I took a vacation last week. It was an epic vacation. I was brave. I went to two of the busiest cities with two of the most energetic kids. It wasn’t about relaxing. It was about experiencing. And we certainly did that. We did amazing things in both London and Paris. We saw shows, we visited sites, we ate lots of food, we shopped (a little), and I even met some of my clients. The kids handled the busy train systems with grace. It was a very good week. But not surprisingly, my parts were battling it out. I say it wasn’t surprising, but I was hoping it wouldn’t happen. I was hoping for one week without any recovery work. Even after all this time, even now that the work isn’t as overwhelming as it used to be, I still wanted to put the writing away for one week. But that wasn’t meant to be. The messages that came through on vacation were not new, but they were intensified by the situation.
It all started with a flashback in Paris. And I guess I could have expected it. If there is one thing I have learned about recovery, we tend to have trauma around our favorite things. There are blocks to our purpose. I am not suggesting that my purpose is to be a professional tourist (although I would consider it if the logistics worked out). But I do see travel as a part of my work and life. I am just too invested in people and cultures. I truly am a sociologist at heart, even with all my psychobabble. But I digress.
The flashback sent me spinning for a couple of days. Apparently, I was not supposed to return to Paris because of a contract with my father from 30 years ago. I am quite proud of it really. We were staying in a hotel and I knew he would try to come in my room. At this point, I was 15 and wizening up to his strategies. So I changed my room key. When he tried to come in, he was locked out. He pitched a fit in the hallway and drew attention from the employees of the hotel. Apparently, this scene he caused (which was of course my fault) made it impossible for us to ever return to this city. Yet here I was. And the anxiety was palpable.
I wasn’t able to move out of it until we left Paris unfortunately. I figured it out as soon as I hit English soil. It was frustrating. My freedom fighters wanted to have fun. My controller was using their normal strategies to prevent a disaster. And the result was unrest. And now, the battle was waging in my system. All the parts were angry. And I was just trying to have some damn fun. There were two messages I heard loud and clear.
I should be able to have a vacation without recovery. I could hear my controller loud and clear. They were furious. “I never get a break. It never ends. I just wanted a week with nothing to process. I should be able to have that. I work hard. Where is my reward? Why can’t this be my reward? I’m going to quit recovery because I am angry with the universe.” And I got it. I felt it. It made sense. This work is exhausting. But let’s face it. Outside of these travels, I have created a safe life. My freedom fighters would even call it boring. Triggers are as minimized as they can be with two children at home and a trauma recovery business. There is no more likely place to bring trauma forward than when everything changes. I get it … in theory.
I want to escape no matter what it takes. I could also hear my freedom fighters loud and clear. And they were furious too. “This is my chance. I can run. I can escape. I can get away from life. Nobody will ever find me here. I can live life to the fullest without all this responsibility. It will be different here. It will be better here. There will be no pain and only fun. I can finally be myself.” And I do know the feeling. I do know that my entire early life was enslavement. And I get that being a single parent can feel like a prison some days. But life doesn’t get easier when we run away. One of the best pieces of advice I received before I started this deep recovery was from a friend and co-worker. He said, “Elisabeth, you can’t escape yourself.” And he was right. But my freedom fighters want to try. Life isn’t about escaping. It is about shaping it to be what we want. That might seem harder at first glance. But when we realize that there is no escape from the one thing we want to escape, we can acknowledge there is no choice. We must make our lives instead of running from them.
So I am back from vacation with greater insights about who I am and what I have been through. I also had a good time running around a couple of great cities. And I recognize the importance of what all my parts brought to the table last week. We will find the balance we need to create the free life we deserve. And I know it will feel like a life we don’t need to control or escape from. I know I am stepping closer to that life every day.