Sunday, September 11, 2011
As I went about my day on this September 11, 2011, glancing a bit at memorial photos on the internet and listening just briefly to stories on MPR on my way home from Trader Joe's, images and memories from the last 10 years of my life kept popping into my mind. Happy times. Sad times. Funny times. Unexpected times. Angry times. Anxious times. Calm times. Joy-filled times. I was reminded that over these 10 years, I've come a long way at finding my own inner peace.
The week before September 11, 2001, I had "broken-up" with two friends from high school. One I would probably have called my best friend at the time. I'd known her since 7th grade. The break-up is a story too long and complicated to explain here. In sum, it was the situation of friends growing apart. If we had met for the first time then, we likely wouldn't have become friends. Ours was a friendship created by attending the same junior and senior high schools and then returning to our hometowns to live with our parents post-college. In the meantime we had met others who more closely matched who we were becoming as adults. It was a sad, angry and anxious time for me. For us. My everyday world had collapsed a bit. And then, a week later, parts of our country collapsed and lives ended. Perhaps for a bit we collectively felt what other parts of the world have felt for generations. Unease. Victimized. Loss.
Eight months later I was in a serious car accident - so serious that I saw my life flash in front of me, and thought "I don't want to die yet," and for a few brief moments, thought I had. It took about two years for me to recover emotionally from that experience. I was numb to life for in the beginning and remember telling a wise person, "I lived, but I forgot how to live." I told her I felt silly and guilty for even feeling this way, mentioning 9/11 victims and how small my hurts are compared to theirs and she told me - almost interrupting me to do so - Jill, peace begins inside of us. We can hope for peace in this world. But for that peace to happen, it needs to happen inside, each and every one of us. The best you can do for this world is find your own inner peace. Don't compare and diminish how you feel. You won't ever find peace that way.
And man, that was a challenging journey. Sad things kept happening. My mom had a heart attack. I got into a huge fight with my sister one Thanksgiving and we barely talked for six months after. I was employed, but didn't make enough money to move out of my parents and pay for graduate school. I was still single after date after date after date. There were good times, of course, but I hung on to the bad and sad for far too long. I couldn't shed old dreams. My thoughts had grown deep roots to the past; my anxiety about the future was exhausting.
The grace of something outside of me brought me back into the present moment one day in late May, 2008. I looked around and saw that life - my life - much to my surprise, looked pretty good. In fact, my life was incredibly blessed. I know it sounds too simple to be real, but it was like in just a moment, a switch was flipped and my set-point emotion wasn't sadness anymore. I was skeptical for a while. Could this be what happiness feels like because I think I felt happy all day today. For a while I was afraid I'd jinx myself by believing the next day I'd feel the same. Days of feeling happy overall turned into months, turned into a year. I was at ease in the moment. I had uprooted my self from the past and decided to move with the present. I took new paths. Hurts were healed. Old good dreams were replaced with new good dreams. I was at peace.
It didn't surprise me at all today as I was on my way home from Trader Joe's, driving down a road I take almost every day, that I saw the break-up friend from 10 years ago walking his dog. He married the other break-up friend, my old best friend about 8 years ago. We live just a few blocks away from each other now and we see each other occasionally out and about, managing our lives at the grocery store or Target. We often stop and chat and smile. I'm friends with them on facebook - enough that I comment on their wall posts from time to time. I'm happy in my life and I hope they are happy in theirs as well.
The best each of us can do for this world is to find our own inner peace. It's everyday work. It's work that doesn't end. It's hard and it's messy and it hurts sometimes. I'm not perfect at it and I don't expect others to be either. I'll be challenged again. But I know this for sure: I am a truer, more loving person because I've committed to this work.