Knee Deep in Drama aka Trauma Survivor

We’ve all known people who go on and on about the drama in their lives (aka trauma survivor), getting so wound up talking about it that it makes you wish you could pole vault into another state.  I don’t ever want to be that person. Unfortunately, I have been that person—as recently as this week. I cringe every time I think out it.

When I was at my favorite lunch spot, I ran into a woman who had been my neighbor twenty years ago. She is one of those artsy, slightly reserved, seemingly grounded, natural types. In other words, my neighbor is my complete opposite. She holds workshops and art classes for Empowerment and Freedom Through Emotional Healing in her home, for Christ’s sake. We quickly caught up with the “what are your kids up to?” pleasantries. I asked her questions about her life because I was genuinely interested, but then she made the mistake of asking me what I’ve been doing.

Many know I’ve been working on a memoir that includes a chapter about being the victim of an abduction attempt when I was fifteen, an event that followed right on the heels of a rape. I’ve rewritten it about eight different ways during the past year, dissecting and investigating what happened, approaching it from all different angles in an attempt to discover who my abductor was and what he planned to do with me.

So basically, I’ve been in obsession mode for the better part of a year. While speaking with my old neighbor, I started out in a slow roll, telling her about writing my memoir—and, of course, the abduction chapter. I felt the wheels of obsession gaining momentum, but I ignored them. It wasn’t until I was knee deep in the drama that I caught a glimpse of panic in her eyes. It might have been there for a while, but I don’t know for sure because I was too busy talking.

Horrified that I’d become that person, I quickly snapped out of it, muttered that I probably needed her services, and asked for her business card while I tried to excuse myself without further invading her personal space and increasing my humiliation. I can’t clear from my mind the image of her slowly opening her purse, retrieving her card, and handing it over like she was parting with a winning lottery ticket.

I hoped to never run into her again.

But then I called her. I learned decades ago that if someone or something is bothering me, I should write about it and examine my role in the situation. Where was I at fault? Did I owe her an apology? Ugh.

To my surprise, my neighbor sounded genuinely happy to hear from me and was very sweet. (She may have been hoping I would sign up for her Cellular Release Therapy.) I apologized for invading her space and she assured me that it was fine, not to worry about it, that she had just been distracted at the restaurant.

At first, I wondered why I cared so much about what she thought. I hadn’t seen her in twenty years and we had never been close. But, after spending this last year writing, I’ve learned that what I feel influences what I think, which in turn changes what I feel. My feelings are then overlaid with a myriad of invisible layers of crap, most of which have no basis in reality. There is a well-known saying: “Don’t believe everything you think.” I think I should practice that more often.

When thinking about the incident with my neighbor, I searched through twenty years of my memory banks and wondered why my perceived intrusion on her personal space bothered me so much.

I recognized that the judgment I felt from her at the restaurant was familiar. I recalled that I hadn’t liked her twenty years ago and had felt judged by her even back then, but I couldn’t remember why at first. A while later, I remembered that my then-twelve-year-old daughter and I had taken a Coming of Age workshop from our neighbor, complete with a moon circle and the crafting of medicine bags.  It was in that setting that my daughter revealed some of her painful personal history. I also flashed on another incident—my neighbor didn’t want her kids, particularly her son, to play with my daughter based on that personal history. Never mind that her son was the same little shit who shot my darling angel in the leg with a BB gun. This all happened during my Birkenstock and hairy-leg years.  Maybe that’s why it initially slipped my memory. It’s no wonder I hadn’t liked this woman. I realize that she is probably a nice enough lady and that I may very well need her Cellular Release Therapy, but I won’t be calling her any time soon.

I know that self-awareness is a good thing. As I write and revise, I peel back the flaky skin of the onion to reveal what may turn out to be a sweeter onion, like those Vidalia onions that you can eat raw. The onions that don’t make you cry when you chop them up and put them in the quesadilla you’re about to eat because your now-adult daughter has put you on a diet to help you lose the twenty pounds you gained while writing your memoir and the only things left in your fridge are two corn tortillas and some Parmesan cheese. And maybe an onion.

21 thoughts on “Knee Deep in Drama aka Trauma Survivor”

  1. Sahara Harrington

    ““Don’t believe everything you think.” I think I should practice that more often.” Classic. I feel this piece, Monica. Great read.

  2. Paula

    This made me think of my own interactions over the years and why I care about what other people think of me…including complete strangers. It was an enjoyable read. I appreciate the humor intermixed with thought-provoking words of wisdom. Well done Monica!

  3. pauli hakensen

    You crack me up ! The good news is you could immediately stand next to the you who had become the person you didn’t want to be and offer her a life raft and life lesson !! Isn’t it a grand and wonderful journey we are on !!

  4. Christine

    Exactly! I have done the same thing, run into someone and exchanged pleasantries, and maybe too much info. Then walk away wondering why in the world did I do that, I don’t even like them anyway! This was a great read! Thanks Paula for sharing Monica’s blog! Thanks Monica for writing honestly.

  5. Zoanne Wilkinson

    Monica I want to shake your hand, hug you , kiss your cheek…. you are so much more than just the passing ship!
    Can’t wait for your next blog!~ Zoanne

  6. Sheree Halloran

    I absolutely related and have been thinking to myself just before I read this article on toxic people then questioned whether I have become that person.. do I smell like that onion. Inspired to write and make changes.

  7. James Webb

    In my experience, writing and photography have something in common. I’ve done a bit of both, so I’ll offer an unsolicited opinion. Once you realize that you can write (make a picture), you are left with what you should write (make a picture) about. It is at that point that I come face to face with my character defects, which always involve some level of immaturity.

    No implication intended; offered for your consideration only.

  8. Brenda Lee Fowler

    You are a great woman and friend and not to mention a hell of a writer. You my friend, are a true survivor. I’m proud of you Monica, as if you were one of my children. I have seen you take your story from a bud and turn it into a beautiful flower showing that we can have hard times in our life but still survive them. You are very courageous and I love you, your friend always Brenda Lee

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