wake up and do it

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“so you wake up…and that’s what you do,” she said to me. i had just rambled my heart loose while sipping gin from a repurposed salsa jar. “yeah, i guess i do,” i said to her.

words from hymns taunt me and strip me of hope.
the smell of dial soap closes my eyes.
the tag line on public radio, “think about it dot org,” furrows my brow.
hair rollers. old school video games.
maggots. milk. pickles.
lionel richie. sade. nude panty hose. vinegar.
butter knives. spoons. string. the movie airplane.
pictures of white furniture in a white room. incense cones.
pepsi. benson and hedges. jeopardy.
bass pulsing. sirens. cracks in asphalt. ice cream trucks.
yogurt. black beans. bandanas.
white hotel sheets. forced air coming on.
red carpet. blue carpet. judy blume books.
rat tail combs. converse shoes. american flags.
coffee stir sticks. milk in cartons. mushrooms.
roll away beds. bunk beds. michael jackson. hot tubs.
white dogs. black dogs. chain link fence.
blankets over windows. above ground pools. pull out couches.
yellow linoleum. baseball bats. watermelon candy.
stained glass. pink industrial soap. weeping willow trees.
peace signs. wood glue. tang.
green vans. cartoons. fried chicken.
overpasses. neglected yards. plastic riding toys.
quarters on a sidewalk. bananas. stop signs. upholstered chairs outside.
cars driving slower than the speed limit. cars driving faster.
people walking with plastic grocery bags.
new pencils. metal lunchboxes. tina turner.
crossing busy streets on foot. kmart. heavy breathing.
looped extension cords. fat white men. uncovered mattresses.
grainy movies. polyester comforters. sound systems with glass doors.
45 records. microwaves. tears for fears. the outsiders.
the color blue. boxes. tube tops. tents. marigolds.
green peppers. maple trees. lightning bugs.
charcoal grills. white undershirts. highways.
the words karma, blessed, unconditional, just,
all powerful, all loving, protector.

my heart rate increases with every line. my body literally moves in a new direction, anywhere to get my mind away from the trigger. and now i stop. stay still while moving. breathe while freezing. ride the wave while fighting. will myself to soften. melt. open. let it move through. see what it’s about.

hear your son tell you they played jeopardy in school and let yourself remember: remember the time you walked through the covered window house and stopped at the doorway where the obese mom was in bed, skin flopping over the mattress sagging under her weight, smoking, a full ashtray next to her, watching jeopardy. remember looking at her, different than your own mom, with toe nails yellow and so long they curved around to meet the fleshy pads below. remember her smiling at you with weird eyes and then yelling at her daughters. remember spending the night in that house, sleeping in the living room on the floor, the blue glow of the tv suddenly lighting the room giving life to rape depicted by a fat white man with brown hair and a screaming blond woman. remember going back to play there again.

coffee is poured, sun’s coming in, toasted bread with pieces of hazelnut just popped up, reach in the kitchen drawer for a butter knife and let yourself remember: remember the metal on your throat. remember the brown and yellow kitchen floor under you. remember the counter out of the corner of your eye holding kool-aid and white bread and burning incense. remember his arms and legs strong with anger holding you down. remember not understanding what you did wrong, remember him saying he wanted to kill you. remember your friend screaming for him to stop. remember going back to play again and again.

come home from work, full and tired, free the baby from her car seat and bring her to breast, escaping her for a moment, milk sprays and let yourself remember: remember the magazines in their bathroom. remember wondering why all those people were all naked together and why there was milk over them. remember more magazines and the movies and the brown textured carpet.

listen to high schoolers talk about relationships, decent and balanced and let yourself remember: remember wishing your high school boyfriend would beat you so then you wouldn’t owe him anything. remember thinking you’d have a big balance in the virtual bank of transactions. remember that he never came close to hurting you and never said you owed him a thing.

walk down a friend’s narrow stairway and remember. go to a bluegrass festival, see a canvas tent and remember. see stained glass and remember. put food in your grocery cart and remember. get utensils for snack time and remember. watch tv in a dark room and remember. cross an abandoned parking lot and remember. go to church and remember. this is my work.

i wake up and remember and wait to feel. i remember things as though they are happening right in front of me and feeling never comes. i’m there, resigned to the moments. is that part of me still safely hidden too far away? or did she leave so quickly there was no feeling absorbed? or was there a divine something that swooped in and protected my heart, gloved hands around it or even a metal cage that would have to be dismantled some day, but was worth it? was there a great mother who decided i needed my eyes and ears to keep track, but my heart was off limits? was there a great father who decided to morph ahead and behind to smooth the way so it would take almost nothing to exist? did the shell of me walk through only to report back and make new plans for safety? remember you weren’t all there.

so those triggers: the signs and objects and songs and words, the gross perversions of everyday things. i wake up and decide to do it again. allow myself to see them and notice what simmers in me. some days it feels like an interesting experiment, exposing my active eyes and mind, my genius level of recall. some days it feels like a loud, slow rush, threatening to swallow me with mocking gulps.

they are opportunities to heal. i believe with every remembering, i put it to rest. always a nearly effortless blink away from respite:  close eyes, lower shoulders, breathe, soften, melt, open.

then wake up and do it again.

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anyone can slay a dragon, she told me, but try waking up every morning & loving the world all over again. that’s what takes a real hero. -brian andreas

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4 thoughts on “wake up and do it

  1. As I’ve come to expect from you, Kristen, brilliant, courageous, familiar. And I always, with every essay, feel so much gratitude to you for using your skill and talent, your energy, your time, to articulate the experience of surviving childhood trauma. I have found it so difficult to put into words, so your doing it for me is a precious gift.

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  2. Thank you for being brave. We need more brave souls like you to help people like me (work w/ kids who have been abused/neglected) to have more empathy and a better understanding of how past trauma affects each of us in the present day. Thank you so much. Take care.

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