Bin Laden is dead. I’m surprised and in shock but not celebrating the unseasonable memories the news brings. My 911 story will materialize one day, but for now I’ll resurrect the only real piece I’ve ever written about it, (besides a reference here or there) a little essay from 2006. Occasionally I still slip on my jade bracelet and realize how far I’ve come, and that if you believe you’re in danger then you really are. If you don’t believe you’re in danger, you aren’t. Mostly I don’t believe it, because I’m not.—Michelle
“It’s a brand new era, and it feels great.”—Pavement
Five years after 911 is not nearly long enough in my opinion, but I do feel some relief. I wasn’t directly affected by the attack, not really, even though I lived in New York at the time and helped cover it for the magazine I worked for. To the naked eye, I only suffered peripheral damage. In 2001, I was at a point in my life where I was trying to control everything….
and 911 made it obvious that truly nothing is in our control. So it was an emotional awakening, one I’ve just recently reconciled.
Everything with a faulty foundation came tumbling down that year, which is why 911 resonates so strongly with me (plus my birthday is 913). It was the destruction of a part of a life that I wasn’t supposed to live. I want to believe that something good will come of the WTC, that maybe it wasn’t meant to go on as it was, maybe it’ll work better as a symbol. Maybe selfish entrepreneurial spirit needs to be replaced with an all-inclusive way of doing business, where there isn’t so much disparity. Maybe something like 911 needed to happen to raise consciousness between the East and the West.
When you move you take all your baggage with you. I thought I had got on with my life, but like everyone else in the city, I buried my feelings, effective at the time, but not the best idea long-term. I didn’t start to deal until I moved to SF in 2004. I was in agony my first years here, so much that I exposed myself to some dangerous situations—getting mugged, going 22 months without a job, going to war with the drug addict downstairs, letting myself be used and thrown away like a piece of trash by a man—so I got a jade bracelet to wear for protection. I started wearing it on my 33rd birthday, the threshold of adulthood, and wore it all day, everyday for a year. And now it’s time to take it off.
Pushing people away became a habit, a reflex. I had to move to move on, but it took more time to heal. Neither my brother, who was working at the Pentagon on 911, or I have had deep relationships since. Granted, it could be that we’re selfish kids, but it’s more likely that I wanted to rebuild the best possible version of myself before I opened up again. Vulnerability is an essential element of loving relationships but being an emotional mess isn’t, and passing on bad behavior because that’s how you were treated is the worst. Even though I never understand people who can’t be content alone without a boyfriend, I’m at the point of surrendering my own joy of solitude.
So, I put all my relationship leftovers through the shredder, all the old spoiled stuff, last vestiges of relationships long dead. I wrote my own story about the abuse I’ve experienced, both mental and physical. To both have it on record and behind me.
I was tired of not having faith in people, of ignoring my natural optimism, of not appreciating how good my life is, and not using that cool energy to multiply my luck. I’m tired of being tired.
The forensic psychologist who analyzed my handwriting a few years ago—a work perk—told me that the air is pretty thin up here. But I can see so well, I thought, even if I’m occasionally gasping for oxygen, often so misunderstood. What I think she was talking about was living at an elevation where most people wouldn’t want to breathe but where I’m at home. People don’t want to face things, won’t discuss subjects considered taboo. Everything really touches me, and it’s hard to come down from my search for something meaningful in the seemingly meaningless. I’ll never tire of that. I’ve learned to see hints of truth exposed through the fog and heal through reflection.