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Unwrapping Holiday Trauma

Every year I face November with dread and guilt.

The dread is a longstanding, entrenched reaction to the upcoming holidays, and specifically Thanksgiving.

The guilt is because people I love were born in November, and it feels ungrateful to hate a particular month so thoroughly. There are November days I enjoy. Warm, sunny days where the leaves are glowing, or are crunchy underfoot, but most November days, it seems, are overcast, cool, damp with the hint of rain about to fall or the remains which are the aftermath of a good soaking.

When I was younger, and then much older, I spent holidays working. I took the shifts no one else wanted so they could have it off and I would be relieved of any holiday obligations.

Early in my life, I questioned the legitimacy of Thanksgiving as a pilgrim thing. Look to indigenous authors and speakers for more on that. It seems shitty, though, to celebrate an undertaking that cost so much human life.

The gratitude part, well, I try to sneak in as much gratitude as I can muster on any given day. Sometimes it’s overwhelming how much I have for which to give thanks, and sometimes I’m really scraping around the bottom of the barrel to come up with the basics, such as they are. Food, housing, transportation, health.

No one wants to hear of the trauma bearing down on the holiday love. Nor should anyone have to listen to that year after year.

Trauma identity may eventually morph into survivor identity which may eventually grow into thriver identity, but if you’re not there yet and the holidays are raw, painful, and full of gloom, it’s okay to step back and not participate.

Self healing and evaluation can take many forms. When I stopped working holidays and had the days off I was at a loss for a while. I didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, so how would I spend the day?

I took to the internet at times, posting random stuff I was doing that day, cooking or taking things apart. Hoping to be a cheerful-ish presence for anyone out there quiet and struggling, while maintaining that whatever someone feels at the holidays is valid. Sadness, grief, loss, love, joy, numbness, apathy, bitterness, guilt, peace. It’s valid. It’s okay.

Year after year of experiences both lovely and difficult, and everything in between, can build up and intertwine around turkey and stuffing and pie and arguments and cheery twinkle lights and magical trees, and mysterious presents, and shouting and embarrassment and broken glass and cinnamon.

Healing sets its own pace. No amount of therapy can undo what’s been done.

The best that can be done is to allow the feelings to flow and to develop strategies for self-care, self-connection, and meet the emotions when they show up drunk and unruly, or robed in death, or staggering with haphazardly hastily wrapped memories.

The crying and the missing and the pain of being separated from loved ones. Valid.

The unpacking, unwrapping of a forgotten treasure or repressed nightmare. Valid.

Isolation or solitude. Valid.

Reading and resting. Valid.

The anger and hurt and disappointment of what might have been, what could have been, what should have been. Valid.

Because you should have been loved.

You could have been loved.

You might have been loved.

Here’s the real thing though, and I hear this from people, and I see it in myself sometimes, that you can be blind to the love in your life. I owe this insight to my children.

You can be blind to love in your life by focusing on the people who didn’t love you when the might have, could have, or should have.

I evaluate my days.

I observe how I behaved, what I did that was good, what needed more work, what opportunities I may have missed, where fear overruled intuition, where instinct sabotaged sense.

I try to envision how I might try something different. The ever evolving experiment that is life begs and answer to the questions what worked, and what didn’t?

How can I bring more joy, and peace, and happiness into my life? Where can I give something away, give something back, add some kindness into to the world?

I write it down.

I mull it over in my mind.

I practice.

I try it out and see what happens.

Sometimes, it is by not participating that I reach peace. I will hole up with a good book and a mug of cocoa and let myself be.

That is a freedom.

No one gets to tell me how I feel.

Feelings come and go.

Anyone who tells me how I should feel about anything, they can just step back. If I’m struggling with difficult emotions and someone says, just be grateful. I’m unlikely to be grateful.

Let me struggle. If I can’t feel it, I can’t address it.

I write a lot of poetry about growing and hope and striving and opening, but the path to get there has been fraught with darkness and suffering and painful realizations interspersed with joy and love and acceptance.

I set forth with my life trying to reach my highest intentions, to develop beyond the limitations of what I have survived, but when the shadows roll in heavy, I grab my blanket, my flashlight, a box of tissues. There’s a system of meeting the dark, developed through experience, and the best I can figure out is to meet it, greet it, and deal with it as gently as possible.

The holidays can be hard. From losses to joys, and the roller coaster that can come emotionally calling may be overwhelming.

Being around others. Valid.

Taking time for yourself. Valid.

I hope the holiday season comes in gently full of soft, wonderful surprises and meaningful connections.

I hope that if you’re struggling through grief, and ups and downs, and working through stuff, that you find a way to make yourself a soft place to land, a safe place to sort it out, a loving place to just be.

It is enough to just be.

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By Moonlight

We speak love into being by moonlight

Every word and question and wonder drawing a picture

Of what could be

The soft fall of sound from lips sweetly

Outlining the colorful touch

Silhouettes against the night sky

The moon is our witness

This hope growing

Intentionally

In the pale light

Across the water

Under the trees

As wild hearts weave

Poetry by moonlight

Made this poem into this song here:

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Heart Returned to Sender

My heart returned last night

From adventures far and wide

A little sheepish

A little quiet

A little battered from the journey

A little rougher than I’d like

So, I set it on the stage with me

Poured love into the mic

Watched it grow and heal beneath

The cozy, kind bar lights

All the worries

All the fears

All the longing that I feel

For a connection deep and true

Transformed by chord and key

Unlocking every fetter

Chaining you to me

I sing away the blues

I’m lost within the music now

My heart is home and healthy

Sound

Giving thanks and gratitude

For every song I drew

From all the love I won and lost

For all the mysteries uncovered

For every dream come true

We’re getting ready for the next dream

Recovery and rest

My heart is home again now

Returned to sender from the best

I could imagine

Whether truth or lie

Love is never ending

Friend

Love never dies

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Who Fell First

Memory is tricky

Fading tricks of light

Remembering what we thought we knew

Obscure

Slightly askew

Summer days of honey

Golden light and blue blue skies

Buzzing bees o’er fields of clover

Thunderstorms blew up from the past

Roiling clouds come rolling in from distant places

Pink heat lighting flickers long before the booming sounds

A charge is in the air

The temperature is dropping

Darkening sky and quickening heart

We were just fourteen when all time stopped

A crack of lighting lashed the sky

Large slow drops began to hit the warm concrete

Sidewalks curbs and suburban streets

Manicured grass soft to barefeet

Low rumblings growing closer

The light then sound and count it out

How far the storm we wonder

Every minute stronger power

We mark the moment that all changes

From comfortable skin to something new

A glance

A brush of bare arms

We are crackling like lightning

Our hearts are thunderous

Treacherous beasts

At the loudest sudden sound we shudder

Laughing just a beat too late

The sky is fissured

Cracked by light and split by sound

Here comes the rain now pouring down

We run out in the wind arms wide

We spin in storms outside of time

Tumble together in the sodden grass

We laugh with gods and goddesses

We made it here at last

This refuge from the past

Collapsed

I guess it never mattered

Who fell first

We help each other up

The storm has left a promise

We collect it every day

Every breath

Every beat of passion

Every gentle glance of love

We walk away still holding hands

The path calling us home awaits

seashore scenery
Photo by Greg on Pexels.com

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Bitter Falls the Day

Steamrolled and tired

A downward spiral

Petals hit the ground

The flowers gone

The seeds have fallen

Winter frost bites hard

And fast

In hearts like mine

And yours

And theirs

A loving flame that

Raged

Burned and flared in these

Conflagrating times

We share

Gone to ground

Burrowed deeply in the earth

In silent midnight caves

Held by stone and rock and clay

Spirit flowing out and in

To the past and back again

We meet our wounds

We heal each blast

We nurture hope

And in return

Are nurtured as we

Begin to climb

Out of the dirt

Out of the grime to

Rise again renewed

The seeds crack open

Far and wide

We grow

We grow

We grow

Again

closeup photo of sprout
Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com
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Whispering Love

I unpacked my fears and flaws
Audited and sorted
I folded and repaired
The tears and rents within
With tenderness I reached
A wilderness untamed
An isolated beach
An ocean calm and still
A never-ending peace
A refuge in the storm
I tossed away some garments
Doubt and worry in the pile
They just no longer fit
The shape I have become
Every fear
Every flaw
I know their names now
Wrapped carefully in kindness
Less likely to sting
This time of year I air it out
Housecleaning in the spring
Neatly folded into drawers
Or cast out in the rain
I whisper love
Both day and night
I whisper love
Confidence and fright
I whisper love
In darkness and in light

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The Welcoming

He arrives in swirls of feelings

Wide eyed and questioning

I lower my eyes and make space

There’s plenty of room for us both

Will you

He asks

Yes

The boundaries in place

I will wait

For the welcoming

For the wonder

For the calling

For the pleasure

I will walk free beside him

When he arrives

In a swirl of colors and sound

Breathing life into a dead space

Breathing warmth into the cold

Breathing love into the empty place

My heart left when it flew

To be near him

I dance alone until then

Content to be myself

Letting my heart roam where it will

Until it returns for this moment

Of welcoming

seashore
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com