Is this what being present is?

It’s been an odd week. I don’t know quite how to explain, and I have this sense that putting it all into words is going to be an impossible task. Still, I’m going to try.

First, there was the camping trip. It was good and bad. We used to camp at that campground when I was a kid. The little store at the camping ground is still the same; I recognized it right away, and had this sense of knowing, of remembering. I remember walking up to the store to buy an ice cream. I remember walking up to the bathrooms and showers connected to the store to brush our teeth and wash our faces before bed. I remember the cheap little gold ring with the pink “diamond” I would always choose as my camp souvenir. In fact, hubby bought me one of the rings after I shared this memory with him. It was very sweet. I remember playing UNO at the picnic table at our camp site, and campfires and s’mores. I remembered so much of it, but not in a flashbacky weird way. Yes, the memories came in bursts, in fits and starts, but it was just a memory, clearly the past. I had nightmares at night, but during the day, I felt fairly content. I was able to put away most of my hurt and anger and grief over my parents and what they did or did not do, and just be with them, enjoy them. I took breaks from them, and did take a nap during the day, but it was peaceful. My brain felt peaceful.

At the amusement park….well, that was a little different. I had attempted to explain to my mother I didn’t want to go that day; it was cold, and raining off and on, Kat was grumpy, I was irritated and tired. She didn’t listen, she simply brushed me off like she always has done, and went into happy mode and gave the impression I was ruining everything by having a different “grumpy” opinion. Somehow, I managed to let it go. I smiled and said okay, we go today. In the past I would have been hurt, I would have cried, I would have searched for what I was doing wrong, I would have wondered if I was being “bad”. My wonderful hubby watched all this, and let me know he was on my side. Then, he bought two day tickets. He told me, “If today sucks, we will just go back to the campground and come back to the park tomorrow on our own.”

Being at the park, with my parents, well, that was a little rough. We always get a pass so Kat doesn’t have to stand in long lines, but the pass only covers 4 people. So, Kat had to stand in long lines. Also, unbeknownst to all the adults, Kat’s cousins don’t like rides. This caused a lot of arguments and unhappy kids. The cousins only wanted to do the water park, but Kat felt it was too cold. We ended up eating lunch– apart, because the cousins wanted to eat at a place that did not accommodate Kat’s food allergies– and then going back to camp while they did the water park. I worried a bit that I might be hurting my mom’s feelings, but decided I had to do what was right for me and my family. Going back to camp and resting allowed Kat to have a fun night with her cousins. They all played so well together. To see her interacting with other kids, and having a desire and the confidence to do so is incredible.

There was one very rough moment, when everyone was going to ride the Ferris wheel:

It was right before lunch, and we walked by the Ferris wheel. The kids all wanted to ride. As they all scrambled into the short line, I hung back.

My dad looked at me, confused. “Come on. You love this ride.”

I shook my head. “No. I don’t.”

My Dad laughed, thinking I was joking. “You used to beg to do this one again and again. It’s one of your favorites.”
“No, she doesn’t do the Ferris wheel anymore. Remember, she rode it and got stuck at the top?” My mom reminded my Dad, like it was no big deal. I felt nauseas, dizzy, unreal.

“No…where were we? I’ve never been stuck at the top of this ride.” My poor Dad was genuinely confused, and not remembering.

“We were on a roller coaster. Kenny rode with her, and they got stuck at the top.” It was said nonchalantly, like its everyday conversation. And maybe it was, for my Mom. For me, my whole world came to a sudden stop, everything froze.

Was I crazy? Did he actually hurt me on this ride? Did I make this crap up? My mom is telling the story I have always told, the lie I made up, in order to avoid a ride I used to love, that now gives me massive anxiety. I couldn’t figure it out. It was so surreal, hearing my mom tell the lie. But what if it wasn’t a lie? What if the story I have claimed is the truth is the lie? Even though I smiled and said I would sit on a bench and wait, inside I felt like finding a razor blade and slicing my skin. Anything to feel something real, something solid, something that is for sure happening.

Instead, I breathed though it, and while they rode the ride, I emailed Bea. I asked her to remind I’m not crazy, that it isn’t just some made up reality, that she believes me and that these things did happen. After that, I told myself I had to put it away, that I was okay, that Bea would email me later, and that we would talk about it the next week. I focused on the rides, and the noise, people I saw. And later, I focused on my hubby and my daughter. It was okay. I managed to put it away for a little while; not hide it or forget it, but just set it aside until I could properly deal with it. I was able to live my life, to be there, be present. Bea, of course, emailed back. She reminded me I wasn’t crazy and that she was still here.

Hubby, Kat and I did go back the next day. We had a blast. Kat loves rides, so she and I rode everything that spins and makes hubby sick. We all rode every roller coaster that Kat is tall enough to ride. We went to the water park; the day was cool in the early afternoon and warmed up a lot by later afternoon. The weather was perfect. We played in the wave pool and the lazy river; Kat doesn’t do water slides. Later, I found a lounge chair by the wave pool and alternated between watching Kat and Hubby play and dozing in the sunshine. It really was a fantastic day. I felt so peaceful and content, so calm and just in the moment.

There was an odd memory moment, riding the scrambler with Kat. I had my arm around her, holding her close so she didn’t fly all over the seat. That’s when I realized, this is how he did it. I saw it, felt it in my mind. He would hold me close like I was holding Kat, and let his fingers reach all the way down, to between my legs. The memory was so quick, and I managed to push it away and not think of it until now, typing this out. I don’t know if it’s real, or imagination, my mind filling in blanks. But it felt real. It made me sick. Even with that little flash, I put it away for later, for therapy, and managed to come back to the present. To remind myself that I a grownup. That the child on the ride is not me, she is my daughter and she is safe, that I am safe. And then I lost myself in the spinning of the ride, giggling with Kat. And it felt great. I felt great.

In fact, I felt so great that as the last ride of the day, I let Kat talk me into the Ferris wheel. I told the operator I might want off after one go-round, and she informed me that she could do that, but once the ride started and they weren’t loading, it would go around 4 times. She was so nice to me. We all climbed into the gondola, and the ride started. Not even halfway up, I started to feel very anxious and scared. I had this feeling that everyone knew how bad I was and hated me. The feeling literally felt like it came out of no where. The higher up the ride got. The more panicked I felt. I had this very bad, the world is ending feeling. As soon as our gondola got near the operator, I told her I was done and that once around was enough. She let me off, which took a moment because I was so freaked and dissociated that I could not figure out how to exit the ride. When I was finally off the ride and on a bench where I could watch until Kat and Hubby got off, I had this very yucky feeling. Like black, stinky goop just covering me head to toe. I didn’t feel right again until we got home. Once home, I felt proud of myself for getting on the ride. I felt proud that I didn’t freak out, or snap at Hubby or Kat. I know I’ll never get on another Ferris wheel, but in a way, I feel like I faced my fear. I couldn’t believe all the “out of the blue” feelings that came up on, and after that ride. I have a lot to talk about in therapy.

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11 thoughts on “Is this what being present is?

  1. Such an inspiring post to read. My first reaction and thought was “she is working really hard.” I’m glad you found some peaceful and present moments, you deserve to feel that way.

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  2. Sirena says:

    You’re doing so well and working so hard to overcome these trauamtic experiences. Even facing down the fear of the Ferris Wheel because of what it brought up for you. You are one very strong person! You are winning against those who wronged you, every single day. Well done.

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  3. So glad you had a (mostly) positive experience and could be present and happy with your family! You were very brave to face that Ferris Wheel–it’s sort of symbolic of all the other stuff you are confronting. I’m so impressed and inspired.

    Like

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