The Things that Comfort Me

As I was writing my last post, it felt important to be honest.  I know that we’re all supposed to see the silver lining and be uplifting, but that’s not particularly how I feel.  But I also know that there is so much good that has happened in the last day or so, and that is equally honest, so I thought I should put it here as well. 

There are a lot of lists floating around talking about marathoners giving blood and Joe Andruzzi being a fantastic guy (we already knew it, glad to have more proof), but that’s not what this is about.  This is all the odd little things that are making my hours a little less long, and sleep a little less elusive.

The only thing that helped me power through Monday was trying to be useful.  Locating everyone, posting, fact-checking, and sharing were the only things I felt like I could do that could possibly help anyone.  I don’t really have much choice in the matter–my hyper-vigilence goes into overdrive any time there’s an actual crisis at hand, and getting all the “I’m ok” responses and disseminating them to others seemed to keep some of the mania in check.

I got two different emails from strangers kindly thanking me and applauding my humanity for offering up my apartment to those in need.  The cynic in me knew almost immediately that there was no way anyone would come back out to Brookline to stay, and given how quickly the list spread and grew, it became clear that adding our apartments to the list was more about our need to feel useful than any real need by those affected.  But still.  It is nice that people offer up their homes and their cars, and nicer still that a couple of people took the time to thank a bunch of strangers.

Going to the gym was both dreaded and helpful.  It’s where I was headed (once I finished sending an article about Boston to an editor–yeah, I guess I’ll have to get back to that) when I heard, and it seemed to be eating away at me.  I fully expect that running will be cathartic for some and triggering for others.  For me, working out was a good expenditure of energy and a good excuse for why I’m not doing any of the million things on my to do list that my mind just can’t handle quite yet.

Seeing all my Model UN people was a small taste of exactly what I need.  When things like this happen, once the fixing and helping is over I like congregating and snuggling.  It was good see so many people who have been so important to me for so many years.  It was nice to be able to go back and forth between a silly constitutional blah-de-blah, making jokes, and talking about the bombs.  I was happy that the people I know from the team seemed to really get it, to really have been affected, and to want to be there for one another even if it’s just in a simple way like eating and hugging and laughing together.

Another great part of tonight was the chance to play with a puppy.  Sometimes, we all just need to play with a pug.

Tuning out and watching something funny or with a love story has been a nice escape, when I can get myself to do it.  I’ve been listening to Breakdown by Jack Johnson and the album Plans by Death Cab for Cutie whenever I’m in transit, and watching Dawson’s Creek and Arrested Development for sheer distractibility and a dearth of current light hearted options.  I remember after 9/11 I hated that all TV and radio was so focused on what happened, even halting shows.  At the time I felt the coverage was inescapable, and I just wanted the chance to forget for a few minutes.  Even when they brought back the radio, it was all Sarah McLaughlin and Amazing Grace, which didn’t do much to distract me or lift my spirits.  All the same, I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up watching Isaac and Ishmael sometime soon.

Undoubtedly the most deeply moving gesture for me personally was a simple text asking me if I was safe.  I hadn’t expected or even considered that this friend would be worried about me, which I suppose makes the gesture all the more appreciated.  But more than that, it just felt nice at a time when I was checking up on everyone I knew to have someone check up on me.  In the same vein, I have truly appreciated all the people who have remembered that my whole family is local and have asked after them.  It means a little something deeper to hear the acknowledgement that it is scary when everyone you know and love is a potential victim.

So here’s to lengthening the list, and one day not needing it at all.

They Came for My City

IMG_8728Boston has always been my city, just like it has always been my mother’s city and her mother’s before that.  The only place my family has ever been from, other than Boston, was Ireland.  I was born at the Brigham and spent some precious early years on the South Shore, just outside the city limits, in a place so deeply entrenched in all things Bostonian that it has always felt more intensely Boston than many of the tony neighborhoods within the city. We got our passports stamped and moved to the North Shore.  The ultimate freedom for my friends and I was to take the orange line in and wander around the city, unaccompanied by adults or reminders of how suburban we all were.  When it came time to pick a college, I knew I didn’t want to be anywhere else.  Sometimes friends or family back home made the mistake of thinking that the proximity of my parents’ home to Boston meant they would see me often, or that the two places were alike.  Neither presumption could have been more wrong.

IMG_8915This city, which I more often call a town, has given so much to me.  While others lament the unreliability or rising price of the T, I find freedom in my ability to hop on a bus or train and discover whole worlds opening up before me.  I feel liberated by the knowledge that no matter which train or bus line I get on, I will never truly be lost.  I love the MBTA, I just don’t think it necessarily loves me back–especially the green line.  This city gives me more knowledge, art and culture than I could ever hope to consume in six lifetimes.  It has hidden parks and delicious food and close-knit neighborhoods.  It has given me beautiful libraries and fantastic librarians who instilled in me a love of books that will never fail me.  The city has a rhythm and a personality that I find comforting, and a skyline that welcomes me home every time I run away.  It protects me from harm, and never ceases to show me a sign of beauty or humanity when I need it.  I am a product of my town, with that chip on my shoulder and fire in my heart.  I am proud and loyal and brutally honest, I am vulgar and stoic yet heartfelt and kind.  I am what Boston has made me, and I love the people that Boston gave me.

IMG_8872This is part of why it has been so hard to feel so helpless.  I’m upset that I wasn’t there to be productive, to help.  If I hadn’t known it would have been an inconvenience to those responding to the bombings, I would have gone down to Copley right away.  I feel strangely isolated out in Brookline.  My family feels disproportionately far away, large groups have been discouraged, and there has been an overall inclination to hunker down.  I went to Northeastern’s vigil, which was really rather disappointing, and somehow missed the news of the vigil down on the common, which looked nice.

I don’t really wanna talk about the shitty news coverage.  If you pay attention, you should have already known that the New York Post is a rag and that CNN has lost all credibility in the last year or so.  You should know that lots of US media coverage is racist, and you should know the difference between an eyewitness report, a rumour, an official report and well-sourced journalism.  If you can’t tell the difference, you should definitely not repeat the things you hear, and you should maybe devote a little time to media literacy.  But beyond that, we get what we put in to our news.

IMG_3610I had good coverage because I knew where to look: twitter feeds for the Globe, Boston.com and a few individual journos I trust, and local news on 7 and 5 (WHDH and WCVB) when television finally started covering it 15-20 minutes after I first heard about the bombings.  When something like this happens, we need our familiar faces anyway.  I wanted Ed Harding, not some stranger.  I kept waiting for Menino.  I mean the president is the president, and I like him, but he’s not a Boston guy.  Menino knows us.  He gets us.  He’s met a staggering number of us in person, and he has devoted himself to us and this city.  No one else can help us like he can right now.  It seems like as his health has been failing him we’ve needed him more than ever.

IMG_3619As soon as my roommate heard, I hopped on twitter and facebook.  Only one person had mentioned it on fb, my cousin who works right at the finish line but was safe.  There was some chatter on twitter, and I latched onto that.  I called my mother, who had not yet heard the news, to tell her I was fine.  I texted my brother and his girlfriend, who were both at work.  I put up a quick summary of the facts (as verified as I could get them), and a notice that I was ok.  I then entered a bit of tunnel vision for the next 5 or 6 hours of locating friends and family, consuming as much information as possible, discerning what was credible, and posting as much helpful information as I could.  I couldn’t run down to Copley like I wanted, so the only helpful thing I could think of was to make it easy for people with smartphones as their only news source to find what they needed.  And I tried to fact-check what other people were posting, and like every helpful link I saw so it would be propelled to the top.  Because what else can you do?

IMG_3568It’s entirely possible that I shouldn’t have (or continue to) consume the hundreds of articles and reports and thousands of tweets and statuses I’ve seen so far.  But I can’t help it.  I am who I am, and that is a person who obsessively consumes information.  And when there’s a crisis, I try to be helpful.  And when something upsets me, I feel an obsessive need to read every detail repeatedly.

Scarier than the knowledge of the bombs was that feeling when we realized there could be more throughout the city.  The feeling that someone was coming for us and there was nothing we could do but hide in our homes. But mostly, it has been numb.

IMG_3587It is the strangest things that can finally get me to cry.  Seeing the national guard and cops in the t stations caught me off guard, even though I knew it was coming.  Knowing that it was the safest smartest thing to do, the feeling that their presence is necessary, that is the scariest and saddest of all.  I feel like a bit of a cliche, but I lost it watching Yankee fans singing Sweet Caroline.  They even remembered all the crowd participation moments–I wasn’t sure if regular people did that or just us.  There’s just something about the idea of people in Yankees gear doing a Sox thing that just says oh: it must be that bad.  We must be so bad off, they must feel so sad for us to be willing to do this in Yankee Stadium.  Especially considering we chant “Yankees Suck!” at all moments of celebration, including ones totally unrelated to baseball.  I cried when I saw the barricade at Boylston and Mass Ave.  I carried my camera around all day today and couldn’t bring myself to take a picture.  I took my glasses off at the gym so I wouldn’t be able to see the tv.  Sometimes it’s too much of the same information, over and over again.

IMG_8818I don’t understand why more people aren’t upset.  I don’t understand how people could instagram their margaritas last night or post inside jokes.  I don’t get why not everyone is hugging every time they see people, why we’re not all talking about it.  I don’t understand why the rest of the country doesn’t seem to care as much as they did for 9/11, for Newtown, for Sandy.  Is it because it is fewer lives?  Or because they weren’t all children?  Or is it because the rest of the country strangely doesn’t consider Boston to be a major city?  I just don’t understand how people are doing anything other than healing.

I know that a lot of this isn’t sensible or measured or fair.  I’m sure the transplants and college kids are offended at the idea that their attachment to this city is any less than mine, and I know that it’s considered petty to differentiate amongst grief.  I also know that the insider/outsider dynamic is pretty quintessentially Boston, and that it has become harder and harder to find locals in the schools and neighborhoods that are competitive and safe.  It’s actually pretty easy to spend years here and almost never interact with an actual Bostonian.  And yes, it has occurred to me that many of the people who appear to be just fine probably aren’t doing as well inside.  I realize that I probably seem fine to strangers and friends, and I know it’s a strange trick of trauma to delay the grief in some but not in others.

IMG_8864But I really don’t care.

This is my home and somebody attacked it.  If that doesn’t bother you enough to interrupt your daily life, then let’s not talk for a little while.  If you wanna talk to me about Syria and Iraq, I’m sort of curious where you’ve been for the rest of my life because I basically always want to talk about that.  But not right now.  Right now I’m too tired to even think about a response explaining why no, some of us just do NOT have the energy in this moment to be upset about both.  There is only so much emotional bandwidth in a person, and if you have enough to deal with that right now go for it, but I just don’t.  This is my home, and it has always been my home.  No matter how much I travel, it will always be my home–I don’t care to live anywhere else in the United States.  It is not a temporary place or a place for the Best Years of My Life.  It’s a place for all the years of my life.  It didn’t take me a few minutes to find everybody, it took me like an hour to even get my brain on track to think of everybody, because almost everyone I have ever known or loved lives here.  This is not just my city for now, it is my city for always.  It is my home and my family’s home.  It is birthdays and Christmases, first kisses and the prom.  It is crappy summer jobs and life-changing concerts, elections and award ceremonies.  It is funerals and births, terrifying illnesses and big nights out celebrating.  It is sleeping on the ground for post-season red sox ticket, watching local bands rise to national fame, getting soaked in beer at a bruins game, and running into Gary Tanguay after watching the C’s kill it.  It is local beer and Colonial reenactments, holidays other people don’t understand and listening to tourists and college kids make fun of the accent I don’t really have.   It is the entirety of my real life and the real lives of the people I love, and someone wanted to take all that away.  And I am just too tired for all of that.

If this seems far too dark for you, my schmaltzy thoughts can be found here.