It’s been a big few days for pondering The End of the Word as We Know It. Observe:

–The (not so much) End of Days came and went.
–Final weekend with my Memphis BFFs, who are about to become my Denver BFFs.
–Oprah’s final episodes are an event. I think I cried less at my graduations…
–Plus the tornado, and the bad weather isn’t stopping.

It’s a lot to think about, and not just for overly emotional, thinky types like me. (The wider populace might not try to glean meaning out of, say, a trip to Walmart. To me there are potential stories everywhere.)

All the news about Joplin makes me remember being a kid, huddling in my hallway bathroom (we didn’t have a basement), and clutching favorite possessions:

–My Fisher-Price “boom box”– red, plastic & prized.
–Shadow, my stuffed cat, wearing a doll-sized nightshirt that matched one of mine. Plus our real cat, if I could wrangle her.
–My Bible (not for reading at the moment, but because it was Important and therefore should be saved).
–Plus various knickknacks inside whatever purse was my favorite that day.
–And probably a pair of clean underwear. Practical.

I’d gather all that stuff whenever the tornado sirens started to sound, hoping everything would be okay. And it always was, which is lucky I know.
Growing up in a Midwestern small town, regular tornado scares are nothing more than an inconvenience to evening TV in springtime. What happened in Joplin is the kind of thing we secretly fear while we huddle in our basements but never quite think will happen. Sometimes it does.

Watching all the facebook posts sending prayers or links to relief websites, I feel like I don’t know how to respond. I feel so disconnected from this, even though it’s not that many miles away from me. It’s a little hard to process having Al Roker broadcast live from not that many miles away.

I told myself that the appropriate response–no matter how emotionally detached from the tragedy I may feel–is to GIVE. Knowing there are 1000s of little girls in Joplin right now who won’t have the cute memories or happy ending to the tornado scare from my childhood. That’s the least I can do. (And you, too.)

The second thing I can do is greet everyone in my life with a little more GRACE & GRATITUDE. People go through hard times that never make the evening news, tornado-level devastation in their hearts that we may never see or know, so why not be a little nicer just in case. That sounds good.

Still I can’t quite settle down about it. Neat, tidy lessons established for myself or not.

The 5:00 news is telling me about a little boy who is missing. There may be 100s more. And more storms are coming tonight, so I can’t help but feel a little afraid it could happen again (because it could). The story we tell ourselves is that these things don’t happen to people we know (but they do).
And there’s a more-than-small anxiety growing in my heart that you can’t outsmart the bad stuff. You can’t out-buy or out-prepare or out-worry or out-protect against life.
(Tornadoes in my state. Heartache in my self. They both happen.)

I think “good kids” who live through tough times learn that it’s our job to keep it all under control. If I can be good enough at everything I try, then everything will be fine. I can outsmart sadness and disappointment. But that’s a game I can’t win.
Sadness doesn’t care how smart I am. Sadness just is.  Storms don’t care how much I worry. Storms just are.

Owning the right stuff or finding a boyfriend who will be “mine” or doing all the things I “should” do to be a good woman / daughter / writer / friend. Those things I cling to don’t protect me. And they aren’t supposed to.

I was thinking today about how many religions place some value in SURRENDER or LETTING GO. That’s the secret right? All we really ever have is what’s left behind when we let everything else go: which is, of course, everything we need.

Tragedies can be times to wake up to life. People come together and sacrifice for others. They vow to slow down and appreciate life, hug their families, more.

That list of Big Things from the weekend aren’t as unrelated as they may seem. I think they teach me one thing, to use Oprah’s words:

Live your best life.