The mess was mine.  The mess was close.  The mess came in an instant.  In an unexpected way the water broke all around me, I could not make it stop.  It ran until it was done of its own accord.  Like the sobs of a wounded soul, there was no stopping until the exhaustion was pervasive.  The work of keeping it all together and contained was captured in the spring, and had been released.  The work had been hidden from the unsuspecting, the uninterested and, myself as well.  I had not taken the account of the labor needed to hold it all in place.  To keep the plates spinning and balls juggling and the tension “just so”.

 Seemingly innocent was the question.  Seemingly simple was the reply.  It was the gaze that was different.  It was the intensity that made the difference.  The eyes that did not simply accept the pat answers and glib explanations.  It was the power of those eyes that drilled deep and would not avert.  Would not look away.  Would know the pain, but also the source of the pain withheld.  Fear.  Fear of exposure that I did not have it “all together”, like I had pretended.  Fear of the truth, that I would not listen too.  Fear that the “white noise”, that had kept it silent, would be shut off and the truth revealed.  Fear that the time had come.

We are never ready.  Ever.  If we had been ready we would have been working on it long before this.  It is always from an angle we didn’t suspect, and past the shields that we though would protect, it comes.  “Arrows from a friend, who can withstand?” is one lament in the Psalms, and so it is true.  At times they are a friend not yet made, but will be so, soon.  At times they are close friends, but this wound is different.  This wound heals slowly, and with a significant alteration to what had been the course you expected.

 There are two ways this mess happens.  First is to be given one more drop than you can take.  The “proverbial last straw” is the one that breaks the bonds and all that was being held is released in a rush.  This one, the last one, is the straw of which the camel’s back was broken.  This one, this last one, is the one you had no more to give for, but were expected to do so.  This one is when the mess became less theory and more reality, and the change did as well.  Perhaps the first change was the mess, but the next change would be to not be subject to it again.  That change is different.  Perhaps more defensive, but perhaps more free.  Defensive to prevent and to guard against, or free to also guard against.  “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose”, or so the song goes.  Mark twain wrote a short story about a traveler on a train on an overnight journey.  The traveler kept waking to see about his parcel, that was all of his possessions in the world, but one time he awoke to late and the parcel was gone.  Then he slept well, for he had nothing left to lose.  Perhaps it is your lot to have lost that which was your parcel of life’s possessions.  Are you now free to sleep content? Or will you guard more tightly your new accumulations?

 The other way to break this cohesion is the introduction of a chemical.  In this case of water, a single drop of soap will suffice.  The bond of this tightly held dome above the glass will break just as completely and just as fast as the overloading of the last paragraph, but will be different in its shock value.  The call from the Doctor that was not as expected.  The Lawyer that explains you’re bankrupt due to the behavior of your partner and friend.  Perhaps it is the Sheriff that tells of the wreck in the middle of the night.  There are many chemicals that do this.  This breaking of the bond that you thought was intact and secure. The call or the friend that stops by.  The sudden awareness that there is a mess and you are still in shock.  If you have been spared, then look to your friends for the story of their mess from the surprise call.  The awareness that drugs and recovery are now part of your story.  That your “normal friend” wasn’t quite as you were aware, and now the police are involved.  What do you do now, but begin to soak up the bits of your past, for it is now past, things you had considered under control.  This is your new task.  Getting “back to normal” can’t start, and probably shouldn’t happen, until you can learn to walk again.  Yes, the mess needs sopped up, and hopefully you will have friends to help you, but to start walking again will take a while. A crutch or a walker may be added, but certainly some friends.

You may learn to smile again, and perhaps soon, but not deeply.  Not yet.  The mess will perhaps have been long forgotten even, but still it is there in the ready for a cue to cause the memory to bring it back.  What then?  Will it be freedom that you have, or simply the sorrow.  Some wounds heal differently than before.  You may not have the bruises anymore, but the apprehension, and the lack of trust are still real.  PTSD is not simply confined to the war zones.  To be traumatized for years by a parent or spouse or child is as real as the sounds and smells of battle.  A battle of a different sort, and duration.

It happens in a moment.  When one, a stranger or long-lost friend, looks deeply into the window of our soul and doesn’t look away.  We know we are known.  So do they. This time it is different.  Calling on the depth of their resonance, to vibrate the chords that they know are waiting for it, the tension breaks and the tears flow. I would say “finally”, but that implies relief and that is not yet.  Now it is surprise, the feeling of being trapped and “found out” and not able to hide or make excuses.  This comes first.  Relief comes when you know they have worked through the stories of their own and will be gently strong as you speak that which has not been spoken of for a long time.  That they will let you tell the tale patiently but will resist avoidance and deflection.  This is what comes of the telling of your tale.  That one day you will give that which you have.  To one that needs it, in a moment of their own mess.  You will give the freedom that you know.

Were it otherwise, to be defensive and reserved, you would not be capable of the trust needed to tell of their story deep inside.  The giver of freedom will be given trust in return.  The giver of control and defense will be given short answers and shallow stories.  If you are looking for a litmus test, this is it.  Perhaps the teller of the tale is not ready, or rather that you are not free.  It could be that you simply would need to learn how to ask better questions.  The default position is to tell, to one that is ready to listen.  If you are free, and have time, they will tell you.

So, now what?  If all that you have are young children that will talk to you, let them talk. If your tale is that of a specific version, seek out those in that group for listening; Veterans, suicide prevention, Medical groups like Alzheimer or cancer, SIDS and more.  There is a group that needs your talent to listen, and perhaps for you to speak to.  Go then.  In freedom and in power to help those that need a hand.  They may need to sop up the mess first, so be ready to get messy. They will smile with their eyes when you have done it well.


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