Let's discuss what's at stake in 2022. (A Dear Me entry)
Remember in 2012 when you made a resolution to give up your movie obsessions? Yeah, you succeeded, but oh, you sweet summer child. You had no idea how your life would change in the ensuing decade. That movie quitting goal seems so quaint in hindsight, especially after all the protests in your neighborhood in the summer of 2020. Now a bigger challenge lies ahead of you. This time, the stakes are a lot higher.
I will say you’re off to a good start in acknowledging that dealing with pervasive trauma isn’t amenable to SMART goals or any setup like that. It’s become apparent that in general there are no good scripts for you to follow because the outright horror you have witnessed is uncommon (at least for now). So, is it right to even call this a resolution? I think it is. After all, tackling something this complex and intense requires a resolute attitude. It also requires a flexible framework, and now is the time to start developing it. The way I see things, the framework has three main sections that will be fleshed out not with answers or milestones but with questions. Does that sound like a paradox? I can see how you might think that, but it should make some sense by the end of this letter.
First off, the questions you ask yourself throughout the year will make a huge difference. While I know you like very specific questions and working backwards, such an approach won’t work in this situation. Approach it like a troubleshooting call at work. Go for broad questions that encourage elaboration. Asking questions such as, “What still bothers me?” and “What expressions/phrasings get under my skin?” will help you articulate what’s on your mind and find more specific examples for counseling. There are other ways such questions will aid you. They’ll help in your ongoing (social) media education efforts to discourage memes (something that will be revisited in this letter). Broad questions will also help with the resentment you feel over people acting as if the riots never happened when you can still see the burnt skeletons of businesses along Lake Street in your mind.
Along the way, it’s worth jotting down what you hope to find in the answers to these questions. Some examples are straightforward, like, “How do I cope with so many people not handling the community trauma well?” The answer to this question will help you find good spaces for social/emotion connections. It will also help you determine what relationships to prioritize. Making this kind of determination for more of your questions will help you with processing the answers.
One aspect of your life that has a huge impact on your trauma load is the concept of spaces. After all, one of the most terrifying things you ever witnessed was watching the businesses where you shopped and dined go up in actual smoke. You have started to tackle this one, albeit out of order from what might be considered a logical standpoint. As obvious as it might seem, listing all the spaces you currently have in life is the best starting point for this endeavor. These spaces can be virtual as well as physical. It will also be useful to think about why you inhabit a space in any capacity. When you understand you consider something a space, you will be better positioned to understand how it affects your mood and health. A deep comprehension of your spaces will make it easier for you to understand why you feel safe or feel as if you’re in danger (even if you’re not). How much time you spend in a space also matters when it comes to your mental/emotional state. Spaces make a difference for your physical health as well. During this evaluation, you may ask if you need to find new spaces. That’s a question you should go ahead and ask!
The biggest thing with trauma, though, is relationships. Yeah, I know. Relationships of all sorts are difficult for you, anyway. The degree of difficulty is going to increase with the questions you need to ask. It sucks. I get it. To make this portion a tad easier, you may benefit from writing out your overall philosophy on relationships. If you establish your top five priorities and your hard stops, that should give you some parameters for tackling other relationship concerns. You’ll also want to be clear in organizing your relationships by type, and this goes beyond interpersonal. Relationships to your spaces will come up along the way, and you will need to look at them in order to come up with even a skeleton plan for your future. Being hyper-organized in this respect is unnecessary, but some degree of order will be needed since this is your weak spot. Likewise, even your weak spots have weak spots. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at how you deal with memes as an example.
While people like to communicate through memes, that bothers you a lot. To you, this love of memes conditions most people to ignore nuance in just about everything. Strangely, this includes mental health, which is the whole purpose behind you tackling all this healing and restoration work in the first place. For some reason, mental health memes make similar types of assumptions that the toxic positivity messages keep pushing. This approach exacerbates your distrust of memes. You have been waging war on memes for the last year or so. That still needs to be done, but you may have to balance it out with other things, as it has cost you some relationships. While you evaluate those relationships, you’ll be better off bringing some balance to your meme war by sharing more nuanced, complex things on social media (such as local media stories). It will also be a good time to consider what level of community involvement you want to have. Engaging with the community is vital to rebuilding both your relationship with and perception of Minneapolis, the city you’ve called home for close to 15 years. This was something you wanted to work on last year, but your efforts there fell off a cliff. Before trying this again, you need to determine how much you are willing to give in this regard. You will have to ask a similar question in both individual and couples’ counseling first before taking on more community involvement.
Even with this broad approach, you have a lot of work to do. It’s important to remember that this restoration project will likely take years to reach a state of wholeness. Let’s be clear. There is a difference between wholeness and the work being completed. There is no such thing with being done when it comes to something this deep seated and really life altering. The key in 2022 is to start the work, start asking those rough, involved questions. It’s going to hurt. There’s no doubt about that. Procrastinating on this won’t do you any favors. It’s work that’s worth doing, though. By starting to write the script, you’ll be able to stabilize your health and provide a blueprint for the next generation of community trauma survivors. If nothing else, this can at least stop of the feeling of being a helpless spectator in your own life.
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