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September 11, 2001–Horrified and full of sorrow, I spend all day in a newsroom with the TVs again and again showing the plane, the smoke, the collapse. My novel writers group meets that night.

March 2009–Husband hospitalized for five days with breathing problems. I bring printed pages of my manuscript and scribble on them during those few hours he sleeps.

February 2012–My father-in-law dies after a battle with cancer. Two days later, I post a blog.

What these three incidents have in common is that they reveal a trait of my personality. When crises strike, I need a good cry. Then, I am seized with an overwhelming urge to do something. I need my work, that sense of normalcy, the feeling of one thing being in control when I’m powerless to stop anything else.

Julia Child

Julia Child in 1988 (Photo by Elsa Dorfman, posted from Wikimedia Commons, permission granted under terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)

Julia Child stated it best in My Life in France, the memoir she wrote with Alex Prud’homme. In 1974, a bypass, then a new procedure, left her once strong, intelligent husband weak and confused. She visited him in the hospital daily, sometimes twice a day, yet she kept working on her cookbook.

“As always, my work gave my life form, forced me to be productive, and helped me to keep a good balance,” she writes. “… Without a challenging project like a cookbook to work on, I could well have gone cuckoo in those dark months of Paul’s hospitalization.”

I keep writing because I must, because it gives me something else to think about, because it lifts a corner of the shadow.

Writing helps me get through the crises as they pass. 9/11 did not destroy America. My husband recovered. And although I miss my father-in-law, I take comfort in that he is no longer suffering and that he lived longer and better than I expected.