Fantastical, Haunting, Both and Neither
“Three o’clock this morning felt this feeling was a warning.” This lyric plays over this remembered television dialogue.
“Did she tell you what happened?”
“Not really, that’s how I know it must be really hard for her. She tends to struggle through the big stuff all by herself.”
*from One Tree Hill, episode 24 Season 6
When I started therapy as an adult, the first question I was asked was why are you here?
I’m here because,
I have no examples of people getting better.
No trauma porn tails,
no how we got over,
nothing considered so dramatic; nothing even viewed as a big deal.
Rather an unflinching and unflattering tolerance of this kind of reality.
I spent high school high, and I had two reputations.
The girl who could do no wrong, and, the girl who shouldn’t be trusted.
I’m aware of the irony, that’s not time talking.
If anything, time has shown me that my poignancy has remained intact.
She taught me that first year of therapy that rampant doesn’t mean normal.
Perhaps I taught her that hard to believe wasn’t the same as unreal.
When I remember my adolescence through sensations, I taste endorphins, and strained muscles.
I step over the ground growing hot under the speed of my moving feet.
I hear sex as background noise, and I tune out the associated scripts.
There’s a tone-deaf cliff note that can’t lose resonance to remind me of the presence of cliffs.
This season taught me about chronic and intense.
This season showed me that pacing was prayer.
This season showered me with incarnation.
This season imprinted the limits and the wideness of birth and mothering.
It taught me about coping that couldn’t bring physical escape, but searched for every substitute.
It taught me about gaining speed.
It taught me about heartbreak, and how to hurt someone when you’re trying to hurt yourself.
Trembling was a desensitized quality that I forgot I once learned.
I taught me body that trembling was a neutral signal, rather than a meaningful one.
I synced to friends where these readings could be reinforced.
The flames were lit, but not scary.
You have to be able to feel anything to sense danger, and you have to believe either or both of those things are abnormal; that is, not being able to feel, and not perceiving danger.
I remember a time where my friends knew that if they made me laugh, I’d sob, and it would last for exactly seven minutes.
I remember a time where every antidote and injury began with sex.
I remember a crudeness that masqueraded as daily cruelties.
I remember when there was no such thing as just taking a sip.
I remember when luck and chance had nothing to do with outcomes, but felt like they did.
I remember that places and people don’t fade when our memories of them stop playing, and I imbibe adolescent realities I have new reasons to revisit.
I wonder who else’s numbness was once labeled fearlessness.
I question what value labels have for experiences we learned there was once no escape from.
I challenge what exchange there is between the lies we need and the truths we want to need more.
I notice how the drumbeat of chronic and intense is my body’s rhythm, with the power to remind me of everything I haven’t yet shed.
I think of snakes slithering out of their skin, and the passersby who will find a body free of its old layers.
I celebrate that I have slithered out of skins to discover my layers.
I celebrate that I can observe my layers.
I celebrate that I can acknowledge that my younger selves were complex and full of maturities.
I touch talismans that take me into those complexities today.
I enter into a world of physical unsafety with an emotional landscape that has that label.
I enter my mind’s eye with the vision of molting, and I laugh as a portal for sobbing.
I’m not looking to be assuaged, or rushed past this current flooding, and still it baits me.
I drive by the places we spent together, back seats, side streets, creeks and play grounds, coffee shops and hallways, patches of grass and the bed of a truck, staircases and attic bedrooms.
I cover my skin with nail polish and paint and pen brushes as you would have in earlier days.
I sip water and remember when it was something much stronger and harder to sip.
I situate myself in therapy sessions, putting words to feelings and removing them because they weren’t mine.
I situate myself in conversations where I never said what I was experiencing.
I straddle these languages I am equally fluent in, and yet still don’t seem to say what I mean.
There are lies and truths intermingled in my psyche, and my reality rests in those intersections.
In the folds of feelings I know I can’t trust, and people I shouldn’t trust, and places that transmit signals that will stun me into seasons of confusion and shame.
In the arena where there can be no winners, and you have to know who sets the rules before you see that they won’t be followed or enforced, or even remembered.
In the acceptance that some of us are gone, and all of us are different.
In where losses did accumulate, but won’t be individually named.
In between my name for what’s happening, and your name for what’s happening, and our denial that those two things might be different.
In where no one can tell what is haunted, and what is simply fantastical.
It’s as hard to know what’s happened from what will happen next.
My body sounds with signals I now use labels to interpret: over quickly, lasting, specific, undesignated, mine, someone else’s, holy, dangerous.
Dangerous is new to me, and that sense of unreality remains the hardest myth to unlearn.
A harder truth to imagine, and to tell, then it was or is to live.
Why are you here, my body goats me?
Maybe because I haven’t gotten everything I needed.
Maybe because there are lies I’m learning to stop believing.
Maybe because there are wisdoms I don’t want to forget to bring forward.
Maybe because there are friendships that I am linked to in my soul.
Maybe because I am more haunted than imaginative.
Because collecting the pieces that make us feel whole take us back into our fires.
They make us laugh, and they make us cry, and they let us know when it’s time to stop.
Maybe, because trust is a fulcrum between what we believe, and what we have experienced.
Maybe I’m here because I can’t be anywhere else without learning where I can carry this piece.
This piece holds friendship, important lies, hard truths, and a tolerance for risky transformation.
Not fearlessness; with fear.
Through risk, over cliffs. Propelled forward; still being made mature.
Why am I here? In this blog, in this question set, in this feedback loop, in this litany.
Led to place myself in this cemetery, where it feels ok to be visited by ghosts.
Where sadness and memories can be laid down in the grass where I walk.
…. because reason, and experience, says I should have died.
I’m not without fear, and I am not really more fearless, but I am more imaginative.
Perhaps, just as much.