Fourteen years ago.
I had a new name.
I had a new address in a new state.
I had just returned from my honeymoon. I had flown on the last flight where going through security didn't feel like public undressing and wasn't a big inconvenience or cause for massive concern.
I drove to a job interview as hell broke loose in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. I had my radio tuned to NPR and heard a very brief, early report. There was something going on, but it was too early to comprehend the magnitude. I turned off the radio. I wanted to stay focused and upbeat for the interview.
I arrived early and sat in the car. I turned the radio back on and could not believe how much could change in a 25 minute commute. I couldn't tear myself away from the reporting.
It was a surreal day to interview for a job. We spoke about cancelled business travel and just how sad the circumstances were. We still didn't know enough details to feel the full impact. I hadn't seen the images on TV yet.
The interview was strange for reasons unrelated to a national tragedy. We concluded the meeting and I drove back to my new home, the apartment on Colonial Hills Drive where I was only beginning to unpack and settle in. Tom Brokaw and other anchors kept me company as I adjusted to my new life and our nation's new circumstances.
I kept plugging away at my thank you notes as I watched the television and cried. I also read a lot during that time as I waited to hear about the job I would eventually be offered and would accept. It was a comfort to sink into the couch in my unfamiliar new home and escape into an imaginary world where airplanes weren't used as weapons, skyscrapers weren't collapsing, loved ones weren't missing, and first responders weren't dust covered and beyond exhaustion.
While I didn't know anyone immediately affected by the terrorist attacks, I could feel a collective shift taking place. There was a division now: the lives we lived before, and the lives we would live after.
September will always be a month tinged with grief and sadness for me. Last week as I was settling into the news of my grandmother's passing I was also grappling with how to wrap my brain around a day that is no longer a wedding anniversary. That occasion occurred one September afternoon fourteen years ago. I could not have foreseen that it would have an expiration date. What do you do with that day moving forward?
I reached out to women who have walked this path ahead of me. One friend's advice: “honor it for who you were at that time and the noble commitment that you intended. Life does not follow through for us as we once hoped and you have to accept it and soldier on. Our hearts are strong and full of purpose, but the changes that sweep over ourselves and other people have to give leeway for the heart to adapt to what is....and not what we might wish for...remember, it will get easier. But it will never, ever be a casual memory that you can whisk away. You are not that kind of woman.”
Today I pray for the families and loved ones for whom September is not a little memory to be grappled with, but rather a month seared into their hearts and memories leaving emotions raw and jagged and never to be fully healed. These brave souls have unimaginable courage. They soldier on every single day. The magnitude of their grief helps me keep mine in perspective.
I must admit I'm struggling with how to end this post. I stumbled on a quote from Martha Beck that just might do the trick. “Every time you avoid an event or activity because it's painful, you automatically connect the discomfort with whatever you do instead. Suppose I'm having a terrible hair day, and to not feel that shame, I cancel a meeting with a client. Just thinking about that client brings on a pang of shame. If I watch a movie to distract myself, I may be hit with an unpleasant twinge just hearing the name of that movie. This happens with every form of psychological suffering we try to outrun. When we run from our feelings, they follow us. Everywhere.”
Two friends in particular are coaching me through these intense emotions I have been experiencing. They have different perspectives, but they agree on one thing: I should write about my feelings in all of their technicolor truthiness. I was so scared when they first suggested such a thing.
“Share all of these things on my blog?!?”
“YES!” they replied half-exasperated, half-amused.
I've stopped running from my feelings. I'm writing through them now.
One friend suggested that those stories would help other people. I must admit I do like helping. The helping argument has emboldened me. I am grateful to heed their advice even on the scariest subjects. I am meeting that suffering on the screen and through my love of stringing words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into posts, I am finding relief. Dare I say, even healing.