I live 10 minutes from school and it took me 40 minutes to walk home with my colleagues. Ten minutes walking, 30 minutes waiting. And not all at once so that you get the idea it’s best to go on ahead, but announcing it’s time to go, then futzing, walking, more futzing, walking, more futzing. We got almost to the volleyball court and my best friend in Country X said, “Let’s watch the volleyball game for some time.”
There was no thought that I wanted to get home because I planned to come back to school for a song and dance show for the high school that C would probably be performing in and was rumoured to start around 5:30 or 6. (School gets out at 4:25.) It apparently was not clear from my face that I was running on empty.
It didn’t help, this sense of my fatigue just not being important.
I got home and felt worthless. That piece of the interaction just made me feel utterly like trash. And I began to think what does that do? Well, it stops me. It stops me from explaining my position or my feelings. I am not important, nobody cares, so why try? If somebody hits you and shames you for presenting your needs or your point of view, it makes sense to stop at the first sign that someone else doesn’t want to hear it. If someone shames you for presenting that point of view, and treats your experiences as an emotional assault of some kind, then it makes sense you might conclude you aren’t worth the effort of trying to understand.
Indeed, I think my feelings and experiences aren’t worth understanding for a lot of people. Not everyone and not all the time, but quite often that is the case. It’s outside their range of experience. They can get it, but they really have to listen and I really have to explain and they have to see the connection it would give them to me as something really worth having, and it might not be. It’s work. It’s a lot of work.
I had just never completely realized this. My life is very different from their lives, and just as it takes a lot of effort to understand my life for them, it takes a lot of effort for me to understand their lives. I know, but understanding is actually a different thing.
I was telling my friend how I am not sleeping because I am worried about C, and she said you don’t have to worry. You are there to give her money as she needs it. She cannot fathom that this isn’t about money and that her parents can provide for her if she were to stay at home with them. I am just trying to keep her with me and also give her a chance at a childhood without raising 3 kids and 2 childish parents.
My friend was trying to reassure me, but just as she could not immediately grasp that my involvement with C is primarily emotional rather than financial, I cannot immediately grasp that she might feel addressing the pragmatics of the situation ought to be enough. Just as she does not automatically understand my sense of urgency in providing emotional support, I do not automatically understand her lack of it—that actually she just wouldn’t know that one child’s emotional wellbeing could be terribly important in shaping their future nor that the difference that might be made in that child’s future is worth making even if it is terribly difficult. She didn’t have a life that gave her those ideas.
It’s lonely, but it felt somehow very settling in some way to understand this. As in, “Oh, that’s why I keep having this perception. That’s why I keep feeling this gap. It is difficult for us to understand each other’s points of view. We had dramatically different lives.” I have different goals than she imagines I might because of that.
It made me think that for someone with trauma, just managing the emotions of everyday life is terrifically difficult. It’s overwhelmingly exhausting. We all have struggles, and no one’s life is easy, but my life is as exhausting as having a family crisis all day every day. It’s the same level of stress.
In the night, I woke up as I have been: I fell asleep at 6 pm, then my friend called me at 7:30, then I went back to bed, but I couldn’t actually sleep. Then I think I did sleep around 10 and woke again around 11. Then again around 3.
Somewhere in there, I was awake for an hour or two and at that point I felt my body. I had all these emotions and I felt inside my body, and it terrified me. It made me understand I had ribs, and I was reminded of the ribcages I have seen without any rest of the body. It’s awful. No one spent the night like that. No one spent the night trying to figure out how to calm down from that kind of terror.
I don’t want to feel I have some corner on victimization, but the kind of crisis just managing my emotions amounts to is something most people experience only for brief periods, not their entire lives. You don’t need to have witnessed murder to feel that kind of terror, but severe child abuse is common enough without being universal. And people don’t understand what my life is like now. Not without being explicitly told, and it is not definite that they would have patience to be told. It’s hard for me to understand not understanding, but actually they can’t understand. Not easily. Not without effort from both of us. It makes sense now.
Anyway, it’s not eight yet, but I am off to bed.