healing · joy · recovery · relationships · self-preservation · trauma

Recalibrating the Bar.




Surely, normal is relative. I read some of my blogs about my
past, and I think, Jesus, this is not
what “normal” people have dealt with. I listen to some of my acquaintances
share their histories, and I think, “Thank god things weren’t that bad with
In some comparisons, my life has been saner and pretty charmed; in other comparisons, it’s been dysfunctional and tragic.
Yesterday, I came home from hearing tell of someone’s tragic
past, “worse” than mine. Then I picked up where I left off in Autobiography
of a Face
, because surely the story of a
little girl’s jaw sawn off through cancer is “worse” than my own story.
And I decided then, it is time for me to recalibrate my bar for
normal and dysfunction.
I was feeling activated by the story I’d heard earlier in
the evening. I was feeling protective of the children that story was being told
to, and I was experiencing a hardening in my chest, made of anger and
self-protection against the terror of that story.
And despite the fact that things in my life have been on the
plus and minus side of well-being, I think it’s time for me to start marching
toward those people and experiences that don’t trade in trauma.
There tends to be a uniting force among those in my crowd,
knowing that we’ve, most of us, come from some kind of trauma. Wherever that
may fall on the spectrum of horror. But, we feel an understanding with one
another on the basis of a shared experience, and sometimes this unification
posits us against more “normal” folk, folks who perhaps didn’t come from that seething primordial ooze.
The problem, and I’ve contemplated it before, is that when
you trade in trauma, there’s no value in happiness. When you bond over tragedy,
how do you boast your success?
Over the last few years, my threshold for violence and gore
has lowered dramatically. Even “silly” crime t.v. shows that used to be my
favorites, I’ve had to eliminate from my visual diet. I just can’t stomach
them anymore.
As time has passed, I’ve become more aware and attuned to
when those shows or images are getting to me – when I’m cringing, or closing my
eyes – and I’ve taken note of those cues, and begun to drop them from my cue.
It feels the same to me with these stories that are around
I read Autobiography
last night, despite knowing that I didn’t want to read it. The language is
beautiful, the plot is compelling; by all counts, it’s a well-crafted book. But
I don’t think I want to read any more – in fact, I know that, and I’m going to
have to decide if I heed that information or not.
The same is true with some of the stories I hear around me.
It’s going to be up to me to begin either seeking out or attracting into my
life people, not who don’t have those
stories of trauma in their past, but who don’t feel compelled to broadcast them.
Who don’t feel compelled to do so inappropriately.
I am not saying that I will only surround myself with
“normal” folks, or that the stories of our pasts are not important. I am,
however, saying that my trauma meter is full, and I need to back away from
media or people who will put it over the edge because of their own hemorrhaging boundaries.
I am, of course, an advocate for sharing of ourselves, as you’ve read over and over in my blog, but I stand behind the knowledge and hope that others click to read this on purpose, that this blog is chosen as a media source
for them, that I’m not dumping it on anyone. I also think perhaps it is time for me to begin walking farther
away from the retelling of these stories, as repetition keeps them powerful.
I don’t know what the line of balance is between honesty and
appropriateness. But I do know there is one.  

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