August 15, 2011

I was standing looking down into our stock tub, watching the left over bathwater move around the sides and gently swirl -like galaxies, huge cosmic clusters, and stars. I had retreated to the tub earlier, because today is the once again anniversary of something that happened and changed my life forever; some days it’s hard to tell if it got better (I think it has) or not (sometimes it seems that way too.)  In any event it was extraordinarily traumatic and as I found myself overcome with memory and emotion today, it really made me think.  So many people in the world have had things transpire in their lives, violent, traumatic, sad things, and such things affect you forever.  It’s just a question of how.

When something astounding and painful happens, it lodges in your body.  Whether or not you make mental peace with it, gain understanding, or not, it is there and comes and goes almost as though it is an independent, volitional creature.  When you can’t come to terms with it, they call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.   When such things happen to children, they really don’t have the intellectual infrastructure to make “sense” of it and then, this “it” can become life long adjustment difficulties.  As older individuals, trauma can still create huge adjustment difficulties because on some level it seems we are “supposed” to “get over” everything.  Just like in the movies, it’s all resolved in the end- or not, in the case of a cliff hanging plot.  Easier to just stuff it in the back of the mental closet and carry on- at least until the closet gets too full and the door pops open.  So sometimes when I encounter someone out in the world who’s just SO angry or reactive or whatever, I think- hmmmm.  There’s a big ouch there.  At the same time, that acting out of the feeling is a way of being stuck in it, never letting it go even if it is technically unacknowledged.  Resisting feeling that pain is a way of never letting it go.  And somehow, when that path is chosen, that “thing that happened” continues to dominate everything, like the elephant in the living room.  Perhaps it also has to do with dwelling on the apparent unfairness of the situation, feeling that it shouldn’t have happened to YOU.  So therefore you have the total right to behave any damn way you want to.

I think, though, that this response is a result of never having gotten back into one’s body in the first place after the…accident happened.  You can almost feel how you slip up through the top of your head, and then look down at everything from a high remove.  It takes a long time for all the various parts to come floating and crashing down to earth, and then you get to rebuild.  Some people gain a lot of weight during these sorts of things:  they’re trying to make the body a comfortable place to come back to.  That’s just one manifestation of course.  But the rebuild! Wow.  The work of a lifetime, that is.  Once the shock wears off and you’re back in the apparently real world, you know somehow you’re not the same.  But what are you?  You can’t go back, exactly.  Like Heraclitus said, you never step in the same river twice.  The expectation might be that the pain eventually goes away.  And it does, but never completely.  Sometimes you experience it rising up and grasping you, and the real key, I’m coming to see, is how you respond in that precise moment.  Naturally, you’re stressed, uncomfortable, filled with sorrow and fear, irritated, whatever it might be.  Hard to explain to anyone else, too, because after all, this was [however] long ago and far away in a sense.  But pain is pain, and all of it turns out to be amenable to the same sort of interaction.  You have to breathe into it, through it, surrender to it which means not resisting it and pretending you can control it somehow.  Then it moves over you like a wave, ,and afterward there are shells left behind, like messages from you to you.  Messages of peace, as well as messages of understanding.  While it’s pretty hard to really understand just what we’re here for, one thing really is clear.  It’s all a learning journey.  I think pain almost has to be used as an opportunity for growth and expansion, but sometimes when you think about all the people who are living with it every day in all its’ innumerable manifestations and permutations, it just seems like there should be a better way for us all to deal with and learn from what we go through.  It might make us all realize our oneness, which is one of the saving graces in life.

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