i don’t know what it was, a knife or a pair of scissors, that cut my hand. the fleshy pad on the palm of my right hand, a shiny scar still runs there decades later.
i was little, yet old enough to write because i remember feeling it as i held my pencil. i don’t remember any pain or blood. all i remember was seeing the insides of me bulging out. fat or skin or muscle, i didn’t know. but what was once inside of me looked like white worms coming out and it was viscerally wrong.
my instinct to hide it took over. with white medical tape, slightly yellowed with age, and a square of toilet paper, i covered my wound. i don’t remember fearing i’d get in trouble, i don’t recall a reason not to get help. i only remember the steel clarity to not show or tell. the immediate clarity to cover it. the quiet clarity to take care of it on my own.
perhaps you can imagine the next part of this story…that it got infected. it festered and got worse, reddening beyond the tape. a teacher noticing my handwriting changing and seeing the injury, my eyes then wide with shame. my parents catching a glimpse when i forgot to keep my hand loosely clenched. perhaps you can imagine that i learned i needed help to heal and that it was okay and brave to do so. and that i needed someone’s expertise to clean it properly, the medicine of someone trained beyond myself. and that i needed to be held and reassured, rocked and forgiven for nothing i did wrong.
yet that wasn’t my story.
my story simply and bizarrely fades from my memory into time passing and my body returning back to itself, the rope-like twists disappearing into me, pain never holding me back, my scar smaller than so many others.
and now years later, years into facing trauma, honoring the existence of ptsd, sometimes slipping slowly into old ways, sometimes leaping too fast into new, sometimes barely leaning in the direction of my hope, here’s what i Know:
i am capable of healing alone. i’ve done it for a lifetime. and before you tell me i was never really alone, trust me when i say i was.
the god i created was calculating and i was always working to be good enough. he wasn’t a force of mercy or the one who gave me the chickadee song. he wasn’t a beacon of safety or with me as my parents piled me in blankets of love. he wasn’t a protector or the one who spared me from nuclear war. he wasn’t patient or kind. he was the one teaching lessons, standing in corners, reciting scripture in a too slow voice. he was serious and distant, unreachable which made me only try harder. he was in a chair too tall for me, someone who had a plan and knew better than me. he was the one i clung to, making myself believe everything was his will and my job was to accept it.
so i became alone, within and without myself, the safest place i could find. where i could make up stories and reasons that are true to provide shelter and time. where i could escape into dreams of safety and wholeness, time traveling back to any day and make it decent.
in the last while, the magic of healing has gone deeper and i’m starting to see the great Love. i see Love within and beyond myself, coming from me and to me like in a house of mirrors. i see that Love is like breath, with no regard for circumstance, filling the space around it. i see that Love sits beside and in front of and behind and over and under. i see that Love simply is. and i can see that maybe Love has always been there. and before you tell me, “that’s god,” trust me when i say “maybe.”
i have known uncalculated love that has catapulted my healing. obstacles removing, trust in my feelings. so maybe. maybe like letting someone see my hand. and then maybe i allow them to see my bandage. maybe i’ll lift the edge of it and they won’t wince. maybe they’ll simply ask in calm curiosity, “what do you do for that?” maybe i’ll feel brilliant and show the bowl i’ve hidden under my bed, white and inconveniently shallow. maybe their face stays neutral so i pull out the brown bottle, with white lid and embossed first aid cross. maybe i decide i trust them and reveal the damp towel that holds many day’s worth of the liquid that once was pure and now vile. maybe they look open and i take the whole bandage off, careful to keep the sticky parts free, so it can reattach. maybe i show them how i can take the lid off with one hand, pour carefully with my left hand, something i’ve perfected over time. maybe they will watch with satisfaction at the bubbles after i tell them, “this part used to scare me but now it’s just interesting.” maybe they’ll sit with me, in neutral Love, as i let the air dry it, then watch me put the bandage back on, my left hand proving equal dominance. maybe they’ll not suggest i need a new bandage as i pour the bowl out onto the towel. and then maybe, as i’m about to tuck the bowl and bottle and towel under the bed, avoiding the metal frame, they nudge their shoulders up and say, “maybe you could leave it here…so it’s closer for next time?” and maybe i look at them, nod and fold the towel, the wet parts to the inside, enough for now.
and maybe i line them up, a trio of tools: towel and bottle and bowl.
One thought on “towel and bottle and bowl”
I really appreciate your willingness to tell us what it’s like. It’s a gift for us listeners to be able to deepen our understanding. So, thank you. Last week for work, we studied an article about trauma and babies. One thing that amazes me is their instinctual response to pain, which is to shut it off, so they end up having very high pain tolerance. I was reminded of this reading your post.