Things That Made 2016 a Life-Changing Summer, Part One
In some ways, I’m just beginning to process the fact that my summer began an intricate fracture and a harrowing surgery that coincided with forty-nine of my people being brutally murdered in a nightclub. But somehow, the magic of staying engaged and working for change kept me from seeing the world as a pile of bloody bones. It was a miracle summer that changed me in so many large and small ways. Hoping to honor the profound and ridiculous experiences that I’ve been blessed with, in no particular order.
1. The way the world looked out for me when I was hurt. From the moment that I was hurt, passersby gathered to help. A pair of strangers called 911 and stayed with me. A passing friend-of-a-friend brought me ice and stayed to comfort me. My library friends came out and helped me to keep from passing out, helped me to get the driver’s information. The driver waited with me too. The EMTs and policemen were kind and helpful, keeping me calm in such a scary moment. Nearly every healthcare professional I encountered has been expert, thorough, and kind.
Most important, though, has been Amy. She has sacrificed so much time to help me get through recovery and to this place of near-health. Our original plan for the summer had been for me to cover the store as much as possible so that she could take a vacation and get some of her own medical stuff done, and I feel TERRIBLE that that didn’t happen—I hope that I get to make it up to her somehow, thought she certainly doesn’t expect me to. Every day I’m amazed that I pulled off the magic trick of being best friends with my ex-wife, and I’m so, so lucky.
2. The Philly for Pulse Vigil. I’ve already written about it here, but that evening stayed with me. It made me so proud and grateful to be part of such a diverse and activist city, to keep that closeness with my fellow humans as we marched through the street and tried to remember the words to “Born This Way.”
3. Marching for Black Lives. After the murders of Philando Castile and Alton sterling, Amy and I decided to join one of the many marches happening around the city. The march we chose was in a cool Puerto Rican neighborhood I’d never visited before. There were metal palm trees decorating the street corners and golden murals like everywhere. As we marched, residents unfurled flags from their balcony like something you’d see on the news, like being in history. The gnashing events of the week found expression, everyone was rising up. I didn’t agree with everything the march leaders were saying, but why should I need to? It was grief and revolution and honesty. After the post-accident weeks I’d spent being afraid to cross the street, I was helping strangers shut down an intersection, awed to be a body for them. My own allyship has been fraught and deeply flawed, but it was a gift to be trying still, standing up for justice in such a clear and tangible way.
4. Flowers and fireflies. While I was scared and stuck and concentrating on growing bones, while I couldn’t write or draw or drive, I made myself keep up on my walks around the neighborhood. Sometimes I was sad that I couldn’t go further, but the flowers on these few blocks were different every day. There was always something new to notice, and for the first half of the summer, there were always fireflies. Being separated from usual summer goals and preoccupations, I was able to look more closely at what was in front of me, to slow down and take more notice.
I originally meant to put all of the things in one post, but I got overwhelmed so I’ll have to space it out. So much to get to!