I've been thinking a lot today about the post I wrote a year ago on September 11. The messages in it are helpful to me today, as I confront the bittersweet realities in our lives right now. I'm re-posting it here in its entirety and, like everyone else in the country today, I am remembering.
This post originally appeared at Hopeful Parents on September 11, 2010.
Some weeks ago, when I learned that I’d been assigned to write for Hopeful Parents on the eleventh day of every month, it occurred to me that I would be posting on the eleventh of September. September 11. I wondered how I would write an upbeat, positive post on such a tragic anniversary. To acknowledge the date would be somber; to ignore it, when I have been specifically designated THIS day to post, might seem disrespectful.
About a week ago, on a day when the stress of Bud’s transition to a new school year manifested in hard-to-manage behavior at home, it occurred to me that my posting date was fast approaching. I wondered how I would write an upbeat, positive post for Hopeful Parents when I was not feeling like a very hopeful parent. To acknowledge my frustration and self-doubt would be somber; to ignore it would be disrespectful to the mission of this site.
And that led me back to thinking about 9/11.
On that day, when the first plane hit the tower, Bud and I were dancing. We were in a Kindermusik class full of parents and toddlers. We were surrounded by baby laughs and mommy hugs, while hundreds of miles away, inconceivable tragedy was unfolding.
I think about those contrasting images often.
They are images that, through their contrast, capture my world view. It’s a world view that may have started to develop in my high school science class, because it seems to have its roots in Newtonian physics: To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
In my own mind, it has become this: The universe seeks balance.
It’s a theme that plays out consistently in my life.
I look at pictures from Bud’s second birthday party, held four days after September 11, 2001. The faces on the adults are ashen, fixed in still-fresh shock and disbelief. And yet, there we were, gathered with joy, gathered in love, gathered because a two-year-old’s birthday mattered, despite the horror we were all still trying to process. We gathered to meet our grief with an equal and opposite reaction.
I think about Bud’s birth itself – the birth in which his twin brother was stillborn. I think about the hours and days that followed – hours and days of profound sadness, made livable - made powerfully joyful - by the healthy baby boy I held in my arms. Equal and opposite.
I think it’s the way that each of us processes the balance – the way we frame the moments and events in our lives that stand together in juxtaposition – that really defines our experience. I could, I suppose, reflect on my life and feel cheated - angry that the sorrow of x diminished the joy of y. Instead, I reflect on my life and feel fortunate - grateful that the joy of y sustained me through the sorrow of x.
So, I cling to my memories of the earliest moments of 9/11 - those moments in which something was stolen from us that we’ll never reclaim - and I remember the dancing. I remember the joy – and I believe that the people who were dancing, who were laughing, who were kissing, who were living with compassion and kindness at that first terrible moment of impact, created an equal and opposite force that kept us all moving forward, that allowed us to preserve something that can never be stolen.
It’s the same world view that keeps me moving forward through Bud’s darkest days of anxiety and aggression – because as challenging as his behavior can be, as powerless as I can feel in the face of it, I know without question that soon we will experience equal and opposite progress – equal and opposite joy.
The universe seeks balance. Better days are coming. And there’s nothing more hopeful than that.