Archive for October, 2010

Breaking News


Since I’ve spent so much time writing here about my 9/11 stories, I was struck by my as-it-happens experience today:

I’m sitting in a cafe in my neighborhood, working away on the free wifi (ah, the life of a freelancer), and catch a glimpse of “breaking news” on NY1.Earlier today, I witnessed Meredith Viera dressed as Lady Gaga on the Today Show, destroying any shred of faith I had left in the Fourth Estate, so in that light, tend to take all things pretending to be “serious journalism” with a signficant grain of salt.

But it seems to be a bit more serious, suspiscious packages found, etc, etc. You can read the news where they publish the news. But I was so struck by my response to it: I immediately thought, “How would I respond differently to 9/11-like news today than I did back then?” Our instincts are shaped by our experiences; we just don’t realize how much so until they are triggered once again by this kind of moment.

I felt a little tinge of fear. I tempered it with a good dose of New Yorker cynicism. I wondered what it would be like if this was “it” again. Bridges closed? Subways down? Air traffic halted? What will that mean for my evening, my weekend? I chastened myself for selfish thoughts. What does it mean for the safety of everyone around me?

But I’ll tell you what–one thing remained the same. Just as I did on 9/11, I’ve just kept on working. OK, so working and taking a five-minute break to blog about it. The digital world has changed since 2001, that’s for sure. I have one eye on the TV, up in the background, but will shortly return to editing web sites and invoicing clients.

Perhaps that’s one instinct that’s deeply ingrained: just keep walking. One eye on the road. One eye on the news. Heart securely planted in a place of faith and overcoming. It’s worked for me so far.


This is What the Future Feels Like

Long Beach, New York

I took Monday off to go to the beach.

Yes, you West Coast and Aussie sand snobs, we have beaches in New York. And yes, it was cold. And yes, I loved every minute.

I live in a city of more than 8 million people. I’ve learned how to find “quiet” moments to reflect, think, pray just about anywhere, but the problem about those moments of relative stillness is their relativity. Sometimes you just need a beach in winter.

Long Beach is New York City’s most accessible beach, just about an hour by train from the city. I went with a friend; we sat in silent camaraderie, reading and staring off at the waves, joined on the beach only by a few fishermen and the occasional jogger. I don’t remember the last time I experienced that kind of quiet.

Later in the afternoon, after warming up with tea in the lobby of a hotel we couldn’t possibly afford, I took a walk alone to watch the sunset.

I took this photo as I stepped off the boardwalk and into the sand and have been staring at it all week. In that moment of stepping out, it was like Peace just washed over me, picked me up, and threw me over his shoulder. I get the sense that he can carry me around on his back everyday, but I find it hard to remember to hop on sometimes.

I walked for a while, snapped photos with my BlackBerry, mentally composed what I’d say in this blog entry—basically, kept my mind busy even though I claimed I was seeking quiet. Finally, I sat down on a rock, closed my eyes, and listened to the waves crashing up against the rocks. Why is it so hard for me to slow down and just listen sometimes? I suppose I’m a product of my city-that-never-sleeps environment.

I love the beach because it feels like everything that would drag me down is behind me and everything that’s mysterious, unknown, unseeable is ahead. I call it my “at the edge of the world” feeling, staring out at the ocean. I know there’s something on the other side, but I can’t see that far. Quite a lot like my life, especially over the last year.

Sitting on that rock looking out into nothingness, I felt OK with that. Peace in the not knowing, because I do know that there’s something out there. And I trust that it’s good.

I realized a lot of other things on the beach that day, too, but I’m not yet ready to verbalize them here, to you. For now, I’m sticking with the peace. When I start to forget, I want to look back at this photo, and hop on up for a piggyback ride into the future.

Traveling Heavy

Funny how this:

Reminds me so vividly and viscerally of this:

Sabiha Gokcen Airport Terminal

I started this blog just before I left for a massive and potentially life-changing journey around Europe. I spent a good deal of time thinking about the name, but like many good things (and, often, God) it took a long time for the name strike me suddenly: Traveling Light. Perfect. Multidimensional. I wanted to be a “light” to people as I traveled, making real connections, sharing joy, and inspiring hope.

I also was trying to fit my whole life into two small and easily maneuvered bags. This was easier said than done. I was traveling across climates and seasons, so some variety of wardrobe was required.

And I like books. A lot. Books are not light.

So why does that heavy laden hanger remind me of Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport? Because I wore all of that as I traveled through it. Plus my heaviest boots over two pair of socks. Plus a pair of jeans. I was wearing more than 12 pounds of clothing when I flew from Istanbul to London, thanks to EasyJet’s more-restrictive-than-Delta baggage policy. And those books? Left with friends in Istanbul (inspiring me to purchase a Nook shortly after reentry to the States).

Putting these cold weather clothes back into rotation stirred up a whole range of memories. I’m both amazed and dismayed at how material items can carry so much emotion and memory. It’s just stuff. (This is the mantra I repeated to myself over and over again as I bid farewell to several items of  said “stuff” in Istanbul.)

So what have I learned? Good question. Other than the vital difference between 50 pounds and 20 kilograms? I still have stuff. And it seems to breed and have baby stuff when I’m not looking. Despite my eReader, I keep acquiring new books. But it just doesn’t matter. I didn’t wear all those dresses I packed for London, and I threw away a couple pairs of shoes before I came back. I was able to be just as charming and cute in two pair of jeans as I might have been in three.

Some items were packed in the name of “being prepared for anything” (and avoiding spending money on the road). But, guess what? I’ve never managed to be fully prepared for all that life’s thrown at me, and I’d rather face surprises head-on than try to defend myself from them. And as for money, precaution has its place, but in some cases a bigger dose of faith will serve me better.

Lugging 12 pounds of clothing and a precariously full rollerboard bag through Sabiha Gokcen was stressful. I was afraid that my baggage would prohibit me from getting to where I was meant to be going. There’s gotta be a life lesson in that.


Rain, ice, wind and lightning besiege me as I sit under the slanted roof of the office I occupy alone.

I’m reminded of a memory at least 10, probably 15 years old—at a friend’s house, the same slanted roof; different décor, atmosphere, purpose, and probably, weather.

Talking through the night with the dearest of friends… perhaps our emotions were as stormy as the weather outside tonight. We were young, after all. Emotions tend toward the stormy for teenage girls, even more than the summer weather in our Iowa hometown. Even more than the hailstorm outside my Fifth Avenue windows tonight.

Why this memory, so vividly? Why now? I’m always perplexed when these seemingly unrelated and utterly vivid memories arise out of nowhere, but believe there’s a reason. Flashes before my eyes, showing me something.

But what? Something to write? Something to remember? Something to reconcile?

Maybe this, if nothing else:

In their lofted bedroom in 1995, I was amongst the warmth of friends, but could feel isolated, alone on the inside, with just the tiniest provocation or tipping of the delicately balanced scales of my mind.

Tonight, I am all on my own in a beautiful but austere office as ice pounds down with a terrifying force on the windows above my head and lightning flashes all around, but I know that I know that I am never alone. Never forsaken. Fully and completely loved. Safe and protected.

No wind, no rain, no hail, and no person can shake that confidence, compromise that knowing, or separate me from that truth that I’ve learned.


Where I’ve Been

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