Life

On Trauma

The best song for curious chaos and strange days…

So, it’s been a month since the Boston Marathon. In the time that has passed I’ve been thinking a lot about  the events, in particular how the country has processed the trauma of the attack. How have we talked about what happened? What do we hope for in the future?

I was really struck by the responses that I saw.  It was all so… American. In the first few days (days!) after the attack we were projecting strength, resilience and optimism. Everybody got back to business. Locals were back to taking public transportation near the blast site. President Obama declared that Boston had shown itself to be top notch in responding to the tragedy not by running away, but by running into the storm and taking action with their true hearts. The wounded were in a bad place today, but someday they were going to stand, walk and yes, even run again. He’s always a powerful speaker, but it was a statement from a ballroom dance instructor who lost her foot that finally got me:

“I just want people to know that you can come out of a situation that might seem like the end of the world and come out stronger.”

“I can’t let some (expletive) come along and steal my whole life,” she said. “So, I’ll dance again. And next year, though I’ve never been a runner, yes, I plan to run the marathon.”

She said that like … A WEEK after the bombing happened. HOLY SHIT. Really? I think I would be asking for more morphine and passed out, or crying and raging in a hot puddle of tears in my hospital bed. I would not be able to be composed enough to give such a statement.

Of course the thing is we don’t know how we’re going to react to trauma until it happens.  I’ve been through only a handful of situations that I would consider real personal trauma, and I have been wrong as hell every single time  about my reactions, my resilience and my hopes for moving forward. I’ve prided myself on being able to survive and even thrive under chaotic conditions. There’s a hint of the mysterious to the healing process, I’ll admit. But one thing that I know for sure is that I had to fucking process the hell out of that shit. The disease, the death, the abuse, the betrayals… I had to fucking process that. Seven years on from the first shock and I’m still processing that shit.

The thing that has interested me most about the Boston Marathon events is that it makes me wonder about the American mindset. I don’t know if we as Americans give ourselves the necessary room or vocabulary to grieve. I feel like America wants to move on so quickly from tragedies. It’s so strange.

Yes, days after a trauma you can feel strong and have hopes for the future, but it is okay to acknowledge the deep deep pain if you feel it. It’s supposed to hurt. It would be weird if it didn’t. And as the weeks, months and years pass, it’s okay to continue to grapple with the pain. It’s a process, and lame as it sounds, it will take time to recover. But part of that recovery is that you have to feel the pain at some point, now or seven years later. Probably now and seven years later.

Speaking of seven years… yeah today it’s the anniversary of my dad’s death. Guess I should say something about that. I still miss him and I wish things had gone down differently, but with the distance of time the pain and my feelings toward the event have changed so much. There is a sadness there, but the loss has opened up my life to lots of other wonderful things, such as a better relationship with my mother (a questionable statement, hahahah), a true understanding of what I want in life, and a stubborn resilience. I hope that everyone touched by the marathon events can eventually find their way to recovery and some sense of peace. Let’s not rush them.

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