The article below was originally published one year ago. Fear has a way of coloring everything in your life, and I find myself thinking more about it than I’d like these days… because the fear is closer to home. How often should we listen to it? Fear can be a healthy feeling when it causes us to exercise caution when it’s due, and urges us to ask questions, and even take action; but when does it become more crippling than helpful? Yes, fear is a powerful emotion, and we need to counter it, and I’ve been struggling with how, exactly, that is to be done: how do we not let fear push us around?
Although I don’t have any answers (yet), what I’ve come to discover, is that being “fearless” doesn’t mean the absence of fear. Instead, it describes the people who push through the fear in order to keep Living, with a capital “L.”
I published this a few weeks ago. I still believe it.
November 24, 2015
I had an entirely different article written for this week.
And then the attacks on Paris occurred, and my irreverent take on consumerism during this time of giving evaporated. My mind swirled dizzyingly with memories of living 25 miles from Ground Zero when the 9/11 attacks happened.
I am fully aware of the other brutal harm done throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world, and I’m not comparing how bad one is over the other. I am just telling you what hit me hardest and why: that one of our greatest, and long-time allies, who stood with us immediately upon the events of 9/11, is hurting. And it hit home in another way.
It grabbed my gut and twisted because my son, along with about 25 of his classmates, are supposed to be going to Paris.
Oh my God…
They are scheduled to go in March. Still several months away. But after 9/11, after any terrorist attack, life feels as though you’ve been tossed up in the air with your neighbors and friends, and no one knows which end is up, and it’s very scary not having solid ground under your feet. It’s also very difficult to imagine being BACK on solid ground, and it feels you never will be. At the time. Eventually, everyone gets some grounding back. But it can take years for others.
The only thing I remember clearly about that September day, less than a month after Z had turned 2, was how impossibly blue and cloudless the sky was that day. “How? How can this have happened?” and then the ridiculous thought of “on such a beautiful day” crept in. I remember other things as well, just not in crystal clear pictures like the sun in the sky that day.
It turns out I wasn’t alone in that observation — tens of thousands of us thought it.
Not that the weather had anything to do with allowing or stopping any attack that day. It’s something our brains do when horrific events occur: they try to make sense of the unimaginable by clinging to something “normal,” like the weather.
But in this case, the stark, contrast of that bright, sunny, fall day to the brutal inhumanity that brought death raining down on us only managed to heighten the senses already on high alert. The amount of adrenaline washing over everyone that day was truly epic, and allowed a great many heroes to do what they had to do.
Parisians, I’m sure, are still feeling all of this and more. My son’s French teacher, Mme. Mick, who is not only planning the student trip, but her own trip over this Thanksgiving holiday, has been closely monitoring the events with the educational tour group; and, in turn, they work very closely with the State Department to determine travel safety. Mme. Mick recently shared this thought with her students and parents:
“I think that, as Americans, we have an all-too-familiar understanding of what the French are going through. In these times, it’s important to remember that the goal of terrorism is to scare people away from living their lives as they are accustomed. Countries whose founding beliefs arise from freedom of speech, thought, and expression, are those which are targeted first.”
She is right. Americans do understand what France is feeling right now. It is the goal of terrorism “to scare people away from living their lives.” It was tempting to just hole up in the house, watching the news 24/7 during and after the 9/11 attacks. But we wouldn’t — and couldn’t — just stand by. People have an innate sense of wanting to DO something. We want to HELP. We need to be people of ACTION. We NEED to live our lives.
The very reason T and I allowed Z to sign up for this trip in the first place was thankfulness: we feel grateful that he has these opportunities to broaden his life and his world-view by understanding different cultures, and experiencing new, beautiful places on our Earth, and to give him this memory of traveling with some of his best friends while representing American Youth abroad in a positive way.
I am changed for the better by every trip abroad I make, and become more thankful each time I pull out my passport. Z has traveled abroad several times, but this will be his first time as a teen, and the first time without a parent.
Do we allow the terrorists to take this life-altering opportunity away?
My head shouts “NO!” My gut is twisted beyond making any rational decisions. My heart hurts.
We won’t be making any other decision right now, except to continue making plans for Z’s trip. The fear and worry will still be on my mind and in my heart going forward, but with input from Mme. Mick, our school district, the educational tour group office in Paris, and the State Department, I believe a safe trip is of the greatest concern, and I don’t believe any one of those agents would purposefully put my child or anyone else’s in danger at any time. I am thankful for their diligence. Ultimately, the decision is with us. But it won’t be a knee-jerk reaction, and it won’t be an idealistic reaction. It will be an informed decision.
With thanks and a grateful heart, for everyone who watches out for us and our children — not only in first-responder fashion, but our teachers, the organizations that provide amazing opportunities, and everyday people of integrity, who do the right thing in spite of the personal cost — I wish you all a Thanksgiving season that fills your hearts with love and grace, today and always.
Until Friday, Friends. Peace.
P.S. We didn’t let fear grip us for long: we sent Z on the trip.