Today was an emotionally charged day for me. I felt as if I had to confront two completely different realities, yet my mind kept wondering “if only they could understand one another”.…perhaps that is what I am trying to accomplish by writing this.
My morning started early, with my assisting Barry while he photographed a class of recruits. The day could not have started any more “positive”. Young people ready to soon graduate, full of dreams and hopes. After 3 weeks of rigorous training through Firemedix; where they learned all the necessary skills to excel as future firefighters; you could see by their smiles, their eagerness to take on the world–it was a beautiful experience to in some small way be witness to their excitement.
My day however, change shortly after. After finishing with the recruits, it was time to start my own work day. Today is leading group therapy day. At first it all seemed fine, until one of the ladies within the group who is usually talkative was unusually quiet. I asked her if she was ready to join in the topic of the day. Tears started to roll down her cheeks. She then expressed the homework left the week before had been a trigger; she felt good but also angry and sad. The week before we talked about what trauma does to the body and how what they often experience is quite “natural” given what they went through. They were to write a poem or short story releasing many of the emotions they had expressed during therapy that day.
I asked her if she cared to read her poem to the group as others had; she expressed her desire to have me read it instead. As I read her poem, my voice could not help but break and my hands started to shake a bit. I could relate to the words on that paper. When I was done, I walked up to her and asked her if I could hug her; no sooner had the words left my mouth, that I felt her arms wrapped around me tightly. I reminded myself how much we starve for genuine connection, affection and acceptance as we are.
I realized once more the responsibility I have to each person I work with, and my desire to see them reclaim the pieces of ourselves often forgotten through trauma or false conditioning. My work at times is not easy, it not only involves listening to the horror and pain, but in some way it tries to exorcise them–I want to see them breathe a little bit lighter, walk with more confidence and know that just like a broken piece of Japanese pottery put together with gold, they are valuable and precious despite what happened.
People tell me in little or in big ways about their lives through their exercises, the sharing of their memories. I can see the depth of the emotions, which makes remembering the painful acts imposed on them a real tragedy. But there is also talk of the present, even the future, of their dreams, of their hopes. I know they enjoy my “weirdness” because it encourages them to dare to be, to dare to dream. I want to show them that no matter how “weird” this world may label one, we can proudly stand and take all the space needed, because we are worthy of it. We are divine and don’t need to pay dues and get on our knees to some deity in order to be “allowed” to be here and to pursue our dreams.
When the session finished they were more or less back to a balanced place, and as always I tried to finish my session with a joke; which by now everybody knows, I am lame at telling but they like that I try. As I stood there gathering my papers, I felt somewhat what she must have been feeling. My mind went back to a book on Virginia Woolf which I recently finished reading. My mind went back to my past, my extended “family” and I felt a bit of anger. It has been a while since I have felt that, but I know feeling anger at that moment wasn’t “unnatural”. I gave myself permission not to judge my inner child for feeling it, and thought of my daughters. I vowed again, although imperfect as I am, to support their dreams, to love them through the good and bad times without enabling them. To hold them tightly when they cry and tell them everyday they are beautiful, amazing, valuable, and that they don’t’ ever have to pretend to be someone else to please others.
The purpose of the poem exercise I’d given them, was so they may release some of the emotions. Then sharing them in group was to validate what happened to them; something they were denied for far too long. When we burned the poems was to symbolize letting go. I know the action does not “cure” but it is a step. Our mind understands symbology better than it understands words.
Imagine two completely different worlds…what would it be like if they could collide? I believe by seeing the innocence, strength and idealism of the recruits, that they would see not broken people but human beings. People in need of help, just like those who they have been trained to help. What happens to us as we get older? Should we not get wiser? And shouldn’t that be shown by our level of compassion and ability to stand against atrocities instead or reciting words? We often let the hard cycles of life beat us into submission, we become sarcastic yet we confuse it with maturity. Maturity was never meant to be cold detachment. Perhaps if every morning we practice more gratefulness from our heart rather than our mind, we would be able to tackle the day with a bit more compassion and backbone, which in turn would fuel our sense of being alive–it is a symbiotic relationship…or so I think and feel.
It can be hard sometimes to listen to so much trauma but I am honor to be trusted with their secrets, shame and pain, and to help them in some small way, find their way back. They trust me with experiences that haunt them. They speak to me from the depths of their pain and the greatness of their soul. I try to remind them, they are a gift, they are warriors who are have chosen not to cover up or run from their pain but to expose it, clean it, heal it. They are a testament of perseverance and strength despite their own fragility. They are the warriors, I am only the mediator between the pain and dreams, between hope and surrendering, between the inner child and the warrior…they are the ones who have chosen to take off the masks and put the armor, pick up the sword and choose to fight to reclaim their lives….and for letting me be witness to their battle, to their greatness I will be forever grateful.