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There is a line in The Body is an Ecotone bythat I can’t stop thinking about. She writes, “Your body is a love song to a lost landscape.” In her piece, she refers to evolution and the mind-blowing thought that the body and all its elements have been developed to survive prior environments long gone. The entire article is gorgeous and not to be missed.
As I read it, I immediately thought of the ways grief and trauma also forever alter the landscape of our bodies. When I was at the height of the trauma I experienced while confronting corruption at my prior church, I went numb. It became impossible for me to reconcile the motivations and intentions of those who were meant to keep others safe with their decisions to instead enable abuse and active harm. I went into survival mode, living on auto-pilot as a way to manage my angst.
My body is a love song to a lost landscape.
Survival mode helps us endure a painful experience, but it’s never meant to last forever. It's a stopgap, a deluge of adrenaline and memory lapse designed to keep us from drowning under the effects of overwhelming trauma. Survival is merely a means to an end — unless the end never comes. If the safety we need is not there for us to unfurl, assess the damage, and begin to heal, we stay stuck in a sustained survival state, calling on internal reserves that end up destroying us from the inside out. Little by little, we implode, changing our topography in order to stay alive.
I was doing my best to walk the line and buck the system, but my inner territory was caving in on itself. I could not unclench my fists because there was no safe place left. The signal coming from within the system was loud and clear as I watched multiple victims’ claims of abuse be shamed and rejected: Do not mess with us. We will crush those who try. And they meant it.
My body is a love song to a lost landscape, one ravaged by trauma.
She’s an ode to the lost landscape of all I have survived, all I have seen, all I have sacrificed. She has ached, hungered, raged, and lost sleep, layers, and sinew. Her eyes have known emptiness, dark circles embedded deep as tattoos, proof of the dreams she will never know. She has shaken with uncontrollable anger, shed an ocean of tears, and woken in pools of her own sweat. She has bled for weeks, unable to regulate, unable to sync with the moon.
My body is a love song to a lost landscape, one ravaged by trauma. She is still afraid sometimes.
Survivors often stay silent out of fear for their lives and well-being, holding their secrets close to their chests in order to protect their security, stability, relationships, and dignity. All of it belongs. Sometimes the invitation is to tell the truth to ourselves. That too, is such great courage. I’ve stayed quiet for fear of what comes next. Telling the truth comes with consequences. As soon as the champagne joy of sharing our book touched my lips, I felt the chaser of terror slip down my throat. Fuck. What have we done? The fear churned in my stomach like a violent storm.
My body is a love song to a lost landscape, one ravaged by trauma. She is still afraid sometimes, but she is learning to expand.
The truth is, we already know what we’re in for. We’ve embraced this process with eyes wide open. We know that to hold the joy (and friends, there is SO MUCH JOY), we must also make way for the risk. Even now, the fear is there. The risk is there. I feel it bubbling up as I write these words. People who cause harm do not like it when they get told on. People who spend their lives covering up abuse, and those who stand by them, would prefer their secrets stay buried. There will be people who look for opportunities to grab our words, bone by bone, and bind them to a burning post.
My body is a love song to a lost landscape, one ravaged by trauma. She is still afraid sometimes, but she is learning to expand. Shorelines of love pushing into the sea, mountain ranges of truth rising to the sky, underground currents of metanoia flowing just under the surface of her earth.
The landscape of my heart has shifted, and yet I still sing. My wounds are healing but the scars remain, each epidermal layer shimmering like armor, tough and able to hold the line. Our book is going to piss a lot of people off and it’s going to set a lot of people free.
Writing Slow Burn has already set us free. She has been an invitation into our own healing, extending her hand to us and asking us to come with her, step by step, into the terrain of our fear and pain.
So that we can recover the landscape we lost all those years ago.
So that we can recover ourselves.
She took our hands, bruised and trembling, and dropped wildflower seeds onto our palms. You are not dead yet, she whispered to us. Together, we retraced our steps and let our tears fall, watering the earth under our feet and scattering seeds of resurrection as we reclaimed our landscape. That is what waits for you in her pages, too, my friend. I cannot wait for you to hold her in your arms next March.