I took the bandage off today. I would really like to heal. The scab between my breasts is bright hot angry red. I gently scrub with soap and the scab slowly peels showing the crater in my chest. I am the walking dead. The small child wants so badly to believe your word is true. You say you’ll be her friend forever no matter what. My devil laughs, a cynic. My angel turns away from you. When you walk away you drag behind each inch of my child’s gut. I see the wound is pulsing and now I give a start. You break your word, you lie, to my much abused small child. The pulsing mass I see is my aching bleeding heart. Every injury triples on the child you hold inside. I don’t stop loving even though I am gravely hurt. You’ve never loved at all: you grind hearts into the dirt.
I visited an old friend in Europe last March. I talked about the Olympic Peninsula and he was impressed with the cougars and orcas and bears. “We don’t have any large predators here.” Well, only humans.
They used to, though. This is from a local museum: a bear skeleton from about 7000 BC from the country. A very big bear fossil. There were other fossil predators including a wolf like creature.
So this is the succession where he lives: humans living after the bears.
Ok, so what menu did I choose for my friends with food needs, as listed in the previous post.
First course: Sweet Pea soup. The color is vivid and almost lurid. My guests look worried until they taste it. It tastes like spring! Butter, onions, broth and frozen sweet peas, just cooked. My guests go from worried to asking for seconds.
Lentils baked with sausages. This is also not a gloriously pretty dish. Again, my guests love the taste. Lentils, a little red wine, butter, onions, bay leaf, sausages, thyme and baked. Yum.
As well as:
Roasted Ronde de Nice Squash with California rice and Early Girl tomatoes. Except I did not make the rice, I couldn’t get farmer cheese and the tomatoes were varied and from the store. And a different kind of squash! This is from a cookbook new to me: Community Table, Recipes for an Ecological Future. The sweet pea soup is from a cookbook that I’ve had for forty years and the lentils are from memory, a recipe a friend taught me in the 1980s.
Dessert is fruit salad and chocolate. With tea.
No liver, gluten, shellfish, giant rubbery cooked mushrooms, anchovies, dried fishies or grubs.
Qia wants help. She is scared of the monster, FEAR, the giant monster, but her father won’t listen. She sniffles and tries, but she can’t stop crying. She goes to her room, because her father has turned his back. Her mother is drawing. They are busy. They don’t like it when she is scared.
FEAR is enormous and pushes into the room with her. She cries harder in her room with the door closed. No one can hear her now except FEAR. FEAR is large and has horrible drippy teeth and too many arms and keeps swatting at her. Qia gives up and lets FEAR swat her. She sits on the bed with her knees up and puts her head on her arms.
FEAR rages around her room.
After a while Qia is tired of crying. She lifts her head off her arms.
FEAR is smaller. Still bigger than her father, bigger than her mother, but just standing and looking at her. FEAR looks tired too.
Qia pats the bed beside her. FEAR hesitates and looks scared. Qia waits. FEAR shuffles over and sits beside her on the bed.
The room is very quiet. Qia finds a scrap of tissue and blows her nose. She looks sideways at FEAR.
FEAR’s head is down and FEAR seems to be crying. Qia reaches out and takes FEAR’s paw. One of the paws. There are a lot.
FEAR holds her hand tightly and then leans against her. Qia wiggles over a bit more to give FEAR room. FEAR sighs and then snuggles down onto the bed, massive drippy toothy head in Qia’s lap.
Qia strokes FEAR’s fur. It is very soft and dark purple.
FEAR is the first monster that Qia makes friends with. There are many more.
I was thinking about this story even before the Ragtag Daily Prompt: bugbear.
I am watching a four part video from the UK about illness and trauma.
The first part is about how trauma memories are stored differently from regular memories. Regular memories are stored in files, like stories in a book or a library.
Trauma memories are stored in the amygdala and often are disjointed and broken up and have all of the sensory input from the worst parts, including the emotions.
The therapist is talking about healing: that our tendency is to turn away from the trauma, smooth it over and try to ignore it.
However, the amygdala will not allow this. It will keep bringing the trauma up. And that is actually its’ job, to try to warn and protect us from danger!
The therapist counsels finding a safe time and place and safe person (if you have one) and then making space for the trauma to come back up. One approach is to write out the story, going through that most traumatic part, but not stopping there. What happened next? Writing the story and then putting it aside. Writing it again the next day and doing this for four days. As the story is rewritten and has an ending, even if it is not a happy ending, the story is eventually moved from the amygdala to the regular files. People can and do heal. They may need a lot of time and help, but they can heal.
I am not saying that four days of writing stories is enough. That is one approach, but nothing works for everyone and people need different sorts of help. There are all sorts of paths to healing.
In my Family Practice clinic I would see people in distress. With some gentle prompting and offering space, they would tell me about trauma and things happening in their personal life or work life. Things that were feeling so overwhelming that they could not tell their families or friends and they just could not seem to process the feelings about it. I would keep asking what was happening and give them the space to tell the story. Many times when they reached the present they would stop. There would be a silence. Then I would say, “It seems perfectly reasonable that you feel terrible, frightened, horrified, grieved, whatever they were feeling, with that going on.” And there was often a moment where the person looked inwards, at the arc of the story, and they too felt that their feelings were reasonable.
I would offer a referral to a counselor. “Or you can come back. Do you want to come back and talk about it if you need to?”
Sometimes they would take the referral. Sometimes they would schedule to come back. But nearly half the time they would say, “Let me wait and see. I think I am ok. I will call if I need to. Let me see what happens.”
When a person goes through trauma, many people cut them off. They don’t want to hear about it. They say let it go. They may avoid you. You will find out who your true friends are, who can stand by you when you are suffering. I have trouble when someone tries to show up in my life and wants to just pretend that nothing happened. “Let’s just start from now and go forward.” A family member said that to me recently. Um, no. You do not get to pretend nothing happened or say, “I wanted to stay out of it.” and now show back up. No. No. You are not my friend and will not be. And I am completely unwilling to trade silence about my trauma for your false friendship.
Yet rather than anger, I feel grief and pity. Because this family member can’t process his own trauma and therefore can’t be present for mine. Stunted growth.
People can heal but they need help and they need to choose to do the work of healing.
This song is a darkly funny illustration: she may be trying to process past trauma, but the narrator doesn’t want anything to do with it. And he may not have the capacity to handle it. He may have his own issues that he has not dealt with. And maybe they both need professionals.
This two too to I want to remember.
Licking? Touch for certain, together.
Warmth and safety and rest and trust.
The trust eroded as you run away
over and over. You say always but
you say other things that I can’t believe.
And yet my heart is stubborn still.
This two too to I want to remember.
This too two I want to remember. Disagreeing. Respectful nearly always. You say, “You argue with everything.” “I think about both sides.” I say. “And if I am alone I discuss both with myself.” You roll your eyes and I grin and continue. Thistoo two I want to remember.
We can work it out, the song says. But no, maybe not, not always.
Trauma bunnies together. Walking. Why would you walk with me, I am so down? Oh, you are a trauma bunny too. Walking on the beach, slowing down, looking at rocks. The walks get longer and longer. You bring FOOD and tell me I have food insecurity. I laugh. But it is true.
Comparing notes about childhood. You say yours was worse. Yours was terrifying. You ran away over and over and over, but came home. Small children need food and shelter. You get older. A neighbor says if you run away now, you will never stop running. You do not run away permanently. But you still run.
My childhood has no bruises to the skin. But the bruises to the heart are a nightmare. You finally say that I win, my childhood was worse. But I was not trying to win, I want to say. I was just telling you as you’ve told me.
We have both survived damage and coped. I have the resource of a grandmother with money who paid for medical school. I apply without telling my parents, after my mother says, “You don’t want to be a doctor. It’s too much work.” I am a poet, a writer, being a doctor so I can study people and have children and be certain there is food. Job security. And food security, true. With a husband or without.
You fight school all the way, but when you are told that you will be a failure or in jail, you decide that you will prove them wrong. You are still proving it. You won’t tell how you make your money, not to the locals, but the new car every two years tells them you have money. And it’s the wrong kind of car: a liberal car for a professed conservative. It stands out.
We start playing trauma bunnies after six months. You want me to come to dinner and I turn New Yorker and direct: is this a date? You are surprised. I set the boundaries and you think about it. And say yes.
But trauma bunnies is not as much fun as the beach. We get close and intimate and then you run. When you run, I run too: the other way. I don’t chase you. You haven’t experienced that before. You keep coming back. Why aren’t I chasing you? Because I too am a trauma bunny, remember?
Back and forth: close and far, together and apart. All holidays become times when you run, so that I will not be part of the family. I announce that I am now your mistress and you can’t be with my family either. Back and forth. Closer and then you refuse to come to my son’s wedding. Far again.
You say the summer will be very busy. You say your focus is music. You say we can go to one beach. One beach? For the whole summer? I run to europe and you are surprised. I ask, are you too busy to have me around? No, you say. But when I return, you have a friend staying with you. Intimacy disappears.
I am tired of it. My daughter is here.
At last I bring up sex: are we done with that?
No, you say. We have visitors.
Wouldn’t stop me, I say.
You say, sex is still on the table. Then you hem and haw. You say sex is not important, you can take or leave it. The friendship is more important. Well, the friendship is most important, but sex IS important to me and hello, it’s damn insulting of you to say you can take or leave it. Leave. This is all triggered by your yearly family get together. You need me at a distance so you won’t be tempted to invite me. You don’t want me there so I am distanced again.
And I am done, done, done. I dream of a small child, a wild woman, a woman doctor and someone new: a quiet woman. I think about the quiet woman and I ask the other three. Yes, they say.
The quiet woman is the adult. Not the mask of the professional, not the wild defense fighter, not the small child. The small child has healed. She is the connection to the Beloved, to the source of the poems. She blesses the others. The quiet woman takes over.
The quiet woman takes over. She says goodbye, farewell, Beloved keep you and bless you, you may contact me any time.
You are in your cave alone and do not answer.
You may end up there, alone, alone, alone. You want freedom most of all, you say. Another song: freedom is another word.
Yes it is. People can change and grow. But some want to and some don’t and sometimes we don’t grow at the same time.
Yes, says the quiet woman. Sometimes we don’t grow at the same time.
Fade to quiet.
I took the photograph from a canoe at Lake Matinenda in Ontario, Canada.
Refugees welcome - Flüchtlinge willkommen I am teaching German to refugees. Ich unterrichte geflüchtete Menschen in der deutschen Sprache. I am writing this blog in English and German because my friends speak English and German. Ich schreibe auf Deutsch und Englisch, weil meine Freunde Deutsch und Englisch sprechen.
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