Posted on | September 15, 2014 | No Comments
I remember walking through a Freshco in my pajama pants on the phone with my dad trying not to cry. Also trying to find yogurt. But not mainly trying not to cry.
His voice was gentle and mine was fighting panic.
I did cry but we haven’t gotten there yet.
My house burned down the previous November and a girl I didn’t know died. Her name was Alisha.
For the first months after the fire I was trying to finish my movie, find a place to live, enjoying being in love for the first time in years. I felt like I was okay with it. I felt like I had dealt with at the time.
On my birthday I found out that I had to go back into my old house to get the film equipment we had left behind. Doing so felt cathartic. But in the back of my mind this terrible anxiety was growing. Each ordinary problem felt magnified. There was this deep sense that there had to be a reason my life felt so out of control.
And I am in the grocery store crying.
A few days earlier I had been telling someone about the movie I made. How my house burned a few days after. And they asked me if my film equipment had lead to an electrical fire.
And I felt this deep sickness building in my stomach. I said nothing for a few days. Just locked in this ironclad sense of shame. This belief that somehow I was responsible for the fire that burned down my home. That I had killed someone.
Inadvertently. By accident. With my dreams of being a writer.
I knew it was unreasonable, I also was scared that I believed it.
I called my dad because when I fall apart I call my dad.
He explained to me step by step how my fears were impossible. If the circuit was going to blow it would have happened during filming, if an electrical fire happened I was no more responsible than if I had simply plugged in my laptop, if the wiring was faulty it was the landlords fault. He was careful, he was thorough and he was convincing. And he was right.
And I was crying.
Part of trauma is a sense that you could have done something differently. A lingering guilt. A desire to protect yourself from ever feeling like this again. Telling someone about my fear marginally released the tension. Seeing a therapist gave me the perspective that I needed to be patient with my pain. And the tremendous tension lessened.
A week ago I went to a ceremony where butterflies were released to honour lost loved ones in High Park.
I met Alisha’s mother and father. I met her friends. I made awkward jokes and watched them crying feeling like a space alien watching Earthlings. I never feel things right away.
And I watched frozen butterflies try to fly into the warm heat of the sunlight running rampant through High Park.
It took a few days for it to hit me. To realize how close I came to my own loved ones being hurt like that. To see how one of the worst experiences of my life was infinitely worse for her mother and father and her friends. And that type of pain makes you crack a bit inside. The safe walls crumble. The feelings go places you don’t want them to go.
I wanted somehow to be able to make them ok.
I remember that walk through the grocery store. The panic and the relief. How my desire for a simple explanation as to why bad things happen to good people forced me to my knees.
I wanted my dad to somehow be able to explain it to them like he explained it to me. It’s not your fault. Bad things happen. I know it feels horrible but this isn’t your fault. There was nothing you could have done.
The tears that fell down my cheeks were from relief and release. That maybe I could let go. I hope that the tears that fell down their cheeks as butterflies left their palms were the same type of tears.
And I still want an easy answer.
I don’t want to have to make peace with a hundred times. I want to be able to control it. I want to be able to control how I feel.
Only I can’t.
Human life is fragile. People love you and would be shattered by your absence. Each moment we live is lucky. It hurts that we can’t control our feelings anymore than we can prevent tragedy from taking what is irreplaceable.
There is nothing wrong with feeling pain when the world is incredibly unfair. There is nothing wrong with losing a little patience with yourself when you suffer more than you’d like.
From my own experience I’d recommend picking up the phone and sharing the thoughts you’d like to keep hidden with someone who loves you. They might be able to carry it a little bit better. They might be able to lighten the load.
You might feel better. Even if you’re weeping in a grocery store in your pajamas. Even if they are out of the yogurt you were looking for.