I hope you can tell me what rest is. I still do not know.
But what I do know is that I have experienced love.
I have experienced time spent lying on a bed, listening to raindrops beat the roof of a home in which no one beats me.
I have placed my feet into the ocean in rubber boots, and my toes did not get cold or wet, and no part of me drowned.
I have been hugged by a friend who was not holding a knife. And neither of us were murdered for this.
I have cried and burrowed my head into a soft couch, and suddenly felt a kind hand on my back to ease the pain.
I have sat in a car and asked every question that has hibernated in the dreams behind my eyelids, and I have had my questions met with friendship.
I have worn sunglasses in the sun, and a raincoat in the rain. I have walked through the woods in the daytime, and slept at night.
Survivors who read this will understand that I have experienced the world the right way, not backward, as it was in my life growing up.
When I was a child, I did not get to sleep at night. Terrible things happened in the dark woods. The animals stayed away.
Children were asked to take care of adults. Vacations were veils for human trafficking. I was even taught to write backward, in a way that could be read in a mirror’s reflection. I was taught that up was down and down was up, but that I was wrong, no matter what.
But recently, I was treated well by someone. And some of the time I was right, while at other times I was mistaken or clumsy. But my friend’s regard of me did not change.
This is some of what I have experienced, and some of what I have come to learn, while on a vacation. My first, ever, vacation.
Not long ago, I wrote about having never been on a vacation, and about my longing to go on a safe trip where I am not packed away in a suitcase, or forced to attend to anybody in any way, or forced to lie, or to steal, or to destroy, or to kill. All of these actions do not belong on a trip, or in a life, or in a small child’s memory. These types of actions loosen and remove the little red bricks that form my heart.
The bricks were once soft, I suppose, maybe in the womb. But they grew hard with the electricity and the swearing of the men who stood above my twelve-year-old mother’s belly and prevented me from growing a sense of self, while my stem cells trembled but tried anyway to form the beginnings of my vessel for this lifetime.
I really miss her. I really don’t talk about her. It’s really quite hard, to try to tell anyone about my mother. I can hardly tell myself. I do remember a few things; I just don’t think I deserve to harbor any secret memories that are good.
In spending time with someone else and in observing each of us, I saw some limitations in myself more clearly than I had before. I realized that I do not know how to give nice things to myself sometimes, such as a dish towel or a warmer pair of socks. I rarely wander, I rarely move without a goal, and I rarely stay still for very long (unless that is the goal).
I am often running away from, and running toward. I am constantly identifying starting and stopping points. I have been working on the ability to rest for the last few years, and now even resting has paradoxically woven its way into my core set of goals. My helper tells me that taking slow, deep breaths is an important way to rest. On my vacation, I noticed that both my friend and I take short, shallow breaths. Where did we learn that fear chokes the atmosphere of life? How horrible must our environments have been, to teach us that short, shallow breaths are necessary most of the time?
I still do not wander or move aimlessly through any part of my day. I do not usually sit still when I am afraid, which is nearly always.
But I do high-five the leaves on the trees, because, as a child inside my system puts it, they are turning into good foliage! Way to go, foliage! You are super!
Why does foliage change? Why does it turn orange and red? Why do the leaves fall? Why do the trees get lonely? Or do they just look lonely to me?
They do this every year? A change of season? Why does my life contain so many bad anniversaries—so many forgotten murders to remember over the course of one year? Why do they do this on special calendar dates? Why do the people scream every year? Like the leaves change. Like the waves swoosh. Why does life do things over and over again?
Why do I breathe over and over again? Why do I live? Why do I keep striving? What is striving? And why did they teach it to me? I don’t like it. It hurts to strive.
I strive to be on vacation. I strive to be on vacation. I strive to be on vacation.
And can I? Can I join? Like a dinosaur? What if they told me I’m a dinosaur? What if I’m extinct? Can I still play? Did you know I like marshmallows? I found big ones and small ones and I ate them while my friend wasn’t looking. They were cooking dinner and they told me not to ruin my appetite but I think my appetite was delighted.
I called my friend a “they” because they are a system, too. Do you know any systems? Lots of DID systems like to go by the pronoun “they” because we are multiple people living in one body and sharing one life. It gets confusing sometimes. Well, most of the time. I wonder if I’m ever not confused. What do you do when you get confused?
Speaking of DID, I wonder if you caught that. If you caught the switch. One person had been writing about the concepts of vacation and rest, and then a number of children came out to ask some of the many questions that they accumulated over the course of the trip we just took with our dear system friend and fellow survivor. If you had heard what I heard inside, you would have heard some tiny voices, higher pitches, different accents too.
And now I am back, narrating, typing, wondering why I do the things I do, why I type the things I am, and why I was given this life—a life that feels very complicated and confusing, a life that I have to explain to most people, while wishing that someone, anyone, could explain it to me.
The moment I got home from vacation, I immediately cried in confusion. Many tears were shed, and questions asked. Still, there is more.
As a part of the system who had amnesia, I am waking up to the realization that many people can get away with extreme, organized cruelty, and they have been doing so for centuries at least.
I would like to know the true history of this planet. Someone inside my system is hoping that after we die, or even while we are living, we can be shown the true and complete history of this planet, and especially the true and complete history of this last century.
I think what we are saying is that we want a remedy for all of the deception.
I have no contextual memory of having the soles of my feet repeatedly shocked with electricity. But during my vacation, I visited many places with which I sensed a familiarity. I experienced repeated body memories of shock on the soles of my feet. They were painful, and they eventually became somewhat debilitating. I sensed that what I was experiencing was an internal punishment—a programmed mechanism designed to prevent me from ever stepping foot on places where crimes against me have occurred.
While on vacation, I stepped on as many places like that as I could. I would have stepped on more.
I am not afraid of discovering the truth. I feel like I am suffocating without it. Do you? Do you ever wonder what it would be like, if all the people in your life, and all the people who address the world and attempt to control it, would begin to tell the truth?
Would we need vacations anymore?
I have been lied to. I have been kept from the truth. I have been kept from the truth of what was done to my body and mind for decades. I yearn to rediscover what other parts of me already know. I yearn to be set free from the pain and injustice.
I have been lied to by family members, neighbors, friends, schools, medical institutions, and more abusers than I can count. I have also been lied to by myself.
Perhaps the cruelest lies came from my former owners, and their deception was in the title they gave themselves in relationship to me—the power they told me that they held over my life, my cells, my spirit.
You have also been lied to. Maybe in the same ways, maybe in other ways. But you have definitely been lied to by history books, newscasters, and world leaders.
I think I would be able to rest with greater ease if I knew the truth. When something is profoundly and fundamentally wrong, and deep down it can be sensed but not understood, it is difficult to fully rest. It is difficult to let go and trust that the environment—whether external or internal—does not carry any hidden weapons.
For any survivors who feel that they are suffering alone, or that they see things differently from others around them, I want to validate your experiences, your pain, and your vulnerably held views on life. Just because a majority believes something, that does not mean that it is the truth. The truth is the truth, and it rings in a way that everybody recognizes.
It rings with the feelings of undeniability, relief, and peace. Just like an autumn leaf, settling down into its resting spot on the earth.
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