Notes on Courage
Inner work for outer action.
Part of my bridge story has always been unexplainable. That day, as I sat against the median, I remember saying out loud, on repeat, "I don't know how I got out of my car."
Over and over again. The words fell from my mouth in some kind of controlled hysteria.
"I don't know how I got out. I don't know how I got out."
I didn't know how, but I did know why. Scratch that.
I knew why, and I had an inkling about how-- but the how was wrapped up in all kinds of mystery and magic. It was an explanation beyond my understanding and wrapped up in all kinds of survivor's guilt, so I stuck with "I don't know", whenever someone asked:
How did you get out of your car?
Since I didn't have any answer (at least not publicly), everyone else tried to answer it. And oh the answers!
All I have to say is that it's not fun having the most pivotal moment of your life told through the framework of other people's belief systems. It kind of shocks me how invasive people can be about what I consider to be the most personal and intimate aspect of who we are-- our spiritual centering.
[Side note: It's not helpful to try to explain someone else's life and experiences through your own lens. It's diminishing and self-serving. It can also be really damaging in the case of race, culture, gender... Instead, ask questions and check your assumptions.]
So, do you want to know what I know?
I know that there was magic. Divine magic.
I know that it wasn't until I surrendered to the situation-- stopped fighting and started accepting-- that the magic happened.
I know there was help. Divine help.
I know there was purpose. Divine purpose.
Because I knew all that, I never looked back. Never wished for another chance to take that first missed exit, or the second. Despite the pain, I trusted it had a purpose-- that I had a purpose for still being here.
Why not just tell people that?
When it comes to the Divine, my knowing is kept in my gut, my intuition. I don't pretend to understand the mysteries of the Universe, but instead try to honor them as such, Divine mysteries. My experience is the kind people want to label with loaded words and place into their own box of understanding. I don't fault them for that-- it's understandable, and in some ways I shared my experience in a way that people could draw their own conclusions, from their own perspectives.
Then, there's the heavy. Thirteen people died. What right do I have to claim Magic? Divine intervention? I thought it was selfish to even think about the magic-- let alone to speak of it out loud. So I didn't.
Now, with some years and distance, I recognize how much worse it could have been. I remember emerging from the water thinking everyone would be dead and instead seeing survivors standing next to their car calling loved ones. There was Divine intervention all over the scene that day. It showed up in mysterious form and human form. It eased pain and brought hope. It Lit up the whole world in one of our darkest hours. (Don't you remember how everything just stopped, how all of a sudden our disagreements and little life stressors didn't matter so much? I could feel it, the collective consciousness as everyone tried to make sense of the senselessness.)
Over the summer, someone finally gave me an answer that honors the magic of my experience in a way that felt good to me.
One of the young women who comes to heARTS watched a news story I was in and she questioned, "So you really don't know how you got out of your car?"
"Nope I really don't."
"I bet I do... MERMAIDS!" she exclaimed. Then looked a little sheepish, as though I would think it was silly.
"MERMAIDS!! YES!" She didn't know in that moment how happy I was, to hear an answer filled with wonder and imagination, instead of dogmatic belief systems.
No one can deny the magic of mermaids.
So now my answer is clear, and on Aug. 1 this year I had an (A)riel tattooed on my arm-- the same arm that reached for the light above the surface of the water. The same hand that holds the physical scars from that day.
About the blog:
This space holds thoughts and ideas generated from my personal journey of healing and recovery from trauma, co-dependency, and white supremacy culture. Opinions are entirely my own.