Pivotal moments drive us all.
Pivotal moments fill our lives and they change us. They can determine how we react to situations and events. They show us truth or lie in the smile of another, regardless of what might truly be going on behind a strangers eye. We may not be aware of the processes they ingrain to our minds and hearts, we may not even remember them, but they touch us deeply and profoundly. Even the very small moments, moments that last only a fraction of a thought’s breadth, can impact our entire lives.
I have a lot of memories, but I have more that I cannot reach. There are large chunks of history that are just missing from the reel. Between medications, severe depression, and my brains reaction to traumatic events, a lot got lost in the gaps. Sometimes I remember things that were lost, fractions and bits at a time. Other times the memories flood back all at once, leaving me breathless. Not every memory is hard or horrible, but being slapped in the face with things you didn’t know had happened is hard – and sometimes grueling.
Recently, I started keeping a journal for my memories. The things that pop up, out-of-place and unwelcome. It happens, sometimes often, and sometimes not. Though I have noticed that when these memories come, that if I ignore them, they have a tendency to continue popping in. Ruining dinners and interrupting otherwise calm days. I’d read before that some find it useful to keep a notebook or a diary of the things they’ve lived through or of their processes and thoughts around unpleasant histories – that it could be good to express feelings around trauma, rape, or abuse in a physical way. I remembered all this, and I chose a journal out of my box – I really do have a box of journals – and in that journal I’ve started keeping track of memories.
Because sometimes it really does help to get things out, to write them down or sculpt them out. To prove that you’re still real, to hold them in physical form and know that while they are with you, they are not you.
These moments are profound and in these moments truth is felt.
I was considering my memories not long ago, trying to pinpoint why some things crop out when they do, and I got to thinking about these times that change us. One in particular spoke to my truth.
I typed it up into an essay, and I’m going to share an edited part of it here with you… It was a long time ago.
I didn’t believe there was a place for me in the world.
After all I’d endured, I didn’t think I even wanted there to be. I’d pushed so far into the pit of my depression, escaping the anxiety and the traumatic responses by blanketing myself in bright-colored pills and a numb, weeping heart. In a way I mourned for myself, but mostly I tried to escape. I had lived for a time with people who were cruel to me. I was abused and assaulted regularly by one of my roommates, formerly an emotionally abusive boyfriend. Assault makes it sound safe, but there’s nothing safe about rape. Finally, after yet another emotionally manipulative argument, I pushed hard enough that he told me to leave. Being kicked out of that apartment is one of the best things that happened to me, but it was not a defining one. I was only nineteen. I moved back into my parents home, weeping over every box and item, rushing to remove myself entirely from the apartment of my abuser in a single afternoon, pretending that nothing had gone wrong and that nothing horrible had taken place. I could feel the film of my pain and shame on every item I touched, as though he’d left sugar, melting and sticky over every part of my life. I continued to live as though I’d never left. Haunted and dim from antidepressants and sedatives, I was convinced that there was nothing left for me. After a few conversation with less than attentive mental health professionals I was equally convinced that this could never change. There was nothing for me. There never would be.
I took to making wild trips into the night, driving for hours with no destination, or walking barefoot in the shiftier parts of town. I wasn’t looking for thrills or adventure, but I was in search of something. I just didn’t know it yet. I needed to move, to feel my body free and racing into whatever fate the world would hand me.
One such night, I drove out through town and headed over the empty, winding roads that cut through the regional parks and unused plots of pasture and grass. Every turn felt faster than the last, and the night grew darker and more sinister the further I drove. Surrounded by empty, rushing fields, and rolling yellow hills, I sped on, windows open to the chilled fingers of the wind. I remember clearly, the dazzling pattern my headlights made on the gravel strewn asphalt, and the dust that kicked up around me as I swerved and cut corners in my haste to move. I remember the silence and the stillness in the cab of my little black truck, and the sound the tires made as I rounded bends and jerked to one side or the other. My heart raced and filled my chest, rising through my throat, in that special way only someone intimate with anxiety attacks will recognize. But on I drove, heedless of the dimming corners of my eyes and the increasing fuzz between my ears.
After what felt like an eternity of driving into the night, I rounded a wide, gentle bend, rushing immediately down as the road dipped and there at the bottom, between the rising of the pitted road before and behind, I slammed on the brakes. I sat frozen and incapable of moving, my foot rammed down onto the pedal and my chest vibrating with the ready engine. In that moment, the darkness seemed to widen around me, growing and spreading. I felt myself at the edge of the world, like any movement would tip me over and I’d tumble into the abyss or slide right off the world, like those old maps with the dragons on the sides, warning adventurers of their imminent doom. I was terrified, every part of my being vibrated, shaking in my very cells as I waited for the darkness to swallow me up. Then, just as soon as it had overcome me,
it passed. The night felt clearer, my racing heart began to mellow, and I could breathe again. Suddenly, I could see the road for what it was and recognized the land around me. The darkness lifted, and I knew that this was not an end, but a transition. I made my way home that night, driving at a more sedate pace, and something in my chest shifted.
There are moments that change us, moments that destroy us, and moments that save us. And I’m glad that I can stand here today, able to look back on my memories and see what points pivot and which way I face.
Not long ago I discovered a website called Six Hens. If you are at all interested in this sort of real life story, you should definitely check it out. These are all true stories from women that highlight the moments in their lives that changed everything. It’s a beautiful thing