Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

How I Cope

Every year, I think it’s going to be different. Every year, I write a little more about it, talk a little more about it, and every year I think it’s going to make some difference. Every year I believe I’ve processed it a little better, a little differently, learned to cope with it a little more.

Every year, I’m wrong again.

Every year, I think I might sleep a little later, and every year my body shocks me awake at almost exactly 8:45 am Eastern standard time. Every year I think I might just make it to my alarm, and every year I don’t. Every year I wake up confused and bewildered for a just a moment during which I don’t remember what day it is. And every year, I do, all over again. Every year, I get quiet and reticent.

Every year, I watch two videos. They are as traditional to me at this time of year as Twas the Night Before Christmas is traditional to December.

The first one is of Jon Stewart introducing The Daily Show on the day it returned to broadcast on September 20th, 2001.

The other is the video for Ryan Adams’ song “New York, New York.”

Unfortunately, WordPress, Comedy Central, and MTV don’t seem to play nice, so you’ll have to follow those links, but trust me, they’re worth it.

I just wanted to share them, because they are cathartic on a day on which I otherwise shut completely down. I tend to solidify like concrete, mute and rigid and immobile, and each of those videos seems to serve as tiny, persistent chisels, busting away all the defense mechanisms I’ve thrown up since the day I smelled that dust (some days I fear there are too many). And I figured, since I truly believe there is catharsis for all of us in sharing the memory of that day, I feel too that there is similar relief in sharing how we cope with it.

This year, I’ve had an epiphany, prompted by Making Light, a blog maintained by Teresa and Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Making Light is intertwined with my memories of that day; there was a check-in post there, that day, and I remember I either posted there or to the well. Today, Making Light pretty much defiantly rejected commemoration of the terrorist attacks in favor of other anniversaries/memories:

I am sure that there will be many places to remember the dead, and to debate the lessons they can teach the living. I’m confident that the Making Light commentariat will have a lot to say on the subject.

This thread is not for that. This thread is for defiant normality. If the aim of terrorism is to produce terror, grief and anger, then let us laugh, and rejoice, and love.

And I both understand and acknowledge the value of such a sentiment.

Moreso, I say, I’m sorry, but grief, for me, is normality today. Today, I laughed at my students, and rejoiced in the fact that people read what I’ve written, but both come in utter defiance. That doesn’t necessarily mean that both are tainted, but still, I look around at where I am and what I’m doing and remember where I was and what I was doing. This year, I acknowledge it hurt, and I accept that it’s okay. In the past, I’ve felt at times like I don’t have a right to feel this way, because hey, I survived and that leaves me so much better off than so many other people, but this year I note:

I’m sorry. I’m not okay. I’m not even a little okay. I miss Manhattan more than I can express. I miss my friends and my crummy little apartment and riding the subway to work. I miss all the terrific people I worked with and all the wonderful friends I made. I miss the neon and the way the sidewalk sparkled under my feet. I miss blowing half my paycheck on bad CDs at HMV, and watching movies alone at Virgin.

But most of all, even though I may not be okay, I am grateful.

To you.

I don’t think I’ve said it lately, but thank you. Because a reader is not solely the single best thing any writer can have, but also, arguably, what makes a writer in the first place. In “Your Name on a Grain of Rice,” Roger Clyne wonders:

What good is my love song if you ain’t around to hear it?

I’m forever grateful I don’t ask that question.


  1. Us readers are grateful, too. It’s been a couple of years since I started reading what you’ve been putting out there. And Will, I’ve always felt honoured to be a part of it. This post is heartwrenching, as is your story about 9/11. I know what it feels like to miss things, I know how it feels to be not okay.

    Bah. I wish I could express to you the importance, and the impact you’ve had on my own life. How you’ve penetrated my life with hope. You’ve gotten me interested in things I may have ignored otherwise. I feel brighter and a little smarter after everything I read of yours, and you know, I really appreciate that about you.

    And even though I’m that Canadian girl, living up in an igloo, eating my maple syrup pancakes and watching hockey… I feel closer to America than I ever have.

    Thanks for letting me read.

  2. John Stewart and Ryan Adams are always there to help me cope with hard times, but I never thought of watching them to help with the catharsis of the feelings I have about that day. Since I seem to have a bit of leftover terror- and it doesn’t help that its been a gloomy, rainy week – I’ll go watch them now. And I’ll smile and be hopeful once again.

  3. This dosn’t quite answer the question I e-mailed you, but what ever your answer is I’ll understand it now.

    I remember not understanding what was going on but my teacher turned on the tv and turned to the news. Most of the students weren’t paying attention. When I arrived to my ROTC class everyone was beying noisy as ussuall and the instructor yelled “SHUT THE HELL UP!” being a former marine you can understand how this might matter to him or how he might understand more then we did. I don’t remember how I found out that the towers got hit but I know it was a long time.

    This year I went to McDonalds and me and a freind ate breakfast before class in the parking lot. My freind says, “who died?” I just looked at her and said, “what?” “The flag is at half massed.” she continued. “Who died?” the date suddenly dawned on me and I told her what day it was too. Just like that day people weren’t paying attention, but when they did pay attention they reacted.

    This is a hard day. It’s going to remain hard day for a while and I think that’s a good thing. If we were a society that could over this so easily I’m not sure I would want to be a part of it. For all faults we can at least say we feel fo one another when it counts.

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