Saturday, November 14, 2015

Why I Can’t Write About What Happened in Paris

Our hearts are with Paris.

Prayers for Paris.


We’ve all heard about it by now, and still, I can’t write the words.

I can’t write them because I can’t find them. They’re lost, floating around somewhere in a sea of sorrow and disbelief.

Words are my currency, my vessels of expression. I’m a writer. It’s what I do. It’s what I know. It’s how I communicate.

But I can’t write about what happened in Paris.

I can’t write about it because I can’t understand it. I can’t write about it because it doesn’t compute. I can’t write about it because it’s unfathomable.

How do you put words to something so senseless? It’s like trying to write about an alien planet in a galaxy that’s just been discovered, where the creatures that inhabit its unfamiliar surface are surrounded by an atmosphere of toxicity, one that my human body doesn’t recognize. One I couldn’t survive in.

It’s like trying to write in a foreign language, one I’ve never learned to speak, one that doesn’t register when I hear it verbalized.

It’s like trying to write about something so immeasurably horrendous, that the mere effort of putting it into words is too painful, and my mind puts up a defense barrier that won’t allow me to go there.


Do you know what I was doing when the first news reports started coming in? Frosting cookies. I was frosting car-shaped gingerbread cookies for my twin boys’ third birthday party, while they bounced on the couch in their mismatched jammies as my husband read them bedtime stories.

It’s surreal, isn’t it?

As we began hearing more and more details, my husband set the storybook down on his lap and looked up at me.

“Isn’t it crazy?” he asked, my toddlers still bouncing on the couch cushions, blissfully ignorant of the evil that goes on in this world. “Isn’t it crazy to think that we’re sitting here, getting the boys ready for bedtime, reading them stories, and there are people out there who think we should die? That there are people out there who would come in here and rape you, and probably kill the boys? That there are people who actually think it’s right to do stuff like that?”

It’s not just crazy. It’s painful.


I can’t write about what happened in Paris.

I can’t write about it because its reality, once acknowledged, is incomprehensibly terrifying. Painfully terrifying.

I look at my sweet, perfect boys, and imagine someone wanting to hurt them. The mere thought leaves me breathless, leaves my body so paralyzed with fear and denial that I can’t even shed the tears I feel condensing in the depths of my soul.

They are everything beautiful about this world. They are uninhibited joy. They are unadulterated love.

They are life.

Life: A perplexing word, isn’t it? So small, so concise. So compact. Four little letters that encapsulate so much vibrancy, so many intricacies, so much love and energy.

But that’s my boys: enormous souls housed in tiny bodies.

They are life—souls and hearts manifested corporeally, with the ability to express and communicate and simply be.

They are life, just like I am. Like you are. Like every single victim in last night’s attack was.

Every single one. I can’t tell you how many: how many lives—mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and friends and sisters and brothers—were actually taken last night.

I can’t tell you because I can’t read, watch, or listen to any of the news reports about it.

It hurts too much.

And I still can’t write about it. I can’t write about the innocent lives that were lost, or the not-so-innocent lives that stole them.

I can’t write about the pain. I can’t write about the horror. I can’t write about the irrationality.

What I can do is pray. I can pray for the families of the victims. I can pray for the citizens of Paris. I can pray for the people in this world—those who hurt, and those who do the hurting.

I can pray for peace and change. 

And I can live.

I can be grateful for the life I have—the life I still have.

I can frost birthday cookies and read bedtime stories. I can kiss my husband and hold my boys close to me. I can honor the lives that were lost by celebrating and cherishing the ones that weren’t.

I can’t write about what happened in Paris.

But I can live. I can live with purpose, intention, and gratitude.

And I can let my life do the talking (or the writing) for me.


  1. Wow, Sam.... so well written. Our kids are inheriting a scary world.... Thank you for your words and thoughts :)

    1. Thank you so much, Elsy. Sometimes it's hard to make sense of it all, and it's difficult to figure out how to raise kids in a world that we seem to have a hard time navigating as adults.