Suit of Armor

They say time heals all. But how does one cope with the pain in the present? How does one move forward after a traumatic or adverse experience? We are a numbing society. We numb with work. We numb with alcohol and drugs. We numb with food. We numb with shopping. It is adaptive to avoid anything that brings us hurt or pain. Uncomfortable emotions are better left ignored, paying attention to them only brings pain, only makes the present real.

Every cell hurt. I had been up all night and felt as if I had the flu or had attempted to go toe-to-toe in a drinking contest with college rugby men, yet neither was the case. Lack of sleep and emotional pain can leave you feeling as though you survived a full body beating. As a graduate student in psychology, I was fully aware of the damage the previous night had done on a cellular level, the negative effects of cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine coursing through my veins and bathing every cell. I tried not to think about it. My body, mind, and soul felt bruised and battered, beaten down and wanting to stay down. I wanted to give up, I wanted to give in.

It started with an email, and they kept coming in all night, with increasing threats, antagonism, and anger. My soul ached. It was all too much to process.

I had been back in NM one month. I hadn’t so much as dipped a toe in a pool in 3 years and hadn’t swam in any training capacity in 7 years. Pulling my college training suit on, I felt as if I was pulling on a suit of armor. Despite my pain and the flashbacks of the night before, the sick-tired feeling and the throbbing headache, pulling that suit on gave me the quickest glimpse of “me.” It was gone before I could put my finger on it, before I could even really feel it, but it was there. A flash of who I was, at my core, at my roots, long before I was broken. Long before the lies, the betrayal, the life that I had walked into with open arms, unwittingly, unknowingly. A flash of who I could be again. Only better, reborn into something stronger, and a hell of a lot smarter.

“Just keep moving, that’s all you have to do”, I told myself. This would become my mantra. This would become me.

2 thoughts on “Suit of Armor

  1. Grief and pain end up in our bones, straining our muscles, as reminders that we’ve been hurt. The press of emotional trauma, loss, and in your case, betrayal, becomes as real as the next breath we take in and exhale. Your words express that. I’m writing now, in a way I’ve never written before, because I’ve lost so much. Here’s a recent poem:

    Why Should I Say “Cure This Pain?”
    After reading Rumi and the Book of Joel 2: 12-14

    The donkeys bray each morning to call me to them.
    They know morning is another new day, the next opportunity to eat hay, possibly alfalfa.
    Only grass hay, though, until the guy who hauls alfalfa to the Country Store recovers
    from his bout of pneumonia. He won’t die, though,
    just inconvenience all of us who rely on his pick up and delivery,
    and my donkeys don’t like grass hay as much as alfalfa,
    so they take to eating the bark off the cedar fence posts,
    gnawing down the chamisa in their corral,
    and generally getting into all kinds of mischief.

    I will shatter my heart into shards,
    rend my soul in pieces, bloody my fingers in gathering each piece,
    each colorful reflected aspect of my life and grief.
    I won’t sand the edges down, won’t sand the morning down
    to an alarm clock and the empty kitchen,
    the blankets still thrown on the couch
    where I waited for my restless dog to come
    in from the cold middle of the night.
    We are born whole, a glistening,
    slickness of new life, untouched,
    until that first breath, that first touch,
    which begins the shattering.

    I gather together, every morning, myself again,
    after falling into pieces during every 24 hours,
    another disintegration , another hourly, minute by minute loss.
    Our 8-year old Rhodesian Ridgeback, Walter,
    is going white around his ears and muzzle.
    His eyes rise to meet mine in constant questioning. Where is he?
    That guy who slept most near his bed, and walked him out
    to the year-long spring at least twice a week, come any weather.

    The glory of words fail me. My nails are ridged;
    my hair is thinning, there are cracks on the edges of my thumb and forefinger
    from outside work that I do now that Tom did then,
    when we were whole, on the planet together.
    The cracks remind me every time I pull a load
    of hay from the back of the Volvo, collect eggs,
    haul and split wood, every time I open the door,
    whatever sunrise, I inhale for him the morning shards of light, so sharp.


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