Portals of Self-care

Even though it’s been over 30 years since my trauma, I have regular nightmares. PTSD is like a background app running, sucking at your energy, focus, and mental health.

Last night was one of those nights, and I spent today trying not to be eaten alive by it.

I cried in the shower, but I took a shower. I wore clothes that felt comfortable and safe and went forward with my responsibilities. The kids rely on me to get them to school and work, so that’s what we did. There’s a lot of downtime in kid-ferrying, so I had to fill it with self-care.

I went to the museum here. It’s small, about three rooms, so I can do it by myself without needing a cane-chair or wheelchair. They were showing an exhibit of children’s work, K thru HS, and it was exactly what I needed to see and experience. There’s something cathartic in artistic expression, and there was a lot of hope in this exhibit.

One of the pieces was by 4th and 5th graders who wrote what they are doing to bring goodness to the world on strips of paper, artfully arranged to be the roots of a tree.  Two of these touched me enough that I wrote them down:

“I’m writing a story to tell everyone what I think is important”.
“O then people have locks in their hearts, so I will become a chemist, and an artist, and an author”.

How beautiful is that? I’ll admit I stood there and struggled to not cry over the sweetness and love in that piece.

After the museum, I went over a few blocks to the library. When I need comforting, that’s home base to me. It’s the first place I visit in a new town. I scan the New Books shelves for the ones I’ve already read. I like to see them and say hello. “I know you. I’ve wandered your road and been to your end”. Then, I go to the SUA to WAL aisle. That’s where Catherynne Valente’s books are kept. I think she has the luckiest shelf placement. On either side and above and below are authors like Jules Verne, Jeff Vandermeer, Anne Tyler, John Updike, Mark Twain, Harry Turtledove, Alice Walker, and Kurt Vonnegut. Plus, so many others I haven’t read yet. If you ever have to choose a library aisle to be trapped in, this is the one I recommend.

I sat on the nubby carpet and quietly cried. When you write and share your worlds and imagination and characters, you give me a portal. You give me a safe haven. That has been the meaning of books my entire life. I can crawl inside and take shelter from my own mind. It rinses off the nightmares and the worries. When the character has a problem, I put down mine and help them carry theirs to the conclusion – and that’s a relief. It will resolve, and that’s something I need to believe in. It will end.

After my cry, I got up and visited all the sections (adult fiction, teen, and children’s) where I might someday have a shelved book. I made the decision to read my future neighbors so that when I reach my goal, I’ll feel at home when I visit.

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