Dr. Marry and Me,  Personal Writing,  Writing Retreat Reflections

The day before my world turned upside down

Thinking of 10 years ago today—had no idea what was coming the next morning—life changed by four airplanes and a man who walked through our door and never left. Wonder what my then 28-year old self would have thought if I could have told her what was just around the corner. Incredible tragedy; amazing love. Facebook post on my memories from 2011.

Every September 10, I wonder if the people who lost loved ones the next day desperately wrack their brains, trying to remember what they did with that person on Monday, September 10, 2001. Do they try to dredge up what they ate for breakfast? If they checked in with each other during the day? Did they leave a message asking that person to pick up the dry cleaning, something at the grocery story, the kids, and was that message filled with love or just tasks? Did they have dinner together? Did they watch something funny on television? Did they kiss that person with anything more than a passing, cursory peck? Did they go to bed and realize how fortunate they were to have that person in their life, or was it just an inconsequential Monday in September?

Do you remember what you did that Monday? Because I sure don’t.

I can make some calculated guesses. I can bet that we went back and forth between Dragon Tales and Good Morning, America while Quinn and I got ready for school: he in kindergarten for just a few days and still adjusting to that rhythm of school and me teaching at a local, private college and finishing up my Master’s degree.

I am certain we would have walked to his elementary school, beginning a routine that would continue as often as possible until he was old enough to bike himself to school a few years later.

We almost definitely would have gone to visit my grandma after school, walking past our apartment and across the street to where she lived in a nursing home. We likely took her around the block, letting her enjoy the feel of afternoon sunshine on her face and the wind in her thinning hair.

He and I would have gone home to do innocuous things, eaten a regular supper of some sort, gotten ready for bed, read our nighttime books and gone to sleep.

But that’s just my speculation. In all actuality, we could have had one of those frantic mornings where I couldn’t find my keys. We might have had to haul it on the walk; his little legs running to keep up with my long strides and insistence to “keep up!”

Perhaps we had one of those glorious late afternoon autumn walks where we crunched through piles of leaves and watched them drift lazily from the trees, smelling that dry, dusty scent that lets you know cooler weather can’t be far behind.

Maybe we started a brand new book. The next in the series of Magic Treehouse books that thrilled and delighted him so.

But the point is, none of that mattered enough to live in my brain. And if Tuesday, September 11, 2001, had gone the way the entire world, minus about 20 or so people around the globe, had expected it would, we wouldn’t remember that day’s events today either.

Except I would remember that day.

Because on that day, my life changed twice.

So I try to keep September 10, 2001, always present in my mind, even though I can’t tell you a single thing that actually happened on that day. I keep it present because that day is a perfect example of the “before” time to whatever instance abruptly stops you in your tracks and hijacks your world. Before the diagnosis. Before the accident. Before the breakup. Before the ______________.

The “before” time is the time that is often a blur, that has nothing special to differentiate it from the day before or the day after…until the day after is the “after” time to something you never expected. The before time is the mundane, the insignificant and actually where your life is lived. It’s the sweet bedtime snuggles that you think will last forever. It’s the romantic gesture that starts to feel rote. It’s the healthy body that runs, lifts, carries, moves.

September 11th lives in the collective of our minds because, along with all those innocent people, it stole our optimism and introduced fear in so many ways. And it lives in my particular mind because it brought me the man who has spent the last 19 years helping to shape, define and articulate who I am, where I’ve been and where I’m going.

But September 10, 2001, has an invaluable lesson to teach us all: don’t forget about or throw away the days where nothing of consequence happens. Those are the days that become the collection of “before” days, and their worth is invaluable, but often not until it’s too late.

Thanks to Glenn Johnson Mussad of the Recognized Experts group for convening a group writing session today. It was a fun challenge to write with others, even over Zoom!

Read Day X: The ever tipping scales of balance

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


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