Something horrific happened in Boston, to Boston, to people who congregated in that resilient city for the annual Boston Marathon. Two explosive devices went off near the finish line when many were getting close to accomplish what was one of the most impressive feats, running in and finishing a marathon. There were a lot of footages and photos, and in some sense, the event was live streamed via various social media. There was one photo that emerged and was shared and reshared right away. Even though folks helpfully added #NSFW as a warning, I still got a glimpse of it because Twitter automatically shows the full image in the live stream. At first I did not even realize what the large ares of redness on the ground meant. There was so much red. Bright red. I thought it was paint because it was so errily bright. Later it hit me, and I started crying.
My first reaction as I sat here staring at my computer screen obsessively hitting refresh, refresh, refresh, feeling utter disbelief and helplessness, was “What’s wrong with people? With humanity? With this world?” Thanks to Twitter (with whom I am secretly in love) I came across the calming perspective provided by Mr. Rogers (or rather, Grandma Rogers), “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
It is true. Hundreds of Bostonians soon started using this Google spreadsheet “I have a place to offer” to open up their homes to runners and their families who are stranded because of the tragedy and the ensuing chaos.
Still, one could easily dismiss Mr. Rogers for being too nice, too trusting, too optimistic. I needed more. And I found it in an unlikely place… Patton Oswalt. You know, the stand-up comedian who’s not known for having a sunny, “look on the bright side”, personna?
I really appreciated his reminding us that in many of the video footages you could see clearly that when the explosion happened, many instead of running away ran towards the explosion to help.
If you are feeling lost, sad, helpless, and especially if you are feeling angry, read what he said. I like the math he did.
One of my favorite movies, as cliche as a cliche can be, is indeed The Sound of Music. I often thought to myself, “I should start a list of ‘My Favorite Things’ just so I could remember the little things in life, the fleeting moments, the silly indulgences, that make the sun shine, that remind me what it feels like to be free and alive.”
I should clarify that these are the things that demarcate the “me moments”. I guess this is ultimately a selfish list… These moments insulate me from the outside world, everything that is Not-me. They suck the air out of the space around me and create a vacuum that is almost imperceptible (except, of course, if this were literal, I’d be gagging for air. Duh.) Do you know the feeling you get when you put on a pair of noise cancellation headsets and you switch the noise cancellation voodoo magic on before you turn on the music? There is an indescribable (to me but probably not to somebody like Raymond Carver) yet tangible texture of tranquility, of emptiness in that split second.
To put it plainly, these are the moments that make it easier for me to imagine I am a heroin in an aimless, plotless European art-house movie, wandering the cobblestone streets looking for discarded playing cards appearing in random corners.
1. French bread sticking out from a paper grocery bag. ha ha.
2. Stomping in puddles in my rain boots
3. Burrowing myself into a pile of towels or bed sheets fresh from the dryer on a cold dreary day
4. Flowers sitting on my kitchen table. Or the idea of it since I seldom buy flowers…
5. A good book (or my Kindle) and a cup of tea or coffee
6. The sound of rain
7. The smell and fluffiness of freshly laundered plush 100% Egyptian towels
8. The scene in The Sound Of Music when Maria teaches the children to sing “My Favorite Things”
10. Falling into a perfectly made bed when I check into a hotel on a business trip
11. A bath surrounded by lit candles. Alone.
12. Hanging out at the Starbucks in the Metra train station with my laptop on Saturday mornings
13. Pathétique by Tchaikovsky, especially the 4th movement. No multi-tasking. Simply, listening.
14. December by George Winston. ibid.
15. Brushing my hair with long, calming strokes that are disturbingly similar to creepy brush strokes seen in scary movies
16. The feeling of my hair against my back when I tilt my head back
17. Lying inside a patch of sunshine coming through the window on the floor
18. Bench seat at a bay window
19. The delicate fragrance of flowers from a tea olive shrub
20. A piece of black forest cake, of course, at a quiet corner inside a darkened cafe. No ants.
21. A cup of tea on fancy china, with proper cup and saucer
22. Full moon that looks monstrously huge
23. Any moment when I am alone yet not lonely
This would be a laundry list that never finishes, kind of like my laundry in real life. Many more little things will be remembered and designated as a favorite thing only if I become self-aware and consciously register my enjoyment of it. That designation itself is fleeting for I will also need to remember to add it to this list. #FirstWorldProblem I know. This exercise has been good for my soul though as I walked through the minutes and hours today forcing myself to dig deep into the recess of my memory for the forgotten, precious moments that made me exclaim silently, “I am so glad I am alive.” Another #FirstWorldProblem yes. But you don’t live inside my head so please don’t judge too harshly my neurosis.