Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Sacrifices We Make In Our Heads

This morning, it felt like NPR kept replaying a piece about returning war vets and mental illness--each time, after cutting away to news, they would play the same piece. Obviously it was just someone pushing the wrong button, but it reminded me of what happened eleven years ago, when NPR kept interrupting a piece on European cinema to give news updates only to then go back to the beginning of the piece on European cinema. I think they replayed the beginning four times, but I don't I ever heard how it ended. Not that I would remember and, if the NPR website is correct, I am completely wrong about all of this.

One thing I do remember correctly is what I was wearing.

This afternoon, I tried on the dress I had put on before I found out I wasn't going anywhere. It was one of my favorites then, but I haven't worn it since I was pregnant. It fits. Eleven years and fifteen pounds later, somehow it fits. What I wouldn't give to have it not fit, but have it only be meaningful because it was one of my favorites and I wouldn't even remember that I wore it that day because it would have been just another Tuesday morning.

I know that sounds shallow. I know that not fitting in a dress is pretty insignificant. In the days that followed that day, I remember thinking of all the things I would trade to have it not have happened (anything anything, please just make it not have been), sitting and watching the endless stream of confusion that was broadcast commercial free, I went through my list of imagined sacrifices because it was a way for me to pretend that I was not completely powerless. Maybe if my offers were enormous enough, the laws of space and time would shift and history would be rewritten. I understand that it never having happened would mean that I would never know the enormity of it because in order to understand one would have to have to have experienced it. I need to have experienced that day to know why I never wanted to experience it.

At this point, I have lived over a quarter of my life since that happened. I can't imagine life without the experience, I don't know where I would be or who I would be in that parallel universe where it never happened. I wonder if I would still be hearing about returning vets and mental illness on NPR in that parallel universe; maybe it all really was inevitable, maybe we would still have gone to war without that catalyst, maybe far worse events would have happened instead. Maybe there are parallel universes which view ours as the lucky one.

Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning

A song about a sunny Tuesday morning and the day which follows, about all the quotidian details which fill our days when we are trying to avoid thinking about the things which cause us pain, but also, how sometimes we find we have more strength than we ever suspected. It's about endings and beginnings. It is an artifact from before and, really, the only thing which ties it to this day (or that day) in my heart is that it starts on a Tuesday morning.

Yesterday, I heard something in it which I never had before and which, obviously, was never intended. What if we listen to this song as if it were a document of that Tuesday morning?

We don't talk much about how people were still living their lives even though it seemed like the world had stopped. We don't often think about how there were births and breakups which, for the individuals involved, were bigger than anything going on in the world outside. So I listen to all the times that the protagonist is insulated from contact with the outside world, either through her own actions of avoidance or circumstances. The only person in the song she talks to is Jenny, who has a black eye she got from her boyfriend the night before, clearly, she has her own personal drama consuming her thoughts. So maybe we can listen to it as a song about how someone spent her last day before finding out the world had ended.