One of the difficult parts of any period of intense difficulty or trauma is the disruption it plays with memory. Long periods of stress can create periods where events seem detached from the flow of time. Trying to remember the order things happened in becomes a challenge. You forget things, only to be suddenly reminded at a later time, often with no context, and are left struggling with them in their nakedness.
Whole periods of time separate themselves from the fabric of the story you've been telling about yourself. Sometimes from the stories you hadn't realized you were telling. Your life becomes as awkward as an broken spined book - pages missing, pages threatening to fall out.
I've spent the last few months going back over old journal entries, old letters. I find myself taking out old photos of old friends, old lovers and looking for some feature to help explain to me who I was when it was written, some clue in a face to reveal what I was to others when the photo was taken.
I keep going back to old moments, like tonguing a cracked tooth. Pulling at their threads trying to find some way to reattach my life to their weave.
It is this sense of loss that is the hardest. Feeling like being washed up on some beach of 'now' and looking across an ocean trying to spy some sign of home.
Part of it is filling in a new chapter of my story. And that takes time, and a certain amount of distance. Neither of which I have much of right now, but that will change. I don't go back to 'before' with the same sense of disorientation. Each time I come back, it is with a little more.
In time, I will be able to tell the most recent part of my story. I've tried with parts. I've laid out facts, some feelings. The framework. When I can finally start to stand outside of this latest section and narrate it back to myself. Even this perspective is a sign of healing the rift. In viewing it finally as a section, it finally acknowledges a 'before' and a life with parts to be written 'after' when this ends instead of the dread that comes at 3 am when this is everything, always, forever. When I stand outside this part of my story, as this part has made me stand outside the rest of my life I'll be able to tell it.
Our difficulties hold the capacity to bring wisdom by taking us outside our story. In some ways, that's when the story truly begins, by bringing forward our awareness of it. We know we are in a story when we awake to the dark woods whether on the way to grandma's house, or simply midway upon the journey of our life.
Most of us only awake to our stories with a start. A sudden event, or a sudden realization. That moment when we notice the ground beneath us is no longer a path. That first flash of fear, one of the first human fears, that we may be alone in the shadows of that first and eternal woods.
But that is not the whole story. It is only half. The story is only told when we come back home no matter how long it takes. And the telling of that story heals us even as it leaves us different. Having been outside, we have gained the gift of being able to tell our own story. We realize in the shadows we have faced, which were the first shadows on the cave walls and which are the shadows of our life how much of our story had been told by others. We come home as character but also, now, to some degree as narrator. It is this dual faculty of character/narrator that is the source of the wisdom of life's lessons if we are open this new role.
And now I'm rambling.