Shut the front door?

When I need solitude, I go to the windows and shut the blinds and curtains. Instant peace. I do this when I’m writing or when I crave a little “alone time.” In fact, I’m doing it right now.

Hi. This is what solitude (and I) look like.

Sadly, I learned this “trick” because of the 9/11 attacks.

In 2001, I was 31 and obsessed with my theatre career. To put it bluntly, I was completely self-absorbed. I only cared about “doing shows.” I lived alone in a tiny rented house in North Minneapolis and was terribly lonely.

Lonely yes, but I was also in a constant state of being annoyed at “the world.” I was sick of bad drivers, inconsiderate coworkers, rude customers, gym rats who didn’t wipe down their equipment and worst of all: theatre bullies. Yes, theatre attracts bullies, not just snobs.

But when I learned about the terrorist attacks, something shifted in me. I went from feeling peeved to being deeply distraught. Though I didn’t personally know anyone on the planes, in the towers or at the Pentagon, I felt profound sadness for the victims and their families. And I was so scared for the people who lived in New York City. I was completely shaken by the video footage of the burning, crumbling towers, the image of the man falling to his death, the photos of soot-covered New Yorkers walking away from the Twin Towers. What must it have been like for the people who actually lived there?

Back in Minneapolis, the downtown was a ghost town. I worked at the usually busy City Center Marshalls. In the days following the attacks, my hours had been drastically cut because no one felt like shopping. And, to give everyone a little time to digest the tragedy, rehearsals for the show I was in had been canceled for the week. That meant I was home more than usual which was a relief to me because I knew I needed complete solitude.

Even though it was bright and sunny outside, I shut the blinds and curtains, locked the doors and just sat there, alone in the quiet, mourning. It is still my preferred “method” for deep grieving but is also something I do when I just want to be alone with my thoughts.

I no longer live alone in Minneapolis. I live in Rockford with my husband, our four children and our pets. Our house isn’t very big, but each of us, for reasons big and small, find ways to achieve solitude. And, every anniversary of September 11, we shut the blinds and curtains all day, not for solitude, but as a simple way to respect and remember the victims of 9/11.

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