At 4:35 a.m. I wake up bewildered. Ripped from sleep. My heart spasms with panic.
A loud horn blasts through my bedroom. Flashing orange lights blink through the closed blinds.
Is it a fire alarm?? Do I have time to put my leg on?? Where is it coming from??
In a rush of adrenaline, my body knows the drill...
It's not the fire alarm.
Within seconds, I realize the noise is coming from the street outside, where a line of giant bulldozers idle like army tanks below my window.
I should have known.
For the past few months, my apartment has been surrounded by construction zones. Dishes rattle in the kitchen cabinets. My windows are coated with dust.
I leave the light on, but I can't go back to sleep. Gradually, my heartbeat slows to a dull flutter. I curl under the covers, trying to relax my muscles. Hours later, dressed and ready for work, I'm shaken and angry but not afraid anymore.
What does it mean to "overcome" a trauma?
To me, it's like bobbing in the middle of a vast ocean. There are periods of calm water, spurts of confidence. Stability. Independence. Direction. Joy.
Then another wave hits. The water gets rough, but I've learned what to do. Aim forward. Focus on the here and now. Breathe. Work my way through it. From the outside, you might not even notice the struggle. We might be walking together as a car turns in the street behind us. Or talking as a truck thunders off a nearby curb.
There are waves everywhere, but I've become a decent swimmer. Most of the time, I stay afloat.
I seek out predictable currents and stay on guard, yet some waves still take me by surprise -- when they're bigger, or stronger, or LOUDER than I'm ready for. Their force pulls me under when I least expect it, like a line of bulldozers at 4 a.m.
|Oversimplified, but you get the idea...|
I wonder about that word I hear so often: OVERCOMING. We use it to mean "putting something difficult behind us," but does it really ever happen that way?
OVER can mean above or surpassed. But it can also mean repeating, as in over and over again...
And COMING? Well, I guess that implies we're not quite there yet.
(Interestingly, I almost never hear the word used in the past tense: She overcame many obstacles.)
That's because overcoming is an ongoing, moment-to-moment process. It takes purpose, and concentration, and lots and lots of energy. Paddle hard and fast. Keep your head up. Plant your feet whenever you can. Push through the next wave, and believe that calmer waters are ahead.
As a wise fish once learned...