Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Locked in a Past Moment

I experienced something interesting related to narrative late yesterday. One of my coworkers is currently going through a difficult time—her family is in crisis. I was feeling sad for her and sending her good vibes (my word for prayer, really). I felt like I was moving and operating in a cloud because so much of my thought was with her.

In an e-mail to another friend and coworker last night, I was surprised to find a story from my own life spilling out. I wrote about an experience that happened when my oldest son was a baby. While we were traveling, he became very sick and we rushed him to the emergency room, not knowing whether he would be okay. I wrote about the panic, fear, and mightmarish quality of that night as though it happened yesterday. It was all still very alive for me—even though it happened 17 years ago, and even though everything turned out all right.

I could feel every emotion from that experience and see all the visuals very clearly. The crowded and noisy ER. The antiseptic smell of the exam room. The face of the doctor. The tightness of my arms as I held my baby tightly to me, afraid to hand him over to strangers in that foreign place. The critical, fast-moving moments. The shots, the medicine, the people. And finally, the wave of relief when the doctor told me he would be okay and pushed a small scrap of paper in my hand with his pager number on it, in case anything else happened.

As I reflected on my own high emotional experience in simply relating that story, I suddenly connected it with an odd, somewhat irrational alarm I get when, even today, I have trouble reaching my kids. I am a pretty even person, but for some reason I can't be rational when the kids aren't answering their cell phones, or when it's been several days and one of them hasn't checked in. My youngest still lives at home and the oldest lives only a mile away, so I see them every day, but my middle child—the son who was the focus of this emergency narrative—is in his first year at college and I had an experience a few weeks ago when I was worried because he hadn't answered his phone for several days. It's the same feeling I felt when I held tightly to him in the ER and didn't want to hand him over to strangers. It was that fear of losing him that overshadowed everything else.

I've been reading a lot of Jung lately (amazing, amazing) and in Synchronicity, he talks about the idea of the emotions being the catalyzing energy that seems to attract "runs" or "series" of synchronous events. Jumping off this idea, I was aware of the way in which the experience of taking my baby to the ER in a foreign place still had life for me. There was real, living emotion trapped inside that event—it was obvious because of the way it still moved me. It made me wonder whether our life energy gets locked in individual moments and waits for release, understanding, and integration. It's a great focus and intention for narrative work, I think. And it's something we each do for each other, every day, simply by living our lives and sharing what we experience.


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