Faces/Smile

Surprised, not surprised at our world this week. We are a people in trouble. Sad and discouraged. Covid and ….. I don’t have a word for what I”m seeing. Attitudes and anger have not changed or improved since I was a child, or years before that and I wonder if they ever will. Judgement, Hatred, Wealth, Poverty, Power-over. The list could go on.

Had conversation yesterday with woman at the store. Venting by shopping. Avoiding her husband and home. Sadness over age and now wanting to end up less than she already feels, with less than she already has. No one wants to be less than. So many struggle with it. Nova Scotia talking about domestic violence. It’s bad. Those on ODSP feeling demeaned further by government giving out $2,000 basic needs to those who have more than them and told to get by and get a life. Here and US struggling again/still with how we as individuals, agencies and government treat others based on biased judgements. I’m tired. I left domestic abuse. I’m doing what the lady didn’t want, and advised to do what she needs to do to be safe and happy. Do what you can. Do what you need every day. I have friends from a number of backgrounds and cultures.

Who we are matters. It needs to be valued. I still struggle with who I am and how I value myself. It’s terrible to be constantly demeaned, undervalued, judged. It breaks the spirit. It breaks my heart. I hurt from my past and how it impacts my present. I hate seeing it in others, hate watching it, am broken again seeing the looks, the anger, the judgement. If you look at the people who are scared, hurt, confused, emotionally scarred and passing it on to generations after them, whether they want to or not, try to see without question. Just look. Let your heart take it in. Yes it will hurt. It’s supposed to hurt. Let your heart break open for those around you, and take time to see your place in these moments.

I watched a grandmother belittle a child, not more than 10 or 12 years old. Venom. I watched the child standing with her head up, hands out confidently to the screen, making her purchase, striving for dignity. I was so proud of her. I’ve been there, struggling for dignity in the face of scorn. Grandmother finished, she turned to me and said, “She’s a little bitch you know” then took her bag and stormed off to the bathroom, spitting indignities over her shoulder as she left.

The child still faced the screen, eyes down, steadily focused on her own actions, her own self. I didn’t know what to say that would comfort. I couldn’t speak to the abuse. Didn’t want to rock her further saying what I saw. Instead, I made eye contact, smiled my best and spoke with respect, “Thank you. I hope you have a great day.” Eyes speak. I see you little one. The spew cannot hide your glow. Hoped to convey my respect for her calm, her steadiness. My eyes and heart spoke. Her eyes replied, “Thank you.” I hope good things for her future. She is strong so far.

I hope that continues. It takes so much extra energy to just exist in the midst of ongoing character assault. She is doing well. But I know the cost of losing life and energy to just staying ‘here’, present in the day to day. Not having that energy, that life to put to normal things. Holding off the looking less than you are to those who get to use all their life and resources to gain the future without the waste of energy to simply exist.

When you look at others who live in that space – the less than – do you realize, truly realize they are gifted with amazing skills and life. They don’t have less. They aren’t less. Many who have had hope and character plundered by esteem/power grabbers go on to use their ‘less’ to the betterment of those around them. I know some. I see some on TV speaking with dignity to those of us they hope are listening. I watch people who have been given greater struggles than me, excel in things I’d never think to try. We all have courage in different places. I hear friends and others at times speaking their fear, beliefs instilled in them that demean them. At times believe it – that they are ‘less’ and that makes me very sad. I at times feel helpless for myself and others. But I try.

Every day, I am given opportunity, at home, work and community, to speak words that build up, restore, refresh people who tell me their hopes, dreams, struggles. I’m tired. But I’ll do what I can. I nod. I smile. No matter your look, your height, weight, colour, language …. the melody your bring to this life … and I get smiles back. Eyes. Face. They matter.

This is long and convoluted perhaps. But please. Just smile. Listen. Acknowledge for good the people you encounter. Every day. Every face. Our faces hold more power than we realize. We use our faces, the looks and sounds we turn towards others for good or ill. Please use them for good. And when we learn that, we can move on to words. Use them carefully too. Our future is in the faces around us. Make it a good one.

 

Allowing My Heart

“My second day off this week. This morning I’m tired. The day involved simple things, sleeping and eating, painting and writing. I would be rested if life was functioning properly; but it’s not. Enough sleep doesn’t add up to enough rest. That’s been true before given some mental health concerns, but it’s so very noticeable lately.”

I’ve been staring at these words for two weeks. I wrote them May 7th, but it could true of last week or this one. a couple of days off do not resolve ongoing exhaustion.

Last week was difficult. Smoke alarms in my apartment ended their life abruptly in a chaos of light and sound that hurled me backwards through memory. Trauma lives in the bones and muscles, shuts them down without giving notice.  This was that was morning; sound asleep at 5 am my body slammed with a cacophony of sound and light, each pulse feeling louder and more intense. There is no up or down, no bed, no floor, no walls, no door, only bones and skin trying to hold together not knowing how to escape.

Between the strobes and blares, hands reaching for glasses, balanced on the side of the bed. Heart pounding, every muscle taut and loose at the same time, pain and panic became one. Stomach retched up while nerves shut down. Direction is a thing of the past.  Inside the bars of piercing tones and strobes of light, a sound. Low to their high, persistent, resonant, this deep drum roll of memory: pounding floors, echoing walls. A burst of anger. Feet and stairs colliding with enough intensity to break them. Before the assault, the sound wave hits.

Crisis ready. Trauma scarred. I wobble on the brink, between two boxes. Disorientation informs decision, but crisis says push on. Work calls. Crisis must be faced. So, I gather myself. Shaken. Carrying the pain. Ears screaming things my insides want to say. A voice finding a way through time and trauma speaks from memory, “What would you do if your house is burning?” 2014, revisited. I hesitated at the question, unsure of (the right) my answer. I hesitated. Stayed. Paid a debt not mine. Didn’t understand the question or the reasoning behind it. Learning the answer is a slow process.

Crisis and Trauma lived in separate boxes; still do. I shift gears and hope to find strength enough for this day. This time. For the smoke alarms; a phone call or two, repair handed off, I head to work only to find later the baton was dropped and two more alarms sounded that day as I waited for the electrician to come. One unit changed, one left, and two more alarms a day later. Five times total the shock wave hits before both alarms are changed. Broken moments too like memories past, I still cringe thinking of it.

Alert is a habit hard learned. Sleep is not rest. Rest is something beyond trauma that comes tentatively, touching a moment. Like the tiny birds on my balcony who chirp their questions at me and the day. Outside becomes sanctuary. Outside always was. Outside I was safe. Inside, halls and stairs, too many corners and doors. Boxes within boxes; no place to hide. Holes in the walls. Feet on the stairs. I can handle the crisis, but trauma wears me down. Rest? No. Rest is the full breath that comes when you have a safe space to breathe.

It has taken one whole week to convince my body this space is safe. I bought chairs and a small folding table for the balcony. Plants for something alive. I’m teaching myself to be in this space, enjoy the sound of birds and traffic flying past,  dandelions in the grass below affirming a change of heart is possible, imperfections are allowed. If I’m out early enough, the morning breeze softens itself against my arms, reassuring. It is in this space, I sit to read others’ memoirs and write notes for mine. Nine months writing, gathering, seeking form and momentum.  Allowing myself to look back, open myself to memory. As yet, no book, but many words. Today, a drawing. Allowing my heart it’s language of colour and form. Simplify. Memory. Just the heart of it, alarms and all, at the centre a hope: HOME.

Rest. I’d have you if I could. Stared two days at two lines from memoir notes. Yearning to rest. Question longing for answer:

Home is on my mind today.

Tell me where home is, I want to be there.