Recently, I was standing in the kitchen with a spoonful of tahini in my hand when I became conscious of my last thought; just in case.
Frowning, I replayed the tape in my head. Better not put the tahini in yet, just in case.
My partner Shannon was at the clinic on a foggy Tuesday morning and I was making hummus, my mind wandering around aimlessly, when that thought jabbed through the fog in my head.
I asked myself, Just in case of what?
And then I realized, that the extension of that thought was, just in case Shan gets bad news.
She was due back from the clinic any minute, and I didn’t want to be up to my elbows in the food processor if she needed a hug when she came home. Or if she had news. Or if our lives were going to be thrown back into chaos.
Wow! It has been almost eight years of positive check-ups since Shan’s transplant, and I still have an unconscious emotional “ready-stance” whenever she is at a clinic or hospital, regardless of the benign and unrelated nature of her visit.
Immediately following our return to Cortes after the six months in Vancouver for the transplant, my alert response to check-ups was strong – emotionally, mentally, and physically. It was also understandable, given the possibility of rejection issues. When she goes for her annual oncology check-up now, I am unaware of worry until the all-clear sounds and I note, yet again, the depth of my relief. That, I understand.
But this? A little visit with the doctor over nothing, comparatively speaking, and I am on red alert.
What’s the lesson, I wonder?
Trauma leaves residue, and fear is a big part of that light film that covers our days, whether we see it or not.
The friend who introduced me to meditation would say this: take it to the cushion. Sit there and let the fear come and then acknowledge it. This feeling is my fear for Shan’s health.
Things without names, without acknowledgement, have a tendency to get bigger and bigger, don’t they? (This is why we say there is an elephant in the living room rather than a poodle or a hedgehog.)
Now, to be clear, when there is a present danger or threat to our safety, fear is important. But I’m not talking about that innate fear response that helps to keep us safe, I’m talking about the fear we conjure up – apparently without even knowing it – when our minds wander into the landscape of our soul that is shadowed by past trauma.
Yesterday, Shannon and I went for a bike ride. We were riding on a trail close to the community hall where people were preparing for a Celebration of Life for Paul, a man who passed away recently. He was part of our ambulance service and we knew him only through that; when he came to our house one day to help after I fell off a ladder. Stitches and concussion; not such a big deal in the end but at the time, I was knocked out, wasn’t breathing at first, then took a gasping breath, convulsed a bit and regained consciousness but not awareness. I remember nothing. Shannon remembers it all. She watched the whole scary thing.
As we rode our bikes close to the hall yesterday, she suddenly pulled up. I stopped beside her and was surprised to find her crying softly.
She’d been thinking about Paul, which reminded her of the accident and suddenly, she was experiencing that traumatic day all over again.
What I’m wondering is this: how do we deal with the normal traumas of life? We have accidents and sometimes they are scary. We all experience illness and sometimes that is scary. How do we best heal from those traumas we all carry with us?
Me? I write. Even when I can’t remember what I need to write about – and I still can’t remember my accident – I write anyway. I write to explore it, feel it and put it away again. Every time I take my traumas out for a spin, whether I am talking or writing, I am keeping them a manageable size. (Who can carry an elephant?)
I can see the beginning and end if I tell or write the story. This is how I heal.
But then again, there are as many ways to heal as there are people in this world. I hope you’re finding yours.
Click below to read a piece I wrote about the accident while attending a writing/meditation workshop. (Molting was originally published in The Chaos Journal of Personal Narrative in the Winter, 2017 edition.)
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