Lady Liberty has the most perfect posture. Her copper robe, oxidized to the color of a tropical sea as it approaches shore, falls in folds so beautifully around her shoulders and over her arms it is nearly impossible to imagine the material being anything but fluid silks layered by hands trained in the fashion houses of Paris. Her torch is now a copper flame covered in 24K gold reflecting the sun during the day and lit to glow by spotlights at night.
So, not only is she impeccably dressed, she knows how to accessorize, too. I was envious.
Of everything but her feet. Although they were faultless, they were sizable.
In a land of giants, Lady Liberty would be the Gisele of models – coveted, admired. And probably single. She doesn’t seem to be the type of girl who would couple up.
The Dudes, my oldest brother and I were part of a small gathering of people that boarded the ferry to Liberty Island on a day chilled with rain and shrouded in fog. We shielded our eyes from drops of water as the boat drew closer, our necks angled back to see to her crown – our destination. It had been so long since The Dudes and I felt rain I wasn’t inclined to open the umbrella, preferring to let it fall on me, grateful that our outing came after the POLAR VORTEXXXXXXXXX!!! left the country.
We arrived in the East one week prior to our journey to Liberty Island. The temperature outside was really freaking cold. My Mom, glowing, happy and utterly exhausted, hugged The Dudes and held back her tears. Almost. I kissed her beautiful face a dozen times or more. It felt like I had never left.
Throughout the journey a sense of calm replaced the usual angst that in the past was my travel companion. Virgin America gets a portion of the credit; they make flying fun. But I’m claiming the rest. My goal was to arrive at peace and bring only joy to my family. It had been a challenging month because of medications my Mom was taking. They watched her suffer, an excruciating experience for children, to watch their mom suffer. But when we arrived the medication had left her body and, honestly, she looked like she was faking it. She didn’t look sick at all. The only hint that her body was flush with cancer was a sense that she could be emptied of energy by simply taking a sip of water.
To prepare for the trip I focused on being fully present in the moment more than ever. I don’t want to misuse time with my mom by being sad or stressed or fearful. I don’t want to think about when she isn’t here for me to call every day, because she’s here now. There is no purpose to that thought other than to create sadness now, when in this moment I don’t need to be sad. She is still here. She is still funny, sweet, loving, full of stories to tell, and have I mentioned her appetite? Again, you’d think she was either faking it or they read someone else’s body scan.
With all that to be grateful for I didn’t want to be anywhere but right here, right now. Each time a thought approached me I evaluated it for its purpose, its usefulness. If it is a thought created by my Ego to give my mind something to get worked up about or a thought designed to spur me to take control of a situation or affect my siblings as they individually process this experience I shoo it away. I say to my Ego, This is not about you.
I am here to support my Mom. I am returning the favor, if you will. She selflessly took care of me for years, bathing me, feeding me, saving me from all sorts of precarious situations. Loving me unconditionally. Now it’s my turn to take care of her. So when a thought comes in like, You haven’t worked out in weeks, or You haven’t written in days, I would say, This isn’t about you. This is an opportunity to gracefully honor my Mom as she leaves behind her physical body.
My Fairy Godmother described it as a ritual. That in this time my greatest gift to my Mom is to create a peaceful space in which she can speak what she needs to speak, feel what she needs to feel and leave the planet at ease, without a single concern to occupy her heart. To genuinely celebrate her life with her; not to fake joy but to be joyful.
I regularly checked in on my emotions and feelings. All seemed cool. Even as we left the crown via her narrow, curved spine of stairs, to board the ferry for Battery Park on route to our next destination – the 9/11 Memorial.
The Hudson River mirrored a cashmere gray sky. Buildings that were visible earlier in the day were nestled in fog. The whole scene looked as if it was painted by an artist whose ambition was to bring the fog to life, the buildings merely providing structure for the fog to show off its many personalities. Waves of it came off the water, a billow of it cupped the backside of Lady Liberty, and swirls of it moved eastward through the clusters of buildings that occupy lower Manhattan. Every shade of gray was represented; every level from water to sky providing an opportunity for the fog to show off its beauty.
My last trip into NYC was to see Mr. Delicious and, as you know, we had a magical time together. But prior to that trip my relationship with Manhattan had frayed. While pregnant with the Little Dude I had what I would describe as a panic attack while my former spouse drove us through the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan one night. It was my first and only one. In hindsight, I wonder if that panic attack coincided with the beginning stages of his affair, for it seemed to usher in a new state of being for me, an anxious state.
That state of being felt right at home up until I benched my Ego a few months ago.
We walked through lower Manhattan, jumping over puddles at the curbs as we made out way uptown to the site of the World Trade Center, to Ground Zero. My brother was up ahead, his hood over his head to shield the rain, while The Dudes and I miraculously fit under one umbrella and managed to both stay dry and not poke the eye out of the head of a passing pedestrian. Several times during the journey I shooed away tension and stopped myself from being snappish with The Dudes. I felt like a body guard watching people approach my client, instantly sorting out those that could pose a threat to security, as I watched emotions surge and abate.
My mind bounced ahead to the memorial. My stomach tightened. I feared the emotions that could overwhelm me when I approached the footprint of the Towers. My heart said, Come to honor those that died. Bring peace not heartache. Instead of clenching, like a flower shutting out the cold of night, remain open and supple so the energy of the space can fill you. It’s your choice.
Along the way I noticed a poster for an event with an image of a man and woman embracing each other. Below were words in white type. An address. I noticed the date, January 10th. The wind grabbed the umbrella. I steadied it with both hands and caught up to the The Dudes.
The crowds started to swell with people returning to their offices after lunch. Dozens of students clustered around the main doors to a high school. Some ran around us to catch friends or get in line at a food truck, yelling and darting to and fro, not following the typical path of foot traffic on a city street. Police stood on nearly every corner. Our pace quickened. I raised the umbrella above the heads of the students.
It is in moments like this that I really have to focus on my boundaries. The energies of all those people can run right through me, proving to be too much for me to handle, leaving me exhausted and tense. Lacking the patience necessary to peacefully guide The Dudes through the city. I felt myself physically centering, pulling myself in toward my spine, creating a shield around my body like tucking the bed sheets around a child as she falls asleep. Once centered I could enjoy the beautiful human chaos, rather than tolerate it.
Without knowing me before the Pocket Call it may not be apparent how significant this is. Being able to walk through the streets of NYC with The Dudes in the cold rain on our way to the 9/11 Memorial without being devoid of patience and filled with anxiety feels like solving a puzzle and being rewarded with having my every dream come true. Pure bliss.
The entryway to the memorial winds around fences covered in tarps shielding pedestrians from the construction that continues at and around the memorial. The Tall Dude walked with me after we passed through security and returned to the outdoors to continue on to the area where the Towers once stood. The rain had stopped. My hand was tucked into his arm as we weaved our way around puddles.
Mom, I’m so glad we came here.
His smile was gentle. Not the kind that comes with playing tag or being tickled. The kind that comes with feeling secure, at peace.
Me too, honey.
We passed by security officers and came through an opening in the fence into a parklike setting. Trees dotted the space and blankets of ivy healing from the recent frigid temperatures surrounded their bases. Squares of stone were staggered throughout for those who wish to sit. The footprint of one tower was directly ahead, the other to our right. We approached that one, hearing the water and then seeing it fall gracefully through grooves that separated the liquid into thin lines as it fell to a pool and then descended again through a smaller square in the center, the lines of water mimicking the vertical lines of the Towers when they stood tall. The waterfall was framed with metal die cut with the names of each person who lost their life that day. (And those that died on February 26th, 1993 when a bomb exploded in the parking garage of the World Trade Center.)
We walked along the edge, my hand wiping away raindrops. Name after name…one had a white rose tucked through the opening made by a letter signifying that it was her birthday that day. And then another. Faces flashed before me. My mind saw the first Tower drop. I conjured up the emotion I felt at that time. Utter shock. And then I let it go. Right down with the water that carries away sorrows and hate and anger and fear and every other emotion brought to the surface by those who come to see, feel, emote, honor, and grieve.
We made our way to the other footprint. A few roses were placed there as well. I looked for the words Flight 11. On the third side I found them. And shortly thereafter the name of someone I knew through my former spouse. Someone he had worked with who became a friend. In rapid fire fashion my brain was flooded with thoughts – we were apart on 9/11. I had no one to hold me. I wanted to hold him. I saw myself on the couch in our first home, sobbing. I cried more that day than any other day in my life. When I finally did see my former spouse, one month later, we held each other. I remember thinking, Nothing will tear us apart. We lived through this and will always be together.
I felt my stomach flip.
And then I stopped my mind cold.
I flooded it with blue water and from my heart came these words: Today we are all okay. Remain here. Present in this very moment. Grateful for every moment that has passed, labeling them neither good nor bad. And excited for every moment that is to come. But present in this moment, at this very point in time.
That freed me to express love for my former spouse’s friend and for all those that lost their lives that day. The Little Dude loudly whispered, C’mon Mom!
I turned back to his name and wiped away the raindrops. My brother took a photo. I told the Tall Dude I would send it to Daddy.
Later that night as we left Manhattan on a small ferry, crossing the Hudson River to retrieve our car, I observed how I felt during the day, how the emotions were just passing through, not setting up camp. I didn’t desire to get lost in them as if that would give me purpose. I was thrilled to not have been upended by the energies of all those people that fill the streets of New York. I was grateful that I could be at the 9/11 Memorial and remain at peace, placing the focus on those who lost their lives, honoring them and not being distracted by emotions that are really from days long since passed. I was able to revisit those emotions without being consumed by them to see how they made me feel then and how that compares to how I feel today.
The whole day rolled before my eyes. The Dudes snaking their way up stairs the size of a small ladder to the crown of the Statue of Liberty. Watching them grip the wet railing of the boat, calling to seagulls as we crossed to Manhattan. The Tall Dude’s peaceful gaze as he walked away from the 9/11 Memorial, so grateful to have been able to go. And then the poster…
…and then the date. January 10th.
It was familiar.
When is January 10th, I thought.
Oh, it was. I sucked in the cold, wet air.
January 10th had already passed, and not on that day or any day before it or up until I saw the date in print on January 14th did I recall I was married on January 10th. That it was my wedding anniversary.
A few days before I flew home my sister and I were speaking on the telephone. She was, in her words, venting. And emoting. She asked me, How can you remain so detached?
I flinched. That’s not the right word.
I’m not detached, I said. There’s nothing I can do. I am choosing to remain in the present and not let emotions have their way with me. It doesn’t feel good to get all worked up, and it doesn’t accomplish anything.
That conversation came back to me as I was in the boat. Am I detached now? From my former spouse? From the me that was married? Is it only now that I have finally let go? How could I not have once thought about our wedding, our anniversary, while being back in the East, colder than a witch’s nipple in a brass cup?
It’s not detachment.
I’m not avoiding it.
I am not in denial about anything, past, present or future.
I’ve just figured out that the way to live in peace is to live in the moment.
Honor the past. Excited for the future. Present in the now.
I am very grateful for the sense of relief I feel. Grateful for the experiences of the recent past which have taught me lessons that allow me to be present with my Mom and not focus on things that just don’t matter, like the fact that I live in California, so far away from her, at this time. As each hour passes I am happy for what it contains, whether that be work or play, life or death, sickness or health.
I feel prepared to be graceful and present in every moment no matter what it contains.
I no longer fear.
Anything at all.
I feel like a thousand pounds just fell off my shoulders.
I’ve been liberated.