My Story, My Birthday
After the 9/11 attacks in New York City and my home base of Washington, DC, I became disillusioned with the media’s take on the event. It seemed to me that the focus on the term “Ground Zero” and the repeated, horrific footage of planes crashing and towers falling was missing the point: The world as we knew it was forever changed, but not destroyed; however, we didn’t yet have a new world to start over from. As days turned to months and years, each one of us fashioned this new world, both in the United States and elsewhere. Each ONE of us stepped up to meet this new world. We had to. We had to invent one.
In 2002, hoping to bring a fresh, more balanced perspective to the fear-based threats and epithets that were shooting between American society and Arab society, I began my novel <i>Incongruent,/i>, focusing on the incongruities between cultures and civilizations. The novel begs for an answer to the question, “How can we hope for cultures and nations to get along globally if we can’t even get along as individuals, or even make peace with ourselves?” The novel almost wrote itself, and I finished its first draft in a year’s time. I queried an agent and piqued her interest.
But then my own life infrastructure suffered traumatic blows. I lost scores of loved ones. Among them, my dear soul sister Laura Schmidt. Laura died from pancreatic cancer, an insidious and almost-always fatal disease I knew only too well, because it also took my uncle. As the new century grew from infant to toddler to preschooler, I drove countless hours to South Carolina to care for my dying parents, logging more hours on the road than I did at work. I grieved my ill, then deceased, loved ones, and I grieved the hours I lost working on my novel. I was also grappling with my own dodge with death from contracting melanoma. Then, just when I was joking that there was no one left to lose, I came down with the disease that killed my father. The irony did not escape me.
Last winter, I sat in a surgeon’s office listening to her tell me that the only resolution to my life-altering digestive issues was a colon re-section. “Better to do it now before you perforate,” she said as though she was telling me to put bread on the grocery list. “No,” my soul resounded. “I’m not having surgery yet.” That’s when I found nutritionist and healer (aka miracle worker) Russell Mariani. Six months later, my colon is still intact, but my soul has somehow changed. I now treat my body as a temple for my spirit, instead of some roller derby car. I get enough sleep, I eat right, I drink lots of water, I exercise religiously, and I take some key supplements. I set goals, but I also set boundaries. I meditate. I pray. I feel that every atom in my being has died, and every atom has been reborn—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Loss either destroys us or it creates us anew. My losses forged a quest within. I was forced to learn to ground and balance myself in this new very personal world order. I had to examine every goal, every priority, with fresh eyes. For example, I had to make work secondary to my family, and I had to make my family secondary to my own health. Another example: Having been someone who worked internationally with the Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions, I was always one to remain neutral and keep my opinions to myself. Recently, though, I’ve vowed never to be silent again. When the opportunity to create this blog arose, I shouted yes. One final example: This blog isn’t perfect. I feel as though the transitions don’t work as well as they might. And I’m posting it anyway, because the message is what’s important.
This blog is one way for me to voice my concerns about the zero sum mentality that some of us find ourselves in today and to find solutions that will change the equation to result in much larger, even infinite, sums. I still haven’t finished <i>Incongruent,<i/> but I’m almost there, if my computer and my computer skills will cooperate. I hope to submit it to the agent in September. I’m working on it every day, one page at a time.
I’ve subtitled this blog with my name attached to it “Ground One,” a play on the less positive words “Ground Zero.”Ground One is a verb, not a noun. It’s about acting instead of reacting. It’s about looking within and finding ways to make the world work again, and then spreading these ideas around outside ourselves in creative, sometimes messy ways. I hope this blog becomes a forum that builds up instead of tears down, contributing to the world individually and universally, bringing the world together as one, while grounding ourselves to do our best in the face of the world’s many challenges. I’ll be sharing the ways I’m attempting to do just that, letting you know how others are joining in, and delving into the incongruities of life, experimenting with ways to meld them, when justified, and celebrating them when differences should be honored.
I smile when I think about how much positive change comes from tragedy, both personal and universal, and how the two forms of change often comingle or mirror each other. The universal becomes personal, digested (I digest it through writing), and then made universal again.
Our world is a work in progress, just like my novel. Just like life. It sometimes doesn’t make sense. Sometimes when it makes sense to one of us, it doesn’t to another one of us. The key is to keep searching for the sense, to stay calm and balanced and present, even when it gets muddled and murky, even if it isn’t popular, even if it feels like you’re getting lost along the way. Because the story will be complete one day, for each one of us.
I hope you’ll join me weekly in my search for Ground One.