So I was SUPPOSED to be writing this blog post from the Feathered Pipe Ranch, a retreat center located in the heart of the Montana Rockies.   For months I have been planning and prepping for this trip – a yoga teacher training with an awesome organization called Live Love Teach. I was scheduled to leave on Saturday. I could not wait to immerse myself in yoga, nature, and finally get to see the inside of a yurt. Unfortunately, it appears that I prepped a little too much for my recently operated-on body. 

You may sense that this is going nowhere good.

On Friday, somewhere between squeezing in one last yoga practice, grocery shopping, and cleaning, I felt some, ummm…pressure…and then a pop…you know, DOWN THERE. 

Not. Good.

I’ll spare you the details, but the gist of the situation is one organ in my pelvic floor region (who shall remain nameless) herniated into another organ who lives nearby.  After a short period of denial followed by a phone call to the surgeon on call at Hahnemann Hospital, the impdending outcome became clear:   Montana: No Hahnemann ER: Yes

No yurt for me.  I need to be barred from buying plane tickets until someone spackles my pelvic floor with some plaster of Paris further notice.

Now, I am not going to lie.  I did not take the news gracefully at first.  I felt like a kid with her bag packed for Disney World, only to get her plans shit-canned due to a nasty case of Chicken Pox. 

Hanging out in the ER gave me a lot of time to watch TV think.  In recent years, I have avoided the media coverage of the anniversary of 9/11.  It was still too painful, too unthinkable, too difficult to re-live.  But this year, with lots of time and nowhere to go but the couch, I found myself immersed in it: the events of that day a decade ago, the stories of heroism and heartbreaking loss.

Over the course of the weekend, I was given the gift of enormous perspective by allowing myself to remember.  I willed myself to hear the details of how the tragedy unfolded, rather than turn away in horror. I cried for those who died and even more for the families they left behind.

September 11, 20001:  I was a student and grad assistant at Rutgers in New Brunswick, N.J.  At about 8:00am, I entered the office of the professor I worked for, Melanie, to gather some materials for a grant-funded literacy project we were working on.  Not even an hour later someone came running down the hallway, shouting about a plane and the World Trade Center. 

We had no TV, so the whole department huddled around a little radio.  I remember being so confused about what was being said; I could not craft a mental image to accompany the events being described.  I tried to call my friends who worked in the city, but phone lines were all tied up, you could not get through.  Still huddled around the radio, the news broke about a plane hitting the Pentagon.  My sister was a senior at Georgetown at the time.  I started to feel panicky.

“Let’s leave,” Melanie said.  “I think we should go, I think it’s best if we all go home.”  No one argued.  Home is such a safe word.

I was still living with my parents. I planned on moving into Hoboken on October 1. I drove home in a quiet fog.  I couldn’t listen to the radio anymore; I needed to see what was happening with my own eyes.  But the somber silence combined with the absolute pristine beauty of the bluest sky I had ever seen was eerie and disorienting. 

“What is happening?” I remember thinking.  “Is this the end of the world?”  I rolled the windows up in the car.  Driving on a gorgeous day with the windows down used to mean freedom; that day it made me feel vulnerable and unsafe.

The reality began to set in the days to come, especially when I moved into Hoboken less than a month later and you could still see the smoke billowing up from Ground Zero.  It hit you every time you heard about someone from your church or golf club or neighboring town who never came home on the train.  I still think about the family members who had to retrieve their loved one’s car out of the NJ Transit parking lot. 

In preparation for my yoga teacher training, I was required to read a book called The Untethered Soul. One of the last chapters is called “Contemplating Death.”  I felt a little weird reading it while getting a pedicure.  But after this weekend, I revisited this chapter, and the following words jumped out at me:

“Anytime you’re having trouble with something, think of death.  You should be experiencing the life that’s happening to you, not the one you wish was happening…appreciate the moments you are given.”

What if I knew this morning was the last time I would see my husband alive?

What would I do?  What would I say?  I am pretty sure it wouldn’t be “When the Hell are you going to get the microwave fixed?”

I remember a few days after the attacks, I went for a run and saw a dead butterfly on the sidewalk and started crying.  Yesterday Emma called me out to the backyard to show me this:

She had covered it to keep it warm. The same reminder of life’s fragility, one decade later.

We sat silently for a minute. Then she said, “Mom, I’m sorry your tummy is still messed up but I am happy you didn’t leave us for Hannah Montana.”

I would still love the chance to do the training – and if I am meant to get there, I will. But for now…I know this is where I am supposed to be because I am here.   

And that’s a lot to be grateful for.

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