’s true.

From Joe Paterno’s perspective, he had no authority over Sandusky, and he reported what he knew to his boss as soon as he heard about it. Maybe he didn’t KNOW how far it had gone, maybe he should have done more. But maybe he didn’t know.

________________________

I don’t know.

No matter how I think about it, I can’t rid myself of the unease whenever I think of the people who didn’t do anything to help that poor 10 year old boy back in 2002.

Apparently I can really only see through my own worldview, the lenses of my own experience.

I see a 10 year old boy abused by a guy who took advantage of his position of power. And I see a bunch of other guys that did NOTHING to stop him.

And because they didn’t stop him, I see more victims, and more pain, and more abuse.

This isn’t about football . (Though I will confess that in my more illogical moments, I have acknowledged a thought that I do not want my son to play football.)

It’s about doing the right thing, and making sure that you are aware of others and your impact of actions – or nonactions, as this case shows – on someone else. It’s taking RESPONSIBILITY and helping people who aren’t in a position to help themselves.

There were a number of people who could have helped that kid; and no one stepped up. Maybe they didn’t really know. But I have a really hard time imagining that’s the truth. I think they DID know, and they were too afraid of challenging the status quo. So they let a little boy who deserved SO MUCH MORE fall along the wayside.

And it breaks my heart.

So maybe I DID generalize in my last post. Maybe the facts will show that Joe Pa didn’t know the extent of the abuse, and he was scapegoated, and should have been able to finish out his tenure at Penn State without being sacked. Maybe the students of Penn State are RIGHT to protest his firing, because it wasn’t the right decision. Maybe McQueary should have gone instead.

But at the end of the day, all I’m left with is the fact that those men – all of them – were in a position of power. Where it should have been their responsibility to help that little boy. And for reasons unknown, no one did anything.

And that’s not okay in my book.

An Open Letter.

Dear Penn State Students:

It’s hard for me to admit that I’m removed from my college years. Because honestly, in my head, I was an undergrad maybe 5 years ago.

In real life, okay, yeah, it was 15.

But. In college, I was pretty involved with the athletic department at my college. You don’t play in one of the best marching bands in the country without being into the football team. We were no Penn State – just a little Division 1-AA team – but that didn’t bother us. We showed up at 7am on the practice fields on Saturday mornings, we sat in the stands and played our fight song, we partied after the games.

And we rallied. We rallied against the administration when they wanted to raise our annual student fees. We staged sit ins.

We raged against the machine; fought for our own empowerment, free speech, the power to CHOOSE the lives we wanted to live.

Thing is.

I’ve been following the story about Jerry Sandusky and what he did to countless young boys. And I’ve read about Joe Paterno’s limited involvement in the case. His non action.

And I GET that he’s had 46 years at Penn State and countless winning seasons. He’s coached generations of students. He’s a lynchpin at Penn State.

But  I have to admit, when I read a story like this, I can’t really understand.

Because. Back in 2002, Joe Paterno got a call from a graduate assistant, who actually witnessed Jerry Sandusky having anal intercourse with a 10 year old boy.

And Joe didn’t fire Jerry Sandusky. He didn’t even report it to the POLICE. He, instead, called his boss, and reported that someone had reported that Jerry was “fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a boy.”

Because, you know, it makes it less of a crime.

His inaction? Made it so that more boys were abused.

At the very best, he turned a blind eye to a man who hurt a lot of people.

At the very worst, he aided and abetted a predator.

I know it’s hard to imagine that the administration at Penn State is doing the right thing here by firing him instead of letting him retire at the end of the season. They are the Bad Guys, the folks who want to charge you more money and enforce rules over how you live your life while at the university. I get it.

But too, I know this.

There will be a day, in the not-too-distant future. Where you’ll remember your college days as if it were only a couple of years ago. And you’ll read some news story about a guy who abused kids somewhere else, and where someone who had the power to stop him did nothing.

And you’ll go into your own kid’s room – the one who’s completely sports-obsessed. And you’ll kiss his cheek while he sleeps and feel a deep-seated rage against a person who takes advantage of a child. Because, as you watch your son sleep, you realize you have the capacity to kill someone who would hurt him.

And you’ll leave his room, and start a halting conversation with your spouse about age-appropriate ways to teach your kid how to ask for help when someone he trusts does something which makes him uncomfortable.

And your heart will break when you think of the other little boys who were not so lucky.

And then you’ll think back to the rioting you did in support of Joe Paterno back when you were in college.

And you’ll finally understand.