When tragedy strikes and disaster hits our fragile world. When calamity occurs and life is lost. When that life lost belongs to a child -- a precious son or daughter. When it is a mother's life, a wife's life, a sister's life that's taken. Or worse: when that loss of life affects an entire family, it is so pervasive and deadly in its scope.
It is so unfathomable.
It then becomes probable, for those of us who are left to identify with the face of this loss of such epic proportions, to somehow fall victim to the guilt complex. That is: The Blame Game. By way of the "what ifs." The "what if this were me and my family?" question. Which leads to the "it can't happen if I avoid x,y or z" phobia. That eventually results to a syndrome we fall prey to when realizing how precious life is and how fleeting days are and how truly few are the actual moments we are given. And which subsequently causes us to live in paranoia.
And this syndrome sometimes instigates otherwise rational, common-sense type parents, such as I would consider myself, to do strange things. Like panic. Go to pieces. Become frightened and start to dread everything and everyone around me or my children. To avoid crowds. To become paranoid on airplanes. To watch news coverage ad-naseum. To be consumed with alternating feelings of rage and sorrow. And to believe that everyone could be a suspect.
And when in this mode of thinking, we tend to bunker in and batten down the hatches, erroneously believing that by cocooning ourselves and our family, we will somehow be safe and untouched. Oh! how easy it would be to just hide under the covers and ignore the bad guys. Pretending it would all go away it we just make a simple wish.
If wishes were horses, my friends, beggars would ride.
But what we fail to sometimes remember, in the midst of our over-planning, our over-protection, our over-bearing goodwill toward those we love. Is this. It is in the unfearful living of life, free and glorious, that our lives are released, liberated from the bondage of the awful here and now. And by facing our fears, as one who moves into the wind, rather than backing away from it, that we truly feel the strength and intensity of our willingness to live. To embrace life. To feel the complexity of power and weakness and their interconnectedness. To finally know ourselves and discover what it truly means to be human and all that entails.
And by allowing ourselves the experience of knowing wonder and excitement -- like when our child first experiences a ride on an airplane. We discover that life is not two-dimensional. It is far better lived in 3-D. Lived in colour. Lived out loud, and very, very large.
And that means enabling our children the independence to come and go, that they so very much need to live and co-exist on a planet crowded with people. That means allowing ourselves the ability to enjoy life in its complexity and beauty and chaos and confusion. That means knowing fear but never allowing fear to preside. That means moving outwards when all we feel like doing is staying in.
A few short years ago, our young family of three under six years of age took a trip to New York City. It was a Saturday night in Times Square that I remember so well. Vividly. Husband had one child, I had another by the hand and the baby in an umbrella stroller. And I remember the people. Crowds, and crowds and crowds of people. It was so densely packed, sidewalk to sidewalk. And we could only inch ourselves forward, small baby-steps at a time.
And what I remember even more than that picture of us inching our way toward the notorious NYC subway system was this: the fear. Because what you need to know was that this was not long after 9/11. And we had earlier that day been to Ground Zero.
Things were still pretty fresh in my mind (Read: fear, paranoia, anxiety).
And while looking back now (as a more experienced parent), we country-bumpkins probably should have left the city earlier. We probably were a little more foolish and brazen back then. But nevertheless. The reason we stayed was because FAO Schwarz was in the middle of Times Square. And it was like a magical fairyland of dreams come true. Complete with a Ferris wheel in the middle of the store and all the Lego a boy could envision. And the reason we stayed was for our son. Because we wanted him to experience the wonder. The excitement, indeed the thrill of the ultimate shopping adventure that is that mammoth of all toy stores: FAO Schwarz.
So we stayed because to leave would have been to miss out. To be denied that experience. To not live in the moment. To not live life large.
And I say all that to say something else: sometimes in life we do things for ourselves and our children -- not because they are the most practical, the most prudent, the most protected means of living. Some decisions we make are simply for the thrill of experience. Like riding the roller coaster at Disney. Like snorkelling or scuba-diving in the ocean. Like deep-sea fishing. Like hiking to the top of a mountain. Or like watching a friend run a marathon in a densely packed city with lots of strangers packed in tightly around you.
Is there inherent danger in every one of the above? You betcha. But there is also thrill, excitement and wonder. And isn't that all a part of living?
And although we often must needs weigh the thrill against the peril, we must never choose to deny ourselves the experience of living life out loud -- full and free and large. For in living large we get to see life from that unique vantage point: the peak. And life from the peak is sacred, worth the experience.
Worth the risk.