Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Two days later

I'm struggling to write about the bombings here in Boston. That sentence sounds so bizarre that I want to backspace over it and write something different because this can't have happened. But of course it did, and life here is strange and sad in ways I'm not sure how to describe.

Yesterday I panicked every time I heard a siren. There were a lot of sirens. It seemed like they were everywhere and that each one of them represented some new tragedy changing someone's life forever. There are lots of sirens most days, I guess (I've heard three or four just while writing this post), but I don't hear them the same way.  Now I'm jumpy and there's a big lump in my throat and I don't exactly know how to be in the midst of this.  And yet life goes on, shooting right through my lumpy throat and tears.  Like this: We're having a new couch delivered today. That just seems absurd.

And so I, along with the rest of the city, cast about for ways to cope.

One of my life strategies this spring has been to focus on bright spots: places where, in the midst of a whole lot going really wrong, something goes right.  It's an idea I picked up from the book Switch, by Chip & Dan Heath. The gist is that when you're faced with an intractable problem or tough situation, there will always be a few things going right in the middle of all the wrong. So when you're tempted to feel overwhelmed by the hopelessness, focusing on the bright spots gives you something tangible to work with: you can look for what allowed the light in, so to speak, and work to replicate that.

The bright spots for me yesterday were ways in which this tragedy is bringing us together. This "United We Stand" banner over Yankee Stadium just blew me away. And when I think of them singing "Sweet Caroline" between innings (a longtime Red Sox tradition that is one of the sweet spots of games at Fenway) it makes me want to hug everyone in New York and say thank you. These gestures fill me with certainty that we're bigger, somehow, than the evil that attacks us. The Yankees didn't have to sing Sweet Caroline, or stand with us. But they did.

And this much needed humor from Stephen Colbert, about the toughness of people here. If we're going to cry this much, we need to laugh some, too.

Boston College students have organized a walk for Friday night called The Last Five Miles. It's such a tangible way to satisfy the need we have to do something, to respond to this horror with an outpouring of positive action.  Another bright spot.

Last week, a friend told me that when her boyfriend visited Boston for the first time, he said, "This might be the friendliest city I've ever been to!"  We laughed so hard we choked on our beverages. This is not Boston's reputation at all.  Friendly is not our thing. But taking care of each other in emergencies? We're all over that. And as we figure out what life looks like in the midst of FBI investigations and having Anderson Cooper reporting live from Copley Square, I'm grateful for the ways in which all those cliches about reaching out to help one another are true.


James Patrick Conway said...

That was sincere and heartfelt. I also liked Colbert's response, as well as Dennis Lehane's Op-Ed in the Times. My advice is to keep calm and focus on the good deeds everyday people are doing to respond to this crisis. It is also important to try and suppress the understandable anger and rage directed against the person or persons that caused this. They want us to cancel the Marathon or ruin it by making it a high security event, they want us to go after them and keep the cycle of violence going, they want to see their maniacal work over and over again on the news, and they want us to turn inward and fear the 'other' and the unknown. Instead we will rally as one community, turn the other cheek as best we can, and carry onward as a city and a country.

James Patrick Conway said...
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