Empty Nest Blues
That I have more than 2000 followers on Twitter is a testament to how many different people want to hear how many different words of non-wisdom.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy to keep writing non-wisdomettes. But it may be time to do something else. That is, something plus Twitter, of course. Something a little more…important? …helpful? …productive? Maybe something that even scares me a little?
My 9/11 project is finished (which was, by the way, something I would never have taken on if I knew how girnormous and daunting and scary it would turn out to be). But maybe now it’s time to get scared again.
How the Flag project happened: I ran a (very small) marketing business with a friend. When we saw the planes hit the towers, we suspended our business to create something that would memorialize the people who died. We didn’t know what, but we knew we had to stop right then and figure it out.
Do you remember the posters that the families held up for the TV cameras – the ones with the smiling faces, caught in their happiest moments – when their families thought they were just lost, when they couldn’t imagine that they were gone? Well, we wanted them to be remembered like that. Happy. Smiling. Alive.
I put myself in charge of the media stuff and the reach-out to the NYPD, to the NYFD, and to the groups that formed as protective arms around the families — I was a one-woman PR/publicity/media relations show. We needed the victims’ families to send us photos (we didn’t want to grab them off the internet). I didn’t have any media experience or actual PR skills, but I wrote press releases and pieces explaining what we were doing and letters to senators and congressmen (some were responsive and some were shockingly cold and useless). I wrote my way onto CNN and the CBS Early Show and the local NY news channel. I wrote to ask for meetings with the anguished heads of companies that lost hundreds of their own. The men and women who were left running a stunned Cantor Fitzgerald and Aon and Marsh & McLennan were almost unbearably gracious in their own time of indelible grief.
I also (what was I thinking?) put an 800-number in my house so the family members could call if they had questions. Luckily I was a psychology major in college and had a Master’s in counseling (who knew?) so I don’t think I ruined anyone’s life by listening to their stories. I think I listened pretty well, but it was as gut-wrenching and heart-wrenching and awful.
And then the photos started coming in, and we went about the business of creating the vision that had been in my partner’s head since that long night after that horrific day in September. She had stayed up all night, and the next, filling boxes in on graph paper, one by one, until she got to the 6,000 we thought had died. She sketched an American flag, formed by the faces of those who we lost that day. We would eventually receive 1,700 photos and place memorial candles for those without photos. No one would be left out. We would call it the Flag of Remembrance.
Pick the right fabric and ink, cut, sew, then publicize, write, call. Museums, firehouses, the Intrepid, any place big enough to hang a flag 20 feet high and 27 feet wide. I wrote to the newly-named curator of the museum that would be built at the site, knowing so deeply that this is where the Flag belonged that I thought we couldn’t possibly see it happen. But of all the e-mails and letters I had written in those four years, some were written to her when she headed another museum, and she remembered. I wrote again, congratulated her on her new job, and asked to show her what we had made. We brought her the Flag, shared stories of the families we had gotten to know so well, and she accepted it, right then and there, into the permanent collection of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. The Flag was where it should be.
But I’m not.
While I wasn’t looking, my last child left for college in August. OK, I was looking, I mean, I took her there, but gee whiz, that was a shock. Seriously. And what did I have? A great husband. Three children sent off to adulthood (if by adulthood you mean being supported by your parents while living somewhere else). A roof over my head and good food to eat (if by good food you mean prepared by a better-than-average place that does that sort of thing). A college and post graduate degree. Wow, impressive. But, really, nowhere to put my writing skills to use except in 140-character clumps of those wisdom(ettes). Not exactly money in the bank, is it? Not like all those other Twitterites who have blogs or direct marketing businesses or do crazy tech stuff or read palms or sell lava lamps or real estate.
So here I am, trying to write my way into….something. A blog? Perhaps. About what? You tell me. I haven’t counted, but there must be what, a million, maybe two million blogs out there? Maybe I should get another degree? Seriously, I’ve (kind of) always wanted to practice all that stuff I learned about people on my way to those undergrad and graduate degrees, so I’m thinking of going back to school for Marriage and Family Therapy. Textbooks. Tests. And yes, writing.
I don’t know, though. Maybe not. How about that blog idea? How about the Master’s first and then – what — maybe a therapy blog? Or a blog about going back to school at the age of, um, you know how old I must be to have lived all this. Is there, maybe, even a book in me, somewhere?
You tell me. I’ll be here. Waiting. And writing. And knowing that the Indie Book Collective, and the insistent, persistent, energetic, never-take-no-for-an-answer @RachelintheOC, will be pushing and probing and inspiring me, and I will find it. I know I will.