Some moments in life when they’re happening you think to yourself “I will remember this forever.” Some moments happen and you’re unaware that they’ll remain with you for the rest of your life, even if you resist and even if they’re buried deep within you. Occasionally, they will float back up to the forefront of your mind. Sometimes you won’t be prepared for it and you will find yourself crying at work. Or in the supermarket. Or just on a walk in your neighborhood.
Those moments with floaty bits that come to the front of your mind can be sparked by seeing and experiencing a piece of mail in a backpack (before she left, my sister asked me to save her mail for her…so my secret place as an 8 year old was my backpack), crayon boxes (dad thought new crayon boxes were completely frivolous if last year’s were fine, which is NOT what a first grader thinks AT ALL), white bread and vanilla ice cream (IYKYK, my Southeast Asian fam) in a way that is connected only to you and your life’s history.
Thunderstorms. Pepper packets. Puffy, blue winter coats. Go Fish. Phone books (remember those?). Sometimes they’re not objects but scenes. You might witness a sweet-nothing moment and feel something tugging at your heartstrings. Or the smell of a sterile place makes you feel sick.
These moments are like Portkeys that snap you to a time and scene rather than a place. You’re transported. You feel like you did on that day, in that moment, in the monster’s presence. Your heart races. Your throat tightens. You are a naive adolescent again.
If you’re not familiar with the Harry Potter world in which I love to get lost in annually, usually near my birthday, a Portkey is a magical object that serves as a transportation tool. When you touch this seemingly inane object, you are magically transported somewhere. (Link to a very HP nerdy site)
How did I get here? Let’s start with an on-again, off-again relationship.
Which is what my relationship with my counselor was for a while (yea wow millenials all cringe at the sight of those words in relation to something between another person). The spring that my fiance proposed to me, I “graduated” (my words, I think, not my counselor’s). I had been relatively healthy, mentally, and we put a pause on my previously bi-monthly sessions in therapy.
It was a wonderful summer. Picture perfect, in my memory. Freshly engaged, loving my work, life on the upswing, looking forward to a trip to Hawaii to visit family I hadn’t seen in years. Occasionally the depression and anxiety would knock at my door and I’d slam the door shut in it’s fuckin’ face, dust off my hands, and pour myself a celebratory drink.
And then one day, a sweet little child in a baseball uniform popped into my workplace, walking next to his dad. I watched them talk and laugh, head towards his dad’s desk, and the little boy plopped himself in an office chair and spun around. Joy. His father worked and he read (or was he playing a video game? Probs.) and I sat at my desk. Wanting to sob. I felt a few powerful emotions all at once. “This is so sweet!” “I wish I’d had a dad like that.” (See previous blogs if you don’t know why I’m saying that.) “Why am I about to fuckin’ cry?” So I called up my counselor later that day and told him I’d just had some childhood trauma pay me a visit. “When can I see you next?” [Insert millenial joke about dating here.]
My general questions before deciding to either do things or not do things include “Is my life inhibited by this?” and “What will the repercussions/consequences of my actions be?” and “If x is preventing me from living my life to the fullest, being present, and enjoying x, then I need to do something differently/do something about x.” Seeing children happy in the company of their dads should not make me want to cry.
So therapy was on again. Hello darkness, my old friend. Let me fight with you again.
Then, last fall, I met Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist, Difficult Women, Hunger, and many others. Sitting in the audience with two of my best gal pals, I hungrily swallowed up her words and tried to memorize her voice and listened to the brave and fortunate souls who were able to pose questions to her at the end of her readings.
If you have read anything by Roxane Gay, you will know how profoundly her writing can affect you.
You will think, “Yes, demons, come forth and let me slay you!” She calls them nemeses.
And so it was, for me. I was profoundly touched. I prepare for battle. I am mother of cats. I am a Lao princess warrior, and I have an army of elephants, and I will smash. my. trauma. into the. ever-lovin’ ground. (That actually is written in Lao history, elephants in battle – and then! A general was crushed by his falling elephant and that was that. More on that later, it’s from a A History of Laos by Stuart Fox.)
But the thing with trauma is that you do not know when you will be challenged to a duel. You do not know what object, scent, or sound will call out to you, “Heeeey girl hey, I am about to mess. you. up.” And so, how do you prepare for battle when that sneaky bastard, childhood trauma, doesn’t play fairly?
Yeah, I don’t actually have a complete answer to that question either BUT I will say that understanding how and why this happens has been empowering.
The thing with Portkeys is that you’re not transported anywhere unless you touch them. Now I know how to handle Portkeys; some of them, at least.