There are a lot of things I think about while hiding.
There are a lot of things I think about while hiding in the alcove next to my refrigerator, huddling close to the smooth wooden cabinet, appreciating the way it juts out, blocking any view of me from outside the house.
For example, I think…
It’s okay, babe. Nothing is wrong. And this will pass.
The person banging on my door will give up and leave. My shoulders will relax again, my breath will return, my heart will come back to rest in its usual spot, its usual rhythm, and I will forget that I was here behind the refrigerator.
It will become a regular evening again.
It always does.
Well, unless this time it doesn’t.
I wonder about that too.
How long do I plan to stay here.
Why am I holding this spoon.
My tea must have cooled by now, the mug is getting heavy in my hand.
I wonder how long it’s been.
I haven’t heard them leave the porch.
I haven’t heard them leave.
Do I dare peek around the corner at the clock on the stove?
But maybe then they will see me, maybe they are still there, maybe they’ve moved to the side of the porch and then they will see me because the curtains facing the kitchen are slightly open.
I wonder what it would be like to be someone who didn’t flee in terror at an unexpected knock on the door.
I wonder what happened to me, what made me into someone who immediately, automatically, unthinkingly intuits the worst case scenario and seeks the nearest hiding spot.
And also, what is wrong with people. Who knocks on a door unannounced in the middle of the night?! Who even does that.
And yes, okay, it’s only 7pm, but it’s pitch black and I’m not expecting anyone, and there is no way I’m opening that door. There’s no way I’m even going near the door.
There is no way I’m going near the door.
I have heard too many stories from women friends.
Too many stories, told in that eerie flat voice. I have heard the words, “I knew I shouldn’t open the door, but…”
Never open the door.
Never open the door.
Why am I thinking about the Swedish girl, what was her name, the one who was leaving for India. Nina. I took her flat in south Tel Aviv after my divorce.
It was a small loft in a corner of the fourth floor of a (loosely) converted clothing factory in a not-great neighborhood. It had bars on the windows and the shingles were asbestos, and I loved that place.
Oh right, the door. It was a wide metal door, very wide, with a sliding lock.
People would come and bang on it. And shout threats. Nina owed a lot of people money. And it turned out my boss at the bar had no intention of taking care of all the tickets we’d gotten for being open past midnight, which all had my name and address on them, and I don’t remember exactly what happened with that but there was drama.
One time I got a call from someone who said they were at the bar looking for me, to arrest me, and that Omri, the owner, had gone out the back door instead of explaining that it wasn’t me they wanted. I stayed with a friend for a while.
Mainly when I think about that door, I remember being curled up in a ball in the corner, waiting for the angry people outside the door to leave. They would yell about how they knew I was in there, and I remember wanting a cigarette so badly, and shaking.
Sometimes they would slip an envelope under the door, strategically placed halfway so they’d know if I moved it, and I would leave it there for weeks. Mostly I just waited.
Lots of waiting.
Lots of waiting.
While I am waiting now, I try to think about this as a systems problem.
Like, how about a good sign for the door.
For example: No Soliciting.
Or possibly, better, what about this?
A Person With PTSD Lives Here, Do Not Knock On The Door Because She Can’t Handle It.
Or maybe just PLEASE GO AWAY.
Or maybe the signs need to be inside of me. Maybe see a hypnotherapist, create new responses to knocking on the door. Seed calm and steadiness. I still don’t have to open it. I can just be calm in my not-opening, in my non-response.
Preventative measures, it couldn’t hurt.
It couldn’t hurt.
I am wishing I had my cell phone in my pocket, why don’t I just carry it with me.
No, that’s nuts. Do I really want to be someone who can’t walk a few feet to the kitchen for half a minute to pour herself some tea without having a phone for company?
Actually, yes, maybe, because it would be so nice to have right now.
And because this is not the first time I’ve been right here, cowering, frozen, waiting, shallow breath, trying to feel the ground beneath my unsure feet.
This has happened dozens of times. And if I had the phone I would know how long I have been waiting, and I could text my housemate and tell him what happened.
This is always comforting. He’d say that it’s probably the kids of that couple that look like spies, collecting money for the basketball team. And I’d say no, because they didn’t knock next door, I would have heard, it was only here. And anyway, this wasn’t kids. That was an adult knock: firm and determined, and it repeated.
And he’d say maybe it was the neighbors. He would run through all the possibilities and ask if I wanted him to come home, and I would feel better.
I would feel better.
I think I hear a car driving off.
I wonder what it is like not to have PTSD. What is it like for a knock to just be a knock, just information. Oh, someone is at the door.
I wonder about whose fear this is.
Tiny me, maybe. When I was little I had recurring nightmares, for years, about people breaking into the house to kidnap me. They’d surround the house, and then one of them would bang on the door, and I’d hide.
Or maybe it’s older than that, from before I was even here, fear that is energy residue or cellular memory, inherited genetic or cultural fear, Jewish fear. Maybe this is the received collective memory of the Inquisition, of pogroms, of Gestapo pounding on the door.
Or maybe it’s from my adult life. Maybe this is the fear that comes from Not Having Safe Space, maybe this is the fear that comes from the lived experience of being without a home for eight months, maybe this is the fear I didn’t let myself feel when things were desperate.
Maybe I don’t need to know.
Maybe I don’t need to know.
I am gripping the spoon and my hand hurts.
There is a small cut on my finger.
I have been staring at the can opener on the counter for a very long time.
It is okay now, I can peek around the corner at the clock, it’s been seven minutes since I last looked.
I could walk to the couch. Or crawl, maybe crawling is better. Not going to crawl.
I make it to the couch and sit there for hours, not moving, keeping myself as distracted as possible, because who wants to feel this much nervousness, who wants to listen to the monster chorus of Why Can’t You Just Be A Regular Person Who Can Deal With Shit, This Is Not A Big Deal, It’s Just Someone At The Door.
One day this will pass. This will pass, this will pass, this will pass.
I find my way back.
To breath, to steadiness, to trust, to this moment which is now, where I am safe.
I sleep peacefully through the night, and the next day in the light of morning it is just a remembered moment, without a charge to it (remember when I freaked out completely when it was probably just a neighbor?).
The next time will be a little easier, and then the time after that.
I get back to the daily work of taking exquisite care of myself, cultivating steadiness, resting and breathing on the floor, talking to my body, talking to me-from-then, talking to incoming me, talking to me-now.
Asking curious questions. Changing bits and pieces in the video game.
I practice the tools from the emergency calming techniques kit so that I can access them faster next time.
I am here. I am okay. I am practicing
How commenting works here, and an invitation to play.
This is exquisitely vulnerable territory here.
And while each of us comes to this with different background and different experiences, we all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. It’s a process. And: people vary. We have different needs and different approaches, and that’s okay.
In order to ensure safe space in this sweet corner of the internet, we commit to not giving each other advice, not analyzing each other, not telling people what they should try or how they should feel. We make space for each other so that everyone can have their own experience.
We do our best to meet ourselves and each other with as much grace and warmth as we can.
You are welcome to leave hearts, pebbles, flowers, soup. You are welcome to share things that were sparked for you.
May we all have safety, comfort, clarity, everything we need. May we all have the spaciousness and presence to meet our patterns with understanding, and layer on new experiences, rewrite expectations, let go of all that is done.