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Posts Tagged ‘Ingrid’

not long ago i went to some garage sales with my mother.  i picked up a book i was interested in and went to ask the woman running the garage sale a question about it.  after i looked at her for a moment i remembered…i remembered that i knew her.  that odd feeling of recognition mixed with confusion swept over me…followed soon after by panic.

the panic came from the realization that i had gone to high school with her.  high school was a living hell for me.  a war i went through…walking away with many deep wounds and scars that have haunted me my whole life.

i have run into people from high school before…and usually i run…quite literally run.  if i can’t run, i hide and run as soon as i can.  i have post traumatic stress disorder.  i acquired this condition from the traumas i lived through in high school.  and while i am quite sure i’m not delusional, it can feel like life or death to me…like i’m in vietnam and i’m not sure which one is charlie.  it could be any of them.  so i’m sorry if you’re not, but i’m not interested in finding out who you are, what i meant to you, what we did together in high school…you all are the enemy…you all are going to stay far away from me or you’re all going down.  that’s what ptsd feels like to me.

i spent my high school days hiding from those who had traumatized me. but they found me…every day they found me for a year and half and re traumatized me…and it was hell.  i wish i would have had the self worth to fight back…but i did not.  i didn’t have the self worth or support of others protecting me.  so i went inward and hid.  it was very damaging to me.  i still struggle with the the beliefs about myself i created because of that abuse.

so when i realized the woman at the garage sale was from high school, i started to fill with shame…and for a split second i thought of running…but then something happened that has never happened before.  i felt a little space open up in me…another option…a choice i had never seen before.  instead of running, i looked at her and began talking to her.   and as i talked to her,  something very surprising started to happen… i started to feel connected to her.

we talked about what a hard time junior high and high school was.  she shared with me that she doesn’t like talking about or thinking about that time period either.  we talked about ingrid, my best friend who died in junior high.  she remembered ingrid.   she remembered how close ingrid and i were…and how horrible it was when she died.  she told me that she had just been talking about ingrid with some other friends, remembering that time and how tragic it all was.  this was very healing for me to hear.  as odd as it might sound, it never occurred to me that anyone else from high school was affected by ingrid’s death…or affected by anything at all really.  i never really thought about it in these terms, but i guess i felt i was alone in all that…the only one was was wounded by that time period, as illogical as that idea might be.

we talked about that time bit…how devastating it all was.  and then i did something previously unimaginable to me…i asked her for her email address…i asked her if she wanted to get together and talk.  before that moment, i never would have thought a time would come that i would want to talk to someone from high school.  a while back my therapist suggested that i might want to talk to someone from high school at some point.   my reply to her was “why the fuck would i ever want to do that?!?”  she said because i will get to a point that i won’t be triggered anymore.  really?  i had never even considered that idea before she said this…that this might ever happen in my life…but it has.

soon after the garage sale  i started emailing back and forth with my new/old friend from high school…getting to know each other a bit.  i don’t find it ironic that she and i seem to be the same kind of people…have similar beliefs and outlooks on life.  have gone to the same church, same groups, experienced similar things in life.  i don’t find this ironic, but i do find it comforting.  connecting with her feels very comforting and familiar…like an old friend.   so much so, that i have kind of forgotten i went to high school with her.  we have plans to go to a concert together…for both of our families to hang out.  how wonderful it is to have friends.  we made plans for me to come over her house last night and hang out…talk.  i was looking forward to this.

while i was driving to her house last night i was not feeling particularly excited or anxious.  i just had that good content feeling of looking forward to an evening with an old friend…and then it hit me.  i was about to spend time with someone i went to high school with.  and for a fleeting second i panicked and thought i should turn my car around and go back home.   luckily i have healed enough to be able to observe that feeling…to look at it rationally, know where it comes from and usually make a decision about what i want to do based in reality…the here and now…not the past.

so on i drove to her house.  and when i got there she said she had been wondering if i was feeling nervous about coming over.  we talked about that…and about high school.  we spent the night talking mostly about the past.  we talked about the things we experienced,  and although we experienced different things during high school…we do have similar feelings about that time period, which was very eye opening to hear.  i am not the only one who went through that time period.  and while i did have a uniquely horrifying experience, we all were just trying to get through it with as few scars and wounds as possible.  some of us did better then others, but we all were scarred to some extent i think.

then we did the unthinkable…we broke out the year book.  i joked with her that this was kind of like immersion therapy for us.  in immersion therapy when someone has a fear…say of spiders…the therapist will try to desensitize the patient to spiders.  first maybe talking about spiders, then maybe showing the person a picture of one…until finally…a real live spider.  the point is to realize that you are safe…to become desensitized to the spider and not be so triggered by it.  so we immersed ourselves in our yearbooks with an odd mix of humor and horror.

and the thing that stuck out to me the most looking at the yearbooks was this…i was looking at children…pages and pages of pictures of wounded children.  insecure children who wanted to feel safe…who wanted to feel important…who wanted to feel loved.  and the ones who didn’t feel those things in their lives…well they hurt others or themselves in their confusion.  for most of my life i have blamed myself for what happened to me during that time period…but i was a child.  i am just starting to wrap my mind around the idea that it wasn’t my fault…that i wasn’t responsible…that people should have been protecting me in all areas of my life, and they weren’t.  the fact that i made it through that time period at all amazes me.  the fact that i came out of it a person who at age 16 put myself in therapy and alone came up with the goal that i would go on to college, and did just that, makes me proud of myself.  the fact that i didn’t die of alcohol poisoning or in a car accident leaves me grateful.  i’m grateful to be here.

i’m grateful to finally feel i am not running from my past anymore. i’m grateful to have a new friend.  my friend is still friends with a few people from high school.  she told them about her and i meeting…talking…connecting.  one of her friends said hearing about us connecting was healing for her…that she had a lot of pain and wounds related to that time period and hearing about us connecting was the first time she felt good when thinking about anything related to high school.  that was very healing to hear and it kind of blew my mind.  i have been running from this for so long, and when i stopped running, i inadvertently helped others from that time period.   in making peace with my past, it seems i have helped others make peace with their past…and that’s a beautiful thing.

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my daughter maggie loves birds, among many things.  we have a few bird feeders near our window in the living room and even though she sees birds all day, everyday, she still gets so excited when she sees one.  she looks at me and does that surprised gasp…like a child seeing the gifts under the christmas tree for the first time…wide eyes, face filled with joy, hands over her mouth.  then she’ll whisper “mommy look!” and point at the window.  i find it so endearing and sweet.  she’s my muffin.

another thing she loves is taking our dog gracie for a walk…so last night we did just that.  maggies always wants to hold the leash and walk her, and she’s getting very good at it.  at one point, while walking gracie, maggie saw a bird.  she got very excited and gasped, yelling, “mommy!  a robin!” and she took off running with gracie.  after about two steps, she tripped over her little four year old feet and feel down, skinning her shin pretty badly.  as i ran to her i could see the pain in her face…the look of terror…as she started to sob.  i’ve seen this look on my kids faces before.  it looks like they are shocked…shocked something could hurt so much…like they are realizing something about life they didn’t know before.  she was crying so hard that she wasn’t making much noise.  i scooped her up and held her, making my “shhhh, shhhhh, shhhh” sound and holding her close.  there was nothing else i could do.  all i could do was be there with her and love her.  i couldn’t make the pain go away for her.

this has been my least favorite part of being a parent…realizing my kids will feel pain that i can do nothing about…pain that i can’t prevent.  at times that idea fills me with desperation…desperate to protect them, to keep them safe, to keep them from ever being hurt.  my son quincy is 10 now and i have watched as he has learned the things about life i would rather he doesn’t…pain, death, war, cruelty.   i have not enjoyed this one bit.

i remember the first time it dawned on me that he would soon learn things i didn’t want him to know.  we had just exited the highway and were at the end of the exit ramp…the place some people mindlessly throw garbage…garbage we all get to look at.  he was so little…and as we stopped he said “look mommy.  a man must have lost his cup.”  he was noticing the cups on the side of the road.  he had no idea what liter was.  it never dawned on him that someone might throw their garbage there…so it must have been a mistake.  my heart ached in that moment for all the things he would learn…things i didn’t want him to know.  things i didn’t want to exist.  i wanted the world to always look to him as it did that day.  the man must have lost his cup.  my eyes filled with tears as i said to him “maybe he did sweetheart.”

i have learned a lot since that day.  i have accepted a lot.  i can’t keep things from them forever.  i can’t take their pain away.  they have their own lives to life…things to learn.  i can be a protective parent, let them have their childhood.  i keep the news off in our house.  we speak kindly to each other.  but over the years i have slowly shifted the way i think about all this, the way i handle it with my kids.  i think this shift has come from me being able to deal with the pain in my life better.  i have learned for myself to try not to put big judgements on these things…the pain of life.  it is just part of life.  and i have found in doing so, the pain is much more tolerable and temporary.

in his book “breathe, you are alive”, thich nhat hanh writes:

There is a crack in everything.  Life is broken, and it is its brokenness that makes it livable.  But we are somehow of the mind-set that cracks have to be patched.  patching the cracks is trying to control life, rather than engage it.  To engage life we have to find the cracks and enter them, rather than deny or patch them. 

 it’s the holding on to the pain that really hurts…that really creates suffering in our lives.  if we feel the pain without judging it, it will pass.  if we accept it as just another part of life, it seems less menacing.   life isn’t supposed to be painless.  holding this belief, trying desperately to avoid the pain, robs us of our life.

i want more than anything for my children to live their lives…i want them to live their lives out loud.   is that easy for me?  no.  i cringed when i bought maggie a bike, thinking of ingrid’s death, but i bought it anyways…i actually suggested it.  it’s still so hard for me to think of them riding bikes, being out in the world with so many uncontrollable variables…but that’s where life is.  so i can worry and feel anxious about it, and i do, but i don’t show them that.  i do my best to just love them and be here for them.  i have realized that is all i can ever do.  in doing that, hopefully they will feel they have a safe “nest” to launch from.  i want them to spend their time thinking about all the things they want to do in life, not how i will feel about it.  i want them to fly.

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