It happened again recently. I completely zoned out, lost time, just 10 or 15 minutes this time. I come to. She is still ranting, gesturing, intense. I stand up and announce “I’m done”, or “I’ve got to go”, words to that effect. They look at me, questioning with their eyes. I want to explain but, in that moment, I have no words to do so. I blame my abruptness on the subject matter. The repeated discourses have exposed the ignorance and discrimination behind her politics, the unbridled contempt for my children’s people. I did not decide to check out. There was no imminent danger,  no logical reason to disappear, to leave the reality before me; but it happened. This time there was ranting, that’s all, an elevated, hateful tone and it triggered me. I was outta there! 

The last time I disappeared or turtled, was around ten years ago, in the lounge across from Rexall Centre after an NHL hockey game. I love watching hockey in person! I don’t care what age group or who is playing. It’s not the same on television but live it’s fun! That night I was with a bunch of folks I didn’t know, some of them coworkers to my spouse. It was a booze schmooze for my husband’s work. A colleague was doing his best to show my spouse and myself a good time after receiving some tremendous support for his business, requiring my husband to be away from home for over two months. A three-hour supper (pre-drinks), great seats at Rexall and drinks afterward for the show of gratitude. Perhaps, I should have felt more grateful.

Nearly all of those present had been drinking steadily since 4:30 p.m. I hadn’t touched substances for 20 years or so at this time. By midnight I could feel myself going in and out of presence. I was tired, I had become bored with the crowd, the drunken discussions. I felt trapped, I didn’t want to be the one to spoil others’ fun. I was feeling the pressure from my spouse to accept the celebrating, to take it easy, put up with the bullshit. I remember leaning over to him at midnight and quietly, with venom in my tone, telling him if we didn’t leave soon, I was going to take a cab back to the city we live in (better than 2 hours away). A little dramatic for the situation! No imminent danger, no one holding me down. He looked at me like I was nuts and said, “No you’re not!” I’m like, “Yes, I will, I have the cash in my purse to cover it!” Sometime after 1:30 a.m., I come to. I’m standing up, I say, “Okay, I’m done.” Everyone else started to move, we all got ready to leave. 

We headed back to the hotel and the men stayed down at the bar for a nightcap. I called my sponsor, knowing she wasn’t at home, just to vent. I felt crazy! Why didn’t I just get in a cab and go back to the hotel? Why didn’t I DO something, anything, not just sit there and take it?!

Familiar questions, these. Why didn’t I do something?! Why didn’t I tell someone?! Why didn’t I leave sooner?! Why did I go back so many times?! Once in a while, even with years of recovery and therapy under my belt, I still get taken out. It doesn’t last long, just a few minutes, but it is still disconcerting. And I don’t need saving, but my brain doesn’t know that in the moment. It’s just doing its best, helping me not be present to what it perceives as a threat. It helped me so many times before, took me away from the childhood predator, the rapist at age seventeen, the violent spouse of my youth, and the verbally abusive boyfriend that came afterward. Anger wasdanger; ranting, elevated speech wasdanger; a drunk man wasdanger. 

Feeling trapped, I took refuge inside myself. There was nowhere else to go. Until there was. I will be 34 years clean and sober in March 2019. I have just finished 38 years of parenting six kids; the youngest moved out on his own four months ago. After years of working as a counsellor in an addictions treatment centre, I shook my whole life up by returning to school at 52 years old. Recently, I completed a degree and landed a lovely position in an agency I enjoy being a part of. 

And still, a trauma response catches me off guard. Yup. Then I call my people, the ones who get it, who know the language I speak and the road I have travelled. They know the illness and the recovery, the healing and the loving. More on that next time…

~ The Red Plaid Rambler

Resilient You, some days just don’t feel resilient at all. Some days the wounds of our story affect the way we think, feel, breathe. The rough stuff of life affects our deepest Self – it reaches right to our soul.

Care for our souls isn’t always top-of-mind. For some of us, the religious connotation of the word is enough to send us reeling with triggers and memories. But she’s in there – our deepest, most authentic, most true-to-us Self. She needs as much tenderness as the rest of our being.

Parker Palmer says, “The soul is like a wild animal—tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is to go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.” (Parker J. Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life)

Are you tending to your “wild animal” Self? She may be hard to recognize if she’s been in hiding for a while…or forever. The thought of coaxing the soul out of hiding may feel overwhelming and scary: what will happen if I wake up the deepest parts of myself? Am I safe?

The wounds we bear from trauma can act like a violent act of nature, re-routing us into a life course that feels unfair, dangerous, broken. Facing into that violence is frightening. So Truest Self shrinks into isolation and invisibility, inoculating herself as best she can from further suffering. It’s almost like we fall asleep to entire parts of ourselves as we numbly attempt to tend, tend, tend to the wounds of our hearts and minds and bodies. Those wounds can be so painful and messy that we might lose the heart and energy needed to feel past their searing disruption and into the Self that is beneath them.

That frightened-into-hiding Soul that is longing for belonging, and safety, and some kind of power in her own life.

But our soul is where Hope lives. A very little time spent “sitting at the base of a tree” and coaxing her out has a healing effect on the rest of our traumatized selves.

I wonder what it might be like for us to think about showing a little compassion to our Souls? What does that even look like? Feel like? How do we begin to think-see-feel past the wounding of trauma and get to know the Self that has been buried beneath it?

What if I:

  • Make friends with silence. Sit in silence. What happens there? What do I feel? Could my soul have some things she’d like to say?
  • Think my thoughts. My deep thoughts. Not the surface-y, “I just have to get through this day!” freaked-out thoughts, but my, “I wonder what my life has to offer me? I wonder what my life has to offer a hurting world?” thoughts.
  • Or don’t think my thoughts. What if I sit in silence without any expectation or demand on myself. Could I be so very kind to my weary self, patiently inviting my deepest Goodness to wake up and offer a shifting perspective on what life is all about?
  • Read poetry…slowly.
  • Actually sit at the base of a tree, or by a river, or anywhere that undisturbed Nature is in sight. She has a way of touch-healing my wounds in ways that my endless thinking and striving cannot.
  • Find a listener who is comfortable with pauses and stillness and waiting for my story to come alive.
  • Tell my stories. To that really good listener. To someone who will hold them sacredly and patiently.

What else? When you (take a deep breath in, hold, let it go) consider (just even toy with the idea) of inviting your soul out of hiding, what comes to mind as, “Hmmmm. I wonder if I could do more of ___________…”? There’s no gold star to earn here. Just a gentle invitation to our souls to come out into the open. To be seen. To be known. To live free.

May we have the courage today

To live the life that we would love

To postpone our dreams no longer

But do at last what we came here for

And waste our heart on fear no more…

~J O’Donahue~


submitted by Sandra McDonald