Life Update

You may have noticed I haven’t posted anything new in almost a month. That’s because I’ve been putting all of my energy into preparation for my Great Utah Adventure, which consists of two parts.

In Part One, Rob and I drive down to southern Utah and tour through the national parks. Utah was a part of the country I missed entirely on my big trip, so I’ve decided to make up the oversight. I waited too long to plan which means we don’t have any reservations. I REPEAT, I’M GOING ON A TRIP AND I DIDN’T MAKE ANY RESERVATIONS. I’ll admit it’s stressing me out. Rob seems unconcerned.

Part Two is the General Convention for the Episcopal Church. General Convention is held once every three years, and this will be my fourth time going as an elected deputy. The convention itself is in Utah, and lasts 11 days (they’ll try to convince you it’s only nine days, but many of us have to arrive two days early for committee meetings).

I’m not sure I’ll have the time and head space to blog Part One as it happens, so I think whatever I end up writing will be posted in July or August. However blogging General Convention is something I’ve been doing for years, and will do again this time. My General Convention blog can be found here, and I try to do a post every day of the convention.

With my travels already begun and daily blogging at a different site on the horizon, this is likely to be the last post you see here for yet another month. I encourage you to check out the convention blog even if (especially if) you have no prior knowledge or interest in the Episcopal Church. I try to write it with the layperson in mind, so no matter what your background you should be able to follow it.

I’ll see you in Salt Lake City!

Sit Up Straight, Part Four: Keys to Creativity

I never learned how to type properly. I went from hunt-and-peck to 50 words per minute on my own. I started by staring at the keys. I still stare at the keys.

Let’s be clear about one thing: I have the keyboard memorized. I don’t have to look at it to find the letters. What I have to do is face it. My muscle memory for typing is so strongly tied to looking at the keys, it shuts down if I try to face the screen. I’ve tested a few different positions, with the following results:

Can Type Just Fine:

  1. hunched over the keyboard and staring at it (natural resting state)
  2. hunched but with my eyes purposely unfocused
  3. hunched with my eyes closed
  4. sitting up but with my head still tilted down

Still Works But Slower and with More Mistakes:

  1. sitting up with my head down but eyes closed
  2. facing the screen with eyes unfocused
  3. facing the screen with eyes closed

Get Stuck After Two Sentences:

  1. facing the screen and watching as I type

The profound connection my brain has made to my neck is amazing. Somehow I’ve managed to tie a physical posture, a dexterity-based task, and creative imagination together like a Gordian Knot . When I try to change one, the others shut down.

KeyboardI tried taking online typing courses, hoping I could re-learn by being taught properly. I got better at typing while looking at the screen, and thought fixing my typing posture might be simple. But when I tried keeping that posture during my daily writing session everything fell apart. I couldn’t do it. I would write a sentence or two and my brain would just stop. Normally I can write an entire post in one sitting without stopping. The words flow naturally and uncritically and I can come back to edit later. But when I was typing properly I found my internal editor could not shut up.

After much trial and error I determined the problem. When I type hunched over and facing the keys, I know the words because I am listening to them. Some voice in the back of my head starts talking, and the fingers follow. This is probably why I have such a problem with typing the same words twice or replacing words I mean to say with ones that look or sound similar. My fingers are just playing catch-up, like a personal assistant following my brain around and scribbling furious dictation.

But when I watch the words on the screen, I hear them twice. I hear them first in my head when they come to me, and again as my eyes read them on the screen. There’s an echo. Watching what I’m typing is like having that assistant quietly repeat everything I say right after I say it. It’s maddening.

So far I’ve been focusing on just losing the hunch. I still look at the keys, but I focus on keeping a soft tilt in my neck instead of rolling my whole back over. When I’m doing really well I’ll try to soften my focus and reenforce the fact that I don’t need to see the keys. This doesn’t seem to slow me down, but I keep unconsciously re-focusing my eyes and having to purposely bring the softness back.

In addition to the typing techniques, I looked up a few stretches designed for office workers who hunch over their keyboards. When I remember to do my stretches they seem to work well, but the effects are temporary and I always forget about them. I even tried putting the stretches on my task list at work, but I keep glossing over the task. At least I can soft-focus with some things.

The more research I do in my goal to correct my posture, the more I hear that general stretching and exercising are where I need to start. I’m still working on moving more, though it’s hard. I’ve had to resort to finding more challenges and schedules in order to keep myself motivated to exercise. Sometimes I look back with longing at my college days majoring in drama and dance, when exercise was a part of my grade and half my classes required me to wear yoga pants. I used to eat giant cinnamon rolls for breakfast without gaining any weight. I probably had terrible posture but I never noticed. My calves looked amazing. Sometimes I find my mind drifting off and I hear a familiar tune I’m finally starting to understand…

Sit Up Straight, Part Three: Ariel Yoga

Not long after I published my first post on learning to correct my posture, a friend told me I should try Ariel Yoga. She said the inverted postures allowed your spine to hang freely and your head to be “loose and bowling-ball-y.” She said she left the classes feeling taller and straighter, and suggested it might improve my walking posture. There was a studio she’d been going to that was only a few minutes’ walk from my apartment. I was sold.

The first class was expectedly awkward. Like any form of yoga, I spent my first day turning my neck around trying to look at the other people and confirm I was doing everything right. Ariel yoga is done using a large silk hammock to support and alter typical yoga stretches and postures. The hammocks are mostly opaque, but just see-through enough that if you press your face against them you can still see what the teacher is doing. We started class by sitting in our hammocks and doing basic stretches normally meant for the floor. Sometimes the hammock versions seemed less helpful than the standard poses, while others were leagues better in the hammock. I’ve never known a pigeon pose to stretch my hips quite as well as a pigeon pose suspended two feet off the ground.

Ariel YogaAfter a few starter stretches to get us comfortable with the hammocks, the inversions began. The most basic is called the Spiderman, in which you hang upside-down with the soles of the feet together and the knees bowed out. You know, like Spiderman. The first moment I did it I felt the effects. Because the hammock holds you up by the pelvis and not the waist or the legs, nothing is straining or yanking. Your entire spine is allowed to relax against the pull of gravity, all the way up to your tailbone. It was amazing. I felt like my lumbar spine was massaging itself.

We did a few more inversions that first day, and a few more stretches. Like any yoga class, we ended with the savasana relaxation pose. It was so amazing to be floating in the air with every part of the body evenly supported by a silk hammock. While I still I wasn’t sold on the concept, it was worth trying again. Besides, I’d bought the beginner’s two-class pass.

My second class made more sense and involved less peeking through the hammock to see what I was doing wrong. I was still in the beginner level, full of students just as clueless as myself. I already felt more confident in the hammock, and was able to try a few things I hadn’t done the first time. I bought another set of three classes, and started to move on to the All Levels classes. I did a Flying Dog series that was pleasant murder on my hip flexors. I did a one-legged balancing Sun Salute that made all other Sun Salutes seem like child’s play. And in each class I got to flip upside-down and feel the weight of my entire existence empty out of my coccyx like an hour glass. It was great.

Unfortunately, Ariel Yoga didn’t seem to have any direct effect on my posture. I still slouched, even on the short walk home from class. I did notice some positive, indirect effects. I was stronger, and there was more movement in my life. Holding myself up at the computer was getting just a bit easier, because my body didn’t feel so stuck in itself. The individual postures and inversions in Ariel Yoga didn’t matter as much as the fact that I was exercising again. I was building muscle again. I had been trying to strengthen my glutes and abs after reading about Anterior Pelvic Tilt, but my yoga practice was working out my whole body. Being inverted felt good on my back while it was happening, but the real benefit was the ab strength I used to get back up.

After a couple weeks of classes I decided that Ariel Yoga wasn’t a complete cure for my posture, but it was a fun, easy, and most importantly convenient way to increase my strength and flexibility. I loved that it took less than 10 minutes for me to get dressed and walk to the studio, and that it was challenging but never made me sweat enough to require a shower. Then I heard the news. My precious studio was moving to “a great new space” in Belltown. I’d either have to pay for the bus or pay for parking, and both would require at least a 20 minute travel commitment to ensure I got to class on time. My perfect little yoga situation was gone.

And so the search continues.

Living Adjacent to Depression

I am not living with depression in the typical understanding of the term. I am not living my life while depressed. Instead, I am living in an apartment with a man who is sometimes depressed. This depression comes and goes in waves, but because depression can take hold of someone so completely, when it takes hold of him I stop living with the man, and start living with Depression.

While it may be difficult to believe, with an unwelcome visitor like Depression you’d rather the intrusion be big and obvious. When Depression first came into our lives, it was so quiet we didn’t even notice anything was wrong. Like a cat burglar who replaces all your valuables with cheap knockoffs, Depression can take so much without you realizing what is happening. But over time it became forceful and loud. It would grab the man I love and hold him down on the couch. He couldn’t get up, even when he was dressed and ready for work. Depression would cover the man’s body in molasses so he couldn’t move fast, if at all. Depression would put a hand over the man’s mouth so he couldn’t speak. Depression tried to keep itself secret, but I could tell. It was obvious. I knew there was an intruder in my house.

Depression ran away for awhile, and it didn’t come back much. Occasionally it would surprise us, showing up suddenly one Monday morning, but we would act quickly and get it out of the house within a day or two. We were on to it. We knew its weaknesses. We were winning. Depression had to make a new plan.

These days Depression doesn’t break down the door and wrestle the man to the floor. Instead, it sneaks in quietly while I’m away at work. It does its work in tiny batches, never being too obvious. That’s when Depression goes from a guest to a roommate. And Depression is a terrible roommate.

Unlike the man I love, Depression doesn’t do the dishes. The man and I divvied up chores when we first moved in, and part of the agreement was that he was fully in charge of the dishes. However Depression wasn’t present during that discussion, and it never agreed to do any dishes. Normally the man does his chores on a daily basis; he stays on top of it. But Depression doesn’t care about dishes in the sink. Depression lets them pile up until one whole sink is full, then the other. And when Depression does finally get around to doing some dishes, it only does a few. The dry rack isn’t even full and Depression stops working.

Depression never wants to talk about anything exciting that may have happened to you. Oddly enough, Depression is very good at being polite, and will say all the words a person is supposed to say when someone relates good news. But there’s no substance when Depression congratulates you. It’s like telling a good story to one of your customers, only to realize she just wants her coffee.

Unlike the man I live with, Depression can’t really get mad at me. It’s a trade off Depression has to make in order to never be happy about anything I’ve said – it can’t be unhappy either. It can be polite, responsive. But that’s it. It sounds like living with a robot but it’s not. A robot would be programmed to try its best, even though it will fail. Depression never tries.

The man I love creates things, some big and some small. But Depression hates to create. Depression only wants to consume. Depression likes reading forums online, even the ones where everyone is just being nasty to each other. Depression can read a single forum for hours on end, while most of the other users have come and gone. Depression never writes comments. It only reads. It only consumes.

Depression doesn’t encourage you when you’re struggling. Depression doesn’t do things when you ask. Depression doesn’t kiss you on the forehead to be sweet. Depression doesn’t kiss you at all.

When Depression breaks through the window I know what to do. I know how to fight back. I know how to defend my home. It’s like seeing a baby that’s fallen into the river. I don’t blame the baby and I don’t wait for it to figure something out. I just jump in head first and know that whatever happens it was worth trying. But when Depression crawls in during the daylight, I don’t recognize it. I see the baby in the river and I just think, “You’re going to get your clothes all wet, don’t you know any better?”

There is no way to compare my experience with the suffering of the man himself. I am lucky in that regard. I don’t know what it’s like to be Living With depression, I only know what it’s like when you are living with Depression. Once I know it’s there I can help chase it away, but by the time I realize it, so much damage has already been done. And I can fight and claw and lock the doors all I want, it doesn’t matter. Depression never really dies. It is not cured, it is not defeated. It knows where we live. It will always find its way back in our house.


NOTE: The above piece was posted with both permission and encouragement from man in question. I hope this post helps to open up the conversation so often left in silence.

Intro to Decluttering

Some time ago while working as an executive assistant I coordinated my boss’s move. He was married with a toddler and a very pregnant wife. I arranged for the movers, set up the appointments with the condo, called for internet installation, the usual. On the day of the move I sat around as his old Condo was packed up and put into the moving truck.

After many hours I got a message from my boss that there were two storage areas in the parking garage that also had to be emptied. He forgot about them when we originally brought the movers out for an estimate. I took two of the movers downstairs and we opened up the units to reveal bicycles, bins, and the other sorts of things one stores in a condo garage unit. One of the movers turned to me with a smile on his face.

“This makes more sense,” he said. “It didn’t seem like they had a lot of stuff. I was like, ‘Where are the golf clubs and ski equipment and stuff?’” He laughed.

I’m sure the mover thought nothing of it, but his words really stuck with me. This is what he does for a living, and it was finally making sense to him right as it was becoming astounding for me. Obviously it made sense that a family of three should have more stuff than I do and I don’t begrudge them their possessions, but after hours of packing it already felt like a lot to me. But not to this guy. He knew exactly how much there would be.

Most of us find it easy to justify what we own in aggregate, or justify any item individually. Recently I started a document called “Why I Have Everything I Own.” I turn to it when I need to get in my daily words and don’t have any ideas. I look towards any section of my apartment and list every item. I’ve started with the things that are in and around my desk, and may one day make it through the whole apartment. It’s dull writing and it’s unlikely to produce anything worth sharing, but as an exercise it’s been helpful. It’s easy for me to justify having purses in general, but to justify each individual bag by itself, defending its merits and explaining why none of the other bags could fully replace it – that’s a struggle worth attempting. Every so often I end up throwing a few things in the giveaway bin before I’m done with my word count for the day.

I have this dream of one day owning very few things. It’s a weird dream when you think about it. I could have it right now if I wanted. A couple trips to Goodwill and the dump and I could get down to only what would fit in my car. But that’s not the struggle of course. I’ve been slowly minimizing my belongings for several years now, and I’m starting to hit a wall. It’s easy to get rid of the broken and stupid and useless things in our lives. It’s harder to get rid of the good-but-too-much and if-I-just-wait-long-enough things.

In the coming months I’d like to write more about the art of paring down and my personal struggles with it. It’s more complicated than most people realize, and the problems are more universal than most people think. When I went on vacation in February and told people I did work as a professional organizer, I ended up in a lot of mini-counseling sessions with the people around me. I always thought I’d have to see a clutter problem to fix it, but you can learn a lot from how a person describes their situation. If you have a specific problem you need help with, feel free to leave it in the comments. You’ll help me to know which topics to focus on, and you may just find a solution to your problem!

Like/Don’t Like

One of the benefits of obsessively keeping everything is the creation of unintentional time capsules. Recently I found a word document on my computer titled “like don’t like.” On it were two lists: 1) What Don’t You Like About Yourself? and 2) What Do You Like About Yourself? According to the file info, I made the list in the fall of 2008, almost six years ago. A lot has changed since then.

Many of the things I used to dislike about myself have been fixed and turned into points of pride. I wrote that my “room is always messy” in 2008, where now I almost never let a piece of clothing touch the floor and rarely let dirty dishes sit for more than 30 minutes. I said that I was always “eating the same processed foods,” and now nearly everything I eat is homemade – including the sandwich bread.

Some things haven’t changed, but I see them differently these days. There was a time when I was ashamed of “always dressing the same.” It took a few years to realize the problem wasn’t the sameness, but what I was wearing. I didn’t feel stylish or put together, I was just safe and kinda comfortable. These days I am more confident in my clothes, but I make a concerted effort to limit my wardrobe to a small number of things.

I said that I didn’t like “my hips,” and while it’s true that they probably look better now than they did then, the real reason I love them now is because of how many people have complimented me on my figure. I guess sometimes the easiest way to love yourself is to let someone else do it for you.

Other list items are still works in progress. In 2008 I was frustrated because “I have a bunch of useless crap in my room.” I would never say that now, but I still wish I owned less. I’ve already gotten rid of everything I consider to be “useless crap,” now it’s a matter of learning what perfectly good possessions I can live without.

I wouldn’t say that I’m “tired all the time” anymore, but I still struggle with my sleeping habits. I remember one fantastic summer back in junior high. I stayed home every day, dictating my own schedule by what I wanted to do. It turned out that part of what I wanted to do was stay up until just after midnight watching Star Trek:Voyager in syndication, and wake up just in time for old Matlock reruns at nine. Once I got used to the schedule, I was consistently falling asleep moments after hitting the pillow, and waking up without an alarm right before 9AM. It was beautiful, and maybe one day I’ll figure out how to get back to that blissful sleeping schedule.

Finally there are the things I still don’t like about myself: I still have terrible posture – in some ways it’s even worse. I still never change my hair, despite always wishing it looked different. I still wish I had flexible hamstrings. I still check Facebook too much.

There were twenty items listed for what I didn’t like about myself, and only eight for what I did. But there was a qualitative difference between the Like and Don’t Like lists. The Like items were larger, more meaningful, less petty. More importantly, seven out of eight of the things I liked are still true. I still like my eyes. I still like that I’m articulate and independent and that I don’t flake out on people. I still like that I’m doing a lot. I still like my singing voice. I still like my writing.

I think one of the best things we can do is look back honestly on who we used to be. It’s a reminder that we haven’t always been right about everything, which means we might be wrong about something right now. It keeps us humble, it forces us to put more faith in others despite their flaws. That’s why I updated my Like/Don’t Like list, added a date, and stored it away again. Perhaps a future self will look back and find me laughably ignorant. She’s probably right.

The Nine Stages of Grief

Stage One: Staring Out the Window

The first stage of grief begins immediately after you realize loved ones have flown up from Florida to be with the dying person. It is a little known fact that when death is anticipated, grief begins before death occurs. This stage involves going to work and acting like everything’s fine, but staring out the window at nothing in particular while doing nothing of consequence at your job. Symptoms include clicking back and forth between tabs on your computer, and continually checking your Facebook to see if any of your family members have posted something new since this morning.

Stage Two: Hysterical Weeping

Because death is anticipated, an overwhelming sense of futility and hopelessness takes over. You want to share your anger with the world, but the only Facebook status you can come up with is “Fuck Cancer” and it doesn’t seem appropriate. Instead you go home to your apartment and hold your phone up in front of your boyfriend so he can read the text message you got from your sister. He needs to hear the news but you can feel the tears pooling inside of you and you know if you tried to explain it with your own voice the message would dissolve into howling.

Weeping begins slowly in the kitchen before moving to the couch. You want to say a lot but your words feel callous because rather than dwelling on your own relationship with the dying man, you’re flooded with a sense of cosmic injustice. There is something objectively terrible about what is happening. He has five kids and a loving wife and the whole family has been through so much already. Each suffered through a divorce. They’ve seen death and abuse and for years there was no light in her eyes until he came along and they only had seven damn months of marriage before cancer came to take it all away again.

Stage Three: Distracting Nostalgia

After an hour of crying you realize that you can’t keep this up all night, and you pick a movie off the shelf that you used to love. It’s a superhero film and it’s more than a decade old. It’s nice to see practical effects for a change but you remembered being more impressed with the film back in high school. When it’s over you put the DVD back in the case and put the case in the box of stuff headed for Goodwill.

Stage Four: Memory Flashes

You ruminate on the last time you saw him, and the time before that. You remember hearing how one doctor said he had no hope, and another said this cancer would never kill him. For some reason you remember that day in stage combat class ten years ago. You were practicing how to safely drag a person across the floor. The teacher told you that as the victim you were supposed to look like you were fighting against it while actually helping your partner calmly pull you to the other corner. Fighting on the outside while internally accepting the inevitable.

Stage Five: Death

You’re at work when you get the message that he’s gone. His wife and kids were there, so were his parents and her parents. You don’t cry this time, but you briefly revert back to Stage One and stare out the window for the next 20 minutes.

Stage Six: Shower Crying

You realize that if you cry in the shower there’s no mess and no one can hear you. Your shower is long and you waste a lot of water and you don’t care.

Stage Seven: Bridezillas

You eat chocolate chips and watch people be awful to each other.

Stage Eight: Sad Cleaning

You ferociously clean your desk and the surrounding areas because at least it’s something you can do. You cleaned the living room just six days ago, so nothing’s actually dirty. You choose to vacuum the same patch of carpet over and over again, imagining that if you do it enough now you won’t have to do it ever again.

Stage Nine: Detachment

You sit down and write down 600 words of how you’re feeling. You put it in the second person in the hopes that maybe it didn’t really happen, and it’s just an abstract idea you once had. No one died today. There’s no 11-year-old girl who just lost her dad. There are no funerals to attend and no phone calls to make. Thanksgiving will be the same as always. There are no empty seats at the table.


A Story About Airplanes and Numbers

I woke up at 6AM. Classes at the high school didn’t really start until just after 7:30AM, but the buses ran early enough to get you there for the half hour study period before homeroom. After pulling myself out of bed I made it to the bathroom and to the old stereo my sister put into our shared bathroom years before. She had graduated the previous spring and moved out a month later, but I still had the stereo.

I turned on the local Top 40, as was my custom. I started to get ready through a song or two, and then I heard the familiar voices of the DJs.

“So the craziest thing happened this morning,” the male DJ said. “There was this plane crash in New York City. Like, some plane accidentally hit a skyscraper.”

Interesting, but not remarkable. Sometimes planes crash. Skyscrapers are tall.

“What’s really crazy is that not long after, a SECOND plane crashed into another building.”

“Really?” inquired the female DJ.

“Yeah,” he said, “And because they were already filming the first crash, they’ve actually got video of the second crash happening. It’s all over the news right now.”

This piqued my interest. I went over to the TV and turned it on. Just like in the movies, it was already playing the news broadcast the DJ just mentioned. No more than 2-3 seconds past before I saw the clip of the second plane hitting the building. I accepted it at face value. The DJ said accident. The news said accident. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but when I look back there was a sinking in my stomach the first time I saw that footage. Deep down I knew. They weren’t careening out of control. The plane was so straight, so sure. They didn’t even swerve. Accidents don’t look like that.

I turned the TV off and continued getting ready. The DJs mentioned it once or twice more. Before I left the house I tapped on my parents’ door to wake them.

“There was a plane crash in New York City,” I told them. “I don’t know where it happened or where Nikki lives, but you might want to call her to check-in.”

My mother gave me a sleepy nod. Yes. She would call my big sister to make sure she was okay.

At the corner I waited with the other kids for the bus. My neighborhood sat directly under the runway paths, and I watched a plane fly by. I smiled. Something about it was funny, watching a plane navigate the air so successfully after two had failed so horribly just an hour before. I told the kids at the bus stop what had happened. The story didn’t seem to interest them.

The radio was off on the bus. It was usually on, but not every day. I considered asking the driver to turn it on so I could hear about the planes, but I didn’t. I rode to school in silence.

Between the bus and the front door of the high school I saw my homeroom algebra teacher walking the opposite direction. “Mr. Andrews, did you hear?” I yelled over to him with a smile. “Some planes crashed in New York, right into the buildings.” He hadn’t heard. We kept walking our separate ways.

I went to the classroom and got out my algebra homework. I figured if the bus insisted on getting me to school a half hour early I’d make the most of it by not finishing my homework the night before. I wasn’t particularly interested in what we were studying, and I didn’t really want to do it. But it was due today.

Students and teachers were in and out of the classrooms as usual, and within minutes someone leaned into our room to let us know there was a TV on in the classroom down the hall. They were watching the news. I abandoned the homework I didn’t want to do and walked down the hall to watch the broadcast. By then it was known. By then it was clear. Another plane had hit the Pentagon. There hadn’t been any accidents.

I went back to my classroom and got out my phone. I called my mother, who didn’t pick up. I left a message asking if she’d gotten ahold of my sister. I didn’t even realize I was scared until I heard the crack in my own voice. I hung up the phone and looked over at Mr. Andrews. He had heard my message, the change in my voice. He heard me ask my mother if my sister was okay. He said nothing, I said nothing. I went back to the other room.

There were about 15 of us sitting in that little room when the South Tower fell. I could hear Roosevelt’s voice in my head on repeat: A Date That Will Live In Infamy. Another plane had crashed into the ground in Pennsylvania. They didn’t know where it had been headed. We were scared. We didn’t know how many planes were still in the air. We didn’t know if it would ever end. On live TV we watched as the second tower fell. Then the bell rang to start the school day.

Nothing happened in homeroom that day. Nothing in second or third period either. Every class started with the same plea to our teachers, “Can we turn on a TV?” By forth period it was clear that the present danger was over, and everything that was going to happen had happened. Still, nothing was getting done. We couldn’t focus, we couldn’t learn. My biology teacher gave us an assignment that didn’t much matter and agreed to leave the radio on. But we talked over it instead. We couldn’t do our work, but we couldn’t keep listening to the same confusion either. At some point I got the message from my mom. Nikki was fine. She didn’t live or work anywhere near the towers. She was still asleep in her apartment in Queens when it all happened.

When I got home from school I turned on the TV. The local ABC and NBC affiliates were playing coverage. So was CBS and FOX. I turned to CNN – a lot of people turned to CNN. It’s hard to remember that there was a time when “24 hour news” was synonymous with CNN and no one else. They were the source. If it was news you knew they’d be talking about it.

But today, everyone was talking about it. I flipped through the channels. Those that didn’t have their own coverage were showing a feed from another news source, usually CNN. I had a printed out piece of paper on the coffee table that I used to track which channel number corresponded to which network. I got out a pencil and started flipping down the line, marking off which channels were playing coverage. Nearly every working station was devoted to 9/11 coverage. I still have that piece of paper in storage at my parents’ house.

I watched the footage until I couldn’t anymore. It was the same facts over and over, the same wreckage and smoke. I needed to see something else. I flipped to Comedy Central, one of the few big channels that wasn’t playing coverage of the attacks. Instead it was some idiotic college movie staring Jeremy Pivens. Probably “PCU” but I can’t remember for sure. I laid on the couch and watched a series of stupid sex and fart jokes. It helped.

I’d been watching the movie for about 20 minutes when my mother came upstairs. She commented on the fact that the movie I was watching seemed stupid. She was right, though I didn’t say anything to agree. She asked if we could change the channel to watch the news. I told her yes and we flipped to CNN. I sat on the couch with her for a few minutes, and then felt the sudden and intense desire to not sit there anymore. I stood up and went into my room, which was directly behind the wall with the TV on it. I sat on my bed. I could still hear the news. I stood up and paced. I went back out into the TV room and into the bathroom. I opened the medicine cabinet. I closed it. I went back to my room. Then back to the bathroom. I’m not sure what happened next, but I think I must have slammed the door or thrown something on the floor, because my mother came over to me with sudden concern.

“Is everything okay?” she asked.

I’m not sure what I said. The moment is so fuzzy in my memory and when I think of it my throat gets sore and I feel heat in my head. Somehow I must have told her that I couldn’t watch it anymore. Somehow I told her that I just wanted to watch my stupid movie. I was crying.

My mother ran over to the remote to change the channel back. My mother, it should be noted, knew nothing about how our TV remotes worked. She hit the wrong button and the screen turned to static, then to static with something undetectable on behind it. She kept pushing buttons until I ran over to help. I started pushing other buttons to get it working again, and somehow we ended up on one of the only other channels that wasn’t playing coverage. It was playing bunnies.

It was educational public access, and on the screen was a pair of cartoon rabbits. The narrator explained that they were talking about the Fibonacci Sequence, which neither my mother nor I had heard of. The narrator went on to say that it was first developed to explain the mating habits of rabbits. A third bunny appeared on the screen, then two more. Bunnies making bunnies. My mother and I burst into laughter. We watched as a few more bunnies went by and my tears dried. Mom asked if we should keep watching the bunnies and I told her that was okay, I just wanted to watch my stupid movie.

Later that week I looked up the Fibonacci Sequence online. I wrote down the numbers on a piece of paper: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21…

The Fibonacci Sequence is tied to the Golden Ratio, the mathematical quantifier for natural beauty. The spiral of a nautilus shell is mapped by Fibonacci. You find it in the leaves of plants and in the seeds of the sunflower. The sequence goes on forever, each number the sum of the two before. For years after September 11th the list of Fibonacci numbers was taped above my desk. When I was angry or despairing I would repeat the digits silently in my head as a sort of meditative chant. One. One. Two. Three. Five. Eight. Thirteen. I was never able to get past 55 before the mental math overtook the emotion and I found myself feeling better.

There’s a lot I could say about September 11th and the effect it had on our culture, our politics, our media, our lives. But today I just thought I should tell you the story. My story. I am the beginning of several other people’s September 11th stories. I am the beginning of my mother and father’s stories. I am the beginning to the story for the kids at the bus stop. I am the beginning of Mr. Andrews’ story. I heard it on the radio, and they heard it from me. Two planes crashed into buildings in New York City this morning. Isn’t that weird. You’d think they would have swerved.