Happy Anniversary, 9/11

Yesterday was the 9/11 anniversary. It’s been 15 years. For the rest of us, the ones who survived, it’s been almost a generation. We’ve graduated, landed jobs, changed jobs, had children, grandchildren…we’ve married, divorced, dated, remarried…buried aged relatives and friends who had the fortune to pass from natural causes…we’ve even begun suffering the ravages of old age.

For those who lost loved ones, life will never be the same. And isn’t that always true? Regardless of how we die, whether from old age or illness, war or terror, suicide or murder or through some weird accident, those who survive have to pick up the pieces and go on.

So many of are sick  of wars inflicted on people who did not make war on us. We’re heartsick at the thought of the maimed children, the dead parents, the orphans, the elderly left with no one to care for them…in the name of what? A War on Terror? It’s a pretty safe bet those kids in Iraq and Afghanistan are terrified of the bombs we’ve been dropping on them. What if our own children had to live with that for ten years or more? Did we make our point, exact the appropriate revenge?

And where are we, all these years later? I am so grateful for my blessings I sometimes weep with the overwhelming sense of gratitude for this life of mine. The dentist says, “Are you okay?” as he fits the shiny new crown over that little metal post. Well, yes I am. I am getting fabulous dental care with no pain and my mouth doesn’t hurt or cause me infections…Even worse, the technician asks me if THE WATER IS TOO HOT as she fills the pedicure tub. (Some people have very tender skin, she assures me.) We discuss her two year old granddaughter.”I hope she doesn’t have to do this,” the lady says as she files the yucky bits off my feet. And completely without irony I say, “I hope so, too.”

Yesterday I drove downtown. Downtown McMinnville, that is. (‘Swimming pools, movie stars’…not!) On this anniversary of 9/11, the Public Works truck lumbered toward a job, and the three guys crowded into the front seat were laughing at something. The beer truck was making a delivery to the Elk’s Lodge. Bakery customers emerged with pink boxes and see-though bags revealing glistening loaves of bread. Six beautiful women in shorts and helmets shot past on bicycles, a blur of tanned legs and neon tank tops. A young father, sporting the requisite hipster beard and plaid shirt, pushed a double stroller filled with two blonde babies past the grocery store window. I was getting coffee, as I do every morning.

And it struck me. This is who we are. This is what we do. 9/11 and its subsequent wars, the threat of terrorists, random acts of incredible violence notwithstanding, we are a nation of people committed to our way of life. To life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We believe in it. We even take it for granted, most of the time. Because most of the time, we can.

We may have wildly emotional differences of opinion with the “other” political parties and we disagree about which way to hang the toilet paper—we even get mad when little kids kick the back of our seats for six hours on a cross country flight, but when push comes to shove we are all human. And humans are really good at surviving. We’ve been doing it a long time and we’re set to hit a planetary high of 10 billion people in a scarily short number of years so apparently we’ll be doing it for some time to come.

So the question arises: Why? What is life about? What are supposed to learn while we’re here? What big thing are we supposed to die knowing? And do we? A friend of mine said, shortly before she died, “I wish I’d let go so much sooner. Of the negativity, the pettiness, the anger…” That is the closest I’ve ever come to hearing a deathbed epiphany.

Sometimes I say that in my last life I MUST have been a supermodel—so in this life I’m sitting back and letting the other girls have a turn. But who knows? Maybe I’m just trying to feel better about my thighs.

I believe that life is a mystery and we’re born knowing its secrets, but since we’re born as babies and can’t speak, we have no way to share our wisdom and by the time we can we’ve forgotten again, bogged down in the earthly drama.

At any rate, happy anniversary. It’s almost autumn, the leaves are turning, school has started, and for many of us, it’s the beginning of another year. Make it a good one if you possibly can, and find as much joy as you can in the simple gifts each day brings.

And, since this is a travel blog, make plans to take a trip. Visit friends or family or go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. This isn’t a dress rehearsal–it’s your life!

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