From the very beginning, 2012 proved to be a challenging year. Although I often wonder whether we become more sensitive or emotionally “thin-skinned” as we age (I certainly feel that I have), I believe this year was especially tough for people of all ages regardless of race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc. These days, even watching a boxing match, something I did regularly during my early to mid-twenties, has become markedly difficult. While others jump and cheer as a fighter goes down semiconscious, I turn away in anguish and find myself overwhelmed by feelings of pity and sorrow for the fighter, his family and all those who love and care for him. A minor case of overactive empathy heightened by my work with cancer patients, I guess.
Given the many tragedies that took place this year – from crippling natural disasters, to ruthless face-to-face and cyber bullying, to unspeakable gun killings – the anguish has been significant. Unlike previous years, however, the emotion has remained with me far longer this time around, keeping my soul raw and tender day after day like muscle tissue after an intensely brutal workout. Similar in that process, I can sense the pain strengthening my soul and humanizing me further, putting things in perspective with every aching second that passes.
Two days after the Newtown, CT tragedy, my sister called me. Her purse had just been stolen out of her car and she was an emotional wreck. Although, of course, I genuinely sympathized with her, my mental and emotional affliction paled in comparison to what I was still feeling for the 26 innocent lives lost in Newtown, for the many moms and dads and brothers and sisters and daughters and sons and friends who were suffering a far greater loss. A stolen purse seemed like such a trivial inconvenience in comparison.
Since then, my soul has continued trying to slowly rebuild itself, trying to find deeper meaning and purpose in the tragedies endured. Despite the intense sadness that lingers, I choose to focus on the many acts of kindness that also take place in the world and I make every effort to put my own life in perspective, to relish the subtleties that bring me joy and minimize the attention I pay to trivialities. I also pray that all those hearts hurting as a result of a tragedy, whether publicized or not, may soon find solace and a glimmer of hope, that they may quickly come upon the realization that, despite it all, life can still be beautiful and worth living. In that spirit, I share this amazing compilation video by Jean-Louis Nguyen which highlights many of those things lived throughout 2012 that attest to our resiliency as humans, our capacity to feel compassion and our ability to come together both in the face of tragedy and sadness as well as in miracles and joy.
The box of tissues, please. :’)