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some day i'll bring you flowers, frozen flowers of death by e3000 on flickr

“Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me.
The Carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality”
Emily Dickinson

 

 

This past week I have been exhausted by things as simple as walking, sitting, and just plain healing.  It has been a frustrating process segwaying back into work only to come home every night too tired to even think let alone write.   I find myself daily contemplating my own fragility, the tender care I have to give to this soft human soul casing.  I have been eating as healthfully as I ever have, trying to give my body the rest it requests from me, and becoming a regular acupuncture patient at a local Doctor of Oriental Medicine’s office who specializes in endometriosis.  With each day I feel more solid, more complete, more functionally human by all those standards we judge ourselves–mobility, brain function ability, and functionality in the workplace. 

 

And then the other day I find my thoughts meandering, after a particularly vivid and grotesque depiction by a client of experiencing the death of a loved one, how I have never seen death.  I have heard it in the therapy room in story after vivid story but I had never seen it, watched life leaving another human being and staring that moment of mortality in the eye. Figuratively that is what I do all day, stare life and death and morbid recollections of others in the eye, but literally, palpably, I had never had to experience it.  I wondered what that was like and how I would react given that confrontation.

 

Last night I was given my chance to see–morbidly, grotesquely, painfully, and in a shock inducing way by the side of a road in a small town on a quiet Saturday night. 

 

I saw life leave a human being in a haze of squealing tires, smoking brakes, mangled bicycle, limbs flying, life leaving, wife screaming.  I will not talk any further about the incident itself,  but I will say it was more than I ever could have imagined in death and more than I would ever have wanted to be a part of. 

 

I found myself last night unable to sleep, unable to process, unable to eat, unable to both think about it and think about anything else.  The shrill screams of a soon to be grieving widow echoing in my ear and the sight of ground pooled with blood and brokeness repeating in my mind. 

 

I found myself waking today with those same thoughts reverberating through my conciousness and aching in my soul in mourning for so many lives that were touched by one moment in time and one small blip on the timeline of human existence that I will never forget.  In a minute a woman lost her husband, a man lost his life, another faced with charges of vehicular homicide in front of them, and a crowd of people–“witnesses” both in legal and philosophical senses–who will carry the memory and fragmented moments with them forever of the sight and sound and brutality of watching such a death occur.

 

I also found myself reevaluating my own reality.  Life, such a fleeting and fragile experience, that gives us no promise of tomorrow or no foresight to know how many tomorrows we have to live.  Living for today, loving like now is forever, and making choices as if they really matter has really become alive in me in a way like never before.  That woman who lost her husband was my age, could have been me, and that thought makes me rethink my whole world view in a way I never could have imagined–reframing what is important and what is urgent in my own life. 

 

All the clients and the years of hearing about the carnage of life and death in an instant of pain and screaming and blood is something I have heard often, heard daily, and my empathy was something I thought covered the weight and circumference of such an experience.  Now knowing what it means to be witness to that moment when a life goes out in this world in such a graphic fury of motion and gruesomeness I find myself knowing my client’s experience in a new and personal way.  It is something I never wished for but an element of human experience I now share with them.

 

I feel life today in a different way–both tainted with pain and sadness and simultaneously made furiously bright and real and scorching with urgency like never before.  I love my husband more profoundly.  I feel the sunlight on my face with more appreciation.  I want to do the things I feared for no valid reason at all because I should–because it’s time and there is no guarantee of time to come.  I want to care for my body in the ways I know how because all we can control is our actions in this world and try to have reverence and preservation of the life we live, the body we have, the good things we do in the world, and the things that we can do for others today. 

 

Live in the now.  Love the ones you love as much as you can.  Be sincere in your endeavors and only endeavor in those things that are sincere.  Be your best you today and be grateful for every today that you have. 

 

cemetary angel 002 by AdamSelwood on flickr

“Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.”

James Dean

   

 

Moon Silhoutted Trees Mosaic by ctd 2005 on flickr 

        African proverb: “The ax forgets, the tree remembers.”

        Maya Angelou, Even the Stars Look Lonesome, 1997

 

 

When I left home for Fort Collins, Colorado at twenty I was running away.  Running away from my trauma, my memories of places, memories of the faces that had become blurred, and the history of a life that (at the time) I didn’t want to remember or own.  So, I went half way across the nation hoping for geographical healing and what I confronted was everything I left behind.  First, subconsciously, through painful mistakes, symptomatic responses in overdrive, and a very unhealthy and volatile relationship.  Then, intentionally, when two and a half years into my “new life” and many falls downward I realized that my demons, my ghosts, and my life didn’t disappear just because I did. 

 

I remember sitting in my first trauma therapist’s office and her making me do what I now know to be “The Empty Chair” Technique from Gestalt therapy and just crying all the tears I had been holding in for the person I was before my trauma, for the person I had become after it, and for all of the unnecessary years of guilt and shame I had bestowed on myself.  It was a first step on a very long journey that continued to include falling down, but at least it didn’t involve any more running away. 

 

Six months after the afternoon in that office I moved back to New Jersey—to confront myself and my memories in the place from whence they came.  I realized once I stopped hiding inside myself I no longer had to hide externally. 

 

On the brink of my move to Florida (just a few months ago) I wanted to make sure for myself that this was a move forward not a fleeing situation.  I find myself very attentive to my own self assessment—making sure I am making conscious decisions for viable reasons so as never to fall back into the trunk of my own car on the road of my own life again.  Most of me knows this will never happen, but the intellectual part of me just wants to think it through anyway.  I realized that in coming back to my hometown and confronting the faces and places that had haunted my mind I had been made free to find my home again.  Not home as a place on a map but as a space in my heart. 

 

I found home in my family, my friends, the new memories I created, and those I could let go of by confronting them.  I found home, most recently and most poignantly, in marrying my husband:  marriage being something I never thought I would do—some for feminist precepts that I held to tightly, but ultimately deep down I think I had cultivated a pervasive fear of trusting someone that implicitly with me—mind, heart, soul, and body

 

I found home in this past year in the most intimate way I could—In a family of my own, in love that gives all and allows the heart to receive all, and in learning in another that I could completely trust myself.

 

I realized in assessing my Florida move motivations that this physical move was essentially just shifting to another point on a map; the real move was a move forward to a life with my family of two plus (now) THREE dogs and an embracing of whatever is to come without fear. 

 

Trauma is like falling to the bottom of the deepest ravine or being pushed off a cliff’s edge into a frigidly cold ocean.  It is the hardest thing to climb out of and it takes all the strength you may have and often then a bit more than that.  You create new strength and new muscles you never had before in the process and it leaves you with a new sense of fearlessness.  Once you have seen the bottom of the coldest ocean and fallen from the highest peak the rest of life’s problems pale in comparison. 

 

Do you have weak points?  There are moments.  No one is impervious to life or feelings or memories.  There are moments when I wake up with a startle or I jump when someone comes up from behind or get a chill when I see a man leering at me, but they are identified and moved beyond—they are not paralyzing and immobilizing like they once were. 

 

 I don’t see shadows in my room every time I open my eyes or sleep with the lights on or numb out, block out, or space out to avoid the pain.  I do not fear life, fear love, fear touch anymore.  I do not hyperventilate and shake from some unknown triggered memory.  I do not hate my body (most days J).  I do not categorically hate men.  I do not wait for the day when the other shoe will drop or anticipate my world falling out from under me. 

 

I can move and move on without carting all that past pain around with me.  I can talk about healing from my own perspective as well as from my “therapist” chair.  I can, when hard days come (quoting, randomly,“Sex and the City”):  “Breathe and reboot.”  I can find my center, find my quiet mind, find my yogic self that can take life in.  I can let the past go enough so that I can keep breathing, breathing deeper, and breathing in this new life, new move, new dog, and whatever else is next. 

 

I will never run away again.  And I will keep remembering to run without fear into my future.

 

 

An Arabian Dream by TAYSER on flickr

          Experience is not what happens to you;
          it’s what you do with what happens to you.

            Adlous Huxley

 

* MY STORY to be continued tomorrow with the post “Full of Sound and Fury: A Survivor’s Tale”. *

July 2020
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