I forgot you were my best friend. I forgot I could say, “I’m tired, stressed and overwhelmed.”
On the walk to your door I was building up a wall, resentments, expectations, my own fabricated failings I was defending myself against before an attack was even launched.
My chest was tight, constricted and I could barely breathe.
He probably wants to go into the city and I want to stay in.
I’m not any fun – even on the weekend.
He’s probably sick of me.
I’m too hard to love, too serious and intense.
I’m not capable of a relationship.
But you greeted me warm.
“How you doing baby?” you said all curious and tender.
And I remembered you and myself and us and melted, confided and confessed.
“I have so much good in my life right now but can’t feel it, don’t feel good.”
You didn’t know what I meant, you said, but wanted to and asked me to explain.
“The house, work, family, friends, pets. You. Kai. All good. But I feel scarce and stingy and guilty for not being more grateful. I only feel tired, stressed and overwhelmed. I’m behind on everyone and everything and myself. I’ll never catch up. And Christmas, I can’t do Christmas. I’m not even close to ready to start and it’s almost here.”
“You don’t have to,” he said about Christmas, but for a moment I felt the words apply to everything.
I let myself soak in not having to anything or anyone.
Then I panicked and clung to fear again.
“What’s wrong with me?” I said, “Why does it feel like just keeping up with life is so difficult. People do it all the time, but when I dig deep now, I feel like I am down to the bone marrow of my being. I get all the tasks done, but sometimes I feel scraped out from the inside and am hollow, vacant and exhausted. I’m behind on email, phone calls, and comments. I’m behind on yoga, playing and being spontaneous. I’m behind on being generous, thoughtful and caring. I’m behind on life. This isn’t even close to the hardest top ten times of my life, but I’m feeling weathered, tired and empty. I’m a mental case. You should run.”
You held me tight. “You’re doing fine,” you said.
“I’m too tired to pray, do yoga or even to surrender to the floor and lie down. I can’t get out of my own way to unbend, unclench or stop doing, doing, doing. Everything feels burdensome including my damn self. I’m on the hamster wheel running hard and going nowhere.”
I thought of the sympathy card I didn’t send, the texts I had yet to return, the phone calls too, and the potatoes I didn’t bake or peel or roast.
He met me with the warmth anyhow.
He saw me as whole even though I felt broken.
He blanketed me with time and openness so I could consider taking a breath.
I saw the coffee I drink, that he does not like stocked at his house – for me. I felt his generosity and forgave myself for feeling lonely even when I’m not alone. How I turn into a robot on automatic pilot who is critical, damning and demanding.
Sometimes it is me who drives me crazy.
But he met me with love at the door anyhow. And I walked through and toward instead of running.
Love, in my reach, I often can’t feel or hold or touch or grab.
If he had met me with anger, we might have bickered or fought.
If he had met me cold I would have told myself we were milk beginning to sour or were losing our precious connection. Sometimes I look only for proof of loss and pain to come, so betrayal won’t surprise me again.
Sometimes I can’t unclench in or out of love because I’m afraid.
Love met me where I was, and I felt it in every cell. It was not the sensual orange of a spectacular sunset but the ordinary yellow of sunshine. Steady and expansive and present, he was, a metronome inviting me to ground down and center. Eventually, the frenzied thoughts and feelings let go.
This is healing now, and it’s more subtle than it used to be. It is not the survival mode of childhood, getting through or making due. It’s not the battle with resident and symptoms that punch hard like anxiety attacks, flashbacks or nightmares. No. It is learning how to step out of the armor I have built that keeps me from myself, love and the world. It is stopping to still or even to float when I can’t stop turning on myself. It is the grace of noticing when my low expectations are not met or when it is me who jacked up on fear or compulsion.
It is allowing myself to be raised, lifted and held even when I feel unworthy of air, sun, and kindness. To let myself, at last, be met by love.
To hold out hope that I can meet myself, and others, in love, with warmth, even when stressed, afraid or human.
You Matter Mantras
- Trauma sucks. You don't.
- Write to express not to impress.
- It's not trauma informed if it's not informed by trauma survivors.
- Breathing isn't optional.