I have this heaviness in my heart tonight. I think the last time I felt like this was when I had to transfer my mother from her apartment in the assisted living facility where she had been living, to the Alzheimer's unit because she needed more care and assistance than they could provide where she had been living.
It wasn't the transfer so much that caused the heaviness, as it was my mother's response to the transfer. She stood in the hallway of the Alzheimer's unit, supported by her walker, and as they moved her furniture into her new room, she screamed at me, her face contorted into an agonized caricature of the mother I knew, tears pouring down her face, "What right do you have to do this to me? Who said you could make this decision without my permission? You're a horrible daughter and I hate you."
I knew my mother didn't really mean what she said; that her words and emotions were a result of her mental confusion and cognitive impairment. But it was a difficult experience nonetheless, for so many reasons and on so many levels. I rarely think of it anymore, but when I do, it's never without that heaviness in my heart.
So what happened today that left me feeling so much like I felt that night? Believe it or not, I went to the movies. I saw Twelve Years a Slave and when I left the theater, I was so overwhelmed by my feelings, I had difficulty speaking. It was quite a while before normal conversation wasn't an effort.
I knew the movie wouldn't be an easy one to watch, but I wasn't prepared for the depth of my response. In fact, it's because this feeling in my chest is still so strong, so palpable, so present, that I decided I had to write about it.
If you haven't seen the movie, it's based on a true story about a black man, a free man, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery ( I believe it was 1841.), and remained a slave for twelve years, before he was freed and was able to return to his family.
All I could think about as I watched the movie (and sometimes I had to cover my eyes, because I just couldn't watch), was how could one human being do that to another? And although slavery doesn't exist in this country anymore, atrocities just as terrible as what were enacted on that screen, take place every day somewhere on this planet.
I don't know why it took that movie to make me think about that, or why, now, that movie touched me at such a deep level of raw emotion. I've certainly seen similar depictions of inhumane treatment before, and been affected by what I saw, but I've never been this affected.
Maybe it's because I'm so much more aware now of how connected we each are to one another, and how each action that we take against or for another, impacts not only that one person, but all of us on some level, known or not. What I'm feeling tonight is making me reconsider my own way of being in the world, and whether or not I'm truly doing my best when it comes to my own interactions with others.
I can't personally stop the wars, or end hunger, or provide every person who needs a place to sleep a warm bed, but I can be more accountable, more responsible, for my own actions. I can make a bigger effort to come from a place of love, a place of caring, a place of recognizing the importance and value of every human being that crosses my path and do my best to treat each of them the way that I would like to be treated, with dignity and respect.
That doesn't seem like much in the grand scheme of things, does it? But if we all did that, just that, every one of us, every day? Wow! Just imagine what a different place this world would be!