Friday, January 28, 2011

25 years ago I was 7 months pregnant with my first child. I was determined to not allow a simple thing like a pregnancy change my life whatsoever. What can I say, I was young. Very young.

I worked in a newsroom. High paced, frenetic, male dominated and incredibly competitive. Any little whiff of an event was possibly the next Big Story.
And it was an early morning 25 years ago to this day that I sat in the newsroom bullpen with other producers anxiously scanning wire services and newspapers for a lead. Yet another shuttle was being launched that morning and it already been determined by our boss who would cover the landing out in the California desert when it returned. Another formulaic, predictable coverage of a formulaic, predictable event. The joke was you could write the script on the drive out to the desert. Or better yet, someone else chimed in, use the same script from the last landing.

So it was with mild interest that many of us gazed up as the shuttle launched. Challenger. There was a school teacher aboard, and an African American astronaut. And then some seconds after the take off, someone in the room uttered words I cannot forget. “It doesn’t look right.”

It wasn’t right. It wasn’t predictable or formulaic.
It was a disaster occurring in front of our eyes.

In a room where there was a constant and almost deafening noise all at hours, there was suddenly stillness and silence. In horror, we were all riveted to the large screen. In what seemed like an eternity, but in reality were few minutes, the shuttle Challenger erupted into fire and disappeared. With the teacher. With the African American astronaut. And with any delusion I may have had that anything in life is routine.

Over the years I have gained a deeper understanding of the temporality of life, but more importantly, the role I play in it. What seems like just another day of packing lunches for the kids and quickly gulping a cup of coffee might be the morning you could have noticed one of your children hesitant to go to school. But you send her off. It’s just another day. But is it?
Or you drive unthinkingly down a familiar road and once again see the same vagrant on the street corner with his cardboard sign. He’s just another street person looking for a handout. But is he?

What if I open my eyes and take in the day for what it is in that very instant and I treat it as if I had never lived a day before? What if I could revel in the ordinariness of life? What if I replaced complacency with wonder?

25 years ago I thought most of life was routine and I could jump in when things got interesting, when it became A Story. 25 years later I realize I live THE story in each moment and there is no routine. Just life.