Redefining Normalcy: Creating a story of renewal

We all have moments in our lives that feel like no matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, the world seems to be working against us. We can face the battles head on or spend all our efforts side-stepping each new parry. If we’re lucky, those moments are just that: moments. However, sometimes they stretch out, going on and on, with no end in sight. An end does eventually come, although sometimes we don’t realize it until we’re looking back, seeing just how far we’ve come, how much we’ve grown as we’ve fought to survive.

This week, Charli Mills over at Carrot Ranch Communications has challenged writers to own our battles and use them to inspire a story of renewal in exactly 99 words. My battle erupted in the summer of 2001, when three family members passed away in June and July, a friend committed suicide, the towers fell, and a long-term relationship ended in a foreign country. Everything came crashing down and I struggled to find some sense of normalcy, so I decided to fly home once the airports reopened after September 11. I remember walking through the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, my footsteps echoing in an unnatural silence that threatened to choke me while I tried to ignore the automatic weapons slung over the shoulders of an all-too-visible security force that seemed to outnumber travelers three to one. That day I was forced to redefine normalcy.Airport

It’s been nearly fifteen years, but that surreal silence still claws at my throat at times.

My response to the renewal writing challenge follows.

Baggage Claim

She chewed the last ice cube, letting the crunching fill the bubble of silence segregating her from the homecomings. God, she hated airport arrivals. They were like expensive candies: decadent, savory, gluttonous. She swallowed the shards of ice, pushing them past her rising indigestion as a smooth voice announced the last arrival from the coast. She scanned the faces. His was not among them. She tossed her empty cup in the trashcan and headed for the exit. Neiman Marcus was still open. She’d fill up his space with some new Oscar de la Rentas, Jimmy Choos, and indulgent candies.


  • Why does it seem that when our lives take a hit, we find ourselves in a boxing ring? Having to deal with personal and global losses at once must have been disorienting. I remember that eerie silence! Followed by frightening security measures, armed guards, security gates, bomb dogs. And we do seek to return to normalcy though in truth nothing will be the same. But there’s always shoes and chocolates, right? 🙂 Thank you for sharing your battle. I’d choose those weapons of recovery too! Great flash writing!

    Charli MillsApril 9, 2015
    • Thanks for commenting, Charli. I remember a lot of going through the motions in an attempt to have even the tiniest bit of “control” in my life. I imagine you too must have experienced that nearly desperate need, in the midst of the chaos, to ground yourself to just about anything. For me, I actually turned to creative writing classes at the local community college. I turned out a *lot* of garbage during that time (I took every credit and non-credit writing class offered for 18 months), but I craved the structure of a syllabus and deadlines — things that normally suffocate me.

      C. JaiApril 10, 2015
      • I like that idea — add flair to the mundane and survival turns into thriving!

        Charli MillsApril 11, 2015
      • Writing as sanity saver. It amazes me how powerful an act it is, and how much more it makes me feel in control even though the outside situation hasn’t changed at all. Wonderful.

        SueMay 1, 2015
  • Disasters do cluster, sometimes! I loved your character’s response to it: it reminded me a bit of the Reese Witherspoon character in “Legally Blonde”, getting emotional support and a manicure!

    Strength does not arise from adversity, despite platitudes to the contrary. It is there within us, ready to be revealed. We simply aren’t aware of our strength until we have to carry on with our lives despite all this crashing down around us.

    9/11 was a semicolon for so many of us. I was due to fly from LAX to Singapore to deliver some technical training on September 15th. Instead, I put in my resignation, took a bus north, and joined my spouse (who was already there) in caring for my late father-in-law for the last years of his life. I have never been sorry for that choice

    Pat CummingsApril 10, 2015
    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It’s always interesting for me to note that when the walls come crashing down, people reach out for the familiar — the mundane even. Something about focusing all our energies on going to the grocery store or doing the laundry reinforces the idea that life goes on and this, too, shall pass. Of course, sometimes doing the mundane with a little flair is a great way to remind us that we will not only survive, but ultimately thrive. 😉

      C. JaiApril 10, 2015
  • Your story is filled with hurts, but the strength of survival. I remember being woken during the night of the 9/11 attack – night-time here. I didn’t, couldn’t, believe it at first. Thought it was a horrible hoax. Even at such a distance we still walked around in a disbelieving stupor for days. It could have been a full stop for all of us, but the strength of the people made it a semicolon and we go on.
    The background to your flash makes it all the more haunting. She knew he wouldn’t be there, but she had to see for herself. Small comfort in Jimmy Choo shoes. They don’t fill the hole inside.
    Lovely writing. Thanks for sharing.

    Norah ColvinApril 13, 2015
    • I remember one particular scene that the local television channels where I was at the time repeatedly showed that day. Let’s just say that it showed a choice that no human should be forced to make. Everyone was focused on the television, but each time the news showed that particular clip (which was every few minutes), I had to look away. I did a lot of snuggling with the dog during those days. Thanks for stopping by!

      C. JaiApril 13, 2015
  • I remember a lovely, disreputable aunt (the best sort) consoling me after a failed exam which seemed like the end of back then. ‘Just remember, whatever happens, always be fabulous – it’s tough but it will get you through). Seems like that lesson worked in your flash!

    geoffApril 13, 2015
    • Love that advice! Thanks for sharing 🙂

      C. JaiApril 13, 2015
  • Your back story added depth to the flash. I would avoid Neiman Marcus but would sure go for the Choos shoes and candies.

    • Hehe, I would avoid NM too (I would avoid any big shopping places…). Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      C. JaiApril 15, 2015

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