34 lessons trauma has shown me, and almost taught me
My day today began and ended with the sounds of children singing while looking out the window in my car. I couldn’t see their faces, but I could hear them.
Something about the softness in their voice, and no clear audience, and a mixture of lyrics from different songs, brought this list to my mind.
A list I created almost five years ago in my journal while sitting on a swaying dock. It was September so it was cold, but I heard music in my head similar to today.
Indistinct, and almost sweet. Sweet in how it seemed indistinct, just above a whisper.
As we move towards winter, towards winter solstice, towards a future that feels as scary as it feels predicted, least of all because we know how we got here, most of all because we can’t agree on what here refers to.
I share this list as an earlier reflection, and I leave it in the state I thought it in.
A little melodious, still indistinct, and written for no intended audience in a font that looks like a whisper can sound. A little below what could easily be made out, and making your eyes a little tired.
Encouraging us to stop and take inventory of the teachers in our lives, many of them our experiences and their residues.
I offer only one new question to us all, “What does a trauma lens look and sound like to you now?”
Whether you have an answer doesn’t matter, but how you react to feeling questioned does. How quickly or defensively, how disinterestedly or expectantly, how muted or loud. Just listen, and be tired with your eyes and your ears.
I now can’t read this list without hearing twinkle, twinkle star become rock-a-bye baby go up the spout again. A little reverent, a little more confused, and most of all fully engaged and trying to pace myself.
Trauma has shown me…
1) Wellness is as scary as un-wellness.
2) My feelings are impermanent, all of my feelings; I feel each feeling only as intensely as I’m willing to feel all of my feelings.
3) Fear is the most rational and most predictable emotion you will feel. Living beyond fear is harder than living with it.
4) Unlearning and relearning will never be complete.
5) The universe offers you the same opportunity in different forms until you decide to take it when there is something you need to learn.
6) Disclosure is always tender, it does not become simpler.
7) Forgiveness is yours to define. It has to be.
8) Anger is never a pure emotion. It is always a signal. There is always another feeling or truth coupled. You will have to learn to listen and examine what anger means for you.
9) You will want to stop.
10) You will try to accept new skills, tools and insights without confronting or replacing former beliefs. You cannot do that forever. Reconciliation is a step that can’t be skipped. It’s the part of the story where you realize that healing has implications and demands for you and of others.
11) Reconciliation begets further reconciliation. The further you travel, the further you can travel. The further you can travel, the further you need to travel. The need to travel is not the same as the decision to or the desire to travel onward. Without that desire, without making the choice your own, you cannot move.
12) Steps in healing can’t be unraveled. They will never be taken from you.
13) An ending is not the goal. You will yearn for an end. You will yearn to conceal, to forget, to have your life back. You cannot go back, you cannot get off the ride.
14) You will never feel ready.
15) You will sometimes feel alone.
16) You have to value your consent. You have to privilege it. You cannot communicate to someone else why or that it matters if it does not yet matter to you. You have to define and articulate what you value.
17) You will devalue the consent of others as long as you devalue your own.
18) Boundaries are not obvious. They can be fluid and still exist and be valid.
19) People around you will want to stop. They won’t understand, they will hurt your feelings, they will be frustrated, you will push them away, you will ask for too much or not enough.
20) You cannot become “trigger-proofed”
21) Any way to cope is necessary. You cannot cope differently without knowing what need you’re trying to meet. You cannot take away a resource without replacing it first.
22) Judgment is completely unhelpful. Always.
23) You will sometimes flail.
24) Healing is not passive. You cannot fail to heal you can only stop fighting/working for it. There isn’t a right or wrong way to heal no matter what people tell you.
25) Loss is the most under talked about component of trauma. Many of those losses are unknown.
26) You will have a wisdom, a knowledge base that you won’t be able to explain to others or yourself. You will expect everyone to have it.
27) We are not only survivors. We cannot forget that. We cannot tell the story that way or build solutions with that mindset.
28) Your healing, the ways you change will be hurtful and unwanted to and by others sometimes. You will at times have to choose to let relationships end/take risks anyway.
29) Don’t write the end of the story before you get there. You cannot know or prepare for where you are going.
30) You cannot heal by seeking healing just like you cannot fall in love by seeking love. You must be seeking and hoping in something else entirely.
31) You cannot heal alone. Someone else can’t heal you. Healing requires witnesses. Healing is a testimony.
32) Courage. Imagination. Inspiration. You need all three.
33) You will have to relinquish all your secrets. Nothing can be hidden from the light of day and not have a power over you.
34) You can’t bend while held or holding anything.
Whatever it is you are holding tonight.
Whatever my question invokes in you.
Whatever this list symbolizes or causes you to infer.
Be there a moment.
Envision what it sounds like when trauma’s loneliness is met with our communal engagement.
Consider all that we are collectively being shown.
And if you’re up for it, close your eyes and hum.