Sunday, March 15, 2009

What To Do When You Are Triggered

image We all have a past; some of it good and some of it bad.  Each day we are continually reshaped by events and people.  Life often makes me think of waves crashing into a rocky shore, wild with fierceness and beauty.   We are sometimes placed into a moment of decision and it is only years down the road that we realize how pivotal that day was to our life course.  When I look back, I know that there was one day when I was 14 that changed my entire life.  Without that day I doubt Mayhem and Destruction would be here today. I know that I would not be living in the arm pit of Canada known as Niagara Falls. 

There have been smaller compromises along the way but few things have had the long lasting impact of that one day.  Even when I think about the decision that I made that day, I realize that the reaction to it was very much about my culture, gender, class and race.  I am a first generation Canadian of  a traditional patriarchal West Indian family.  They are just as much a product of their cultural upbringing as I am.  As I age I have come to understand that though we would at times like to out run our social constructions as they are ultimately limiting, because we are so steeped in them they impact all of the decisions that we make.  It is a rare person that can be other than what they have been socialized to be.

Last night I finished reading the Other Side of Paradise by StaceyAnn Chin.  I won’t delve to deeply into the novel at this time but do expect a post later on regarding this excellent work.   StaceyAnn is a Jamaican born woman and I could not help when reading her experiences but be triggered in some real and painful ways.  Her work spoke to me on a level that few books really do because of its honesty and because being of the same/similar background I can completely relate with what she went through.

In its ending I am left with a sort of void..where do I go after being triggered about a painful past and feeling some warmth about a culture that I know to be damaging but is still very much a part of who I am.  No matter where I go in the world there will always be truths about me that will remain static.  I will always be a Canadian, of West Indian  parentage,  I will always be black and I will always be a woman.  How I look at any situation will always be infused with those truths and therefore while it might be easier to run and hide, facing the truth even when it causes me pain can on some level be cathartic. 

For better or worse we are every single day we have every lived.  If I did not acknowledge my pain, how would I know what the truly happy days of my life were?   The day I took my oldest son swimming for the first time will always stand out as one of my happiest days.  It was with complete child like wonder that I played in the wading pool with him forgetting that I was not supposed to get my hair wet or caring what my body looked like in a swimsuit.  It was in that moment that I became the child that I was never allowed to be.  Had I not grown up with certain restrictions this moment would not have meant as much to me as it continues to. 

I have rejected many of the teachings that as an adult I find to be sexist, and authoritarian.  I have attempted to revel in my agency and free spirit as much as possible as a way of usurping power from those that sought to control every aspect of my being  however, I cannot escape the fact that if I didn’t personally know what it is to be victimized, or feel the sting of rejection my expression would be completely different.

I am going to have to spend a few days thinking about her book and the feelings that it has awakened in me.   I will have to revisit past traumas and recognize once again their impact upon me.  It’s funny how just when you think you have anything figured out a wiser voice will interject to inform you of exactly how blind you have been in even the most basic things.   If nothing else this has reaffirmed my belief that each day is an opportunity to learn and we can either run, or challenge ourselves to create something new out of our hurt.  Today I am deeply wounded and slightly broken as I reflect upon former hurts and cuts that are bone deep, but I know that when I emerge from this most recent fog of questions this new metamorphosis of sorts will lead to a stronger and improved version of myself. 

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