Lynn St. Georges

Lynn St. Georges

By Lynn St. Georges

I have been an amazingly sensitive person my entire life. My father used to scold me for “wearing my heart on my sleeve,” asking when was I going to tuck it away in self-protection mode. A year or so after Jim died, my heart felt particularly shredded one day so I got my fourth tattoo – a small red heart on my left forearm. “So be it,” I thought.

the heartThis tattoo, though, was colored red and my body hated the red ink. The heart grew so irritated and inflamed that by the time the tattoo had healed, the red ink looked bubbly and raw with patches of color gone. The irony was inescapable. A year later I had this small heart image covered over with a scroll. Now only I see the missing red ink and understand the true nature of this tattered heart.

I do not own a pair of rose-colored glasses; instead, I see the world through the lens of a half-empty glass. Because this is my nature, and because of my inherent sensitivity, I find the world in which we live today to be one that causes me deep sadness and anxiety. I am told it is because of the internet and 24-hour news outlets, as well as social media where everyone has opinions they freely express, no matter how intelligent or awful.

Maybe this is why I am suffering from a helplessness that seems to worsen every day. I think my generation tried to make things better with our idealism forcing positive societal changes, but now I find myself apologizing to younger people, expressing regret on their behalf while selfishly feeling grateful that I am now well into the second half of my life.

I can barely watch the news while I eat dinner now, so tired of nearly choking on the food competing for space with the ever-present lump in my throat. Just a few days ago, when I logged onto my computer the top headlines screaming at me were about the loss of 298 innocent lives from a missile striking their plane; a group in Iraq saying they will force all women and female children to undergo genital mutilation; another botched execution in the only remaining developed country permitting it, and by calling it “execution” instead of “murder” we are somehow able to feel okay about it; a woman with an angry white face screaming “Not our children! Not our problem!” at brown-faced children seeking refuge in what once was considered the greatest nation.

The_fetal_positionI even struggle to find humor these days in the harsh reality of the way in which Jon Stewart and his brilliant writers on The Daily Show present the idiocy in current events.

A few weeks ago, George invited readers of his blog to post what they were doing when they were 42 years old. I accepted the offer and wrote a short post about my life in 1997, but it was my spontaneous concluding remarks that were revealing – it felt like a time of innocence – before 9/11 when planes full of people were used to destroy buildings full of people, before Al Qaeda became a household name, before a mentally ill young man looked into the faces of 20 first-grade children and killed them – before my lifelong fear of the dark because of imagined “bad guys” began to feel valid because there are, after all, bad guys.

My sixth tattoo remains hidden to all but me – small words in cursive script in reverse mirror image for me alone, above my right breast – “there always is hope” – yet even these words fail me now.

Fetal position image:

Lynn St. Georges, a formerly self-described naïve idealist, today finds herself struggling with the harshness of the world in which we live. She yearns for a kinder world where civility in discourse is the norm and where all people truly live by her motto that “we’re all pink inside.”

Editor’s note: I met Lynn in 2009 after she wrote about her mother’s death in a letter to the editor to The Oregonian. An exchange of emails led to a friendship between strangers that grows stronger every year through this remarkable VOA community.

Tomorrow: “The power of culture” by Aki Mori


14 thoughts on “Helpless

  1. I know how you feel, Lynn. I know how you feel. I despair of this world, but I only make it worse if I don’t greet those I love with a smile. It’s the people I’m not loving that are the challenge. Yes, the news wants to be sensational. I can turn it off. I tried to think of the best thing to happen to me this year, and it was obvious. A cat adopted me, and it changed me for the better. I used to be ambivalent about coming home. Home didn’t seem much different from work. Now I sit quietly with my silent companion who is always on “vibrate”. I used to chase the world as it turned, and this year, my 60th, I just decided to let the world turn ’round to meet me. As long as the cat seems excited about me coming home, I’m good for now. “Right now” seems pretty good.

    • John – sometimes I wonder if we were separated at birth. 😉
      Having animals in our lives softens the edges of the world and makes us better so bravo to you and your wise cat for choosing you.
      I have made a personal commitment to focus on the “right now”. I remind myself often to “accept the things I cannot change” as I continue to ponder where my influence does reside while finding the “courage to change the things I can.”

  2. Only the bravest and strongest of hearts are able to show their vulnerability and to really feel what more fragile hearts cannot bear. Your sensitivity indicates a very strong, supple and loving heart! Beautifully written.

    • Tammy – Thank you. You are not the first person to notice my strength that mixes in with this fragile heart. My Mom and I had a challenging relationship when I was younger but as I grew older, it was her strength that I found I most admired. The women in my family are strong and we are resilient. As an older person I’ve just accepted that this is who I am, for better or worse, and love myself entirely, warts and all.

  3. Lynn, your guest blogs are always characterized by courage and compassion for humanity–thank you. I wish I had something profound to offer you in your journey, but thoughts elude me. Your deep sensitivities remind me of great painters, especially those who are able to translate their feelings of isolation or despair onto a canvas. Some that come to mind immediately include: Giorgio de Chirico (Melancholy and Mystery of a Street), Edvard Munch (Puberty, The Scream), Edward Hopper (Nighthawks), and of course Picasso (Guernica). Perhaps none of these resonate with you, but they are the works of art that your writing evoked in me. Some of the world’s greatest artists shared the same feelings about the world that you possess. Your feelings are neither insignificant nor small.

    • Aki – Wow … your words and the comparisons of anything about me to great painters (or anything/body great) leave me humbled and grateful. Thank you, truly, from the bottom of my (sensitive) heart!

  4. Your words resonate on such a deep level. This is my nature as well and it’s becoming more and more so with every year that passes. I can recognize the strength and beauty in the sensitivity and connectedness of others, but have a hard time feeling the same about my own.
    Hope is the hardest thing because, as long as you have it, it will never allow you release. Here’s to it never letting go of either one of us.

  5. Wow. I love your tattered tattoos and all. I get to be a glass-half-full girl, too-often described as Pollyanna-ish, but I have had strong relationships with many half-empty types. And it seems much harder than getting insulted by being called a Pollyanna. Even the half-full, silver-lining-finding me is having trouble reading and listening to news lately. I am often reading stories that momentarily make me want to crawl into a fetal position and play Enya. See? Today’s news is that bad. And that makes me worry about my half-empty types. Thanks for the reminder to find not-annoying ways to pour rose-colored thoughts on them whenever possible.

    • Elizabeth – Please continue to pour hope down the throats of the emotionally down-trodden among us … believe it or not, it sort of helps!

  6. This is so beautifully written! I’m somebody that is known around like a very optimistic person (I got that from my father). I can always find something that glitters at least a little bit even if it is very far away. I can still find these optimistic vibes in my personal life, in life in which I choose people I’m hanging around with, in the world in which my influence counts. But I’m getting more and more worried of the world on the macro level. In the past two or three years, I surprised myself on not so rare occasions thinking “where is this civilization going?” And I have no answer to this question, maybe because it’s just not possible to know, but maybe also because I’m afraid to dig deeper. I really am. But I’m not sure I like the way it is taking. Luckily my self-preserving nature still finds beauty in human relations with people that I meet every day.
    Thank you for having the courage to share these thoughts with us!

    • Thank you for your kind words, Natasha. I think there are more optimistic people than pessimistic people on this small planet and I think that’s probably a good thing. We can’t have everyone curled into a fetal position most of the time!

      Thanks also for joining our VOA community! It’s an amazing group!

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