Friday, September 28, 2001
Getting back to business
As Americans have struggled to confront the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, one can see how easy it is to be diverted from the important tasks at hand. A second glance at the morning newspaper or turning to the top-of-the-hour newscast on radio or TV searching for more information on how the country plans to respond has become an everyday experience. But now that flags are no longer flying at half-mast, maybe that's a sign that we need to refocus our attention on the things that have to get done here in Carlisle.
The school has to find a site for a new septic system or go back to court to fight for the Lower Banta-Davis site by challenging the lawsuit brought by abutter Timothy Landers. And then there is the question of a new school. Will the downturn in the economy mean fewer homes built in Carlisle, bringing fewer families with school age children to town?
The town is looking for a feasible site to locate a cell tower. Nobody wants one in their backyard and there is sure to be controversy wherever it might go. Town officials dealing with this situation do not have an easy job on their hands.
Pressure from the state to build some sort of affordable housing in Carlisle won't go away. Two committees, the Carlisle Affordable Housing, Inc. and the Town Affordable Housing Committee have been wrestling with this issue for months.
The Community Preservation Act passed at the spring Town Meeting provides a tax surcharge of two percent on the value of property over $100,000. These funds, which will be matched by the state at some level, can be used for affordable housing, conservation or historic preservation. How the Carlisle CPA committee will recommend that these funds be used is another question.
No, we cannot forget the tragedy that has beset our country in the past two and a half weeks, but we have to move beyond it and address the everyday problems that a community like Carlisle has to face.
(Re)learning to cope
It's been almost a year since I flunked stress-reduction class. Now I wish I had studied harder a lot harder. It shouldn't have taken a horrific event like the toppling of the World Trade Center towers, following nine months of watching my company shrink by 40,000 employees, to trigger this epiphany, but here I am.
The stress program wasn't all that demanding: show up once a week for three hours to breathe, meditate, and practice yoga. Not exactly organic chemistrywhich I also came within a whisker of flunking. But that was 35 years ago when stress was finding a date for Homecoming weekend, not wondering whether it was safe to go to the grocery store. Of course, Vietnam was rearing its hideous head about then, so I did live through one long afternoon of angst waiting for my birth date to be called out during the nation's first draft lottery. Fortunately, my number was a lucky one, so thoughts soon turned to parties, not paddies.
Back then, life's problemseven the major oneswere something I generally shrugged off. Now I seem to carry around every concern, from a dwindling stock portfolio to an expanding waistline.
I suppose that if showing up for class once a week was all I had to do, I might have felt as if I had accomplished more, although falling asleep during meditation was not a crowning achievement. But we were also expected to practice these techniques for an hour daily in a quiet place with no distractions or interruptions. Hey, if I could find a place like that every day, I wouldn't have needed stress reduction classes in the first place.
After completing two months of instruction and practice, I met with the program director, who, after careful review of my weekly progress reports, declared that the class had been very effective in increasing my stress level. Well, at least I didn't waste time and money for no change at all.
As the weeks and months rolled on, I settled back into my normal routine: awaken each morning to check which muscles still function without significant pain, attempt to drive through Bedford before the traffic on 225 backs up to the bridge, hope that my card key still works when I finally arrive at the office, wonder why I feel wiped out at three o'clock in the afternoon.
But the World Trade Center attacks were too jarring to simply move past. Like many of us, I know people who escaped the horror by the slimmest of margins ... and some who didn't. In these times of terrible tension, we each have to find our own way to grieve, to cope and to renew our thirst for life. Without meditation or yoga skills to fall back on, here's what I did.
With my wife and girls out shopping for a few hours, I turned the lights in the den down very low, I placed a soft cushion on the floor in the middle of the room and sat with my back straight and eyes closed. I breathed deeply once and raised my right arm up directly in front of me so it was parallel to the ground. Then I opened my eyes, pushed the remote's "on" button, and clicked the channel to Comedy Central. I proceeded to laugh unabashedly until tears fell down my cheeks. Then I said a silent prayer for the people of New York.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito