Let It Begin With Us
An essay on strength, comfort, and healing
by Susie Michelle Cortright
Last week, I found grace. It was right there, alongside homemade brownies and a box of Legos. September 11th spawned some overwhelming feelings. I was so distracted by them that, for two days, I forgot to buy dog food. The first night, we got creative and concocted some high-protein solution of Grape Nut Flakes and eggs, but we weren’t so sure Clyde’s tummy could handle that two nights in a row, so, Thursday evening, we loaded into the car for a family trip to the feed store. On the way, we passed a hand-written sign announcing a candlelight service at the town hall. From out of nowhere, the tears came. “I need something,” I told my husband, “I don’t know what it is, but I need something.” We pulled in. And it was there that I found it.
Friends and neighbors I didn’t yet know offering hope, peace, trust, and love with a side of Linda Maxwell’s gooey brownies. That was when I realized how exhausted I was. Like most of you moms, I make a great rock, but watching planes pierce buildings, the idea of impending war, the responsibility of keeping my girls safe in this new America where something like this could happen–all of these thoughts were grinding away at me. With my 2-year-old playing safely in the back of the room with someone else’s Legos, I let go. I allowed these people’s light and life and peace to pull me into their place. And I prayed for something I could do. Right there in the town hall, I got my answer.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
We’ve given blood, donated money, and raised our flags. We’ve hugged our kids and made an effort, at least, to return to normal life. But the restless anxiety, the enveloping sadness, and the insidious distractions have returned us to our routines–as comforting as they are– feeling distant and detached.
This is something most of us have never had to face. We are sad. We are mad. We are scared. And moms are in a unique position. Our powerful sense of empathy and compassion allows us to envision it all. In our minds, we are in the smoke-filled staircases, on the airplanes, in the rubble. Even if we had no direct personal connection to any of the events, the emotions are raw. At the same time, we moms strive to embody a supreme sense of security. We stay informed so we can keep our kids safe. And we stay calm so we can keep their psyches safe. We must comfort our children and give them peace. But first we must find it.
“Within yourself lies the cause of whatever enters your life.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
The energy around here is far from comforting. Everywhere you go, a negative energy buzzes like a fluorescent light bulb, emanating grief, anxiety, fear. I try to ignore it. I try to take it all in without letting it out, but it finds its own escape. My 2-year-old starts to brush my hair, and I feel like I’m going to jump out of my skin. She has a routine temper tantrum, and I want to come unglued. I’m exhausted by 10 am. Nothing in my world has changed, and yet nothing is the same.
There are a few universal truisms, however. Certain things that never change. And these are the things that I cling to this day. One of these truisms, I believe, is the idea that what we think about and focus on, we get more of. That means that if we focus on doubt, anger, and fear, we’re more likely to attract those things. Worry brings doubt and distrust. Fear brings demoralization and debilitation.
Fear divides. When we feel peace, we sense a connectedness to all things. When we allow fear to take over, we immediately clamp down and embrace only that which is ours. Our worldview constricts. We exhaust ourselves. Likewise, when we focus on peace, trust, light, and love, we attract and experience more peace, trust, light, and love. And we send more into the world for others to attract and experience, as well.
I have an experiment for you to do, just for today. If it doesn’t work, you can go back to your regular routine tomorrow. Today, consciously work to infuse the world with positive energy. You can do that by infusing your world—your microcosm–with positive energy. Today, take control of your thoughts, one thought at a time. When you are faced with a decision, ask yourself if it will increase the amount of peace and love in the world. Here’s what that means for me.
BE AN ENERGY GATEKEEPER
Commit to fight your own fear and anger. Commit to consciously replace fear with trust. Despair with hope. Darkness with light. Anger with action. You alone decide what kind of energy enters your life. You decide what kind of energy, images, and emotions you allow harbor in your mind. You can control your thoughts and the direction of your energy. For me, that means I turn off the news. When I watch the coverage of this tragedy, I inevitably get sucked in—as though the next guest, the next commentator, the next expert, is going to provide an answer that is finally going to explain the why so that it makes sense. But more words only introduce more grief and anxiety.
I read an article recently that explained how many young children don’t understand the repeated images they see on TV. When kids watch the same plane penetrate the same building, over and over again, they may think that many, many buildings are falling to the ground and that many, many planes are on a course of destruction. When I watch repeated clips of the events, I don’t think my mind understands it either. Television is so visceral. If it has that kind of power over you, turn it off and rely instead on the newspaper or an online news source. Doing so may help you to dismiss the rumors and rely on the facts, which may diminish a tendency to catastrophize, too.
Choose carefully the words you use when you talk to yourself about the tragedy and the events that are to come. Consciously replace the negative thoughts and words with something more positive. Sometimes it helps to repeat a simple mantra: “peace,” “love,” “trust,” “calm.” To recite a comforting quote, a favorite hymn, or a verse from scripture.
If you have young children, replace the lyrics of their familiar songs with comforting words. Sing Psalm 56:3 (“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You,”), for example, to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell.” Dr. Peggy Jenkins has compiled some wonderful ideas for using music in such a way in The Joyful Child: A Sourcebook of Activities and Ideas for Releasing Children’s Natural Joy.
SHARE YOUR ENERGY
The events of September 11th have called attention to the extraordinary interconnectedness we all share. Today, use this interconnectedness to heal.
Close your eyes and visualize the brightest light you can imagine–the force of love–enveloping the disaster scenes, the tired rescue/recovery workers, the victims and their family and friends. Visualize it enveloping the moms and dads, grandmothers, and grandfathers and all the kids who are frightened today. Visualize it enveloping the White House, the military bases, the friends and families of people who go forward to fight for our cause. Visualize it enveloping the frightened women in war-ravaged Afghanistan and the victims of terrorism throughout this world. Bathe them all in this concentrated light and love and pray that some of that peace finds its way into their hearts.
PRACTICE SMALL KINDNESSES
Through it all, take good care of your children and yourself, just as you did before September 11th. Practice small kindnesses. Offer a simple smile and compassionate words. John Watson said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.” This is certainly true today. Make it your personal mission to spread the peace and love in your own heart to everyone you meet today.
Help someone through this difficult time. Contact a member of the military and their family and lend your support and prayers. Find an online support community – one that is intimate and accepting (and if it’s not, help to make it so). Organize a childcare co-op with other moms so you can be by yourself, if you need to, to cry, to pray, to journal, to think.
Call your family and friends to see how they are coping with the events. If they need your shoulder, strive to listen without judgment and do your best to spread peace and hope into their hearts. If they begin to catastrophize, steer the conversation back to one of comfort.
Today, the world remains draped in negativity. Make it your goal and your role to replace it with as much positive energy as possible. If you sink back into the cycle of negative energy, gently remind yourself to return. And take it one step at a time. You need not look past this very moment. Ask yourself: Are you coming from an intention of love and peace right now? Give peace to someone, love to someone, right now.
Positive energy is cyclical. And it is what the world needs right now.
Let it begin with us.
Susie Michelle Cortright is the author of More Energy for Moms and the founder and publisher of www.momscape.com – a website devoted to helping moms enjoy motherhood.