First published on Yoga Modern.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey N. Zimmerman, Petaluma, CA
Be kind to everyone, and say I love you, often. You never know when it might be the last time you see them…
ceased to be a cliche on Sunday April 15, 2012. The words went, bullseye-like, straight out of my mouth and into my heart.
My boyfriend recently witnessed a murder/suicide. Up close, 25 feet away, and in a world of luck that he, too, was not taken down with a revolver.
Jeffrey Zimmerman is a family law attorney, a specialization I’ve come to realize is as much social worker as anything else, and hardly exemplifies the “evil lawyer” of jokes. After 30 years of experience, he still loses sleep at night, worrying about how to best represent his divorce clients, how to make the best out of what is so often a painful, confusing, soul-wrenching “procedure.” But what he wants most of all is to do the best thing for the involved children, to do what’s best for them.
When Jeff called me, just moments after it happened, and said, “My client has been shot,” I assumed he meant he had heard about it, that someone had let him know. When he added, “Her husband was waiting for her outside my office, he just shot her, then blew his brains out,” the world went surreal.
“That only happens on Law & Order” is now another cliche gone sour. It does happen, it did, in the sweet northern California town of Petaluma. I used to love Law & Order. It was my junk tv, my mind-numbing intake before bedtime. One note of “dun-ta,” and I was absorbed. But that was before I was reminded by the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, 1:15, to be careful of the company (read: entertainment) I keep, and my teacher underscored it when he cautioned against taking in violent or disturbing television, as we are ingesting those images and sounds that only seem like a mindless whiling away of time. They enter us by way of prana, and take root in the deepest recesses of our psyche, if we let them.
My yoga practice this week has been one of trying to assimilate what I ingested when I was force-fed brutal violence. How to rid my mind of the horrid taste of what happened, there on the sidewalk of this hip, Mayberry-ish town, home of the Butter and Eggs parade, which paradoxically, thankfully, will soon roll down the street within a sound of laughter’s distance from the scene. The scene where Kim Conover, second-grade school teacher, and mother to 21-month twins, and daughters aged 12 and 15, was slain by her estranged husband, who then turned the gun on himself. But not before looking straight in the eye of my boyfriend, the man who was working on the weekend to keep harm out of her way.
Now, the families, the town, the school, are all heart-broken, marked by one man’s mind gone wild. My personal standpoint is one of knowing that when my boyfriend went in to meet with his client that Sunday afternoon, it was to help her get way from the man who had been frightening her. And that during those same moments in which he and his client were trying to ensure her safety, safety’s exact opposite waited in ambush outside, ready to take her life away.
When she walked out of his office that day, Jeff tells me she felt optimistic. She had been trying to get a restraining order from the police, but twice judges had denied it, for lack of enough evidence to warrant the action. But she walked out into the sunshine that day with some hope that this time, the law would have her back.
As has been recently examined in Yoga Modern, it is the challenge of the yogi to tolerate the intolerable, to see the divine even in the most “heinous” of people, even in the ones the world joinstogether to condemn. And now this is my practice, wrought in first-person.
I’m told, and I teach, that the most difficult of yoga poses are not taught to make us feel bad about ourselves because we can’t do them. The asana that feel like they are out to kill us are tools to hone our tolerance, are a sort of inoculation of “I can’t stand it” that strengthens the immune system of our forbearance.
But what is the practice to help us digest, assimilate, and/or eliminate the cruelest of memories that take seat in us? In this case, i was looking for even the smallest ray of light, such as the fact that in some of her last moments on earth, Kim Conover felt encouraged.
Because of my awareness of yoga’s gift of grace, I believe that little ray of light did count for her. I feel that in what was sadly her last hour on earth, she was with someone who was fighting for her, and who she knew was her advocate. And while it may have been drastically overshadowed by what was to follow, it matters that she had that, and that she was seen as someone who mattered.
Can we find, and remember the blessings that a victim experienced moments before it’s “all over” as a crumb, however small, to weigh in? Grateful they had even one clear moment of grace? In Kim’s sense of relief, in the sweet taste of Skittles for Trayon Martin?