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To Trust That I Am Not Broken
Am I broken? Have I lost me? Where did I go? Where are the tears? Where is the anger? Where is the sorrow? Where are my emotions? Why am I not on the floor wailing? Why am I not able to open my mouth and share? When did I cross the line? Can I still feel? Am I capable of feeling any more? Am I feeling and don’t even know it or recognize it? What am I missing? Is this numbness? Will it be forever? Is this what it feels like to not feel? Where and when did I lose my way? Where did I go wrong? Am I broken?
All of these questions and so many more have been tumbling around in my head for the last two weeks or so. Or, maybe it’s only been the last week or last few days?
Fuck! I don’t know. What is time anymore?
Hours feel like days. Days feel like weeks. Weeks feel like months. 2020 has been the longest decade ever! And, also, how is it almost October? I want my summer back. But not the summer that just happened. I want the real one. The better one. The one I had planned for. The one I needed. The one we all needed.
Too damn slow. But, also so fast. Nothing has been accomplished. How did that project get finished? How did I get here? How did we get here?
So much has been lost. Life will never be the same.
I don’t want it to be the same. But, I do want him back. Please, please come back. How do we recreate our life without you here? I want her back, too. And, that, I also want that back. Too much lost too fast. I have been unable to process it all.
Maybe I’m not broken? Or, not all the way broken?
It has been so long since I sat down to write. I don’t know if this is something that will be shared, or if it’s just going to be for me to start again. In some strange way, writing has become close to breathing for me. And, while I have been away I have been gasping. Slowly dying, but also unable to find my way back to this keyboard. Back to allowing my emotions. Back to me. Back to you.
It feels like it has been many months since I have written, but it’s actually only been four weeks. Only four weeks?! That’s a lifetime when it feels like so many lifetimes have passed in the same span of time. When actual lives have been lost. When hoped-for lives have been lost — when I thought the life was there inside me again, but it was not. When our lives must move forward.
But how do we do it now?
Maybe I am not broken
Maybe I am not broken. I thought I was completely disconnected from my emotions. That’s why I have been asking myself all those questions above. Where are the tears? Where did I go? Am I truly still alive? I have been worried (when I’ve had the energy to actually have an emotion) about being out of touch with my humanity.
I believe now that perhaps my brain, body, spirit, and heart were keeping me safe.
In a way, yes, it was/is numbness. My brain has not been able to process and understand my new reality. All the losses, so quickly. All the changes. I couldn’t process it all and so I found a way to move through and stay standing.
On a walk a few days ago with Charlie, I asked him this: “How do I know if it’s just that I am so much more resilient than I used to be or if I have lost touch with my humanity, my emotions?”
We talked about this for a while. Clearly now I see that I was engaged — that by even asking the question, I hadn’t lost touch with my humanity. I needed a break from the flood of loss and heartache and change and sorrow that wouldn’t seem to stop... and the way I did that for the last six weeks or so is by mostly compartmentalizing.
I was just so damn exhausted by the onslaught and my brain (?) made the decision that to stay standing, I needed to shut down some of those emotions, and the processing of some of it just had to wait a while.
Compartmentalize. Don’t let it go too far or too long, though. But, what is too far or too long, especially now when time is a mindfuck? When it seems like what would usually happen in a lifetime happens in the span of just a few years? When one loss right after another after another seems to be the new reality.
You’ve got to find your way back. Your way back to you. It is safe to feel. It is safe to feel. It is safe to feel.
So much has changed...
When we changed the Daily Anchor to the Anchor back in July I shared with you some of the reasons why the shift was happening, such as honoring my boundaries, past traumas and experiences that I was needing to focus on healing, and projects shifting over time.
My TBI in early June 2019, the morning-to-night work on launching his book, hiring new teammates, my unexpected pregnancy, my second TBI three months after the first one, my miscarriage and emergency surgery, the book launch, saying goodbye to our 20-year-old fur-baby, Socks, while Charlie was on book tour, finally feeling like we were catching our breath and reconnecting with ourselves and each other late last year, a cancer worry that blessedly turned into an all clear, to both being extremely ill and un-well off and on for the first few months of this year, to finally feeling hope and settledness in early March that shifted us to a place of launching new projects days before COVID was declared a pandemic, to scrambling to make our business work in the new world and halting projects, to starting to see friends and loved ones losing their own friends and loved ones to this disease that we just didn’t understand, to finding a new normal-ish, to worrying around economic uncertainty, seeing far too many friends lose their businesses and jobs and homes, to losing our places of refuge because of COVID closings, to finding another new normal, to worrying about my dad and his fight through pneumonia in the face of COVID, to racial beatings and killings, worldwide anger and despair and some hope mixed in, daily protests, another and different cancer scare that is now also an all clear but vigilance is needed, to my PTSD being triggered, to our city being occupied by federal forces, seeing citizens beaten and gassed by those that take an oath to protect and serve, to political insanity and leadership that is anything but leadership, what feels like cold indifference by too many when seeing the reality of what far too many of our fellow humans face day in and day out, seeing over and over again that no charges are filed or not guilty is found (how in the hell?!)... and it just goes on and on.
I know there is so much more than what I can even remember at this time that is a “highlight/lowlight” of the last year. And, that was before the last six weeks.
About six weeks ago I thought that I might be pregnant again. It is not lost on me that this is almost the exact timing of when I got pregnant last year and that I have been told since I was a teenager that I should expect to never be able to have children myself and after the miscarriage and surgery of last year that with my and Charlie’s awareness that there is almost no way I could get pregnant.
Because of where I was already at emotionally with the last year being what it was and how scary the miscarriage was last year, when I thought I might be pregnant again I went into a minor tailspin internally.
Externally, I was OK-ish. All was well. Sure, I’m a little nervous, but this is probably just an unnecessary worry.
Inside, I was reliving what happened last year. The shock. The worry. The “how is this happening?” The timid excitement. The nervousness. The “oh, hell no.” The “but my doctors told me this would never happen” and that is what I have wrapped my head around for many decades. The “if what happened last year with the miscarriage was painful and scary and I had to have surgery how much worse might this be?” trauma. But, what if it’s not? What if the almost impossible is happening for a reason? Your world has shifted so much in the last year and perhaps all you have been through is paving the way for what is to come?
I know well from what happened last year when I was pregnant just how many emotions can happen in such a short time.
I am not pregnant, but I clearly have more processing I need to do around last year’s miscarriage. Too much. Too fast.
The day after I found out I was not pregnant I learned that my aunt died. It was not unexpected, but still sad and hit home again that I am here in Portland and my family is thousands of miles away, and during COVID we feel even further apart.
Two days later, on a Friday morning, I learned that one of my best friend’s sons had died unexpectedly in his sleep. I spent the first hour after I heard this unable to actually process what I heard (literally walking in circles in our home and unable to sit still or feel or anything really… I realize now I was in shock) and after that first hour, the next ten days were full of grief and overwhelm and trying to navigate burials and funerals and shiva in the time of COVID with a soul sister who was deep in shock and grief and unimaginable pain.
To be able to really show up for her I needed to turn off the emotions at times, make the calls, send the emails, take the texts, coordinate so many things. I did find a couple of times in those ten days where I got away by myself into our hot tub and just cried and sobbed and let myself feel, but there was so much that had already been compartmentalized and I was neatly tucking more and more away — because to have felt it all would have left me unable to do anything remotely helpful.
On day seven of these ten days of space-holding and support for my soul sister, we learned that Charlie’s sister had COVID and was on a ventilator. I am grateful and relieved to say she is OK now, but at the time when Charlie and I heard this, all I could imagine was what life was going to be like without her for her family, her children, her husband... and how could more grief be held right now?
Several months before this all happened Charlie and I had an awareness that 2020 was hitting us hard (as it has for everyone) and we proactively scheduled a six-days-off-work period to coincide with the Labor Day weekend. We were going to be off and unreachable from Thursday through Wednesday. We knew we were crispy, toasty, nearing burnout, and needed a long pause to regroup and get our feet back under us.
The Thursday through Monday of that “break” was spent with me gone most days from morning to night to help support my friend and her family, on Friday learning that Charlie’s sister had COVID, and then that Tuesday we realized how close the wildfires were getting to where we live and by Wednesday the air quality was beyond unhealthy. We had gone from a six-day planned mental and spiritual health break to so much pain and space-holding and grief and emotional work and worry that a break didn’t even enter our reality.
We spent the last day of our “break” trying to determine if we were going to be able to stay in our home because of how awful the air quality was. We finally wound up packing our go-bags on Friday as we saw the fires getting closer and closer. All the while unable to find any air purifiers to see if we could get the air quality in our home OK enough to be able to stay, even if the fires didn’t get close enough to force an evacuation.
(Oh, and during the several weeks I’ve been writing about above we also hired two new full-time teammates for PF.)
For another ten days (after the ten days of support and space-holding and grief and unimaginable pain) we holed up in our home except for one nearly 11-hour trip one day from Portland to Seattle and then Bellingham to pick up two air purifiers. The air purifiers were a blessing and miracle for us, as they allowed us to be able to stay home. The air quality in our home was not good, but it was manageable enough that we felt OK to stay home and not have to figure out where we could evacuate to.
If we didn’t have our elderly cat, Petie, we would have evacuated as soon as the fires started, but we had to balance his needs and how sensitive he is to change with what was going to be best for us, as well.
And, during those ten days we watched and prayed and cursed and cried and prayed some more as more and more of our friends and fellow West Coasters had to abandon their homes and property because of the wildfires. Most of those that we know personally who had to evacuate were able to go home and did not lose their homes and animals and land, but there are so many who are now displaced and that is felt deeply here. And the wildfires are still burning. There are so many here in Oregon and California that are still unsure of their future.
This brings me to this past week. We had an all-day event (Momentum Day) on Saturday that was amazing, but also exhausting. Sunday was the first day we could go outside and breathe in fresh(ish) air. It was absolutely glorious!! Neighbors were outside visiting, children were playing, and we got to celebrate our neighbor’s birthday outside in a COVID-safe way. Things were slowly starting to ease.
Then, the phone call on Tuesday… Charlie’s mom is in the hospital and they think she may have had a stroke. All day Tuesday we didn’t know what was happening, if she was OK, what the diagnosis was. Will Charlie need to fly to Arkansas? Is she going to be OK? What does this mean for her living situation?
Charlie’s mom was released from the hospital and she is now at home, but we still do not know what happened and why. We don’t know how much of the not knowing is the quality of the medical care she received or her insistence on going home or something else.
And, just a few days ago the decision made by the grand jury that no charges were to be filed against the officers who killed Breonna Taylor.
I feel like I have some answers to some of the questions I’ve been asking myself for the last couple of weeks. I don’t like some of the answers. Some answers may still be coming. Others I may never know, but I do know I’m doing the best I can.
Where are my emotions? They are still here. I’ve allowed some of them to seep through little by little. And, writing today has helped me realize just how much has changed in my world, and that I have not been able to emotionally keep up with it and process it as quickly as it has been coming at me. I am aware that my emotions are still here inside of me and I will have to slowly allow and feel and give myself plenty of space and time to process and catch up.
Is this numbness? Yes and no. There is and has been shock and trauma. Some new trauma and shock and some old trauma and shock that has been tugged at and pulled back out into the open. My body is wise and it wants to protect me. It’s up to me to allow the protection when it is needed and to not use the armor for longer than necessary. I must stay aware.
Am I more resilient than I used to be or have I lost my humanity? I can very clearly say now that yes, I am more resilient than I used to be. I don’t have to worry that I cannot handle the things that used to bring me to my knees, because while they can and do still bring me to my knees I am not staying there. I have learned. I have grown. And, I absolutely have not lost my humanity. I have been and am feeling so much, so deeply, but I went deep, deep into my armor and am slowly shedding it. And, I continue to practice what it is like to be a loving and compassionate observer and not take on the pain of others. I see it. I hear it. I feel it. And, I am continuing to do my work to not take it on. This empath has a lot of learning still yet to do, but I am going to celebrate the progress.
Am I broken? No. I have been bruised and battered. I have been scared and lonely. I have been triggered and traumatized. I have been concussed and scarred. I have been all of these things and more, but I am not broken. I am mending. I am learning. I am growing. I am getting stronger and braver and wiser. (Tweet this.)
So, I am back to writing. Or, at least I am today, in this moment. And, when I write I have to feel. It’s just how the process works for me. I don’t know if today is all I can handle for a while and then I need to zip it back up. Or, if the dam has been cracked and the crack will lead to a hole that leads to a rush of it all making its way through.
This is where I have to let go and trust.
Trust that I have learned. Trust that I have grown. Trust that when I don’t know the way that staying just where I am in the moment is OK.
When I can’t see the way forward I must just be where I am.
Maybe it’s in the numbness. Maybe it will be in all the pain. Maybe in uncertainty. Or sorrow. Or worry. I will not force it. I will try to remember to trust myself.
The changes we are collectively witnessing
Dear reader, I cannot know all that has happened in your life in the last six weeks, during 2020, since last summer, or at any other time — but I do know that collectively we are witnessing, feeling, and holding an enormous amount of pain, sorrow, confusion, worry, anger, fright, and so much more. The sorrows of our own lives and experiences blend with the collective because (whether we want to acknowledge it or not) we are in this together. We are all part of The One.
Just as our collective sorrows blend and can feel heavy and enormous, so too can our collective imagination, innovation, belief, hope, love, and trust lift us.
If you are in the dark, know that that is exactly what it is. You are in the dark. You are not weak. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You do not need to make it different than what it is. Trust that you have been learning and growing. Trust that you will find your way and that this dark period, while not what you want, is part of your way.
If you are in the light know that is exactly what it is, as well. You are in the light. Do not dim your light. Do not diminish or excuse your light. You are worthy of this light. Trust that this is also allowing you to learn and grow. And, because we are all part of The One, your light is a beacon for us all.
I hope to write/talk to you again soon. We’ll see. As I said above, I do not know where this re-opening of my emotions will lead; however, I am going to trust that this is just where and how I need to be right now.
I want to leave you with two last things (that I shared at our Momentum Day last week):
The first is from my heart to yours: I love and accept you just as you are. I am doing my work to be as sure of this for myself as I am for others, and this simple sentence has been very supportive for me in being OK with where and how and who I am in any given moment.
The second is the song, I Am Light, by India.Arie. This song has offered me solace so many times over the years since I first heard it and has gotten the tears to fall when I have compartmentalized a bit too long. I am light. You are light. We are not broken.