The view from a flashback.

I don’t cry enough these days, and I’m so tired of tough talk and inspiration porn.

I can’t breathe. I can’t think. I’m in flight and it’s more dangerous outside because the worst predators are cops and the well-intentioned.

I don't cry enough these days.

I'm in my car, listening to a song called "Faded," trying to clear a flashback so I can take a call. I am coming from somewhere else at 50 miles per hour.

I live my life in five minute breaks too often. The events segue into each other: Scheduled calls, meetings, time when I should be working and, though I’m sitting in a position that hurts my back, I’m not making it worth it by actually getting useful things done.

No, I’m staring into space or hitting the oxytocin pedal of the facebook home button because the greater deferred pleasure of a larger paycheck is too far off.

I live my life sometimes in a flow of avoidance compulsions and obligations, chest tight, breath fought off by cigarettes and a chronically tight jaw and neck, and I am constantly plugged in until I fall asleep with my phone in my hand or at least nearby.

I make it to the Whole Foods parking lot on the phone with my weekly Sunday call. I almost always keep my promises, and especially to people who have thrown down for me like this.

My friend, my friend, my business coach and mentor, my friend who five years ago would have Heisman’d emotions like these, who has donated his time to me for months because he believes in Other Lives and because he believes in me.

I am honest about the flashback and he gives me an out, but I refuse it. We must keep our rhythm. I must show up.

And I must face that I can’t always give him my best when my symptoms have steamrolled me and I am apologizing from deep within that hole and I hear the echo of my voice saying “You probably don’t want to talk to me right now.”

And I must face that it is okay to be deeply not okay and that it doesn’t mean catastrophe.

“The Contracted” Charles Bell, 1809

He is there, and he is talking about the saboteur in his dulcet voice and I’m pretty sure he cannot hear me whispering “I can’t, I can’t” and “not okay, not okay” as my body clenches in agony and I fantasize about smashing my head into the steering wheel. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know what this looks like. I am far away and whispering faintly into the grave but I can still hear him.

“That’s about you and your saboteur. You have to talk to it. You have to transform. And, when you transform, the saboteur transforms into something else too…”

I am doubled over in my car and I realize that I don’t cry enough these days.

I let out a quiet whimper and I start writing on the post-it note pads I keep in my console.

My friend’s voice persists.

“Push back. The saboteur always remains because there is a romance with it. It’s an odd romance. What do you like about it? What does it do for you? There is magic in language. There is magic in naming.”

I can’t breathe. I can’t think. I am in flight and it is more dangerous outside because the worst predators are cops and the well-intentioned, and I am so grateful that it is nighttime and that this parking lot is poorly lit.

We stick to an hour. We are diligent about that.

I am fighting for presence.

I don’t think he knows exactly what I am going through right now because my silence sounds somewhat like listening, but it doesn’t matter because we are each doing our parts, and his today is didactic.

“…to breathe everyday without constriction in your chest and stomach… Take time away. I want you to remember that you are moving into a different space. And you know what, it’s fucking scary. Exciting and scary.”

I finish another cigarette and turn the car key enough to get the window back up.

“Nothing is going to fall apart if you attend to those basic, basic things.”

In the final minute of our call, we set a time for the next one.

I am not okay, but I am less not-okay than I was when we started.

Multiple conversations have occurred, each with their own threads and in different voices, some velvet, some gravelled, some lifeless as gravestones.

We express our love for each other and say goodbye. I hoodie up and conceal the tightness in my chest as I put two feet onto the asphalt and listen to a song called “Faded.”

I’m so tired of tough talk and inspiration porn. Somehow this is better.

One more five minute break during which I don’t cry enough, and I collect my greens, bananas, meat, and seltzer so I can get home to do the next thing and keep telling myself that this is all for something.


Other Lives is an intersectional peer-led trauma survivors’ network and advocacy organization.

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