It’s a Saturday evening with a last attempt at winter cold out there. Even so, we have been tapping our friendly maples in the yard and drinking half-boiled sap as a pre-spring cleanse. It works — my body started craving lighter foods like salad and fruit, very unlike me who lives on a high-fat, cooked diet in order to keep my emotions at bay.
I’m cooking beets for our family retreat meeting tomorrow and easing myself into writing. It’s been an intense time, dipping further into my reservoir of trauma and coming out a little more whole.
It started several months ago when a boyfriend from 40 years ago (!) emailed that he would like to “drop by” for a visit on his way from China to Europe. Sure, I emailed back, curious. I didn’t notice the underlying anxiety. And then it was the Saturday of his visit, expecting him any minute in his rented car, beside myself with nervousness, which I figured was only normal.
The visit was lovely, reminiscing, sharing philosophies we’d put together from living almost six decades apiece. He had just remarried with a new baby and brought wedding and family pictures. There had been no reason to be anxious.
It was only after he left that my body began to come apart at the seams, like an after-shock. It took a full six days to even begin to feel normal again, as if I had come through colossal danger. The damaged part in me felt unprotected and betrayed at having been put in the position of hosting a strange man overnight, alone. And I hadn’t realized, not been aware enough, not paid attention to my inner messages, didn’t know how to manage them in any case.
This was not rational, adult behaviour but childhood terror. My body was frozen, my chest locked into hardly being able to breath at times. Meditations bounced off emotion and hyper-vigilant muscles refused to stretch out into yoga poses. My mind retreated into novels, food and sudoku puzzles, dissociated from my relatively new connection with my body. I found myself staying up late to avoid going into my bedroom.
I am amazed at the enormity of this reaction, chastened at my lack of care and listening to myself. I’m still exhausted from the effort of continuing to function while navigating myself back to what is my normal these days — better than ever, but now I’m reminded that it’s a thin veneer. I don’t feel the iceberg underneath because my life is geared to protect myself from these painful memories, living at a healing centre, taking care of Felix, doing what I need to do to maintain my balance. A fragile balance. . .
The silver lining is that experiencing this healing journey first-hand helps me understand others recovering from similar pain, how difficult it is to grapple with, how it prevents living a healthy lifestyle, how it interferes with normal relationships. Most of all, I see how this path is only possible in small steps for most of us, gradually learning inner safety, healthy self-talk, reconnecting to the body and trusting others again. As my therapist put it, we learn to be with the terror. . .
I am extremely fortunate, blessed, somehow protected and lucky to be alive. And as the layers slowly peel, I sense a deeper underlying purpose starting to emerge. Not so different than what I’ve been doing, but with a power that is bigger than myself. I believe this purpose is in all of us and that it is often trauma that leads us to uncover it as we seek to heal.
That’s about all for now. I am going to walk Henry, my daughter’s big, gentle dog. Coral is in Montreal with Felix and her partner, visiting her sister Sarala, my elder daughter. It’s a welcome reason to be outside with the moon and stars and the bigger mystery. Maybe there will even be owls; it’s their mating season and if you hoot they sometimes hoot back!
wishing you a graceful transition into early spring and kindness on your own healing path,