"I hate that dog!"
"I hate that dog, too!"
We sang this song back and forth, back and forth, riding away from the scene of the attack. First I'd say it in a sorry-for-myself kind of way. Then Brian would echo my feelings in a protective, empathetic kind of way.
The seconds in between, though, I'd think to myself, This is how war survives. Attack me and I'll hate you forever. And so will my entire clan. And soon enough, we won't even know what we're hating. We'll just look for something to hate. Then rejoice when we've gotten the enemy! (Sound familiar?)
The thing is, I was terrified. My body was shaking and my heart pounding. A 90 pound, sharp toothed, territorial being latched it's jaws onto my leg, ripped through my pants and left a 6 inch welt on my calf. Then it stuck its teeth into my bags and growled around for extra shits and giggles. I got off my bike in fury and yelled at the dog, "WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!?!?"
Cars pulled over to see if I was okay. "No. I just got bit by that fucking dog!" (De-emphasis on "fucking". Wouldn't want to cause a scene.) "How terrible! That dog should be put down!" they responded, like any kind human-tribemate would. Destroy the enemy!
I held in my tears out of embarrassment. Don't cry in front of strangers. Wait until they go away and you're alone with Brian. He sees you cry all the time.
So my fear and my saddness and my sorrow sat in my chest as I walked steady with my strong outer shell. Finally, the nice eye-wittnesses had vanished and I could let down my defenses, let myself be seen, let the truth come out:
I am not invincible, no matter how many people want to destroy the enemy. I am vulnerable, subject to chance and as likely to be struck by loss as anyone else. There is no illusion of strength or safety that can save me. Not from random dog attack, freak accident, or otherwise. We are all subject to loss. And facing this, while difficult, releases me to the power of acceptance and healing.
But what if I never got that moment alone? What if the eye-wittnesses were always watching? Would I ever give in to the truth? Or would the frustration of holding all that saddness in my fist eventually release with more fury? With retaliation? With a decade-long crusade to Get the german shepherds!?
We need to see the truth. We need to carve space to be with our feelings. To give ourselves the gift of healing, of forgiving, of grieving and accepting loss. Because we cannot avoid it and it does us little good to hate reality. Hate begets hate and serves no true justice.
Susan Piver wrote this in a phenomenal post about Bin Laden's death:
Perhaps the way to kill your enemy as a way of putting a stop to violence rather than escalating is to shift our view of “enemy” altogether. Our enemy is not one person or country or belief system. It is our unwillingness to feel the sorrow of others—who are none other than us.
So take aim at this enemy completely and precisely. Feel your sadness for us and them so fully and completely that all boundaries are dissolved and we are left standing face to face, human to human, each feeling the other’s rage and despair as our own, one world to care for.