Trauma.

Last month I had to fill out a form that asked for the address of my old photography business. I could not remember the street name, the house number. Nothing. My lovely little yellow Dutch colonial whose door I painted Irish green, whose walls I spent literal months rejuvenating, whose yard I turned into a garden. Its geographical identifier was seemingly vaporized.

I could remember the sweet memories, the way my family loved each other, and the lovely neighbors, the beautiful moments of love and heartache that remain like invisible ebenezers on my beloved front porch. The ethereal beauty of my exuberant crabapple tree in spring.

But I could not remember our street name or house number. Basic letters and numbers that I saw every day in the mail, every day on my curb, on my house, on the green signs at all the tiny intersections.

Feeling unsettled that this basic piece of information would not jump a single synapse in my brain, I went to Google maps. I saw our favorite park nearby. Our Aldi. The veterinarian. I saw and recognized the cross streets (though I couldn’t remember them until I saw them). But no matter how close I zoomed, my memory refused to be jogged. It was stuck behind a wall of protection. I could not remember our street name until it finally appeared as I zoomed all the way in. I thought this would bring back the house number. It didn’t. That was still trapped in the log jam too.

I sat there recalling addresses we’ve had over the last 25 years. I could remember the vast majority of them, but I had to zoom all the way in to our specific lot to retrieve the number so I could complete the form. I knew where to zoom because I remember how our home was situated in the neighborhood. Finally, I saw the number appear and it sounded familiar, like the voice of a distant friend you’ve lost touch with. I said it a few times, shaking my head at how bizarre this was. I told Shawn about this and he said he had experienced the same thing a few weeks earlier. We have a painting of this house in our hall that one of the kids made in school. A beloved place. And yet, one that my brain has signaled as something that needs to be under lock and key.

Watching an old video of my boys which popped up today thanks to “Facebook Memories,” ironically of four goofy children wrapping themselves in bubble wrap and engaging in a fake fight, with the first line being, “Do you wanna piece of me?!” This and other videos from our life “before,” I realize how our bodies, including our brains, are wired for protection. I remember the day that I drove in that neighborhood, looking around and finding it all impossibly unfamiliar. I didn’t recognize a thing. Familiar landmarks didn’t look the way they used to. I saw buildings that were definitely always there but normally existed outside of my regular periphery. It was like I was floating in someone else’s life, driving someone else’s car. My brain felt like an egg that had been scrambled by what I had been experiencing.

We all experience trauma (if we do experience it) in unique ways, but there are common threads that we can recognize, learn there is a name for that thing, read or hear others speak their stories and feel like less of an anomaly, and continue moving towards healing. But the road to healing from trauma is often paved with extreme bumps and potholes. And thankfully periods of calm. But time alone does not bring healing.

Trauma is not just a thing that happened to you. It remains as an unwelcome guest in your life, haunts dreams when least expected, creates complexities that once were not a thing, but now can never be undone, only coped with and carefully managed, which (anyone knows) is extremely difficult to do when still pursuing a full-life existence (working, loving, holding things together, praying for grace to be able to not just survive but thrive) It’s a windshield that suddenly darkens. We know we can’t control when the road will be repaired or finally we’ll reach the state line and suddenly experience smoother roads. But we need a lot more maintenance, we need to go more slowly so as to manage the terrain. Our shock absorbers and calipers are broken, and the rest of the body experiences the shock waves that expand from each point of impact. We can’t just think or intellectually convince our brains to stop doing what they did that was necessary at the time.

This video is one of millions of happy memories. It represents not something we can or should want to get back to. We will never be the same. But that doesn’t mean God does not have greater (and possibly other harder) things yet to come. But it reminds me that while I cannot choose to just attempt life by putting trauma on a shelf or in a garbage can, I can be reminded that God has never stopped being good. These wonderful, hilarious humans are still that. They are different. We are different. But God is not done repairing, resetting, realigning, remaking us. And that’s true whether you’ve experienced trauma or not.

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