Turning 40, I let go of "That Day" ... and found love

by Kristin Ladner Lim

Something changed when I reached my 40th birthday: I realized I had forfeited nearly a decade of my life to one day, and wondered how many more years I was willing to sacrifice. That day was September 11, 2001 — when, three months before our wedding, my husband-to-be, Doug Irgang, perished when the seemingly invincible towers of the World Trade Center collapsed. I'd spent the years since downplaying it to those who knew, and not telling new people — including men I liked — about me and Doug and New York City.

Turning 40, I realized I faced a choice: I could try to pretend I had no life story, or I could embrace the one I had. As a child, by far my darkest fear was that while I slept, the floor beneath my bed would turn to quicksand, open up and pull me down into a murky abyss. If I let the fantasy run wild, I would see myself fumbling through a dark void, trapped and unable to escape.

Some 30 years later, I tumbled head first into that abyss — recognizing at once the terrifying place that had haunted my childhood. I turned 35 in June 2002 but felt about a million years old, ancient and fossilized. I could have passed for something in a diorama at a natural history museum. From a distance I looked life-like, but when you got close enough to press your face against the glass, it was obvious there wasn’t anything behind my flat, vacant eyes.

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