I wrote this a few years ago and while the current circumstances have changed, when I read over what I wrote in response to handling trauma I was surprised at how much it still resonates.
“What trauma?” You might be asking. There has been so much that I sometimes feel I’m either cursed or overly dramatic. So much to overcome. A chronically ill daughter, a realization of unhealthy patterns – physically, emotionally, personally and in marriage, daughters dealing with the fallout of years of pretending everything was fine…
I no longer ask the questions that used to spin through my head when I was first “under water”. Questions like: Will life ever feel “normal” again? I have to say that even with all the trauma of the past seven years, I don’t think I ever want life to feel “normal” again. The very fact that I feel I have a completely different outlook on life is due to this trauma and it has become something I don’t feel I want to give up. Plus, it turns out a lot of what I had accepted as normal was actually horribly unhealthy. My head is generally full of spiraling thoughts of what could or should have been different. It’s overwhelming and distracting.
I imagine myself like a student in the 1950’s during a bomb drill. Or someone pictured on those safety cards in the back pocket of airplane seats. I’m curled up in a ball under my desk with my hands over my head, or in my airplane seat – assuming the crash position. It might be a good position during a bombing or a crash, but no one can live that way all of the time. I’ve been in this position so long now, though, I’m not sure how to come out. And I have to admit – it scares me to death to try.
It reminds me of when Markee was just old enough to pull herself up on the end table. She would be so excited until she decided she wanted to sit back down. She wanted to hold onto the table until she made it safely back to the floor, but that just wasn’t possible. She would reach, and stand back up, and reach until she was either so frustrated or exhausted that she couldn’t hold on anymore. She would plop down to the floor and look around like “oh- that wasn’t so bad”.
I’d like to believe I’m more like the cautious toddler than the student under the desk or the airplane passenger in the crash position.
The cautious toddler is determined, steps out despite fear, works toward a goal, and even though she gets very frustrated, keeps trying until pure exhaustion (physical and/or emotional) causes her to take a break.
Assuming the crash position is a state of waiting. Waiting for terrible events to transpire. Waiting until it’s “safe” to come out. Waiting for everything to either go away or get better.
The toddler works out a problem. The crash position waits for the problem to work itself out.
It’s a whole lot easier to wait than to work hard at something that is difficult and frightening. It’s so tempting to just curl up and watch Netflix and not deal with life. But the cautious toddler would never learn how to walk if she just curled up under the end table. And after all, if I plop to the floor – it probably won’t be as bad as I had imagined, right?