Every one of us who survived 9/11 has a story to tell. Every one has a distinct memory of where they were before, during, and after those horrific events on that day. And every person has an imprinting in their being from that day.
Here is mine.
On that day, I experienced moments when I believed my worst fears to be manifesting. You see, at that time in my life, I was crippled by debilitating anxiety. Nobody knew it, as I was a hardworking perfectionist who was a successful graduate student in a doctoral Program while working two jobs. I was a woman who got shit done and appeared to have it all together. But inside I was always seconds away from total meltdown and complete unraveling.
One of my greatest fears was losing people I loved. At the time, I was newly married, and the angst of my childhood had grown into full blown panic disorder, anxiety, OCD, cycled with depression. At the time my husband who was a technology engineer for a financial firm in NYC worked long overnight hours. When he would prepare to leave for an overnight shift I felt the same knot in my stomach and feelings of dread that I did as a little girl when my daddy would leave for his overnight shift with the sanitation department. I was convinced that I would never see my husband again, much like when I was a little girl and feared my daddy would die.
At the time, when my husband left the house, I would call him every 10 minutes of his commute to check on him, as I had convinced myself that if I didn’t do this, something would happen to him. That’s the mind-fu#% of anxiety—magical thinking in the most unmagical of ways.
During the day I would leave my work or graduate school classes every 10 mins to call him but nobody noticed because I always got my work done. And at night I would stay later than expected so I wouldn’t have to be home alone feeling anxious, and my bosses loved this because they saw my behavior as dedication. They had no idea of my true motivation.
Most weekends, I traveled into the city with him to work because honestly it was easier than having to call him every 10 Mins. I would sit in the car where he parked outside of Grand Central Station and do my schoolwork for a solid 48 hours. I would freeze in the car with my computer in my lap, books all around me, and work through the night, with a few breaks to hit Dunkin’ or McDonalds to pee, grab food, and steal a little warmth.
Wherever I was, I always had the radio set to 1010 WINS News—A very popular news radio station in NY. They had the latest news, and featured traffic and weather on the “10’s” minute mark of every hour. It was like the station was set up for me and my OCD algorithms!
One particular Tuesday morning, while sitting at my desk at the learning center where I worked as an administrative director, while prepping binders for the day’s parent meetings, reviewing lesson plans for students, and assigning teachers to the tutoring floor, 1010 WINS announced breaking news. “Information is coming in about a possible place crash in NYC in the vicinity of the World Trade Center.” I stopped dead in my tracks, and immediately thought of my husband who right at that moment was in a train on his way into the city for work in the building just 2 blocks from the towers. I grabbed the phone at my desk and dialed, and—no answer. I called again—no answer. Again—-no answer. Again—-“all circuits are busy”. As I realized that the phone lines were down, and the news station confirmed that trains were halted everywhere, I was consumed with terror. As the events of that morning of September 11 unfolded, I knew that life would never be the same again for countless people, myself included.
That day was a day when I experienced the greatest fear and greatest gratitude and greatest teachings all in the same day. I was one of the lucky ones, because I eventually heard from my loved one. Thousands of others did not.
Yet still, that gratitude wasn’t enough to sustain me. After that traumatizing day, anxiety was uncontrollable and my behaviors extreme. I was almost completely unable to leave the house by myself. I made excuses as to why I couldn’t go to class, attend Parties, or meet my friends for drinks. I became more obsessive, compulsively checking things when I saw the number 10 or 6, only selecting the 3rd item off of a store shelf, and taking care to say the 6 words” bye I love you be careful” in that same order each and every time I hung up the phone with a loved one. All ritualistic algorithms intended to help me feel prepared so that somehow I could prevent the unthinkable from happening. I barely slept, barely ate, and dove deeper into my work and my studies to bypass all feeling. I did that for 7 years! And then decided to dive head first into motherhood—And that’s a story for a different post.
It wasn’t until years later, as my ReWilding journey of ultimate healing unfolded, that I would recognize all that the events of 9/11 taught me. I learned that the unthinkable is always possible—And that’s not anxiety. That’s just truth! On my healing journey, as I had to return to the essence of what it means to be alive, I was able to see the truths of this human existence that while Unpleasant at times are all Part of the plan.
Here are a few other things I learned:
The only certainty in life is uncertainty.
The only constant is change.
The only permanence is temporary-ness.
The only way to live is to get comfortable with dying.
The only way to trust is to surrender first.
The only way to travel this life is to pack lightly while loving deeply.
The only way to be tuned in to life is to tune in to all of it.
The only way to honor life is to live each moment as if it’s sacred. Because it is.
The only way to have enough is to believe you already have enough.
The only way to know anything is to pause, rest, reflect, contemplate in silence for silence speaks the loudest.
The only way to bust through fear is to take action.
The only way to be ok with life as it’s unfolding is to choose to be present for all of it with open arms, trust that it’s all happening for us.
The only way to live freely is to stay and not run, to be so courageous as to be willing to confront life just as it’s happening without needing to escape from it.
The only way to live a mess-free existence is to be so truthful and so authentic.
The only way to truly live is to live the life that is crying out from the depths of your inner existence. Never silence those cries. They express your true purpose.
The only way to be in relationship with others is to be so intimate within yourself.
The only way to be in control is to let go.
Let us remember today, as we walk out into the world and our eyes meet others’ eyes, that every being has a story inside of them filled with tales of pain, sorrow, agony, and joy. Every being your eyes meet is just like you.
Can we dare to see with eyes of compassion the truth, beauty, and love in each person?
Can we dare to live so completely and so freely, tethered to nothing, letting go of all that’s in our way?
If not today, then when?
Read more about my before and after ReWilding journey inReWilding: A Woman’s Quest to Remember Her Roots, Rekindle Her Instincts, and Reclaim Her Sovereignty. kristyvanacore.com