April 24, 2012

FYI: We’re Not in Charge. ~ Anne Ondrey

Melissa Wiese

The reality is we create our own reality.

And we create it in such a way that we’re pretty darn sure our experience will match our expectations. When it doesn’t, especially in a big way, we run smack into the truth that we aren’t actually drivin’ the big old bus of life.

This happened to me on February 27 in my community, Chardon, Ohio. A student at our high school stood up in the cafeteria, walked over and shot three students execution style. He injured two more – one seriously. All before 8:00 am in the morning. He’s now in detention and in the legal system. It seems like a strange and scary nightmare that I’m caught in, and I can’t wake up. The ground feels spongy, like it won’t support me.

Before the shooting, Chardon’s claim to fame was being in the heart of Ohio’s maple syrup industry and the snowbelt, averaging more than 100 inches per year. Before the shooting, the only TV trucks in our town were from The Weather Channel.

To make matters even weirder this winter, we’ve had practically no snow.

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Several days after the shooting we had a slew of days with temperatures in the 70s, causing all the flowering trees and plants to bloom early. When my forsythia flowered and the trout lilies were up the first week in March, I began to suspect that whoever was messing with reality was definitely on a roll.

As part of our new reality, the pretty white gazebo in the center of our town square has been turned into a shrine honoring the three slain students. There are candles, posters, flowers and crosses.

I’ve practiced Tai Chi in that gazebo in the summer. We took our daughter’s prom pictures there. It’s always been a place of celebration. Until now.

On either sides of our town square is Jasmine Dragons, a yoga studio where I teach, and The Mandala Center, a healing center where I’m a presenter. I’ve lived in this conservative, semi-rural community on the outskirts of the suburbs of Cleveland for 17 years, but the yoga studio and healing center opened two years ago. People are quietly making their way there to help them deal with the tragedy. We’ve set up a free clinic offering Reiki (a therapeutic hands-on form of healing) to relieve stress and calm jangled nerves.

If you’d told me five years ago that we’d have both yoga and Reiki on our town square, I would have laughed. If you’d told me there would be a school shooting, I would have cried. Both have come to pass. Our new reality.

So how do we respond to reality when it’s so out of sync with our expectations? Many people are focusing on the “why.”  They ask, “Why did it happen? Was it drugs? Was it because one of the slain boys was dating the shooter’s ex-girlfriend? Was it the shooter’s broken home life?”

But the reality is there really is no why.

In the wonderful book Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo, a main character is a monk who is asked to explain why bad things happen. Here is his answer:

“I don’t know the why. I know the is. This is the world and always the world. Always, since the Bible was made, since when the ancient stories in all religion were made. Inside the big world that you cannot control, you have the small world of you that you can control. In that small world, if you look, you can see whether to go this way toward good or the other way toward bad.”


Last week, incredulously, we had a second shooting, just a block from the high school. A county sheriff shot dead a 28-year old man in a domestic violence incident. My reality just keeps staying way out of the bounds of expectations.

With the regular markers blurred, we’re trying to make small choices to help and to heal. In fact, the town motto, seen on many posters and lawn signs, is “One Heartbeat.” Students from the high school have tied red ribbons around many trees throughout the town as a sign of our commitment to look this new reality in the eye and stay present.

Because, ultimately, the truth is there is no why to this reality – there only is.

And the is is us, in inconspicuous ways, turning away from our expectations and  helping each other whenever and wherever we can. A healing fund has already amassed over six hundred thousand dollars.

We move forward in this bus of life with our broken hearts beating as one, leaving our old notions of normal somewhere by the side of the road.

Anne Ondrey, MSW, E-RYT, lives in the quaint town of Chardon in Northeast Ohio just south of Lake Erie with her husband and standard poodle, Pedro. She spends more time than she should reading blogs.




Editor: Cassandra Smith

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