Crisis and Trauma and Me

ATTENTION! ATTENTION! GRAD SCHOOL UPDATE :)

It’s nearly July and I’m finally finished with classes until August!!!

I thank God for the chance to be back in school, learning bit by bit and staying open to where this path will lead. Most of you know I’m in a Clinical Psych program and I wish y’all were sitting next to me, studying and talking together about the health of our increasingly complex identities and communities.

But since you’re not, can I make one book recommendation? It’s not exactly beach reading, but it’s critical for understanding a society like ours where three in every four people could tell you a story about personal trauma.

I think when we hear the word “trauma”, we tend to picture someone else. In fact, our brains our wired to do that; an ounce of self-protection is worth a pound of denial.

I started my most recent class (Crisis and Trauma in Community Mental Health) thinking, “Dang. Am I prepared to hear everyone else’s stories about this?” In reality, the story I was least prepared to hear was my own. My family’s. I don’t think it’s too radical to say that every family has trauma in its history, but it feels far easier to think about it as a far-off problem the rest of the world deals with.

We have to start recognizing there is no bubble, there is no high ground, there is no wall that can keep the bad outside and the good inside. The war is within, as Thomas Merton says. Our brains can only self-protect so much before our bodies catch up to what’s awry and before we know it, we can’t sleep, we battle unwelcome thoughts, we fixate on the past, and so on.

This book is by a man who began his training by understanding trauma through the eyes of Vietnam veterans and has followed in its wake cutting through every layer of American society for the past forty years. This book is a wake up call, an omen, and a lamp post, lighting up a small part of the dark.

“The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel Van Der Kolk is the kind of book I’d dream of writing, packed with research and science and discovery, written as much for the reader on the Metro as the President of the American Psychological Association.

 

There are too many of us impacted, too many carrying these experiences around in our bodies and in our brains, to keep pretending trauma is a weed in someone else’s garden.

If I was going to stop school now (which I’m not!) and never learn another thing (which I will!) it’d be worth it to have read this book, looked trauma square in the eye. and seen my own story mirrored back.

(And if you're more of a podcaster than a reader, check this one out with Van Der Kolk and Krista Tippet: https://onbeing.org/programs/bessel-van-der-kolk-restoring-the-body-yoga-emdr-and-treating-trauma/)

Happy Reading! 

Lacy

Breaking Glass

When does a house become a home?

Is it the first time you unlock the front door?

The first time you sign the rent check?

The first time you order takeout and eat it on your patio, in plain sight of all your empty boxes?

We found our new place by way of a housing list, a disconnected phone line, a quick prayer, and just enough courage to knock on the front door. A woman answered our knock and launched into an explanation without missing a beat. “I’m on the phone with the guy from AT&T!” she whispered while motioning for us to cross her threshold.

We walked past a backyard filled with rose bushes and a bright blue pool. Aus and I caught each other’s gaze as she led us to a small guest house with green trim tucked behind the garage.

Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Boston anymore.  

It was as if she and her husband were waiting for us, and us for them. This little place had everything we needed, plus a T.V. Our first T.V.! On the weekend after we moved in, they invited us over for dinner and offered a toast to our good health and success in California.

My heart swelled with gratitude as I raised my glass, and I wondered whose life we had dropped into. Certainly not ours, with unanswered questions and loose ends trailing behind us.

This life felt like someone else's dream. 

I often lapse into believing that the goodness of the Lord is something I can earn. A blessed life is a controlled one, where every effort is exerted and every possibility prepared for well in advance.

And, as with all manipulations of grace, behind this perversion lay a hidden fear: Left to its own devices, life will break you apart and lead you astray, so get involved, sister. Get control lest the whole thing go awry.

But what happens when the controllable shatters?

A few weeks after settling in, a crystal drinking glass slipped over the edge of our kitchen counter. We were both home, but neither of us were nearby the glass when it fell. My breath still caught in my throat. We're certainly no strangers to breaking glass. Five years with no dishwasher lends itself to these sorts of accidents, and these accidents can often be a gateway to passive aggression. 

Someone forgot to dry/wash/put away the dishes. Again.

I knew we had about two seconds to decide: would this broken glass be an omen, or an opportunity?

Our gaze met. We laughed with recognition.  

This is how it would go for us, the breakers of not one but two Chemex coffee makers. Even when no one's nearby, something fragile would break.

So, who bears the responsibility? The one who left the glass on the counter? The one who failed to lend a hand and place it in the sink?

Or the one needed a drink of water in the first place?

The controller in me doesn't want to hear it, but sometimes responsibility has no one clear owner. 

And sometimes no one in the room is to blame.

The truth is, all the moving, the packing, the changing jobs and finding a new place to lay our heads?

It was pretty rough. 

I'm still losing hair over it, to be honest. 

There was awhile there where all we had was an acceptance letter. An acceptance email, really. 

There were no jobs. No address. No five year plan. We hit the road with all our worldly goods and desperate prayers that everything still unglued would somehow find its way back to something cohesive, something that looked like a new life in California.

When we rolled in to town, we went straight to our friends. Friends who opened their arms wide at the end of their driveway and said "You're here! Let's pop the champagne!" Friends who knew we'd come a long way and we still had a ways to go, but we weren't going to go it alone. 

What relief when grace meets you at the end of your journey. 

 

To ebb what's breakable, I raise the glass that a loved one hands me and toast to everything I cannot see:

Here's to the visions we nurture and the prayers we pray, that even the broken pieces of life in our new little home would become part of a much bigger and graceful story that, even as I write this, is being made whole. 

California Dreaming

Friends, we moved!

There's been a few months of radio silence here in this little space.  

When I'm in the midst of change, I tend to go quiet. I retract a bit. I hold thoughts closely and whisper where I used to proclaim.

And so, when Aus and I committed to a move that would mean saying goodbye to nine years on the North Shore, I decided to put the blog on the chopping block. Everything about our lives was up in the air there for awhile and I wanted to corral these pixelated words and images and pin them back down to earth.

Well, now that the dust has settled, the blog is making a comeback.

I'm writing from a coffeeshop in Southern California. SoCal! Home of tricked out SUVs, everlasting summers, really bad traffic, and our new nest for the next few years, including that one year when I turn thirty. (!!!)

In July, we packed everything we owned and started a 3,000 mile journey across the continent. Our route took us through the middle of America then dipped through Utah, where we explored canyons and floated down the Colorado River. 

When we rolled into town a month later, our car was the most familiar part of the landscape. It weathered hail storms, ran on fumes in the desert, and doubled as a home office when the phone rang for a job interview. 

Once it was unpacked, I allowed myself the first deep breath in weeks. We'd finally made it. 

I think of this blog as a little like our car. It houses a few humble musings and some lessons learned along the way. It's a historical document and a personal journey, and it allows me the space to keep record of the goodness and beauty in life. Regardless of what else may change in the days to come, that's the kind of record I want to remember.

So, here we go y'all.

You ready for a West Coast ride?

Love and Sunshine, 

Lacy Blaine

Found in Utah: other people with our initials, also in love.

Found in Utah: other people with our initials, also in love.