The trip itself was absolutely amazing. I met some people right from the start to chat with and found myself more "ME" than I have been in a long time. I talked to strangers, I spent time alone which has been a struggle the last year and a half, even though I've always been able to do things alone. I spent the first two days just relaxing and sort of reconnecting with myself. I laid on the beach surrounded by locals speaking Italian (which I love). I spent the mornings walking through my village exploring a bit and my evenings in the harbor just enjoying the sunset and serenity. I was enjoying every second. I found myself not feeling the need to go off and explore the other villages since i've seen them before (though, there is still some things I have yet to see). I also found I wasn't taking as many pictures as usual because I just wanted to present and enjoy every moment and take it in. I felt a sense of peace and happiness. I connected with my friend, Amy who lives there and visited her office every day to chat. I talked to some other local shop owners and visited the apartment I will rent for a month in the winter. I made a very good friend there who is also a photographer and we took pictures and explored together which was great. I loved my alone time, but sometimes it is nice to experience it all with another person, someone who you can say, "remember that cool sound of the waves crashing on the rocks of the beach that day?".
Anyway, I spoke of the marathon with both Amy and this other friend and found myself okay talking about it and not getting very anxious beyond a little bit of that leg bouncing. My trip home had some anxiety. I had delays and almost missed a flight (my third of the day at hour 18 since i'd left the village that morning). But, I continually reminded myself of the great moments I had while away and put myself back in that place. It helped. I've now been home for two weeks. It's been crazy with work since the day after I got back.
The other day, on the way to a photo shoot, I drove by a place I haven't been in years. It was the private nursing home we put my grandmother in back in 2004 after I had been living with and taking care of her with alzheimer's. I hadn't been down that street since she moved homes. I focused on my shoot, but found later, as the day went on, I was thinking of her more and more as well as feeling anxiety sneak into my chest. And then, marathon related things started coming into my head. It's amazing how something completely unrelated causing those same feelings inside of you can trigger the anxiety and sadness from the bombings. I spent two days a little sad and sort of replaying things in my head. I even found a picture that randomly popped up on my computer from that morning. I had taken some pics of my little cousins and posted it with the quote "When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life you have a thousand reasons to smile." My cousin was very sick in the hospital at the time, so this quote had meaning, but I would discover just how much meaning later. This is what I wrote with the picture when I posted it.
One of the reason I do photography is because you can look at a picture and it can bring you right back to a moment. Maybe you can feel what you were feeling, maybe you can remember a smell or a chill in the air, maybe you remember something someone said that made you crack up laughing. Sometimes, those feelings are just happy, sometime they may be a mix of bad, good and sadness all at once. This pic popped up as I was backing up my phone. Strange considering how old it is. It is from the morning of April 15, 2013. I know the quote I wrote with it because it was significant at the time. It is, "when life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life you have a thousand reasons to smile." If there was ever a more perfect quote for a particular day, I would realize later that this was it. It's both difficult to see and also a beautiful message, especially on a couple of days that are just a little difficult.
On Tuesday I finally met someone I've been hoping to meet for 6 months. I had mentioned back then that random people had started finding my blog and contacting me. They had either been there, had a friend there that day or just wanted to connect because they felt my blog was giving them insight into what "we" were going through. Well, once of these people was a woman whose friend was deeply affected. He had never been the same and she had been struggling to try and help him. She found my blog and said she couldn't stop reading it because it was finally giving her
insight into what he was going through. She talked about things I knew those trying to help us all were feeling…helplessness and that all too familiar need we all have to "fix it". I talked about all of it in my blog. No matter the fog I was in, I knew what this was doing to the people around me and writing was the way to get it all out and to let everyone know what was really needed. It certainly wasn't a "fix", that wasn't possible. It was and still is, a process.
It is a strange and amazing feeling to know that you made an impact and helped someone that you've never even met and I was excited to meet her in person. We spent a few hours talking about marathon stuff and a bunch of other things. It was just great. I spoke about things I hadn't really spoken about in a while. I talked about how now, 18 months later, when i'm feeling so good overall again, I realize just how low I felt then. For 13 months, I felt like a piece of my soul was gone. I basically felt dead inside. There were such intense feelings of sadness, fear, confusion, and frustration. Thinking about this is helpful, even though it's amazing how those feelings can come back, in less intense ways, from a picture, a quote, a memory that flashes through my head. I think about the fact that there are people who were there that day who haven't made it to this point. They may not have sought help, may just want to "deal with it on their own" (thinking they can), or just have not found their way out of that confusion, fear, and emotion yet. I want to find these people and help them. These are people that I'm hoping our new center will help the most.
Yesterday, I went to visit this new Resiliency Center that has been set up for anyone affected in any way by the bombings. I am on the advisory panel for the center. The panel is made up of survivors, first responders, family members of those lost and many others. Our job is to ensure everyone is represented and be sure every aspect from decorations to resources is good for everyone. I am going to be helping to decorate the center with pictures to accompany some of the art and murals that will be filling the walls. This is exciting for me. I have wanted to use my photography to help for a year and a half, so if my work can brighten up this important space and help, it's exactly what I want. The poster below is something I came up with for the space and also for just anyone who wants to purchase it. I will have more designs available as well. I know that being involved in this stuff will continue to both stir up anxiety and also be exciting and healing. It's a balance I need to keep. Sometimes, it becomes all too easy to avoid it completely but I know that isn't the best choice and that it inevitably brings that anxiety even stronger. I just keep reminding myself that this whole experience has led me to where I am right now in this moment. And, in this moment, despite any anxiety or other emotion that sneaks in, I'm a better "ME" than I have ever been. I'm working a lot, traveling again, helping people, and have so many beautiful people in my life that were there before and those who have come in just the last year and a half. I couldn't be more grateful for all of these things and people.
Thanks for reading.