Monday, November 16, 2009

grass withers

Today I am on campus and at five minutes to eleven, I am grading vocabulary tests when I hear a heavy boom. I put the pen down and listen. Nothing follows. The air conditioner is rattling and humming. I mute the music I am listening to on the computer. I get up and go to the door and debate whether or not to look in the hallway. I step out and look left and then right. I listen for footsteps.

I expect to see a terrorist. I expect to hear someone scream. I expect to hear another heavy boom, a bomb somewhere. None of this happens. I step back in my room and close the door, lock it. I turn the lights off. I turn the air conditioner down, hoping the white noise will lessen so I can hear what I need to hear. I wait at the desk, expecting an announcement telling me to remain where I am, that the campus is not safe.

Yesterday I read an article about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai a year ago. So when I heard that boom, I thought: today I might die.

Yesterday my in-laws delivered sad news that the daughter of a friend of theirs committed suicide with her boyfriend, leaving behind her own twelve-year-old daughter. All morning, I thought about that daughter. So when I heard that boom, I thought: what if my baby has no mama tomorrow?

I dream vividly. I feel acutely. I ache and rejoice and weep and laugh. I am beginning to enjoy every moment of this life because I believe it is a gift. I am learning to really savor what I am in the middle of, instead of reaching for the next moment. But I am still afraid sometimes because when I think of so much that is happening in this world, I think: misplaced, broken. I want decades to enjoy and savor. I may not have them.

You don't have to live in the Middle East to realize any of that. But I am in the Middle East, and I am realizing it (again) and trying to decide what to do next. I don't think that I am made to live in fear. I think we are made to live free. So yesterday and today I have been thinking about sad things, sobering things, and understanding that not too much separates the safe, content me from what might be the fearful, nervous me. Perhaps recognizing that so much is not for me to know is enough. I need not dwell, or conjure sadness.

I called Justin, told him what I heard. "I heard it too," he said. He was in the auditorium for parent-teacher conferences. "No one reacted here. I think you're okay." Okay. I am okay. I kept the door locked. I thought about these things.

7 comments:

Angela and David Kidd said...

I have oftened wondered when reading your blog if you worried about terrorists "over there" but thought I might come of as ignorant if I asked you. But shoot, I worry about terrorists and I live "over here."

And I agree, I try to savor every moment but I want decades. The thought of not watching Zach grow up truly terrifies me.

Did you ever figure out what the boom was?

Anonymous said...

Justin, Sarah, Claire,
All well said. I love you all.
In the hollow of His hand,
Love,
Dad

Anonymous said...

i have been pondering lately the treasures of darkness... and how not being able to see for the darkness causes us to walk by faith. let us therefore run with endurance the race set before us. even when we can't see a clear course ahead...
i love you, sweet girl.
mom

Clare said...

that fear of what will happen to my child if something happens to me is excruciating when i let myself think about it. which is why i need to make a will. but that requires thinking about it...

jsmarslender said...

Angela - I'm usually comfortable saying, "Well, there is risk everywhere." Because there is. But we also cannot ignore the region we live in. Funny enough, though, I'm more nervous about car accidents (CRAZY drivers!) than bombs.

Dad & Mom - I do appreciate your wisdom.

Clare - We also have to redo our wills. Yea, right?

Anonymous said...

Moments before Doug left us, I asked the nurse to please tell him that I love him...that we all were there and that we all loved him. Should anything ever happen to any of you, go knowing I LOVE YOU!!!

Give each other big hugs for me!
Aunt Amy

DC Running Mama said...

I for one like to think about death on a regular basis. My husband tells me that I am morbid. I think in our society (the U.S.) we are too disconnected with death. In fact, we go to the opposite extreme and are so focused on youth so as to avoid our mortality. Each line we erase with botox is one virtual step back in time and away from the self actualization that we have limited time on this earth. This being said, to live in a society where death is prevalent and surrounding can be just as crippling. In my short time in the middle east, I found that I disassociated from the constant vigilence that being aware of danger requires. It was too much to process on a daily basis. I can't imagine how difficult it would be with a child. I (freaking) cry when I watch Grey's Anatomy every week now when someone dies because I think about that person's mother or child. The saying about having a child is like living with your heart outside of your body gets truer every day for me.