What We Bury

What you don’t transmute, you will transmit.

Dr. Sandi Grey tells everyone in the room that we’re not the judge. Of anyone. Ever. She says trauma changes the way we manage our lives, and no one from the outside looking in has access to the whole story. Our perspective is always skewed, she says. People stay for reasons you can’t fathom. Let go of judgment. Just let it go.

Dr. Grey is a representative from Eagle’s Wings, an organization that empowers women to leave abusive situations. She says simple solutions to complex problems rarely solve the problem.

Lately, I’ve been engaged in an extended conversation with a Christian friend (let’s call him K), who has deep beliefs and a relationship with a God who feels outdated (and potentially destructive) to me.

I respect K as a person. His way of moving in the world, and his actions as a civic being, are mindful and compassionate. So I continue the dialogue, open to changing my mind.

He asks me what I worship.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

K tells me when he asks himself what he worships, his initial focus is on the values and virtues which he strives for, which people can see him living out. But if we’re honest, he says, that only tells part of the story. Our values relate to our idealized self, which is part of our true self, of course, but not our whole self.

If we’re honest.

When I was very young, my father told me I was disposable. He said we’re all paper cups. I believed him, of course, in that fundamental way one believes one’s parents when one’s small.

The things you bury, will grow.

K says there are other ways to assess what we really worship. Like how do I spend my money? Where do my thoughts effortlessly go when there is nothing else demanding my attention?

Dr. Grey says we should call ourselves survivors, not victims.

K asks, what is my real, daily, functional salvation? What am I really living for, my real, not just my professed, god? When I look beneath my most uncontrollable emotions, like when I’m inordinately angry, what’s beneath that anger? What is being threatened, or what must I have at all costs?

Reinvention is a process.

K asks when I’m fearful, anxious, depressed, guilt-ridden, what lies beneath? What is it that gets me down on myself? What kinds of personal failures? And why? Why do I over-work? What am I driving for to make myself feel significant? What do I absolutely need to have in order to feel fulfilled or significant?

We all have a central story, a wound from which we bleed.

Dr. Grey says love does no harm.

I tell K I don’t see God’s love as safe.

He says Jesus died on the cross as a human to catch us in a way God can’t, that Jesus catches us in every way that matters.

Is anyone’s love safe?

I was once close to a troubled man (let’s call him J), whose drama dislodged me. He told me I would always accept his abuse, because I didn’t love myself.

I wasn’t angry at J for his abusive behaviors. I thanked him for sharing his opinion of me.

I tell K that a belief in a patriarchal Godhead frightens me, that I’ve seen how obedience to a leader can be valued above all other ties, that it can numb us to pain, can blind us to real danger.

Dr. Grey says when you’re traumatized as a child, it fragments your memories. She says we have an amazing ability to escape trauma by dissociating ourselves from our bodies.

Sometimes we descend into our pasts not to find light, but to go into the darkness and befriend it.

I tell K I want to find divinity in ordinary things.

Dr. Grey says choice is a huge barrier for a survivor. She says the person who victimized us took away our choices. She says it’s ok to be angry, to refuse to be governed by rules that aren’t ours.

Our stories are our gods.

Our relationships are a reflection of how much we love ourselves.

Maybe I worship the illusion of choice.

Michelle Dowd