I wake with a start to the soft sound of trumpets; my phone plays training montage music from the Rocky soundtrack. I smile a little in the darkness, groggily throw off the covers and cross the room to silence my alarm. I pull the curtains from my window and blink at the early dawn light filtering in, hazy and golden.
There were nightmares, but I don’t really remember them and my body is relaxed and easy. I feel the carpet between my toes. I take the pillows from my narrow bed and, sighing, wrap my arms around myself. I remember a recent conversation with my therapist.
I recounted a talk with a beloved friend who left an abusive marriage decades before I did. I asked my friend, who’d had a successful career and raised her children, who’s a leader in our community–“How long was it after you left before you felt kind of normal?”
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I told Lisa her response. My friend never really did feel normal again. She never remarried, never had a partnership that went anywhere. I looked for Lisa’s blue eyes beyond the light reflecting in her glasses, feeling my face taut and pinched with my fear of myself as irrevocably damaged and alone. What if that was how my life was going to go now? What if my fear of men was permanent and immovable?
“I really don’t like to make predictions like this for people,” Lisa began, “But I don’t see that for you. You are excellent at connecting with people, Laura.”
She reminded me of the ways people have come through for me lately in a showering of seemingly miraculous good fortune that isn’t random but the result of relationships I have cultivated. She reminded me of the skills I have worked hard to acquire–discernment and boundary setting. She told me how I am really very different than I was even six months ago, how I relate with other people far more skillfully.
“You’re really doing very well,” my therapist finally told me.
I turn on the light and look at myself in the bathroom mirror. The creases in my brow seem permanent but the weight I’d gained after the car accident is finally coming off. The muscles of my forearm ripple as I reach for my brush. My pecs flex and relax. I grin at the faint valleys emerging around six of my abdominal muscles. My hair is unruly, glimmering golden with highlights from the summer sun.
Lisa asked me how it was I’d gotten to a point where my affect is mostly calm, where I’m able to confidently self-regulate and where my life circumstances still leave some things to be desired–but where I can accept them. I described a number of ways I’ve worked very hard to heal–in therapy, in yoga and meditation, through running and reading and writing. I have been bravely turning toward the world again and again even in my pain–especially in my pain. I also noted how much more comfortable I am in the home of my friend I now live with, how much difference it makes to have my own room and my own bed. How this feels like a chosen functional family. How my friend reminded me recently on a tough day when I was panicking over a new financial setback, “Laura, you’ll always have somewhere to live.”
I wind my hair into a long braid, preparing to run. I’m still worried about my finances. Most of my things are still in storage. I still have PTSD and so much is uncertain–but I can accept those things. I can accept my life as it is in all its glorious imperfection. I flick off the light to go run. I’m going to be all right.