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It was a brilliant Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, and, sleepy-eyed, I met my friend at the airport for our flight to Gloucester, Massachusetts, for our annual retreat—Everything as usual, or so I thought.

Only airborne a short while, the intercom clicked on. “This is your Captain speaking—Air Traffic Control is delaying our arrival at Boston. Some difficulties, they’re having. We’ll keep you posted.” I buckled my seat-belt, intuiting that something was very wrong. My friend didn’t agree and our conversation about terrorism continued until interrupted.

It was the Captain again. “There’s been another change. Air Traffic Control directs us to land at the nearest airport. Since we’re closest to Indianapolis, that’s where will land. They’re expecting us, as well as other planes ordered to clear the skies.” Only while deplaning did the Captain inform us of the terrorist bombings in Manhattan.

Slowly, the ghoulish pieces of the nightmare begin to coalesce while listening to the car rental’s radio on the way to Gloucester: a series of suicide planes had crashed into and leveled the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center; another crashed into the side of the Pentagon; and still another, intended for the U. S. Capitol or The White House, crashed-landed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, thanks to Todd Beamer and other passengers who almost subdued their four hijackers.

Panic, fire, dense smoke, mangled and burnt bodies, shocking injuries, lingering deaths, families decimated, destruction of symbolic edifices, disruption of the economy and much more scarred America’s psyche—an emotional scarring it still bears, despite the media’s sanitized coverage, twenty years later.

Only later did Osama bin Laden, founder of the pan-Islamic militant organization, al-Qaeda, take responsibility for this atrocity, his choice of the date to avenge the September 11, 1683 Christian victory over the Turks at the battle of Vienna.

Prayer and Memorials help, but the scar of 9/11 remains: No one has forgiven anyone—the war continues.

“That will be nine dollars and twenty-six cents with tax,” the saleslady said as she huddled in her sweater, its nappy edges covering her chapped knuckles. On the counter between us lay the coveted gray faux leather wallet, with plastic sleeves for pictures and a brass key chain on its side. Classmates in my new school had similar wallets; owning one would draw their friendship, so I had hoped.

Suddenly, my face blanched, my knees buckled. In my mittened hand, I clutched nine dollars and my ten-cent carfare home. I did not know about the tax. On a previous trip downtown, I’d noticed the wallet displayed in the store window of Three Sisters, checked its price, stole nine dollars from the pouch Dad had left for Mother’s household expenses, and planned my return to the store.

The saleslady caught my disappointment and thanked me for returning the wallet to the display shelf with the others. Still dismayed, I elbowed my way through other customers; their noise was deafening as I set down the wallet. But I could not leave. I had come so far and sorely needed my classmates’ attention on Monday when I climbed aboard the school bus. That was the way it was supposed to work.

It happened so fast: flash-flames scorched my body as I slipped the coveted wallet under my arm, buttoned my coat, and threaded my way to the door. I knew I was stealing, but it didn’t matter.

The following Monday morning, seated on the bus, I purposely placed the wallet on top of my books, but no one noticed.

Perhaps eleven years old at the time, I learned how easy it was steal, of little matter the guilt and shame. That I had sinned flew in the face of assuaging my emotional pain.

With this story, I plan to blog more on the topic, sin, so unpopular, in common parlance, yet so divisive of wholeness.

At 5:30 A.M., I awoke with this dream:

The pastor of a church invited representatives from neighboring ones to plan for a weekend seminar. The nod from mine found me seated around a conference table with others as we listened for our responsibilities. Toward the end of the meeting, I was asked to track the number of cups of coffee consumed by the participants. To myself, I muttered, what a harebrained idea. I refused to do it, but told no one. I was expecting something showier than that.

The dream gave me pause as it reflected an old attitude when volunteering for church duties. No matter my chronic exhaustion, I was desperate for attention. What was in it for me? Would I attract a significant other—Someone to trust? How careful I was to mask my rage, even from myself—all the while, hobbling about on arthritic knees, at times, stooped and supported by my cane.

A deeper look at the dream, however, reveals habits ingrained since childhood: my refusal to tend to little things and my passive aggressiveness. Schooled in perfectionism, I dreaded making mistakes; there were consequences. So I hid out, blended within the behavior of others, all the while, my psyche shriveling into the caricature of myself. In my own eyes, I could do no wrong.

However, the practice of rigorous honesty in Twelve-Step recovery has made inroads into my shadow, for which I’m grateful. This only began in 1991 and is ongoing.

More than ever, I rely upon the daily grace operative in my psyche and which will eventually lead me home. How I long for that.

In the meantime, I continue practicing…

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