I can’t believe I’m going to write about this. I promised I wouldn’t. I am not qualified. I haven’t been paying close attention. For one, I have no TV, no reliable internet to stream anything. I mean, I haven’t even read the USA Today in a hotel lobby lately…
Over the years my reaction to tragic events like this has been to disengage from the thing itself further and further. Allow me to explain before you declare me some kind of monster and/or report me to the NSA.
We all have our stories of “what happened to us” or “when we were when…”. For example, I was standing on the second story of my roommate’s workplace on the corner of Christie and Grand Streets when the second tower fell. I saw it fall to the ground like I was watching a slow-motion silent film. And then I kept living there. I still needed to graduate from college. And even after my phone and a $20 bill were stolen before my eyes while I, like every other desperate-to-help person in NYC, made pathetic-looking ham sandwiches for rescue workers at the Chelsea Piers, I tried to remember to thank my bagel guy extra for the extra sundried tomato Tofutti cream cheese. I tried to be extra thankful for being alive.
I don’t tell that story often. Not because it re-traumatizes me, but because it is just one Life Event—albeit fairly significant—in a series of many, whose purpose was to change me so that moving forward, I would be a different—hopefully better—person.,
It was not personal, this event.
Allow me to repeat: it was not personal, the event itself. The Opportunity, however, became such.
The Flashback Example:
In second or third grade I was away on vacation with my dad and sister and when I returned home, my mom told me my cat Dewey, whose original name was Friskers, then Frisky…anyway, my cat had been bit by a rattlesnake and was in rough shape. I was traumatized. It made me immediately regret some things I’d done to LeDew (also a name). I lamented the time I threw—literally picked up and THREW Friskers/Frisky/Dewey out of my room and slammed the door shut. His purring was SO loud! This regret made me appreciate that I had a pretty great, very resilient cat. I took the Opportunity to stop throwing cats for any reason.
The You Example:
There was the story you told me about when you were a kid and you got into a wrestling match with your epileptic brother. You always tried to be extra careful and not get him too excited, but you were 9 and it was hard to stop in the middle of fun. But today he had a big one and stopped moving; he didn’t get up. He was dead. “Sorry” didn’t bring him back; neither did building a Time Machine our of a refrigerator box for the next 6 months. A silent part of you decided to become a doctor that day and didn’t take a breath until that happened.
Unwanted Opportunity Cost, seized (puns are allowed even in tragedy).
Just the Facts:
Some things are just facts and restating them is a waste of words (even for me, and you know how I like me some wordiness…). Some acts are horrific and to try to understand them is as pointless as getting into your Prius and expecting to go from 0-to-60 in under 6 seconds (actually, I Googled it and it’s 9.7 secs…not bad, but the insulting joke stands).
Even though I might throw up in my mouth writing the following, if we only look outside—point fingers, seek the Ultimate source of Blame, rally for legislation, pass the buck and pass it again, wonder what our cat did to deserve getting bit or why OUR brother had to die so young…we miss the Opportunity. To change; to never be the same again; to move forward with new eyes and stronger—if calloused—hearts. Not the Other guy, or Them, or your neighbor, or the person who owns a gun, or the person who hates guns…we have no control over whether they change or not and, for the most part, have no right to decide for them (I said “for the most part”). The Opportunity is for Me.
I decide if today’s the day to throw or not to throw my loudly purring cat.
Let me–yes, hopefully–let Us not continue to miss the Opportunity.