A survivor’s task is essentially the same as everyone else’s: to find the coherent narrative of our life story. A survivor’s story is a far tougher story than most. It has been broken into billions of billions of pieces by the continued experience of interruption of ongoing inner experience – often from birth – by trauma. Where is OUR story hiding?
Each of us is living our story with every breath we take. Sometimes, however, even our ongoing story is not one we are enjoying. Are there ‘bad stories’ or are there just good stories, some of them with some really tough and ‘bad’ things in it?
I am living a part of my life story right now that is not feeling very pleasant to me. I am trying really really hard to keep what troubles me from my past from totally overwhelming what I am living through in my present.
I have been in a very complicated relationship for 12 years with a man I love with all my heart who recently turned 75 and has had diabetes (which he pays serious attention to trying to ‘live right’) for many years. Six months ago tests showed his kidney and liver function to be at 70%, three months ago at 40%, and a week ago at 25%. What does this mean?
Difficult times ahead. My dear friend is not showing symptoms yet of either condition. He states that he has no intention of ever taking kidney dialysis treatments. There is nothing that can be done for the increasing deterioration of his liver.
My friend. My dearest friend — life is getting very complicated and is likely to increasingly become so.
I have MANY intense feelings, thoughts and reactions to what is going on right now in his life. Trying to tease apart and become more clear about what I am feeling for my own self and what I am feeling for him — as well as what I am feeling from what he is feeling — would be a full time task for me right now
With a few diversions…..
Firstly, the 1,700 mile trip up north to see my children and grandchildren was planned before the latest medical news appeared on the radar for my friend — and for me. Change the ticket? Don’t go? Conflicts…..
On top of this with our increasing humidity I have discovered what is to me a TERRIBLE condition within the walls of my own home. I cannot ignore this problem. I cannot run from it. Facing it and dealing with it — beginning yesterday — is one of the STUPIDEST and nastiest things I have ever had to work my way through.
Most housing construction down here in the high desert of southeastern Arizona, right along the Mexican borderline, is pathetic by most current standards. No insulation, single pane windows that can only be sealed against winter cold and drafts and our long season of blowing DIRT, few studs in the walls, etc. present a challenge to all of us (it does get cold here in winter, elevation a mile high).
As I have been cleaning my house during this very brief monsoon season in which the dirt has been settled by rain, I have discovered a water-cockroach infestation in two of my closets such as nobody I have spoken with has ever heard of or seen. (These people are not especially helpful as they speak quietly of “signs” and of Stephen King.)
Yesterday I moved aside some of the hanging clothes in the one closet only to have LARGE roaches, eggs half the size of pinto beans, and poop scatter to the floor at my feet!! I cleaned this closet completely less than 6 months ago. The other bedroom closet that shares a wall is also completely infested.
Of course, me being me, not one minute of effort I put in yesterday to cope with this problem could be disentangled from what I know about how unresolved trauma, passed down to some of us from GENERATIONS in the past within our families, contaminates our lives.
I thought about this as I grabbed hangar bunches of clothes yesterday and raced out of my house with them, tossing them in absolute disgust onto the sidewalk at the east side of my house as I then did the cockroach stomp dance trying to smash to death every single large bug that scattered from my CLOTHES! I hosed every piece of clothing inside and out, then dragged them all off to the laundromat for thorough cleaning (which cost me more money I had not planned to spend this month – and I am far from done. Even my SHOES were infested).
All the time I felt I was in the twilight zone! Why after 6 years in this house have these bugs (that fly) moved into my closets? EVERYTHING in the closet has been affected. These two closets share a wall where a porch, long ago enclosed, was added onto the south end of the house. The infestations is currently confined only to these closets. Of course my fear is that now as I disturb them and try to kill them they will spread all over my house!
I ran to our local hardware store and spent nearly $50 on POISON which I normally do not use on my property. I talked to everyone I could find who had information for me about what the hell is going on and how to cope with it.
I have roach boxes and traps and hotels, sprays, powders and bombs. (I am still trying to decide about people’s recommendation to throw mothballs in the crawl space under the house. Seems to me all the bugs of all kinds down there would just as soon then run up INTO the house.)
I have to launder and seal in bags everything I own, bleach the coat hangars, and after all the spraying and bombing I have to caulk every conceivable crack in that wall I can find.
Meanwhile, my desire to eat and my ability to eat in my own home has dropped below zero.
ALL of my sewing supplies and fabric still need to be dealt with today in the other closet.
Needless to say, these are not FUN DAYS!
But still I found reason to be grateful. At least I LIVE in a house, have a home, have clothing, have a hose connected to water, and at least it’s not freezing winter out there! And, as several town folk reminded me yesterday, “At least they can’t hiss at you like the roaches in the southeast would!”
I still found reason to chuckle last night. For the emerging and escalating fear I have for what is coming for my friend and for me as I lose him, and for my increasing sorrow that could so easily overwhelm me if I do not work very hard to keep it separate from all the other sorrow I have had in my life, I realized that my horrible, disgusting, incredibly EERIE cockroach problem DID take my mind and feelings off of the BIG ISSUES in my life right now.
It WOULD take something as massively overwhelming to all my senses as this MESS I have to deal with to accomplish this feat.
Today is another day. Armed with every weapon at my disposal I will continue to fight my war against bugs.
I still think of trauma – how it infests and infects and contaminates early abuse and trauma survivors’ lives. Or not?
How do we get rid of the ICK ICK ICK and still keep what belongs to US, what we want, what we own, what we need??
I do not have the resources to call some outside person in to deal with this problem in my home. I don’t have the resources to run out of the house waving my hands frantically and pathetically over my head squealing helplessly. I can’t throw out everything I own!
There is nobody but me to work my hardest to solve this problem.
Darn it all anyway. But as my dear friend calmly said to me yesterday, “You’ll get through it.”
Yes. My point exactly. The ‘getting through it’ is the substance of life itself, and the living provides us with the stuff of our story. If we are most fortunate after we are gone someone will remember our stories.
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