There are parts of us that shut down in the wake of trauma. Synapses slowly stop firing and eventually altogether, deciding that some connections are suddenly safer if they cease to exist. Energy will flatline in these places, the vibrations becoming so dense they barely move, save a faint pulse traveling a great distance just to be an echo of what used to be.
Huge pieces of my heart turned off when I stopped playing basketball. And this weekend, we were finally, collectively, able to name the experience that wounded, and in turn, bonded us deeply: trauma. What a relief to call college basketball what it was, a traumatic experience, for all of us, in very different and very similar ways. We may have won championships, but we were completely shattered emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually; all the ways one can feel and make sense of the world were broken by the age of 22. It’s not even a question: winning was not worth it.
It has been a 12-year reckoning, trying to reconcile big little lies we once believed about ourselves, each other, and most of all, what that experience should have been and was not. This unlearning, however, was a process that seemed to be filled with even harder lessons to learn, as if in order to heal, I needed to keep repeating a version of the same experience – with different people, in different places, in different times – and make different decisions that could elevate the original deadbeat vibration, giving it a little bit more life that raised its frequency a tiny bit higher with every try. Indeed, I have gone back to school twice and quit three different jobs to get off this path, triggers galore.
My sense of belonging has suffered as a result. I closed myself, unknowingly, from any real deep and meaningful connections – keeping it business as usual at arm’s length. I don’t recall ever making this decision, but over time the lack grew into its own unwieldy insecurity rooted in low self-esteem. I had pushed myself so far away from the very thing that sustains us that relationships – both friendships and romantic – were not even on the list of things I cared about in my 20s. Instead, I became passionate about the work I did, not who I did them with.
What kind of experience then, do you have to have, for your heart and soul to unconsciously shut down, out of an abundance of caution? How hurt do you have to be, that you do not even realize that you have numbed yourself to love and connection? Trauma, the long-lasting effects of emotional and psychological injury.
Of course, the flip side is that survival triggers also have their opposites, which means that people, places, and things can inspire higher frequency emotions, too, not only the fight, flight, or freeze responses we were demanded to play and perform through on a daily basis, for years. This equal and opposite reaction is a scientific law for a reason, as well as energy’s ability to transform rather than be destroyed. It’s why we must heal those parts of us that have been dormant and unexpressed – they’re still alive.
In order to do so, we must forgive the things we have done and the words we have said while in survival mode. We have to forgive one another for the doing the best we could and still, we displayed our worst; for failing each other with misunderstandings. We must give ourselves this grace, for the easiest way to rise is to surrender to a better day.
Five days in the Dominican Republic can make it easy to let go of the heaviness, especially when you are there to reunite and celebrate love; when you wake up at sunrise, baptize yourself in the Caribbean every afternoon, and drink steadily all day and dance into the night. It’s especially easy when the person you are celebrating is the most high-vibe person you know, a forever role model in how a free spirit goes with the flow.
Here are a few key takeaways from my trip and the people who made it special:
- The people who warmed your heart in the past will have a fire blazing for you upon reunion. Everything that was easy between you before gets even easier with age.
- You may forget the details of their personal quirks, but when they resurface, you recognize immediately that these are the very things you miss the most.
- Creative people will always, always find ways to express that gift – and it’s a true blessing when conversations need no explanation, only awe and applause.
- Disconnections are real, and it takes great vulnerability to show up now, with an outcome unknown. But you give yourselves the chance to remember who you were when you did connect, once upon a time, and that feels good.
- New friendships that have nothing to do with your trauma are super exciting, and they will burst your heart wide open so you can feel again, and heal.
If you give people the chance to know you, they will show up in surprising ways. Whether it’s fast friends or lifelong bonds, there is a depth – an emotional profundity – that allows for new dimensions of understanding; a more complete wholeness, however you may need it. From what I’ve learned, the internal complexity that can sometimes holds us back, or in place, is remedied and release every time we make each other laugh. And sometimes we don’t even have to do that, we just need to be in the presence of those we know who can. To be next to, and near, is to hold one close to the heart.
Trauma never gets the best of us. The best, well, you know what they say about that.