Teacher: Class! Is it or is it not incredibly stupid for Havi — a known Highly Sensitive Person with hyperacusis who is also recovering from [scary life stuff] and deals with PTSD, flashbacks and recurring nightmares — to have embarked on what is essentially a no-plans no-clear-end-date cross-country trip in a camper?
Class: Hysterical laughter
Havi: Present time present time present time present time.
Now is not then. Now is now. Now is better. Now is just reminding us of then.
There is a very big difference. We are here and now. We want to be here and now.
Okay, I need the wisest, calmest, most grounded Havi Bell to come to the front of the V, because right now we’re in trauma state.
Good. Wisest me, I need you to say steady, wise things while the rest of us make internal safe rooms. In the meantime I’m going to go ask Yelp to find us a quiet cafe where we can sit and process. Yes? Thank you.
Wisest me: You’re doing great, kiddo. We’ve got this. Nothing is wrong. This is completely normal and to be expected.
Twenty four days on the road, not enough sleep, getting a cold and your period at the same time. Not to mention Thanksgiving, which is always hugely triggering (remember how last year we had a homelessness freakout while sitting in the living room of our own house that we own, completely forgetting that now isn’t then?). Plus this big heart-expanding new love-trust-joy thing that you’re going through. It’s a lot.
It’s a lot to handle, and you are doing great. These are normal triggers, we’ve dealt with them before.
You are safe. You are loved. You are doing so well.
All you need to do is keep breathing, one foot in front of the other, we are getting you to safe space. You have safe passage all the way there, hold my hand.
Remember how each time we get triggered we collect more clues? We’re going to have the best clues from this round, the best thank yous. We are equipped for this.
You’re doing great. Just breathe. Breathe into your heart. Yup. You remember. We’ve trained on this. Inhale trust, exhale steadiness. Beautiful. We’ve got this.
Back in the classroom…
Teacher: Let the debate begin!
Timmy: (reading) Havi is scared. This is not good. We don’t want Havi to be scared. Havi needs to be safe. Havi should stay at home and have internal adventures instead of going out into the world and having adventures there, because when she gets triggered there is a lot of recovery that needs to happen. Havi needs to always have a place to be that feels safe for her. She shouldn’t have to fend for herself anymore.
Teacher: Who wants to give the arguments of the opposing side?
Me: I guess I will.
Me: I mean, they’re not really arguments, and they’re certainly not opposing. Timmy is right. Havi deals with a lot of fear and pain and vulnerability in life, and right now she is having a moment, for sure.
Let the record show that I am completely on board with the Keep Havi Safe Forever agenda. I just want to suggest that right now she is safe, at some level she knows she is safe, and this adventure is not harming her, it is expanding her knowledge that she is safe and held.
Look how well she was able to take care of herself this morning. Sure, there was some below-surface panic. And yet look what she was able to do from within that…
She called on her wisest selves. She did the practices, followed the protocols. She found the perfect cafe, the just-right bathroom, lemon-ginger tea and a crimson couch. She was able to see all the good and say thank you.
She remembered truth: That this is just a life-moment, and that reminded of then is not the same as actual-then. She was able to get herself back to now. Even from the road, even functioning on only a few hours of sleep and dealing with body stuff.
I think Havi is doing great at keeping herself safe during this adventure. Maybe this experience good for her.
Pausing for thank-you time.
Thank you, beautiful cafe that was the exact right place for a Havi, and only two blocks away from where I was staying. Thank you for reminding me of my favorite places in San Francisco and Tel Aviv.
Thank you, comfortable red velvet couch and wildly over the top, just extravangantly voluptuous armchair that was just so insane it could have been a baroque parody of an armchair. You made me smile.
Thank you, beautifully clean bathroom of generous proportions and lovely green door.
Thank you, periwinkle walls: steady and calming. Thank you, unexpected chandeliers for reminding me of Max. Thank you, wide pink columns, for being audacious.
Thank you, Saturday. Thank you, laptop. Thank you, brown bag. Thank you, cozy grey sweater. Thank you, everything that brought me to this moment.
Back to Timmy.
Timmy: These are all very good arguments. However, I still stand by my original point that what Havi needs at all times is Safety. Not just testing the boundaries and discovering that yes, she is safe. She needs to perceive and feel that she is safe at all times.
We are not helping her experience this by putting her in situations where she doesn’t know where to go, where she has to run away, like today.
Maybe it’s time to just accept that she is kind of broken. She can’t live a wandering life, and that’s just the way it is. Let’s work around that, not try to break through it.
Wisest me takes over.
Wisest me: Timmy is right. There is a time for extreme measures, extreme safety, extreme hiding, extreme recuperation and recovery. This is, or can be, part of the healing process, and it has been very good for Havi.
At the same time, this does not have to be true for all of time. Havi is a magical unicorn. She holds many aspects and qualities. She is courageous, beautiful, wild, glowing. She is Bell West, adventuress. She is the star of the seven seas.
Absolutely, we need to take wonderful care of her, to support her in learning to take wonderful care of herself. And we also need to let her try things.
This is very different from Then, when she didn’t have resources, a support network, tools for healing, or the ability to be honest about her feelings and needs, whether with herself or with the people in her life. She also didn’t have people around who could handle that kind of honesty.
This is an entirely new life. She lives by Radical Sovereignty. She’s in a beautiful Not-A-Relationship aka a So-Much-Better-Than-A-Relationship aka The Wild Affair of Joy-filled Presence with someone committed to practicing this with her.
Her life is filled with support, kindness, people who care. She can’t fall, and if she did, a hundred nets of grace are right there for her. What if we let her experience what it’s like to bounce, to be held, to fall and laugh instead of fall and cry….
Timmy: That actually might be worth trying. We could take some notes for the next trip too…
Class: WHAT IF EVERYTHING GOES HORRIBLY WRONG AND SHE GETS REALLY TRIGGERED AND EVERYTHING IS LIKE IT WAS THEN AGAIN?!
Teacher: Who thinks that is an actual likely possibility?
Teacher: Yes, Stephanie?
Stephanie: It isn’t likely, but if it did happen, it could be so damaging! On the other hand, maybe building this collection of “oh right still okay” and “yup, still okay this time”, maybe this is a slow healing. I’m not sure. It seems like Havi needs freedom to be able to try things, but she also needs a lot of stability.
Teacher: Good point. Who wants to go to the science lab and come up with some fun experiments to combine Safety and Stability with Adventure and Play?
How we play here. You are invited.
Safe space online is such a rare and precious thing. To make that work, we lovingly commit to two intentional practices: not giving each other advice and not care-taking.
We try to remember that we all have our stuff (pain, fear, doubt, grief, history), and we’re all working on our stuff, each in our own way and our own timing. It’s a process.
So we tread gently. We don’t make assumptions about anyone else’s experience. We meet ourselves and each other with warmth, patience, presence and love, to the best of our ability. We play.
You are welcome to share anything sparked for you, to process your own process, or play in whatever way feels comfortable for you. You can also leave pebbles that mean “I read this and I’m listening and I’m here”. You can leave breadcrumbs of reminders for past you or future you.
I like smiles and hearts and soup.