The Heavens are Silent

photo by Alicia Kersting. Rome, Italy. September 11, 2007.

I will never forget that day. I was living in Boston at the time and left the city with my sister when the building she worked in was evacuated after the attacks. We drove to our family’s home in Maine and spent most of the evening answering phone calls from my other sister and brother in law’s friends. (They had recently returned to DC after two weeks at our house in Maine, and as some of you may recall, a lot of us still used landlines back then.) His office at the time was in the wing of the pentagon that was being renovated, which was also the wing that was hit. Due to renovations, they were not working in the usual location. Not one to waste time or be idle, he took action. He is now a director at the Department of Homeland Security (he’s also a recent graduate of War College, an attorney, a former pro football player, and a Marine). I certainly feel better with our safety in his hands.

There are no words for what the victims of 9/11 endured. As we remember and give thanks, sympathy, and whatever ounce of consolation we can to the victims, their families, the public service employees and troops who make our freedom possible, let us take this opportunity to make the changes in our lives that make our time here more meaningful and intentional. There is no time like the present to start.

My take on living with intention (guaranteed to lighten your load):

1.) Tell the truth. Sounds so simple, right? Obviously this applies to big ticket items, but also to small, everyday interactions. When you say yes, mean it. Same goes for no: No means no. Let your every word be impeccable. Overcommitting to things that do not feed you can leave you weighed down with unnecessary obligation. So can being untruthful.

2.) Eat in Peace. Nurture yourself with a plant based diet! Eat real food. Think about where your food came from and how it got to you. Eat whole foods from the earth. Snack blissfully. No more food/diet/cleansing/fasting/carb-free resolutions – just wholesome nutrition in peace – with people who love and support you. Thank those who made your meal possible.

3.) Reduce your toxic load. Lighten up on use of all things chemical in your home and life. Cleaning products, hair products, makeup, lotions, soaps, perfumes, toothpastes, deodorants, pet-care products. You get the idea.

4.) Give the vices a break. You will both benefit from some time apart. Give your body a rest from tobacco, drugs, alcohol, caffeine, fast-food, artificial sweeteners, bingeing/purging, restricting, shopping, gambling, bragging, boasting, one-upping, embelishing …. whatever your vices may be. In my experience lightening your use of vices overtime leads to reduced desire. (And seek professional help. You have to be willing to look at yourself when addressing these habits. It ain’t easy but soooo worth it.)

5.) Get over yourself. Self-obsession is good for no one. Stop taking things personally and waiting for occasions to be offended. We all know people who live like this. Just stop. The world does not revolve around you. Now, that’s heavy.

6.) Leave home alone. And by alone I mean without your cell phone/laptop. It’s amazing how light you may feel (after you get over the initial freak out nakedness).

7.) Wear those leather pants. My husband’s aunt is a New Yorker and lost a very good friend on 9/11. She was telling us a story of how her friend kept waiting to wear her new leather pants. She never got the chance to after-all. There is no time like the present.

8.) Move. Two minutes of jumping jacks in the morning, a 15 minute walk after dinner, standing up for a minute from your desk at work and streching. You don’t have to be a pilates devote or training for a marathon to move your body.

9.) Forgive. ‘An eye for an eye and the whole world is blind.’ Gandhi was talking about living in peace and in my mind, forgiveness. Forgiveness is freedom. And I’m talking about your own. We are all human and we all make mistakes. People will do things that are unforgivable. You probably have too. Forgive anyway. You will feel lighter. I promise.

Write one or two down if you feel so inspired. Writing it down will help you commit and you are more likely to stay on track. Do any of these speak to you? What changes would you make if given every second chance?

9/11/2007, Rome, Italy. photo by Alicia Kersting.

The title of this post is from W.H. Auden’s ‘Elegy for JFK,’ which Stravinski later put to music.

Here is the full poem, by WH Auden:

Why then, why there,
Why thus, we cry, did he die?
The heavens are silent.

What he has, he was:
What he is fated to become
Depends on us

Remembering his death,
How we choose to live
Will decide its meaning.

When a just man dies,
Lamentation and praise,
Sorrow and joy, are one.