Posts Tagged ‘911’

Je t’aime Paris

November 14, 2015

It is with a very heavy heart that I am blogging.

The terrorist attacks in Paris threw me over the barrel.

It was a strange, sad, anxiety filled day at work, the family got some bad news and I did my best to be of service and help and I know I was, but it was stressful.

And.

Then suddenly.

The news.

The shock of hearing and seeing the photographs.

And the absolute inability to do anything other than reach out to a few people, let them know I was, I am, thinking of them.

Friends in Paris.

Fellows in Paris.

There’s nothing I can do and this is not about me.

I remind myself to focus on what I can do.

But there was still sadness in the air.

Melancholia that broke over me like waves.

Reminding me of when I was in Madison and the morning of 9/11 and all the streets so empty and still.

I had not turned on the radio and I didn’t own a television.

It was like the Martians had landed and wiped out the entire city.

I couldn’t figure out what was wrong or why there were no cars on the road.

Or why, when I got to campus, there was no one on the streets.

I finally found out what was happening when I stepped into my coffee shop, Espresso Royale, on my way to my first morning class.

And even after being told, it was so surreal and so shocking that it didn’t set in.

I still went to class.

There were two other students there and a very distraught TA who sent us home.

I didn’t know where to go.

So I went to the bar.

Where I worked.

I walked through the empty restaurant and the bar, waved to the opening bartender who was transfixed to the television mindlessly polishing glasses.

“Are we going to close today?”  He asked.

I didn’t know.

It was my day off.

I wasn’t working.

I told him I didn’t know and would find out.

The bar didn’t close.

Bars don’t typically when disaster strikes, people, in my experience, like to come around together and nurse a beverage and huddle together.

I had a friend visiting from out-of-town.

Boston.

And she was at a mutual friends.

I knew she must be frantic.

Her mother flew for one of the airlines that was used in the attacks.

I got to our mutual friends house, astounded to see on the most delicious, the most perfect of autumn days, the ultimate Indian Summer day, temperatures in the high 70s and not a cloud in the sky, that James Madison park was empty.

EMPTY.

That shoved it home for me.

I had never seen James Madison empty.

Ever.

Let alone on the most beautiful day of the year.

I found my friends glued to the television.

My visiting friend had not managed to locate her mother who was on a scheduled flight to DC and was beyond frantic with panic.

We would find out that she was safe, but it took hours.

It took hours, days, to locate friends and family.

The efficacy of the internet amazes me.

Facebook in particular.

Hats off.

I am not always the biggest proponent of social media, but I am over the moon at the Facebook Safety Attack.

All my friends, 26, checked in safe and secure.

Just got the last check in a few minutes ago and just breathed.

Like really took a deep breath.

Paris terror attacks.

I still can’t quite fathom it.

It’s not my place to understand.

And I am not going to make political statements.

That’s not how I roll.

Horrified at the anger and strife and killing.

The pain and misery that we as humans can wrought upon each other.

But.

If I dwell in that.

If I don’t lift my head and go about my life.

If I wallow in that morass of pity and amelioration I will never get out of it.

And I am only effective in my community when I am present.

Accounted for.

Relied upon.

Committed.

I’m all in.

So.

I don’t know how to say.

I am sad.

I am grieved.

I am heartbroken for that beautiful city of lights.

And in the face of it.

I will march forward and do the best I can.

To be the best person I can.

“You work harder than anyone I know,” he said and patted me on the arm.

I was surprised to hear him say that.

I was taken a little aback, but I was also complimented too, when he told me that last night underneath the heating lamps on the outdoor patio at Cafe Flore on Market Street.

Maybe.

It’s just the way I know how to love and give back and I must.

I have been given so much.

I really have.

I try to give it back.

To play it forward.

To love as much as possible.

To be kind.

To be compassionate.

Tolerant.

Patient.

Mostly with myself.

I don’t often succeed.

These are lofty principles.

But.

I try.

And when I am struck dumb with sadness and horror.

I turn back to the simple principles I have been taught and look around me to see where I can best be of service.

How can I do the best in the moment.

Right now.

Right here.

Forgive myself for being an asshole.

Love myself.

Love my friends.

Stay in touch with people.

Let myself be sad.

From heartbreak comes strength and deeper reserves of love.

At least that is what I wish for myself in this moment of reflection.

Love.

Light.

Resolution.

For my friends.

For the families.

For all those sick and suffering.

Here and abroad.

My heart is open.

And though it may not have much of a mark in the overall scheme of things.

It’s the best I have.

I love you Paris.

My heart to you.

From Garbage Bags

October 24, 2015

To graduate school.

I was sitting in my Therapeutic Communications class and something was said about the video we had just watched, a really intense video of Nancy McWilliams demonstrating psychoanalysis with a woman who was trying to negotiate a domestic abuse situation.

It was a surreal story.

It was just an hour of therapy and so much ground got covered and the therapist was amazing, directing subtly, strengthening the client, reflecting back to her, empathizing with the client.

I got a lot out of it.

A LOT.

I also got annoyed with a fellow in my cohort who kept asking questions.

Pushing questions that, as I saw it, were serving the person asking them but then, the professor used the questions to illustrate some key points in the reading we had to do for class and also to help teach the class some really salient information about being a therapist.

We, as a class, were then invited to see how our own need for resolution may be at odds with the clients.

I remember flaring up inside when the questions were being asked and feeling that there was this well of antipathy inside me.

I got annoyed.

Then I realized that I was annoyed because if I had been that woman, if I had been that client, and the solution was to get me to see a solution immediately, I wouldn’t have been able to get there, in fact, I would have said, fuck you, fuck the therapy, and I will deal with this on my own.

In effect.

What I did do.

On my own.

With a lot of help from some close friends, I got out of an abusive relationship.

It was not physically abusive until the end.

He hit me when I broke up with him.

I ran out into the street.

In the middle of January with no socks on, a pair of jeans underneath a flannel nightgown.

Now.

For those of you that know me, this is highly unusual.

Even in the dead of winter.

Even in Wisconsin.

Even in January with below freezing temperatures.

I always, since I was about 17 and the step father moved out of the house, I always, slept in the nude.

That night.

I wore a nightgown.

Intuition.

Premonition.

I don’t know.

I can’t say.

But I did.

And when I ran shivering, scared, uncertain where to go and which direction to take.

I knew I couldn’t go running down East Johnson Street, he would find me too fast.

I ran to the Sentry Shopping Centre that was on East Washington.

I ducked along the cement walls and found my way to a pay telephone, remember those?

I called 911.

I got a response and they said they would be sending a car out to me.

That was when I heard my ex-boyfriends car.

In all actuality, our car, it was just as much mine as his, we had both bought it, an older Jetta.

I could hear it turning and I hoped it was heading toward East Johnson.

But.

It wasn’t.

And I got frantic with the operator on the phone and tried to cram myself down into that very small phone booth and make myself invisible in my flannel nightgown with corn flowers on white cotton, with a ruffled that was piped with blue ribbon, with cuffs that reminded me of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Little House on the Prairie.  I watched the car, the little blue Jetta grinding up the street, hoping against hope that he could not see me flattened against the wall of the phone booth.

I believe.

Looking back.

That was the last time I ever wore a flannel night-gown.

It’s been thirteen years since that night.

Almost fourteen.

Will be fourteen in January.

That’s when I left him.

The operator on the 911 call held me together until the police arrived to take me to a friend’s house.

I will never forget the way the lights looked wicking past the back seat window, the calls coming in over the radio, the destination never seeming further away as the sodium street lights glowed sullen in the snow, the hush of the streets, the lack of traffic, the drive around the lake on John Nolan Drive.

Then my friend’s house.

I refused to talk to the police.

I did not give up the ex-boyfriend.

I was too co-dependent.

I did not want him to get in trouble.

He got in trouble anyway, it just took a little longer.

I suppose I could have navigated it differently, but I didn’t know the difference and I didn’t know how to do it.

I do now.

But I look back at that girl, that young woman with such love and compassion, what I went through to get from there to here.

And.

How long I told myself that it was normal, that it was something that happened, that I could somehow normalize the trauma of fleeing my own home in my nightgown in January in Wisconsin.

I was isolated.

My friend, my best friend and her husband were in town visiting and they noticed it.

Another friend and her partner were in town.

They all had tried to get me to see the light at some point.

My ex-boyfriend pretty much blamed them for the timing of the break up.

He was probably right, but I did not understand how much until later.

My best friend navigated me going into work the next day to tell them I had an emergency and was leaving town for the weekend.

The plan was to get my stuff and take me up North to Hudson where I could chill out and figure out what I had to do next.

I was in shock.

My ex saw us leave my place of employment, he had been driving around Madison all night looking for me and who knows how many times he was circling the block where I worked.

He whipped into the parking lot and flew out of his car, our car.

He tried to get to me.

He tried to talk to me.

My friends were all in shock.

Then.

He spit on me.

Full on in the face.

Suddenly the guys stepped forward and corralled him.

My friends got me into the back of their car.

We pulled out burning rubber.

Two seconds later my ex got in his car and pursued.

My friend’s husband lost him after a few intersections.

We flew to my house.

I unlocked the door and having no idea what to do, I grabbed a large black garbage bag and threw random clothes into it.

I ran around my house.

My sweet little home that I had lived in, nested in, hosted Christmas dinners and Thanksgivings in, had made our home, was now an unfamiliar territory or terror and fear and I just had to get out of it.

My ex didn’t get back to the house before I left.

I was that fast.

I huddled in the back seat of my friend’s Saturn and numbly watched the landscape go by.

I remember passing a refinery and thinking how spooky and eery and utterly beautiful it was in the night with the flashing lights and the mists shimmering into the black void of sky.

I reflected on this in class.

All the memories that came up.

Then the tears.

The joy of knowing, that despite myself, for it would be another long year and a half before there was closure and ultimately, really not until I moved to San Francisco in 2002 did I get finality on the relationship (he stalked me for a year and a half and I got a restraining order that he violated once then he got to go jail and do work release through the Huber program the city had in place for inmates with work release options, two full years of restraining order and yet I saw him twice more before things were all said and done.  Ah alcoholism, how I love thee, not), I had made it out.

I made it out.

I had tears of utter gratitude and awe on my cheeks at how far I have come.

From being a woman fleeing her own home with a garbage bag full of random grabbed things.

To a fully self-supporting, radically self-reliant, strong, resilient, loving, kind, compassionate, tender-hearted woman.

From garbage to graduate school.

A small transformation.

A flowering woman in bloom.

A wide open heart.

Vulnerable and strong.

“We both were tempered by fire,” my friend told me, leaning into me in sweet confidence, “but the heat of your fire was hotter than mine, and I want you to know I acknowledge that.”

Tempered.

Strong.

Flexible.

And full of empathy and compassion.

For the client on the video screen who couldn’t get out.

And.

For myself.

The woman who did.

My life continues to unfold.

And amaze.

I am graced.

I.

Really.

Truly.

Am.


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