Sunday Soul Reflections #7

Currently Listening to: it’s too late to keep it together – sagun

I’m feeling nostalgic for myspace days when you could have music playing on your blog as soon as someone clicked on your profile. I know I’m dating myself and I’m completely OK with that. I’m a week away from my 31st birthday and feeling reflective, but also unbelievably grateful to be celebrating another year of life. I spent the past two days in nature which means I feel centered, grounded and close to God. Hummingbirds stopped by our porch in the morning to drink water. Deers and their fawn pranced onto the roads and through the fields around the home we rented. We walked through mountains and cooled our feet in a lake. We trekked to a waterfall and were greeted by the most beautiful rainbow I’ve ever seen at the base of the cascade.

Papi and I have decided to restart the bible in a year reading plan a few days ago and Friday morning’s passage talked about the rainbow that God gifted to Noah after the flood that destroyed all the land. The rainbow was a covenant promise from God to the earth and all living creatures that he would never again destroy the land with floodwaters. Papi turned to me and said, “This is a reminder that we serve a God who is a promise-keeper.” I smiled knowingly, feeling God’s love wash over me in that moment, and closed my eyes to listen to the soothing sound of rushing water.

While I am grateful for these moments of peace, joy and rest that I was able to cultivate with my family in honor of my upcoming earth day, I have not lost sight or forgotten of the constant worldly turmoil still happening all around us. It’s just that I understand the importance of disconnecting and filling my cup so that I can more readily and joyfully give to others when I come down off the mountain. We were never meant to process all of the information and trauma that is being handed to us faster than we can grieve it. Because of the technological revolution, we have access to what is happening down the street (thank you Citizen app,) a few states over and halfway across the world and it is often riddled with all kinds of trauma.

Trauma is an interesting word. It seems to be a trending word these days: trauma-informed teaching, trauma-sensitive schools, racial trauma, religious trauma, etc. etc. Trauma is everywhere, but what exactly is it? Trauma is anything, absolutely anything, that causes harm or stress. When I was in college, I was in a car accident that totaled my car and should have taken my life. That accident was traumatic. For years afterwards, I flinched whenever another car got too close because I was reminded of the original incident. I still struggle with neck pain because of the lasting effects of the impact. Similarly, we experience all kinds of physical, emotional and spiritual traumas that shape how we navigate the world.

It took a long time for me to acknowledge the extent of the damage the traumas in my life caused. When I started therapy, I was resistant to talk about my childhood sexual abuse because in my mind, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I had two parents that loved, cared and provided for me and the abuse stopped by the time I was seven. I rationalized all the reasons why what happened to me wasn’t that big of a deal. Similarly, I was wildly uncomfortable naming some of my mother’s parenting as abusive. It felt like a betrayal and a negation of the fact that my mother did love me. I know I’m not alone in recognizing and acknowledging trauma which is why working definitions are so helpful. Even my mother will tell you that she knows she harmed us with some of the ways she raised us. Harm = trauma. If we can destigmatize the word and accurately categorize the traumas we experience, then I believe we can start to heal from them.

The years of healing and deep reflective work have taught me that it is impossible to heal a wound if you don’t know the wound exists. I had to be able to name the traumas in my life and find ways to work through the hurt. Only then could I start to recognize the patterns I had developed in response to said traumas and be intentional about finding healthier ways of seeing and moving in the world.

I recently learned the difference between a personal trauma and a collective trauma. The COVID pandemic and violence we are experiencing around race are both collective community traumas. Where there is trauma, there is grief and the majority of us have not learned how to make space for grief. I grew up in a conservative Evangelical church and it was only in the last few years that I was able to identify how encouragement to “rejoice in the Lord” even in my sadness was sometimes just another variation of toxic positivity.

We would all be better for learning how to make space for a wider spectrum of emotions. We can’t rush people and entire communities through their grieving process. Their anger is justified as is their sorrow. Let’s stop trying to get them to see the cup as half full if that’s not where they are right now. Let’s stop trying to rush the process. Let’s work on learning how to sit next to someone in pain, being present and listening to their lamentations.
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I’ve talked a lot about about how yoga has helped me realign some of my own personal traumas in my body, but author Resmaa Menakem  made a good point on Truth Be Told’s  episode “It Is Not In Your Head” about yoga often being an individual healing experience. Collective traumas require collective healing. Fortunately, there are a lot of organizations doing and centering this work, especially in regards to racial trauma. I pray that we find the community we need at this moment in time. I pray that we find safe spaces to work through our grief. I pray that healing finds us where we need it most so that we can all return to love.

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