Know Your (Painful) Anniversaries
It’s so important (and somehow regularly forgotten) to recall loved ones’ birthdays, wedding anniversaries, when Mother’s Day falls, or if a nephew is graduating this year. We know we need to make time to celebrate the good stuff. But do we know that we need to remember painful milestones as well? Often these experiences or seasons of life are simultaneously forgotten in the mind while unconsciously remembered in the body. When this happens, we can end up in a ditch without ever understanding how we got there.
A woman hates her twenty-eighth birthday and struggles through half the year, confused at to why she can’t seem to feel stable, until she realizes that her mom committed suicide when she was twenty-eight years old. A boy was introduced to pornography for the first time by his dad at the age of fourteen, startled to be inducted into a club he never wanted to be in, and is shocked to realize that he ‘accidentally’ left porn open on his computer to be found by his fourteen-year-old son. A young woman is sexually assaulted in January and every year following dreads the start of the new year. A boy’s parents went through a terrible divorce as summer turned to fall when he was a middle schooler; now, he hates the feeling of the air changing as August draws to a close. A man loses someone he loved dearly on a specific day in June and makes terrible decisions every summer following.
These are all stories I know, stories I’ve heard or lived. We all have painful days or times of year that are often distressing and disturbing to us and we don’t recall why. Do you know your anniversaries? Do you know the days to take special care of yourself? There are days (or seasons of the year) to not make any big decisions or do any strenuous tasks. There are days of the year where we should have the option to order takeout or bake something for comfort or do things entirely for ourselves. Do you know your anniversaries? I’m not saying that every person with divorced parents needs to remember the months that it occurred. I’m saying to take note of the memories that are floating into your brain right now (because they’re emerging for a reason).
Do you know your anniversaries?
I forgot (consciously) about a painful anniversary a few years ago. I made no special arrangements, I took no intentional time away from my normal commitments. I remember how the nights leading up to that specific date were filled with night terrors in which someone was chasing me, threatening to kill me. After waking up completely terrified on multiple nights in a row, the date jolted into me like a lightning strike. My body would not forget what my mind desperately wanted to do. Forgetting the memory is no cause for judgment. I saw it as my mind’s attempt to cease the pain. But my body kept the score. And yours does too.
One of my mentors was viciously bitten by a dog in a friend’s backyard. After getting stitches and recovering from the wound, he returned to his friend’s house months and months later. As he walked across the yard, he felt his body completely freeze up in the exact spot that the injury had happened. He had almost forgotten. Yet, his body remembered.
What is your body remembering that your mind wishes you could forget?
The year following the night terrors, I blocked on my calendar on that specific day. I made no plans, except to visit the cemetery (PS: visiting cemeteries are not only for grieving the loss of loved ones who are buried there - they are powerfully symbolic places that invite us to mourn all kinds of losses). I hadn’t been there in years and wondered if I would find the specific grave I hoped to visit on this enormous plot of land. I felt a deep invitation to trust my body rather than look for it on their digital map (and the night before, caved, tried to look it up, and it was unlisted - so I was forced to trust). I intuitively parked. I intuitively trudged. I intuitively changed paths. And I miraculously found the grave stone that was horizontally buried in the ground, unlike the common ones that are planted vertically upright. I cried in that space, not entirely out of grief, but also out of gratefulness that I was learning to trust parts of me that I had (almost) forgotten.