Never Forget

I wrote this two days after the attacks on 9/11/01. It was a stream of consciousness flood of emotion that I sent to friends and family via email.

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Dear Friends:

I woke up the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, with a sense of dread. I had a feeling that something bad was going to happen. I don’t know why.

I stumbled into my living room, turned on the TV, the volume on mute & went into the kitchen to grab some juice. As I glanced over my shoulder at the TV I thought, “Well, there’s a trailer for a movie I WON’T be seeing: “Armageddon-Independence Day-Rambo Does NY”. What else could I possibly think I was seeing, as I watched a commercial airplane explode into the World Trade Center on a clear & sunny September morning? I went into the bathroom, turned on the radio & stepped into the shower. Then I heard these words: “This day will go down in history as the most tragic in our lifetime”. I turned the water off, ran into the living room, turned up the volume on the TV, & sat on my couch where I remained in shock for the next 48 hours, remote control in one hand, phone in the other, box of tissues by my side, my kitty on my lap.

In those first moments of stunned horror I tried to call loved ones in NY, but to no avail. I eventually just started going through my address book calling everyone I know just to hear their voices, but phone lines were busy between SF & Atlanta, NY & Seattle, LA & Chicago.

There really are no words to express what we are all feeling. I think what makes this horrific act of terror so potent is that it feels as if this attack was directed at each & every one of us. We were all the intended targets. No one is immune from its impact.

Four commercial flights, flying from & to major US cities (one of which is my hometown), deliberately crashed into the Most recognizable building in the Most famous city in the World is More than the human brain can comprehend. Every time I try, the only reaction my brain can muster is to prompt tears to roll down my cheeks. My heart is so heavy & so sad – so very, very sad.

In times of tragedy, as cliché as it may seem, the country suddenly feels a bit smaller & undoubtedly more united. And yet, as much as we are compelled to feel a sense of national pride, to wave our flags & sing the anthems that we know almost all the words to, we must not forget that we are not a perfect land. We allow unspeakable horrors (racism, sexism, child abuse, etc.) to occur on our own soil every day. While many nations stand united with us now in our time of need, these same allies have valid concerns about our policies as well. We cannot ignore this fact.

It is vital for us to acknowledge that there are people in this world who have hatred towards our country so immense that they would be driven to orchestrate such an act as the one that occurred on Tuesday. We may never understand it, but it is REAL & as much as we feel the need to “retaliate”, we will NEVER end the evil pattern of terrorism until the issues that motivate these horrors are addressed. There are no easy answers.

So, what are we to do NOW? Right now, I don’t know what or how to feel. Numbness is all my psyche can seem to handle. Everywhere I go, every face I see, looks the same: blank expressions. There is no sparkle in anyone’s eyes. Not one person is smiling. Everyone looks as if they have the weight of the world on their shoulders, deep in thought & heavy of heart. I feel as if the muscles in my face that used to allow me to smile have been paralyzed permanently. It seems implausible to think we will ever be joyful again.

AND YET I KNOW WE WILL.

Our buildings may have crumbled.

Our children’s sense of innocence may have been shaken.

Our airports may have shut down.

Our icons of Americana may have been cleared out.

Our sense of security may have been tested.

We still have many thousands of bodies to remove from the rubble & our grieving hasn’t even BEGUN to reach its apex.

ALL OF THIS IS INDEED TRUE.

And YET:

I know that we WILL smile again.

I know we WILL have joy in our lives again,

because there are SOME things that NO act of terrorism,

no matter how horrific, can take away from us:

Our Strength

Our Compassion

Our Resolve

Our Honor

Our Courage

Our Faith

Our Spirit

Our Hope

Our Love For One Another

These qualities create our foundation, our core, as a nation & as a people. They are indestructible – Period. So, if these terrorists thought they could demolish us, they really should have just stayed home on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Their mission was NOT accomplished.

Whenever tragedy strikes we each must struggle to find the blessing amidst the devastation. Yes, we are lucky that we are safe & alive. I am thankful that no one that I know of, thus far, was injured or killed. Those are the obvious blessings. But life will never be the same for any of us. It cannot be. Every time tragedy strikes we say, “I promise to live life to its fullest, as if today could be my last. To cherish all the wonderful gifts, I’ve been given & hold a bit closer to my heart my loved ones”.

But DO we? WILL we? I wonder.

For me, the blessing amidst the devastation, is that I was inspired to write this letter to you, my friends, the family that I have chosen for myself, whether I’ve known you for 20 years or for 20 days, & to tell you that: You mean the world to me. If my life were to end tomorrow, it was a better world I lived in & a richer life I led because you were a part of it. You are always in my thoughts. You are always in my heart. You are forever in my prayers. I love you all dearly.

In Love, Friendship & Peace,

Lulu

9/13/01

 

 

I cry. And then I write.

I cry every day. Not sad boo-hoo tears. Sometimes not even really actual tears. Just that lump in the throat on the verge of crying feeling you get when you feel something deeply. It happens when I’m happy or sad or moved, usually by an unexpected moment of humanity, either witnessed by or extended to me. A child trying to navigate a melting ice cream cone. Someone letting me go ahead of them in the checkout line because I only have four items and they have 846. A video of a pup welcoming home its war vet owner. The person who moves over, without me having to glare at them, to offer me a seat on the bus. That hard-knock life story kid who makes it through to the next round on “American Idol”. My emotions are always right there…on the surface. I am easily moved. So to process it, to make sense of it, to prevent myself from wading in a puddle of tears all day, every day, I write. For myself mainly. For friends and family quite often. I need to get the emotions out…somehow. I also eat lots of pizza and chocolate to deal with the emotions…but, well, ya know. It’s a slippery slope into perma-stretchy-pants land. So I cry. And then I write.

People tell me I’m good at it (the writing, not the eating, though I have mastered that quite well). I don’t really understand that. I just write. I write the way I think and the way I talk. That may not be a good thing but it’s the only way I know how. I don’t worry about, nor am I interested in, the “proper” way to write. I’m not interested in “constructive criticism” when it comes to my “process”. I don’t write for that part of the experience. For me writing is just a way to express myself and if someone starts telling me that I am not expressing myself the “right” way, well, ain’t nobody got time for that. I get grumpy and defiant and my Triple Taurus vibe comes out (yes, that’s right. I said it. Triple Taurus). Plus, I’m much too thin-skinned to accept that type of feedback with an open heart. I know my emotional limits. I can’t change the way I write, my approach, my style, nor do I have any desire to. It is what it is. I just write. Because I feel things. So I cry. And then I write.

I took a fiction writing class in college during my senior year to fulfill an art requirement. The sad irony of the child of two artist parents is that I am the least artistic person you will ever meet. My stick figures are round. So a writing class seemed a good option. I enjoyed it. But it was frustrating because there were rules and criticism and it just took the joy out of the experience. I do however, enjoy the editing process. I usually just start wring stream of consciousness style and I have a tendency to use “&” a lot instead of writing the word “and”; I am trying to change that. That is a concession I will make for this endeavor. I love to revisit what I’ve written and fine tune it. Finding the perfect word, or turn of a phrase…that is actually where the joy comes for me. Getting it just right. I think that’s why I like writing. I can take as much time as I need to say exactly what I mean to say, the way I want to say it. Total “verbal” control. There is not much in life that I can control. The realm of my written words is that rare exception. So I cry. And then I write.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a talker. Big time. But every day I have moments where I reflect upon a conversion I’ve had and think, “Ugh. Why did I say THAT? Why didn’t I say THIS?” I cringe with the memory of all the “likes” and “umms” and “omgs”. The sputtering and floundering. I wish I could take those words back. A do over. A verbal rewrite. But I can’t. So I cry. And then I write.

More and more, over the years, people from all corners of my life, people who see short snippets of my posts on Instagram, or other social media platforms, people who don’t actually know me and therefore have no real vested interest, and aren’t obligated to the polite supportiveness of friendship, tell me I’m good at it. Writing. They tell me that a lot. All the time. Everyday. And so you get to a point where you think, “Maybe you need to listen. Stop dismissing it. You love to write. It brings you joy. People tell you it brings THEM joy. The say you have a gift. Don’t waste it”. So I cry. And then I write.

It seems everyone has a blog these days. This is not a ground breaking feat I’m embarking upon. People do it every day. But for me, it’s epic. Life changing. Dare I say, it’s even bold…for a person who is, by nature and habit, not a risk taker. This blog. My blog. A place for my writing to live. A forever home for my words.

I am creating this space because people often ask me, “So, where can I find your writing?” I’ve never had a place to direct them. It is, however, hard to imagine anyone other than immediate friends and family would be interested in the things I have to say or the stories I have to share…like the time I thought Marvin Gaye and Jackie Kennedy were my parents. And that time, for two weeks, when doctors debated if they would need to amputate my leg. And that time Len Horne requested to meet me. Or how I grew up not just IN the Haight-Ashbury but actually ON Ashbury and Haight Streets, in a house where Jimi and Janis once lived. Yes. I’ve have stories to tell. But do I dare? And then there is the privacy thing. I am fiercely private. “Lulu” is my nom de plume. I won’t be posting picture of myself here. I worry that certain details I write about will out my identity. And that terrifies me. Maybe I’ll get over it. I’m not sure. So I cry. And then I write.

The emotion of what I’m doing…finally…after so many years of false starts. It’s terrifying. I even put a little bit of money towards this blog because I have creative OCD and I want the site to look a certain way. Fonts matter. I’m sort of weird that way. So it feels real. Like, am I really doing this? So I cry. And then I write.

And as I sort through the myriad of offered color palates for the blog design (OMG, why are there so many?) I am overwhelmed and afraid and excited. And as with any major shift in life, there are signs…everywhere…right this moment that I am doing this thing. My cat rolls over on the TV remote and the weight of his furry tummy presses the buttons and changes the channel. It’s a movie. The well-known character in the scene says, “I am a writer”. Is it a sign? I glance down at my Instagram account and my most recent post, a quote about writing by F. Scott Fitzgerald has just been LIKED by Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter, Mariel. Is it a sign? So I cry. And then I write.

I know that signs are everywhere because my friend Lake tells me they are and Lake is all knowing and wise and intuitive and the one person, more than any other, who is not going to tell you the warm fuzzy thing that you want to hear, but the deep profound thing that you need to hear so that you will grow. It’s been this way since we were in the first grade. So if Lake says there are signs, trust me, don’t try to fight it. There are signs. So I cry. And then I write.

I am seeing the signs. I am listening to them. I am respecting their power. And I will give my words a place to live, a home, worthy of their power, instead of deserting them, scattered throughout the universe and forgotten. I will honor my skill, my talent. I will respect my voice. I will share my stories. So I cry. And then I write.

I have no idea what happens after this. I am terrified at the idea of strangers reading my words. I have no end goal here. I just want to write. And if people read my words and appreciate them, that is truly wonderful. If something I share moves even one person in a positive way, well, that will be beautiful. But I have no expectations. So I cry. And then I write.

And so now, in this very moment, I feel strong and powerful and in control. And the tears have stopped. I’m not crying. Is it a sign?

Time will tell, my beauties. Time will tell. xo lulu