One night during last year’s vacation it was late and my friend and I were the only two left on the beach as we were drowning out our fire to head back to the car. Two men walked out from behind a bend in the rocks and were approaching. We convinced ourselves (rather quickly, I might add) that we were going to die a violent death on a deserted beach at the hands of these two strangers.
As you can see, that didn’t happen. I did, however, become properly spooked by the incident.
This year, my dearest friend of 30 years, Diane, joined me on vacation.
One of the first nights on the coast, Diane and I had a fire on the beach. Boston was expressing feelings about Marianne walking away, we were perfecting the toasted-not-burnt marshmallow, squishing sand between our toes, and managing some good but not great wine.
The sun was setting and the coastline was quickly becoming cold and shadowy. I mentioned to Diane twice we should start to head back. Diane, being the ever gracious, accommodating friend, agreed.
As we started to get our things together, I slipped off my hoodie and accidentally knocked off my sunglasses. Sunglasses I didn’t know I was still wearing. Surprisingly, it was still quite bright out. Still daytime-esque.
I slipped my sunglasses on and off. Then on and off again. How did I not know I had been wearing them? It took a minute to adjust to the contrast and the idea that it wasn’t as late as I thought.
This realization was much like the moment after a long nap and the clock reads 5:32 and you’ve slept so hard you don’t know if it’s AM or PM. A bit disorienting, to be sure.
As we realized my ‘sunglasses at night’ situation, Diane and I laughed the way only women who have been lifelong friends can laugh. We laughed at my lack of awareness and simultaneous hypervigilance, and her ability to be kind and amiable even when she thinks I’m a little extreme in the safety department.
This, my friends, is how trauma functions.
Sunglasses at night.
Our own lenses of trauma are too close. Someone else looking at us might see we are wearing them, but we have forgotten. It’s just how we’ve seen things for so long, we’ve adjusted our reality. Most of the time we don’t even remember putting the lens on. We perceive the world differently than others, but we are often unaware of the difference.
Through a trauma lens, life can appear much darker than it is in reality.
Our previous experiences tell us it’s worth being cautious. But, the lens is often giving us a perspective that is inaccurate. The feelings are true (it’s true I felt anxious when it started getting dark), but they aren’t accurate (it wasn’t actually very dark yet, and we were safe).
The lenses we see life through are simply different. It’s true of every person you have ever or will ever meet. We have different stories, so our perceptions will rarely be the same as anyone else’s.
Whatever the difference, it’s important to have a support system of folks who know you and understand your lens. It’s important to seek to understand the lenses of those around you in order to lovingly support them, also.
Diane and I spent another two hours on the beach after the sunglasses incident. If I hadn’t understood the darkness my perception was creating, I would have missed the additional sand, surf and s’mores with a dear friend.
What’s your life-darkening lens? Is it time to see things a bit clearer?
The beauty is, we are built to heal. Our bodies and minds are created to mend. Trauma can be reduced and resolved. Lenses can be removed and life can be walked with joy, passion and love. It’s so worth it!