This week Poppy and I joined Daniel and Charnell, for a long walk on the beach.
It was our weekly training session but as it turns out, it was an exercise in love and remembering my heart. I always knew deeply that Poppy would love the beach, but to see her exhilaration and freedom was beyond beautiful.
All too often we tend to think about ‘remembering’ as the simple task of recalling a past event. But I love the idea that remembering might also be quite literally ‘re’- ‘member’-‘ing’ – putting the lost pieces of ourselves back together again. The re-assembling of that which is broken or lost, if you like.
So, as Poppy played in the water and chased tennis balls along with Daniel’s dogs on Friday morning, I found myself in awe of my doggie and these two human friends I’ve made so far on this journey. Clearly what I’m learning is: that in the aftermath of trauma, love is not only possible but completely healing. And I don’t mean the idea of love as an emotion felt only between two people. But rather, love as a universal energy, a contagious force. A gift. A place to re-mem-ber my heart. A place to laugh at my goofy four-legged brown eared friend. To be grateful, to be hopeful, to be brave, and to stay in the moment, is to love.
I regret not taking off my shoes and feeling the sand between my toes now. We will have to go back to the beach again soon.
I spoke to Charnell for a long time on Friday about how powerful our hearts are in the process of healing. The principal idea is to stay in the moment and go into my heart when I feel lost -as an antidote to the flashbacks and panic attacks. To be able to use my heart space as a place to stay present and know that I am safe – and as dogs live in the moment too – Poppy’s presence in my life just reiterates the importance and significance of staying present in the moment.
Here is what I can say about safety this week:
What happened to me was not my fault. It was not something I asked for, it was not something I deserved. What happened to me was not fair.
I was merely collateral damage on someone else’s warpath, an innocent bystander who got wrecked out of proximity. And whilst I rage against that injustice (and probably always will) there is a light bulb moment in it too: That perhaps we are all traumatized by life, some of us from egregious wrongdoings, others by unprocessed pain and side-lined emotions. No matter the source, we are all handed a play of cards, and sometimes, they are not a winning hand. Yet, in the process of re-member-ing my heart this week, what I cannot forget, is that even when we are not at fault, healing in the aftermath of trauma will always fall on us — and instead of being burdened by this, we can actually learn to see it as a rare gift.
Healing from rape is my responsibility, because if it isn’t, an unfair circumstance becomes an unlived life. That’s the lightbulb moment right there!
I don’t want an unlived life! A life that doesn’t see my doggie running on the beach with freedom, and one that doesn’t laugh out loud again. It really is the small things that add up in this journey. Healing is my responsibility because unprocessed pain gets transferred to everyone around me. Even Poppy – I don’t want her to learn about anxiety from me. Healing is my responsibility because this is it – it’s all I have – a single shot to do something important. Healing is my responsibility because if I want my life to be different, sitting and waiting for someone else to make them so will not actually change them. It will only make me dependent and bitter. Healing is my responsibility because I must believe that I have the power to heal myself – even if on my bad days that seems like a mountain still to climb.
But here is the thing, I don’t have to do this by myself! Shew. That makes my heart sing. I have a doggie to help me with every step quite literally. Healing is my responsibility because Poppy needs me to be strong. And knowing that now makes this journey less scary and alone.
Last week I wrote about how much I wish to be ‘normal’ again. My healing is not about returning to “normal” – how and who I was before, it is becoming someone I have never been — someone stronger, someone wiser, someone kinder. Hopefully someone closer to her heart. Just maybe if I can learn to metabolize the pain, it might begin to affect real change, not only in my life, but for Poppy, my family, for my friends and in my community.
I just love the idea that if we can pursue our dreams more freely, I might be able to handle whatever life throws at me going forward, because I’m stronger and more assured. Poppy is asking me to find that strength – quite literally – in my voice. It’s a process – finding authority and self-belief vocally, but I’m winning slowly – one paw print forward (and 20 backwards at times) but it keeps me laughing.
Poppy asks me daily to be more willing to dare, risk, and dream. To spend a morning on the beach instead of hiding away in the room. Things I never believed I’d reach just a few weeks ago!
The thing is that when someone else does something wrong and it affects us, we often sit around waiting for them to take the pain away, as though they could come along and undo what has been done. We fail to realize that in that hurt are the most important lessons of our lives, the fertile breeding ground upon which we can start to build everything we really want. We are not meant to get through life unscathed.
We are not meant to get to the finish line unscarred, clean and bored. Poppy certainly doesn’t! She eats things she shouldn’t, making her tummy upset, and loves to cover herself in red mud after a bath. She lives both for and in the moment. She lives in her heart space and what she is teaching me this week, is that although life has hurt me – it hurts all of us – in different ways. What is important is how we respond — and who we become — that determines whether a trauma becomes a tragedy.
And it is the beginning of the story of how the victim became the hero.
And every hero needs a good sidekick.
Mine happens to have 4 paws and a very big heart.