• Brigitte HedgeRider

The first trauma-free Christmas

This post is about a very specific liminal experience. Liminal- a space between spaces. For all that my spiritual path emphasizes liminality, there is a threshold we struggle to occupy. This post is about the Limbo, the In-between of the end of active abuse and healing.

I was a vulnerable child in the hands of an abuser. I was partnered intimately with an abuser. I have spent over thirty years of my life with a very specific set of coping mechanisms, perfectly tailored to a terrible landscape. I often use the words navigation and negotiation- there was no escape (believe me, I tried) so there was only figuring out the least painful path. I navigated a landscape beyond my control and negotiated with those who did control my landscapes.

My human instincts towards wholeness and personhood were consistently shut down, so I figured out the next best options. That's what we do. We test out the methods until we find the ones we can live with, we watch our abusers and determine which bad outcome we can live with.

We are the scientists of surviving human devastation. We tested the hypotheses, we ran the tests, and we were the guinea pigs. We are specialists. We are qualified experts.

And this is specialized knowledge. This was hard-won, absolutely necessary, bought with tears and sweat and blood. Our intense investment cost us. We struggle and we succeed to exist- and then when we finally get free, there is a space we must travel And for this threshold, we have no map. We are in-between chronic pain and strength. Our emotional bodies are contorted, and moving differently hurts.

The first trauma-free Christmas. No active, ongoing abuse. I was dissociating, glassy-eyed, while my children opened their presents. My old survival strategies were up and running, my heart was braced for a gut punch like a boxer. But none came.

The moment of holding my breath for the blow was the blow. I was barely there, and I wanted so badly to be present, to smile and laugh and love with ease- I could see what I wanted to be, in my head, but everything else in me was a prisoner of war.

Witchcraft is about liminality. About being in the In-Between, and all the power that opens to us that place. Standing in the doorway of abuse and love, I want to walk through- but the doorway transforms into a long corridor. Every Christmas I had no choice but to betray myself, every grief I believed I put away clamored forward, weighing me down. This year, I was free.

Finally free! No abusers to hide from, no family dictator to police me- I was safe! And there I was, drifting away with cotton in my ears, watching the movie of my children while my wooden body perched in a chair.

We have feelings. We have feelings about our feelings. And then we have feelings about the feelings we have about our feelings. My years of grief and anger came up through me like groundwater swelling up to liquefy the solid ground- and I cursed the mud. I cursed the mud, I cursed my slipping, sliding steps, I hated the flood that rose without my permission.

I should have the morning I always dreamed of, the happy presence,the gratitude I faked every year. I should be and embody the joy I had seen- should. In Limbo, should is the whip that raises welts on my scarred body. Should is the thief of power- and this is the paradox. "Power over", or dominance, is the theif of the power of In-Between. Should is the invocation of a violating god, worshipped as we condemn ourselves and others.

In Between is power, the Neither and the Nor, the This and the That which becomes the Other.

Being Other means being More and Less all at once. Being a witch means being Other- halfway in the spiritworld, halfway with the living. Halfway between the seen and unseen, ear tilted to hear the songs no one can sing. Bearing witness to what has no words.

And in the space between, all things are possible, because nothing is certain. All things are fluid, but there is no solid ground. To be a witch is to struggle with a horizon line that becomes the sea swirling you under, to learn to move with a current that promises drowning. To become comfortable with uncertainty.

Being a Witch, in my first trauma-free Christmas, means submitting. The long hallway between trauma and that happy embodied presence? I hate it. I hate knowing it will take me many years to repeat the pattern in safety before I can just exist in my body on Christmas morning. I hate knowing that I did not choose this pain, I did not sow it, but I must reap it.

We long for the control and power witchcraft promises, but for the path I walk, it is not control, but alignment. A synchronized flow. Oh how very lovely, oh how very zen it sounds! Well it fucking hurts.

All my gaping wounds came from the weapons of control. All my broken contortions to survive were efforts to control the pain. That's not wrong or bad. There's no condemnation for a desperate expertise, here. It's utterly fucking human. But if controlling the uncontrollable (my abusers violating my personhood with their oppression, my avoidance of a pain that could not be processed) is how I earned this grief...Is trying to control it really the way to access te power of the In-Between?

The Power of the Liminal is the uncertainty. That anything can Become- precisely because it is Not Yet. To heal my trauma-wounds, I must let them Be everything they are. Messy and loud and wobbly and mucky, over-soaked ground flooding from years of artificial control.

These sorrows can only exist in the In-Between. It is the only place they have ever been allowed. I do not want them, I clenched my teeth and clenched my gut to keep those sorrows small and hidden, deprived of air and light and water, but they are only escapable once they breathe. I can hear them inhale like newborns, before they scream. Before they wail and beg for help and love and tending.

I cannot hate them, now that I have named them infants. Fragile, desperately vulnerable, these wounds didn't ask to be born. They do not deserve to be abandoned- because my wounds are not my abusers. My wounds, my sorrows, my traumas and my griefs are my fruit to harvest, my fields to tend, my children to raise. Because, for all these metaphors, my wounds are me. Tending to them is collecting my Self, gathering me up and breathing- exhaling the toxins and gulping in cleansing. Clearing liquidy lungs and hollering life into and through myself.

The long hallway of Limbo in the first Trauma-Free Christmas brought me sobbing in safe and loving arms. Purging ancient sorrows, and hating myself for doing it. I hated myself for having a heart to wound, I hated myself for my expert survival strategies, ("dysfunctional coping mehanisms", "self-betrayal", "codependency"...) I hated myself for my crippled mothering on Christmas morning... But I gave in. I gave in to the self-hatred and condemnation, and fell through like falling through wet paper. I fell through into a roiling warm ocean of sorrow, and the traumas came out of me, naming themselves. The wounds spoke their names and as they did, they stitiched themselves together.

And the tears tapered off and I laughed, at I joke I made. The floods receded, the ground was firming. There will be more to purge, there will still be years in which I heal a little bit more, but the first trauma-free Christmas became my dream. A happy presence, the ability to sit in a room with other human beings, with teeth and gut un-clenched. Nothing to choke down. No reason to dissociate.

All it took was a complete and utter breakdown. A hot messy galloping miserable wrestling match with self-condemnation and shame and stories about my stories about my stories.

The Power of the In-Between is open to us when we just fucking submit. Yes it sucks. Yes I hate it. Yes, I'll fight it until I'm broken and exhausted, and then I will panic that feeling it will destroy me, and then? I am destroyed. Peeled open, smashed apart, squalling wailing flailing and uuuugly like every newborn baby.

Do I want to give you a happy ending? Sure. But I can't. I will do this for at least a few more Christmases. The Limbo is not done with me yet. I hope that the god of Should owns me less and less- and all we can do is meet that fucker at every temple that was built to them, and take it down. Repurpose it for the god of What Is, and invoke them...and find that the god of Should is not indigenous. That other, more tender gracious gods and goddesses have priests and priestesses waiting to call them back awake.

Liminality has power, yes. Trauma and grief are liminal, and they hurt like fuck. It's not easy. It's not the happy presence of enlightened spirituality. It's terrifying...until it's not. Sometimes the power of it tucks into us and follows us home, and only when we speak of it or write about it, do we discover there are seeds sprouting in our pockets.

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