Eight years ago, in the midst of my busy, getting-ready-for-school morning, my ex-husband called and said “turn on the TV”. I asked, “what station?” He said, “any of them”. I asked, “what is it?” He said, “I can’t talk about it. Just turn on the TV. You’ll see.” And I saw.
I awoke this morning, eight years later, to a lovely sunrise. Colors muted by a light fog. It was ethereal. I smiled. As the morning progressed, it got gray and overcast. Appropriate, it seemed, for this day.
I decided to take time to reflect on that morning eight years ago and my path since to where I am now. First, I paid tribute to that day. I pulled up facebook and YouTube and searched for tributes. I read what my friends were posting on twitter. I listened to music. I cried. It amazes me sometimes how something that long ago can still have such a powerful impact.
I am reminded how the difficult, as well as the lovely moments, both take our breath away and define our lives. Mine will never be the same.
The feeling of despair and fear was overwhelming that morning as I watched repeated images of the planes flying into the World Trade Towers, and later, the images of the towers falling, the plane in the Pennsylvania field, the damage to the Pentagon. I felt such vulnerability for myself, for our nation. In the days following, I was so proud of how we, as a nation, as a people responded. I was gratified at the kindness and compassion of the rest of the world. I felt more tuned in to both my place in this nation, and my place as a citizen of the world. I felt humble. I strove to understand.
I vowed, as many did, to live more fully in the present, to move more slowly, to make more thoughtful choices, to make certain that those I love always know it. It seems like a good time to reflect on how I’m doing.
Since 9/11/2001, I’ve made many changes in my life. I moved to Ohio for six months, back to my home town, so my daughter could go to school with her cousin. My daughter and I moved to Kansas so I could take my dream job. I purchased my dream house. “Invested” in real estate (I can’t sell my Reno house because the market is so bad, so that’s how I’ve decided to frame it for myself). I left my son in Reno to pursue college and dance. I could not have imagined how much I would miss our day-to-day patterns of living together. I’ve watched my daughter move from elementary school to high school and marveled at the amazing people my children are. I’ve recently become almost painfully aware that my time as a full-time mother is coming to an end. It’s amazing how years can pass in mothering, filling the gaps and the empty moments with “kid” activities. My daughter drives now and while we share a car, her independence is growing.
For the first time, I am required to take time to think about what I want for the next phase of my life, my post full-time mommy phase. Today seems like an appropriate day to review and reflect. So back to those vows I made to myself on that overwhelming day eight years ago.
1) to live more fully in the present
My prior to 9/11 self could easily be described as a multitasking over achiever. I juggled a significant number of tasks ALL the time. I could never say “no” and my mantra was “I can do that”. I didn’t always know HOW, but I knew that somehow I WOULD do whatever needed to be done. There are a number of characteristics of this style that I ultimately viewed as problematic. I was always focusing on the future. I didn’t take time to appreciate what I had accomplished and was instantly off to the next thing. That meant both that I didn’t appreciate what I had accomplished as it was just something to cross off the list and, more importantly, because I was always focused on the future, I didn’t adequately appreciate the present – except as the space within which I was “getting something done”. Don’t get me wrong, these characteristics have helped me accomplish all I have in both my professional and personal life and in many ways I’m grateful to have had that approach. That said, it became clear to me that I noticed and enjoyed the awe inspiring moments, sunrises, sunsets, the sound of my daughter’s laughter, watching my children perform. Those moments could bring me up cold, stop me in my tracks as it were. I was not so good, however, at noticing the beautiful in the everyday, mundane, process of my life. I was not so good at “being” in the moment. I had to either be “doing” or observing, OR and even worse, if I could make myself just stop, just be, I felt guilty for NOT getting anything done, for WASTING time. Historically, I lived too much in my head and not nearly enough in the “real” world.
2) to move more slowly
Related to living more fully in the present is slowing down. When I multitasked, I moved very quickly. When that happened, I missed the details of what was going on around me. I forgot to eat. I slept poorly and for only 4-5 hours a night. I sat for hours at a time at my desk, my computer. I worked through sickness, exhaustion, I stayed up all night to complete a task. I told my students, “make me make eye contact if you need my full attention”. I told my children, “you’ll likely need to tell me that again because I might not remember”. Productive, yes. Fulfilling, no.
3) to make more thoughtful choices
I’ve always been thoughtful. What I hoped for was to take more time to think through choices. My strategy in my prior life was to take every opportunity that came my way. It was fun, exciting! It led to the multitasking thing I mentioned earlier. I had always had goals. Now I wanted to take time to consider alternatives more carefully, to choose my path.
4) to make certain that those I love always know it
This has probably always been one of my strengths. Those I care about know it. I say it. I show it.
I’ll close for now, at 7:54 p.m. on September 11. In my next post, I’ll assess how I’ve done.