A New Year – A New Approach

2012 was a year of personal challenges and growth for me. Beginning toward the end of 2011 and into 2012, I experienced several family deaths. These losses included three uncles, two aunts, a young cousin, my mother, and my dog. I also transitioned through two job situations before finding a freelance writing gig. In all of these situations, I was in a reactionary mode. I did not have control over how many of these events unfolded. This sense of reaction, as opposed to creating action, continued throughout the year. I, as with most of our country, also became witness to many events in our society. The role of passive observer became almost unbearable at times.

As a resident of Colorado, I watched in numbed horror as the events of the Aurora theater shooting were revealed. Another local tragedy was the abduction and murder of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway. What compounded the shock of this incident was the revelation this horrendous crime was committed by a 17-year-old male. Coloradoans also experienced an unprecedented year of wildfires. These wildfires were covered extensively on our local media outlets; we didn’t need to turn on our televisions to become aware of these fires because the hazy skies and smell of smoke permeated the region.

As a nation, we watched the fury of Hurricane Sandy as the storm slammed into the East Coast. This single storm event impacted so many lives in such a short period of time. Even with advanced warning, we were reminded at how vulnerable our coastal areas are to the force of Mother Nature. High winds, storm surge, flooding, rain, and even snow, crippled the East Coast. It will take years to reclaim what Sandy took in a matter of one day.

There were many incidents of mass shootings in 2012 but I think we have all realized that a line was crossed with the Sandy Hook Elementary and Webster, New York incidents. The mass murder of innocent, young children and dedicated teaching professionals as well as the ambush of firefighters assaulted all sense of decency and made me (and many others) question the course of humanity. We now live with the reality that our most vulnerable and our most heroic citizens have become targets of terror and madness. I admit, as the events of Sandy Hook were unfolding, I literally began to cry. As a mother, as a woman, as a human being – I mourned the loss of these sweet children; these were children that I did not personally know and yet I openly wept for them.

I began this year feeling overwhelmed and sad. Yes, sad. I was beyond feeling anxious, frightened, or upset. I am usually an upbeat, positive person – deep sadness is rather foreign to me. I refuse to believe it is depression in the clinical sense. Why? The losses I have experienced as well as bearing witness to these recent national and world events should make me feel sad. So, I made a point to embrace the sadness – I cried and I mourned. I felt these emotions deeply and fully. I now realize that it is time for me to pull myself out of this sadness and begin to process emotions, such as joy, happiness, and contentment. I still miss those that I have lost. I am still aware that these mass shootings have happened because the gun control debate is heating up across this country. There are actions I can take, though, to honor the memories of my family members I have lost. I can make donations to charitable organizations in their memory and I can take time to fondly remember the good times I shared my life with them.

I can also become active in my own political stance with increasing gun control regulations. I completely respect the Constitution of the United States. As a U.S. citizen, I am proud for the ideals the Constitution guarantees its citizens. Of course, we truly have not yet met all these ideals because we live in a country that does not allow marital rights to all of our citizens. We are well on the way to achieving this reality but there is still a stretch of road ahead of us.

I ask myself why do citizens need access to military-grade weapons with large magazines of bullets? When our forefathers wrote the Constitution, the only firearm weapons available were single-shot muskets. These men could not imagine the damage our current weapons can inflict. Twenty children and six adults were executed in under a half-hour of time in Newtown, CT. James Holmes entered the Aurora theater at 12:38 a.m. and was apprehended by police at 12:45 a.m. In those seven minutes, he killed twelve people and injured fifty-eight people.

I have spent time mourning, reacting, to life events around me. To shake me out of this sadness, I need to be pro-active and vocal about situations where my voice matters. I need to be the change I want to see in this world or, at least, my little neck of this world. Ideally, we should all be willing to become more active in making positive change in our society. We can help with bolstering our economy by making wise financial choices.  We can make our society safe for ourselves and our children. We do need to achieve equality for all – honoring the promise our forefathers wrote in the Constitution. Above all, we need to speak civilly with each other. We can encourage lively debate – challenging each other’s views – yet still maintain a high level of respect for each other.

I am finding my voice. I am going to blog more often. I am going to comment online more often. I am going to write to the editors of newspapers and publications. More importantly, though, I want to carefully listen to what others are saying. I may not agree with their stances on issues but I will afford them the respect I would like to see in return for my own opinions and my viewpoint.

I am going to focus on a new approach for this new year. This is the year for me to embrace more action and less reaction; decrease my sadness and increase my compassion. I am going to try to make a positive impact in my life and in the world around me.

Happy 2013! What are your reflections on this past year – 2012? What do you want to see happening in your life this upcoming year? How are you going to make a positive impact in your community? Feel free to share.