Remembering 9/11. Remembering…
On the anniversary of 9/11 many of us unite and reflect on that devastating event that changed lives in a flash and altered how we view the world.
The range of reactions to today will be as wide as the range of personalities on this planet. Many will stop and honor the dead, remember and reflect. Some will weep and mourn. Some will merely go on with their day. Some never have stopped weeping. Some haven’t missed a beat this whole time. In this big, wide, wacky world there is a plethora of reactions to this event, to other events, to how we handle grief and anger and uncomfortable emotions.
Today, I will stop and reflect. I will have gratitude that my slice of tragedy pales in comparison to this enormous event. Yet, I will also mourn my own and continue to gently find my way through something that doesn’t make sense, that came out of the blue and turned my world upside down, leaving life hardly resembling what it was before. I will think of my neighbors who lost loved ones and know their pain is not any less than those who lost loved ones in 9/11. Across the world, people will stop and grieve those lost in 9/11. Who will stop today to remember those lost in the North Fork fire? Or the High Park fire? Or the Waldo Canyon fire? Or any fire? I will.
Grief is a tricky mo-fo. It morphs and changes, twists and turns, ebbs and flows. It eases as time goes by yet it can remain for years, decades or lifetimes. Death is difficult for most of us to face and senseless and sudden death adds another layer to amplify our reactions. Most of us remember where we were when we first heard of the events on 9/11. Tragedies do that. They cement images in our mind that remain forever. I was out for a run (a long abandoned sport of mine) and David found me on that brisk September day. I remember puzzling as I saw him pull up beside me and asked me to get in the car. He explained as best he could as we sped back to the house to glue ourselves to the TV with the rest of America.
Now, I will never forget 3/26/12. I will remember how the morning that became my last memory of my home began, how I sat drinking my coffee contemplating my day, how later on I saw smoke and began to worry, how that turned to panic and confusion and with the assistance of friends I finally fled, yet never turned around one last time to say the goodbye that I didn’t know was my last. My comrades affected by the other Colorado fires will not forget their dates. We stop and acknowledge birthdays, anniversaries and markers of many kinds. Later this month, 23 years ago, I got (and stayed) sober and into recovery from my battle with bulimia. Each September, I reflect of where I have come and who I have become. This year is different. Newly back from our soul-refreshing time away, still living in limbo, on the brink of many major decisions without the clarity or ability to fully commit, this reflection period carries a different feel. Like anyone returning from time away, we hoped to infuse our life ongoingly with the peace and space we achieved while unplugged. Prior to leaving, we were strung out and near the breaking point. My edges were sharp and raw, my skin was extra thin, the exhaustion deep and dark. Time away was healing, soothing and just what the doctor ordered in so many ways. Even though the trip had it’s bumps in the road, overall it was miraculous and absolutely perfect.
Returning to Colorado was a mixed bag. Our friendships here are what sustains us. Without this great support system, I wouldn’t want to return. I don’t know where I would want to go but coming back wasn’t the gift it once was. We attempted to ease into our schedules but David needed to be back in Seattle to attend to the most demanding project of his working career and I picked back up with clients as well as the many things left undone – our 2011 taxes, finishing the inventory list, dealing with the insurance company, trying to find a place to live, re-writing my book… Disappointingly, we jumped back into the stress right where we left off. Where was the peace we experienced? Where was the space between the thought and the reaction? Where was the soothing perspective? Battling with ourselves and each other, we felt very far from our oasis in the tropics.
Yet, I feel a reservoir I didn’t feel before. I return to it more quickly. I am in a different stage of this grief process. It’s not so raw and raggedy anymore. It’s smoother, yet more entrenched. My mind has been spinning wildly with the never ending to do list, insurance inventory items, all those things lost in the fire that we needed for our taxes and forgot about until now. I question decisions we have made over these 5 ½ months. I ruminate, obsess, wonder, worry. I fall down in the pit of despair, then I crawl out. Or sometimes I don’t know I am in there, I just think the world is dark and wrong, that you hate me (or at least don’t love me), and that there is something dreadfully wrong with me that can never be made right. I worry about pollution and animal cruelty and starvation and violence. I obsess about the general feeling of angst in the world with so many people hair-trigger and thin-skinned. I wonder what will happen to us all. I start to believe that darkness is all there is. And then I smell fall in the air and something inside perks up.
Today, we will stop and remember 9/11. And today, for those of us who have other tragedies in our lives, I hope we can stop and remember as well. I hope we remember that grief is messy and not linear and often makes us temporarily be people we don’t know or don’t like. I hope we can accept that life is messy too and that there is no end game, or finish line, or way to know if we really are winning or losing. How about we accept that there is no way to outrun our demons. They will run beside us screaming in our ears, or behind us pulling at our shorts, or in front of us trying to trip us up. They will scream loudly and tell us that we suck, that the world sucks, that you suck. They will be there until the day we die yet they may morph and change as we morph and change. We will learn not to listen to them, how to change the thought, whatever our trick or treat – but they will pop up in other ways and other places. We will meet them in dark alleys, in traffic, in our bathroom mirrors. We will see them reflected in the evil that exists in the world and we will know that we all have a small slice of that evil in our own hearts.
But then, maybe we can remember, that these demons can’t really destroy us, don’t really have that power, and aren’t really that scary after all. As my sponsor says, these demons that we know beyond a shadow of a doubt are ferocious fire breathing gargantuan, yet once we shine a light on them, we see the truth: they actually are tiny insects with a microphone.
Today, while remembering many things, I will work on remembering that. Today, I will celebrate that after 4 separate attempts to get words on paper since my return, I finally have. I will peer out my basement window and glimpse the blue Colorado sky and the leaf that tells me change is in the air. Again. Change will continue – and in so many ways we will stay the same. Today, I may choose to accept that until I forget again. I will also choose to accept where I am in this process. I can cry today for lives lost, I can laugh with my friends, finish my taxes, stay in my pajamas, love my new car and miss my house. I will remember that grief has many faces and many moons. Today, I will remember that I don’t have to hurry through this process, and that just because I have much to be grateful for, I can still mourn what is lost. And, I can remember that celebrating the gifts doesn’t demean or diminish anything. We can hold all of it. Grief is like the weather. It’s unpredictable, suddenly fierce and story, then calm and placid, like nothing ever happened.