The Days We Live Together but Remember Differently
You cut your teeth on the lack of answers,
And you come back home and it don’t feel the same.
Well I’ve bled worse onto a page for you, and you never knew my name.
*Lyrics from Cut Your Teeth by Kyla La Grange
Some of my best wisdom teachers are Geminis.
Different ages, some older than me and others much younger, I experience this particular air sign, and this astrological season as full of direct insights.
Often harsh ones, and aggregated ones that our subconscious has hidden from us.
June 1st is a significant date in my life.
It’s my dad’s birthday, who died when I was six, and who’s grave I was visiting when I got a phone call seven years ago that changed my family architecture.
It’s the day my brother died.
It’s the second of three unexpected family deaths that happened over a year.
It’s when my sister was eight and a half months pregnant with her first child, who in utero experienced the deaths of an aunt and uncle.
It’s the day that I became a one-person department for a three-year period at the agency I worked at.
It’s the day an important mentor left the organization I was working for, and was replaced.
It’s the day I ended a formative four- and half-year therapy relationship.
It’s the time of year where I developed visible nerve loss in my ankle and foot resulting in surgery.
It’s the impetus for three of my nephews coming to live with us, and moving out of my childhood home, and a blended family still riddled with estrangement and grief responses we’re stuck in.
It’s when I organized a first all staff retreat, holding all of these contexts in unison.
And finally, it’s the date I completed an entire manuscript of a book, a year ago today.
A manuscript that seeks to reference these competing narratives and life experiences that shape me, and to pull out of them something cohesive and still true.
True in an aggregated sense, not only an immediate one.
On Memorial Day on Monday a series of entities that I follow posted this twitter feed.
The US Army asked the question,
“How has serving impacted you?”
And in response, people answered viscerally.
Estrangement. PTSD. Poverty. Guilt. Family Dysfunction. Propensities for Violence. Participation in Imperialism. Sexual Assault. Lost jobs, parenting alone, disconnection from support systems. Trauma.
Out of this thread, came a shroud of truth telling that rarely surrounds days that honor the military.
Service members took the question at face value, and publicly brought visibility to the fallout.
And individuals read their posts, and thanked them for their honesty, acknowledging without hubris.
A dialogue emerged that centered their trauma retelling as the primary truth that was uplifted.
My brother before he died completed over five deployments, the longest one for almost two years.
He was the father of four kids born in five years, and the second of their parents to die.
In one of his deployments he was released early because of a seizure condition.
In another he was awarded a Bronze Medal, and was said to have been in an open combat zone every day.
During one of my visits following his recent reintegration, my sister and I discussed the extent of his PTSD.
She relayed that he would describe that just waking up each morning his irritation level would start at an eight out of ten, and to get to a ten would happen before lunch.
As joyful as his return was, it brought disruption equivalent to the ones his return put out.
I thought about these memories as I was reading this twitter feed, and I realized that it was the first time that a day celebrating the military ever made me think of him.
It’s the first narrative that felt believable, and reflective of my lived experience and feelings.
It’s the first conversation that made me want to share my memories or feelings.
It’s the first occasion where it didn’t feel inappropriate to call trauma out, and to name its sources.
What happens a lot on days where experiences were shared or publicly noted is that dialogue is stamped out in lieu of more optimistic messages.
Ones that harken a sense of collectivism that asks people to leave what is unresolved for them out of our embrace of them.
We have to settle for the truths we can agree on, because our desire to stay unified is strengthened by occasions that seek to raise our morale.
Except, what often lowers our morale is messaging that feels too well branded to be broadly relatable.
And when we elevate those images and soundbites, the effect is silencing, and more isolation.
Further resistance to sharing your needs for support, because your needs are too individualized.
Except that all needs are individualized, because no trauma is actually fully shared. What designates a trauma response is that is exceeds a person’s range of tolerance, or what they can cope with, and that is an aggregated amount based on their lived experiences and coping skills. It’s not conditional of someone else, and the presence of other people involved may very well be an aspect of what is traumatic.
What is on my heart this week is the question of our ability to stop averaging traumas to their lowest denominators, and to uplift the fall out unearthed by traumas as ongoing.
To uplift that what has been impacted is still being made visible.
To wrestle with our limited thresholds for offering and accepting support.
To validate that our isolation is driven by disconnection that feels safer than connection.
To differentiate between story lines that fuel truths that further silence, versus ones we need to make time to process and integrate.
To allow ourselves space to not involve each other in all that we need to process, so that we can have the opportunity to be cared for as individuals as well as through our relationships and community scales.
To internalize an emotional intelligence that is also trauma informed, and healing compatible.
Compatible based on its ability to grow, to evolve, to need more than is currently known or named.
Healing based on knowing our wounds intimately, and knowing that intimacy is not always tolerable.
This is time consuming work, and it isn’t made easier by trying to scale down our view of what we’re facing.
We are running from the narratives that trigger us because they feel too true, not too big.
And while we’re running, stories are being offered into the abyss, adding to our public record, and held unresponsively in the interim.The interim that is as long or as short as we make it.
Judging from experience, the interim that is long because that’s what we can currently tolerate.
The question is, how long are we willing to accept only tolerating as much as we can today?
How much is being aggregated but not named?
Who are we letting remain in the fallout?
What would it take to feel a sense of urgency?
Where is our motivation to listen to our wisdom teachers?
Where is our motivation to let wisdom have an even greater influence on us than trauma?
When is the time to face this work directly?
Perhaps Gemini season is that time for more than just me.