seek the air that is so fresh and clean that it bathes your very soul.
A friend of mine was telling me about a book he read, and I immediately ordered myself a copy. It is a book entitled The Third Man, by John Geiger. The forward itself is written by a very talented author, Vincent Lam, who introduces this book with in such a compelling way makes one excited to dive into these pages vigorously, and yet reverently, to savor each individual story for it’s own admirable merit. Lam invites us to the adventure as he writes: “What happens to people who are tired, afraid, alone, and have no choice but to address their threatening situation? This fascinating book explores the ways in which some are helped by a welcome presence.” In fact…..the Foreword is the farthest I have progressed in this book before getting that familiar tingling that inevitably moves me to dig out this old computer. I am inspired by those words and by the promise of a series of remarkable stories that evoke the innate human grit that is so rare and awe-striking as to survive the impossible, to successfully traverse the impassable and to hang on by nothing more than the strings of their soul as they are pulled onward. It is such a privilege to be a distant observer of the feat of such intrepid and unrelenting strength. To witness a presence such as this is life changing.
I am also inspired because these stories encourages the validity of what I have experienced, again and again, in my own personal life and my own personal hell. It confirms that, in fact, am not as alone as I have always felt. But at the same time, In some small way , i have always guessed that perhaps I have been blessed with a guardian angel. Having spent most of my life feeling like Sisyphus there were times when I felt someone beside me with their hand out behind me in case I fell backward trudging up the hill with that impossible load. But there is one such experience that stands out from the rest, for it was an entirely different sort of feeling, it was a unique presence that came to me without defined shape, just a very rough and fuzzy shape of someone standing far into the distance and surrounded by a golden glow in a very, very dark room.
This post is because I am a woman, which means I have more responsibility but I am more vulnerable. Those two issues held hands and danced upon the grave that was this day. I had gone in to planned parenthood to have my IUD birth control replaced…out with the old and in with the new. And the bravery in this act was that I knew it would trigger major PTSD and that would be a suffering that I would have to embrace. But didn’t know how truly traumatic it would be. I had done this multiple times in my past, always alone. It was hard and stressful each time because the feeling of it reminded me of being raped. But, since I am tough I can usually get through it generally unscathed and I then am over it fairly quickly. But, in all the times over the years I went into that office alone…I was never truly isolated and so solitary because I would soon rejoin the world where I had family and friends to distract me from the true depths of this experience. This time, I was alone alone. with the exclusion of two very close friends, I had recently cleaned house, by which I mean that I informed the toxic people in my life that if they are incapable of being kind guests then they must leave my home. Unfortunately, this left me rather alone.
I went into the exam room and sat down, water already welling in my eyes, visibly shaking, trying to replace that feeling of being a small and fearful child with one of being a warrior, reminding myself that I am “strong like bull. I am Titanka”. I told the doctor, Veronica, that this was going to be traumatic for me due to multiple sexual assaults. I told her that no matter what, no matter what I do or say she should continue with that task. because there is no way that I can do this more than once, i will be spent and depleted and too afraid..and, most importantly, I don’t want to prolong it. She offered the idea of a safe word and i just looked at her, disappointed, and told her “NO stopping!” she got me a hot pad to hold onto. I accepted it, thinking of how much it was a bandaid on a fleshwound, but it amazed me how helpful it was. It was a grand idea, once that i will use again. I was sobbing before I got on the table. I was surprised that i could not control the tears, which is something i pride myself on. I put my knees up, we draped the cloth, and i had never felt so vulnerable. never. And then there was the pain. As with many of the times I was raped my mind would simply dissociate, leave my body in blank darkness and return after the worst of it had passed. I felt my world going dark again. I could hear the sounds of my bellowing sobs, i had never heard anyone cry like that in real life. I couldn’t believe it was me who was making those sounds, it sounded so far away. deep wails of grief and suffering, scraping the bottom of my gut and the depths of my throat. I was feeling a history’s worth of vulnerability, trauma, victimhood all in each single moment….that familiar desperation of waiting for it to be over and hoping it would end soon. Each moment stretching like taffy, longer and thicker, over and over.
I was staring at the corner of the ceiling, off and on between wincing….and to the left there appeared this warm glow….very aloof but warm. and i new that it was there for me. it was more of a suggestion that i am not alone, more than it was a promise. but it stayed with me. it watched me and looked over me, it helped witness my experience. Sometimes, what we need most, is a witness. It stayed with me.
Veronica was crying as she worked. She was crying for me, and she was crying with me. as soon as she had finished she threw down the tools, rushed to me and covered me with such a loving embrace. she held me and she sobbed with me. She whispered in my ear how proud she was of me, how very brave i am, how sorry she is that this happened to me, how strong i am. she offered me the compassion and support that i have always needed but had never once received. I was loved. I finally gathered myself together and forced myself to stop crying. I got dressed. I said goodbye and went to the front to sign the check out papers. the girl up front had been crying, i could see it in her eyes. She had been able to hear my distress.
all of these women cared. they loved me. they shared and honored in my trauma and therefor, triumph over it to do what needed to be done so that i can be as responsible as possible. but in the spaces in between my experience and the reality of the moment….a place no one could ever reach me, there was that glow holding court so that I would never have to be in a completely dark room all alone, ever again.
And now…I will continue to read this exquisite book, with gusto and great appreciation.
Looking back through the history of previous posts on this blog I am pleased, proud, relieved and triumphant to say that, while I remember the poor girl who wrote those words, I do not recognize her. It’s like looking at ancient photos of your relatives a hundred years ago and looking for features similar to your own. As I read I am shaking my head as if to clear away a bad dream or a bad acid trip and saying “whoa.”
Your name is my favorite poem.
I want to stand in front of audiences to say only your name
and bask in the wordless rapture of response,
the applause of eyelashes blinking in awe at the sound of it.
Even on the day you were born,
the first speaking of your name was not as miraculous
as it is from my lips tonight.
A prayer of brilliance in each breath,
my lips against your skin,
your ear open,
ready for worship,
your name my prayer,
your body my tabernacle
and this love my faith
forgive forgive forgive yourself
do not be afraid
compassion lies within you
for a holiness betrayed
written in 2011 at Sierra Tuscon
i have barely any words of my own, to echo around this ghost hall. i don’t have any words to say out loud. there arnt any such words. to ask me my name i couldnt answer with surety, none of the syllables fit in a familiar cadence….maybe my consonants and vowels are confused. “how are you” is so thick, i can’t breathe a reply through it. if i knew the words i would give them up, but if i had them, to speak would feel my mouth tight under the towel, water punching me in the face. what do you say….what do you say when you’re sitting in a grave no one else can see. i can’t muster the energy to speak, i can’t show with my hands…i can only show one sweeping gesture, a display. look, look at me sitting in the dark, drinking, listening to Numb by Theda East and The Soul on repeat and wishing it was on a record player, so i could hear the needle clack as it resets. this is exactly it, in fullness. this is my name. this is how i am. and i wish that i could usher in the awareness of this, a “right this way, sir” or a “allow me to show you in this direction”…mostly….”observe.” just…fucking observe.
this gesture is all i have to say.