I stood a breath from the extraordinary today. A common wasp nestled into a native shrub caught my eye while wandering down our lane. I poked my nose into the shrubbery. It twitched and became agitated. And I sucked in my breath; both of our instincts at odds with each other. To fight or flee? For just a moment, time stood still.
After a few minutes, I carefully extracted my form from the flora and continued with my wanderings. Except with a newfound awareness
—a tingling of euphoria, a sense of fulfillment
—as if I had touched the highest peak of a hallowed mountain.
This is how it is with many things in our lives—we come upon them suddenly—we barely recognize them in the mix of all we are looking at. But when we stop, we can see clearly. The new thing staring at us, requiring us to be still and present.
Growth requires these moments of stillness and anticipation. Of simply not-knowing. It requires that we frequently get lost within ourselves.
Our society wants to fill any vacant space with things, with achievement, with judgments and busy-ness. If you take the time to do nothing, you will likely find yourself feeling badly for not getting anything done. Our diaries have spots for every hour which implies that each must be equally productive. In essence, it’s a set up for failure.
And if you have a history of trauma or loss, getting lost (even for a moment) can be even harder. Trauma is about being overwhelmed and sometimes, being caught-off-guard—and so the quiet, still place that is necessary for growth—doesn’t feel nourishing; it usually feels terrifying.
Trauma survivors hate to be caught-off-guard, so rather than taking in what is new and good, they anticipate the old and scary experience of the past—even if it is nowhere near them, even if it is long gone. Better to know what is coming, even if it is bad, rather than be surprised.
This is why healing from trauma is so important—not just because you want to heal the wounds of the past—but because healing allows you to grow again. It allows you to have a new relationship to surprises, to openness, to growth. This healing can take a long time—and even when the terror or fear has subsided.
Most healing experiences don’t look like much at all. Like the wasp, they blend into their surroundings so perfectly you almost miss them. Which is why they need our attention and our respect.
There will be time ahead for the hard work and gratification of moving forward—for seeing things get done. But for all of that to happen: you need to be able to be still. To honour and witness the tiniest (almost insignificant) detail as it appears in our life over and over. To trust the experience of not-knowing long enough to find the way forward.
(c) Felicia Stewart, 2019