A rich blend of human experience regularly arises for me these days when I notice how different my responses are to a variety of situations from those around me. There is awe and gratitude for the practice; there is another piece though – something like a sobering compassion for the amount of suffering in the world – stark and powerful.
A few days ago, we had a fire break out in my area that cancelled schools for the rest of the week and had everyone who wasn’t evacuating ready to do so. My kids were stressed and upset here and there, I’d attend to them, and then get back to trying to salvage the work day that had been completely disrupted.
I noticed that there was a lot of chatter online about triggering and retraumatizing, bordering on hysteria in some cases. I know that this getting caught up in a negative feedback loop in the inner system of thoughts and emotions can be impossible to avoid at times, especially without a practice. Heck, I remember it well – how awful it was to be yanked around by whatever conditions presented.
Personally, this week I felt safe, if out of sorts, while my community seemed to be having a group meltdown. It was so pervasive that I couldn’t ascribe it to just a few people who were being retraumatized. I talked to a friend of mine on the second day of the fires who is a practitioner and even she was shocked that I didn’t feel triggered since our town had horrific circumstances around the same time last year. That was when I realized it wasn’t everyone else who was having an extraordinary experience – it was me.
As a result of the practice, I was pretty much present last year, too. I offered tools to the community when we suffered a mass shooting and a massive fire, shocked at the escapism and complete inability to cope I saw in most of the adults around me (notably, children were much more able to express how they were impacted at the time). This year, more people are expressing that their children are terrified – children who weren’t terrified last year.
So, there’s sorrow: I see that children were impacted by their parents’ fear and inability to process. They’ve absorbed it to some extent. And the adults who were unable to be still and allow their feelings to pass through like a storm last year have the stress of that resistance compounded this year. I have so much compassion for this suffering, and so much awe at how different it is for me now. I just don’t feel like I took last year with me. I experienced it close to fully and was cleaned out adequately to experience fire season again this year – not the kind of thing I could have imagined when I started this journey, but I’m grateful, and humbled. The dividends of this path are many, and for the most part, unpredictable.