High Lonesome

Accepting what is

My dear friend Vanda knows about emotional safety. She is asking me to be careful and accept “what is”.

Brené Brown would call my condition after the flood “high lonesome”: arresting, hard, and full of pain (Braving the Wilderness, 2017).

I am in a dangerously fragile state.

Angela, my spiritual director, agrees with Vanda. I have fallen from a great height.

I am reading daily reflections by Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche. This passage from his book seems particularly appropriate to my fragile condition:

Each time the losses and deceptions of life teach us about impermanence, they bring us closer to the truth. When you fall from a great height, there is only one possible place to land: on the ground — the ground of truth. And if you have the understanding that comes from spiritual practice, then falling is in no way a disaster, but the discovery of an inner refuge (Glimpse after Glimpse, 1995).

Write it down

Vanda tells me what I later read: writing forces activation of different parts of the brain.

Dr Vanda Rounsefell

Writing can help us convert raw emotions and feelings into words, thus helping us to adapt after a traumatic event. Confiding a trauma to a person reduces the arousal associated with inhibition and increases our ability to understand and integrate the experience.

my desperate email

When I call out to Karl from the depths of despair, Karl suggests: write it down. So I write a long email to anyone I think might listen. It is a howling cri de coeur. I am utterly broken and, as far as I can see, my life is over. Like Sheryl Sandberg in Option B, I feel that my present has been ripped away, and this new tragedy has torn apart all remaining my hopes for the future — including my dreams for my recovery from PTS.

Clearly, in retrospect, I have not escaped PTS.

I cry:

The flood has reduced me to a desperate, fragile person. The insensitive people from the insurance company are pushing me to return immediately to Rose’s flooded house. I will not. I will never feel safe there.

I cannot function.

I am paralyzed by exhaustion and a sense of desperation, brought on by my sudden homelessness and my inability to negotiate my housing future. Having grieved for our lost home, I am now mourning the loss of my new home and all my furniture. I have also lost perhaps a hundred precious books….

I cannot make decisions.

I cannot stay in my body. Twice this week, crossing an empty city street with no traffic, I was nearly hit by a car. The parking and traffic signs everywhere terrify me: I cannot decode them. I do not know what to do.

I cannot control my crying jags.

I am overwhelmed by sadness and pessimism about my future. I am terrified of even answering the telephone.

I am shocked that I have PTS. I prayed that I would escape this.

Now — eleven months after Karl’s death, I have slipped back so far that I don’t recognize myself.