Memory Stored, Memory Waiting; A Journey and Roadmap of Recovering from Trauma.
In this book, I share how we can recover from trauma and find grace and peace. It is a primer on how to live with an open heart. It is a path to finding forgiveness and the way home to our inner beauty.
CHAPTER 1: BEAUTY
Secrets broke me down. Sheltered, unwanted emotions that outgrew hiding places over time; never a space large enough or strong enough to contain them. One childhood secret turned into two and away they went as I grew into adulthood. Each secret creating another secret to keep the previous ones quiet. This secretiveness unintentionally became second nature and I was silenced by my desire to forget. It was this populated silence which started my disintegration.
These secrets broke out incrementally. First, sending out imperceptible and disruptive rootlets of anger, fear, revenge and sadness from the dark, hidden places I had stored these emotions. Later, and growing stronger over time, they fed on energy stolen from my happiness. All the while, and unknown to me, my management of them was slowly fracturing.
I became restless, uncomfortable with my inability to control myself. Eventually, I was dimly aware that something was not right. Things started falling apart - even though life had tried to get my attention, warning me to pay attention in the same way that an outdoor motion-detector light alerts us when a thief tries to sneak invisibly by as we are sitting quietly inside our home, minding our own business.
These inner alerts were small at first, irritations that I attempted to send back into the once effective closet of silence. As life sent stronger alerts to awaken me, I worked harder at silencing them. The stronger those messages became, the more I tried to numb them. When I couldn’t numb them, I numbed myself. I worked harder and longer hours, was often on the move, tried yet one more time to find the perfect relationship. Eventually, life started shredding my spirit. Ultimately, my life crashed.
I didn’t even know I was keeping secrets.
I gaze out over the broad expanse of a northern Minnesota lake, much as I have looked out over my life. Two small, far-off islands caught under a greying sky are distinctly etched in relief against the mile-off shore, bringing clarity to hidden nooks and crannies. What other wild things needing refuge have huddled in those protective coves?
I have studied these islands over three decades, from all directions, and still I see something new each time. Their trees stand tall and resolute, changed, of course, by the fierce storms that challenge their strength and resiliency. Still, there they are, embedded into granite. Small beginnings of roots weaving their way through bedrock cracks, eventually leading to solid anchorage. These trees thriving despite their hardscrabble beginnings.
Here in this North Land, wolves howl from deep within towering White and Red Pines, the clannish Black Spruce embrace this crooked shoreline. Loons serenade long into the surrendered night, calling each other from lake to lake, filling my soul with a lonely fulfillment. I have watched stars and moon and northern lights far overhead only to find out later that we humans were barely in existence when the twinkling I saw was just commencing.
I look out from on top a cabin roof, a cabin built in the early 1900’s. I have been coming here for over a third of its, and my, life. I was introduced to this haven at nineteen, when Evie, the mother of my friend Sheri, took me under her succoring wing. As is the way of a nurturing, inner-sighted Elder, Evie saw my hidden places as clearly as I now see the island’s secret places; she harbored but did not frighten a wounded spirit.
It is important to have a place of refuge.
A sanctuary where spirits unburden, hearts heal, souls awaken. Where we remember what is important, contemplate what’s necessary. Without contemplation, it is difficult to find our way home when we lose our way in life.
This cabin is where my navigational skills found parentage, both on water and in life. As I had to learn bearings and critical skills to traverse the waterways of this far northland, so did I have to learn how to navigate my life.
As anyone who has ever traversed rough waters knows, finding your way has nothing to do with linear reckoning. In the middle of a storm, you can visit and revisit the same exact place. As we unscramble our way homeward, we sometimes look behind, then ahead, then behind again, over and over, to discover our way. It can be a circuitous journey.
I love the water. It has been my companion in times of contemplation. Even now as I gaze up the lake and into what is ahead, it has been equally important for me to look back and into what was. Just as it is necessary to look behind you when traversing the wilderness as you fix your bearings to navigate your way, the same is true in life. We must look backwards to understand how to move forwards.
For those of us raised in a life that carried more upset than not, this is even more important. If we do not look back, we will not understand that suffering and love intermingle and mature us. Even when during my first visit to this cabin I thought I could exchange suffering for love, it was the long-distance view that brought into focus that love and suffering work side by side in creating a beautiful life
Beauty. It is in this experience of looking that I understood a different definition of beauty, a spiritual definition. Beauty which encompasses all my dark places; my hurts, fears, misgivings, misconceptions, the misunderstandings that I carry and let go. Beauty which encompasses gentleness, love, the quiet mind when moved beyond thought, the intakes of lovely air, the mothering water, our gifts within to give this world. We all have them, you know.
Beauty. Always etching its wonderful, quirky way within the rich pathway of our hearts.
The heart. We can live without a brain but not without a heart. It carries our life’s blood, a muscle strong enough to send pints of it coursing through our body, no matter the height or weight of it. Over 60,000 miles of veins and arteries in a child’s body. Do you know that some people who have received a transplanted heart also report of acquiring desires, loves, cravings of the deceased who gave that gift of life? What a mystery.
The Heart carries our soul’s “ichor” – the ethereal, golden liquid which is the blood of gods and immortals if we learn from story, and story is a valuable place from which to learn. The Heart, the interpreter of two different manifestations of being: our physical and non-physical existence. It is a physical and emotional muscle. It is our mortal keeper of life and death. It is also a lifeline, a doorway, a bridge-way with what we define as sacred. A refuge always carried but sometimes unknown and often forgotten.
It was my heart that started me looking; an opening of love which occasioned the uptick in my fallible heart, my ichor to awaken. Oh, the first time we fall in love! So momentous, so exhilarating, we think it will never end, we feel as powerful as those goddesses and gods and immortalize those first wild emotions deep within our memory. The recklessness one feels can be dumbfounding. It is a shock unlike any other. Beauty and suffering mixed together in a giddy ascent and descent dependent on the moment. The ascent in the beginning, the startling opening, the unrivaled beauty, the lightness of just being. The descent, the despair, the devastating sorrow when ending. Love is a fierceness able to open a closed heart and close an opening heart and send it into a backwater of hiding. Once opened, this doorway can never be fully closed again. We have that memory seared deep within us. A memory stored is a memory waiting.
My first experience of falling in love would open doorways to memories silently built up. Memories buried so deeply within my emotional body it took a shock to awaken them. Love was that shock. It was more beautiful than anything I had experienced; a contradictory, emotional opposite of what I remembered growing up. Beauty and suffering mixed together in this first love. The intensity of these emotional extremes pierced a shielding inside me; an armor I wasn’t aware I had built.
For some of us, childhood is kidnapped, innocence tucked into a forgotten memory with pain our unmistakable teacher. What we grow up to think of as wise is really a set of skills learned to keep us alive; the child masquerading in an adult body, old before her or his time; the wisdom a stunting of proper maturation, a consequence of experiences during childhood locked away.
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