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.
This 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.
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: deviantart.com
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