I went to Vermont for a good friend’s wedding this weekend.
I met her while working for jetBlue in Burlington, and she is, without a doubt, the most unerringly optimistic, enthusiastic, energetic person I have ever met. She is never haughty, always accepting, and I literally have only seen her have a bad day once, and even then, through her tears, she remained vivacious and thoughtful. I think it is this quality of hers that enures her to me. I could resent her natural sunshine. I could find her peppiness grating. But I do not, because she is so very kind. And she sees the world as full of possibility just waiting to be explored. Maps, painting, flowers, complicated math analysis, she delights in it all. And she drives an hour to work every day. And she could hate that, but she does not. She uses it as an opportunity to listen to audiobooks.
I had another co-worker there who thought this was a facade. That she does her best to ignore the negativity in the world, and is much like a ostrich in the sand.
But I do not think that this is true. For she understands the pain that exists. She acknowledges it, deals with it, but, importantly, does not dwell. She takes action.
I saw another, friend – it took me a minute to write that, it seems like the wrong word – who I met when I was so sick with depression in the spring of 2013. She was a peer support counselor, and I turned to her, and she offered me a place to stay when I couldn’t conceive of interviewing for rooms or roommates.
It lasted two weeks.
I was brittle with sensitivity from the depression and the concurrent implosion of my relationship. I had left him, while attending a Partial Hospitalization Program, when he came back to his apartment, drunk, and cornered me against a wall, screaming that I was the “worst fucking thing that ever happened to him” and that “I had given up.” I escaped, but just barely.
I crawled to “Jane” and she gave me respite. But a week later, she got a distressing call from the state, and started howling and screaming, grabbed her therapy dog, and I became terrified and fled. It was too much for me to handle.
So, she said she her house had to be a place where she could freely express her emotions, as a trauma survivor, and what happened barely scratched the surface of the depth of pain she needed to let out, and I knew that I had to leave.
I saw her for the first time since I left with my parents to return to CT.
And we talked as peers, and caught up on the gory details of the psychiatric system, and our respective experiences in it, and that, as always, was cathartic and relieving. To talk about the stigmatized, not so palatable details of life, freely.
But she said something that stuck with me. She said, as a trauma survivor, she simply “cannot trust anyone.”
And that is, crucially, the difference between her and Linda.
Because I gave birth to Finn, and was lying in the hospital bed after handing him to his adoptive parents, and Linda came in and french braided my hair with flowers and did my nails.
Because when a family friend committed suicide, Linda called me up to get an understanding, and had me talk to her much younger brother, and then moved on.
But Jane does not move on. She stays. She is stuck in her assault. And the people that have wronged her have come to define humanity for her, to define her life. How can she trust anyone, when her trust has been violated?
And to that Linda, my shoulder bird of pragmatic cheer, would say. Not everyone will. You can’t give up on the whole world because some people are sociopaths.
Except Linda likely would not say that word sociopath.
But you can’t. You can’t stop trying because you were rejected or had a bad experience. I have Eric, I took a chance because I believed that not all men were Jarett, and it has brought me so much happiness.
“I am not what happened to me, but what I choose to become.”
I choose to survive, to thrive, to not be trapped in the past. It is a choice I have to remind myself to make almost every day.
But it’s worth it.
Linda says so.