I take two deep breaths to try and steady myself, but that isn’t enough. My chest is tight. I’m clenching my fists like I’m ready to fight, and my teeth ache. I’ve got a cracked molar from grinding them so hard. Everything in me feels pinched and mean. There’s a Thanksgiving meal to prepare, my first one as an adult orphan, and abundance is thin on the ground around here.
Once, when I was a kid, a hurricane struck two days before Thanksgiving. Hurricane Iwa – you can look it up. Aside from the flooding and building damage, what I mostly remember was everyone trying to figure out how to cook their turkeys before they went bad in the tropical heat, smoking them on outdoor grills. ‘Oahu was without power for weeks, but the hotels had generators and opened their kitchens. Amid the chaos, people found a way to celebrate, eating by candlelight while listening to the radio for updates.
Right now, there’s a hurricane in my head, and in the pounding of my blood. I don’t even know why I’m so fucking mad. I know I’ve got PTSD, but not the heroic kind that soldiers get. Mine is from the perfect shitstorm of grief, post-cancer treatment trauma (don’t say battle or I’ll take your head off), and the anxiety-inducing delight of being a brown Native woman in 2018 America. Fun fact: mood swings and explosive irritability are part of this experience, in addition to the full-sensory flashbacks I keep having of my mother’s last moments. I can’t predict what will set me off, and I leave wreckage in my wake.
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I said to my therapist, “I am so sick of my own shit. Why wouldn’t everyone else be?”
I can hardly believe there is anything left standing, but inexplicably, the ones who love me remain. I remain. There’s nothing to do but pick through the mess and try to salvage what is left. And what’s left is plenty.
Plenty /ˈplen(t)ē/ pronoun: a large or sufficient amount or quantity; more than enough.
Today is hard. I am grieving, still (always). It’s also full in the best sense of the word: full of food and family and love. Many things can be true at once. And if you are struggling, too, I see you here, in the complexity.
I made a list (because that’s what I do) of survival strategies:
- Honor your fucked-uppedness – it means you are grappling valiantly with a difficult reality.
- Hold fast to your intentional community – these are the ones you choose, who choose you right back.
- Commit acts of bigness – when your insides are bitter and shriveled, expand your compassion by offering comfort and help to others and your deflated-balloon heart will refill.
- Have a good hard cry – it will shake you like a storm and wash away the debris.
- Rest – like, literal rest. Find time to be still and power down.
- Tend your fences – your boundaries need frequent and careful maintenance if they’re to withstand the high winds.
- Let go of expectations and make room for what is – goodness doesn’t care about what you have pinned on your vision board. It just shows up and waits for you to notice.
May today be what you need, or at least what you can hold. We’re here together, and for that I give thanks.