Trying to find my bearings again

Rose and myself have been trying to gently turn things around on our little street. There’s such embedded hostility here, fights and stupid feuds and all kinds of heartache. One of our neighbours who’s been hard to live with in the past suffered a terrible loss a couple of months ago, when a guest of a neighbour ran over her cat. At the time I offered Sarsaparilla to her as he’d taken a shine to her. The relationship took and they’ve become close friends. He sleeps on her bed most nights, and she dotes on him. He’s sleek and happy. She’s arranged pet insurance for him and he never comes into our house any more. Sometimes when I’m in the front garden he comes over for a scratch under the chin. I miss him a little, but he’s happy, and she loves him.

The neighbour who stabbed another neighbour has not faced jail time. The victim of the crime is being blamed for being hard to live with and causing trouble. Her garden was kicked over and un-potted the other day. I waited to see her for a week and when she didn’t appear, went round there and straightened it up as best I could.

Another neighbour is struggling with arthritis in her hands so Rose and I have cleared some weeds for her and planted out some lilies and geraniums as low maintenance colour. Half the time we spent with any neighbour we are trying to gently discourage them from tearing each other down.

I’m glad my little black jellybean is going well. Today I managed to settle enough of my stress to write some thankyou cards I’ve been wanting to put together for a couple of months. I’m trying to wrap my head around the idea of community that we give and receive with grace and gratitude. That it’s all part of a circle. I feel anxious and undeserving and confused.

People have been kind, which is exactly what I need right now. I’m not suicidal or feeling like self harming, I’m just in overwhelming stress. I’m struggling to think straight, follow writing like books or emails, remember what I was trying to do. I’m noticing my own trauma responses – I’m hypersensitive, startle easily, and feel anxious and insecure much of the time. A kind of cringe, a catch in my throat, total inability to look at my ‘to do’ list. The early morning waking is breaking my sleep – I woke Rose by crying out her name this morning when I startled from a dream in which she’d died. Poor love. All morning, everyone kept dying in my dreams and I’d wake in dread. At least I’ve stopped feeling like am dying, that was especially hard.

A friend called today and told me my job tomorrow was to be daft and make 47 mistakes. I can do that! I said. Being patient with my incapacity. Remembering it will pass. My lovely sister trying to help me feel some sense of being an okay person, how I’ve helped her and that I haven’t wasted my life or failed or been useless, that accepting help from others is not manipulative or greedy or asking too much. I can remember feeling it, remember that glow of inner contentment.

I miss working for money and having a sense of dignity in my role and feeling that I was providing for my family, and the tangibility of all that compared to sitting up late with Rose through a flashback or waking her up early with my own dread and anxiety. I miss more than anything just feeling okay with myself instead of afraid all the time.

I’ve lost my bearings and I remember how much more fun life is with them! I can’t wait to get them back. There’s so many wonderful things waiting for me. So many wonderful people I can’t wait to see clearly again, to have them morph back from the scary, intimidating overlords who are disappointed in me, and back into my own daft, lovely, imperfect friends and colleagues. I can’t wait to feel like I can breathe again and that there isn’t a hole punched in my gut or a hand around my throat or a forest of dark violent trees with razor sharp limbs in my chest. I can smell it, almost. A place where my body rests when I lie down instead of lying rigid on the mattress, where sleep restores me instead of opening all the cages of my terrors and letting them out to destroy my inner world.

Poor lovely Rose and I, all jangled and afraid. I can see how we’ve needed others to soothe us. I felt so inadequate that I couldn’t stop her flashbacks or even make them bearable. I felt like a failure, like my work in trauma had been proved false and useless, that I was making claims about my ability and ideas that turned out to be hollow. Everything I thought I knew and every skill I thought I had being turned on its head. I have an image of a bird being startled from the cage of my chest and flying in panic about the ceiling. It’s not come home yet but I can feel it closer. What other people are doing to help isn’t something special I hadn’t thought of, it’s just that holding on, telling us things will be okay, that we’re okay, that we’ll make it, that we’re loved. I think maybe we both got a very big scare and it was just too much to make it through alone or even together – we’ve needed friends and therapists and books and mentors and our tribe. We’re not above it, not special, not better, not ‘recovered’ in all the wrong senses of that word. We’re human and vulnerable too, and thankfully not alone. We’re not independent of our tribe, not ministering to them from some lofty position of comfort and security, but living in the real world of light and shadow too, where the dark days are sometimes very dark, where sometimes you have to stop everything and just breathe again.

We’re still having windows of better times, sometimes even whole hours or longer. We’re both looking for those moments where all the impossible things feel a little more possible and doing them then – showering, eating, sleeping, sex, alone time, time with others, housework, admin. Just keeping things ticking along as best we can and staying as connected with others as we can, and enjoying the good moments and weathering the bad. I guess, like shock, if we can cushion it enough it will wear off. I’m stuck by how traumatising trauma reactions are, often far more so than the trauma itself. It will get better again, I will feel competent and like I have skin and a brain instead of raw flesh and a swamp that’s on fire. There will be time to write all the draft posts I have about topics that are more than updates, and my projects will call my name and sing to me and make my heart thrill again. I can’t wait.

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