The kind that leaves blood rushing in your ears, which almost certainly means your face is the oh-so-lovely shade of a tomato red.
The kind that leaves your heartbeat threatening to thump right out of your chest and out the door.
The kind that leaves your breath coming in gasps, harkening back to darker days in high school chemistry classrooms, clutching railings on the wall for support.
The kind that leaves you laughing inside about how funny time really is.
• • • • • •
On Tuesday night, we decided to get Taco Tuesday from our favorite Mexican place for dinner. $1.49 deep fried tacos with the works are my love language so I was game. I wanted Justin to come with me, but he didn't feel good so I went on this dinner mission solo. I knew exactly what I needed: 1 fried supreme taco, 2 soft shell supreme tacos, and a chicken quesadilla with extra veggies.
I was caught off guard when I walked into the gas station and behind the Jonny Salsa's counter, I thought I had seen a ghost.
All it took was the sight of a stupid almost grown out mohawk to transport me back to being fourteen, in a stupid little pup tent trying to wrestle with the decision between right and wrong. Back to writing letters that, in hindsight, never should have been sent. Back to dodging awkward glances across the cafeteria line and trying to kiss my boyfriend in the hallway without feeling like he was going to spring up out of nowhere.
The all of a sudden flashback jarred me. The sudden onslaught of anxiety made me forget Justin's quesadilla when he asked me what he could get for me. I wasn't present when Jonny & Miss Julie asked me how I was doing. All I could think about was tan skin and getting lost in brown eyes. About how crushing the weight of silence is. About how much I just wanted to get the hell out of there and be anywhere else.
• • • • •
The last time I went to Burlington, in my childhood bedroom, Noelle and I were laying there talking, wondering, "Would Cassie be proud of us?"
Cassie was our therapist when we were seventeen.
Cassie was the one who gave my life meaning again when I didn't even know which way was up anymore.
The question lingered in my brain, adding to the echo of the blood rushing through my ears.
Would she be proud of me, having a flashback in the middle of a gas station Mexican food stand, triggered by something as innocent as a haircut?
Would she be proud of me? Would she still think I was the strong, courageous, empathetic soul that she nurtured out of me in the first place?
• • • • •
Lately I have been thinking about strength. What does it mean to be strong? What does it mean to really be brave? What is the true meaning of courage?
All of the strongest members of my tribe are the women who have looked impossible life experiences in the face and won. My mother, my aunts, my almost-mother-in-law, my grandmothers, my best friends. They are my heroes. They are my role models. They are my words of encouragement on crappy days and my cheerleading squad on my good days. They have each looked life square in the face every day and said, "Bring it on."
Am I that strong? Am I that brave? Do I have that level of courage to inspire others?
Ten years after the fact, I am still completely knocked over by a flashback. I am still susceptible to the harsh sting of memory and the breathtaking wind of panic. I feel powerless and more vulnerable and on display than I have ever felt.
I have to believe there is strength in that. Of finding joy from the ashes. Of finally being able to see in the dark. Of being able to be trapped in fourteen for a moment, and then being snapped back to the present: twenty-four and thriving.
I have to believe there is strength and courage and bravery in growth. In facing your fears. In putting one foot in front of the other and getting out of bed every day (even if it's only to go hang out in the chair on the other side of the room). There is strength in being able to look at your brokenness, your suffering, and your softness and seeing how far you've come.
There is empowerment in being able to picture that face in your head and say, "See? You don't have that power over me anymore."
Show them who's boss.