I can picture the eye rolls now….everything time I talk about the bombing, there are eye rolls because I am supposed to keep it to myself since everyone got sick of hearing my perspective around year 1. Lucky to be able to decide when you want to put something out of your mind when it doesn’t personally affect you. I don’t get that luxury. I get days laced with memories and nightmares here and there all year and then nearing 4/15 they are just stronger and more frequent. I don’t actually choose to ruminate. The brain is magical and mystical and cannot be controlled.

Anyway, that was my disclaimer to tell you that I know you don’t want to hear about it. You have made that clear. And I don’t care. I am going to write about it anyway. Do I make myself clear?

Ok, that picture is huge and I can’t re-size it right now. That’s what I was wearing 5 years ago today. I always remember the outfit because it smelled like burnt hair and bomb smell. I can’t describe bomb smell but it’s one I would know immediately if I happened upon it again. Burnt hair and skin I also still remember. I had to wash it out of this stuff when I got home.

My body amazes me. I was driving home from the Cape today thinking about which nail polish I want to use today and right at 2:49 I looked at the clock. I also started feeling dizzy, staticky like I had forgotten to take my antidepressants except I know for sure I took them. My little gold lame “My pills” travel box is empty. Shaky hands, shaky legs…kind of like when I get low blood sugar. I turned the radio off and observed a moment of silence followed by a sign of the cross.

It’s never been the smells that get to me. Or the screaming. Or the alarms going off in every building. Or the police sirens. Every time I see footage of the bombs going off, I startle and physically flinch even though I have five years of knowing exactly when in any video or news footage it will happen. It’s the survivor’s guilt which has always been the killer. This sense that I don’t measure up or do anything important enough with my life to be alive with 3 young people dead….that gets me. The folks who lost limbs….that definitely gets me. I have annoying nerve pain in my feet. That’s all I have. That’s nothing. It means I sometimes have to skip the gym. Small potatoes.

For a long time I was drinking very heavily. I wasn’t trying to kill myself or anyone else. But I wasn’t not trying to kill myself or anyone else. I didn’t feel like I deserved to be alive. I still don’t. I just have found other ways of dealing with it over the years. Back then, the jeans I wore that day were covered in blood a year and a half later when I cracked my head open on a bathroom toilet because I was trying to vomit up booze and food on a bender night. Earlier that day I had settled in court for an arrest I had 3 months prior. Also a result of survivor’s guilt and not valuing myself. I worked my ass of at work and grad school during the week and then obliterated my mind for every free weekend second I had because I couldn’t deal with the dead people…an 8 year old dead child. And by the way, that kid had a summer house down the street from ours when we lived in NH. So yeah….I think about him a lot.

My parents have now retired to the Cape and I go almost every weekend to see them. Sometimes it is to check up on them and deal with their health issues but most of the time it’s part of a routine I needed to establish to keep myself out of bars and off the road. I had to change the landscape and keep at it for a long time to break some bad habits and restructure my process.

While I went through PTSD, guilt and all the new problems I created trying to mask the real problems, I still moved forward in life as a person with hope. Hence the ankle tattoo which says “Felix Culpa”underneath the coordinates of where I stood 4/15/13 in front of the only bar window which didn’t blow out that day. Survivor’s guilt at least made me feel accountable to change the course of my life to ensure I started doing things on my own terms and didn’t waste precious time on pursuits of things I “should” do based on the projections placed upon me by others and a mortgage.

That’s what made me go to grad school for Health Communication. I wasn’t already doing that for a career like the other students but it interested me and I wanted to change my career. Imagine dealing with retirement investments for years and then taking a course on epidemiology. But I loved it! I still haven’t changed my career which disappoints me greatly. It’s a financial thing in terms of needing to be able to take care of myself. I can’t go backwards in salary to start something new. So I have gotten stuck and look at myself every year as a failure in that regard. If that’s my only regression 5 years out, it’s ok. I am still financially independent. I still have a Masters Degree. My blog just turned a year old and has real followers…not many but they do exist. I am about to embark on another trip to Europe. I have dropped 12 pounds in the past year on my terms. I go to every concert I want to and bathe myself in the art of music. I lose myself in that world and Identify with strangers more than I do people I have known since I was 4.

I stick up for myself. A few years ago I felt I deserved to be undermined and made fun of. I have done my penance. I don’t accept those behaviors anymore. I am a flawed individual who made poor choices to deal with an unspeakable trauma. But those mistakes can’t be held against me forever. Only I am allowed to do that for it’s my survivor’s guilt alone. No one else gets to climb onto that with me because no one in my life besides my father knows what it actually feels like.

So if you read my stuff, yes, you have to listen to my bombing shit from time to time. It’s how I measure my success in life now. It’s the yardstick I stack my decisions and movement against. It’s how I judge the fatality or survivability of my errors…what to let go of, what to work harder to amend. 2:49 on 4/15/13 changed my life forever. I will forever be grateful for my outcome and forever troubled I have one when they don’t. You just never ever shake that. The weight, the responsibility to do well in my life is forever driven by this guilt and luck. I even feel guilty that I am pretty happy in my life now and yet, I think that’s the point. I was supposed to use this, even on the backs of others, to find my happiness and not waste my life. For every place I visited and stood that day, there is no earthly logic as to how it’s possible I am standing here alive today. Yet I am. And I am living….living well. I am being accountable even though it will always be a little tinged with pain.