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The Levels

I'm not sure if my story fits here. The thought alone has me thinking about the definition of Trauma. When is my pain defined as Trauma? I grew up in a world where pain was nothing more than motivation. You have a fight, you lose - you better be ready to fight again. You don't have the money to pay your bills - you better keep working and figure it out. I've felt pain, from multiple sources, but at what point was I traumatized or has it even happened yet???

Maybe it's just levels to it.

Last summer, I attended a women-only seminar in Washington, D.C. - where women from all over the country met in fellowship for 8 hours. We discussed our personal relationships, our kids, our money, our past, our futures, and most importantly our TRAUMAS. I remember the speaker explaining that our current choices and situations in present-day could be creating lifelong Trauma. However, instead of identifying it as Trauma and taking necessary steps to heal or avoid, we just brush it all off as Bullshit. However said, "Bullshit", could definitely fester and become Trauma. We as people are so resilient. Simple phrases like "whatever with the Bullshit" are just ways we pacify ourselves through things that truly pain us. Things that truly alter our daily paths. Perhaps just ways we've all learned to deal, because most of us never learned how to feel. Let alone deal with said feelings.

As we discussed these different things, she asked us to raise our hands if we had ever been a victim of sexual abuse or physical abuse. Almost every hand was raised. However, not mine. I don't have that story. I was never molested or endured any type of physical abuse. As the women shared stories, I watched others nod their heads in understanding as if the content was relatable. But I felt uncomfortable and out of place. The Trauma I chose to reflect on as my chosen trauma, was nothing more than Bullshit once again, in comparison.

At the beginning of this event, the speaker asked us all to dig deep and find our Trauma. I scrolled through my memory rolodex, unable to distinguish the difference between regular pain and Trauma. Then my mind went down this tunnel and I felt traumatized just for using words like "regular pain." What the fuck is regular pain? I don't think I've ever said "regular peace" before. However, here I am scrolling my memories for Trauma and dismissing several items as, "that's just regular pain."

I ended up choosing my drug addicted mother and being raised in a home as the extra child...after listening to others and their Trauma. Like I said, my shit was just Bullshit. I lived with my grandparents, my aunts, my uncles - and didn't want for shit. Where is the Trauma in that? The drug-addicted mother part? Maybe my grandparents taking custody of me is a story of "Victory" and I should just get over the rest, right? Life Happens.

See, this is How I've been trained to think. I sat in that room for the remaining hour, just listening and not willing to share or engage. I didn't have comparable or relatable Trauma.

So, here I am - the girl with 0 traumas. Regular pain, here and there, but no Traumas to document. I remember thinking this as I drove away from that Trauma filled place. I even had a moment where I felt blessed to be me and lucky to have avoided some of those horrible acts the other women opened up about. My understanding of my true Trauma didn't come for weeks later. As I write this, I realize I still don't have it all understood, but maybe you can follow along.

My Trauma is FEAR. I know, I know - everyone has Fear. I've always thought of my Fear as typical. Like I said, everyone is scared of something. However, my fear is different. Special Fear. Fear Upgraded. Fear that is Immortal. Paralyzing Fear. I play it Safe.

Walk with me...

Imagine being raised by a black woman with a middle school education who somehow had pulled herself out the jungle. People were now referring to her as middle class. Spent her entire life coloring inside the lines and following all rules to avoid ruffling any feathers. She never went for the promotion at work because she was just happy to have her job. She never yelled too loud at sporting events cause she didn't want to appear too ghetto. She never forgot to tip. Never took the easy money. Never took a short cut. Never got rich but never wanted for anything. What this woman did to all onlookers was amazing. A hero of her family, number 10 of 13 kids, and she had found the way.

But was it "The way?"

In 1965/ 1970 - ok, maybe. But it's 1997. I'm 16, proud, black, fierce, and gifted. We constantly bumped heads. Grandma's rules to stay low-key and in the back and walk without being seen - were just exhausting. I fought until I could not come back again, and at 18 I was out. She knew the way to get somewhere but just not where I thought I was going. I wanted her to see that she had old ways of thinking and I was more than just a black girl in todays world.

I hit my head, time and time again. I kept getting overlooked for things I felt I deserved. Running to men for love they didn't even know how to give. Losing each fight, in spite of giving all I had. College was doable but I had life to live; there was money to make. I was smart enough to get a job. Who needs college, when you're a know-it-all? I had the grownup blues. Everything my Grandmother had warned me about had come true. Every ceiling was lowered and I just became smaller.

I finally got a job with decent pay and just held on to it forever. Never tried to get a promotion. Met a man that treated me ok. 'Ok' was good enough because I remember failing when I searched for the 'great' man. Ran across opportunities I was too afraid to take. I seen people get rich in my same circle, however I also seen people in that same circle fail. Somewhere in life I had come to the conclusion that 'OK' was good and more importantly anything was better than 'Not OK'. I was safe in OK. I was protected in OK. With OK, I ,too, would have everything my Grandmother had. A family, a home, a job, a pension.

I built an electric fence around my heart and truly never feel much. Never really happy - but hey, at the same time, I'm never really sad. In my way of thinking, this was always best. I can't even truly say I'm sure now that it's still not. But I have been introduced to my TRAUMA. My Trauma was built from an era of Trauma. An era where you were lucky for Trauma alone because many were facing Tragedy. My Grandmother's way wasn't wrong - it just wasn't progressive. It was truly the best she could do. In 1975 what she had accomplished was truly great. However, my stable job, family, pension - just seem regular.

Here lies a chick that never took a chance. All the potential in the world just to end up a regular-degular.

I tried love, but I failed. I didn't want to take that chance of failing again. For me, it was easier to never know the highs of Love to avoid all the lows of Love. I'm offered investment opportunities with promises of riches, and at times they seem promising - but the thought of losing makes them never worth it. I make friends, but unfortunately I'm not a good friend by definition. It's not intentional, however I don't believe in any type of relationship - therefore I only put out the very minimal in these spaces. I want to start a business but what if it also is just ok? It will probably fail. Therefore, I should just keep working. The certainties are better than taking chances or accepting risk.

Every day I accept being OK. The thought of what it takes to be great these days makes me nauseous. However, the thought of being without is a feeling I can't stomach at all. I don't have enough and I want so much more. But I'm just too scared...haunted by the paralysis triggered from the thought of becoming or having anything less. And this FEAR I have acquired didn't just appear. Fear was taught to me every day of my life. With all the fighting I did to go my own way, in the end...A flower, or rather a seedling, is nothing more than the product of the environment in which its seed was planted.

I know now there's LEVELS to the Trauma, just like there's LEVELS to how we view success. Regular pain can be compared to the idea of living a regular lifestyle. In spite of my FEAR to take that next step towards greatness, I thank you Granny for everything you instilled inside of me. I know without you - I wouldn't even be OK...

These are the LEVELS...

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