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Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11th recollections

It is difficult to capture the feeling that is in my heart today. There is an aching stillness, a hurt that is hard to express with words. I can still remember so vividly the shock, the rush of panic, the feeling of despair and hopelessness that morning and into the next few months afterward. Even after ten long years, and another lifetime of new memories that have happened since, the events and images of that day are still burned into my soul… and it still hurts.
"For me and my family personally, September 11 was a reminder that life is fleeting, impermanent, and uncertain. Therefore, we must make use of every moment and nurture it with affection, tenderness, beauty, creativity, and laughter." - Deepak Chopra, M.D.
Life truly is impermanent and uncertain. Each day is a gift, and after September 11, 2001, that lesson became very meaningful and real. Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing at the moment the planes hit in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.  I was working downtown in DC at that time, and I took the metro from the Pentagon station every morning and then again in the afternoon. I had just arrived at work when the first plane hit one of the towers in New York City. It had to be an accident, I thought. Then the second plane and I knew. I knew and in an instant everything I had once known and believed was shattered.
How could this have happened? At that point, I was in shock, but then when they announced that the Pentagon had been hit, my world came crashing down. My sister taught at a school just a few miles away. My daughter’s school was within a few miles and my parents lived less than 5 miles from the impact. What were my sons doing, thinking, and how were they reacting? Suddenly, I desperately wanted and needed to know where and how all my friends and loved ones were! And I couldn’t. My mother had flown to Germany the previous day and she was agonizing over what had happened. And there I was, in the middle of L Street, trapped and unable to move as the world seemed to be crumbling around me.
"You can be sure that the American spirit will prevail over this tragedy." - Colin Powell
Mercifully, all of my loved ones were safe and well that day. In a matter of hours, we were able to speak to one another and be together in our horror and grief. But life was never the same. Not for our country, our state, our city or the little world within our hearts and minds. We had lost innocence and a belief that nothing like that could touch us. But it also brought us together and would steel us against future loss and tragedy. It would help us to get through other family tragedies which were to come. It gave us perspective and strength. Rebuilding the mangled buildings that the terrorists had sought to bring to ruin was a reminder to us that when faced with destruction in our own lives, you rebuild. You don’t leave broken, shattered ruins for your enemies to gloat over. You pick yourselves up and you begin again.
“Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children" - George W. Bush
My heart still breaks for those who lost their lives, their loved ones, their sanity and peace of mind during those terrible attacks and the days, months, and years which have followed. The Soldiers who have died fighting the wars which followed, and knew what they were up against after September 11th are a testimony to the incredible bravery and passionate love of our way of life and our deep desire to preserve it for future generations. They, too, inspire me and remind me of the cost of freedom and liberty. Their sacrifice, and that of their families, reminds me to honor and cherish every day and to live with a sense of honor and dignity and to work towards being a good, decent and productive citizen and human being.
Today is a day to remember and reflect, but each and every day is an opportunity to honor those who lost their lives and those who continue to sacrifice for others. Let the spirit and message of September 11th be with us perpetually and mindfully. Let it live and let it grow within us.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The power of positive thoughts and deeds can change your life

One should never underestimate the miracles that can occur if and when you change your attitude or actions in a positive direction. While positive changes must begin within ourselves, they also reach out and affect that which surrounds us as well.
When I talk about the power of positive thoughts and deeds, I am not attempting to sell some “pie-in-the-sky” platitudes or cute little catch phrases. I am talking about the very hard work it can take to adjust our ways of thinking and acting, and a dedication to improving life and making a real difference.
As positive change begins with the ways in which we think, feel, interact, speak and treat ourselves and others, we become more productive, positive and successful in all areas of life. Our personal life, our professional life and everyone we touch in those spheres will feel the shift in our attitude, demeanor and actions. EVERYONE WINS. We become better friends, spouses, parents, siblings, co-workers and citizens. We become more mature and more aware of others and ourselves, and this attitude can bring positive change in return.

"The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude." - William James
When a change toward a more positive life occurs, we are able to work through frustrating and painful situations and difficulties with less of the weight that negativity and other toxic feelings, attitudes and emotions have to bring us down. Embracing positivity helps us to avoid situations and individuals that bring us down as they continue to wade in the cesspool of jealousy, laziness, regret, anger, bitterness or ignorance.
Most people never realize how fortunate they are to have the chance to choose to live life in a different way than they did yesterday.

Sometimes it is hard to see beyond one’s own immediate circumstances and pain, but this can’t be an excuse to give up or indulge harmful, hurtful, or destructive ways of thinking and acting. It helps no one and hurts everyone. The pervasive negativity bleeds over into ever corner of society and the world. It starts in the home where those who should be loving one another the most, lash out and hurt family members. This creates a cycle of pain and can affect generations of people. If only they could love and appreciate and see the positive aspects of their own lives more completely, the change could take place towards a happier, healthier family life.
It is possible to change negative and harmful thoughts and actions. It begins with a decision and a commitment. Even those individuals who are bound by the unimaginably difficult circumstances, either physically, mentally or geographically challenged; the immense power of positive thought can make all the difference in life. Imagine the hardships that many individuals endure daily with pain, loss, fear, dread or terrible suffering. Although they may not be able to change the actual circumstances or situation, what is possible is to change their outlook and attitude.
Think of how much better the world would be if every individual were to try to double their positive thoughts and actions. Think of what a difference it would make in the lives of those who are most vulnerable- children, people with disabilities, the elderly, the poor.

If tomorrow there were less self-absorbed thoughts and actions, less negativity and pettiness, less bitter or spiteful thoughts and actions and more positive and giving attitudes, situations would change for the better and people would lead much happier, healthier and productive lives.

Tomorrow is a new day, a new beginning, a new chance to live life in a more positive way. It begins with me and it begins with you.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

Serenity- a simple word for a powerful force

Each day, I pray for the gift of serenity in my life. As the quote above notes, serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid it. Every day brings some sort of storm. It may be a tiny rain shower, brief and mild, or it may become a massive and destructive hurricane. Regardless of the size of the storm, if we carry serenity with us, we can weather it and survive.
Serenity- noun- səˈrenitē/
1. The state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled: "an oasis of serenity".
2. A title given to a reigning prince or similar dignitary. 

When serenity elludes you, find a way to reach inside for the courage and hope to believe that you can attain that force and accept its calming gift. Serenity is the cool water that quenches the burning, thirsting soul. It gives rest to the uneasy and soothes the restless spirit. Serenity is grace.

Perhaps you may find this prayer helpful to find that calm and serene place within.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him. Forever in the next.
                                                                                                       - Reinhold Niebuhr

I wish everyone a serene and peaceful day.