Last year's 10th anniversary of 9/11 was a big one for me. I needed to observe it carefully and intently. I wanted to be alone for a few hours. I chose to paddle a sea kayak up along through a bay and tidal rapids to an obscure corner of a salt pond where boats almost never go. I grounded my boat at the base of a outcropping and sat and ate my lunch, and then looked out on this beautiful peaceful world for a long time.
Then I leaned back on the moss-covered ground and slept. When I awoke from my afternoon nap in the sun, I said, "That's it." For 10 years, 9/11 and its consequences had dominated my life. I had lost friends. I had worked pretty much non-stop for a decade. It wasn't time to forget, but it was time to move on and reclaim my life, to be a more attentive husband and father, among other things. It was time to try to be normal again. Over the last year I've been especially conscious of the small things -- my wife's wonderful scrambled eggs, the joy of my dogs in running in the woods, the tranquil gurgle of water passing along the hull of a sloop on a warm summer afternoon.
I think the country has more or less regained its equilibrium. We overreacted, and our leaders did especially, I think. Their overheated rhetoric was never matched by any sense of national mobilization, which I think contributed to the nation's psychic imbalance: If we are at war, why doesn't it feel like it?
Let's not forget 9/11. Let's remember that we are still at war in Afghanistan. But let's also enjoy some normal.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.