opinion

'I'm an Aussie mum. But my 8-year-old son goes to school in the US.'

This post mentions violence and could be triggering for some.

I woke up on Wednesday morning and thankfully prioritised my meditation practice and some yoga.

Once I finished that, I lunged for my phone and started to do what I do best... scrolling. 

On my social media I saw cute photos and videos of dance crazes that made me smile. But then a news story stopped me in my tracks: 

'Tragic loss of 19 kids and 2 teachers in Uvalde, Texas school shooting.'

At first, I'll admit, I continued scrolling, thinking, 'this only happens in America.'

But then I froze. Because, despite the fact that I'm a mum who lives in Australia - my eight-year-old son goes to school in America.

Arizona, not Texas, thankfully.

But as that sunk in, and I continued to scroll, I realised - this was a big deal.

An 18-year-old went into a school and aimed his gun and/or rifle at the bodies of children and their teachers. Typing this sentence drains life out of my body, and I don’t know what to do. 

Once I connect with the humane side of me that feels the pain of ‘others’, I realise my initial instinct had been to disassociate - a process where we disconnect from our thoughts, feelings, memories, behaviours and sometimes we even separate from our identities. We do this to survive, to stay in our bodies, to continue to operate without falling apart. I empathise with those of us that choose this mechanism.

Now, thinking of my son, realising the magnitude of this, I couldn't disassociate. I felt deeply unsettled. 

As I mentioned, my son currently lives in the USA. I am consciously co-parenting with his father and after seven years of being his primary and dominant parent in Australia; he went to live with his dad in Arizona for a little while. 

My brain did flips and somersaults as it tried to rearrange the emotions I should be feeling versus the emotions I was actually feeling.

Relief he wasn’t in Texas, shame for thinking I’m glad it wasn’t him, sadness for the loss of those lives, and frustration at US gun laws.

And yet my thoughts and words felt and feel hollow. 

I recently shared a stage with Australian Paralympian Gold Medallist Kurt Fearnley as part of the PwC Academy event called ‘The Outside’. Kurt shared his inspiring stories of resilience, triumphs and challenges alike, but the part that struck me the most was that of his shame story. The one that has him live in a country and world that is unequal to the disabled, despite the percentage of makeup they have in society and the world. He shared that until everyone, regardless of ability, shared his shame, the world will remain unequal.

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I can’t get that out of my head. Am I only likely to care enough about changing unjust situations if I feel the same pain and shame as others?

I found myself doing the most ghastly thing possible: I started to think of my son playing with his friends in the school playground. I imagined a person who is of an unsound mind or personified evil deciding to start spraying ammunition... I literally choked at the thought of this. My safety net and I am assuming the safety net of others is NOT to think about it.

Until we have to...

This is one culture we have to change. Let’s not wait till a matter affects us directly; violence, gun crime, child sexual abuse, sexual assault, murder, racism, homophobia… the list goes on.

We have got to stir the uncomfortable pot and get comfortable with it because Kurt is right, until we feel the pain, and I mean the ‘real’ pain of others, we will do nothing and keep scrolling.

What needs to change in your life? In your country? In the world?

These might seem like grandiose questions, but if we do not ask them now and act on them NOW, history will repeat itself over and over again.

Yes, Australia and NZ are a shining example of reforming gun laws and it may appear simple to shout this at the top of our lungs to the American people. But this is not helpful.

Listen to Mamamia's daily news podcast, The Quicky. Post continues after podcast.

Sending love to those whose lives were cut short in Texas and to those lives lost that don’t make it to the news.

You can watch Yemi’s TEDx talk on Trauma here.

If you, or a young person you know, are struggling with symptoms of mental illness, please contact your local headspace centre here or chat to them online, here. If you are over the age of 25 and suffering from symptoms of mental illness, please contact your local GP for a Mental Health Assessment Plan or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

Feature Image: Supplied.