Our dog suffers so on the Fourth of July, that it drains all the fun out of fireworks for me. A friend’s post on Facebook, too, made me reflect on how combat veterans with PTSD likely experience this holiday.
I have vivid memories of being a child running with a sparkler over the summer grass on our farm, and I remember, in my twenties, sitting on a lakeshore and watching a display that I have never forgotten (in fact, with a friend who was a Viet Nam veteran), but there’s such a difference between watching an hour-long, beautiful, choreographed display of fireworks, and what goes on each Fourth in my neighborhood, in unincorporated Edmonds. Booms and smoke and flashes for several days, and not just on the holiday itself. Being jolted awake at 1 a.m. by a huge blast last night — by the blast and by the dog going crazy — did not make me feel patriotic.
This morning, a lovely parade in our neighborhood, little kids on their bicycles, a whole menagerie of pets, flags, music; grilled chicken and potato salad this afternoon, watermelon — these are the parts of the holiday that can still make me happy.
Meanwhile, I’m rereading Louise DeSalvo’s amazing book, Writing as a Way of Healing, and this morning I came across this advice about integrating our creative work with life itself:
“…we must think about the world, ourselves and others, and the subject of our work. We must relate what we are learning in our work to our lives. We must be willing to use these insights to change our behavior if necessary.” (100)
It strikes me that this is all about consciousness. It’s so easy for me to let my journal-writing be a kind of holding at bay of what I’m feeling — which is exhausting — rather than an embrace of what I am feeling. So these are the questions I can begin with , again and and again: What do you know? What have you learned? How has that shaped who you are? Are you letting what you know shape who you are becoming?
Or, to borrow from Nietzche, Do I have the courage to become who I am?