Processing the Break-In with Spacey ThoughtsSeptember 17, 2021
I’m sitting alone at a patio table in Peach Tree City, Georgia with a catered lunch and my computer, trying to look busy enough to avoid talking to people. I don’t have the energy or bandwidth to paste on a smile and power through small talk. Even just typing that makes my eyes start stinging a bit. I will not cry. The tears always feel close these days.
I was reaching my threshold of what I could comfortably handle towards the end of June. Do you know that feeling of hurtling towards a breakdown (we call it burnout nowadays)? That was where I was at. But I had a light at the end of the tunnel – four glorious wedding free weeks and two trips. Travel has always been a reset for me so I was feeling ok about the cloud of burnout that was threatening, sure that a few days in Jackson Hole, WY would settle the stress swirls and needling questions. That is what approaching burnout looks like for me: my heart races, thoughts tumble on thoughts, I cannot get my mind to settle, I don’t feel a lot, and get very focused on making it through the next hour or two. I forget to eat, forget to feel, forget to laugh. I can’t handle a lot of ‘extra’ – people needing something I wasn’t prepared for, friends inviting me to things, family asking about holidays. It all feels like to much.
But at the end of June, ‘too much’ was slowing down. I got ahead on work and was fully able to sign out and sign off for five days in Jackson Hole, WY with a handful of family members. Seth didn’t join for this trip which becomes important later. If you have ever been to Jackson Hole, you know how special it is. It is obscenely beautiful. I say that having been able to see Victoria Falls in Zambia, Paris in the Fall, rode a train all through the snow-covered Swiss Alps, lived outside Big Sur in the summer, experienced 14 years of autumn in Charlottesville, and traveled down to Charleston as spring descends and everything blooms. I’ve been so lucky to experience a lot of beauty, but Jackson Hole stands on its own. And this trip was perfect.
I’m so grateful I had those 4 days of rest before the rest of July happened.
On our final evening there as we were about to leave for dinner, Seth called me. We had been broken into. Our door had been kicked in half. Things were a mess. But He and Hudson hadn’t been there and everyone was ok. With me on the phone, he began walking through the house, room by room as we started trying to figure out what had been stolen. This part is fuzzy to remember. And yet the feeling is crystal clear. I have no idea what was said, what Seth sounded like, what I sounded like, but I cannot imagine forgetting the feeling in my gut as he moved upstairs to our bedroom and the guest bedroom where my equipment was stored. We went from relief that so much had been left downstairs to pure horror as we realized all of my gear was gone. I have spent four years saving and collecting gear and in a single evening, it was all gone.
Trying to process being broken into while you’re thousands of miles away from home is awful. Seth was scared and alone. We hadn’t been in Richmond long enough to have many people we could call at 10pm. Our front door was broken in half. We lived in the city and so without a front door, we were fully expecting more people to come through and ransack what was left.
I’m so glad I wasn’t alone and I’m so thankful for my family. Within minutes my sister, set up a war room situation from Raleigh. Thank you Jesus for enneagram 8s. As she made calls, my brother-in-law was driving up from Raleigh and finding Seth and Hudson a place to stay that night. Another sister was driving down from Charlottesville. And within minutes, she had a handful of people headed over to the house in Richmond. They packed up what was left, let Seth be quiet, and set up a front door barricade. I’m so grateful for them.
I hate that I wasn’t there. And yet I have no doubt God knew I couldn’t be there. If it were just Seth and I, we would have struggled asking for help for fear of inconveniencing anyone. We would have shut down and tried to deal with things on ourselves. But we needed to be cared for. I needed my mom to hold me and know when to let me move into problem-solving mode as I tried to process what was happening. I needed my Dad to make me a very, very generously sized gin and tonic. I needed my brother to be angry. He helped me realize that what was happening to us wasn’t normal and it was ok for us to be feeling trauma. I needed my sister to be there with me and know when to let me be and when to engage me (this the the third sister jumping in, if you’re keeping count. I have wonderful sisters). Seth needed a place to stay, hands to help pack up things, minds to figure out how to barricade the front door. And had I been there, I’m not sure we would have called anyone.
We could go into a tangent of how stubborn I am and how hesitant I am to ask for help, but I’ll save that for my counselor.
And these people who surrounded us and served us started the healing process immediately. It gave legitimacy to the trama we were experiencing, and are still experiencing some now. Even writing this I feel the need to acknowledge that people experience horrific things with trauma well beyond this. I want to brush it off because I know it could have been worse. But I have been reminded by many people as I’ve shared this that simply because what I experienced was a lesser amount of trauma than other horrific things doesn’t eliminate the trauma and the effects we experience.
I started writing this two weeks ago and I’m coming back to it now. These ideas are fractured and my train of thought is spacey at best. But since this is just for me as I process, and for future me as I remember, I’ll wrap this here. It’s long enough and the hope and space I feel even two weeks later is so much great. More on July later.
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