If you've been following my writing for more than five minutes, you know expressing emotion is difficult for me. I was never an overly emotional child but then, in my teenage years, I experienced some trauma and being emotionally numb became a coping mechanism. Feeling anything meant feeling bad things and that didn't really sound all that fun to me. The problem is that when we try to bury and forget trauma, it inevitably comes back to bite us. If you need any evidence of that, just look around. The political and cultural times we are living in are the direct result of our being a nation that stuffs the hard and messy parts of our story down. Way down. And now, we are living in a time where past hurts are coming back to the surface to wreak havoc. It's sort of like when you move and you shove a box or two...or maybe five...in the back of a closet, too exhausted to unpack them. Eventually those boxes get dusty, but they never disappear or unpack themselves. Eventually you have to deal with them. But why did you pack the boxes in the first place? And why haven't you unpacked them yet? What are you dragging around with you that's too important to throw out, but too difficult to face head on?
Here's a piece I wrote a while back that I'd love to share with you about how my own box has followed me around.
I opened my mouth and your name fell out. It shattered on the floor and I tried frantically to pick up all of the pieces and shove them into my pockets before anyone noticed, but it was too late. My hands were covered in scrapes and blood was dripping down my arms but I just kept yelling “I’M FINE! I’M FINE! I’M FINE”, pushing everyone away from my mess.
Let me help you, they pleaded.
Let me get a bandage for your wounds.
Let me stay with you until the bleeding stops.
But I just kept saying “I’M FINE! I’M FINE! I’M FINE”
I retreated to my bed with pieces of you all over me and I tried to put it all back together again but I could never get it all to fit quite right. I put you in a box and shoved you in my closet on the highest shelf in the furthest dark corner, hoping I could forget that you were there. At night, when the world was dark and still, I dreamed that you were coming for me. I pulled the covers over my head and I whispered to myself “I’m fine...I’m fine...I’m fine...”
I moved out of that house but I carried you with me. I just could not seem to leave you behind. One day when I was cleaning near the shelf where you lived, I bumped your box and, like a tsunami of black glitter, pieces of you filled the air and scattered all over my life.
My husband tried to help me dust the pieces away but I would not let him touch you because I was scared he might get hurt too.
When I visited my parents, I was careful to ensure that I had dusted you completely off of me.
As I teach my son about how to treat others, I pray that one day he will not be a box on some woman’s shelf while she is a slave to the mantra “I’M FINE! I’M FINE! I’M FINE”
I hate that box you live in, the one I can’t seem to throw away. Although the years have passed, I keep finding glitter in the cracks and crevasses of my life and I cry as the words I can’t quit saying swiftly move to my lips- “I’m fine...I’m fine...I’m fine...”.