Is there any beauty in trauma? Any silver lining, per se?
I’m especially thinking of within the worst kinds of trauma—extensive sexual abuse. Is there any way, that someone can heal from that kind of trauma?
That they might not carry the PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) it has caused into all of their other interactions in life? That they could ever use that trauma to create? To produce good? As a stimulus to find their gift to the world?
On many days, I say the answer is “no.” No, we cannot ask, assume, or expect that of the victims of such manipulative dark acts of abuse. And it seems, to choose to see any positivity—any lightness to this darkness—we are somehow not validating the pain, the injustice. Somehow, we are making light of the complexities of these situations, the emotions, and the memories the victims carry with them everyday.
But then I meet someone. Someone who is a beautiful “mess.” Someone who shows me what is possible.
Someone who is triggered by most interactions with men—likely for the rest of her life. And when she’s triggered? The crazy comes out. A rough crazy. A crazy that wreaks havoc on those it touches. Confusion, blame, distrust. A crazy that makes compassion, acceptance, patience, and love toward her feel impossible.
But then that person, she takes that crazy—that beautiful, raw crazy—and she goes to yoga. She breathes. She opens up—just a little.
She takes that crazy, and she heads out after dark, on a gravel road in Central America, on a four kilometer walk with paint cans to a nearby town. To paint, to tell stories of place, love, music, arts, boundaries, equality.
She creates an opportunity for near strangers to give a sh*t about her. To follow her into town. To offer her a ride back, or helping hands, or whatever. To offer her friends who care and who will be sleeping in the van down the road whenever she decides they might be needed. She never comes. She paints. All night. Chicken buses start arriving; the street gets busier. The friends say okay and return home, seeking rest, knowing that now this beautiful crazy is at least safe.
Just before the morning yoga class, this beautiful crazy finds me. Says she won’t make it to class, but that she is grateful—for “me” being there that night and caring. I make a point to give credit to the two men who instigated that act of caring. She is shocked but thankful to know.
She expresses the awareness, the darkness, the hardness of her experiences and the PTSD she is left with. She expresses that on the good days she knows how to create good from it. Painting stories all over the world of First Nations, rights, equality as it relates to environment, race, gender, sexual orientation. She tells me she knows that trauma can move—that this week, the darkness was made lighter and that yoga, painting, and love were a piece of that.
We hugged, and as I stared into those eyes—the ones I saw light up a few times and look hollow and lifeless other times—I was grateful that I was gifted this experience. This raw exposure to pain, chaos, crazy, trauma, and beauty.
Every day, we are given opportunities to say yes to being a better human. To accept the “crazy” that presents itself. To give it love, compassion, patience. Do we say “yes” or “no” to those opportunities?
May we practice choosing to say “yes.” It will be uncomfortable. It might also be just the right amount of light to override someone’s trauma induced shadows and illuminate their beautiful, crazy creativity.
And we might just get to see our world change.
Author: Casey Plank
Image: Art by Bryce Loren Windom. Pic by Travis May.
Editor: Travis May