THE POOL, PIDDLY SNOW & PTSD
4 years old 4th of July
We’re at my aunt and uncle’s house in Forest Lake for the holiday. Their neighbors have a huge pool. Missy is lying down because she ate too many cherries. It made her tummy ache. I ate a lot of them, too, but not as many as she did. I don’t have a tummy ache, so I am in the pool alone.
All the adults are in the shade, eating, drinking, smoking, laughing. The older kids are in the deep end. I don’t know how to swim yet, so I have to stay over here by myself.
That’s okay. I’m used to playing by myself. Sometimes it’s nicer that way. The sun is perfect. The breeze is perfect. The water is the perfect amount of cool. It makes my feet feel better after standing on the hot cement.
I want some more of those cherries, but I don’t want a tummy ache, so I stay in the pool. I like the way the water makes me feel when I bob up and down. I jump up and, for just a second, it’s like I can fly. I spring off the bottom, splash up, and then it catches me. I float down slow, giggle, touch down on the pool floor, spring up again and bob down and push off and bob and push and bob and —
There’s nothing there.
My nose goes under the water. My foot finally touches down.
I slide down and down and spring off the slopey floor but now it’s too heavy and I can’t get back up. Like trying to break through the snow when the fort tunnel collapses. The water floats me again, but I’m caught underneath. I claw and thrash and my nose breaks the surface.
I try to breathe.
Suck in water instead.
Now my lungs are lead, too.
I swipe and lash and kick and scream against the water. My mouth breaks air again but all that comes out is a glubbing rasp before I sink back down and they’re right there. I can see them all through the wavy wet — mom and dad and auntie and uncle and their friends and a couple of the oldest kids and they’re all smoking and eating and drinking and laughing and I’m drowning and now the lead is in my legs.
The water is too heavy.
I try to kick against it.
Can’t move it.
Try to claw.
His face above me.
My fingers open and I strain for him.
His hands dive in and snatch onto my wrists and he hauls me, wriggling like a fishy, out of the pool and crushes me to his chest and I cough and hack and heave and bawl and cling to him for life and I don’t ever want him to let me go.
Daddy saved me.
6 years old Springtime
I hate her. I hate my teacher and her sporty blonde hair and her hard, muscly arms and her tanned, muscly legs and most of all I hate that whistle! I hate the way she yells in my face and I hate the way she looks down her nose at me and says to run faster or jump higher and most of all I hate the way she tells me that I so-do-too know how to swim in the deep end.
She doesn’t know!
I can’t do it.
I can’t swim and she huffs that huff that I hate so much. Her hard hand clamps around my wrist and she drags me toward the deep end. I struggle and strain and pull but she’s too strong.
That evil line of floating buoys shows where the drop-off is. The one in Forest Lake didn’t have buoys. Only a red line on the floor, but I didn’t know what that was.
Now I know and I don’t want to go across that line! I’m not wearing a life-vest. I don’t have a kick board. I can feel it already. ZWOOP! My foot slipping. The lead in my lungs. The water filling them and I’m drowning already and she can’t make me and I won’t — not ever, until I know I can swim — but I can’t yet. I’m not strong enough. The water is too heavy. It’s too deep over here and my feet are burning. Scraped on the rough concrete as she drags me toward doom and I’m screaming.
This time my lungs aren’t choked with water. My voice rings off the high ceiling and it’s more shrill than her stupid whistle but nobody cares and I hate her when she flings me out into the pool.
I land on my side and go under.
The water drowns my head. There’s nothing underneath me for ten feet and, as I sink, I can see her up there at the ledge. She’s all wavy. Like they get up there above you. Her hands are balled on her hips and that stupid whistle is clenched in her teeth like always and I can hear her say it again. “Oh, yesh you can, too. I’b seen you swim rings around de shallow end, now ged over dere.”
With every millimeter of my fury, I kick and hate and thrash and claw and my face breaks through and then my whole head and even my shoulders and when I bob back down, my arms flap like a bird against the water and —
I bob back up.
My legs flutter hard and I don’t sink.
I keep flapping and fluttering and I’m treading water just like she taught me to in the shallow end and it works the same here even though I’m on the other side of the danger line.
I kick my legs like a frog and scoot through the water. When I make McDonald’s arches with my hands, I scoot faster and then I’m swimming in ten feet!
My teacher’s hands ball harder on her hips and she gives a sharp nod. There are twenty flavors of, “Humph. Told ya,” in her steely blue eyes as she turns her back and marches away, and I still hate her for flinging me like that, but I’m swimming rings around the deep end of this pool and now they’re gonna have to drag me out with a net at the end of the hour.
28 years old Summer
I hate driving. I hate driving. I hate driving.
I hate being in a vehicle, but I hate driving most of all. Except when I’m not driving and somebody roars up to a stop sign and the person driving me doesn’t slow or even glance at them. I’ve finally stopped screaming bloody murder and scaring the crap out of my friends.
The few I have left.
Nobody wants to talk to me. They definitely don’t want to get stuck hanging out with me. I don’t blame them. I have nothing positive to say. I lost that within the first two weeks when the pain really started, and when I realized none of this was going to end any time soon. After two months of it, they started dropping like flies.
It’s been half a year. At least I can take myself to my appointments now and I don’t have to take the bus to work anymore — a two hour ride to get six miles.
I hate busses. All I can see is the homeless guy that cornered me when I was twelve that one time I went to Duluth on the bus. His rotting teeth, scraggly hair, that pale green jacket like they wear in M*A*S*H, ripped and dirty. The various stinks of him. Especially his breath on my face. And the dirt under his broken nails when he grabbed me. One particularly long toenail poking out of his shoe. I saw that when I ducked my head and stared at the ground, hoping and wishing and praying that he would go away.
The way he touched me. Got in my face. Tried to lick my cheek. Finally, the bus driver came around the corner, telling us it was time to take our seats.
It’s really the bus stops that I hate. Except when there are harassers on the bus itself. Then all I can see are the hours and hours trapped on there with the one adult unable to do anything about it except bark because they have more important things to do: drive.
I hate driving.
Almost home. Almost home. Almost home. Just breathe. Envision it like it said in that book about the Law of Attraction. I read it right before the car wreck. I’d been envisioning getting home safely on every trip, except That Night.
It was late. I was tired. I forgot.
Now I’m superstitious about it, so I make myself SEE it. I see every road, every turn, every intersection and I see myself getting through them all safely, pulling in and WHEW.
But a lady is standing on on the grassy median of Uintah Street. I hate Uintah. Especially the exit where I got rammed. Every — Single — Time I pass it, my brain slams me with the images all over again.
But this is just the street. It’s just the street. There’s hardly any traffic. Mid-afternoon. Almost home.
But the lady’s toes edges toward the curb and she looks rapidly up and down the road. Then she steps out! I don’t have time to brake. My foot slams the pedal into the floor. Horrific roar-and-lurch of burning rubber and —
I slam into her. She flies. Splatters. Rolls. I’m still skidding.
Over her body — fuck!
The car finally halts.
I can’t move. Can’t even get out. I’m just shaking-shaking-shaking. Voices all around. Police lights all over again. Questions. I try to tell them that I didn’t have time to stop. That I tried so hard to stop but she just stepped out and —
And I’m pulling into my parking lot.
How the blazes did I get here?
I pull into my parking space and stop. Shut the car off. My hand hovers around the key.
Did I truly just blank out the entire rest of the drive home after seeing that woman on the side of the road because my brain was too busy slamming me with the entire start-to-finish episode of what it would have looked like if she’d stepped out in front of me?
I pull the key from the ignition and shuffle inside, dazed.
I have just become as dangerous on the road as the drunk who hit me.
29 years old Winter
I come out of my boyfriend’s bedroom and turn to walk down the stairs. As my knee bends, my low back spasms. I jerk full-body. My ankle rolls. I scrabble for the railing but just like in junior high every time those bitches shoved me down the stairs, it slips out of my grasp. This staircase, though — this one is steep and very long. Old Victorian house, and there’s nothing but air for far too long before my knee finally slams onto wood and slips off and I topple forward and —
CRUNCH — SNAP!
My cheekbone shatters. My nose breaks. My feet continue over my head and I get all twisted from trying to stop and I’m summersaulting backwards down the stairs, every bony place bashing against every sharp stair edge until my spine rolls down the floor and my skull meets the floor.
I stare up at the ceiling, unblinking. I can feel the blood pooling under me as I finally get my eyelids to close and then open once. Finally get my vision focused on the top stair, gauging just far down it is. My hand purposely grips the railing and I lean on it so I won’t tax my back and cause a spasm.
I carefully, methodically, make my way down the stairs so I can go about my day.
I hate these stairs. My mind slams me with that image Every — Single — Time I have to go down them.
Today Winter again
I have to drive to Tulsa tomorrow. I could have gone this afternoon, but it snowed today. Piddly-ass flakes. Not even any road accumulation. A dusting on my car.
But I cannot get my body to stop being a whiny 4-year-old about it. Ever since I dredged up the tale of my first big car wreck and edited it for posting over the holidays, I’ve been having nightmares and flashbacks and flash-forwards (what I call it when my brain slams me with images as graphic and detailed as a flashback about something that hasn’t happened).
I’m jumpy in a car again. Not to the point of screaming or bolting upright with my scaredy-cat-claws digging into the ceiling. I no longer reflexively ram my heels into the glove compartment door because my body knows my spine muscles can’t take another bout of whiplash.
That’s really brilliant. Let’s just compound another crash and the compromised position you would have put me in with the airbag folding me in half, shall we?
Bloody brilliant. You rock.
But I couldn’t have stopped that automatic animal instinct to save my life any more than I could have stopped the “OMG we’re gonna die!” gasps or freaking out screaming bloody murder when my friend almost blew through a stoplight. Unfortunately, I still sometimes do the same thing when my friend purposely pulls out at a still-red light.
Even when he’s turning right.
So I have to do a two-hour drive tomorrow and it’s been snowing. It stopped in late morning, but I still chose to NOT to put that stress on myself, especially because a lot of people in Arkansas don’t know how to deal with snow.
Mostly because my body is being a big scaredy-cat.
I have been like this all week. I find myself suddenly depressed for no reason. Not mopey. Like…the end of the world is about to fall down on me when I’ve had a perfectly productive and lovely day. There is no cause for it. Zero. Zilch.
So I figure I’m probably brain-fatigued. I just need my afternoon reboot-nap, right? Right. I take it. I wake up and I’m even worse. Why? I hunt for causes. There are none. I’m super excited to get back to filming in the home studio and making trailers for the online school and writing and dancing and training and All The Things. I love my things.
But I can’t get out of bed because I’m Chicken Little Scaredy Cat. So I do my mental exercises until I feel the brain chemicals shift from cloudy back to sunny.
Stupid over-populous neural receptors.
Well, I have finally found the underlying culprit. It caught up to me this afternoon in a good ole fear potpie slathered with grief-gravy.
The scent of snow as we got out of the truck. The gray skies we’ve been having for days. The winter-wear and the shivering. But there are far worse triggers afoot here.
The re-wiring of my brain to lift the clouds no matter that it’s dreary and cold outside — the ability to make my own internal sunshine again after many years of myrrrrrrrrrrrh. (That’s my household’s punny sound for Sad-Kitty-Face with flat ears.)
The impending promise of a step up in income.
The impending promise of relief from the stress that accompanies poverty.
The impending promise of people finding my arts and liking it.
The impending promise of clawing my way up from the Underworld.
Heaven help me if I should dare flap some wings, because the last two times that happened —
Just before my first car wreck, I had been on a type of high that I’d never experienced in my whole life. I had just done The Artist’s Way and a chakra cleanse for the first time, and they had changed everything until a drunk driver changed it back and then some.
Then there was that fabulous Hollywood-ending overcomer’s triumph I made amidst the recovery.
The crash-n-burn from that ascent? Hooooo boy. It’s been a harder recovery than the first trip to Hadestown.
My body is freaking out today. Don’t doooo it. Just stay down here on the ground, man. Better yet, maybe you wanna willingly take the poop-shoot back downstairs before something comes along and splashes your glittered tushie back into the Styx.
So I did, indeed, head downstairs. I climbed into bed in the middle of the afternoon, pulled the covers over my head, wrapped my arms around my body, and I let the scaredy-cat 4-year-old curl up in my lap for a good, long, hard bawl.
I then let it get up mad and frothing, and sat it down where it wanted to be: at the computer to puke out its feelings on the matter. We took a break and danced in the kitchen to the Can’t Touch This Playlist, while preparing to Feed The ‘Beastie. We put the clothes in the dryer and brought up the basket of veils for tomorrow’s workshop, and we felt much better when we sat down to finish banging on the keyboard.
This is the result.
Customarily, I let posts bake at least a day before editing them and weeding them down prior to hitting PUBLISH. Meh. I don’t feel like it. Today you get my uncensored sentiments.
And the song I enjoyed dancing to the most:
1:42 AM An addendum
A mid-night fist punches me awake, straight in the chest. My eyes spring open and I gasp, then growl.
Yes. I know. I’m going to have to get up and drive. I KNOW, already, okay? But we do not have time for this. Do you want to make it a thousand times worse by also being sleep-deprived?
I didn’t think so.
I grab my phone from the bedside table and swipe through YouTube until I find the Delta Waves recording that I’ve had to put on all week to stave off insomnia. It’s a ten-hour recording and my channel is set to only play for three hours. This thing knocks me out in under three minutes and helps me stay asleep all night.
But it doesn’t work.
I fidget, stare at the ceiling, huff, growl some more. Gotta get out the big guns: breathing and meditation. In-two-three…ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut…in-two-three…ouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut…
What do you WANT to happen tomorrow? I SEE it. I see myself excited for this workshop. I see the whole trip happening safely and easily. I see myself arriving at the studio and I FEEL the “Woohoo!” of pulling into the parking lot, the double “Woohoo!” of pulling into my own parking space back home. Yesssss…I feel it…
Safe and sound vibrationzzzzzzzzzzzzz…
I’m awake. I get to teach my Tulsa gals today! We’re playing with veils. I have collected a huge basket of them over the past 25 years, mostly silk, and I’m bringing them for us to experiment with. This is one of my favorite things in dance, and Tulsa is one of my favorite places to share it.
I won’t say that I’m excited to drive. But I am — at last, finally! — more excited to go there than I am fearful of being on the road, and you’re gonna need a net and a whole lot of determination to get me outta this pool.
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