I Seek to Feel Content

I will conquer this metaphorical mountain. I can do it. It may be hard. It may feel  emotionally, spiritually and physically excruciating at times, and I can do it.  When I do conquer the mountain, Is that when I will feel content?

It’s my goal to live life with my eyes open, to let go of the person I am not, to own my story, to work through the torture and come out with a gnarly scar and not just with a soft scab over an oozing past. Is that when I will feel content?

To reach out and ask for help, when I feel so vulnerable that I can’t move left or right. To ask “will you take my hand and hold on to it until I feel steady enough to walk beside you again, unaided?” Is that when I will feel content?

When I accept the changes I’m going through, releasing and gently letting go of the protective barriers because they no longer serve me.  Is that when I will feel content?

To “just show up” even when I can’t remember how to be okay. And to accept that sometimes I won’t be okay. Is that when I will feel content?

Knowing that I am safe, and to trust the  safety. To let the safety permeate my body, mind & spirit. Is that when I will feel content?

Understanding that to feel content is as involuntary as breathing. I don’t have to seek it, I don’t have to mark certain milestones along my healing journey. I don’t have to be free from the symptoms of PTSD. I just really have to understand that I’m enough. I was always enough, and that not only am I okay now, I was always okay. Is that when I will feel content? 

To understand that feelings and emotions are fleeting and impermanent, as well as the feelings of contentment. Is that when I will feel content?

Yes, yes I believe that’s when I will feel content. Perhaps I already do!

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A place of peace

I’m sitting in this place of peace, listening to the waves hitting the rocks reveling in the joy of their hypnotic cadence. The water sparkles like diamonds as the sun plays upon it. The seagulls are flying overhead and occasionally land on the rocky beach in pairs of two or three. They rest on the rock and seem to also be gazing out over the restless water. Next to me in the tree, I watch a spider lord over her intricate web that is filled with little bugs trapped in her silk. Off in the distance, tall purple flowers are swaying just a bit in the breeze. My triggers are reset. I am at peace, not judging, not thinking, not talking, and just resting.

Then out of the blue, it happens. First it comes as a sort of uneasiness in my stomach, and then the diamond reflections on the water became cartoonish, the bugs in the background are the noises of the desert then a wave of emotion takes my breath and stops my lungs and the world starts to morph. I can feel myself being pulled away. Just sit with it until it passes I can hear myself think in my distant mind. I feel myself stand up. Always standing, watching as others or myself “happen.”

It passes. The water becomes fluid again, the breeze touches my ice cold skin in the burning sun, the muscles in my stomach, head, arms and lungs ache from being contracted and I am standing there. Wondering what did I do wrong in this place that was just moments ago, wonderful and restful and safe. I turned it into a place where I failed to stay grounded and living normally amongst the people. Standing there turning beautiful places and people into nightmares. I want to turn and walk away. 

But I don’t walk away, I sit down, my triggers are reset, I try to feel the peace, not judging, not thinking, not talking, just resting, telling myself “just be.”

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My Anatomy of HOPE

My anatomy of HOPE:

Hearing myself speak, and read the words of what happened to me out loud; trusting that no one can ever take my truth away again.

Okay with where I am on my journey of healing. Understanding it is never a linear process, and growth is a life-long endeavor.  

Prepared to continue to do the hard work it will take to heal from the effects of my trauma.

Eventually having unyielding acceptance that being vulnerable, and authentic is what keeps me surrounded, supported and loved by the people in my life now and who I have yet to meet.  

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Zen and Grief

Some mindfulness masters teach, that you cannot fully begin to meditate until you have wept deeply. I once read a story of a Zen teacher who flirted with meditation for years before he decided to commit. He recalled how he wept openly and often for two years and after he had grieved for many things in his life, only then was he able to sit in silence.

I was sitting outside this morning, feeling the pull of profound grief and sadness for the life I had uncovered. For the loss, for the pain, for the torture for the years that I clung to survival as my only way of life. Sad for the years of having no hope, no dreams, no promises made…thinking that whoever came into my life would go. Not by virtue of old age, sickness or played out friendships. But would just turn around and go.

I began to recall the lesson about weeping. I thought about the many times during guided meditation that I would begin to shed tears. Not weeping, but feeling the unmistakable wetness on my cheek from tears. It was always at that time, I stopped and pulled myself back to reality. The reality of kids, shopping lists or work. Never understanding that perhaps those tears marked the beginning of my spirit wanting to open up, cleanse myself from grief and help guide me on my path.

Before I came in to write this, I grabbed a cottonwood floaty made a wish, blew it away and came in to write.

I wished I could go away deep in the woods without the sounds of the world and cry. I thought about a story I once read of the girl in the silver boat who had gone through the woods and came out on a beautiful shore. I thought about my intense pull to grieve.

Maybe someday I will get the chance to be like the girl in the silver boat, but then again, I realize that is just a story. A book, a metaphor. Perhaps the person who said they wept for years is also a story, a metaphor.

It seems I long for the same endings that people get in stories, movies, and books. It seems that sometimes I don’t have faith in my ability to heal completely because I feel like its just words I am supposed to feel, not feelings I am supposed to feel.

I’m having a hard time feeling the words. My body, my mind wants to feel the feelings. I yearn to be like those who have the ability to go find solace in quiet places. I’m not ready to dwell in those places. I know that its the way it is right now.  I accept it and respect the reality and the process of healing. Someday, perhaps I hope to grieve that too.

I am not a Zen teacher. I don’t necessarily want to be able to sit for hours. I do, however, intend to stay the path.  I set my intention every morning, I try to evolve but know deep down inside that without shedding the tears, feeling the words, I will never heal the way I want to heal. Without grieving over the life that was, I will just scab over and create a new gnarly scar. 

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The Mirror

Looking into the mirror in my hand…well I can’t look into the mirror in my hand. I can’t look into my eyes. But if I could I would ask the mirror do my eyes betray what I feel inside? Do my eyes show what happened in my past? Do my eyes scream? Do they give away the sadness of a child through young adult who lived through abuse, neglect and terrible torture?

Or would my eyes say “look at me I am a survivor.” I lived and survived. Would my eyes twinkle with delight knowing I can see, hear and touch my beautiful children? Would my eyes reveal hope for a future of me? Would my eyes reveal one strong person or would my eyes open to reveal the shattered and fractured survival techniques I used to cope?

Are my eyes flat and dull or do they shine with life. And would my mirror respond to those questions with, “Yes, All of the above.”

“Now” the mirror would say, “Now, look and see the reflection of a life worth living.” And then – I would smile into the mirror.

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My PTSD

Because my wounds are not visible, people often ask me, “what does it feel like to have PTSD?”  I wrote this poem to explain what it feels like for me to live with post-traumatic stress disorder.

My PTSD 

my PTSD

It doesn’t matter if it’s cold, hot, sunny, snowing  or raining.

There is no telling when it is going to strike

Are they alive or dead?

Is that pain real or echoes from pain long ago that

Resurface with a memory?

It’s like being held hostage by your mind.

Thinking that today would be the day I am free.

I look like everyone else.

I know the difference between right and wrong.

Yet in my head I often can’t remember

The last ten minutes of my life, or what day, year or time it is.

Are those smells real or is that a smell from a place and time

when I was being held against my will.

Am I really hearing the sounds of helicopters, planes, cicadas or birds?

Or it that the sound coming from a place that no longer exists and

Should never be talked about?

I want so much to be like everyone else.

So I will keep pulling myself up the rope,

Out of the clutches of PTSD and all the skeleton hands of the past that

Keep trying to pull me down.

I am like everyone else only my job is to live, so I CAN live.

That is all I can ask of myself if I am going to have a future.

                                               Alexis Rose

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If I Could Paint a Picture

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My body is streaked with sweat and dirt from my desperate search to find safe shelter. I’m barefoot, in a grimy torn t-shirt and shorts; my hands and feet caked with dirt. My hair is filthy and matted. My mouth is dry; I can smell and taste the gritty dust that hangs in the air. I sit down on a curb at the side of the road, and I know it’s over.

I’m unbelievably weary, all my energy spent in the act of sitting down. I’m devastated…emotionally, mentally, and physically, and the worst of my wounds are invisible. My eyes fill up, but no tears fall. I can only sit amid the rubble, trying to trust the safety of the gray, silent sky.

Six years later, the scene has changed. I’m no longer living in fear of the tangled web of sadistic people who use threats to keep their victims terrified and questioning their sanity. I feel grateful. The therapist that I call my Sherpa is sitting next to me. He’s listened to and witnessed my entire story, and never deserted me. He understands my journey and sometimes shares my grief. He’s helped me honor my resilience; taught me the value of telling my story and the importance of just sitting with my truth. So we sit here together, quietly resting in that truth.

I’ve fully remembered and told the story of my first twenty years, of surviving the abuse, neglect, abandonment, and fear. I’ve left behind those who terrorized me. I’ve untangled myself. My courage has set me free, and now nothing can keep me tied to the past. I can truly live today with blinders off and eyes wide open.

From the introduction of Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph

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