It’s been five months since experiencing a random and unexpected trauma in a parking lot. Since then, I’ve been adament about continuing to show up and be present in the world. Someone once asked me if I felt afraid, and the honest answer was no. Until an experience yesterday.
Charlotte definitely has a population of homeless people. It’s not uncommon to see people with signs at various intersections, walking around uptown, wherever. While at a gas station not far from home, a man approached me intently asking for money.
I was standing alone with my keys in hand, and there were other people around, when a man got close and insisted on essentially begging me for money, food, to buy him something to eat. And I made eye contact with him, listening to his words. At first I didn’t feel fear, but sympathy and a deep sense of mental illness. I sensed instability.
And I almost ran away, but for some reason didn’t and offered to buy him food. Which isn’t typical of me at all. This man apologized to me, saying he was sorry if he had been rude.
Then he approached and came physically closer to me than I was comfortable with and it happened; I was flooded with fear. He almost seemed to be approaching to hug me (which wasn’t at all welcome) and I was deeply afraid. I was afraid of physical harm. Trauma. Being physically over-powered. I felt intensely afraid, and it shocked me.
I felt myself fall into the survival mode of fight or flight. I could feel the tension and even shifted how I was holding my keys. I felt terrified and vulnerable to physical harm, hyper-vigilant in my awareness of everything around me.
He saw my reaction and became visibly agitated. He started yelling, and interpreted my behavior as an indication that I believe black people are violent criminals. He had no way to know my behavior was related to trauma at the hands of….a white man. And I wasn’t about to explain any of that to him.
Another man standing nearby held eye contact with me while I silently pleaded with him to move closer and remain in between me and this now agitated other man. He must have sensed it, because he did move closer and just his presence felt reassuring.
The reality is that as a woman, I am not physically as strong as men. As a fiercely independent person, I hate even typing those words…but it’s the truth.
In the midst of all these emotions, I somehow stood my ground, paid for his food and walked back to my car. Where I immediately locked the doors and drove away.
I’m aware of a pattern in my own life. Once I’m far enough beyond a traumatic event or process to start writing about it; that’s a clear signal it’s time to talk more publicly about it.
The same afternoon the above experience happened, Natalie had mentioned our recording a podcast episode about what happened to me in March. It’s been a foregone conclusion that we will at some point do such an episode but until now I haven’t felt ready. It’s an enormous conversation and very highly emotionally charged.
Not that I feel completely ready now, but I do have a strong record of simply showing up, even when I don’t feel ready. So, I just signed myself up as a podcast guest and sent in all of my info. I am willing to have conversations about trauma, true strength and raw courage; as well as what all of that really looks like.
To be clear, I haven’t ever avoided having such conversations. It’s just that until now, they’ve all been private conversations. Now it feels as though it’s time to broaden the audience able to witness them. The beauty of podcast episodes is that I can have the conversation once, and it then becomes available for anyone in the world who may benefit from it.
Grief and trauma are indeed equalizers and none of us escapes the experience of them. As much as I am passionate about illuminating my experience through and beyond divorce, I’m equally passionate about sharing my personal experience of a different type of grief and trauma. Because truly, what happened to me in March….could happen to anyone.
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