Girl child. High school student. Undergraduate. Before I was a survivor, I was a statistic. Traumas cloaked my beginnings.
When I was in the ninth grade, a truck struck the passenger side of my mother’s red Nissan: mangled metal, shattered glass, gurney. Plastic surgeon caught in rain. Blood, gauze, waiting. More blood, more gauze. Needles in open forehead. Awake. I breathed survival into my wounds: Notre Père qui es aux cieux… I tried impressing a blond paramedic with my beginner’s French before red faded to black, and white pierced black.
The collision wounded my body, but I was otherwise okay. Mother slept on my bedroom floor and woke me whenever her alarm beeped. “The doctor said,” she urged. “In case.” Feeling guilty because she didn’t see a speeding truck, she stood watch over my concussion.
Traumas: external events that inflict wounds. It would be lovely if our responses to traumas followed this tidy cause/effect relationship, but they don’t. Traumas’ shadows linger. Brainiacs in white lab coats don’t understand precisely how or why. I don’t have a neat definition for the aftermath.
What I know: the physical effects of some traumas are less menacing than the “invisible” psychological, emotional, and spiritual shadows that traumas cast.
Soul-deep shadows are impossible to unpack quickly. Some remain unpacked because our brains instinctively protect us. Brilliant, able minds, unable to reconcile the damaged dark, bury bruised remnants of unspeakable hurt; our minds submerge secret shadows in black and blue neurons that slumber unaware until awoken by time, circumstance, or object.
I was an adult when I found my high school coat, a black suede 90s number boasting more fringe than should be legal in any decade, hanging in plastic in the back of my closet. I fingered the still-soft fringe before pulling a tissue from one pocket and a business card from the other. Body builder. Mowing service. I was a married adult when I discovered a crumpled Post-it and the black-ink signature of a muscular marine recruiter.
I still don’t remember portions of my childhood. I recall one day of Kindergarten and an inflatable “Mr. M.” Perhaps that balloon sparked my love of words and the imaginary worlds that grow them. The memory’s significance is a mystery.
That I kept evidence of traumas untold is a mystery. Why did I hold onto those names? Today I struggle to remember names. I’ll remember your hazel eyes and your complete life story, but I’ll forget your name the moment you utter it. Maybe my younger self anticipated my selective forgetfulness. And who hoards size-zero throwbacks and sticky notes?
Apparently this broken girl turned renegade blogger and woman rising.
When I write about the complicated relationships between traumas and the shadows they cast upon our lives, I don’t write as an expert, but I do write from a place of intimate familiarity. Shadows beget shadows, and fresh blows force forgotten fractures into everyday light.
You see, new friends, before Shadow and the grace story I’m learning to live out breath by breath by sacred breath, I was just another female draped in dusk.
But girls and women and any human being draped in dusk, believe with me: our dusk needn’t define our dawn.
I know Shadowland’s shape and the lies it perpetuates until spirits cave, but my traumas’ shadows don’t house my eternal address. Shadow himself is but a frame for a new, unbound narrative. Shadow preyed upon my cloaked beginnings–and the boundary confusion that tumbled out of them–but he sits powerless over a sunlit present and a future that will flourish because it doesn’t depend upon him.
Girl child. High school student. Undergraduate. Wife. Mother. Redeemed.
I needn’t recall or pour over every trauma or its shadow to get that I was born broken. I needn’t prove myself courageous in the deep dark to welcome dawn’s glow or to recognize infinite, shadowless Grace when He shines upon me, my son, and our journey out of Shadowland.
Love and light,