Every year I write about 9/11. Because I was there. But this year, I didn’t want to. But then I woke up today and decided that I want to.
I didn’t want to write about it because I’m sick of it. I don’t want to keep identifying with it. I think maybe I needed to when I didn’t feel like I really belonged on a farm and I didn’t feel like I belonged in New York and I needed some way to explain to myself how I got to where I am lost.
But I’m not lost now.
My kids ask me about 9/11.
Their questions remind me of how I would ask my parents during the Vietnam war, “What is Viet Cong?”, which is a similar question to “Was there one plane or two?”.
I answer their questions. And they are prying often enough that I tell my story more now than ever. So I probably don’t need to keep telling the story on this blog. (Although there are some 9/11 posts that I love to link to, like a seasonal ritual. Here’s one.)
I woke up late this morning. Because I took a sleeping pill. It’s the type of pill that was designed specifically for post-traumatic stress so I don’t wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares.
I wouldn’t know when I need that pill if it hadn’t been for the 9/11 PTSD counselor who told me my childhood was way worse for me than 9/11.
I woke up this morning thinking that there is no way to separate myself from 9/11. The urge to not write about it reminds me of the urge people have to quit one blog to start another, which is really the urge to not have to deal with a part of oneself.
For all of you who are planning to write to me to ask if you should quit one blog and start another, let me tell you that it’s much more meaningful to understand how the two types of blogging belong together. Because both types of writing are part of you. And the process shows you how you become an integrated person.
It’s always better for you to be able to integrate different parts of yourself with a story. Stories are how we make ourselves whole.
Elie Wiesel wrote, “God made man because he loves stories.”
I don’t know if the he is God or the he is man. But either way, I like that Wiesel makes stories the focus of the creative act.
Wiesel got through the Holocaust by telling stories, which tells me we can get through anything by telling stories. So none of us should stop talking about major events because they are too hard, or because we can’t make sense of them. Both reasons are when it’s most important to keep spinning stories.
This reminds me of how every time I hear that someone quits therapy because they aren’t making progress, I know they really quit therapy because it’s very hard to talk about ourselves if we can’t tell a story of how we got there.
I’ve written about how this is true in a resume. If you can’t tell the story of how you got to where you are, you are unlikely to convince someone to hire you. We connect to the world by telling the story of ourselves.
The stories we tell are a window into our personalities. Dan P. McAdams says in Handbook of Personality: “Whether aimed at finding meaning in yesterday’s conversation around the water cooler or in a 15-year marriage that ended two decades ago, autobiographical reasoning is an exercise in personal integration—putting things together into a narrative pattern that affirms life meaning and purpose.”
I can’t make sense of my own life without including 9/11. I’m tired of talking about it. But that just means I need to start talking about it in a different way. My story can change. Our stories always change. They don’t go away.
So, this year, my story is that I probably always knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that I belonged in a rural setting. But it took 9/11 to get me to see that clearly enough to take action. Today I am fortunate to be where I belong. That story might change, but I hope my story always ends with me feeling like I’m where I belong.