Reflections After the Paris Attacks…

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I’ve been pretty much speechless over the past week after what happened in Paris.  I haven’t felt like writing because I am so confused and sad and scared with everything that’s happening in the world that my mind has been consumed with these worries.  The feeling that we aren’t safe anywhere – cafes, movie theaters, concerts, restaurants, places of worship, public transportation, school – is almost paralyzing.  How can we continue to live our lives if we can’t feel safe anywhere we go?  

The more I watch the news here in Rome, learning about all the new threats being issued and new cities being targeted (of which Rome is one), many of my friends and family here have been living in a state of constant anxiety.  It’s all anyone can talk about.  When I pick kids up from school for English lessons, their parents have requested that we walk home instead of taking any transport, no matter how long the walk.  

In my life here in Rome, I have no other choice but to take public transportation, and because of where I work, I have to go through the center of the city.  On Monday, taking the metro home, I felt such anxiety that I cried when I got home.  I was eyeing every person for suspicious behavior, getting more and more worked up the longer I stayed on the metro.  Since then, I’ve been catching rides to and from work with Luca and his parents.  

On Sunday, Luca and I saw Spectre.  It being opening weekend, the movie theater was packed.  As the trailers began, it occurred to me that this could be a great place for a terrorist to target.  I leaned over to Luca and told him how much I love him, “just in case.”  …That if anything happened, I would want him to worry about himself and not me.

All of these examples of how I and other Romans are behaving might seem dramatic or extreme, but I’m sharing these as examples of what I’m realizing we shouldn’t do.  All this changing of our normal schedules and letting fear take over our lives means the terrorists are winning.  This constant state of fear is what they want us to feel.  We can’t let what’s happening affect our lives like this.

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Now is the time to turn to whatever we can to find a little bit of peace in this world that sometimes feels like it’s falling to pieces. When I was feeling sad and helpless on Monday night, I knew I needed to do something and not let these anxieties take over my life.  So I went to yoga first thing in the morning on Tuesday, and, just as I had hoped, it relieved my anxieties a bit.  Fear is all about “what ifs” and thinking about the future: living in the present moment in yoga brought me back to reality.  My yoga instructor cited Steve Jobs’ words from his death bed: he spoke about our loving relationships being the most important thing in our lives, and how when it is time for us to “go,” that these relationships are the things that we will remember and focus on.  

The message is this:

Live your life and relish the good things.  Not only now, in the immediate wake of a tragedy, but ALWAYS.  EVERY DAY.  Every day bad things happen, and we never know what tomorrow will bring.  So tell your loved ones how much they mean to you.  NOW:  Don’t wait.

I also need to remember that “fears are always more numerous than the dangers.”  There are more good people than bad ones.  Most of the people we encounter are just as scared as we are.  

Breathe through the fear.  Find a peaceful place within and go there.  The world may be scary, but we can’t stop living our lives.

xx Katie

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