Lord, listen to my prayer;
hear me in my hour of need.
I am overwhelmed by my troubles
and terrified by my thoughts.
Guide my feet on your path;
don't let me stop or falter.
Teach me how powerful your love is
and how insubstantial my fears.
Like the pupil of the eye protect me;
hide me in the shadow of your wings.
Cover me with your mercy;
rock me to sleep in the dark.
And let me, when I awaken,
see nothing but the light of your face.
This interpretation of Psalm 17 by Stephen Mitchell, written in A Book of Psalms, was given to me by a member of the clergy. He and I have worked at the same synagogue and know each other in a "Hi, how are you?" sort of way but never really connected, until this week. A mutual friend reached out to him to say that I was going through a particularly difficult patch and he then reached out to me, just to let me know "I was not alone." He didn't have to, I am not even a member at his shul. But he did and even more so, offered to meet and talk with me. And I took him up on it.
The beginning of our meeting was sort of all over the place, with me trying, not very poetically, to fill him in on what had been going on to lead our mutual friend to reach out to him on my behalf. We finally got to the nitty gritty of the issue, faith. Because, as he pointed out, what really does it mean to pray? Are we all not unlike Hannah, praying to G-d with little or no words? Is G-d not always listening? Will He not always "[g]uide my feet on your path; don't let me stop or falter"?
For, and this came out in our conversation, as sure as I am that there is a G-d above, I am also sure that He is getting tired of my shenanigans and misbehaving. But, as the rabbi pointed out, if G-d will always "hear me in my hour of need" what do I have to fear? Yes, we agreed, turning it all over to G-d is scary. Part of my anxiety is letting go of the thing I am most fearful of. My thinking is that if I am constantly thinking about it it can definitely not overwhelm me. Even though, in the course of always thinking about it, it already is overwhelming me. How enlightening would it be to be able to say, with full confidence, "Here you go G-d, please take this burden from my body and hold on to it for me. Truly love me unconditionally and help me with this."
So for now I am working on being able to let go of the reigns some. Maybe just for a minute at a time, but letting go of them at any rate. Being able to fully trust that G-d is a G-d of love and of mercy. He will ALWAYS love me and ALWAYS care for me. And when I wake up, He will show me "nothing but the light of [His] face."
I feel as though this post should have come around Halloween, but alas, it is now and I am dealing with it now, around Valentine's Day. Oh well, it is what it is, right?
Panic, fear, anxiety, obsession, worry, despair.....these are all words that are consuming me recently. I have an irrational fear of throwing up. I used to not be able to say the word. I used to think, and still do to some extent, that by talking about it I would make it so. Magical thinking is what my therapists call it. I think about throwing up AT THE VERY LEAST every 30 minutes. No joke. No exaggerations. Every 30 minutes, if not more. And once the thought is in my head my head runs rampant with it. I can't ignore it. I can't let it go. I zoom in on that one thought and I'm off!
I visited a psycho-pharmacologist over the summer who said there are professionals out there who specialize in resetting your obsessive thoughts. Really? I find that hard to believe that that could happen. I once had a therapist who said to me, "Rachel, if I were a true behavioralist I would lock you in this room with a bottle of Ipecac and a bucket." I freaked out! He was joking, but I didn't see it as funny. He was a good therapist, and I have nothing bad to say about him. He was just emphasizing how in my head my fear was.
My panic is much greater in the winter months, when illness runs a little more rampant. However, if it is the spring or summer and I hear that the stomach flu is going around my panic rears its ugly head ten fold.
I guess the point of my post today is to get some of the obsessive thoughts out of my head and into words. Because you know sometimes when thoughts are in your head they are HUGE and take up all the space. My thought was maybe by putting them into words, composed of letters, formulating thoughts, I could shrink those thoughts a bit. I'm not sure if I've done any shrinking, but I hope that if you either a) know of a professional who works with resetting one's thoughts you can let me know about them or b) suffer from a similar paralyzing fear you will know you have a partner in arms.
First let me say I am humbled and deeply touched by the outpouring of love after my last blog post. I am stunned. Thank you my dear friends for giving me the gift of your friendship. I truly value each one of you, every day.
Second, I wanted to come back and let you know that all is not gloom and dark and dungeons. Today is a great example of how my life is similar to a roller coaster. My mood is all over the place, and like I said before, I am like a leaf floating on the wind, wherever it may take me, whether that be way up to the top or way down to the bottom. I didn't set an alarm today, knowing I would wake up with enough time to get ready and be to work at 9:00 am. I woke up at 7:30 am. That is PLENTY of time for me.....five minute shower, throw on some clothes, cook some eggs for breakfast, and out the door I go. Well I didn't get out of bed at 7:30 am. The thought of throwing off the covers and facing the day was TOO FREAKIN' MUCH to contemplate. I rolled over. The next thing I knew it was 7:45 am. Still plenty of time. But I rolled over again. Next thing I knew my phone dinged....a text. It was my mother checking to see if I were awake. That was what I needed. I called her to tell her I was jumping in the shower and I'd call her when I was dressed. I decided not to make the bed (see the video in Inspiration about why making your bed is so crucially important to your daily success).
I called my mother as I was standing in the kitchen paralyzed by the number of tasks to be done. Slowly, through talking it out (and a little Sound of Music singing) we listed the things I needed to do from beginning to end. I was able to #1 take my medicine. I was able to #2 go back into the bedroom and make my bed. I was able to #3 make a smoothie for breakfast (kale, frozen fruit, protein powder, and almond milk). By that point I was ready to grab a pre-made snack from the refridge and head out the door for work. While I was in the car my phone dinged again and it was my boss saying she was running late and we didn't need to be at work until 9:30 am, but I decided that I better not go back into my apartment seeing as I had so much difficulty leaving it the first time.
I sat down at a coffee shop next door to work to spend the extra 30 minutes reading. I was sitting next to a man and a woman talking about something about her job and she mentioned how she was trying really hard to find a psychiatrist for her 11 year old daughter. I thought, how perfect for me to be sitting down next to them. I leaned over, apologized for eavesdropping, and gave the name of the practice that my psychiatrist is part of. I spoke a bit to her about my struggles but really focused on her daughter and getting her daughter the best help possible. I gave her my card so if she would like to speak with me further I said that she should DEFINITELY call me. And then it was 9:30 am and I went into work starting a four hour shift with 30 minutes already done.
All this to say is that all is not doom and gloom. I am able to find some smiles within the darkness. I met a really supportive friend for lunch. We didn't talk about my situation at all, but just knowing she knew and was making an effort to get me out of my own headspace was enough and was perfect. I learned that at Georgetown Cupcake they have free cupcakes every day. So I got a free cupcake (woohoo!!!!!). I am getting a haircut in about 90 minutes and am going to see how funky I can go with it. I mean, my hair is in a pixie cut now so there is not much length to work with, but who knows....my hair stylist is amazing and I'm sure she can do something wonderful!!!!! I have full faith in you Gwen!!!!!
I have the bar mitzvah of one of my closest friend's son this Shabbat. I will spend Shabbat (Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown) in her neighborhood, staying at another friend's house. I will enjoy celebrating this wonderful milestone with my friend and her family. Then Saturday night I will gather with many of my friends to complete an Escape Room for my birthday, which is actually on Saturday. We are going to be "locked" in detention and have 55 minutes to escape from it. The clues for how to escape are in the room. I'll have to get back to you about how it goes and if we are able to escape in the allotted time.
So, bottom line, I am hanging in there. Your comments mean so much to me, especially because at times like this I do feel alone and I do feel like I don't have any friends. But you, MY FRIENDS, are so quick to remind me of what AMAZING friends I DO HAVE. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will continue the fight, I have no other choice, right? Of course right!
I've heard from some of you regarding my question from my last post if I should branch out on this website to include monthly favorites, more of my cooking and recipes, etc. I've gotten a mixed response. But I think the most meaningful response came when one of you said to me (and I'm paraphrasing), "I think the biggest draw of your blog is your story. Keep it real, keep it tied to your struggles. If you can reach one person and give them the hope that they are not alone in their struggle you have won." So it is my intention to do so. I mean, when something not related to my mental health struggle intersects with that struggle I will definitely mention it (and I might even include pictures!).
But along that line of thinking, let me keep it real over here on 1000miles1step.com. I am struggling friends. I mean, dark and lonely struggling. I am just off a mania, which BTW, felt AH-MAY-ZING, and hitting the ground HARD! On Saturday I left my therapist and promptly called my mother telling her I was taking myself to the hospital because if I went home I was going to take all of my pills at once. Why did I make that call? I think because in my inner of inner place I do not want to succumb to this raging battle I face. I think in my inner of inner I want to be a happy, intentional, meaningful person. I am just lost. I don't really know where my true north is right now. I am a leaf floating along at the wind's discretion. I don't really know where I am or where I belong.
My mother, in ever-mother fashion, told me to stay in my car and she would be right over. Now right over means 45-50 minutes, depending on traffic. So I called a friend while I waited. Luckily she has been through all of the lows and the highs, the good, the bad, the ugly with me over the course of our 20+ year friendship. She was cool, calm, and collected over the phone, even while dealing with a sick kiddo. She talked to me until my mother arrived. I am forever grateful to her. My mother and I went inside my apartment and really she was just there....at my side for when I wanted to talk. At my side for when I didn't want to talk.....At my side for the rest of the day. I love her and am really forever grateful to both of my parents. But eventually she had to go home.
It is now, three days later. I had a fun morning planned to spend with my parents in celebration of my birthday, which is coming up. We were going to see The Post with Meryl Streep, and I was SUPER excited. But you know what? This morning I wasn't feeling it. I wanted to stay in pajamas and see nobody. I wanted to isolate and stay within myself. Being outside of myself was too much......just too much of everything. My parents came and I said I didn't really want to go to the movies. They were totally okay with that. We went out for lunch at the Silver Diner. It was what I needed when I needed it.
I have a heaviness in my being. A darkness that has settled upon me. I am trying to remember to give myself credit for the "little" wins, like getting out of bed and getting dressed (don't ask me whether I showered or not). I am trying to give myself credit for the good choices I am making, like having the Greek salad instead of the french fries and other deep fried items on the menu. I am trying to give myself credit for knowing that I am in a deep dark place and being vocal about it to those that are in positions to help me. I am trying.
But you know what? Sometimes trying isn't enough. Sometimes all you can muster up the strength to do is to give in to your dark side (I'm not making a reference to Star Wars I promise!). I am at that point today. Yes, I had a lovely middle of the day with my parents. Yes I was happy to be with them and even laughed when the staff of the Silver Diner came up to our booth and sang Happy Birthday to me at the top of their lungs. But now, now at 3:37pm, I am dark and lonely. I want to go home and never come out. I don't want to have to put on my social face and be with people.
I had to come out to some of my managers at work about myself and my diagnosis. I only told them part of my diagnosis, because the full shebang might have been too much at once. But I was calling in sick and missing work, something which I haven't done at this job. That pattern is a portent of darker days to come. I told them and almost every manager answered with, "Rachel, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety also." I am in a supportive environment, but that does not make it any easier to put on my public face and go in for a multi-hour shift.
I feel trapped and I feel dark. I feel alone and I feel lost. And that is what I wanted to say here today. I'm trying to keep it real. Life is not all butterflies and unicorns. Yes, we have to fight the fight, but sometimes man the fight just ain't there.
I can not believe it has been about two months since my last post. And in that time the year has changed from 2017 to 2018! Crazy man, crazy!!!!! You know how everyone and their mother has a "Word of the Year" (WOTY)? Well I have one too. Mine is:
I chose it because I want to live with meaning. I don't want life to happen TO me, I want life to happen BECAUSE of me. Does that make sense? I hope so.
I figure if I can do things consciously, rather than on auto-pilot, my life will be meaningful. Like take today for instance. I don't need to be to work until noon. I could have slept and let myself wake up late, rush around showering, packing my lunch, and probably not eating anything for breakfast. Instead I let myself lounge in bed for about 40 minutes, slowly got up, made a cup of tea and a protein smoothie, watched some morning news. After about 50 minutes I got into my workout clothes and went to the gym. In order to get myself there I promised myself that instead of my scheduled run I would simply walk for the same amount of time. I would walk and get myself back up and acclimated to working out (since I hadn't been to the gym in two weeks). Well guess what? There were new treadmills and you could have a video playing while you worked out. I chose running through Central Park, the place where running began for me way back in the day. Instead of just walking, when the first interval came on my watch I chose to run it. I didn't have to, I had given myself permission to not. But I am guess that since I took the pressure off of myself that is exactly why I chose to do it anyway. By the end of my session I was sweaty and feeling proud of myself. That was something I did meaningfully for me!
Now it's now, I'm at the coffee shop writing this post. I wanted to let you in on how the next couple of months are going to look for 1000miles1step. It is my goal to have one blog post up per week. Now I know I've said that before, but I think with my new meaningful outlook this is a real possibility. I think not rushing around, doing things at the last minute, will help me accomplish everything that I want to accomplish (like writing every week). I've been watching a ton of new vloggers and am thoroughly enjoying them. Would I like to make vlogs....hmmmm....not sure. But I do know I would like to share things with you that I am currently enjoying. Maybe a monthly favorites? Something like that? But in blog form. Would that be something you would care to read about or should I keep this blog purely about my life with bi-polar disorder? You tell me.
Speaking of bi-polar disorder, I went to a two day NAMI training to be an In Our Own Voice presenter. It is a 90 minute presentation done by two consumers. We pretty much tell our story, coupled with a NAMI produced video. It was a long two days, I'll be honest. But I did meet some wonderful folks, many of whom I hope to keep in touch with (you know who you are if you're reading this). I hope to actually participate in a presentation one day soon, or soon enough that I don't get rusty. I'll keep you posted about this for sure.
I think for now that about wraps up this blog post. I hope you are all well and enjoying this respite from the blistering cold we had last week.
Until we meet again
3 days in bed, sleeping all the time. 103.7 degree fever. Four nights in the hospital. Seven days recovering at my parents. What a wild ride indeed!
About a month ago I wasn't feeling well. I had a fever that would bounce around from 98.9 degrees to 101.3 degrees. I was sleeping all the time. I just generally felt pretty crappy. Finally on Saturday night my fever spiked to 103.7 degrees. Off to Urgent Care I went. They couldn't figure it out. They sent me to the Emergency Room. They couldn't figure it out either. Off to the observation unit I went. Then, finally, finally, finally a diagnosis was given: MONONUCLEOSIS. Say what?!? So off I went to a regular room, in the new wing I might add, so it was pretty nice all things considered. There isn't much you do for mono since it's a virus. I just waited around for my blood numbers, whatever they are, to improve to the point where the doctor felt comfortable sending me home.
Finally on Tuesday the doctor proclaimed I could go home. I gave him a huge hug!!!!!
Now there are details I'm leaving out here, obviously. Like how when I was on fluids that first night and day I needed to use the bathroom literally every five minutes and had to keep buzzing the nurse so she could unhook me from my IVs and I could leave the bed. Like how they could never find a vein to draw blood. Like how every morning at 4:30 am the phlebotomist would come in for a blood draw. Like how I didn't eat anything but ginger ale. But you don't really need to know all about that do you?
Now I'm on to recovery. I have to find the balance between what my body CAN do, while recovering from mono, and what it CAN'T do, while recovering from mono. I have to find the balance between what I really CAN do and what I am blaming on the mono because I am lazy. I have to find the balance between getting back to my life and treating my body as a living, breathing, needy entity. I can't blame it all on mono. Neither can I blame it all on my bipolar when I don't feel like hanging up my clothes. There are some things (like dishes and making your bed) that everyone just HAS to do. This is the struggle I am in right now. I don't want to be easy on myself because I was doing so many positive things before I got sick. I want to get back there. But at the same time I have become so used to just sleeping over the past month that that has become my new norm. NOT GOOD!!!!!!
I'd love it if you would share in the comments ways you get yourself back into your life after a hiatus. What do you do to motivate yourself? How do you get back to your everyday when it has been so long since you've had an everyday? Help me, loyal readers, find a way back to where I used to be. I so miss that place but am very comfortable in this more lazy everyday.
"Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose." --Brene Brown
I find this quote to be very apropos of National Mental Health Day, because in order for there to BE a Mental Health Day people have to TALK OPENLY about mental health; to become vulnerable with their inner most issues. Many people don't for myriad of reasons. I didn't for many, many years. I figured that if I didn't talk about it then people wouldn't notice it and I would be considered normal. But honestly, what is normal?
The Webster Dictionary defines normal as, "1. According with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle: The normal way to pluralize a noun is by adding -s. 2. Conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern: normal working hours; He had abnormal childhood. 3. Occurring naturally."
So let's think about those definitions for a minute. Definition 1 talks about following arbitrarily set standards. Who made them the right way to do things? Can we trace it back? Probably, but I am not in the mood to do that right now. Definition 2 talks about being similar and alike to one another, either people or things. And definition 3 talks about things that happen naturally, without outside interference.
Um, does anyone see anything interesting about all three definitions? I DO!!!!! I notice that they ALL related to having things that are beyond your control. You don't choose to have something happen naturally, without outside interference. It just happens. Um, I for sure DID NOT choose to live with Bipolar Disorder. It happened WITHOUT outside interference. Now, yes, I am aware of the nature vs. nurture debate. But let me tell you, Bipolar Disorder WAS NOT a choice!!!! Nobody interfered with my development and presto my brain turned wonky. I guarantee you that. My sister and I were raised exactly the same and I am living with Bipolar Disorder and my sister is not. What do you have to say to that Webster's Dictionary?!?
Now this fact I will trace back. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, in America 43.8 million adults experience mental illness in a given years. That doesn't even account for those of us who live with a mental illness year after year after year. 2.6% of us live with Bipolar Disorder. 6.9% of us live with major depression. 18.1% of us live with anxiety disorder. 43.8 million American adults.....that breaks down to a heck of a lot of us who are "conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern" wouldn't you say? How is this so normal and yet is so under-discussed and under-funded?
And so we are left with one option, "engagement" according to Brene Brown. We MUST engage in the mental health dialogue. We MUST become involved in the fight to give mental health higher billing in the national budget. We MUST get talking. Please look around you. Out of your cadre of friends, relations, and acquaintances, how many do you think fall into the 43.8 million Americans living with a mental illness. You probably won't be able to tell because based on Webster's Dictionary, mental illness does fall under the definition of normal. But if you look a little deeper you will see someone in pain, just trying to make it through the day, or the hour, or the minute. You will see if you truly look.
Please make this National Mental Health Day one where you DO get involved. Even if that involvement is reaching out to offer a shoulder to lean on, or cry on if the timing is right. Get involved by reaching out to to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Get involved by simply tell a friend that you realize they are going through something tough and you are here for WHEN they are ready to talk about it. Get involved by being a safe haven for anyone dealing with something that makes them feel ab-normal. Reassure them that they are anything but.
Put your money where your mouth is if you are in a position to do so, support your local NAMI Charter today.
Rosh HaShanah was last week, Yom Kippur is this week. Old year is ending, new year is beginning. So much to think and reflect upon. At this time of year I expected to write a post about myself and all my introspection. However I find myself looking outward. I find myself looking at our society and remembering a line I read saying something along the lines of the 2016 Presidential campaign did not cause the divisiveness in our society. The divisiveness, that existed previously in our society, ALLOWED the 2016 Presidential campaign to take place in the method that it did. Very interesting. I guess it makes sense. You don't go to the doctor until a problem becomes un-ignorable, right? Why should attention be given to problems in our society until something huge happens to underscore those problems? Now, let me be clear, I have not done any homework. I can only speak from how I feel. Many of you will dismiss this blog post because I don't have loads of quotes and citations and political pundits' points of view. That is your prerogative, 100%. But I never claimed that this was a political blog. In fact I have stated the opposite was true. But now I am speaking from my heart and my new crush on Dan Rather (and two articles that smart people brought to my attention).
So I guess what my heart has been ruminating on has been getting along. We teach our children, as soon as they are old enough to interact with others, to "get along." We teach them that while they both might not want to play the same game it is possible to find an option in which both parties want to participate. We teach our children how to talk out a problem. The whole basis of the Responsive Classroom is giving children the vocabulary to express their wants and needs and feelings. It seems to me that in today's society we have lost to ability to "get along." We have lost the ability to talk things out. We have lost the ability to disagree. "[T]o say, I disagree; I refuse; you’re wrong; etiam si omnes — ego non— these are the words that define our individuality, give us our freedom, enjoin our tolerance, enlarge our perspectives, seize our attention, energize our progress, make our democracies real, and give hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere. Galileo and Darwin; Mandela, Havel, and Liu Xiaobo; Rosa Parks and Natan Sharansky — such are the ranks of those who disagree. And the problem, as I see it, is that we’re failing at the task. This is a puzzle. At least as far as far as the United States is concerned, Americans have rarely disagreed more in recent decades." (Stephens, Bret. The Dying Art of Disagreement)
The point made regarding Galileo and Darwin, regarding Mandela and Havel and Liu Xiabo is that they did disagree, but they did so fully informed. "the disagreements arise from perfect comprehension; from having chewed over the ideas of your intellectual opponent so thoroughly that you can properly spit them out" (Stephens, Bret). They were all experts on their topic matter and therefore could knowledgeably argue their points. And you know what? They did so without name calling, without degrading their opponent. They did so in such a way that if their opponent presented a better, more convincing argument they would concede and say something along the lines of, "Hey, you made some really good arguments. I think I'll align myself with your position now."
In today's quick moving society "[w]e disagree about racial issues, bathroom policies, health care laws, and, of course, the 45th president. We express our disagreements in radio and cable TV rants (that come in fast and furious, almost too quickly to truly process) in ways that are increasingly virulent; street and campus protests that are increasingly violent; and personal conversations that are increasingly embittering." (Stephens, Bret)
This reminds me of a statement made by my beloved Dan Rather, "When I was covering civil rights in the 1960s, we basically had a deadline once a day. That gave you time to report—and more importantly, to think about what it all meant. With cable news that became a deadline every hour or so. Now it seems to be a deadline every nanosecond. This pressure to file makes it harder to be as accurate and fair, to get the story right. The dangers of emphasizing speed over substance in journalism cannot be overstated." (Lithwick, Dahlia. What's Behind Dan Rather's Wild Popularity)
While you may have your personal thoughts on Dan Rather and the sh*t that went down in 2004, Dan Rather does have a lifetime of experience with news, and reporting that news in an unbiased, fact-based way. His points about deadlines becoming every nanosecond and taking away the ability to mull over what you've noted and what you've written are of the utmost importance. In a time when "[f]ree speech can quickly become “hate speech,” “hate speech” becomes indistinguishable from a “hate crime,” and a crime needs to be punished" we need to be ever more careful of what we say, either verbally, written, or simply in passing (Sullivan, Andrew. America Wasn't Built For Humans).
We live in a nation that is more divisive than ever before. In America there are "two tribes whose mutual incomprehension and loathing can drown out their love of country, each of whom scans current events almost entirely to see if they advance not so much their country’s interests but their own...two tribes where one contains most racial minorities and the other is disproportionately white..." (Sullivan, Andrew). If we are so busy pointing out the shortcomings of the "other" how can we grow? How can we improve? How can we be a light among nations if we are blinding one another with our hateful vitriol? "America will never be destroyed from the outside," Abraham Lincoln said. "If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." And without the dialogue that comes with disagreeing we are truly destroying ourselves. "For free societies to function, the idea of open-mindedness can’t simply be a catchphrase or a dogma. It needs to be a personal habit, most of all when it comes to preserving an open mind toward those with whom we disagree" (Stephens, Bret).
I'm not sure how to end this diatribe. I've enjoyed writing it very much. It brought back the feeling of writing a legit paper for a grade (although I realize my citations are horrific!). I hope this gives you some things to think about. To think, how can we bring disagreeing back into our lives? How can we bring informed, knowledgeable, perfect comprehension into our debates? And how can we keep our debates civil, taking everyone's point of view into account?
I'll end with a quote from the ever poised former First Lady, Michelle Obama: "I see Americans of every party, every background, every faith who believe that we are stronger together: black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; young, old; gay, straight; men, women, folks with disabilities, all pledging allegiance under the same proud flag to this big, bold country that we love. That's what I see. That's the America I know!"
G'mar chatimah tovah. May this be a year full of the Book of Life for you and your loved ones.
This post is going to be in the mode of stream of consciousness. I have so much swirling around in my head, the music is too loud, and I am bone weary at this particular moment. So really all I can do is let my thoughts come out in one long stream. Sound good?
Sixteen years ago I was a second year teacher on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I was teaching third grade and had an assistant teacher. We were conducting reading groups, which we tracked since altogether there were six third grade teachers and assistant teachers. In the middle of the period the head of school walked in and motioned me to come to her at the door. She whispered in my ear that two planes had struck the Twin Towers. There wasn't much information at that time other than that. I was shocked, dumbstruck, and couldn't really figure out what to do next. Our instructions were clear, keep the kids calm, uninformed, and on their normal schedule. All the teachers wanted to do was to watch the TV that was in my room. When the students had a period out of our classroom that is exactly what we did.
The news never got any better. In fact it kept getting more and more horrific, like out of a movie that couldn't possibly be based in reality. I was able to reach my mother, who was in Connecticut, on my cell phone, but getting through to my sister, down in DC, was impossible. So one of us would call my mother and she would relay information back and forth to the two of us.
One of my students had parents who were both journalists. They were both covering the World Trade Center. Many students got picked up early by parents, or care givers. We were to keep as much normalcy in the classroom as possible and think up reasons why so and so was leaving early. It was a surreal day with sirens racing all day down, down, down to the hell that was the Financial District.
I walked uptown to my friend on 93rd Street and spent the evening with her since no trains were running and cabs were impossible to find. We sat, glued, in front of the television. What else was there to do? We prayed, for sure, but it is hard to pray when you can't even wrap your head around what is happening. It is hard to pray when you are unsure as to what the future will hold for your city, your nation.
Eventually I began to walk uptown to my apartment on 187th Street. I believe at one point I was able to get a cab. I was very thankful for that kindness. Once I got home I turned on my computer and went to Craigslist where covering every board were wanted ads, looking for missing people. The majority of them were titled: Cantor Fitzgerald. At first I thought, wow, so many people looking for this one cantor. Only later did I realize that the whole floor of Cantor Fitzgerald had been obliterated. All employees were gone. Loved ones so tightly holding on to hope that their Cantor Fitzgerald family member was spared, was out there, was trying to get in touch. It was heartbreaking to realize, as the hours went by, that most of those wanted ads would remain unanswered.
Many people have been making the comment that every year on September 11th the weather is clear and crisp, just like that day 16 years ago. Today it is cloudy, it is not a clear blue sky, it is not a bright, warming, optimistic sun. The reality has set in. Our nation is not the same nation that is was on September 10, 2001. We can never go back. True, we can never forget, nor should we, but we can never go back. The United States is not infallible. Our truth is now different, everything changed because of the events at the Twin Towers, at the Pentagon, in Shanksville, PA. And we should never forget.
I can not imagine what strength of character it must have taken for the volunteers, both career and civilian, to make their way downtown to the Financial District or to the Pentagon or to the meadow in Pennsylvania. They didn't know what they were walking into. They didn't know what they would find. They for sure were not thinking about how it would affect them years down the road. But they did it. They went. In fact so many went that they were turned back.
I wish I could say that I did something heroic that day sixteen years ago, but alas I can not. I stayed in my home. I watched the news. I waited, with the nation, for some good news to come out of this nightmare. But I can say that every year since 2001 I have remembered. I have taken a minute or two out of my day and meditated on what 9/11/01 means to me and the nation and in the broader concept, the world.
I try to stay non-political on this blog, for I feel that was not my point of starting www.1000miles1step.com. But I do have to point out all of the events going on around us, just in the United States, recently. We have wild fires in the west, hurricanes in the east, DACA all over, committees being disbanded, protest rallies getting out of control and people mortally wounded. The way to improve the climate, both natural and political, is not by shutting things down. It is by opening things up. Start a respectful conversation, where both parties listen politely and considerately. Perhaps they agree to disagree, but they are talking, each side presenting his or her beliefs. Talking is necessary. Shutting people down, intimidating people is not the way to improve anything.
If September 11th can teach us anything it is that when the chips are down more often than not people are good and kind and want to help. Unfortunately they are the same ones who do so quietly, not drawing attention to themselves. It is the loud and boisterous ones who shut down the flow of information. Those that crave the attention are self-promoting. Today I will find someone quietly making the world a better place for others and walk up to them and thank them. It is the very least that I can do.
I wish you love, and peace, and the ability to speak your mind in a constructive environment.
So let me give you my day in bullet points:
I am sitting with my planner supplies in front of me, planner open to next week, sticky notes dotting the week letting me know when I have what (and I pre-plan using sticky notes just in case something changes, but the weekend before the next week I put the stickers in and plans are set!) I sit and survey my supplies and a sense of calm, or peacefulness, of tranquility settles over my whole body. My legs are a little sore from my run this morning. I am sipping a cold, delicious iced tea, and a slight breeze is blowing across my arms and legs. I must have spent over an hour and a half working in my planner. Many people, if they're not planner people don't understand how anyone can spend that much time planning out the next week, but man, if you get it, you GET IT.
overspending, which is how my mania manifests itself, and 10% of it would be happy with friends.
That's not a great breakdown if you look at life like that. But my therapist's point was that I've done an amazing job of doing the everyday things, like getting out of bed. Like finishing college in four years. Like holding down a job, even with the number of days I've missed. Like graduating graduate school. Like living on my own. Like remaining alive even when the desire to not be alive is so much stronger than I can even describe.
I spoke with my mother after my run, so I knew she'd be awake. I made the point that while she and my father have ALWAYS been super supportive I didn't think they really knew how hard a struggle it is for me to be appropriate to be in public, to be social, to be with other people. I assured my mother that I knew they loved me and would never give up on me, but I wasn't convinced that they knew how hard it really is for me 80% of the time. To this my mother responded that she and my father did, indeed, understand how hard things were for me. I have to take her at her word, that they really do know how hard the thought of facing another day, in public, interacting with others in an appropriate manner is for me? Do they really know how good shopping at expensive stores and buying EXACTLY what I want, regardless of price, feels to me? Do they know that for the brief 10% of the time, when I'm with my friends how fleeting that feeling is to me?
My therapist also made the point that even during that 80% of the time that sucks I am still compliant with my medications. I still make it to every therapist appointment. I still manage to wake up and shower (most of the time) and make it into work (most of the time). Her point was that even with my struggle, which is REAL, and which is LARGE, I still manage to be Rachel the "good girl."
So when I experience a day like today, perfect weather, perfect planning environment, perfect beverage, perfect lighting, I need to embrace it. Enjoy it. Experience it. My previous plan was to go downtown to a museum and sketch, which is something I haven't done in ages. Would it have felt good? For sure. Would I have been pleased with what I created? Probably. But you know what? I am so much more content right here at Peet's. I didn't even have to hop on the Metro to get here. And I'll be home in about 3 minutes flat when I'm done here.
Sometimes the best things are the things you find right in your own backyard (metaphorically of course).
Have a wonderful day and make sure to embrace all that you are given during those 24 hours.
Why I'm Blogging
Just your average 40 something trying to find the way in which she can make sense of her life. I hope you'll join me for this journey.