Looking Terror Dead in the Eye

IMG_0268 (1)This is the blog I don’t want to have to write. But I can’t continue to eat yet another piece of tiramisu, waste days away wondering which direction my life is headed now, wander from gorgeous place to gorgeous place posting pictures galore of my experiences and touch only the very surface of the potential in this most amazing trip . . . while my brothers and sisters are being murdered left and right.

I, for one, cannot go on with life as usual, burying my head in the sand and not saying a word. Yes, life does go on. No, I do not choose to live in fear nor do I wish to be an example of living in fear for my children . . . nor for anyone else for that matter. Yes, I understand that if we lock ourselves “safe and sound” in our homes, the terrorists have won. Yadda, yadda, yadda. But Jesus Christ it’s time already! And I’m pretty sure the man whose name I supposedly just took in vain would agree with me. Look, we all have our place in this, and I won’t dare presume I know what anyone else’s place is (as I barely know my own) but I’ve got a few things to say: If they speak to you, so be it. I’ve thought, felt, said and written for a while now that I’m a frontliner: Yes, there are ways to be on the battlefield without ever picking up a gun. My voice and my pen are my weapons, “swords of truth” if you will, what feels like my truth at the time anyway. And I humbly yet assertively suggest that there are shreds of Universal Truth sprinkled throughout as well.

And yet what do my words matter? I am one of many voices. This blog post, based on prior data, will be read by maybe five people at most. Why bother? Well the best reason I can find to bother is that I can’t not bother. There are words within me that are dying to be born: Yes, like all of us, they are dying to one life to be born into another. Squelching them would be like having an abortion that I do not wish to have. So here it is, uncensored, unmedicated, the messy birth of my thoughts on terror:

When did this all begin for me? Well I’m sure it was  before this but I’ll say with 9/11. Like everyone, I’ll never forget what I was doing when I learned of the attacks. I was showering. Yes, I was taking a normal shower to start my day when my partner at the time came and opened the shower door, reached out his hand to me and quietly led me into our bedroom where, on our tiny little television screen, the towers were crumbling to the ground. I remember watching in stunned disbelief. Our son was ten months old. What kind of world have I brought him into? was one of the first thoughts that entered my mind. And yet another part of me knows he chose to come and that I am just one small part of his Soul’s journey. It actually feels crazy and surreal to me in this moment that my daughter Adalynn was still hanging out in the ethers somewhere at that point. Anyway, as life took shape after the attacks, I found myself fairly alone, at least where people in my personal life were concerned, in terms of how I felt related to what had occurred. While not anywhere near to the extreme that it had for the victims and their families, I knew in the depths of my being that the course of my life had been changed forever. And  of course in some way that was true for all of us.

Fast-forward to several months ago and what happened in Paris (it takes me a while sometimes to catch up to what’s occurring in me): On that night, just before I learned about the attacks on Facebook, I had made plans to go out and celebrate a friend’s birthday. After I read about the attacks, I felt very moved not to go ahead with my original plans. I felt like just being home alone, talking with my kids, lighting a candle and meditating on my role in addressing this pervasive issue that was terrorizing our world. I didn’t listen to my inner voice and instead chose to go ahead with my plans. The next morning, I felt like I had learned the night before of my siblings dying and responded by distracting and numbing myself by going out anyway. This felt awful. I experienced a deep sense of guilt, shame, helplessness and despair. I knew I wanted to do something that leant itself to “positive” change but I wasn’t sure what: Sure there was my writing but that didn’t feel like enough.

A few days later, I lit candles, put on some relaxing music and colored a mandala while “holding space,” for lack of a better phrase, for Paris and also for other affected cities at the time. That night, in my sleep, a voice came to me and said, “You are chosen.” Now before you try to have me locked up (I’ve been there, done that but that’s a story for another day/year), let me say that this experience of hearing voices (which I’ve had before related to other profound times in my own personal life) is as perplexing to me as it might seem to you. Still, even though I have no idea exactly what those words meant, I have come to a place in my life where I have to honor them, regardless of what anyone in the outside world might think. Let me, too, add that I don’t mean to make this grandiose in a sense that I am chosen anymore than anyone else: I definitely do not see that as the case by any means. I do, however, know that I must heed the call for myself; otherwise, I will suffer the effects of saying no to my Soul. I also need to add here that just a couple of months prior to the Paris attacks, I had seriously considered learning French and taking a trip to Paris.

Fast-forward again to a couple of months after the devastating events in Paris and I actually am planning a trip to Europe–for two months! Paris included! For me, this feels like a trip of a lifetime: It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Once I made the decision to go, things easily rose into place, and that has become my barometer for moving forward with something: It felt like the power of the Universe was behind me. And then Brussels happened. And here I, like so many others, was again–feeling awful for the victims and their families, feeling grateful and yet also confused that “there but by the Grace of ‘God’ go I” and my family and wondering what I can possibly do to nudge our world in the other direction, namely away from maiming and killing each other literally and metaphorically as a result, I believe, of outdated, immature, unevolved, ridiculous beliefs. For a  moment, triggered mainly by others’ (understandable) comments of concern but also by a really strange encounter with a woman outside of my computer repair shop that day, I allowed the events to cause me to rethink whether or not I should follow through with my trip; it didn’t help matters that it seemed like the entire Cosmos was blocking me from reaching Turkish Airlines to help me sort out some issues with my flight ticket. In the end–as is evidenced by the fact that I am sitting in Bacoli, Italy writing this blog post–I decided to take the trip after all.

Deep down I think I knew that I wasn’t going to change my mind but I would be lying if I said I never waivered from my original plan. I was following excitement, the unknown, risk and a sense of I’ll always regret it if I don’t go. These things, like ease and Universal Support, have become all I have to go on in life. So while the awful attacks in Brussels didn’t cause me to cancel, they did cause me to rethink the nature of my trip–what I wanted it to look like. While I’m a huge fan and proponent of indulging our senses, honoring our earthly existence as purposeful and beautiful and playing in this world of form, with everything that was occurring I could hardly picture myself coming to Europe for two months and just having the time of my life.

But that’s exactly what I’ve done. Well, sorta. This trip has  been amazing, and yes I am so incredibly grateful and blessed . . . but, like with anything in life, it certainly has had its challenging aspects as well–both practically and because of the level of soul-searching/facing my shadows I’ve been forced into doing due to the various circumstances throughout my wanderings. But yes, all in all, I’ve come here to eat, converse, explore, take photographs, write, meet new people . . . and not work (at least at my bill-paying jobs). Two months of that sounds like a fabulous vacation, right? And it is. Still, I take myself (my Home) with me wherever I go, and clearing out drawers and closets is a thing I find myself doing regularly. And that is not always a pleasant experience, particularly when I find buried stuff that I thought I had gotten rid of years ago.

Even more than all of this personal clearing out, though, I’m feeling a strong pull toward doing my share in terms of clearing out our collective drawers and closets. Believe me, I try to find all kinds of ways to run from this task–to say no to what’s calling me–but every time I turn around it’s something else, and it’s as if Life is saying to me, “Hold on there, not so fast. We’ve got work to do, and you’re going to help.” I can fool myself into believing that sharing thoughts, wisdom and solutions on Facebook and supporting the “right” candidate are enough but they clearly are not as something inside of me is commanding me to listen.

Before I came on this trip, I had several people sit down and have a serious talk with me about not going into or through Turkey, or at the very least not leaving the airport (I had been planning a tour through Istanbul during my layover). I took what they were saying to heart but, like so many of us, am trying to live the fine line between proceeding cautiously and giving in to fear. Several weeks into my trip, I received a frantic text from my thirteen-year old daughter, begging me not to go to Turkey and to just come home. I was on a long night train at the time, and I responded to her text, attempting to console her with, “Sweetie, I’ll only be in Turkey when I fly through the airport on the way home.” Her response was, “Mom, three bombs just went off at that airport.”

Now I want to interject here to say two things:

  1. By no means is my focusing on the terrorist events of our last fifteen years meant to disregard the horrific things that my fellow humans all over this planet have been facing way before we started giving any of this much attention.
  2. When I speak of the mild (comparatively) effects all of this has had on me and my family to this point, I am fully aware and have immense compassion for those who have been directly affected by these acts of terror.

So my daughter and I proceeded to text back and forth (we couldn’t get each other by phone from the train), and I reassured her as best I could that I would do everything possible to stay out of harm’s way and to update her as to my whereabouts. In the meantime, people are grieving Orlando, my daughter is headed to New York City (a tiny part of me wonders if we should allow her to go), and I am all over the place about how to approach all of this for my children, myself and our world.

My trip continues as usual but, believe me, all the while these events and what’s behind them are, at the very least, in the back of my mind. And, frequently, they are in the forefront of my mind as, well, how can they not be for any of us at this point?

In Amsterdam, I walked into a shop to indulge in the must-have fries with mayonnaise. I asked the man behind the counter how he was doing. His somber reply was, “Good but also not so good.” I looked him in the eyes extending an unspoken invitation for him to go on. With a choked up voice, he shared with me the news of the recent bombings in Baghdad (I hadn’t heard about them to that point) and how that is where he is from. I told him, “I am so sorry.” And then I asked, “Were you close with anyone who died?” His lovely and heartfelt response took me aback, and it was this, “It is not like where you are from. In Baghdad, everyone is my family. My neighbor is not my neighbor but my brother.” I nodded in understanding. We chatted for a bit longer, wished each other well, and I was on my way. Wandering the streets of Amsterdam after that encounter, thousands of miles from my children, family and friends, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if we all–everyone in this world–felt that way about each other?”

On Earth, the people down the street, the people across the ocean, the people I don’t know personally . . . they are not strangers, they are not my neighbors, they are not disconnected from me in any way . . . rather, they are–each and every last one of them–my family, my brothers and sisters.

On the train to Barcelona, I sat next to two guys who happened to be American. They bought me wine and chocolate from the bar so, needless to say, we became fast friends. Within ten minutes of conversation I learned that they lived just ten minutes from Pulse in Orlando, Florida. I had just watched an incredibly touching video related to the horrific act of terror that occurred there. It’s everywhere, I think to myself . . . everywhere. Days later, my friend/traveling companion and myself happen upon the Barcelona LGBT Pride Celebration. We were excited and intrigued so we picked a few brains about what was involved in the evening’s festivities. “The Foam Party” is what piqued our interest most so we were sure to return just in time to get our groove on with thousands of people and lots of white stuff. We had a great time, and we were reflecting on as much the next day when both of us admitted that it did cross our minds the night before that what happened in Orlando might also take place at that event. Do I dare say we were fortunate that it didn’t? I can’t bring myself to say that because really we are all unfortunate that it’s happening to anyone.

My friend and I parted ways in Barcelona: I headed back to Bacoli near Naples in Italy and she to Nice, France. You know where this is going. The next night, I was reading a book on my phone when a message a friend had posted on my Facebook wall came through: You’re not anywhere near France are you? I thought to myself, I wonder what that’s all about. Initially I could only find a small incident when, next thing I knew I was reading a post from my friend’s boyfriend letting everyone know that she and her family were okay. So I dug deeper, and that is when I began following the horrific chain of events that occurred along the promenade in the French Riviera.

This is where I’d like to get to the heart of what I wish to express in this blog. I’ll begin by sharing that enough has happened in my own life in the last ten years (including a tried and true “Dark Night of the Soul” experience) to understand the Bigger View, the Broader Perspective, Eternal Life, Soul Agreements, how even the most tragic events can be a blessing, etc. But I will tell you when I was watching a video the next morning of the driver responsible for the deaths in Nice, I called him every name in the book. I felt so pissed off, so enraged, and I found myself shouting into my phone, “People are not bowling pins!” To all my “spiritual” friends out there (whatever the fuck that even means), I wanted to shout, “Don’t tell me ‘All is Well’! Clearly all is NOT well. Really, tell that to the parent whose child just got plowed over by a truck ON PURPOSE.” This is where I think we need to be careful. The way I see it is this: Our old way of approaching this and the rest of the mess we’ve created on this planet is obviously not working. But the new way that many have chosen which includes fluffy phrases such as Everything is Love. Pray for peace. We’re all One, etc. clearly isn’t cutting it either. This is a merging of Heaven and Earth, a melding of Human and Divine, a moment where we have a choice.

If we continue to believe that the only way to stop terror in all its forms is to rid the world of the terrorists, we are not going to get anywhere. Simultaneously, if we continue to put our heads in the sand, move on with our lives as if none of this really matters (until our “loved” one is directly affected) while singing our pretty little version of “All is Well,” we will also remain stuck and, frankly, oblivious if not cold and uncaring toward the horrors that are being visited upon our fellow human beings.

Do we need to hold people accountable for actions that harm themselves and others? Absolutely yes! Do we need to trust that the nature is righting itself as we speak? Absolutely yes!

Do we . . . need to look at ourselves, individually and collectively, and get real honest about how we are contributing to this mess? Absolutely yes times a billion! And I think this is the part that most of us are still missing. Until we can look at the ways in which we have supported terror (as one example, child abuse in all its subtle and not so subtle forms; as another example religion with all its dogma and threats of hell; as a third example, the myriad ways in which we manipulate others to depend on us, killing their spirit and autonomy in the process, as a fourth example, the way we have become such a patriarchal society all across the world, both repressing and exploiting femininity and masculinity alike to the detriment of all people, as a fifth example, the way in which we have allowed ourselves to be motivated by greed  . . . and the list goes on and on) we are never, ever going to get a true handle on what’s occurring, and we will eventually self-destruct.

Recently, I watched “Spotlight,” a movie about child molestation run amok and covered up within the Catholic Church. Having been raised in the Catholic Church, I had a very powerful reaction to the film. Of course, like I would think most anyone who watched it, I was devastated for the victims and their families, angry beyond belief at the perpetrators and the Church and sad for a world that could allow this to happen. I was also very clear about something: We have all been sexually molested by the Catholic Church. I say that not to take anything away from those who have been molested literally but to shine some light on the very important fact that the intention and its effects on someone are just as detrimental as the destructive action itself. Dressing up and disguising impure intentions do not make their effects any less harmful, and sometimes make them more so because what’s taking place isn’t as obvious. I mention this because it is the case with terrorism and all the other problems that our world is facing right now. We need to look at what we’re believing, what we’re supporting, what we’re justifying and what we are choosing in our own lives if we are going to make any real contribution to eradicating terrorism on this planet. If we think for one minute that “small” acts of terror do not contribute to the larger issue of terror on this planet, then we really need to think again. Of course we need to treat the symptoms, hold terrorists accountable, do everything in our power to prevent more acts of terror from occurring and the like. But more than or at least as much as that we need to get to the root of why this is all occurring in the first place. And part of that involves taking a serious look at how we see ourselves, our world and Life Itself. We’ve gotten ourselves into this mess, and that’s the Good News because we can get ourselves out of it . . . just not by using the same approach we’ve used to this point. When something is off in our bodies, the body let’s us know. Well, something is quite off in our collective body, and She is speaking ‘loud and clear.’ Will we listen?

I’m leaving Europe two weeks earlier than I had planned. My plane flies out tomorrow morning. This is partly because of the coup attempt in Turkey (I was to be flying out of there), largely because I just want to be with my children right now and mostly just because I’m Done. I don’t know if I’m running to something, from something or a combination of both. Mostly, to the best of my ability, I’m doing what feels like the next “right” thing.

The day after I learned of what occurred in Nice, I chose to do a meditation, hoping for some guidance on what my place is in this and other very important matters with which we are currently faced. What showed up in the area of my third eye was this:

There was a door with a very bright light behind it (I could see the light seeping through around the perimeter of the door). In front of the door was a cloaked figure without a face. I wondered briefly who he was but then chose to curl up on my side and go back to sleep. As I did so his image appeared again, and I  became clear in that moment that he was The Grim Reaper. Oh gosh, I thought, what’s he doing here? The message was clear to me:

I must look death dead in the eye yet again, I must face him and get past him . . . if I am to walk through that door into the Light.

I’ve done this before, and I’ll do it again. I have no idea what it looks like but I guess it is this for which I have been chosen. Possibly we could all use this as a metaphor in considering our place and what we might choose at this crucial turning point in Humanity’s history. Might we look terror–within and without–dead in the eye, face it and move past it, into the Light . . . once and for All?

 

Glory

 

Hand it over

to the invisible General.

Submit to Her commands

as you march

in Her

one-woman

Army of Truth.

Toss yourself

into the sea—

turbulent, rough and wild—

and allow It to carry you

where It may,

where It must.

In fact,

drown!

Yes—

under,

under,

under.

And then Rise

to the surface—

Renewed,

Whole,

Real.

I can’t see

any way

around

This.

And, believe me,

I’ve tried.

I’ve attempted

dodging It,

postponing It,

finagling.

Honestly,

at this point,

I think there’s

less pain involved

in Surrender.

Of course there is.

So, I allow

Her—

The Wind

Who calls Herself

Change—

to toss me about . . .

relentlessly,

fiercely,

chaotically.

And I know

I’ll eventually land—

at least for a breather,

for a chance

to try and make sense of what hit me.

Even if this process

kills what’s left of me

(in fact, I wonder if that’s

the point),

I get the sense that

Something survives,

and that It’s the

only thing

that’s really Living

anyway.

It’s Alive

in me

now,

and once I am

cleansed,

purified,

It’ll be all

that’s left.

And what’s left will

march to Victory,

ride the waves,

fly like the wind,

because

what’s left

is

All There Is,

and

She

Rises in Glory

as She

is

Glory Itself.

Copyright 2013 from the forthcoming

Book of Life: Poems for the Journey

 

 

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