I woke up this morning with an arm on my lap. The kids had both crawled into bed, and my husband had not yet hopped into the shower. It could have been anyone’s arm. But when I looked down, I couldn’t recognize it.
It was too big to be one of the kids’ and too hairless to belong to my husband. It startled me for a minute as I watched it move and felt no connection to it.
It was my arm. Apparently, I slept on it and it was asleep. I was moving it, and couldn’t own it, because I couldn’t feel it.
Sometimes that’s what it feels like to be adopted. Sometimes that’s what life feels like after repeated trauma and uncertainty. Sometimes I see it moving, and it’s difficult to own, because I can’t feel it.
I wake up sometimes and don’t know where I am. I’m sure it has something to do with the insomnia, and the fact that I’m probably hitting R.E.M. when I’m meant to get up, but it’s still jarring to not know where you are. It doesn’t feel safe, and home is supposed to be safe.
Feeling safe at home isn’t something I take for granted, and it was something I didn’t experience often, if ever, until I met my husband.
When you grow up too fast and learn the dangers of vulnerability too early, life doesn’t feel safe. When the grownups in your life act like anything but, and you’re forced to pick up and play with scattered pieces of your life instead of Care Bears and Barbies, safety means something different.
It means trust in self, and the ability to outrun or dodge dangerous people and events. It means never feeling comfortable with anyone unless you have the upper hand and can somehow control the relationship or situation. It means constant vigilance and not a lot of time for relaxation — for “just being a kid,” and trusting that someone else will take care of you/it.
I’ve lost count of how many times someone has suggested the solution to the enormous amount of responsibility and stress I carry is to “relax” or “let go.” I’ve learned that only through God’s grace, because I know better than to trust humans 100%. Humans are fallible and they always disappoint. Yes, always. Maybe not today or next week, but wait for it.
It will happen.
I have learned throughout my recovery that having expectations of literally anyone is a set up for disappointment. That lesson was easy. If you can’t expect much from the people you have no choice but to depend on, you own that rather quickly.
Suddenly life at age 10 feels like survival, because no one can be trusted. You learn how to make a life threatening crisis seem like no big deal and then find yourself freaking out over burnt toast or an unidentified arm on your lap. It becomes hard to decipher when to react and when to crawl into fetal position and wait for the end.
My husband has passed all of my tests, and because of that I trust him more than I’ve ever trusted anyone; which is, enough. I depend on him more than I should, and I spend too much time worrying about how I would ever do any of this without him.
I feel safe here – even when I wake up with a strange arm on my lap – and there aren’t words to describe what that means.
So, if you’re you’re doing everything in your power to heal, and holding on tight for the day you might feel okay, and you’re not sure you ever will, please just keep holding.
Trust me. It will happen.