Sunday, April 21, 2013

Musings On Boston, Newtown, Life, and "The Dark Knight Rises"

“Not a great few months for you, eh?”
-April 15 text from a friend

Well, I’ve had better. Although at least we got somewhat of a happy ending this time.

In December, the town where I grew up became the site of an international tragedy. On Monday, the same thing happened in the city where I live now. And on Friday, I woke up to a version of Boston that felt like it belonged in an episode of 24. Two homes, two heartbreaks, four months. If this pace keeps up, I will not make it to age 25 without developing a Prozac addiction.
This is Boston. Pretty cool, huh?

I don’t want this to be read as a complaint because, in a sense, I have been absurdly lucky. To have two horrific events happen in such quick succession in two places that mean so much to me but not lose a family member or close friend or even sustain an injury in either seems almost unfair. I am not a victim, and if I’m presenting myself as one, I apologize.

I guess I’m just tired.

I’m tired of getting the breaking news alerts and hoping against hope that everybody — not just the New York Post — is getting the story wrong. I’m tired of getting frantic phone calls and texts and tweets from friends and family, not because I don’t appreciate their concern but because I don’t want my existence to be a constant source of worry for them. I’m tired of events that are supposed to be celebratory, peaceful and safe being interrupted by madmen. I’m tired of seeing familiar, soothing landmarks overrun with police officers and media outlets. And, most importantly, I am tired of reading about dead children. I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but the thought that ran through my mind most often over the past week didn’t stem from sadness or anger but from exhaustion: didn’t we just do this?

I usually try very hard not to think about this because it’s terrifying, but the past week has made it too hard to ignore: what we normally consider “typical days” can become perilous in an instant. Getting out of bed is a risk. Leaving the house is a risk. Getting in a vehicle is a risk. But most of the time when we do these things — when we decide to live, in other words — nothing happens, which makes it easy to assume that nothing ever will. We learned again on Monday that this is not the case, and the fact that it occurred so soon after Newtown has helped me understand a very basic truth: the fact that I am alive is a miracle. There are so many things that could have killed me over the past 24 years, but none of them have, and this is nothing short of amazing.

I don’t appreciate this as much or as often as I should because of how easy it is to fall into the assumption, especially at such a young age, that I am going to live forever. But lately it seems like I’m reminded almost every day that this is not the case. Death exists. It always has, and it always will, and being a nonsmoking twentysomething doesn’t exempt you from it. The bad news is you don’t get to choose when it’s your turn to go. The good news is you do get to choose how to handle this knowledge.

Judging by the events of the past week, it’s pretty clear that Boston has chosen to handle it by being optimistically defiant. By now, you have a plethora of options when it comes to inspirational images that demonstrate this: people running toward the explosions instead of away from them; the national anthem at Wednesday’s Boston Bruins game; the interfaith service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The city is going to be fine. I knew that almost immediately after the explosions on Monday, when I walked by a homeless man singing a song about why people should give him change on my way home.

And if Boston can choose this, I think I can, too. To be honest, I’m not even sure what the other option is, but it probably involves never leaving the house, and judging by what I did on Friday during the city’s Dark Knight Rises-style clampdown, I would get bored with that pretty quickly.

Based on the moment of pure terror I experienced on Monday upon realizing how easily those two explosions could have hit me had I decided to leave my office and watch the marathon, I think it’s safe to say that I hope I don’t die for a very long time. But the fact is, I don’t know when it’s going to happen. I’m just not going to let it stop me from living.

I think this attitude is best summed up by a text my mom sent me on Friday morning when the manhunt was still ongoing:

“Text me when they catch him. Busy pouring wine.”

They got him Friday night, mom. No need to stop pouring wine.

1 comment:

FooFighterFan said...


I love your words, and I love the message you continually put out into the world with your thoughtful and beautiful comments. What has happend to us, and to the world through Newtown, Boston, and countless other places is a trauma. Whether or not we were physically injured doesn't matter. This isn't meant to be a comparison between the sufferings of those who have lost friends/loved ones and those who haven't, but rather to point out how devastating and virulent trauma is in our current world.
As you note though, we can't chose to live trapped inside our homes scared of the world. As a favorite author of mine (Robert Stolorow) notes, trauma destroys temporality. It obliterates time. As if ripped from our naive worlds and thrown into one filled with death, loss, and terror trauma can weight us down and paralyze our lives.
For those who have never experienced a trauma the everyday absolutisms we use are taken for granted: "See you in the morning," "I'll be home after work," "I'll call you tomorrow." We accept these commonplace statements as facts. There is, after all, no reason why we wouldn't see our mother in the morning, or watch Dad walk in the door after a long days work.
For those who've experienced trauma though, these absolutisms are just another reminder of their alienation. As if living on another planet, those who've survived a trauma know all too well the finitude of our lives and how quickly they can be taken away. To succumb to this anxiety and state of being leaves us trapped, depressed, and often with a sense of absolute isolation.
Then there are people such as yourself Eddie, who search to understand and process this state of being with others. This is the strength of humanity, and the way of healing. Trauma must find a welcoming environment to be held, understood, and processed with others for our collective anxieties to lessen. Keep on writing Eddie, and keep on healing.

Thank You.