I read about the oldest man in the world the other day. Yisrael Kristal is 113. He was born in Poland and at 13 was looking forward to his bar mitzvah when WWI broke out and his celebration was postponed indefinitely. In WWII, he survived Auschwitz, weighing only 82 pounds at his liberation. He moved to Israel and rebuilt his life, raising a family and opening a business. He finally got to celebrate his bar mitzvah last week.
I liked his comments upon receiving an award from the Guinness World Record.
“I don’t know the secret for long life. I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know the reasons why. There have been smarter, stronger and better looking men then me who are no longer alive. All that is left for us to do is to keep on working as hard as we can and rebuild what is lost.”
I liked that concept of rebuilding what is lost after trauma.
First, I’d have to identify what’s lost, though.
When I went to a shaman a few years ago and the parts of my soul that took flight at moments of intense trauma returned, I was instructed to sit down and ask each one why they left, what would make them happy, and what would make them stay. Then I was to do whatever it was that would make them happy and make them stay.
They would only stay if they were safe and if I would do the things that brought them a sense of well-being. The sixteen-year old wanted to drive again and blast tunes. I finally bought a car six weeks ago and today I was on the road blasting Aretha Franklin. The little one wanted coloring books and dolls and Jack has bought me these things. The twenty-two year old wanted to feel joy again, to go places, to meet people and have adventures. I’m working on that.
(There were more parts of my soul lost than these. I wrote about it in my book PTSD: Frozen in Time.)
For me, PTSD was mostly decades of non-feeling, broken up with moments of rage and despair. There was no joy, no sense of well-being or safety.
I stopped on the road from Phoenix to Tucson on Tuesday and had an ice cold orange drink. It was so startlingly tasty, I felt shot up with joy! As Patricia Grace said to me: It’s the simple things. (Check out her fabulous memoir Shattered.)
And it is the simple things. The hummingbirds and butterflies outside my window. A clear blue sky. A shooting star. The moon. The smell of rain in the air. Jimmy Durante singing, “Make Someone Happy”. The sunlight that comes into my bedroom each morning. A birthday card with a scratch-off Lotto ticket. Framing the pictures of the planties I had to give away when I left Chicago and hanging them in our new home. A restful nap. Reading a good book. A delicious chocolate cupcake. Music. Making Jack laugh. Taking care of Jack.
What makes you feel safe? What brings you well-being and joy?