Love and Trauma
Love is the antidote for trauma.
I’m not talking about the kind of love that requires us to blunt our awareness of the terrible events we experience and hear about. I’m talking about awake love: love that takes in everything and holds us with beauty and joy in the midst of it. But trauma often makes us too numb and fearful to feel it.
A couple of weeks ago, I fell in our kitchen. A gentle fall in which I rolled onto my back. The week before, I had a harder fall in our garden: pain, swelling, bruises, though no broken bones. The second fall happened as I healed from the first. I was off balance.
I’ve been off balance a lot in my life from early trauma. I’ve had many falls—while playing sports, coming down stairs, or simply walking down a sidewalk or across a room. Most have not caused major injury. But small, repeated injuries add up over time as we age. A year ago, I had surgery to repair torn tendons in my left shoulder. I face a total knee replacement in a few weeks and may need repair on my right shoulder later. Over time, I’ve learned to be more present in my body, and I rarely fall now. But the damage is already done.
As I drove along Lake Washington Boulevard after my tumble in the kitchen, I mused about the connection between my personal experience of trauma and the larger trauma field we are all living in. I don’t need to describe that to you; minute by minute, we are barraged by detailed, horrifying facts on the radio, in the news, on social media. My parents’ lives were upended by a pandemic and two world wars as well as their own personal pain and losses. The challenges we face—and these differ widely depending on how much privilege we have—are even more daunting.
At a turn in the road along the lake, my perspective shifted. I could feel love coming from every direction: from the trees on either side, from their roots under the asphalt, from the water, the sky. I knew that this love is always there to hold me, to hold everyone, all beings. It exists next to, within, around the trauma. My body felt fluid, relaxed, fully alive. I sustained this delicious feeling for my half-hour drive north. I can touch into it more easily now. But it takes focus and intention to do so.
We face a stark choice: do we want to live in a world that perpetuates trauma or one that perpetuates love? What can we each do, in our own lives, our communities, in the world, to lessen the impact of trauma and spread love? Again, I’m not talking about taking the easy road. Acting from a place of love is a fierce path. We have living examples. The Rev. Drs. William Barber and Liz Theoharis of the Poor People’s Campaign come to mind. There are many others.
I can’t tell you how to find your own bend in the road. Many days, I can barely find my own. But I know that love is always present for all of us.