Finding Beauty After Trauma

Enjoy the beauty around you, after all, you only get one life.

I know I have said it many times, that we need to pay more attention to the beauty that is around us. But, I have never explained what I mean. So, I decided to write a post illuminating some of the ways this can be accomplished, even while working through childhood or other trauma.

 

Paula McNitt PhD

Paula’s Advice

 

My therapist, Paula, noted one day how I spent most of my time feeling the horrendous emotions of gloom and doom. I had my nose so far in the disaster that was my childhood, that I was missing the joy in today. She encouraged me to take stock of all the loveliness that exists in my world, and when I did looking around and enjoying what I saw gave me the freedom to become who I am today. Am I perfectly healed? No. Am I happy? Most of the time, and when I get lost in my own drama, I remember Paula’s words and begin to enjoy life again.

So, here are some ideas for you to try. If you do, I can guarantee you’ll have a new appreciation of life.

 

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Look Up

I know that this may seem to simple, but have you ever spent time looking at the sky? There is much to see. On a sunny day, the sky is gorgeous. You can get lost in the vastness of our blue planet, just basking in the warmth of the sun and enjoying the deep blue hues of our planet’s atmosphere.

 

I love to look at the clouds and imagine seeing different figures, why one day I saw a huge dog and an elephant floating by.

Have you spent time watching a storm? The power of a storm is invigorating. I’ve watched dark ominous clouds roll in with wind, lightning and thunder. Watching a storm always makes me want to sing for some reason. I’ve walked to work during a light shower and enjoyed the sound of the raindrops pattering on my umbrella. Let’s not forget the smell of the rain, it is marvelous.

avatar_49c3829d6ee7_128.jpgThen there are the stars at night. I love to sit in my wheelchair and look at the lights in the sky, as humans have for millennia. Even though I can recognize some of the twinkling lights above me as planets, that does not in any way detract from their beauty. I’ve sat and watched as Mars moved slowly across the sky and daydreamed about visiting there, and wondered at man’s future.

 

Family Photographer San Jose-9

Children

I know that children can be highly triggering after you have survived childhood trauma or lost a child. But watching kids play and talking to them is wonderful. Kids are so observant and honest.

 

When my little nephew was born almost three years ago, his presence in our home sent me into a ten month long dissociative episode. However, now I enjoy him so much. If I need a laugh, I know I can count on Michael. His vocabulary is growing every day, but sometimes he makes the funniest mistakes. While sitting at breakfast one morning, Michael called me by one of my alters name. I was shocked as were his parents, however to Michael it was just a matter of course. He has since called me by other alters names, and I can only gather that he has spoken with them. At first, I found this upsetting but then I realized he loved them, and that meant he loved me. Watching kids play is quite therapeutic.

 

I have had numerous experiences with children and their honesty. Once I was visiting a church and a little girl came up and asked me why I was in a wheelchair. Her mother was mortified, but I smiled at the mother and then answered, “Because I got sick” to which the little girl responded, “Okay” and ran off to play. Her mother and I had a good laugh. Another time I was on an elevator when it stopped at a floor, and a woman pushing a stroller with a young boy boarded. The little boy kept staring at me and I could see his mom was getting uncomfortable. I looked over at him and said, “Hey! You have wheels like I do!” The little boy giggled and giggled, and so did his mom.

 

I have worked hard to remember, that it is alright for children to be children and I celebrate this fact by enjoying all the kids I encounter.

 

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Flowers

I went to a nearby Junior College for two years from 2013-2015. This little college was beautifully landscaped, and I loved stopping to take pictures with my phone of the wonderful job they had done, but especially of the flowers.

 

Have you spent much time noticing flowers? They come in all shapes, colors and sizes. I’m especially drawn to the red ones, but my all-time favorite will always be the humble dandelion. I know, people say they are weed, but that’s because they haven’t the ability to look at them for what they are, gorgeous.

 

Dandelions are harbingers of spring, springing up as soon as the ground becomes warm enough to do so. Their bright yellow blossoms have always brought me hope and comfort. When I was little, I didn’t get enough to eat and resorted to eating things I could find in the yard, including dandelions. Now these plants that many consider a nuisance make me feel safe and happy. Maybe that is a strange way to correlate a plant, but I refuse to allow what happened to me fifty years ago color my appreciation of these little, yellow jewels.

 

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Animals

 

Whether you are a dog lover, cat lover, or both there can be no denying the joy having an animal in your life can bring. I have owned and thoroughly enjoyed owning many small dogs and a few cats.

 

I have experienced how a pet can feel my pain and appreciated how they have used their warm fur and cold noses to let me know that they care. Animals add a new dimension to our lives. They are reliant on our feeding them and for their comfort and this gives us something to live for when depression rears its ugly head.

 

Some animals are trained to respond when we who have post-traumatic stress disorder find ourselves lost in the past. Others are trained to recognize when one of us has dissociated and to keep us safe.

 

Running your fingers through the fur of a pet dog or cat has a soothing effect on both our minds and our bodies. The sound of a canary singing or a parakeet chirping can help us rise-up out of ourselves and think about the beauty around us.

 

Let us not forget the wild animals. I have sat in my front yard and watched in wonder as a hawk soared above me. Riding the thermals, they seem to be totally enjoying just being alive. I have allowed my mind to imagine what it must be like to fly like they do, unafraid of falling and free. What a rush it must be to fly so high in the sky that everything below looks small.

 

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Taking an Inventory

 

One cannot discount taking inventory of what we can do and have. Have you thought about being grateful for the things that you take for granted every day? I’ve listed just a few of the things I have noticed below.

 

Can you see?

Can you hear?

Can you walk?

Have you enough food?

Have you enough clothing?

Do you have a roof over your head?

Do you have air conditioning in summer?

Do you have warmth in winter?

Do you have clean water to drink?

Do you have friends?

Do you have faith?

Can you think and reason?

Do you live in a land where there is no war?

 

There are many people who do not have or cannot do at least one, but often more, of the above items.

 

Instead of waking up feeling dread at the dawning of a new day, we need to spend more time making lists and being grateful for the things we have and can do. Once your list is made, sit back and ponder the beauty in having the things that we often take for granted. Once you do, you’ll be either driven to two honest reactions, tears because so many do not enjoy our comforts, and then a smile as you feel the gratitude welling up from inside.

 

I think it is clear  from the above list that none of these things cost money. In fact, there is a saying that goes, “the best things in life are free”, and they are totally correct. Allowing ourselves to peek out from behind the clouds of despair that often accompany recovery from severe trauma and see the beauty around us is life giving. Sometimes even life saving.

 

Poke your nose out of the reality that is your past and enjoy the beauty that is all around you in today. You won’t regret it.

 

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.” Ashley Smith

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