Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston on my mind

Boylston Street in winter
I don't know how others process trauma, but I do it by writing. I need to get the horror out of my head by pulling it down through my fingers and out onto a keyboard. 

Last night, like a lot of people in Massachusetts and the rest of the country, I spent many hours in a daze watching the same scenes over and over again on the television. I don't know what I expected. Maybe that the result would be different every time they showed the pre-explosion scenes. Or that the killer would show his face. But probably more that it would become real to me. It isn't now. Still.

This was how I reacted to 9-11. Dazed and sick to my stomach for days. Watching the carnage and the panic-stricken faces breaks my heart. Seeing strangers run toward an explosion to help fills me with awe. Thank God for the strong and the selfless. 

But this time I wasn't able to go to work the next day. I'm home. On the same spot on the couch that I was last night. My grieving isn't just about the people this time. It's also about my beloved Boston. 

My NY cousins went through this too, I'm sure, when their city was terrorized that gorgeous September day. A day so much like yesterday.

The area of Boston that saw the bombs rip through flesh is my favorite part of town. I have spent some of the happiest times of my life hanging around there with my husband and our friends. Laughing while we walk, proud of "my" city for being so filled with history. 

I watched the marathon on Boylston four years ago after the Sox game I was attending with my brother spilled out onto the streets. Proud of my city again then too as it hosted so many people from around the world. 

Will I be able to go back to my favorite spots again without being sucked into the memory of yesterday? It feels like it does when I think about my mother now. It's impossible for me to think of the happy times without returning to the memory of her final days. That trauma for me has never subsided though it's been almost two years that she's been gone.

I wonder how many more good memories will be lost to the reality that there is an end to it all. My mother could keep the sad and unfair at bay. She told me once that she practically denied the sad times and thought only of the good. What a skill. One I wish I had at times like this.

Maybe the trick is to never forget that good can turn to bad in an instant. Temper my knee-jerk joy with thoughts of Patriots Day 2013. It's not who I want to be. But it might keep me off this corner of the couch and back out into the world sooner. 


  1. Thanks for capturing the essence of what many of us feel! As I see the articles and posts,I'm thinking "How can this happen at one of my favorite events, on one of my favorite streets?!"

  2. In response to your last paragraph, I would frame it slightly differently. We know intellectually that everything is impermanent. (Yes, that's a very Buddhist framework, but it's also a human reality.) All that is good will go away; all that is bad will go away. Our feelings of peace will be shattered; our feelings of grief and terror will dissipate. Rather than "this is not who I want to be," I feel this more as "this is who I want to be." I want to remember the impermanence of all, because it allows me to appreciate more the joy and the love and the positive. I want to appreciate, and not become passive and forgetful. I know I will forget and become complacent - we all do - but the more I remember, the more I will be appreciative, and the more joy I will have in all moments.