A few weeks ago my internal soul rhythms, for lack of a better term, grew distinctly unrhythmic. Swallowed unexpectedly by inexplicable sadness at work, or in my car navigating a holiday parking lot, or proofreading a document for the 432nd time. Not inherently sorrowful activities.
I would awaken out of an ordinary moment to the heavy darkness rising inside my chest. That feeling in my throat –tight, achy, and swollen with unuttered sound. Hot tears threatening. What the hell?
On some level, not being a complete moron, I realized it had something to do with the holidays. Holidays I truly love and holidays I am beyond excited about because this year, unlike last, I will (for one thing) have my children with me. And I have (for another thing) a sense of what the future can be, maybe, if I will make it so. That (for another thing) there is a future for me. And so much more than that.
It’s not what is, but what was. It’s not where I am, it’s where I was. The anniversary came upon me unbidden, and caught me by surprise in an unguarded moment. Repeatedly.
Every moment of our lives is an anniversary of something, if you look at it a certain way. I mean, ten years ago this minute I was doing something. If I was driving my kids to get their hair cut, then this is the anniversary of my doing that. If I was chopping carrots, this moment is a carrot anniversary. An absurd notion. An anniversary, by definition, “a date that is observed on an annual basis because it is the same date as an important event in a past year.”
Emotionally, anniversaries of happy events feel good. We honor them, at least take note of them. They involve, at the very least, a smile, a toast, a special piece of pie. At best, maybe a cruise around the Greek islands, if you’re lucky, or a nice dinner out. However, we often forget anniversaries until they are upon us. It’s not that we don’t care about them, but they don’t intrude into our consciousness. They are rarely pushy and demanding. Some people even forget anniversaries altogether. That’s why Hallmark makes so many versions of the “belated” card.
Then why is it that our bodies are capable of such treacherous, overwhelming reactions – entirely outside what is in our consciousness – to the return of seasons that mark traumatic events from the past? Talk about pushy and demanding. Those nasty anniversaries will have their way.
Such memory lives in the body, not the mind where we think memory hangs out.
Of course I had “thought” about what a different place I’m in this year than last. Last year: the explosion of what I thought my life was, the immolation of the love I thought would comfort me till life’s end, the realization that I had screwed up badly, misjudged horribly, and neglected to take care of myself. The essential realization that I was utterly alone, unfriended, and far from home on Christmas. Total bottoming out. I spent Christmas Day packing boxes. The movers came the next day and by end of week I was flying out of Louisiana and back to the frozen north where I hoped warmth awaited me.
Despite the life-threatening pain I felt, I still could not empathize with my own predicament, choosing instead to rail against myself for getting into this mess in the first place. The one person who deserved my love and support—me – wasn’t getting it. But for right now, that stuff’s not important. The point is, sure, I “thought about it.” As this recent Thanksgiving approached, I did a mental inventory of the last year. As Thanksgiving receded, I was still, in my head, “thinking about it.” Categorized, filed, compartmentalized conveniently somewhere where I could pull it out if I wanted to. But why would I want to? Best to keep it tucked away. At least till the holidays were over.
Yeah, but as I’ve established, that’s not how that kind of memory works. Unprocessed shit, and all the terror and/or sadness it has attached to it, has a way of residing in the lining of the stomach, the muscles of the bowels, the tissue of the solar plexus, the highways and byways of the circulatory system. Since my inner organs don’t have a calendar or a clock, I can only assume that, using the circadian rhythms inherent in all life, my own body said, “Hey, it’s that time again!”
My goal is to become whole enough… holistic enough, that different “parts” of me can’t sucker punch other “parts” of me on a whim. Not long after my second or third crying jag, I took out my journal and lifted the sluice gate. The process began to flow, or rather gush. There’s no end in sight at least for now, so it’ll take time, and in case you were worried, I am giving it the time it deserves. I promise. And it’s not like I didn’t do ANY processing during the preceding year. For a long time after fleeing (everything), the process was about emotional and psychic survival, full stop. Gradually it became about so much more. Some rooting out. Some letting in. Some getting help. Some wallowing in aloneness. Etc.
But it ain’t over, is it? My body tells me so.