Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I Feel Lighter

Happy New Year to one and all!  May it be full of merriment and wonder.

I know, I know, I'm a week late to the party. It doesn't matter, really.  I'll catch up.  But right now I am reveling in a sense of starting fresh, of incorporating but not dwelling in the past, of beginning the next chapter of my life. It helps that I'll turn 60 seven weeks from today.

Sixty is a big number but it's a meaningless statistic in terms of what is relevant to my life right now.  As almost everyone of my friends from January 8th said this weekend, every day is a miracle, a gift, an unexpected but gratefully appreciated bonus.  My line has been that "the sun came up and I was here to see it.  By definition, that makes it a good day."

Those good days have been measured against a backdrop of gunfire and death and pain and recovery. "It's only been six months....." "In a year....." "Look how far you've come since...." Understandable, but overwhelming.

Getting shot was a "master status," much as pregnancy is. No longer are you wife or lawyer or artist.... you are pregnant and that's that. Getting Shot is, unsurprisingly, a master status on steroids. There are expectations - real and imagined - and those expectations can come to dominate what is an uncharted landscape.

Another well-worn but useful maxim is "there is no game plan for this."  Maggie Morton, the Tucson therapist PBS used to segue between segments of Together We Heal, gave me permission to ignore the expectations.  She did not give me permission to wallow ... at least not for very long.

I am surrounded by caring healers who agree with her.  They encourage me to honor my emotions and then to find a proper place to store them.  The problem is, I have not been able to create a place in my brain/heart/soul to put them.  They've been rattling around in my head, popping up at random moments and generally getting in the way of everything. 

What to do with them has been the central issue of the last 12 months. Where should they land?  What possible use can they have as I look ahead?  According to Maggie Morton, taking action is a good place to start.

It has worked for me.  Those who admire the fact that I have been out and about this past year are treated to my bemused face as my mouth wonders "What else could I do? My alternative was to crawl into bed and pull the blankets over my head."  Apparently, this was a very healthy approach to take.  I love being validated on national tv.

The public nature of my perforation has complicated matters further.  I believe that this happened to all of us who live here.  I represent a certain perspective on the event, and as such I've accepted the fact that I am healing out loud.  I'm not anonymous and even wishing won't make it so.  Though I long for the time when a trip to the Women's Room does not include a "You're Suzi, aren't you?" from the person at the adjoining sink (as it did last night.... twice..), I recognize the fact that I've brought this on myself.  I've used Tucson as Tucson has used me.  Our hugs, our smiles, our prayers all go both ways.  I receive as I give without artifice or prevarication.  We are traveling down this path together, albeit without a roadmap or an agenda.

Actually, I have had an agenda.  I just didn't recognize it as such.  I told everyone that I would be walking without a limp by the one year anniversary of my hip surgery.  That's today, and I am here to tell you that it didn't happen.  But, since I am President of My Self, and since Roberts' Rules of Order specifies that the President owns the agenda, I have altered the program. 

This is how it happened.

TBG and I went to the Candlelight Vigil last night.  We brought JannyLou and Fast Eddie and Amster, the Tucsonans who got us through those first awful days.  The Tucson Symphony and Choir and Calexico and Gabby leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance could have been maudlin; Amster grabbed a stack of paper napkins since none of us had tissues. 

They went unused. 

Sitting under the nearly full moon, snuggled between my husband and my friends, behind the Bowmans, who saved my life, and in front of the family of Judge Roll, a lawyer about whom no one could be found to say a bad word, I was filled with gratitude and love and comfort.  There was joy in the somberness of the music, somehow.  I shook hands with the student composer of the third piece played by the orchestra and I was struck by how wonderful it must have been for him to hear his work performed professionally, in front of 2000 real people and countless millions more in the ether.

Out of pure sorrow rose pure joy.

The whole night was like that.  I got to shake Gabby's hand, albeit 365 days late.  I was rewarded with a beaming smile and a brief, eye-stopping moment of contact between two who have been shot.  We know.  We don't want to, but we do.  We also know that failure is not an option.  We go on, because there are no better options.  And if we're going on, we might as well smile along the way.

Amanda Myers, my friend-from-the-AP as she introduces herself on the phone, wrote this about my participation in the program last night:
Suzi Hileman, who was shot three times, took the stage, hugged Giffords and walked to the candle area. She lit one, put her hands over her heart and mouthed "thank you" to the crowd.
And that's how I did it, denizens.  I looked out at 2000 faces filled with I-don't-know-what and whatever we were experiencing together, those of you in the audience and I,  it worked like a charm.  I left the stage, sobbed into TBG's arms behind a screen, took a deep breath, and returned to my seat in the second row 100 pounds lighter.

A weight has been lifted from my shoulders.  I don't know where it is, but it is not burdening me any more.  I am standing up just a little bit straighter, walking just a little bit smoother.  I slept deliciously deeply last night, as did JannyLou.  The knot in my stomach is an occasional visitor today, rather than the constant companion of 2011.  When it appears, I put it in the place resered for such things.  That place showed up last night, too.

I am living my life, informed but not dominated any longer by the events of last January.  I'm not looking backward to see how far I've come.  I'm looking forward to see where I can go.

It feels great.

Notes that I didn't want to include in the narrative but that I wanted to tell you :

Clip Art courtesy of http://tinyurl.com/6pj7quj

Together We Heal is well worth watching, telling the story of January 8th and the aftermath from an unusually personal perspective.  I know the people who speak; they are represented honestly and compassionately.  I love them all.


  1. I feel lighter, too, somehow, with reading this. So relieved and glad that the experience was joyful. There's something so powerful about first anniversaries of master statuses; it's just the Gregorian calendar, but it's now worked into our very DNA, it seems.

  2. Being pregnant certainly is a fun status. But, once delivered, the status no longer holds true. That pregnancy status lasts 9 months. It's been a year for you. Perhaps it's time to drop the "I've been shot" status, and let yourself live a normal life - or as normal as it can be. I think by you repeating "I've been shot"....holds you back. Make this new year a more positive one for yourself. Don't think of yourself as "being shot" as the pregnant woman doesn't think of herself as pregnant any more. I wish you nothing but the best....debbie

  3. Wonderful, thank you. And continued blessings as you move forward and get to that place of walking without a limp. I feel it will be very soon. You're amazing.

  4. I'm sitting here trying to think of what to say... I know... that's unusual for me. But I need to reflect on this post. Not because I'm sad, but because I'm pleased your heart is lighter and you are moving forward.

    Megan xxx

  5. So beautifully written and powerful. I was there with you in spirit. May the new year bring you joy and beauty.

  6. Your lighting the candle, next to Gabby's Pledge recital, was the most moving moment of the night for me. As I bent down to tell my 8 1/2 yr old son who you were, I choked. It took me quite a while to recover and explain to him. I have no idea how I would deal with what you've been through but I know that I would hope to have your spirit, sense of strength, and definitely your humor and love of life. You inspire me. I am grateful to read your side of things and to know that the vigil was an important next step in the healing process.

  7. Thank you all from the bottom of my very full heart. You are all correct - redefining myself has been a struggle but I'm over the hump right now. THANKS for being here for me <3


Talk back to me! Word Verification is gone!