Monday, January 11, 2010

The best seat in the house

“You have the best seat in the house,” she says, walking past my table. She’s right. In a cozy corner beside the bright, floor to ceiling window, the fireplace blazing at my back, the only thing missing from my location is an outlet for my laptop- but I’ve got at least two hours of charge.

Normally, I cherish my solitude—and today, when I've been caught up in family drama for two solid weeks, I need it; I must put out a blog post, a book chapter AND a magazine column by tomorrow.

So when the words, “Come sit with me!” come out of my own mouth, I am stunned. And when she, who clearly has other things to do herself settles a few feet away on the slate bench by the fire, I know something is afoot.

I know because yesterday I asked my angels to send me some high voltage signage. Not the usual feather or penny from Heaven they send. Something BIG! And the signs have been coming fast and furious ever since. I know because... well, sometimes I just know.

She pulls her knit wool cap from her head, revealing cropped hair, bright eyes. We chat about the cold, the new year, how long my laptop battery lasts.

“Almost all the way to California, about four hours,” I say.

“Funny, you should mention flying," she says. "I’m flying to Puerto Rico next week. I’m afraid.


“There’s so much more danger now.”

“Is there?” I ask. “Is there really?”

She blinks. “Of course,” she says – and suddenly we are talking about terrorism: The man who set himself on fire on a plane mid-flight and, with flames licking the ceiling, just sat there ready to be consumed himself. She mentions a report she read which observed that all three times terrorism has been prevented in the air, it’s been because of the passengers – not the security guards, not the crew. “I will bring my dark sheet,” she says.

“Your what?”

“A bedsheet in a dark color,” she says. “In my carryon bag. I’m too small to tackle and subdue anyone but I can throw a sheet over someone’s head from behind and hold it. That I can do.”

“My hope is that you never have to,” I say. “To me, the fact that you are this afraid…”

“I never was before,” she says. “I was an EMT. I faced down all kinds of danger. But this…”

I take a deep breath. I pull off the cloak that makes me look like everyone else. “I write a column about angels,” I reveal. “In the past five years, I've read 10,000 stories – real stories from real people all over the U.S. and Canada and... I believe that we’re protected.”

She blinks, considering me and the huge and uncontainable thing I've just handed to her. I can see the wheels spinning, gears shifting: Is this woman crazy? she's wondering. Can I trust this?

I shrug. I smile. This is my job now- and I know it- I am a witness for the reality – the REAL life, boots on the ground reality – of angels.

Still, I am surprised, no amazed, when she reveals, "Something happened to me... many years ago..."

She was just a kid, barely twenty, driving on four bald tires. On a highway, no one else on the road she heard a loud “bang!” and suddenly, her car was sailing, out of control, right off the road, down an embankment, where it smashed, head on, into a tree.

“I really hit my head. I didn’t realize quite how hard at the time. I was dizzy and nauseated… I had to get out. But when I stood up beside my car, I began to swoon. Suddenly this man was there… A tall black man. He was driving a truck, a huge 18-wheeler. It was right there, beside the road. I kept telling him, ‘I don’t know what happened…’ over and over. ‘Your tire blew out,’ he explained. ‘See?’ He showed me the tire fragments on the blacktop beside my car. And I understood then."

And that's when she passed out cold. Five hours later, she woke up in the hospital.

“Where’s the man who brought me in?” she asked doctors, nurses, admitting staff. No one had seen him. There was no record of how she'd arrived.

I tell her this is typical of angelic experience. The angels arrive, lend a hand at an accident scene or hospital bed, then disappear without a trace.

“That doesn’t make sense,” she says, shaking her head. “It’s too….”

“Bizarre, incredible. I know,” I say. “I used to think so, too.”

“It’s just that, I’ve always wondered who he was. How did I see the shreds of tire on the road when I was standing beside my car, down at the bottom of the embankment? How did I even see the truck from there?”

"The angels can transcend space and time," I say. "Every day I read a story like yours – they need a truck, they can make one. What they don't seem to be able to do, I don't think, is move us through space and time that way. They transport us in cars, emergency vehicles, big trucks and deliver us to real hospitals."

“If I believe this,” she says, “it becomes a life changing event.”

“Don’t believe it. Ask for proof."

She laughs nervously.“What do you mean?”

“Ask them: If this really was an angel, send me a sign that I can’t miss. Send a sign that proves it.”

“I’m afraid to," she shudders. "It’s too huge. Too big. If I believe this, it changes everything.”

After she leaves, extending her hand, saying, "I am so very glad I met you," and we exchange email addresses, I sit and think for a very long time.

This is the second time I am guided to talk about terrorism on the blog. The first time, I kind of shared around it. But this time...

... And I want you to know that I am afraid to write this, afraid to post it...

But here it is:

We need to stop being frightened. We need to turn toward the light. Wait, that won't make sense yet. Let me start over...

The media has us so scared – and so does our government. It’s not their fault, not entirely. I mean these things are happening. They’re real. It’s just that there’s a whole lot more going on that’s NOT terrorism, NOT people setting themselves on fire or turning themselves into bombs on busses, in shopping malls and subways.

Everywhere, all over the world, babies are being welcomed into families with such joy; and doctors are healing illnesses; and scientists are inventing the most remarkable contraptions to make our lives better, easier, richer. All over the world, people are falling in love, reaching out to help, baking brownies, designing jewelry, building houses. All over the world...

But we hear so little about this now.

We hear about violence and war and terrorism. And every time these stories are reported – dripping with portent and dread, flashed on the screen with photos of carnage and sobbing mothers, in tones of alarm and warning. The fear amplifies, spreading into our cells, dread souring the belly of the world. With it, the feeling that the world is a scary place. We hole up inside our houses and become more fearful. And every time this happens, a little more of our freedom is chipped away.

And though it may seem as if the terrorists are doing this to us - the truth is, we are doing it to ourselves. With our fear of them and, increasingly, of each other; with our mounting panic and the feeling that the walls of the world are closing in, it isn't the terrorists who are keeping us afraid: It's us - and the way that we can't stop fearing them, can't stop thinking about them.

When my daughter was little the one thing she was afraid of in the books I'd read to her at bedtime, or the movies we allowed her to watch was, as she called it, the "lurking bad guys."

This is what terrorism does to us. It makes us fear the lurking bad guys, even when they aren't there.

I keep asking myself: If these stories were not reported at all – or were restricted only to newspapers and other print media where they can be discussed with more breadth, within the context of the larger story that unfolds under and around them, without the dramatics - would we be less safe? If the great magnifying lens of the media turned away and refused to give these people any coverage, would they have any power at all?

I am not suggesting that terrorism is the media's fault. I am not suggesting, either, that we should ignore it. I am saying that we need a better, more responsible way of reporting it.

“Look at your story another way,” I told Rosemary* today. “Three times, Americans rose up and acted: Americans who’ve grown up safe and protected, insulated from war, from terror. Three times, people who, in the past, might have just sat there trembling, rose up and took action. This is a very promising sign to me.

She nods. “Me, too. But we have to protect ourselves.”

“Of course we do. But rising up and protecting ourselves doesn’t have to move us toward fear. It can move us toward outrage, toward determination, toward courage. It can even move us toward hope.

Because that 'rising up' spirit comes from hope - it comes out of such a deep and passionate love of life that --damn it - no one can take it from us. There’s a lot of juice in that. A lot of power. But there's something else here too... Every single day, thousands of flights take off and land without incident. Millions of people travel freely all over the world, every single day. We have to remember that.

There is a much wiser, much wider force in the world than terrorism; a knowing that runs much deeper than this fear. It's ages old, bedrock, ancient wisdom. It's an interconnected All That Is which, whether you call it God or the Collective Consciousness or the Universe or Baba or any other name, is not going anywhere.

On 9/11, before the first tower was hit, the birds in my yard, an hour north of Manhattan, stopped singing.
“How odd,” my husband said, when I pointed it out to him.
An hour later, my friend called and I turned on the TV and watched the second plane crash into the World Trade Center. I thought of the birds then, wondering: How did they know?

Four years later, before the tsunami hit the beaches of Southeast Asia, when all of the animals ran for higher ground, again I thought of the birds.

Today, after reading 10,000 letters, I am thinking of the birds again. But this time, I know exactly how they knew.

And so do you... because you are a part of All That Is, too.

This year, 2010, a year with the same four digits as 2001 – a two, two zeroes and a single one – rearranged, I am asking: How can we, also part of this interconnected web of wisdom, tap into this wisdom? How can we rearrange the way that we meet the world? How can we live through this time of terrorists and tidal waves without driving ourselves crazy with fear?

I ask and I ask.
And I get the same answer: Turn toward the light.

Today, right here, right now, I can look at this café where I sit, this fire behind me, this window, open on a bright blue sky and ask, Is it scary here? I can tell the truth about it: I have the best seat in the house.

I am not in a falling building, nor seated beside a burning terrorist. I am sitting here with this lovely woman with bright eyes and closely cropped hair and she is telling me a story about angels. This is my life. And it is not scary at all. Not today.

Even though my mother is in the hospital fighting for her life; tubes in her neck, arms strapped down so she does not pull off her oxygen mask; even now – is the world a scary place?

I think it's a miracle...
.... that I was there when she fell against the stainless steel counter in the cafeteria at my father’s nursing home. She could have been alone.
.... that we live in a country where when we dial 911, they arrive in seven minutes, administering nitroglycerine and soothing reassurance. She could have been alone.

Right now I have a choice: How do I see this? I look at the sky and I don't see any planes falling, burning, exploding. I see a brilliant blue sky, clouds curling across the horizon and a flock of birds circling, circling.

I see a miracle.

If we live in fear, they have won. If we give away our thoughts, our hope, our joy - we have lost our freedom.

Because of the extraordinary experience I've had these past five years, I know that angels are everywhere - there is probably one in this café with me now orchestrating, somehow, this meeting with a lovely, bright-eyed woman who is about to fly to Puerto Rico with her dark sheet. I know they will be on that plane with her. I know they will be with me when I drive home tonight. And last week, when a man leapt across two aisles to tackle a terrorist and snuff out a fire, the angels were there, too.

This week, the angels are crowding the corridors of the hospital where my mother sleeps and heals - and I know that they won't let her (or any of the other patients in the ICU) be taken before their time.

But even if there were no angels at all - even if it were just us on this bright green and blue planet, even if we were spinning through space all alone, I know this: Good outnumbers evil by the billions; love outshines hate every time; and even the dimmest light can chase darkness from a room.

The thing is: We're not alone. The shining light--the God, Baba, All That Is - that lives in my heart, and in yours, connects us to something so much brighter than any darkness the terrorists could ever dream up.

Right now, if we all turned our attention toward that light and began to ask: What’s working in the world? Who is doing something remarkable? Who has a story of brilliance, of inspiration, of courage to share? that's the question the world would begin to answer.

It's not magic. It's not mysticism. It's science. The thing you focus on increases; the thing you ignore, dies off for lack of attention.

So let's get out there. Become a light warrior! Ask everyone you meet, What’s great in your life? What's new? Who do you love? What makes your heart sing? Ask your media outlets to cover the great stuff, the triumphs and successes. Insist that they turn their powerful light on what’s right in the world.

Insist on noticing that you are sitting in the best seat in the house. This is the only way to beat back terror; the only way to chase away darkness - by blasting it with light. And all it takes is this moment, right now, when we turning our attention away from fearful thoughts and images that are not ours, back to the light.

When we own our own thoughts - and the hope and love that live in our own hearts - only then, will we be truly free.


Sally G. said...

This was really insightful. I know the fear you felt - and I think my favourite line is where you remove the cover of looking like everyone else to expose who you really are. Nicely expressed ...

Donald said...

It's all a question of focus. Thank you for shining your light in the world. I'm sure that young woman will remember you forever; long after she's forgotten the black sheet idea. If we live in fear, darkness wins. We cannot let that happen when there's so much good in the world!
Maryse (using hubby's Google accnt)
Stop by my blog tomorrow (Tuesday) to read more about our journeys. You'll like it! Thanks!

ShellyKramer said...

Every single time that I think you've written the most beautiful thing I've ever written, you turn right around and write something even more beautiful and profound. I am so very lucky to have found you. In fact, I think you are my angel.

Elissa Stein said...

God Amy. You write with such power and truth it leaves me shaking.

I watched 9/11 from my bedroom window. I saw the smoke before anyone had reported something going on. As I brushed Iz's hair, we saw an orange fire ball explode out of the second tower. While I was nursing Jack, the first tower fell. I never thought I'd get past the numbing fear every time I heard a fighter jet fly overhead, or a siren scream up 6th avenue. I never thought I'd stop crying as I passed the missing person posters plastered on the side of my building—we live down the street from the hospital victims were taken to. I never thought New Yorkers would smile again.

I also never thought I'd see such courage and support. People lining the west side highway, cheering support for the workers heading downtown. Restaurants sending food. Donation sites springing up to bring clothing and supplies to people in need. And even though the immediate fears have subsided, that sense of reaching out and helping each other exists here in such a powerful way. That unspeakable act of terror strengthened my community in a way I don't know that people in NYC thought possible.

You can't live in fear. Everything can change in a second. All we can do is be present, live our lives, and continue on our paths with thoughtfulness and gratitude for what we have.

Miss Kitty said...

Thanks Amy. Thinking of you and your mom and everyone, sending lots of love. xxo MissK

barbara said...

Amy, I am grateful for the reminder.
We so often look through the lens of fear, rather than the rose colored glasses that allow is to see the world in the light of kindness, and love, and birth, and joy and all of the goodness that is here to experience.

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Anonymous said...

Sent: Tue, Jan 12, 2010 4:15 pm
Subject: About Your Post: The best seat in the house

Amy, thank you for the work you are doing in the world! It is so greatly needed. I could not agree with you more when you talk about the light and the darkness. In fact, one of my teachers, a local medicine man, has been telling me for years that it's all about the light shinning on the darkness. At that moment, people can decide to follow the light or stay stuck in the darkness. If they want to follow the light, they will have to do the work. It's not about riding some one else's coat-tail.

In fact, from his perception, everything that is going on in the world right now, that is negative, is due to the light shinning on the darkness and basically saying, "we see you and there is no place to hide. The time has come to make a decision about how you want to move forward in your life." He underscores that it's always about choice.

On another note, I hope that you mother continues to heal and that the angels will assist her in this process.

I love reading your stories about your father and the nursing home he is in. Your parents have done a wonderful job raising you and now you get a chance to help them.


Marie said...


Thank you for sharing this!

Even just today I was reminded that even when things are the darkest, a single light will shine brightly and clearly!

Thank you for how you shine so brightly. Thank you for sharing your heart with us. Thank you for how you make a difference.