[Today's guest post comes from BL Ochman.]
Be Yourself. Remembering what’s important.
By B.L. Ochman
Three times in the past 10 years, I have faced down death. Once from illness, once by being hit by a car, and once running through the cloud of debris as the Towers fell on 9/11. Shoulda been dead each of those times, but I’m still here. I figure there’s a reason. Even if I don’t know what it is yet.
The result of those brushes with mortality is that a lot of stuff that used to seem important, like owning the first iPad, or collecting yet another pair of shoes, lost their urgency.
What’s urgent and important now: making time for my family and friends, my dog and cat; having time to think and write; being able to share ideas and to keep learning every day; and being able to call bullshit on false urgency, disingenuousness, and greed.
I know I am absolutely fortunate that my immediate family is alive and – except for my mom – well. We are blessed to have each other. But hey, life is not perfect, and there’s always longing for something more. I wish I could protect my niece and nephews from anything bad ever happening. I wish I could help my mom come back from Alzheimer’s. Because that’s a really ugly place to be, and it’s one we can’t do anything about.
I don’t know how to prevent or change those things, but I have become sure of who I am over the years. I got a really big clue about that just last summer.
My late paternal grandfather, Mischa Borr, was a violinist who led a dance orchestra at the Starlight Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The hotel was very grand in those days, and my grandpa was a bit of a celebrity. The biography the hotel wrote about him said that, during the Russian Revolution, he was on a train coming back from a concert with his band. Cossacks stopped the train, demanded everyone’s papers. One of them said to my grandfather, “Oh, you’re a fiddler! Play your fiddle. If we like it, we’ll let you live.”
As you can imagine, my grandpa played his heart out and the soldiers spared his life and the lives of his band members. I always thought that was some PR story the hotel made up to make him sound exotic. But I learned last summer, from the son of my late grandparents’ best friend, that the story was indeed true. And that many of the other passengers on the train were shot or beheaded that night.
When I was a little girl, my Russian grandma used to tell me, “remember darling, you are an aristocrat.” I had no idea what she meant until I learned more about history and about what she and her family lost when they left their village in Russia to start a new life of freedom in the United States.
All these years later, I know that what she was really telling me is that I am a survivor. And that means I have to remember what is beautiful, and hold dear the love in my life. It’s my heritage.
[B.L. Ochman, @whatsnext, is publisher of What’s Next Blog http://www.whatsnextblog.com , co-founder of Pawfun.com, the pet lover’s site http://www.pawfun.com and is Managing Director of Emerging Media for Proof Integrated Communications.]
[The "Remember Who You Are" archive is here.]