For years the Big question for people was “where were you on September 11th?”
That was the defining moment, the axle spin that took us all from Point A to an unexpected, uncertain, unplanned-for Point B.
And we could all pretty much describe in great detail – those of us old enough to remember – where we were, at that moment. What we were doing. What we were thinking. How we were feeling. The days that followed, too, are often cast in stark relief against more mundane times of our collective history.
No one woke up that day (well, of those of us not directly responsible) thinking “today is a day that will change the world, or at the very least, change my world and the worlds of many other people.”
But we all knew, as we watched the day pass by, that we were watching and/or experiencing something that would be in history books.
So here we are, feeling that same sensation again. Change – monumental and unsure – is already here; we are living it.
It can be unsettling. Perhaps frightening, but I prefer the term unsettling because I feel it better encapsulates the length of time that we deal with it. A fright is a sudden thing for me, but that uneasiness, the lack of confidence in one’s footing – that is being unsettled. It’s like sitting on a couch or a chair and being completely unable to get comfortable for any real amount of time.
That’s where we are.
It sucks, right?
It’s easier to look back at things, to read about them from the safe distance of time, fantasize about how we would have done things differently, how we wouldn’t make the same mistakes. When secretly what we’re thinking is “thank the universe that isn’t me.” Even if we’re not conscious of it, there is a part of us that is grateful to have been spared the terrible events of the past.
There is a part of us that hopes we will never have to experience such events ourselves.
I have thought about this a lot, in fact. This idea that sometimes we have to go through to get out, and in those moments that through seemed absolutely impossible, I’ve always come back to the same place.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring
I’ve relied on it so heavily that a few years ago, I got part of it tattooed on my arm, my daily, sometimes hourly, reminder that all I can do is what I can do. This situation sucks. But this situation is what it is. We cannot close our eyes and make it disappear. We cannot be born in some other time. We are here. Now. And we must go through.