Limbic Translation

     “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition
that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it.
Symptoms may include flashbacks,nightmares and severe anxiety,
as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event”
     Sounds about right. I’m well versed in and have adapted to accommodate the above diagnosis and its hallmarks. What I am amused to discover this very morning is that not only does PTSD have a mirror image doppleganger, but I am woefully perplexed, attempting to capture, in words, its name and description. Word-smithery is my vehicle of choice to comprehend the perspective of my life’s events; and I find myself baffled. Please do not misunderstand, Reader; this truly IS a delightful and vastly unexpected conundrum to experience. Simply put, my previously abnormal normal has suddenly become abnormal and my new normal, while subtly familiar, in fact, feels oddly normal, once again. Got it?
     This “opposite of PTSD” exposes unpredictable shades of emotions and reactions akin to its insidious cousin. However, the adrenalin fueled bursts to flee, fear, anxiety, defensiveness, dread have been, like the old decaf coffee commercial, unbeknownst to me, replaced with sneaky pangs of laughter, security, vulnerability and calm.  And I find myself uncharacteristically at a loss for words to describe the feeling.
     Add to this happy dilemma the fact that my psyche, as previously mentioned, best absorbs new information through what is called “external processing”.  To the lay persons, I need to talk it out. A lot. And more than once. Or my pathetically human limbic system cannot fully accept it as truth. So, my sweet Tom finds himself restating, “I know. You/I said that already, remember?” He KNOWS. He SAID IT ALREADY. And I am suddenly able to HEAR it. ASSIMILATE it. OWN it. ACCEPT it.
     So, limbic system, let me reiterate, in the written manner that you require: I survived. I am safe. I am happy. I am worthy. And I am home.

Rollercoasters or Carousels?

To tell you the truth, I hate ’em both.

Take rollercoasters. You’ve got your initial anxiety inducing uphill climb; the ratcheting of the gears hauling your disturbingly thin, hulled out cart toward the pinnacle at a surreal pace. Add the catapulting from the apex your climb downward through insidious G forces. Throw in some terrifying twists and unexpected turns that spontaneously disorient your perspective. Now mix with gravity-defying, nausea-inducing drops that culminate in an abrupt ending that finds you swearing you will NE-VERR again put yourself through such hell.

Equally sickening is the seemingly tame carousel. Do not permit those carnival-colored, elegantly-adorned horses fool you. Their exquisitely detailed bridles and softly flowing sculpted tails lull the senses into the belief that this is a ride suitable for even the feint of heart. Alas, once astride one’s chosen mount, it is obvious; you’re simply traveling in circles. Sure, you experience some briefly distracting ups and downs, you may even grab a brass ring once or twice, but the destination remains ever the same– right back where you began in the first place. A clockwise lesson in abject futility. Point taken.

Me, I prefer the tram ride, high above the activity. The unwaveringly steady pace is soothing, lacking all bumps and jolts. The perspective from above provides insight to the big picture of the activity below. Amazingly clear is the view of vendors and carts, rest rooms and information guides. One can peruse the frenzied goings on of the water park from a perch aloft, away from the fray of the Speedo’ed set below. Making orderly notes of “must see’s” and places to skip over to heed with arms and legs inside the cart until the ride comes to a complete stop.

Nope. I don’t buy that last part, either. And I wrote it. We are drawn to the excitement of the coasters. The nostalgic calliope music lures us back in. Every. Single. Time. And each time, we hesitantly trade our tickets for the hope of a moment of fun and wonder. Hell, maybe I’ll actually enjoy the free-falls this time. Maybe this carousel will stop revolving elsewhere. One can hope, right? Because without hope, and maybe some courage, we are doomed to another uneventful cruise on the tram.

How many sleeps ’til Christmas?

I have two choices. On the one hand, I can lock myself away for the next six weeks or so, insulating myself from the sensory barrage of holiday music, decorations, television and radio ads, and emotional avalanche of cards featuring smiling, happy families and pets, adorned in holiday finery. Or, I can dig deep and resolutely capture holiday cheer within my weary heart.

A more accurate sentiment would be that I face these exact two choices every single hour until New Year’s Day.

As a child, we perceive the holiday season through lenses wonderously free from anxiety. Of COURSE Santa will come if you have been well behaved and send him a polite letter listing toys and delights you hope to find beneath your tree. That’s how it works. The ratio between “good behavior” and “heaps of presents” remains in the unwavering alignment amidst the boundaries of childhood perspective.

Flash forward to adulthood and that perspective’s precarious “alignment” gleams.

The truth is, many of us search in vain for that hopeful magic.  Jaded by life’s frailties and struggles, the gossamer memories of glittering trees, people happily gathered in celebration, and animated holiday specials fade.  Though we strive to recreate these experiences for ourselves and our children, the spectacle pales in comparison to those of our youth.

It becomes a painful struggle, each day, to lay to sleep hopes and dreams of Christmases past that never came to be. Severed relationships, financial struggles and seasonal depression strain our emotions in direct correlation to the impending holiday’s approach.

Unless we fight to hold the light of the promise of the season within our porous hearts.

Each bauble I picture over my non-existent fireplace mantel, every roll of wrapping paper I won’t need for gifts I cannot afford, all the trees awaiting purchase in lots pierces my soul. But I refuse to turn away. For somewhere in the depths of my floundering soul remains a promise.

“I am the light of the world”.

I have only to trust Him and believe I walk in the path He intends and I will receive gifts unavailable at even the schwankiest of stores. And so, though my eyes fill with tears watching the excitement of children and the embrace of those in love this holiday season, I focus on His promise. I lean on His word. I salvage hope. I listen intently for guidance. I take the next steps in faith. And I trust that my Christmas, as a child of God, will never disappoint.