“The boundary to what we can accept is the boundary to our freedom.”
Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha
What can we accept? To be free? To hope?
This is week three of “self-quarantining” because of declared Federal, State, and Local Emergency for those of in Los Angeles...some of you have been at this longer and some of you less. I feel safe for the moment, but I am appreciative we still have our business, and are close to our clients and family who are also working from home.
As I was adding my name to our neighborhood emergency list last week, I started reflecting on how long James and I have lived in this neighborhood (19 years) and all the various traumas we have lived through during our time here; some personal to the two of us and some that affected many others as well. Here they are below but watch for the rainbow at the end of the blog.
Our First Trauma...upon arriving in Los Angeles in 2001
We moved to Los Angeles during the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. I started my job with Raytheon on September 10th and on September 11th learned that we had lost four employees in the plane crashes (into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon). James and I were lucky, as everything came to a standstill, we were able to find a place to live. Our lives became filled with anxiety and anticipation of the next attack. I remember being fearful of flying to Boston on a direct flight from Los Angeles because that was one of the routes the terrorists had targeted as well as LAX. We lost many of the freedoms we had come to take for granted with significant increases in airport security and changes to privacy laws. We became aware of what people in other countries had been facing for years; therefore, more connected as global citizens.
Our Second Trauma...in 2005
On August 5th, 2005, a pickup truck crashed into my seven-year-old nephew on his bike in front of our house. The truck drug him and his bike half a block before coming to a stop. My brother and I ran into the street to find my nephew unconscious and lifeless. The ambulance took him to the hospital where doctors told his parents he was lucky to have gotten the great paramedic care and speedy trip as he only had 15 minutes before he would have bled out due to a ruptured spleen. He underwent several surgeries to remove his spleen and repair the compound fracture of his leg, but remained unresponsive for close to a week without us knowing if he would wake. He was able to fly home in a wheelchair still with no certainty of outcome. After a long recovery process, he appeared with no brain damage or permanent leg damage. What could be worse than watching a child almost die? Or watching their parents agonize over it? And yet, today he is an amazing man and a record-holding track star in the steeplechase, and we appreciate our family even more than before.
Our Third Trauma...starting in 2008 -U.S. Financial Crisis & Recession
In 2008, we were the owners of two small family-owned businesses – one in the construction industry and the other in the consulting industry. We all know what happened to the real estate market and the construction industry – it was the first to feel the impact of the 2008 financial crisis. It was scary to watch our banking and financial service industries falling apart. How did this happen in our lifetime? Our unused credit cards canceled, our credit limits reduced, and our financial planner recommending that we hold onto our cash as we watched our investments plunge. However, between the two of us and our businesses we managed to make it through even though it was scary, we learned just how resourceful we can be.
Our Fourth Series of Traumas (2011-2014) -felt like a huge earthquake followed by endless tremors
The year of 2011 blew in with the death of my stepbrother to cancer and my stepfather to COPD. Then came the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which even hit the shores of Redondo Beach and all along the West Coast. My mother died of a bowel obstruction and James’ father to liver failure. Our cat died on the anniversary of 9/11, and a former classmate died in late September from cancer. There were many other deaths that year in the families of those around us. James asked me at one point: “Why is everyone getting off the bus?” We were a little shell-shocked for that year. And then again in 2012, I lost two more close relatives and at the end of 2013 James lost a sister-in-law and a nephew suddenly. After countless hours of trying to figure out why all these specific people died at this time, I gave up and realized there just are some things that are unexplainable or unknowable.
So why do I share all of this – you ask –
so morbid and so vulnerable?
I share because in each of these situations I learned just how resilient I am/we are. I became clear about what matters most in my life and what is not worth worrying about. I learned that life is short – that I need to make my time here matter – that I need to contribute – I need to give and receive love.
I learned gratitude, acceptance, peace, humility, comfort in the unknown and I found love again. I learned to embrace the calm in the middle of the storm.
Tara Brach suggests we think of the acronym RAIN and follow these guidelines and based on our experiences we could not agree more.
Recognize what is happening.
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is.
Investigate with interest and care.
Nurture with self-compassion.
We will survive this coronavirus. We will be better for it. It will not be easy, but in the quiet moments we will know we can do this.
We all have stories of survival and learnings from them. James says: “Just getting through it, isn’t good enough.” What is your rallying cry right now? Ours is: Stay close to those who matter most (our families, our clients, our friends/colleagues, and our communities) and provide what is needed.
What is your story of resilience? What is your rallying cry?
May you be healthy.
May you be happy.
May you find ease.
Lori & James
James Jackman & Lori Heffelfinger