I never know what to write on September 11th. This year marks the 14th anniversary of the attacks, and once again, I’m at a loss. It just feels wrong to chatter about healthy recipes and the like.
I just returned from a week in Milan, Italy, where I was visiting the World Expo and spending some time exploring the city, and though I’m happy to be home, some time away can certainly give a sense of perspective. I spend so much time in my hectic New York bubble, and it was quite the eye opener to take a step back and observe myself in a place that is, well, not New York. Suddenly, my quick pace and habitual watch-glancing made me self-conscious, like my obvious, pointless rush might give me away. That said, a lot of people I encountered assumed I was from the UK—until I opened my mouth, of course—which gave me a laugh.
I got home last night after an almost 16-hour trip and was so stressed out by all the stuff on my to-do list, I felt paralyzed. Instead of crawling into bed, I threw some laundry into the machine, bought some groceries, and made soup. Just the act of doing these little human things made me feel calm and settled and capable.
But to backtrack a bit, this rush. Why? In remembering a day when so many people likely rushed to work, only to get there on time to lose their lives, I’m acutely aware of how much time we waste focused on getting to the next thing instead of looking around and appreciating where we are. Last week gave me a chance to catch myself in the act of hurrying up to wait or lamenting a perceived delay and to instead take the opportunity to practice patience and observe my surroundings and myself more fully.
I don’t handle the concept of unfinished business very well. One of the things that makes me angriest is when I see a life cut short—whether that be by accident, illness, murder, suicide. Unfortunately, the nature of my work brings me very close to people who pass away, and this is always one of the hardest parts. It can be so hard to accept.
That afternoon 14 years ago, when my sister and I were both home from school, my mom surprised me by taking out mixing bowls and flour, sugar, eggs, chocolate and butterscotch chips. We were not going to hide in the f***ing basement—we were going to make cookies. And we did, and they were delicious.
I was in high school on September 11, 2001, and one of the things that came out of that day for me was a commitment to living my life in a way that allows me to go to sleep each day feeling like I’ve done my best to make a positive impact, feeling satisfied with or at least understanding of where I am in that moment, if not always happy.
I also learned that when I’m scared, the best way to deal is to do something. Put one foot in front of the other in whatever way makes the most sense.
This September 11th, what I want to focus on is making peace: peace with others, peace with yourself, peace with where you are and what you’re dealing with. I want to focus on taking a chance to look around and take in the moment. It’s the kind of gift only we can give to ourselves but which we let others take from us so easily.
And failing that, make cookies. Or soup.