These days I drive to work along the George Washington Memorial Parkway, and the planes landing at the nearby Reagan National Airport are often so close that my car shakes with their roar. When the planes come in for a landing, passing all of our cars below, I occasionally think about what it must have been like on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, with people unknowingly driving below a plane headed to the Pentagon. My heart jumps when I think about those moments, and how the plane low in the sky that day probably did not seem that unordinary. And that is something I cannot shake, how so many things in life take us by surprise.
Sept. 11, was the first time that I learned how quickly life could shift. For me, that day broke down barriers and it taught me about pain and vulnerability. My dad was a pilot for United and he missed one of the flights that was taken over by a mere two days. I'm not sure I will ever stop thinking about the things that were lost that day, and the things that could have been lost, but weren't. Thinking about those who suffered.
Life is not fair, and I have never expected it to be, but I also think that surprise, or unplanned elements, make life a lot to live—sometimes bringing overwhelming amounts of sadness, doubt, or pain. Two weeks ago, my brother was in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria. The storm tore through the country and we lived through many days of silence and disconnection, not knowing how he and my sister-in-law were doing. Thankfully they were safe throughout the storm and are both home now. (Though let's not forget that Puerto Rico needs so much help. You can donate to support the effort through One America Appeal.)
Then, last week, I had a miscarriage. In the eight weeks that I shared life with our tiny baby, I saw their heart flicker twice. The first sonogram invited celebration, confirming life with a visible, steady heartbeat; the second sonogram invited concern and sadness, with a slower, weakened heartbeat; and the third sonogram invited mourning, when it revealed no heartbeat. It’s almost too much to type these words. I feel my breathing slow down, my heart become heavy, and my eyes fill with tears. It’s surreal too, my mind plays games, drowning in the questions of how, why and what if? I feel so much loss and confusion. And then I repeat the words that so many have already shared: there’s nothing I did wrong and nothing I could have done differently.
I don't know how to process this or how to live through it. Sometimes I wish that the days would pass quickly, and we could be in a future with less pain. But I know that is not the answer. So today, I am working on taking life day by day, and I'm challenging myself to not be afraid of surprise or to be burdened by fear, but instead to be present, in the midst of it all. To be ok with what I am feeling, with where I am, and with what I have, good and bad. To be here now.