Restart your Day with Vigilance


      The VigilanceVoice
Thursday-- February 28, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 170

Restarting Your Day From Ground Zero

Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

        GROUND ZERO, New York City, Feb. 28--It has been 170 days from Ground Zero Plus One.
         The halfway mark is nearing.  It will arrive in nine days.
         I measure Ground Zero Day as a Zero.   It was a day when the clock stopped.  September 11th is a "O" on my calendar.   0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10.....168-169-170.
         Each day I've written a story, or a reflection, or an opinion about Terrorism and Vigilance.  I began with Day "O" and have filled the pages of the Vigilance Voice with an attempt to fight Terrorism with certain tools that counter both the Physical and Emotional threats Terrorism imposes upon our society and the world.
         I have no idea if anyone really cares, but I do, my wife does, and that's what counts.
         Like all people, I live with my own Terrorisms.   Life is riddled with them.   They take little shapes and forms in the beginning, and, unless nipped in the bud, they can grow into giant Beasts that haunt us throughout our lives, climbing on our backs and making our journey through life dark and onerous.
         When terrible things happen in our lives we can choose to wallow in them or learn from them.  Terrorism is about wallowing in them.  Vigilance is about climbing out of the belly of the Beast of Terror and living life in the sunlight, not the shadows.
         Over the past few days I've caught myself wallowing in self-pity, a sense of gloom surrounding me, a feeling of nothingness enveloping my psyche.   I had nothing specific to tag the feeling to the wall.   It was one of those sensations you can't put your hands around, and trying to capture it was like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall.
          I was being haunted, stalked by Terrorism.
          Inside us all are demons, guilt, sins, remorse of what we wished we had been, or should have done, or wished we had accomplished, or think we never will.   Some call it unhappiness, others the Devil, some simply name it depression or bad Karma.
         Whatever its nomenclature, it has claws.  It has jaws.   And its breath is fetid.
         When I can't identify the source of such a feeling, I know it's Terrorism--some fragment of Fear, or some element of Intimidation, and a great portion of Complacency.   It makes you walk with your head hung down, with your mind numbed, with thoughts swirling about as though all the gravity in your brain has been short-circuited.   It's a "bad feeling."
        To battle it, I try and find the source.   What is it that is imposing its weight on my day such as to make me want to ball up in the fetal position and just lie there helpless?   I have to fight it, whatever its reason, or it will consume me and the day's beauty, the day's joy.
        Nine Eleven taught me something I had forgotten--that we only have today.   To waste a day is perhaps to waste the rest of your life, for life comes and life goes.
        Vigilance is about learning to live in the NOW!  It's about finding ways to wash away the Terror of a moment, or the suffocating fear of a thought that cripples you, and shove it out into the light where the Truth of its existence can banish it, as though it were a vampire who abhors the sunlight.   Terrorism sucks the blood of life from all its victims.
         A child worrying about being accepted by his or her peers can walk in the shadows of life all his or her life, cowering to the opinion of others, feeling less than because of what a mirror in the eyes of others reflect upon him or her.    Adults can feel that past problems have so victimized them they have no choice in life than to suffer the consequences of the past, chew on it, gag on it until it chokes out all that is beautiful, joyful around them.
       I find Terrorism extremely insidious.  It creeps up on me and then grabs me violently, wrestling me down.   Sometimes I feel its fangs in my neck, sucking at my Courage, my Conviction, my ability to take Action.    It always hopes to render me powerless, to make me sad within, to make me want to give up trying to improve, to suffocate my will and hope in the future.
       Over the past nearly six months, I have been fighting to understand Terrorism's attacks.   I haven't mastered the art of early recognition yet, but I am fully aware of the shadows and can hear the footsteps when it approaches.  
       That's when I go back to the Zero in Ground Zero.   Someone once told me that I could restart my day any time I chose during the day.   He was a jolly old Irishman, a man named John Flood, who had been Terrorized as a child in Ireland.  
       His mother, an Irishwoman, had married an American.   They went to live in the United States where they had children, including John.  The marriage failed and she got divorced.   Upon her return to Ireland she became an outcast because of the divorce.   Her children suffered.   The schools looked down on John as being the son of divorced woman, and when it came time for his educators to choose to advance him or to end his education because he wasn't "trainable," they chose to exclude him from further education.  He was in the sixth grade.
       John refused to be Terrorized.   He tended sheep to earn money for his family, and made an alliance with the school librarian.   Each day he would check out a book and take it home, and began to read and educate himself in the fundamentals of science, art, mathematics, literature.
      "I always saw myself as a great teacher," he told me, "and I would minister to the sheep, lecture them on things I had read as though I knew everything.   Those were the smartest sheep in all of Ireland."
       Despite the political and religious prejudices John and his family suffered, he had the courage, conviction and took the actions to overcome his fears, intimidations and complacencies.   By the age of sixteen he had artfully schooled himself .   Then  World War II broke out.  John, an American citizen by birth, lied about his age and joined the Army.   He became a paratrooper and landed in Normandy and was awarded a Bronze Star.
       After the war he enrolled in college, and told the admissions department his high school records were destroyed in a bombing.  He passed the entrance tests with flying colors and went on to become one of the finest professors in the land, the dean of a great college and was instrumental in the formation of the Community College system in California..
      His life had been filled with struggles.   And, he had fought his own Terrorisms of many forms.
      John became my mentor in life.  He constantly told me:  "Cliff, you haven't had your best or worst day yet.  Be prepared for both, over and over."
      He taught me ways to counter my own Terrorisms.   The best tool he offered was the ability to restart my day, to scratch out what had happened and wipe the slate clean, and then to move on, afresh, a new.   He would add:  "Don't forget, you never had a bad day, just bad moments.  Never let a bad moment or set of moments kill a day.  There's too much too live for."
       That's the Zero in Ground Zero.   When I have a bad moment, I try to think--"Ground Zero!"   I try to remember I can restart my day at Zero.   By doing this, I can put the horror or pain or anguish or fear, or intimidation or worry to bed and move ahead with a clear mind and sharp focus.    It's as though I have the ability to arrest the Terrorists in my mind, slam them in jail, lock it, and go about my business of living without worrying about them escaping.
        It also means when I'm attacked again by other Terroristic Thoughts, I can put them in jail too, to await trial.   
        Ground Zero Plus 170.    I like that.   It reminds me we all have a chance today to be Vigilant, even if we weren't yesterday.   It also means I can put my demons in jail, and live today happily, with purpose rather than regret or hesitation.
        September 11th taught me to remember Vigilance.  
        When I do, I think of my friend, John Flood, who passed away, talking to the sheep, teaching them.   I sometimes pretend I'm a sheep, hearing him say:  "Restart your day, sheep.  Live!  Live!  Live!"

 Go To Feb 27 "Crawling in the Guts of Vigilance Via the Guts of Terror"

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