Every time I'm about to board a plane, terror attack warnings are elevated and every newspaper and magazine has a blaring headline reporting more bad news on the sorry state of security at airports. One time, just last summer, we were at the gate at the airport, minutes away from boarding, when the anxiety level was being raised from yellow to orange. No information, no reason, just was. Today, at Whole Foods of all places, my eye seemed to go directly to the 24-point cover headline for an article in Mother Jones about two TSA employees who were fired for reporting that screeners were not inspecting bags that alarmed positive for explosives––in tests or in real life. Every time this happens, my guardian angel elbows me, winks, and says, "So how is the Hakuna Matata thing coming?"
I'm the only member of my family of origin who will get on a plane, bus, or subway, who doesn't avoid crowds, the only one for whom fear is not the guiding principle in life. I was raised on terror. Bogey men were always near, danger loomed with every dawn. Adventure could only lead to harm. No good could come of anything. Or so I was told. Somewhere along the way I acquired the understanding that destruction was both random and inevitable. The only intelligent response (for me) was to choose to live, in spite of the odds.
My daughter is back at her home base now, struggling to understand that she has a weird form of reproductive cancer. I think of all the fears I've faced since I left my parents' home, how I've taken them on one by one, first by simply admitting that I was afraid, then doing what I was afraid of anyway: walking outside in a thunderstorm, speaking to large groups, diving into a churning river, sharing creative work, following a cave to its darkest chambers, choosing to love the ones who could make my heart a wasteland. I think of my girl alone in Hawaii, where I last saw her six months ago, just before she depolyed to Iraq. We were scared then and of course we are scared now. We wanted her home from Iraq, and she's home. This week she will turn 19, and come what may, I am getting on the plane to spend her birthday with her. I want to tell her about the people who showed up in my life the year I was 19 and pointed me to my courage and strength, and I want to tell her about the abysmal times that led me to joy.
I don't know how it will go, but I know how I'm going. I know who I want to be when, God willing, my plane lands me safely back home.