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December 12, 2019

The Journey from Trauma to an Open Heart.

There is this fire inside me that never left.

It was there, through the ache, the fear, the ways life twisted and turned.

It was there, through the days and years when I was exhausted, my voice like a whisper, my body with no energy to spare—yes, back then, when getting through the day felt like an epic achievement. Yes, back then, when I was tired and dizzy from life, stranded in the center of my own suffering.

Those pages are curled with soot and smoke now—imprinted by letters that form the pain of old memories—memories that sometimes still feel close, like breath on my skin, like the agony I have known.

The emptiness. The loneliness, typed out in a full sentence—it swashed around me like a thick, dark curtain.

But there is this fire inside me that never left.

I thought it did. I thought the trauma took it from me, like when you’re lying down and something knocks the breath right out of your lungs.

I thought I exhaled my spirit, my identity, everything that made me—well, me—back into the world.

Feeling broken and scattered into a million pieces, I stumbled aimlessly through life in shades of confusing grey.

And slowly, years later, I continue to integrate—yes, integrate. We can’t just—poof!—get rid of trauma, fear, or pain. We can’t imagine it away.

But we can work with it.

This is the path of the courageous.

Your path. My path. Our path.

And so we meet here, with dirty feet and scraped knees, our hearts raw. But there’s this sparkle in our eyes, because no matter what we have gone through, the hells this life can be—

There is this fire inside us that never left.

We can call it life force. God. Soul. Our fierceness. Our uncharted wildness.

Whatever you call it, let it crackle inside you.

Let it burn.

Steady and slow. Wild and weird.

You are not meant to be in pain forever.

Pain is a path that teaches us. We’re plunged into inky darkness where we soak up lessons we didn’t know we wanted or needed—the chapters so thick with messy learning we don’t even know how to talk about it.

And it hurts. I know it hurts so much.

For a while, I remember there was just pain. Only in recent years do I see sparks of post-traumatic growth—how really tough sh*t can shape us in these incredible ways.

The gifts that can come from trauma aren’t glossy or pretty. They are hard-won. For me, they took years to bloom. They are covered in tears, cast in confusion and sweat. They came through gritted teeth and late-night panic attacks and this strange, stubborn dedication inside that told me I would get through this. No matter what.

And I don’t always feel grateful. The hurt and anger still ripple through me sometimes. But it doesn’t have to be one or the other. We can begin to thrive, even if parts us echo with ache.

These post-traumatic gifts, though—they are are muddy and real. They are unexpected and profound.

Because trauma changes us. So, I will never be who I used to be. She doesn’t exist anymore. But I know who I am now. And who I am now, in the wake of it all, is strong, soft, and in touch with the pulse of her own heart.

I feel endlessly humbled and human.

I feel the simple preciousness of life as the seconds slip away. I try to make the most of ’em every damn day. I write to expand my lungs and lean in—to care more. To feel more. To love more.

Through the pain, we can become wiser, more in touch with ourselves, our tenderness, our humanity, and the unmistakable beauty it is to know another’s heart.

We peel the layers away.

We keep going because we know we can’t stop.

And yes, there will times when we want to. Of course there will be.

Maybe we need to set it all down and rest our weary hearts for a day or a month or a year. To just breathe. To curl up and be loved. To drink tea and smell the pine trees in the sweet silence of winter.

But even then, we keep walking gently through it.

Because there is no other way.

And through it all, we get closer to that fire inside that never left.

Feel it crackle.

Taste your birthright.

Know these gifts as they stream through your hands like gritty pearls,

Landing with a delicious thud right in your body,

In your pure, undisputed knowing.

Your sweet flesh and bone.

Oh yes, feel your fire.

It never left. And it never will.

Even on the darkest days, it’s burning.

As humans, our will to survive, to thrive—it is unstoppable and tremendous.

Even when we think the flame has been snuffed out.

It keeps burning.

This is what the darkness showed me.

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Sarah Harvey  |  Contribution: 67,200

author: Sarah Harvey

Image: Nenad Stojkovic / Flickr

Editor: Kelsey Michal