Traumatic events in your life have a tendency of distorting your perception of time. Accumulated layers of distress and pain can be paralysing. One of the saddest consequences of trauma is that it often becomes extremely difficult to live beyond the present moment, to imagine a future, especially a future that is kinder, filled with light. Survival mode takes a lot out of you. You have to be careful with your limited resources to simply take the next breath, to move one step forward. Just keeping still requires enormous effort.
I have been thinking a lot about my own near-inability in the last three years to make long-term plans. A year ago around this time, it felt like there was hardly any future left to look forward to. I lived from day to day, managing, coping. It is a strange state of being – when you don’t ask of a day, What good things may I expect of you? but just pray to get through it. And then, of course, the night awaits, and the morning beyond can feel like an eternity away, the darkness absolute.
Despite everything, I coped. Got on with it.
The morning always arrived. Eventually an evening in November when there was a glimmer of joy. Soon after mornings began to taste of hope.
You can never know when something happens to change it all. The small kindness, the little light. The few words which flutter with true meaning.
A year later, the past is undeniably with me; the pain might be slightly more rounder, but it hasn’t disappeared; I struggle to think about things beyond the end of this year. But, my everyday is gradually overflowing with opportunities and I have more and more strength to recognise and honour them.
Most of us do not want to just cope; we want to thrive, feel content. We want to welcome every day with a smile – to say good night, not fearing the night. We want to see the future and be able to reach for it with hands capable of holding on. Mine are still frail and tired from the burdens they have had to carry, but they are reaching out. And I plan to make the most of it.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
— Emily Dickinson