I’ve been waking up in a state this week. Well, Monday I did. And today I did. I can’t remember yesterday.

Monday, I woke up in a deep state of terror. I was in that moment when Yuri’s men came pounding on the door and I couldn’t get out of it. I woke up at 3 am and I think it was 8 before I calmed down.

Today, I’m angry. Being in parts, I get to be an angry toddler and kick my feet and make those angry toddler noises. I fell asleep angry, my neighbours woke me in the night shaking the house by pounding on something or other and I got to be angry at midnight, and I woke up angry all over again.

That’s a lot of toddler rage.

The toddler me is angry there are no do-overs in life and no one has the magic power to make Nata not dead. It’s tough. It’s very tough.

But I have an idea a part of the difficulty is that there are two problems rolled into one for me—two traumas, really. One is simple loss, and that’s bad enough. The other is the trauma of the way she died. I would have been traumatized by what I saw even if Natalya had been a stranger. And she was my best friend, my everything.

The loss doesn’t have the same solution as the trauma.

I have been pondering lately how I had no choices about any of it. That’s a core part of the trauma. I didn’t have a choice about whether Natalya risked her life in the first place. I didn’t have a choice about how Yuri made an example out of her. I didn’t even have many choices about how I reacted to what I saw, because someone was holding onto my arm—and I still don’t really know who it was. I’ve been assuming it was my dad, but I don’t know. It could have been one of the girls.

The powerlessness of it is intensely, intensely overwhelming, and I’ve started thinking that exercising small bits of power is the way to get out of the broken record states I’m ending up in these days. Stand up. Get a drink of water. Turn on the light. Turn off the light. Do something. Anything. To have some kind of control again. They say this is generally a good idea, but it’s been less important with other kinds of trauma that have come up for me.

I’m also thinking that there’s a choice in the bigger picture of things. The toddler-me wakes up and wants to be dead so I can be with Nata. Pretty much everyone has cycled through that. Almost all the parts have wanted to die, and living has seemed to them at some points at least as this horrible, bleak, dreary thing forced upon them, like plain, gloppy oatmeal.

Except it’s not forced on me. It’s not forced on me and it’s not accidental. I chose it. I keep choosing it every day. I still have an unnecessary coil of rope in the cabinet I didn’t need for hanging up laundry. I still have a suitable beam in the living room. I go on not using them. In the worst moments, I do use various mental tricks to get myself not to use them—I do “forget” where the rope is. I do insist I stay still and not move until the urge passes, because a still person cannot suicide. But those are not defaults. Those are choices.

I didn’t choose to be born—I don’t think—but I choose to keep living. I am not powerless. There are many reasons I might live, but living in the end has been entirely up to me.

I do it mainly because of Natalya, but she’s not making me. She can’t. I don’t know that she would try if she could. I think I have been telling myself that she is, that living is her rule for me. It’s not. It’s mine.

Because her death has a parental quality to it, parts of me respond to it like unruly children and resist. But she’s not going to send me to my room if I decide to die. There’s no reason to go on arguing with her about it, Nata, I don’t want to live without you. I want to die too. I don’t need to keep saying that. It’s up to me. It has always been up to me. And I decided decades ago that living was the right thing to do.

If she had the courage to risk death, how can I not find the courage to risk living? That’s the crux of it, but that’s not a no-brainer. It’s not a done deal. It’s a choice. I made it once. I keep making it for more or less the same reasons.

So I am not powerless. I am powerless over her death, but I am not powerless over everything else. I am not powerless over my own life.


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