I am exhausted, sitting on the sofa. My friend ever so gently picks up one of my feet and strokes it softly. His tenderness and love flowing into me make my heart burst open. The trauma I am holding in my cells is triggered instantly.
The trauma of the cancer and of Steve’s murder – everything is still there in my body; vibrating, ready for the cue to jump into emotional action. With my foot being touched and held I cry, and a cascade of words pours out of me. I speak about fear, pain, anxiety, and the unknown. How long will it take, I wonder, to dissolve the trauma, to release that energy? Will it ever be over, really?
In a local café I talk to a woman, a tourist from Australia, who was attacked walking along the road. Two guys approached on a motorcycle, one got off the bike and threatened her with a knife. She tried to defend herself, but he was much stronger than her, snatched her backpack, jumped back on the motorbike and they drove off.
When I hear that story, my response is twofold: first, ice-cold fear throbs in my body – I am not safe. My adrenaline pulses. What would I do if that happened to me? Mind you, I think to myself, I am always with Coco. (But then, being with Coco didn’t help Steve.)
Secondly, and more intensely, I feel this wave of dark heavy dread rising up the back of my neck. Steve was also attacked as he was walking along; an ordinary day, a harmless innocent man with his dog. I imagine that Steve probably did not defend himself, mainly because everything happened so quickly.
Before I know it, hot tears spring into my eyes, my breathing becomes laborious and fast, and my impulse is to RUN, away, away from this café, away from this story, away, just away. But I continue sitting there at the table, holding on to my mug, listening to her, hearing about her feeling so violated, of her fear for her life. It is tough to stay there, and only several hours later am I able to release the energy that bubbled up, and reestablish my equilibrium.
Since the cancer and Steve’s murder, my outlook on the future has changed completely. I used to think that I would get old and then die one day. Now, I don’t know anymore. Right now I am on my way to Denmark to be with my family. The last time I packed up everything and left my home (almost to the day two years ago), I thought I was coming back a few months later, cured of cancer, to live happily with Steve in paradise. But it wasn’t to be. It took 17 months to get back here, and everything was different. Now I am afraid.
The ‘not knowing’ what the future holds is very present for me. It flows in my veins with every heartbeat. I bid farewell to my friends as if I’m never going to see them again. I make sure that all my affairs are in order. I look at everything as if I was looking at it for the last time. I take it in fully. Who knows, the cancer might come back. I might die. The plane might crash. The world could end. I could get murdered. Anything is possible.
Some might think I have gone crazy. “Of course you’re not going to die, Lokita“, they say. I wonder myself, have I gone crazy? Do I have a negative outlook on the future? Am I pessimistic, morbid, and living in fear, creating a self-fulfilling prophesy?
No. The trauma somehow has unleashed the truth. And by “truth” I mean the reality of life and death. This is everyone’s reality; we just forget about it as the moments of our life pass by, day by day, hour after hour. I cannot do that anymore. People have suggested it to me before, and I am slowly beginning to see that perhaps the traumatic experiences serve some kind of spiritual purpose for me.
Early on in my cancer treatment, Steve and I were at a Dharma Talk at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. The teacher talked about post traumatic growth and facing adversity. At the time it sounded like a great concept. Who has ever heard of that – post traumatic growth! I liked the word play, and of course, it made complete sense. Until it was my turn for trauma.
We were asked to tell the person sitting next to us how we would deal with intense adversity and seemingly insurmountable difficulties. I told Steve that my way would be trust, and explained it to him. Not the personal, conditional trust; not even trusting that everything, somehow, is right, that life or God or fate have their own mysterious ways. Rather, trust as the ever-present flavor of life. Trust that is everything, that is both passive and vibrantly active, that defies surrender, conditions, and personal motivation. Trust that is simply there. It is like a shift in consciousness, perhaps even an awakening.
I often think back to that inquiry, especially now that I am living it. Trust has been the red thread through the past two years. That combined with all the deep work I have been doing, alone, with my friends, my family, and with my exquisite therapist – processing, meditating, observing the mind, crying, releasing, expressing, accepting – has been amazing and so helpful in my healing process.
There are many approaches and methods to heal from trauma, and to move beyond it. For me, the simple, inevitable truth of life and death, carried on the wings of all-pervading trust, is one of the most powerful.
And it is liberating all-around.
When the rose opens, its fragrance starts flowing all around. It is not addressed to anyone in particular. If the king passes by he will receive it; if a beggar passes by he will receive it. If a thief passes by he will receive it. If a murderer passes by he will receive it. For the rose it makes no difference who is receiving it.
Trust is the fragrance of a silent, peaceful being. Let me remind you: Trust is the fragrance of nothingness.” ~Osho, From Death to Deathlessness