After a three month voyage out at sea, usually traveling the globe and picking up and delivering food supplies to countries in need (just like in the film Captain Philliips), my baby brother, Ben Mandelbaum, finally headed home for Boston, MA. The day of his arrival was April 15, 2013, which was the same day as the Boston Marathon, when two pressure cooker bombs exploded at 2:49 pm, killing 3 people and injuring an estimated 264 others. The bombs exploded about 13 seconds and 210 yards apart, near the finish line on Boylston Street. This was right around the corner from where his partner, Jillian Kramer, was living. She had been working from home that day.
Jillian describes a divine and cathartic moment with her writing on that Tuesday night, just before going to a vigil at a local church in her neighborhood. Within a twenty-minute period she pretty much wrote her own personal guide to life, a reminder of all the things she knows and believes and can wrap her head around as being important.
It is amazing how things can become so clear immediately after facing a life shaking crises. Many devote themselves afterwards to living life to the fullest, however it is unfortunate how easily we can loose sight of those incredibly powerful moments of divine insight.
These are the things that Jillian learned and/or remembered as she has attempted to reconcile the most intensely overwhelming 24 hours of her life. She hopes they bring some amount of peace to yours.
What Boston Taught Me
1) Friends mean everything. And by friends, I mean the broadest definition of the word. Family, siblings, parents, acquaintances, everyone you have ever met in your life. They. All. Matter. Life matters. Spirit matters. It is ALL that matters. The rest is just bullshit. The rest is just noise.
2) Without these ugly, hard, difficult, challenging, testing, trying moments, we lose sight of number one. We become entangled in a world where how much money we have or what shoes we can buy or how the clothes in our closet make us feel become all consuming. We become engrossed in a reality where fashion and TV and work and a million, stupidly insignificant things take up almost every modicum of our energy and brain space. As a human race, we, or God, or spirit, or source or whatever you call the divine, have not figured out another way to keep deeply, unshakably connected to number one without intensely overwhelming, incomprehensible moments. It is for this reason alone that they exist.
3) The phrases “intensely overwhelming” and “incomprehensible” can apply to both good and bad, highs and lows, tragedies and silver linings. A peak is just as full of punch and kick as a pit. A low is just as soaked with unfathomable qualities as a highlight. The point is to love them all.
4) Strength looks different than most people think it does. Reactions are reactions are reactions. We are all soulful warriors. We are all strong. Sometimes letting it all go and bathing in the waters that have involuntarily surrounded us through our uncontrollable tears is the strongest thing you can do. Sometimes retreat is your best tactic, sometimes standing ground is what you are called to do. Sometimes it’s about lighting a fire and raging on. It’s all one big, beautiful, glorious mess. There are no right answers. Do what feels right for you. Live your strength. Call on others for theirs.
5) Life changes in an instant. Every instant. We just don’t usually notice the instances. We fail to pay attention. The universe has to scream to remind us that these, her most basic laws, still exist. Everything is changing, in every single instant. The big instants make us remember.
6) Expectations suck. They are the ever-present trickster of the egoic mind and keep us out of acceptance and loving of only exactly what is. No matter how we fight, we cannot defeat them. And yet the aim to rid oneself of expectations is one of the loftiest goals there is. I dare you to keep on trying.
7) Shit doesn’t always make sense. In fact it rarely ever does, and anytime we think we have it all figured out and it all makes sense, is really just an illusion. A necessary illusion. An illusion that, for the most part, is typically healthy. However an illusion is an illusion. So let it all go. It doesn’t have to make sense in order for you to have faith.
8) Faith means believing that it is what it is. It is what it is meant to be. That stepping into the unknown and embracing, wholly, lovingly, will only lead to greater expressions of love, light, and peace. It means removing judgment of good and bad. It means removing the need for control, for making everything make sense. Our obsession with number seven often keeps us out of number eight. Give up the need to make sense. Embrace the heart’s unending desire to just. Have. Faith.
9) Everyone has loved. Everyone has lost. Everyone’s deepest nature is to seek happiness and simply be. Even the lost. Even the weary. Even the so-called evil and weak. Even the forgotten. Even those who create war and tear down others in their disturbances of peace. Our job is only to love them anyway. Our job is simply to love everything, relying on our faith to guide our way.
10) Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate again. Over-communicate. Communicate what? Communicate loving. Tell people how much you love them every damn minute of every single day. It’s what brings number one into tangible reality.
11) Silence and stillness tell you everything you need to know about what is going on inside of you. They reveal the dis-ease, the unsteadiness. They unmask the bandaids and the bullshit of every relationship, expectation, dependance, hope and dream you’ve ever experienced. They connect you to the present. They connect you to the now. They are often uncomfortable. They are always your friend. They steadfastly point the way towards healing. And faith. All you need is the courage to greet them.
12) Animals live with far more love and far fewer words than we will ever fully know and comprehend. They remain individual and unique souls each one of them, and yet so perfectly reflect back so much of ourselves, like bright reflective mirrors in our lives. They waste and worry not on the future. They agonize and regret not the past. They simply love and accept what is in front of them, to the best of their ability. This is true in all of nature. And we forget that we are a part of nature. Minute by minute, day by day we see ourselves as different, and drive ourselves apart as if we are not the same as this great creation within which our lives arise. I can assure you, we are all one in this same great universe. Live from your heart. Not your mouth. Not your mind.
13) Your life will contain a myriad of experiences, of things you never would believe you’d done, would happen to you, or were possible in this existence. Sometimes they will even wrap up into neat little 24-hour periods, or other equally compressed time-periods. In this colorful tapestry, there will be many firsts. There will be many lasts. There will be surprises upon surprises. Some things that you may cultivate and work towards for years, decades, lifetimes. Some things that just may happen. Get used to it. Uncertainty and change are the only constants. That doesn’t mean they have to be scary. A life lived with a determination to see the world unfold into each unknown only to reveal more love, light, and peace than the moment before is a life lived beautifully.
14) Flowers will continue blooming, birds will continue signing, rain will continue falling. Always. The worst thing you can do is to let them win. And by them, I mean anyone who tries to spread fear, or darkness, or hate. And by win, I mean become so distracted in the destruction that you forget to enjoy the ever-expanding beauty of each moment. The budding magnolia in her shades of white and purple cares not whether you stop to admire her branches laden with flowers. The cardinal with his melodic song cares not if you stop to hear the sound of your breath echo the sound of his voice. The rain and her steady blanket of droplets cares not if you stop to feel their subtle contact with your skin. Your soul, however, cares greatly. Light up the darkness with your light. Laugh even if you still hurt inside. Sing loudly. Continue to find joy in everything.
15) Goodbyes will never be easy. Say them anyway.
16) Breathe in. Breathe out. Simply be. That’s all you have to do. You were born as love, light, and peace anyway. The trick is to die the same way.
This is Jillian and Ben right after he got back from his latest voyage out to sea. This time they went out for a romantic dinner at Bern's Steak House in Tampa, FL.