September 11, 2001. I was sitting in the doctor’s office waiting for my name to be called. There was a TV hanging high from the ceiling in the corner of the waiting room. A few elderly men sat beside me. Others were scattered about the room. It was in that moment that we all stared at the TV screen in shock and disbelief. There was a scene of buildings falling. We were all confused.
It only took a few minutes to realize it was real. I find it amusing that the one thing that stands out in my mind still today, is how one of the elderly men began to blame President Bush out loud. Even in the midst of a nationwide tragedy, we instantly look to blame someone. It was instant unnecessary negativity. I went home and tried my best to absorb what had just transpired.
That day changed my world forever. Up until then, there may have been bad things happening around the world, but now they were happening on American soil. It was too close to home. And it eventually led to my husband at the time being deployed to Iraq. I knew that day he was going to be deployed somewhere.
We spent the night in front of the television flipping the channel between local news, CNN and MSNBC. At some point I tore myself away and went to the kitchen to find something to alleviate the mood a little.
I returned to the living room with a plate of warm, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
Well, that led me to keeping a tub of ready-to-bake dough stocked in the fridge. Each night that week, (and for weeks after) we watched the news while we munched on cookies – comfort food. One should not be surprised that to this day I tend to indulge in chocolate chip cookies when I am stressed.
Maybe it was not the best way to cope, but there is something to be said for comfort food. It helps us to feel like life is normal, even if it’s for a moment. We were all newbies more or less to world tragedy then, at least for our generation. I learned a lot from that event, and I think it helped me cope differently this time around.
With each passing year it seems as though we are faced with an increase in bad world news involving terrorism and war. This is in addition to our own problems such as the economy, disease, and violence.
With the recent terrorist attack on Paris, it appears as though this may become a reality of our future life. We now live in the shadow of terrorism.
Going back to 2001, I remember then that I vowed to not take life for granted. I think overall I have stayed faithful to that vow. I never want to get to a place where I either become too desensitized, or that I live in constant paralyzing fear. I want to be in the middle of that scale where I am aware of reality, but can live feeling happy and blessed.
With the Paris attack I found myself once again being sucked into watching the news, reading articles and following the aftermath of what happened on social media. For a few days I read as much as possible to educate myself. Then I found myself getting sucked into the debates surrounding it. Thankfully I realized that it was time to focus on my life again. I had a family that needed me and responsibilities to attend to.
So what is the answer when we are faced with these things? What do we do when bad things happen in our world? The most important thing is to know that it is normal to feel scared and anxious. Our brains are wired to recognize danger and to protect us. We were made that way in order to survive.
The next step is to choose to go about our normal lives and live as normal as possible. We step away from the intensive media coverage. We stop rehashing the latest details with our co-workers every day by the water cooler. We don’t get caught up in the opinions surrounding it. Instead we will find productive ways to help the situation. That doesn’t mean we are not concerned, or that we are ignoring what happened.
It means that we don’t consume ourselves or change our daily lives based on fear of what could happen again. When we wake the day after a tragedy, life will move on with or without us. The sun will still shine. Babies will be born.
So we will do what we have always known. We will spend time with our families and friends. Each morning we will go to work, to school, or to church. We will go out for dinner, to a concert, or to a sporting event. We will give to organizations and volunteer to help others, maybe at the local soup kitchen.
We will enjoy and celebrate the good times. We will attend weddings and birthdays. We will talk to our kids. We will see a counselor or therapist if we need help in coping. We will continue to live life.
Hopefully life will be more meaningful, and we will be more grateful. There are no guarantees anymore in this world. More than ever before it is important to live life in the moment. We will never regret the moments we will spend focused on our family, friends, and community.
Life will still be good despite the darkness that goes on around us. We can’t hide. It is our job to be the light, and spread the light to others trying to find their way through the dark. So let’s begin by turning off CNN. That is what I am choosing to do. Instead I will bake chocolate chip cookies, put on a pot of coffee, and share them with others.
Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. ~ Helen Keller