When Old and New Trauma are Shaken AND Stirred

 

Since making my first entry in September of 2016, my five-year journal has paid dividends, both each evening as it cues me to ask myself, “What do I most want to remember about today? An event? A feeling? A question? A thought?” and as I look back through the entries, noticing the passage of time in a wholly unique way.

There are a few dates in that journal that tend to be most curious to me. How did I spend this holiday, that anniversary, my birthday? And August 22: How did I spend this arguably most emotionally-loaded day of the year?

August 22, 1996 was the culmination of a rocky six year friendship and one year romance. It left me with scars both physical and emotional. It was the catalyst for my deepest depression and most profound experiences of forgiveness, healing, and love. While I once thought there would be an end date to healing from it, I now believe it will be a lens that I’ll be peeking through for the rest of my life – though where once it was my whole lens, it’s now pocket-sized, available but rarely insistent.

Last year, I noted in my five-year journal an acceptance of the sadness that arose that day. I even have a vague memory of the feeling of noticing tears and thinking, “Yes, of course. Okay.”

This year, not so much on the acceptance. Instead, part of me met every emotion that arose with judgment, reproach and guilt. I heard old stories like that I shouldn’t have been so traumatized at the time, that my story and sadness is painful to other people, that I should be over it by now.

As the day came to a close and I sat with my five-year journal wondering what I wanted to write, I noted that last year, I had recently experienced a session with a coach who helped me break through a long-standing barrier inside of me; our home life was fairly settled and very comfortable; everyone was healthy after a handful of cancer diagnoses; we had a sweet crew of friends for potlucks and game nights; and so on.

And then there was 2020. While I’m no fan of wallowing in what I cannot change, I think there’s critical importance to acknowledging that we’re all working from a much higher baseline of stress. You might imagine it like a river that spills over after a given amount of rain; last year, it took a good, hard rain to push that river over its banks while this year, an extended drizzle might be enough.

So, yeah, it was harder to stay centered and accepting this year when the annual storm of memories and feelings came through.

One of the frustrations we all run into is that we want this work we do – what I’ll vaguely lump into the category of developing our biggest self and baddest life – is that something in most of us wishes for a toggle switch. “I understand acceptance and now I never have to feel the pain of resistance again!” What we get is a dimmer switch in a loose casing, jostled by all the winds that pass through our lives.

With practice, that casing tightens up.

With practice, we get better at offering ourselves love and patience even when love and patience – and acceptance – seem impossibly distant.


The Bigger Badder Crew is getting a bonus post this week, a reflection on prison abolition through my lens of coming horribly close to being murdered at 18. Join the crew for that and other weekly bonuses, or email me and I’ll send it to you. If you’re ready for support on your journey to bigger and badder – support built on my experience, training, and thousands of hours coaching others – I’m ready for you.