Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Driving on Dark Country Roads

I can still feel the darkness. The terror of hopelessness does not fear the light. But I'm learning that hope is not extinguished by darkness. I can't eliminate darkness, but I can highway through the night with blinding headlights.

I've been studying trauma and the difficult escape from its devastation. I've had crash courses in Cognitive Based Therapy and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. Today I found myself staring at a simple model of recovery: safety, mourning, and re-connection.

I've gone through this process before. I'm staring at the training manual because my mind is rapidly reclassifying memories and adding understanding where there has been only angry questions. I see times of fierce safety grabs, times of deep mourning darkness retreat, and finally times when I've stood blinking again in the light.

I'm no longer one who lives in darkness. I can't be a simpleton who merely Sunday drives in light. I know too much to ever be that man again. I'm no longer defined by the safety or danger that surrounds me. It's not about the light or the darkness, it's about tearing through them both with headlights blazing.

It's funny how the mind works. This morning after dropping Aleks and Sterling off at their respective schools, I flipped to my customized personal playlist from Amazon Prime Music. The title on the dash pulled my memory before the music flooded my senses. Country Roads, Take Me Home, by John Denver pulled me backward as the car shot forward down the highway.

Sixth grade, the spring of 1987, Preble Shawnee Middle School was a miserable time for a chubby, glasses-wearing introvert. The classroom was empty when Ms. Stanze asked me, "So what song are you singing for your audition?" I was perplexed. I didn't know that I was supposed to have a song ready. I thought I'd just be singing something she gave me!

"Well, I heard a song the other day. It was something about country roads take me home." Her eyes lit up and she smiled while she reached to the piano and held up sheet music. "Country Roads Take Me Home by John Denver? Oh, that's my favorite. I've actually got it right here!"

She began to play and I began to sing out the words. We were both hypnotized by the magic of the moment. What are the chances? The next day the cast list was posted and my name was at the top. I'd landed the lead role in Small One, a Christmas musical about how Mary and Joseph found their donkey. 

That December I performed in front of the entire student body and my parents. I didn't return to the stage again until college when I was cast in Carousel. I don't expect there will be a third show for me. 

Life is filled with winding roads. Everything is familiar to me at this point. I see connections everywhere. Like a small country road in Ohio eventually reaches a crumbling bridge in Guatemala, so does each moment in my life connect to every other life moment. 

There really is only a single road in the entire North American continent. A single road that branches off and spiderwebs a billion different ways, but never loses it's connection to all the disparate parts. And there really only is a single memory in my mind, a memory with a billion parts all linked together.

Life defined by trauma: the warmth of safety, the shock of safety violated, great sadness when safety is lost and our view of the world as good is shattered, a desperate return to safety, and finally a willingness to actively live again. Country roads take me home to the place I belong.

I'm everywhere right now. But this life should not be about pathology. It should not be framed by trauma. We are created, something from nothing. Not born from broken pieces, but from divine perfection. Life is about potential. Pick up your torch. The road hasn't yet ended.

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