Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

March 21, 2011

Caught in the Headlights

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 12:23 am
Tags: , , , , ,

This has been a difficult week.  The news from Japan, earthquake, tsunami, nuclear fallout, is devastating.  So many are lost, and so many are suffering.  The news from Israel, a family brutally murdered, is so painful.  I see people glued to the news and super-focused on every bulletin.  At the same time the world seemed so dangerous and unpredictable, our family was blessed with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate, the engagement of our second son.  Last night, driving home in the dark and noticing how my headlights lit up various sections of road, I thought about how, in the past few days I’ve shifted my focus between the pain of the larger world, and our personal joy.

                There are actually specific ratchet wrenches and other tools to adjust car headlights.  If headlights focus in different directions, or at uneven levels, your ability to drive safely is impacted.  But to reach the place under the hood that allows you to adjust the focus of the lights often requires a bit of contortions and a ratchet wrench with an elongated handle.  Many car owner manuals urge drivers to check their headlight adjustment, which can get out of whack after a traumatic event, or even just from driving over life’s typical, daily bumps.

                I noticed myself avoiding newspapers and newscasts this week.  My car radio, usually on all news, has remained on the classical music station.  It took a few days to recognize the pattern.  It’s like after 9/11 when I had to turn off the news, and avoid the reminders.  There were moments this week, when the same numbness returned, along with the wish that it was all a bad dream.

                But because of the amazing personal event of a young couple so in love, and so committed to each other, I was able to shift my focus this week.  I could think about their smiles and excitement, and occupy my mind with plans for celebrations.  I experienced some guilty moments . . . how could I focus on my family’s blessings, when so many are in mourning?   But I also felt, most days, how could I not?  Those of us looking on, when terror or tragedy strikes, are responsible to unselfishly do all we can to lessen others’ suffering.  Experiencing it from the sidelines, we also have to find a balance between our sadness and empathic concern, and the optimism or joy in our own lives that will help us move forward

                Much of the work on resilience and recovery after trauma emphasizes the role that thinking ahead, and focusing on what you can control and do plays in our healthy adjustment.  Of course, it is not healthy to deny or ignore life’s tragedies.  It’s a bit like driving on darkened roads in deer country.  You have to look at the road illuminated by your headlights, but also beware of what might dart out from the shadows.  If our eyes get too drawn to the darkness on the side of the road, we can lose our way.

                So, even as the pictures and worries continue to fill the air waves, I am using my tools to adjust my focus.  I feel blessed to have an opportunity to celebrate, and a family with which to share such wondrous times, keeping my attention on hopeful futures and happy endings.  With full knowlege that terrorism, natural disasters, and all types of darkness may always wait in the shadows, I choose to shine my light forward.


1 Comment »

  1. Mazel tov! It’s so nice to have something wonderful to focus on in times when everything seems lost. I am so happy for you.
    I just wanted to take this opportunity to tell you how much I enjoy your posts. I look forward to reading them all, and I feel like I have gained valuable information (‘tools’ to deal with life, if you will) each and every time.
    Deena Shapiro

    Comment by Deena Shapiro — March 21, 2011 @ 8:13 pm |Reply

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