Taking care to simplify life is a good thing. That includes trimming the fat—deep housecleaning, giving away old clothes or household items. I ascribe to the one-year rule. If I haven’t touched or seen it in a year, it’s likely that I don’t need it, so out it goes! Mental housecleaning is good, too.
This post IS going somewhere, so please bear with me while I shift gears for a second. I left New York for the first time in 2003. Suddenly, I began to experience a tremendous amount of post-traumatic stress from 9/11. For me, it manifested itself in unexpected, endless crying fits and a sense of hopelessness like I had never experienced. I was home during the attacks and watched the second plane hit and the towers collapse live on TV. I live near La Guardia, and like most people in New York, I was uncertain of what was happening. Needless to say, everyone was freaked out, and that feeling of uncertainty will live with me forever. Living in the aftermath was also difficult for most New Yorkers. Just breathing was a constant reminder of the death in the air. The only solace was the friendliness and sense of comraderie that had taken hold over the city's inhabitants.
In the two years following the attacks, my life had started to spin out of control—I had been unemployed on and off between temp jobs and, were it not for the fact that I awoke in time, one early winter morning, I may just have died from smoke inhalation in an oil fire in the basement of the house where I was renting an attic apartment. After that, my sense of security, much like the one that families had felt prior to the current economic downturn, was completely upset. With no job prospects, my nerves shaken, and no money, I took my parents up on an offer to move in with them for a while on the West Coast in order to regroup.
This weekend, as I rooted through some old paperwork, I came across a poem that I wrote several months after I had moved back home. It was written at the height of my misery, but in looking at it now, it is a symbol to me of how quickly things can change—how we can change, permanently and for the better. Things in my life are pretty good now, and back then, when I really believed in my mind that I was going home to die near my family, I never could have imagined that I would be where I am today. As a matter of fact, I am able to write this blog post without getting emotional, which is why I think I am finally ready to share this poem with the world.
II Years Later
No matter what I do, I feel like I am
Sitting on the edge of the world
Waiting to die.
Since the Towers came tumbling down,
I’m still on the train in my mind
Feeling a bomb uncontrollably separate the metal
Between the wheels—the scattering of
My spirit to the wind.
I’m passing an arterial in my car when the oblivious
On cell phones come out of nowhere
Putting me out of my unintentional
I’m sitting on a pier gazing out to sea,
3,000 miles from that place where my heart
Was pulverized by unpunctual fear—the
Fear that forced me from my rightful place and path.
Now, it’s been washed out by self-imposed extraction from the one
Experience that has always made sense to me.
And as I look seawards on westerly shores,
This harbor no more balances me or my sensibilities.
In fact, it reminds me that I bide my time
On shaky ground. I’m certain the world
Will fall out from underneath me
Leaving me alone, yet again, to float, to find
To understand why time has a way of confusing us and putting us
In its vengeful path—the one much like mine.
But, it was never supposed to be like this.
Yet, my wounds are temporarily cloaked by momentary
Happiness, sitcom feelings (that all is better), and
Vacuous showtunes. Thank God that truth
Never arrives until the offbeat.
My spirit longs for the day
When things will seem like they were, for at least a moment—
Stronger than those sitcom feelings that tease me,
Where I may feel that sweet, innocent peace
That I seem to remember.
(Copyright PDN, 2003)
Isn't it a blessing that we, indeed, can move on from the past? For me, many things do "seem like they were" now, but I am also able to gracefully leave the past where it belongs. What a wonderful gift. Enjoy your challenges and triumphs, for those add to the essence of life!