Friday, June 22, 2012

Congress on Your Corner, Redux

My Congressman called me last night.  It was just before 9pm here in Tucson; it was approaching midnight in Washington, D.C. where he's taken up temporary residence while voting on the floor of the House of Representatives. 
I know him as Ron, a fellow shootee.
There was awe in his voice as he described himself.  He's busy and he's motivated and he's still the same Ron I know from gatherings of all of us from that day, that ill-fated Congress on Your Corner sunny Saturday morning.  We chatted about the environment vs border security and the nuance required when making such decisions and we marveled at the fact that we were having the conversation at all.  Strolling into Little Cuter's room, we laughed at how impressed I was with myself.... I must be pretty special if my Congressman calls me at home, right?  Or not, we said, in unison.
He's just Ron, after all.
In the back of my mind, I knew why he was calling.  I remembered making a large donation to our Marin Congresswoman's re-election campaign (in order to buy an autographed-by-Bill-Bradley-basketball) and finding myself on the list of calls she made, month after month, year after year, soliciting further contributions.  When I asked her if there weren't other more productive uses of her time she sighed and confessed to spending two hours every day making these kinds of calls.  It was an awful moment.
But, he's Ron and I like him so, of course, I'd listen to his pitch. 
Turns out I was wrong about his intentions.  He wasn't asking me for anything, not even my presence.  He was calling because he wanted to tell me himself before I read it in the newspaper or heard it on tv - he's coming back to the district this weekend and he's holding his first Congress on Your Corner this Saturday morning.
I found myself sitting on the big purple chair in Little Cuter's room.  There was a giant hole in the air.  Neither of us said a word for a while.
"You're not doing it there, are you?" to which he replied "Oh, no... that would be...." and neither of us could find the words for what it would be, though awful kept rattling around in my head.
"Will there be security?" came out of my mouth as I watched my left arm shake.  My stomach wasn't in a knot; it was rolling around from side to side.  I started pacing again as my Congressman, not much taller than I, reassured me that there would be plain clothes and uniformed security in attendance. "Big officers.... with big guns?" I wondered and he repeated it, slowly and carefully....big guys with big guns.
And then we were quiet again.  I was, once again, in a unique situation.  No one had prepared me for this eventuality.  I was experiencing a singularity.
Would you revisit an event that tore up your world?  Would anyone ask you to do so?
Ron, sensing my unease and being a nice man, reassured me that he held no expectations of my attendance.  He wasn't calling to invite me, though he would love to see me, Saturday or any day.  His call was to alert me so that I was not blindsided while making dinner.  He was making a lot of similar calls..... there were 19 of us who intersected with bullets that morning.  It was a gracious call, not a summons to an event.  He wanted to be sure that I was okay, even as he, himself must be dealing with many if not more or all of the same feelings.\
He can't hide.  He has to be available.  He's our representative and we have to be able to talk to him.  Congress on Your Corner is a great opportunity for that to happen.  Unfortunately for Ron and me, the last one we went to didn't turn out that well.
I have always said I'd take Christina-Taylor to meet her Congresswoman again, that I'd done nothing wrong, that we were in the right place at the right time and without a doubt I'd do it again. And yet now, when faced with the reality, I find that I am chickenshit. Even with security......

It's an event to which I'd take Amster's kids and Juan from Prince Elementary School and JannyLou's grandkids if they were still in town..... if I hadn't nearly died the last time I took a kid to the same event.  In my mouth and my mind, of course I'd go.  In real life......

Do I let the shooter take away my enjoyment of civic engagement in a public setting?  That's letting him win twice.

Do I purposely put myself in an anxiety provoking situation?  I could use my biofeedback techniques and practise relaxation in a stressful environment.

Do I go to support my friend at his first representation as my Representative?  Good people don't run for public office very often; what if good people don't even attend free and convenient public events, either?  What kind of statement am I making?

Will anyone but I know if I attend the event?  Will anyone else care?  It's possible that, as has happened before, strangers will approach me and tell me that they saw me on the televised coverage of the event whether I am there or not.  Big Cuter, with whom I discussed this situation last night, is trying to get his head around the fact of people remembering what could not have been. 

Do I let my fears dictate my actions?  Do I give in to the bubbles brewing in my gut as I type this post?  Do I listen to TBG when he says, not altogether facetiously, Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

It's awful to think this hard about attending an event which I'd normally just pencil in on my calendar, without questioning it at all. 

Eighteen months ago, I really was going to meet Gabby.  I wanted to be in her presence.  I'd voted for her and I was going to shake her hand and introduce her to a little girl who might, after she made her mark in Major League Baseball, just might follow in Congressswoman Giffords's footsepts.  I'd never done any of that before.

But, I know Ron.  I can call him at home or send him an email.  He's just Ron, after all. 

Do I have to stand in a parking lot..... can I stand in a parking lot.... can I contemplate standing in a parking lot in front of a Safeway on a sunny Saturday morning, waiting to meet my Representative? 

I just don't know


  1. Though I agree with TBG to some extent, in the end you will have to see how your gut feels that morning and whether it is telling you to go or stay home. Either way, don't let anyone make you feel bad for the decision you end up making. xoxo

  2. I agree with Laura, go with what feels right; not what anyone expects of you. If you want to go, go. If you don't, don't. Ultimately, you have to do what's best for you. I think what would have made it seem not so much like the last one is to maybe call it something else and have it in a venue that is more closed off--say like a library or a civic hall. That way, the event is contained and the security can really scope out the area. I'm glad to hear that security will be there. I think that's a given from now on for any sort of event like this.

    I really feel for both of you (and all that were impacted that horrible day). You can decide to go or not go, but Ron can't. He has to do this for his constituents. It must be really hard on him to do this.

    You did nothing wrong that day and I hope to never hear you say that you did. He who should not be named is at fault. You were opening up a whole new experience and opportunity for CTG. The fact that some deranged person interrupted that experience is not your fault or anyone else's who was there.

    Part of your healing process is going to have to make hard decisions that aren't comfortable. But it is YOUR decision and no one else's Do what feels right is always what I adhere to in my own life. If something doesn't feel right or make you feel happy, don't do it.

    Sending big hugs your way.

    Megan xxx

  3. Thanks, Laura and Megan. You're right - I need to do what feels right in the morning and not beat myself up over that decision.... whatever it is.

  4. I'm in agreement with everything Laura and Megan said to you - I can only add my best wishes for your peace of mind, whatever your decision. I always thought that Ron seemed to be a really nice person from what I saw of him on TV - thank you for this post confirming that!

  5. Ron is your friend and of course he would love to see you there but not at the expense of you suffering even the slightest bit. Trust your gut tomorrow morning and know that no one will fault you if you don't go. I'm still keeping you in my prayers. Hugs...

  6. I want to go, under the "safety in numbers" concept, and hold a big sign with a heart somewhere on it that says "Just BREATHE, brave Congressman Barber". Being a fellow member of the PTSD club I absolutely know how f**king hard it is to revisit the scene of the trauma. It never occurred to me until I read your post that of course, this is now part of his job. As for you, dear A/B, we all believe that you are not a quitter, based on much good evidence, and no one should judge you based on whether you decide to attend this event or not. Breathe!

  7. Adding to what others said, I'd take into account what TBG wants and feels. You know he was a victim that day also and it was a huge trauma for him. Talk it over together and do what is best for you both. That's what you owe the most to, not what others might think.

  8. Go with your gut. My history is September 11. I've tried to outrun the demons and some of the time I do okay and others I really don't. It's taken a long time to realize I cannot be the same woman I was on September 10. My prayers are with you!

  9. And that's the answer in a nutshell, Buttercup. I cannot be the same woman I was on January 7th. That woman would have gone anyway, letting her family deal with their issues on their own. Right now, Saturday morning, I'm typing to you and sending thoughts but not my physical self to Ron.....

    Am I a coward? Perhaps. But I'm a living breathing coward and that's enough for me right now.

  10. I don't see that as being a coward but a woman brave enough to do what is right for her life. I think anybody would understand that. Sometimes it's easier to go with the flow than to stand up and recognize what is healthiest for us as invididuals

  11. That was exactly where I ended up, Rain.

  12. a/b, I can see your dilemma. You think in your head it's just a simple get together with engaged and interested people, but you know it could be a trip down PSTD lane instead. I can only imagine how hard that must be to resolve in your head. You are brave, my friend.


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