Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Way We Once Were

Sunday passed like almost any other day except for one thing...it was an important anniversary in the lives of most of us. Sure there were special programs on television to commemorate the events of 9/11 and pay homage to those whose lives were altered forever, but as a collective psyche, many of us didn't have time to really stop and think about what changed that day. It's bothered me a lot that such a pivotal moment in our existence didn't get much attention with the bulk of the population. So much so, that I feel like I need to pay my respects personally.

I live in Canada. Terrorists didn't attack us. Some of them found safe harbor here unfortunately which contributed to the events of the past 10 years, but no more than were able to hide in other parts of the world. How has my life changed because of 9/11? I can't just hop on a plane anymore for a spur of the moment trip. I can't visit my husband at work anymore without making arrangements for him to meet me at security (he works for the federal government). I don't walk blithely through life feeling totally safe in a strange place. I worry about family when they travel. I don't question or resent security in public places the way I used to. I started believing in evil and terror again like I used to when I was a child. I worry for the world and the inequality of freedom throughout much of it. I have a very real fear for the safety of my family when I'm not with them, because I know that any day something surreal could destroy them and take them away from me.

That's a little depressing. There have been some hidden positives in this process too. I try to stay in touch with family on a regular basis because of 9/11. I don't assume they'll always be around and look upon every day I have with them as a precious gift. I relish peaceful days and happy moments. I don't assume I will find time for my wish list someday. Instead I occasionally take a leap and just do some of those things so I won't miss my chance. That's not a bad thing.

Popular magazines have run stories on survivors. A well-known reporter followed the lives of 9/11 babies that lost a parent in the attacks and aired follow-up stories to show how the past 10 years has affected them. I suppose what I was missing was the moment of silence. That brief time to pause collectively as a people and think about what happened and what it means to us. Why haven't we chosen to commemorate or grieve that way? I'm not sure. Perhaps we don't want to draw attention to the success of terrorists in striking a blow against western infidels. Perhaps we worry that if we face the memory we'll have to acknowledge it more openly. Perhaps it's too painful and heightens our anxieties. Could be all those things. I know it made me a little sad. I wanted to stay home and brood a little with my loved ones, much as we did when it happened 10 years ago. But life intruded and there were things to do and before I knew it the day had fallen through my fingers and I'd never had my moment. So I'm taking one today. Today at 3:00pm I will give myself a moment's silence - no cellphone, no TV, no computer, no music. Just a brief prayer that we will always remember how precious life is and that our families are only on loan for a time. That just as evil and ugliness exist, so do love, commitment, happiness and fragile beauty. We have to have both or we can't really appreciate the things that make life worth living or remembering. And I will remember how lucky I am to have been spared that day the kind of anguish other people endured and survived so courageously. I will remember that someday it might be my turn but until then I should be very grateful for every day that it isn't.

My favorite image to come out of this anniversary has been the Ground Zero Tree - the tree that survived the destruction and has since been replanted at the site. It is a testament to me that life can survive absolute catastrophe against all odds and inspire us to do the same. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Let's Hear It for Cheese!

So, after a summer that defies description - and not in a good way, I find myself feeling somewhat cheesed off at the unfairness of life. But then I started thinking about the nature of a good "miff" and tried to remind myself that it can actually be a blessing in disguise. I mean, think of how much gets accomplished in a fit of angst. I suspect the sheer disgust kept me motivated through almost an entire month of disastrous family hijinks. But eventually the price must be exacted, and now I find myself thoroughly worn out and wishing for that elusive vacation.

I tried to rationalize that I was simply paying for the glorious escape to Australia at the end of March and that it was only fair that I go through a rough patch. Didn't work. I tried to escape into as many books as possible (which was most enjoyable but heartily inefficient for getting anything done or feeling better about my lot in life), only to get tired of reading.

So what's the real issue? I haven't allowed myself just to feel cheated. It was summer time and I never went to the pool, never paddled in a lake, tubed on a river, hiked in the mountains, camped with my husband (there is no way I'm counting the backyard stint at the in-laws'), or just enjoyed doing nothing with no demands looming over me. Instead I ended up with a hideously scrappy garden, a horrid farmer's tan, and a monstrously bad mood. And now that summer's over and school has started along with the myriad responsibilities that take a break for the summer, I'm feeling more cheesed off than ever.  And because I don't like feeling that way, I morph the sensation into generalized guilt for not being able to just suck it up and get on with life. I didn't even mess around with my clay for well over a month because of it all. And that's never good. For anyone.

How do I break the cycle? Not entirely sure. I'm attempting to push myself back into activities that occasionally foster joy, but I've got to convince myself they're not just more items for the dreaded list. Perhaps I just need to figure out how to turn my "cheese" into cheese, which I happen to love passionately. Especially a good old cheddar with a rich bite to it. The kind that says, "robust," with a roll on the 'r.'

And that makes me remember that I encountered such a cheddar this very summer. My husband brought some home from a work trip to the back of beyond where they had to venture into Montana to buy groceries. And that cheese was so good that I had to buy some more when we were in Montana again more than a month later. Perhaps it's as simple as taking a look at my pseudo summer again and looking for the tiny moments of perfection that have got to be there.  Because if I can keep finding good cheese, I must be able to keep finding other recurring instances of delight as well. Like the perfect photo shot after a cluster of bad ones. Or several handfuls of perfectly ripened cherries that made me want to hum while chewing. Or a book so good it made you want to run out and hug the author and beg them to write another - immediately. And I have to admit that I had those. So perhaps I got my cheese after all.