Lions and Tigers and Bears

Something happens when you experience trauma. There’s a shift in your reality and you see everything differently. You’re not able to make meaning of anything because you’re too busy fighting imaginary tigers. Or fleeing from them. Or trying to pretend they’re not there when you can feel their breath on the back of your neck. Tigers, tigers everywhere. Driving through an intersection: tiger. Seeing a green prescription bottle: tiger. Putting my kids to bed at night: big effing tiger.
And everyone’s tigers are different. Everyone’s trauma is different. My trauma made me afraid. Afraid of losing the people I love. And of them losing me. It made me obsess while at the same time not caring. It made me cranky and exhausted. Sometimes I couldn’t connect to the things I was doing or saying. I felt like a robot. A really dumb, tired robot.
Anyway, there are much less tigers around these days. Well, maybe not less, but the tigers themselves are pretty wimpy. Like, I could fight one, no big deal (usually). But now there’s this other thing: grief. Full-blown, front and center grief. It’s becoming more and more apparent that I can’t always just put it in a box and come back to it later. I still do that whenever I can, but like, it’s getting smarter and weaseling its way out. Like one of Skinner’s pigeons, it’s learning how to flip the latch. And having pigeons flying around my head at inconvenient times, while not as threatening as tigers, is really frigging annoying.

Which brings me to my next point: crying in public. Crying in public has got to be one of my least favorite things, probably in the top 5. If I’m going to cry, I want it to be in my own space where I can go full-blown ugly duckling, not somewhere with an audience where I have to try to hide it. And really, there is no hiding it. The slightest change in emotion sends my face into a splotchy fit of rage, the effects of which linger for at least an hour. Gregg used to tell me that I was so pretty when I cried, that it made my eyes look so clear and bright. Yeah, pretty sure that was just him buttering me up after he made me cry. Also pretty sure it worked the first time. After that, it just made me want to punch him the face. 

He could complement his way out of a lot of things, but not usually with me. I became immune to his sweet talk. Little old ladies at the doctor’s office didn’t stand a chance. One second they’re rolling their eyes, saying you’ll have to make an appointment for next month, the next they’re blushing and giggling like school girls and saying that they can fit you into the schedule this afternoon. Once when we were dating and I was visiting him in NC, he talked his way around Delta’s reservation policy and got me on a later flight home with no extra charges so we could spend a few more hours together. I bet that lady hung up the phone and was just like, “what the eff just happened and why am I fanning myself right now?” He was a sweet talker, the best.
But back to the crying. I’m thinking that that’s going to be more of a regular thing, just crying and feeling gross emotions in general. I don’t like it, but it’s probably a good thing. It feels like I’m on the precipice of something else, something more authentic. Like I can feel what my brain has not wanted to feel, what it really couldn’t feel. Does that make sense? I’ve been running and dodging and also needing to deal with more pressing things than grief. Now it feels like all of a sudden my mind’s just like, “oh look, free space, let’s fill ‘er up before she can fill the space with like, I don’t know, Kegan’s theory of human development or the difference between a one-way ANOVA and a factorial ANOVA and crap like that.” Great timing, mind, I have lots of time and space to deal with all of these uncomfortable things in stronger doses. Awesome.
But I don’t want to just complain, I want to end this on a high note. Today I was asked to look for the miracles. At first I scoffed; my cynical side wasn’t having it. But I can’t deny that they’re there. It’s a miracle Gregg was here for 27 years. It’s a miracle there wasn’t more damage when he left. The biggest miracle? My children. Out of all of this, it is a miracle they are here with me. There are lots of other miracle that keep happening. And even with the trauma and the grief, it’s a miracle that there is a way through it. 

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